Yet another landmark people's initiative is unfolding in India and Pakistan where citizens are marching towards the Wagah border. The India Pakistan Peace Caravan began from Mumbai in India and Karachi in Pakistan, simultaneously, and Caravan on both sides will reach Wagah on 14th August 2010, where it will merge with the legendary candle light ceremony organized every year by noted journalist Kuldip Nayar. Read more
Probably nowhere in the world are people of two countries as emotionally entwined as are the people of India and Pakistan, and yet there is an enmity thrust upon them. The cruel turn of the wheel of history resulted in political separation, leading to a blood-spattered migration of countless people on an unprecedented scale, severing of family ties, and deep scars that have left an indelible imprint on the collective consciousness of the two nations.
Post-Partition, our tumultuous history has been interspersed with four wars and loss of innumerable innocent lives. Kashmir continues to be a sore point in our relations, threatening to take the two countries on a course of self-destruction. Fundamentalist groups within the religious and political space of South Asia continue to ensure that the fires of animosity are kept alive and take a heavy toll on both sides.
Targets of violence and of an atmosphere of antagonism, common people on both sides of the border want peace, friendship and normal relations to be established between the two countries.
The ruling elites of the two countries are usually suspicious of each other, but whenever the common people of India and Pakistan get to meet, all reservations they might have about each other collapse and warm emotions of mutual affinity surge forth, very much like people of the same family meeting each other after years of separation. Enmity, hatred and distance melt away, warmth and friendship take over. In spite of the geographical boundaries forced upon us by historical circumstances, our common customs and traditions endure – our language, our music, our food and cuisine, the very mode of living on both sides of the border leaves no scope for scepticism in terms of our shared values and issues of common concern. The people are divided by borders but their hearts are one
"We feel that if real peace and friendship has to be established between the two countries, the initiative will have to be taken by the people themselves. Various such initiatives have been witnessed over the last many years, the Indo-Pakistan Delhi to Multan Peace March in 2005 being one of them. Sufi saints and poets sang the song of love. The indelible imprints of this deep-rooted tradition are enshrined in the hearts and souls of the populace on both sides of the border. In consonance with this tradition, the March started from the dargah of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi , and culminated at the shrine of saint Bahauddin Zakariya in Multan , taking the message of love and brotherhood to the towns, cities and villages of the two countries. Subsequent to that, widening the scope of the initiative, a `Nuclear-Free, Visa-Free South Asia Convention' was held in Delhi in August 2005, and in Lahore in 2007. Attempts to make it an annual affair have met roadblocks, the biggest being the prevalent visa-passport regime between the two countries" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and one of the key organizers of this year's Peace Caravan and also of the India Pakistan Peace March 2005.
Sustained efforts at the grassroots are required to bring about a change in mindset at the governmental levels. The problems and challenges we face are common – poverty, unemployment, the onslaught of globalisation and economic liberalisation endangering our economies, the dire need to look to the sectors of health and education. A loosening and gradual removal of barriers of trade and commerce, increasing movement of people across borders is bound to benefit both the countries.
Economically strong India and Pakistan can bring about an era of peace and prosperity for the whole of South Asia . A spirit of give and take, of mutual co-operation, of creating an environment of friendship and peace rather than of jingoistic nationalism can see the two countries moving apace on a path of progress and development.
The last few years have seen the two governments taking steps for peace but these have been slow and intermittent, blow hot-blow cold attempts rather than being steady, continuous and sustained. The felt need of renewed efforts to pressurize the governments to listen to the voice of the peace-loving peoples of the two countries now emboldens us to take up another joint people-to-people peace initiative - the Indo-Pakistan Peace Caravan, Amn ke Badhte Qadam, from Mumbai to Wagah in India, and Karachi to Wagah in Pakistan. This Peace Caravan is providing an opportunity to the peace-loving people of both countries to give voice to their urge for peace and friendship, and help build an atmosphere that should ultimately persuade the two governments to listen to the voice of sanity.
Dr Sandeep Pandey said: "In the course of this Peace Caravan, we seek the support of people on the following points :
1. The movement of people across the borders should be made easier. At present there are all sorts of restrictions on such movement, some of which are apparently ridiculous. We would like these restrictions to be removed, for the people on both sides of the border have an intimate attachment with each other. There exists an emotional bond between the two – very much unlike the sense of animosity and mistrust that is reflected in the attitudes of the two governments. Due regard should be given to the wishes and aspirations of the people by the two governments, and they should be allowed to freely and easily meet, and inter-act with each other. In fact, the visa-passport regime should be done away with.
2. India and Pakistan must establish unconditional friendship forthwith respecting the wishes of common people of both countries and then try to resolve the issues. A solution to all contentious issues between India and Pakistan should be found peacefully through mutual discussions around the table. These issues include the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (which, in our view, should be resolved by taking into consideration the wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir ), and the issue of terror-related activities on account of which the people of both countries are suffering.
3. India and Pakistan should dismantle their atomic-nuclear establishments at the earliest. Both countries should destroy landmines laid in the border areas and send their forces back to the barracks. We want that both countries should stop wasting their valuable resources in the name of defence-budget, and plan for these resources to be used for the eradication of poverty in the sub-continent. Those who are a part of the Peace Caravan believe that real security lies not in the piling of arms and ammunition but in building a relationship based on mutual trust and faith. Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the fact is that underground landmines and nuclear bombs rather than causing damage to the `enemy', only end up causing much greater harm to your own people. It would, therefore, not be inappropriate to call these weapons anti-people.
4. The two countries must end proxy and/or low intensity wars against each other forthwith and restrain their intelligence agencies from fomenting trouble across the border."
Peace and development are possible only in an environment of trust and mutual goodwill : this, indeed, is the message of this ongoing Peace Caravan. "We very well understand that our aims and objectives cannot be achieved through just this effort. We also believe that this Peace Caravan is just one element in the many initiatives being taken up by the two peoples for Peace" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, who is also the national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). Let us, then, join hands for the SUSTAINED creation and development of an environment of mutual trust, goodwill and peace between the two countries – indeed, peace in South Asia as a whole.
Bobby Ramakant - CNS