Relax Visa: Move Towards Friendship
by Ravi Nitesh
….And it was so nice to hear, the dream of this student… “I want to travel to India.” He had expressed it in a general talk during an informal discussion about the neighbor country.
I met him during my recent visit to Lahore to attend a convention held on Relaxing Visa and what other pure, simple and natural desire could highlight the need of relaxing visa? This dream clearly depicts a major crack in the wall of Indo-Pak relations. In fact, it shouldn’t be a dream for anyone, it must be there as an obvious thing, as a right to get.We must appreciate the work of Governments and civil societies of both sides for their meetings and initiatives that have ultimately brought a positive result in terms of visa relaxation. Though this move must be welcomed by all, there is still an ample scope and a need for further amendment.A Question always come in my mind that why our dreams are slaves of our governments? In pre-independence scenario, the whole region was one while after the two countries emerged, we could not make a comfortable relation even after 65 years? Whose fault is this?
In fact, in present scenario, there are strong reasons to say that the enriching Indo-Pak relation is not only good for both countries, but it will also affect other geo-political scenarios as well in positive ways. South Asia will become undoubtedly strong with a better confidence building and peace keeping approach. There are many things in which we have to look to maintain and to enrich this bilateral relation. Among these, the one of ‘Relaxing Visa’ obviously must be preferred, as this will be the respect of people’s wish. For a real confidence building, governments of both the countries must know that it is only people of both the countries for whom and from whom the governments are in existence, and without recognizing the wish of their real makers (the public), the role of governments will be incomplete.
There is an urgent need for rethinking on present attitude of visa approvals and to make it relaxed for granting visa. New visa policy presented some relaxation but still it is not as per the requirement. People too should start demanding the same in peaceful ways as they all have rights to do so. Defining political boundaries doesn’t mean that boundaries will be imposed on hearts. Many people are trying to bring it in government’s priority to pay attention towards liberalized visa rules.
In a notable ‘Relax Visa Campaign’ of an organization in Pakistan, more than 85,000 persons signed to favor the relax visa. This number clearly shows the people’s desire. It is a common fact that our roots are same, our feelings are same and even our lifestyles are same. It is a fact that whenever anyone goes to border to see off a friend, they both weep together. It is a fact that whenever common people of both the countries meet each other they both smile and greet each other as equals. Can we realize ever that how we both are living in exile?
As for where the government and political issues are concerned, it is well known that governments and political parties of not only these countries but of most of the countries of this world, work only to get vote and try to make things that can polarize the voters. With this fact, we all must understand that government will not do everything. Signature campaigns and other democratic ways of making demands by people are there to let the government understand the view of people and then to make decisions. That is why the collective effort is required from all sides. It is us who can make the real change. Issuing visa is a thing that can bring the real happiness on people’s faces.
There are so many reasons that make it necessary. We all are aware with history, divided families, relations, friendships etc. As a human being, it is our natural right to move anywhere; however this natural right is restricted by political boundaries. Governments must understand that political boundaries must act only to provide facilities, security, living standard etc. and not here to impose boundaries on emotions and desire. We, the people of India and Pakistan, must believe that even if our governments are unable to understand and to follow our wishes, the day will come when governments will work for the people’s wish.
We all will demand till then, we all will wait till then.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and is a founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti
The Border Clash And Jingoism: We Don’t Have To Pacify Ourselves But Realise
by Devika Mittal
It was a happy day for some of us who had gone to kotla stadium on the last match of the T20 series between India and Pakistan with our face painted in flag colours of both countries, displaying poster and distributing pamphlets with messages of peace and friendship to the cricket fans of both countries. We were moved by the appreciation that we got, especially from people from Pakistan. Some of them had themselves came to us, introduced and asked for the pamphlet. Our event, under the initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, turned out to be a huge success even on social networking sites and was picked up by some major news portals.
It was deeply satisfying and paid off our labour as we thought that we have started on our journey to move for a better future together. But two or three days later, the media reported the border clash but initially, I had not imagined how it would change things overnight. The social networking sites became another battlefield. Status messages and comment thread, the “shared photo culture” developed by Facebook pages and new pages devoted to questioning peace initiatives, digging old graves, debating if India is a “soft” state or if India always stabs Pakistan(by the Pakistan side) and poems dedicated to soldiers and the army.
