Surat, Gujarat India meets Lahore, Pakistan: Second IndoPak Open Mic
Pakistanis and Indians got a chance to come together virtually as the Aaghaz-e-Dosti organised the 2nd virtual cross-border open mic with Aaghaz-e-dosti Surat, Gujrat team and Aaghaz-e-dosti team Lahore. Open mic was held at Lowkey Lokai, a space that brings together people & community to dialogue and debate issues that are critical for building a peaceful society.
The basic objective of the open mic was an interactive session among Pakistanis and Indians through which art, music and culture could be promoted. Both sides have a notion about the people of other side as strangers and others. Aaghaz-e-dosti has an aim to abolish this ‘otherness’.
Kevin West and Ahsan Aslam from Qaid the band of Lahore initiated the event by singing an Indian song Qurban Hua and Saiyyoun Nee by Junoon Band. Qaid band had outstanding vocals and voice.
The event got pace with a dance performance by Hammad rasheeed, a choreographer and a Kathak dancer also teach at LGS. Hammad has performed more than 100 times in India and Pakistan during the span of last 3 years. He has also choreographed for Pakistan Television, Ajoka Theatre and many other organizations. Hammad did Kathak dance on Raag Bhagraiwaan and Khamaj by Shafqat Ali. This performance fascinated the setting.
As event got rhythm, performances from both the sides were presented turn-by-turn. Mark Xavier, engineering student sang sufi song. Following the Sufi music Joshua Dilawar, a social activist and student of journalism sang Gulabi Ankhain and Taaray Zameen Per. Mohsin, a student of Gender Studies Department, Punjab University did mimickery and both sides were echoing with laughers.
Saddam Hussain from Lahore came up with amazing flute and caught everyone’s attention. Mobeen Ahmad, student of Philosophy from Lahore was another person with flute gave his best.
Zeeshan Sarwar, ended the show by singing a song of peace. Fayyaz, a chemical engineer and member of Aaghaz-e-dosti delivered a poem of his own demanding for peace, humanity and harmony.
Participants appreciated the campaign and this Open Mic event. They were very keen to be invited in such upcoming events of Aaghaz-e-Dosti to promote Peace and tolerance. Participants emphasize that both Governments should replace this conflict and tussle with Peace and harmony. Visa process should be easier, so that people may visit across the border easily one of the participants said that.
The Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a joint initiative of Mission Bhartiyam (India) and Hum Sab Aik Hain (Pakistan), aims to eradicate mutual hatred and suspicion to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship. They believe that miscommunication and lack of communication has helped sustain the conflict. To meet objective, the Aaghaz-e-Dosti has taken several initiatives ranging from interactive sessions in schools to public demonstrations, from art-based initiatives to writing articles and issuing statements to disseminate the misrepresented voice across the border.
Hum Sab Aik Hain represents Aaghaz-e-Dosti Pakistan; an organization formed by a group of young people based in Lahore. The objective of this organization is to promote peace and harmony among the masses by highlighting, advocating and organizing towards discourses and movements to bring about socio-political and the economic changes required for a peaceful society.
Present Team Structure of Aaghaz-e-Dosti
Aaghaz-e-Dosti (lit. Beginning of Friendship) was initiated by Mission Bhartiyam in 2012. At present, it is a joint project of Mission Bhartiyam of India and Hum Sab Aik Hai of Pakistan.
The working structure of Aaghaz-e-Dosti consists of founder, two convenors (temporary post) – India and Pakistan, core committee members, city-coordinators, members of regional team and task-based committees.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been working consistently since its launch in 2012. With the motive to work actively and extensively, every year, the team is restructured and membership is renewed. Here is the current team structure:
Founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti: Ravi Nitesh
Conveners – Devika Mittal (India) and Raza Khan (Pakistan)
Core Members: Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal, Raza Khan and Madhulika V Narasimhan
Aligarh – Ilma Iqbal (Co-ordinator)
Baroda – Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Co-ordinator)
Chandigarh – Astinder Kaur ji (Co-ordinator)
Dehradun – Prashant Nautiyal (Co-ordinator)
Delhi – Madhulika Narasimhan (Chairperson), Madhuri (Treasurer), Shruti Achesh, Sarral Sharma, Neelanjan Chakraborty, Sanjana Arya, Manish Bhaduariya, Madalsa Poddar, Radhika Arora, Dr. Praveen Saraswat and Rupika
Islamabad – Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah, Fatima Shah and Saba Khalid
Lahore – Raza Khan, Safia Bokhari (Co-ordinator), Farooq Ishraq (General Secretary), Sarah Awan (Information Secretary), Atiqa Shahid
Toba Tek Singh – Umair Ahmad (Co-ordinator)
Nasima Karim – Co-ordinator
Zebaish Shaikh – Co-ordinator
Blog/Editing Team Devika Mittal, Madhulika V Narasimhan, Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere and Sheharyar Rizwan
Social Media Initiatives Team Swathi Gadepalli and Rupika
Design Team Shruti Achesh and Prashant Nautiyal
Volunteers: While anyone can apply to become a volunteer, only those who work are recognised as volunteers and on the basis of their work, are given a responsibility and enrolled in the team.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti organised discussion “Books Connect Us” during the World Book Fair
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative for Indo-Pak friendship, organized a discussion on the topic “Books Connect Us” (in the context of South Asia) during the World Book Fair on 15 Feb, 5 to 6 PM. As a part of discussion, student speakers from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal also shared their experiences and thoughts over the topic.
