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Pakistan is a land of Diversity: Pakistani students dispel stereotypes during Aman Chaupal in a Delhi School


Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducts Aman Chaupal sessions in schools in India and Pakistan where a Pakistani guest (usually an activist, artiste, academician or journalist) interacts with Indian students and vice versa and answers their questions, dispels stereotypes and give them the “other” narrative. Aman Chaupal, a unique initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti was started in 2013. Since then, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has conducted 20 sessions in schools and colleges in India and Pakistan.

On 14th February 2017, Aaghaz-e-Dosti India conducted the 20th Aman Chaupal in KIIT World School in Pitampura in Delhi. The guests from Pakistan were Bharat Makwana and Suneel Nand. Both are pursuing masters in Sociology from South Asian University in Delhi. The session was moderated and co-ordinated by Aaghaz-e-Dosti team members – Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan. The teacher co-ordinator was Ms. Sheetal.

The Pakistani guests were warmly welcomed by the school in a traditional way by applying chandan tika on their foreheads and with garlands. The school administration, including the principal was very encouraging towards this effort of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and highlighted its importance in adding to the goal of schooling.

The Aman Chaupal session was conducted with students of a mixed group – grades 5th to 9th. The students were very enthusiastic. Bharat Makwana and Suneel Nand initiated the interaction by sharing their experience of being in India. Bharat shared that his experience in India has been overwhelming. He always wanted to visit India and when he got the opportunity to study in India, he was very happy and excited. But when he came here, his happiness was much more, the reason being, that the people turned out to be far nicer than he imagined. He shared that he has interacted with people from diverse backgrounds, of different socio economic backgrounds, but all have been nice to him, and have expressed desire for peace, just like Pakistanis do.

aman-chaupal-in-delhi-school-16Suneel added to this and shared that since Pakistanis have for long had access to Indian movies and culture, are keen on visiting India and the places they have seen in Indian movies and tele-serials. He is often  flooded with questions when he goes back to Pakistan. One of his friends expressed his disappointment over the fact that while he (Suneel) has been to India, he hasn’t yet met Salman Khan.

During the session, the students asked questions around the culture of  Pakistan, the everyday life, the perception of Pakistanis towards India and Indians. One student asked, “what do you like most about India?”. Suneel answered, the diversity of India.

Suneel and Bharat had made a powerpoint presentation about Pakistan, it’s diversity in terms of language, ethnicity and religion.  The presentation also educated the students about the great philanthropist from Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi and his contribution to communal harmony and peace. 

There was a discussion around the presentation. Some other questions were around the reasons for hatred and conflict, the role of popular perceptions, the role of people and especially students and youth. A student of grade 5 shared the story of his grandmother who told him about the pre-partition era when there was harmony. His grandmother had migrated from Pakistan. This led to a discussion on how the harmony can be revived and the role that an average citizen can play in the process.

Students also sought clarifications on the knowledge that they had gathered from the popular media. A student asked about the insufficient power supply in Pakistan about which he had learned from news channels. Suneel said that while it is true, the problem is uneven and is being solved. Madhulika Narasimhan added to this discussion by highlighting the fact that this particular issue and uneven development in general is a huge problem for both India and Pakistan. 

The session was a learning experience for the students as well as for the guests and the organisers.

Report made by

Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan

For any queries, email at



19th Aman Chaupal: Pakistani Peace Activist, South Asian University student share their experience with Karachi students

19 Aman Chaupal with Bharat Kohli and Suraya Islam

On 30th May 2016, SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School’s Summer Camp organised an Indo Pak Peace Program in collaboration with Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative to build bridges between India and Pakistan. This event was conducted for the students of 9th and 10th grade. The management team invited Mr. Bharat Makwana, a Pakistani student at South Asian University in Delhi, India and Ms. Suraiya Islam, coordinator/representative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti in Karachi, Pakistan, who recently had the privilege to visit the beautiful heritage of India.