It was and is all over – on the news channels ofcourse, endless news debates but almost all debating if we should continue the ties or not, on Facebook posts, in Facebook pages and ofcourse in the tea-time discussions. Following the clash, there have also been innumerable articles generally by what is known as yellow journalism challenging and finding the loopholes in all the claims starting from the report of beheading to the role of a third party to manipulate the politics in its own favour.
But the question no longer is about who started it and did it involve beheading or not because the damage has already been done. What has sadly come out of this is the notion that it’s only “we” who want peace and that “they” have always stabbed “us”. This notion exists on both sides of the border.
And this notion is enough to persist another decade of hatred and suspicion. People on both sides have sided with the army that have otherwise, accounted for human rights’ violations and with the politicians whom we refuse to accept as our representatives. They refuse to see any “anti-nation” sentiment. And once again, the “nation” as an identity has become important surpassing the individual and the individual opinion and desire. The peace activists or anyone with a voice of dissent are once again seen as not only “anti-nation” but as passive, ideal and those who have not seen the “reality”. This article is not to pacify anyone or to convince. It is only to bring out some “realities” which cannot be challenged.
This is based on my own personal observations and on the articles that I have come across. If I talk about the articles, I have read many articles which have brought out the loopholes in the theories put forward by both the countries. There have been questioning of the hazy and inconsistent reporting by the army on both sides, loopholes in the reports and questions for media to have covered issues which have shown India or Pakistan only in a bad light. This brings us to one fact that the truth is partial. None of us can claim to know the truth. There is a need to establish a neutral news source accepted by both countries.
For those who feel that peace is only the desire of one side is mistaken. To begin with, if this was true, Aman ki Asha would not have received equal appreciation on the other side of the border. Coming to my personal observations, I have been following the posts and tweets of people of across the border (Pakistan) and have some interesting revelations. It is true that some of them, like some of us, have tagged peace initiatives as bogus and indulge in a sort-of “godification” of army generals and soldiers. But it is also true that many have also condemned this incident. I have some friends there and there has been no change in the nature of our interaction. I also came across a facebook post today by someone asking if peace should be continued with India? I found the very status very interesting as the same question is posed by most of us as in this status, there is an assumption that “we” are peaceful. Most of the comments favoured yes. There was a comment that said that we should, if they also do the same. Those who said no had also added reasons stating how India has often stabbed back or because they do not want peace. It was essential to give this “private” post as it reveals some facts and demands an action.
We and here I mean the people or anyone who likes to have an opinion should be critical of our own Government, media and army. On both sides, we need to accept that there are people who do not want peace, for their own motives. But more importantly, we need to accept that humanity is beyond boundaries. On both sides, there are humans and human lives. Those who want war or can even think of it should imagine what it is like to live in the bordered state. Or even ask an average soldier if he wants war. A soldier has seen a war and knows what it involves. But he takes part because he has to. A famous Bollywood movie, Heroes, puts it beautifully, “hum hamara kaam kar rahe hai aur wo wahan apna” (We are doing our work and they are doing theirs).Their duty is to defend their respective motherlands and they do that. And no-one thinks about them because if they did, they wouldn’t have asked for more hatred. War is not the solution to anyone, never has it been and will never be. It is true that “we” must not sit back if the “other” retaliates but we must do that in a constructive way because the fire will not just burn them.
We need to realise that there are people on both sides, there are “wounds” to be healed on both sides, sufferings, impartial truth and misunderstandings on both sides. People on both sides have their own challenges to meet. To an average Indian and Pakistani, earning their daily bread is much more important than demanding war. We have to realise… not to pacify ourselves but to realise.