We believe that there is a need to enhance people-to-people communications and foster good relations for a peaceful and prosperous South Asia. In this discussion, we sought to explore the role of books in connecting us. We know that books can play a major role in building people to people bond, by providing a chance to know about each other, to know about each other’s society, culture, language, customs etc. Books provide us a chance to celebrate the diversity.
In this discussion, we had the privilege of having Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi (Asst Professor of International Relations at South Asian University), Sh. Pankaj Chaturvedi (Asst Editor-NBT, Eminent Hindi columnist) and Sh. Shivendra Singh (Associated with India TV and Writer, Author of Ye Jo hai Pakistan and Vijay Chowk Live)
Sh. Pankaj Chaturvedi talked about how books contain a culture in themselves.
Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi talked about about books being an important medium of communication. He talked about both the constructive and destructive potential of the books.
Sh. Shivendra Singh talked about the books being one of the most important sources of communication, of reaching out to people, specially in the Indo-Pak relations and the biased media of both countries.
And four Student Speakers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal
Kulsum Khan, student from Pakistan, studying in India talked about some of the Indian books through which she learnt about India.
Naser Timory, student from Afghanistan, studying in India talked about the persian translation of Panchatantra. He talked about how that book and Al-Biruni’s work gives an insight about India to people in Afghanistan.
Pramod Jaiswal, a student from Nepal, talked about how books can bring about a radical change. He said that some social and political movements in Nepal have been influenced by books written by Indian and other South Asian and foregin writers.
Minazur Rahman, a student from Bangladesh, spoke about how Rabindranath Tagore, Allama Iqbal and Nazirul Islam are respected in all the three countries. He also talked about the partition literature and the need to incorportate perspectives from all the three concerned countries.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is an initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC (Pakistan). Aaghaz-e-Dosti or lit. start of friendship seeks to create unwavering bonds of peace, friendship and trust. We seek to enhance people-to-people relations that have been obstructed to create mutual hatred and suspicion. We seek to become the medium to discover and recognise the misrepresented reality on the other side of the border. To meet our objective, we organise discussions, seminars, public demonstrations, initiatives in schools & colleges, art initiatives, write articles and issue statements.
Launch of Indo-Pak Calendar in New Delhi
LAUNCH OF INDO-PAK CALENDAR AND DISCUSSION ON INDO-PAK FRIENDSHIP IN NEW DELHI
Despite similarities in several respects, the Indo-Pak relations have always been fluctuating. 2013 also saw several ruptures but despite these fluctuations, the bond that connects and shall always connect the people of the two countries has not gone. Every year, we, a people’s initiative, Aaghaz-e-Dosti (lit. Start of friendship), celebrate this bond with our “Calendar for Peace and Love”.
An initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC and Centre for Youth Development Activities, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, aims to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan. The bonds that will survive the vagaries of troubles times. But these bonds will not be artificial ones, they rest on the belief and claim that people of India and Pakistan not only share the same language, culture, values and challenges but also the desire for peace and friendship. It rests on the belief that if there are people on both sides of the border who cannot and do not want to forget the past and do not want others to forget it, there are also people who want to forget the past and not just move on but move along to create a new chapter in history…of friendship and brotherhood.
And so, every year, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches “Calendar for Peace and Love” that would remind us every day about these people. The importance of this calendar is stated by Devika Mittal, convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti from Mission Bhartiyam (India), “The Calendar with the paintings of an innocent and apolitical mind will remind us that mindsets have been constructed. Together with the beautiful dreams of the young and innocent, the Calendar also has messages from people who have been actively working to nurture these dreams.”
Aliya Harir, convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti from The Catalyst – TC (Pakistan), remarked, “This calendar is a collection of shared dreams of peace and friendship. It serves as a hope shared by people who are just like us, in habit and struggle. With the turn of the pages to start a new month, the hope shall be renewed.”