This program was held in form of a two way dialogue between the guest speakers and the audience. Students participated enthusiastically in asking questions to our guest about their experience of visiting and living in India as a Pakistani. The speakers corroborated their responses by showing photographs that were clicked by them.  

19th Aman Chaupal with Suraya Islam

The students asked questions around schooling in India, festivals celebrated in India and most importantly about the food. On food, Mr. Makwana commented that he never missed home because of the delicious DESI food available in India. A student also asked the guests about the recipe of Pao Bhaaji, common dish eaten in India, which the guests could not answer but surprisingly a student in the class was able to share the recipe of Pao Bhaaji she learnt and cooked by the help of YouTube.

Students ask questions in 19th Aman Chaupal in KarachiStudents shared their fear about India based on media representation and asked questions to our guest regarding treatment of Muslims in India, to which Ms. Islam, who is a Muslim, answered by sharing how she was treated well in India and how her encounter with Muslim families living in India taught her that Media representation is not at all the truth.

The event ended at a high note with Ms. Shehnaz, Program Manager at SMB Fatimah Jinnah School and Ms. Sana Kazmi, representative of Zindagi Trust and Head of SMB Fatimah Jinnah Girls School’s Summer Camp appreciating the guest speakers for their time and contribution. Students also showed gratitude and great enthusiasm about visiting India in the future and also applying to South Asian University for higher studies. This event was co-ordinated by the teachers, IT department and Azima Dhanjee of PUAN Karachi.

Report by Azima Dhanjee and Suraya Islam

Aaghaz-e-Dosti Karachi Chapter

Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducted three Aman Chaupal sessions in Pakistan

Aman Chaupal in Resource Academia School

Aman Chaupal in Resource Academia School

Aaghaz-e-Dosti team members Devika Mittal (Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India) and Madhavi Bansal (Bangalore Co-ordinator), during their recent visit to Lahore interacted in three Aman Chaupals (peace sessions) with students of Punjab University, Excellent Education Centre and Resource Academia School.

With these three Aman Chaupals, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a cross-border youth-led peace initiative, has completed 18 aman chaupal sessions its inception three years back. Aman Chaupal is among the major initiatives of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Aman Chaupals are informal sessions in schools and colleges in India and Pakistan wherein peace activists/ journalists/ academicians from across the border interact with students. It is a form of peace education that specially focuses on breaking stereotypes through providing an opportunity to students of one country to interact with an eminent personality or expert of the other country.

aman chaupal at punjab univ

Aman Chaupal at Punjab University

Aman Chaupals have received great response from students, schools, guests, media and common people who know about it. These sessions are special in its approach of providing ample freedom in interaction. We had taken the name chaupal with its essence that this term is known to both countries and it also brings a kind of revival of the tradition where people in villages used to gather at one place to talk and to discuss things of importance, said Devika Mittal, Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India.

Aliya Harir (Convener from Pakistan) says that people in Pakistan are always in favor of peace. Peace is a common thing that we all want. She also said that government of both sides are also doing their best efforts to bring people but they always needs people’s effort to support and suggest governments to make it in more effective ways.

aman chaupal in lahore

Aman Chaupal in Excellent Education Centre

Aman Chaupals in Lahore were coordinated by Namra Nasyr, Wasiqa Khan, Naseem Nasir, Raza Khan and Rab Nawaz (Khudi Pakistan). In the three sessions, there were questions on the similarities between India and Pakistan, questions revolving around the popular culture, on media, politics and on the role of people in improving Indo-Pak relations.

“Aman Chaupal sessions in Excellent Education Centre and Punjab University were very helpful in breaking some popular stereotypes about India and Indians. There were questions around the current happenings and in this context, it was essential to have genuine voices from India, which otherwise remain unrepresented and ignored as compared to the voices embedded with hatred and politics”, said Namra Nasyr, Lahore Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.

In addition to these Aman Chaupals, guests (Devika Mittal and Madhavi Bansal) also interacted with other peace activists of Khudi Pakistan and several other peace initiatives.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti with khudi pakistan members and peace activists from Pakistan

Aaghaz-e-Dosti members with Peace Activists and members of Khudi Pakistan


16th Aman Chaupal: Indian Youth Activist interact with students of Excellent Education Center in Lahore

aman chaupal in lahore

In Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s 16th Aman Chaupal, an Indian Peace activist interacted with students of Excellent Education Center in Lahore with the aim to counter stereotypes and misconceptions. Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC, has conducted 15 aman chaupals or Indo-Pak peace sessions wherein someone from across the border interacts with students in a school or college.

In this session, youth activist and Indian convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Devika Mittal (Convener from India) had interacted with the students of Excellent Education Centre. Excellent Education Centre (EEC) is a Lahore-based institution providing education and guidance to students for their holistic development and enabling them to become positive contributors to the society. The session was conducted on 4th November 2015 and was co-ordinated by Naseem Nasir, Namra Nasyr (Lahore Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti) and Wasiqa Khan (Teacher and Apprentice at EEC)

The students of Excellent Education Centre had previously participated in a cross-border cards exchange initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti wherein they had exchanged cards with students of Ecole Mondiale World School (Mumbai) on Independence Day of India and Pakistan,

The session began with the students presenting welcome cards to the guest. The interactive session began by inquiring about the cards, how they were received by the Indian students. Devika informed the students that the school and the students were very excited to know about the cards coming from Pakistan. The video that the Lahore Co-ordinator had made showing them receiving tdevika mittal aman chaupalhe cards from India and making cards for them as a response was shown to everyone in the school and was even shared on social media and was much appreciated.

The next question was about the difference that the Indian guest felt in Pakistan to which, Devika responded that she did not feel that she was in a different country. She shared that how people just cannot recognize her unless she herself informs that she is an Indian. This happens because there is no difference in the way we look, dress and speak though in Lahore, Punjabi is most-spoken but urdu is also spoken and understood so Indians are not easily recognizable in Pakistan and so is the case in India for Pakistanis.

The next question was about the difference between hindi and urdu. Devika said, “It is interesting that you people are speaking urdu but I am able to hear Hindi and I am speaking Hindi but you are hearing Urdu. This shows that there is hardly any difference. The script is different. There are also some particular words that can distinguish but overall, there is no easily noticeable difference.”

The next question was about religious diversity in India. A student asked, “Are there only Hindus living in India?” Devika Mittal informed that like Pakistan, India is a religiously diverse country. Hindus are in majority but there are muslims who form the largest minority, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews and several other religious groups. India also legally recognises agnostics and atheists or people’s right to not have any religion.

Devika asked the students if they watch Indian movies. All the students raised their hand and said they watch all Indian movies and shared their favourite actors from Bollywood. They also asked if Pakistani movies and serials are as famous in India as Indian movies and serials are in Pakistan. Devika shared that Pakistani movies are not released in India but because of Zindagi Channel, Pakistani serials are now aired in India and they are being loved by Indians for their beautiful and realistic storylines.

There were many other questions that revolved around similarities between India and Pakistan, about Indians and on popular culture. The students expressed their desire to come to India and meet with kids of their age.

Press Release issued by

Namra Nasyr

Lahore Co-ordinator


“The memory of Partition needs to become invalid now”: Fifth & Sixth Aman Chaupal organized in New Delhi

Aman Chaupal with Mr. Aamir Nawaz

Aman Chaupal with Mr. Aamir Nawaz

Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative for Indo-Pak friendship, organized its Fifth & Sixth Aman Chaupal on 24 February 2014 at Jawaharlal Nehru University and South Asian University, New Delhi. Aman Chaupal is an informal session wherein people from Pakistan or who have been to Pakistan share their experiences and address students’ curiosities and questions. The two sessions were the fifth and the sixth Aman Chaupal sessions. In the earlier sessions, we have had Ms. Saeeda Diep, Mr. Raza Rumi and Ms. Kiran Nazish as our guests and the sessions were conducted in schools.

In this Aman Chaupal, Mr. Aamir Nawaz was the guest. He is the president of a leading Pakistani Theatre group, Maas Foundation. Maas Foundation had emerged as a parellal theatre in Pakistan in 2002. The plays are based on social and contemporary issues among which indo-Pak is one of the most prominent themes. Mr. Nawaz also has several other achievements. Recently, he has produced and directed a TV drama series by the name of “Pachtawa” which is aired on Royal TV Channel. He is also a visiting faculty at Beaconhouse National University.

In this Aman Chaupal, a video of Maas Foundation’s play “Permasher Singh” which is based on a story of partition was shown followed by a discussion on it and on other Indo-Pak issues.

Aman Chaupal at JNU

Aman Chaupal at JNU

In JNU, it was done in the School of International Studies. The student co-ordinator in JNU was Pramod Jaiswal. The programme began with an introduction about the initiative and its importance to reduce miscommunications, mutual hatred and suspicion, by Devika Mittal, Convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India. Before the screening, the Director of the play, Mr. Nawaz had talked about the play. He had given a background and a general idea as the play was in Punjabi.

The play was of approximately one hour and captured several themes. It explored the different factors that led to people committing atrocities against the people of other communities. Two major factors explored were the idea of avenging the merciless killing or rape of one’s own kin and the rumours and suspicion that people on the other side of the border are mercilessly killing people of their community. The play explored this theme of sanity and insanity. It showed that how there was a wave of hatred and insanity and it was virtually impossible to not go along with the wave. But despite this, there was one man named Permasher Singh who rose above this and saved the life of a muslim boy named Akhtar. He saw in Akhtar, his own son named Kartar who was probably killed in the riots. Permasher Singh believed that all kids are the same. They are all children of the same god. But expectedly, there were many problems from his community people and his own kin. He was suggested to make him a Sikh but he refuses to do so. They develop a beautiful bonding but then Singh decides to send him to Pakistan to his family. He makes Akhtar cross the border but when the soldiers on the other side see Singh, they shoot him. In the end, the play asks the question, “Whose child was Akhtar, the child of India or Pakistan?

The play was received well. There weren’t many questions on the play. A question was asked about the response of the play in Pakistan. Mr. Nawaz told that the response was great and that could be heard in the video itself as the applause by audience on several scenes and in the end was quite loud and were audible.

In South Asian University, along with the video screening, the interactive session was very intense. The student co-ordinator for South Asian University was V Arun Kumar.  South Asian University has students from all South Asian Countries and the audience was also quite reflective of this intellectual richness.

Aman Chaupal at South Asian University

Aman Chaupal at South Asian University

In the discussion that started from the ‘simple’ question, “What do you understand of Pakistan?”went to the question of dalits, religious minorities on both sides, need to resolve Kashmir issue, the biased media, role of civil society and peace initiatives and nationalism. The discussion saw the participation of students from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. A major point that came about was that we need to forget about the partition and the conflicts that happened between India and Pakistan and Bangladesh and Pakistan and move on.

Kulsum Khan, a student from Pakistan, said that based on her experience in Delhi, she has noted that Pakistan is still a part of nostalgia. She said that we need to come out of this and accept that we are now different and respect each other.

Kumud, a PHD scholar also argued that we must talk about how to make peace, not war.

Dr. Dhananjay Tripthi, faculty member of International Relations, remarked “A country is made of history, geography, politics and economy. We cannot change the history and geography but we can change the politics and economy. We need to take a decision that whether we want an economy of prosperity or an economy of poverty. Till now, we only have economy of poverty”. He raised another important point that while we allow China to enter and dominate in South Asian market, we are not allowing SAPTA.   