Devika Mittal is a core member of Mission Bhartiyam and the convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India. She tweets at @devikasmittal
India-Pakistan: Conquering Hatred
by Vidya Bhushan Rawat (India)
The biggest casualty of the Indo-Pakistan war mongering jingoism is the community of people who believe in people to people dialogue and have mutual admiration for art, culture and sports. Even when there is so much of air of distrust between the government, it need to be understood that Pakistan has not yet matured as democracy and its government continue to function under the watchful eyes of powerful military. The military get strength from being the most ‘efficient’ and ‘uncorrupted’ institution in Pakistan but the fact is that to get continuous legitimacy of political interventions, it is essential for it, to discredit the political class as a whole and therefore find a route to stage a well-orchestrated coup.
Many of us feel proud for our track record as a ‘democratic’ country amidst our neighbors who have mostly been suppressed by the military dictators or old religious thugs pretending to have God’s blessings to lord over them. Pakistan was a country build up on the dreams of a secular idea by M.A.Jinnah yet the man could not see it grow and today it is a shattered nation completely in the grip of those who devalue their own father of nation. Today’s Pakistan is not a country what Jinnah visualized but a country where the forces of jingoism and fanaticism rules despite being ‘extra-state’ actors. It is these forces who are now becoming extraordinarily powerful in our countries as they have developed bullying tactics to get their thing done and get away with everything particularly if they happen to ‘represent’ the ‘majority’ communities.
Hence it was very difficult for the government of India to touch Bal Thackarey despite all his unconstitutional rhetoric as well as the violent activities which resulted out of his hate speeches and writings. Narendra Modi or Uma Bharati to Kalyan Singh, all ‘respected’ leaders of their party and future aspirants for various power positions of India yet we have no apologies about them and their action. Actually, state does not act except move slowly and by the time their issues come for justice, they are mostly no more. So, no political leader in India has got any punishment for spreading hatred on communal and caste lines. Hence when Owaisi is arrested his supporters cite example of Modi and Thackrey. Subsequently, when the Hindutva leaders are caught they will careful take up one two such cases where government has not acted and these issues become complimentary for political outfits using religion for their own purposes. The Hindutva hate mongers may not be in the ‘most wanted’ list of they are not ‘wanted’ internationally but definitely in the court of law they used the law for their own purposes. Then there are other members of the Parivar who have always used such tactics to intimidate the Muslims and Christians in the country. In Pakistan, these extra-state actors play dubious role of supporting Taliban in Afghanistan as well as linking the cause of Kashmir to Islamic revivalism in the valley. These extra state actors have full support from those in power because they speak the language which the power elite feel constrained to talk about and covertly support through various mechanism.
India and Pakistan are two unequal neighbors. Despite everything, historically too, India will remain an elder brother and there is nothing wrong in being elder except behaving elderly too is important for both of us. Circumstances have not made Pakistan a plural democratic political system like India but that cannot erase our common heritage that we have worked and build up in so many thousands years. We are different countries and societies just because of a law that separated us which is just 65 years old but our civilization is much older than the British Empire came here. How can the two people with same language, culture, idea are divided. Pakistan is not able to develop its democratic institutions strongly but my problem is with those who claim we have ‘better’ democracy. If Hina Rabbani Khar does not know how to speak as a foreign minister then one can understand very well that she does not come from a political background but Sushma Swaraj and her party’s political understanding and struggle should have made their reaction more mature and political rather than being simply jingoistic.
It is humiliating when our political class, intellectuals, media all jump in for closing every relationship with Pakistan. Why should you deny me listening to Ghulam Ali or why should Pakistanis not listen to Mohammdad Rafi or Lata Mangeskar. Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Arundhati Roy, Faiz Ahemed Faiz, Firakh, Sahir, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafari and the list is long are not confined to our boundaries but have transcended them. In the most oppressing moments of history, art, culture and sports have always united people.
It does not humiliate a Pakistan player when he is asked to leave from India as our officials say that we do not want to play with an ‘enemy’. It is insulting that the Indian state is not able to provide protection to their guests who represent their country but not necessarily support every political and military thought of their nation. How can you call a player an enemy? Can we call a competition between Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali a war between the two countries or is it a treat to listen to both of them. How can I call Faiz Ahmed Faiz or a player like Waseem Akram my enemy. For that matter, how can Faiz be put in the category of the hate mongers like Tahir Qadri. How can Sushma Swaraj and like her become voice of India?
It is the game that media has played to serve their own internal purposes and strengthened to boost some of those who enjoy and make money on the martyrdom of others. The media uses the deaths for their own marketing purposes and celebrate them. When soldiers die, we are filling their homes with money and other support but if he return home undead, serving the nation for over 35 years, he does not get that much of money. The capitalist media glorifies deaths and link it to ‘valor’. In today’s 24 hour TV world, it is the best ‘activity’ to boost our TRPs and hence every anchor become a ‘rabid rabble rouser’, much more dangerous than Owaisis and Qadris as they want to push words in the mouth of people and use them according to their own convenience. The world is not threatened by these loudmouths like Qadris, Owaisis or Thackarays, as they are part of ‘State apparatus’ who only speak the language the powerful state want them to speak and if they have out lived their utility then an action is taken but it is only done when the state realize that their presence and association with it is counter-productive and politically detrimental.
As an Indian it is shameful for me to hear that attempt are being made to send artists, writers, journalists and sports persons back to Pakistan simply in the name of their being ‘unwanted’. Even in the height of mistrust, it is these voices of dissent and of love and affection that open the small window of peace and togetherness. One must remember that those who make the biggest noise about nationalism are the most dangerous species as they are least ready to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the people. They only enjoy the sacrifices of others and use every moment of a brave man’s life for his nation, as politics of their parties. It is time that people to people contact must not be allowed to submit to such fascist nationalist forces whose only interest is to keep people subjugated.
The people of Pakistan who want friendship with India and vice versa cannot be victimized because their political class is pushing the countries to war. It is only important for us to remember that war has never ever resulted in any solution to any issue and it will only bring disasters and catastrophe in the region. It is more insulting for us as Indian if our hearts are not bigger in welcoming those people who we love to watch playing on the ground and listen live or on our TV studios and films. It is time, we learn that at the end of the day, we have to live in the same world and a war will never make it better and will keep us in perpetual hatred. Millions of people who love each other’s and have relations and are just divided because of ‘nationhood’ would be denied the basic human rights by this thin dividing line. Can we allow this and remain in perpetual war so that our generations do not grow and suffer in hunger and malnutrition further. An eye for an eye is never a solution and we need not only mature political diplomacy to handle such crisis but stronger people to people contact so that war mongers and their hate cries are defeated forever.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist from India
Statement of condemnation of clash on Indo-pak border by peace activists
Statement by Aaghaz-e-Dosti and some peace activists on the recent case of “violation of ceasefire”
“We condemn any violation of ceasefire. We condemn acts of security forces who had crossed LoC. It is reported that two indian soldiers and (prior to that) one pakistani soldier were killed. It is also true that all these incidents used to happen whenever both the nations try to establish friendly relationship and that is why the people’s role become more important in spreading message of peace and love. If you believe in people’s power, you must believe that people will achieve their objective and that is towards love and humanity.”
You also know that any soldier who has been killed like this, or even in war, does not know the reasons of war and how all these things are politically framed to get political benefits of government(s).
You also know that killing of any life is equally disturbing regardless of persons’s identity on the basis of gender/religion/region/nationality. We are sure that you know that you can (should) oppose the government(s) and not the people. We are sure that you can (should) kill the ill mentality of government(s) and not its people.
We are sure that like us, you too give respect to a soldier, like a soldier and as a human being. We are sure that you know that killed soldiers have not taken their decision for violating any ceasefire or for firing upon each other, it was the ‘order’ that received to them. We are sure that their families are equally disturbed and crying upon their deaths no matter they were Indian or Pakistanis.
Taken birth in India or in Pakistan must not decide that we are enemies, it is us who should and who must decide how we will treat each other. We, the people of India and Pakistan must come forward to express our concern on all these and we, together must spread the message of peace and love for each other, to let the hate/attacks down and it is only possible when we will trust each other and will move together.
We also urge with government(s) to let the truth come before the public and to register protest on global platform. We also request to media, to bring and to get the possible solutions to bring the truth.
We share some lines of Roshan Romani:
HINDU HAI KAHIN KOI AUR MUSALMAN KOI HAI
MAZLOOM TO INSAAN IDHAR BH HAI UDHAR BHI
ROTI HAI KHUSHI ROZ ISI BAAT PE ROSHAN
AB JANG KA SAAMAAN IDHAR BHI HAI UDHAR BHI
AB AAO CHALO AAJ HI SARHAD KO JALA DE
INSAAN PARESHAN IDHAR BHI HAI UDHAR BHI
Aaghaz-e-Dosti had also asked some eminent people to give their view on recent clash and some of these are given here:
Prithvi Sharma from India Friends Association stated:
First of all, it is difficult to know the facts given such high levels of tension and secrecy. We can only rely on the media and the government, neither of which are particularly reliable under such circumstances. I am a pacifist, so I condemn all violence no matter in whose name it is committed. However, it has become the dominant myth of our times that all our evils result from bad politicians. I disagree. It absolves us of all responsibility. People carry hate and prejudice. Yes, the vested interests, be it the politicians or other wielders of power, do exploit. But they won’t be able to do this if people did not participate.
I also do not believe that being a soldier automatically confers a level of integrity on any one. The world history is replete with horrific deeds committed by soldiers. Such acts are committed voluntarily as often as they are committed under pressure from superiors. At the same time, I do not see soldiers any worse than the rest of us. It is the situation that they are put in that makes them do what they do. A soldier’s job is to kill. By definition he has to kill or be killed. In spite of the myth that we tend to build around our warriors, even under the best of circumstances, they are just like the rest of us, trying to do a job under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably far more difficult than faced by most of us. And most of them do perform their task with courage and integrity. It is however, when they are put in to situations (such as in Kashmir) where their mission is poorly defined and widely opposed that we get in to difficulty. I don’t suppose it is any different for those on the opposite side of the border. So, you can say that the real culprits are the political bosses, military commanders and other powers that be but that only tells half of the story.
India and Pakistan are two countries. For better or worse, the people in Pakistan made their choice. That can’t be reversed. There is every reason that we should live as good neighbors with respect and goodwill towards each other. We must strive for that. What to do? Certainly, we should support the soldiers and their families. We should express our support for the continuation of dialogue between the two countries. If there are forces that are trying to derail the process, the best way to disarm them is to not react to their provocation. Besides that, I want to paraphrase Gandhiji who, when asked as to how a Christian can be a good Hindu, said that by becoming a good Christian. Or something like that. We must get our house in order, work for a just, free and democratic society in India. That is the best way to be friends with our neighbors in Pakistan.
Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court of India & Social Activist told Aaghaz-e-Dosti volunteers:
Of course, we should agree for a UN inquiry into the matter. What other option is there when Pakistan is denying their role in the incident. In such matters, it is important to involve the UN and avoid the nationalistic jingoism that we are seeing in the media.
Though mutual talk is the best solution, but if the two nations disagree so violently, it is best to involve the UN. Otherwise the jingoism being promoted by the media can lead to a dangerous situation.
Dipak Dholakia, Gandhian Activist
Indo Pak tension must get a permanent solution and Kashmir has to play the role in this.
Sagar Rabari, Social Activist from Ahemdabad
I don’t see any role for third party inquiry in this border violence, UN’s record is not straight so far as disputes are concerned.
Secondly, on border, such incidents happens when peace process gets momentum, because there so many forces in both the country who are not happy with the peace process and they do want to derail it. Government has to register protests and also fix the dates for next meeting for dialogue and sports, cultural activity also.
In our country, many things are driven by emotions, to pass a law without proper thinking of its misuses or to solve border issues cannot be done by emotions, it requires lot profound thinking of all the facets of issue.
People on both side should be vigilant on respective governments and also proceed forward with optimism, ultimately truth and peace will prevail.
Kiran Shaheen, Social Activist
Indo – Pak tension is an easy target for both the governments to divert the immediate concerns. We have witnessed this several times.
Aaghaz-e-dosti (Peace and Friendship initiative between India and Pakistan)
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