The Calendar will be launched along with a discussion or “Sharing of hopes for a peaceful and friendly co-existence” in both India(New Delhi) and Pakistan (Islamabad). In the launch in New Delhi, people who have been working to strengthen the relations and students from Pakistan will share their experiences and vision. The discussion is open to anyone.
To know about our launch last year, read http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/call-to-empower-peoples-voices-to-foster-indopakistan-peace/article4352842.ece
The details of the launch in New Delhi are:
Date: 21st December 2013
Time: 2 to 5 PM
Venue: India International Centre, New Delhi
We invite your presence as we share our hopes and desire to create a new history of peace and friendship.
Indo-Pak Relations: Bright Eyes,With Colors Of Love and Peace
by Ravi Nitesh
She was a very young student who narrated some lines of love and peace and extended her love towards the neighbor country named India. In her lines, she imagined a tour to the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort and also meeting and befriending some Indians. After coming back to India, during my formal and informal experience sharing, I happened to interact with a person who worked for Indo-Pak peace through letter exchange programs among school students. In his experience, he narrated an incident when a son of a police officer from Karachi informed his father that he is writing a letter to an unknown Indian friend. To this, his father remarked, “you must write, the mistake that our generation did, you must not.”
There are a lot of examples when we try to find innocent and pure hearts, still unaffected by the mindless and dirty politics. These young minds are the future of our countries. These young minds must know the importance of humanity, fraternity, love and peace, not only among their society but also during inter-societal communications. As some bad examples of the immature minds, a student of graduation posted his Facebook status that “people should not work towards friendship with Pakistan”. He further added that, “they must work and see towards problems of their own country and not to go and extend support with neighbor”. Statement received some comments including the one that says ‘’all these people who are working towards Indo-Pak peace must be sent to Karachi in trucks.”
These examples show that there are minds that have become corrupt because they are misinformed. Surely, these statements are neither logical, nor acceptable but I am sure that there are the people on both sides of border who think like this. It is surprising, isn’t it? These people who are supposedly passed out from schools and colleges can become a threat to peace.
These examples should not disillusion us but should push us more towards working on these peace processes. We must know that shaping young minds must be a priority as values of love and peace that will be received in younger age, will be in memory and will reflect in thoughts and work of these students even when they will become mature.
We must know that maturity is not an attribute of age. We must know that maturity without feelings, maturity without values of peace and love has no use. We must understand that a society can become harmonious only through peace and by spreading love within and outside of it.
In view of the younger minds and hearts, we must work towards these bright and colorful eyes that can change the whole scenario, whose hearts and minds are full of love and feelings. These students, in their present age, are so fascinated with concept of humanity that their hearts are pure and full of love, their minds act regardless of any favor towards religion, caste, race, gender, region etc that we can say that these children, young minds truly reflect the concepts of equality, freedom, secularism etc as they are unknown to political use of these sociological terminology.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and is a founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti
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
Launch of “Calendar for Peace and Love” and sharing of hopes for a peaceful and friendly co-existence
Calendar for Peace and Love
The mission is to create unwavering bonds of peace, love and trust between the two countries. This path is riddled with several difficulties. But we should be determined to move towards our goals. We have to remind ourselves constantly that peace and friendship is not just what we desire and must have but the people on the other side also have the same desire.
For this, we have launched a calendar which we call “Calendar for Peace and Love” which would remind us every day about our goals. This calendar will serve as a hope shared by people on both sides of the border. With the turn of the pages to start a new month, the hope shall be renewed.
Under our initiative, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, we have launched Calendar for Peace and Love wherein we had planned a calendar with paintings from youth of both countries. The calendar also has messages from some known people who have been striving for these goals for years. We decided to incorporate their messages as blessings for our journey.
For this event, Mission Bhartiyam had collaborated with two organisations from Pakistan – Centre for Youth Development Activities (CYDA) and Imov Humans.
Launch of Calendar for Peace and Love and sharing of hopes for a peaceful and friendly co-existence
On 27th January, we plan to launch the “Calendar for Peace and Love”. This will be followed by a discussion or a sharing of hopes for a peaceful and friendly co-existence.
For the discussion, we will be inviting people to share their experiences and thoughts. The main speakers will include people who have been working for strengthening the Indo-Pak ties, those who have been to Pakistan and some students from Pakistan who have been studying here. Besides them, the discussion is open to anyone.
In this event, we will be inviting the participants from Delhi whose paintings have been selected. We will give them the calendar and the joint certificate.