There were also questions about the army, its interference in political matters and terrorism. Mr. Nawaz rightly argued that there was a tendency to blame India but now people knows that what happens in Pakistan is because of Pakistan. India also needs to recognize this. As about terrorism, he argued that in Pakistan, everyday has become difficult because of it. Mr. Nawaz also argued that to blame India/Pakistan and these fluctuating relations is also a way to distract the people of both the countries from more important internal problems. In both countries, there are problems to provide the basic amenities to the people.

There were also some Kashmiri students. One of them talked about how he hopes that peace initiatives can benefit Kashmir.

Roopak, a student from Kerala, also said that while there is a need to talk about Kashmir issue, there are also other important issues like the issues of Dalits, religious minorities among other issues that need to be discussed on international forums but they are neglected.  

This discussion had happened before the screening of the play. After the play, there was again a small discussion about the play and other issues like about how peace initiative can reduce suspicion and hatred, how it can influence the “minority” who do not want peace and about religious fundamentalism.

In the end, Ghazanfar Abbas, Co-ordinator for this aman chaupal session, had concluded the programme with a short poem emphasizing on the need for Indo-Pak peace and friendship.

“WE NEED TO STOP SOMEWHERE”: Aman Chaupal organised at Rainbow School with Kiran Nazish

Aman chaupal with Kiran Nazish

Aman chaupal with Ms. Kiran Nazish

Aaghaz-e-Dosti (An initiative for Indo-Pak friendship, started by Mission Bhartiyam) organized its Fourth Aman Chaupal today on 11 September 2013 at Rainbow English Sr. Sec. School in Delhi (India). Aman Chaupal is an informal session wherein people from Pakistan or who have been to Pakistan share their experiences and address students’ curiosities and questions. This is the fourth Aman Chaupal. The first and the second were done with peace activist from Pakistan Saeeda Diep. The third was with author and journalist Raza Rumi.

In this Aman Chaupal, Kiran Nazish was the guest. She is a journalist-activist. Her works appear in reputed newspapers like Dawn, Express Tribune, Friday times, Tehelka, Forbes, Huffington Post and several others. 

The session began with stating the objective and importance of the session. “It is to bridge the communication gap that guides Indo-Pak relations and that gives way to stereotypes and mutual hatred and suspicion. It is to show the other side of Pakistan that the Indian media never shows”, remarked Devika Mittal, convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.

After a warm welcome with flowers, Kiran Nazish had addressed about 100 students from classes 10th-12th. Atleast, the barrier of language was destroyed, the questions and response could be in either Hindi/Urdu or English. The first question was on the issue of Kashmir. This was followed by questions on the recent clash, killing of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army the case of Sarabjit Singh and the “un-cooperative” attitude of Pakistan Government.

“While Pakistan had killed Sarabjit, the Indian Government had treated the Pakistani terrorist as a guest. While soldiers have been mercilessly killed on the borders, the Indian Government did not responded back. When the Prime Minister of India was in Pakistan for friendship, Kargil was announced.”, argued a student.

This had earned a lot of cheer from the crowd. The reason for the cheer indicated the popular sentiment. Kiran Nazish responded to this by pointing out the factual errors caused by the bias in the Indian media, their failure to show the other side of the story. She also talked about the need for peace, the need to “stop somewhere”.

She talked about the sentiments that we attach to the soldier. She talked about the innocent life lost because of the presence of “black sheeps” on both sides of the border.

There were also questions on the status of religious minorities and women. “Are people free to go to temples?” was a question on the status of religious minorities. Kiran Nazish remarked that there are many temples and churches in Pakistan. They also celebrate Diwali and Holi. There are constitutional provisions that seek to safeguard the religious minorities. They are free to practice their religion. There is a quota for minorities in the educational institutions.

Are women free? Is the purdah system rigid? She answered that there is freedom. Women have access to equal opportunity. The purdah system is not rigid. It is generally for the conservative families.

While there were several questions on political and controversial issues which were a clear reflection of the media portrayal of Pakistan, when the students were asked if they would like to go to Pakistan, many hands shot in air. A student had also raised the desire and need for a cultural-exchange programme.

The principal spoke about the need to forget the past, bridge the differences and bring peace and prosperity. She talked about the importance of youth in this endeavour. She remarked, “Pehle hum ek the, mann bhi ek tha, aman bhi tha par ye ashanti Kaha se aa gai? Kaise hum shaanti laaye? Kaise hum phir se ek ho sake? Aap aane wale kal ki dharohar hai. Aap bachche chahe toh hindustan ko bhi ucha utha sakte hai, jo Pakistan ko bhi acha bana sakte hai, pure vishwa ko acha bana sakte hai. Aap umeedein hai, aashayein hai.”

The programme ended with a gesture of hope, a warm hug by the principal to Kiran Nazish.

Madhulika Narasimhan, the co-ordinator of Aman Chaupal, had concluded the session by talking about the need for a rational perspective on the issues. She suggested that besides the Indian reporting of a news, there is also a need to look at the Pakistani reporting of the same news. 

Aman Chaupal with Ms. Kiran Nazish at Rainbow School, New Delhi

Aman Chaupal with Ms. Kiran Nazish at Rainbow School, New Delhi

Third Aman Chaupal with Raza Rumi

Raza Rumi in Aman Chaupal

Aman Chaupal with Raza Rumi ji

Aaghaz-e-Dosti (An initiative for Indo-Pak friendship, started by Mission Bhartiyam) organized its Third Aman Chaupal today on 8 August 2013 at Indraprastha Hindu Girls’ Sr. Sec. School in Delhi (India). Aman Chaupal is an informal session wherein people from Pakistan or who have been to Pakistan share their experiences and address students’ curiosities and questions. The objective of this initiative is to bridge the communication gap that guides Indo-Pak relations and that gives way to stereotypes and mutual hatred and suspicion. This is the third Aman Chaupal. The first and the second were done with peace activist from Pakistan Saeeda Diep at Columbia Foundation School and South Asian University.

In this Aman Chaupal, Raza Rumi was the guest. Raza Rumi is the director of Jinnah Institute, a writer associated with reputed newspapers like The News, Express Tribune and Friday times and has also worked in the United Nations. He has recently authored a book “Delhi by heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller” and was in India for its launch.

Raza Rumi had addressed an excited group from classes 9th-12th. Originally a session for 30 minutes, it was happily extended to more than an hour as the questions wouldn’t end. There were questions on the recent ceasefire violations, on the fate of fishermen on both sides of the border, the poor state of jails, on the terror groups in Pakistan, on Malala, on the role of China and the status of women and minorities.

The fact of women constituting 50% seats in the Pakistan universities had earned loud claps.

As on minorities, they were informed that the religious minority is very small in Pakistan, as compared to India but they have privileges like quota in schools and colleges. 

There were many questions in and around the history of India and Pakistan and the separation. “But when India and Pakistan know that it was the British who had created rifts for their own interests, why are they still fighting?”, inquired a student.

The children had also inquired about people on the other side – how are they and what do they think about India. They were informed that the children on both sides of the border look the same, speak the same language and have the same routine of school and then play. But more importantly, People on both sides share not only the same culture, language, religious beliefs and challenges, they also share the same desire for peace.

One of the last questions was “All countries do terrorism then why is only Pakistan called a terrorist country?” 

Aman Chaupal in Indraprastha School

Aman Chaupal in Indraprastha School with Raza Rumi ji

The teachers were also very encouraging towards the initiative. One of them remarked, “They learnt more than they could learn from the books. We teach them these things but if someone from Pakistan comes and tells them, it is always more convincing.”

The event organisers were Devika Mittal who is the
convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and Madhulika Narasimhan, a passout of South Asian University. The co-ordinator from the school was Ms. Jigyasa

See the video

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