The details of the programme are:
Date: 27th January 2012
Time: 6:00-8:30 PM
Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi
To be a part of the launch and discussion, drop us a mail at email@example.com or call at 9958907799 (Ravi Nitesh)
We will send you the official invite.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/456732471060846/
An Evening in Liberty : Lahore Memoirs
by Ravi Nitesh
‘So you are from Karachi?’ the shopkeeper asked while I with other friends was roaming in Lahore and my friends Owais & Abbas told him that I came from outside Lahore. This one statement itself reveals the fact that yes we are alike.
In fact, the relation of a country with other , though ideally (should be) depends on desire of people, but unfortunately, in India and Pakistan, even though a most required and most felt desire of people to meet each other, governments are the only entities that are deciding the relations regardless of people’s emotions.
India and Pakistan are the countries who are more famous for their mutual hate than any mutual progress and love. In contrast, Indians and Pakistanis are the people of two countries who extend their love and supports towards each other whenever they meet. In spite of all unfortunate incidents such as wars and all imposed misunderstandings , still we , the Indians and Pakistanis, together build a region that shares almost same culture, same people, same thoughts etc. In most of the cases, we are alike. In fact, India is more diverse in terms of its states where we have different languages, different culture and different people, while on other hand, across the border, we share a common culture with our neighbor. These things are not just part of facts, but these are the part of life, part of emotions and above all its about pain. Yes, the pain with that we both are suffering. Why not we are allowed to meet frequently with each other? What restrict us? The simple answer is Government policy. And the joke is that, this policy exists on the name of security. So we can say that it is government policy that will decide and authorize us to meet and to visit a place or person. Is it the real thing that we mean of being civilized? Was the natural flow of people not the desire and need of humanity?
As an Indian in Pakistan, you always feel the special gesture you received by them (the Pakistanis). These special gesture was experienced by two Indian delegates who just as a look of nearby tea stall , went for a tea and interacted with people there. One of them had a car and he offered him to give them a 15 minute free tour in his car just because they were special guest.
This country was not only similar but also friendly. We have not experienced even for a single moment that any of them behaved or looked with hate. In coming time, I hope and pray for more relaxed visa norms, for more chances to meet with each other and for more communication. It is the people to can make the real change, because they live the feelings, the pain and the memories. Government has no right to restrict the movements, and in spite of its various policies and regulations, emotions will travel because it cannot restrict.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti
Story of the Border: Lahore Memoirs
by Ravi Nitesh
Which country’s passport do you have?” the officer asked. “India” I replied. “You are our guest, our neighbor” told the officer with smiling face.
When we reached at Atari Border, in Pakistan side, in contrast with our perception, amazingly we didn’t see heavy deployment of armed persons in and around immigration centre. Instead, those polite officers of immigration centre welcomed us and after knowing that we came from India, they offered us cold water too. One of them , also handed over me a bottle filled with cold water and told that I should keep it for the way.
Regardless of our individual identity, we all were only Indian or Pakistanis on the borders of both sides. Our passports have been checked several times during crossing the border, intelligence units tried to ask so many things before crossing the border, however they all were very cooperative. When they knew that the visit is all about strengthening the Indo Pak relation, they became more supportive.
I can say without fear that some of them were not so generous, may be it was because of their tough training, mindsets or some practical experiences or anything else. i experienced some rude behavior of these men with/without uniforms who seems with some negativity and stress. On the other hand, some others were not only polite but also had positive hope for the future and they were willing to have a strong relations of friendship between the countries.
By this experience, it seems that its all depends on a person regardless of his country and job, to make himself aligned towards humanity. In my view, the role and responsibilities of security personals of any country is just to check on crime and thus to help in maintaining peace. If it is, then they must have filled with positive hope and energy to make their job more fruitful.
Role of these security personals are really important. These are the first people who experience the behavior of persons of both sides, and similarly these are the first persons whose behavior was experienced by the persons who crossed the borders. This first experience, in my view , must be such that we both should not be felt like stranger and feared, instead, the gesture must be friendly and polite. In practical, every outsider first meet with a common soldier and immigration officers of the country posted at borders. They are the first persons who represent the country as a whole only with their behavior.
Atari border has been developed in terms of its infrastructure and in India side, lot of renovations has been made to provide easiness to travelers. A comfortable bus service provided from Immigration centre to main gate of border (only about 500 meters). It is good to see that trade is continuing between us.Trucks were lined up on border for transporting goods across borders. I heard that crossing trucks from one country to other is not permitted and then both sides of trucks load and unload the goods to/from each other’s trucks.
It was a visit that kind of pulls me again and again to revisit. I hope and believe that we will get some sort of more relaxation on visa to get it accomplished. It will certainly be a tour to get experience of similar culture, love, emotions and feelings that, probably cannot be expressed in the form of words.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti