Probably nowhere in the world we have a situation where people are as emotionally entwined as between India and Pakistan and yet there is enmity thrust upon them. The cruel turn of events in the history resulted in political separation even though the majority of common people were never consulted and the world witnessed a bloody mass cross movement of people. Family links were severed and a deep scar was left. Even the post partition history has remained quite tumultuous, interspersed with four wars and loss of innumerable valuable young lives. Kashmir remains a sore point between India and Pakistan threatening to take both countries to a war of self-destruction. Even though the common people never want violence and hatred, the fundamentalist elements on both sides as well as political compulsions have ensured that animosity continue to take heavy toll on both sides.

Common people on both sides are now fed up with violence and atmosphere of antagonism. They want friendship, peace and normal relations to be established between the two countries. We have seen that even though the governments of the two countries may be suspicious of each other, whenever the common people of the two countries get to meet all walls of reservation against each other melt, as warm emotions of affinity surge. It is almost like people of same family meeting each other after years of separation. The enmity, hatred and distance are only artificial and soon gives way to warmth, friendship and camaraderie. Is it not amazing that over 50 years of propaganda on both sides, some of it State sponsored and supported by respective media, against each other does not show when common people from both sides meet face to face? It is probably because of the thousands of years’ of shared culture of tolerance, compassion and respect for each other in our societies, inspite of differences in viewpoints which keeps our strong human bonds intact. The people’s emotions have prevailed over the man created national boundaries. Is it not unfair to the common people that they have been forcibly kept separated all these years against their wishes? It is a fit case of human rights violations. As some friends from Pakistan pointed out, the arrangement of giving visas to citizens of the other country between India and Pakistan does not allow people to visit all their relatives on the other side, something which even a person sentenced to death is not denied. Why are we serving sentences more rigorous than death penalty on our innocent citizens of the two countries for no fault of theirs? Is there a single tenable reason why we don’t allow citizens of each other to cross over easily and freely move about in the other country? The kind of people we fear will create problems, anyway do not follow the rules of the governments. And what is the number of such people compared to people interested in going to the other country for genuine bona-fide reasons? We are paying a very heavy price for living in the illusion of security, which remains ever elusive.

If real peace and friendship has to be established between India and Pakistan, the initiative will have to be taken by people of the two countries. The governments will merely follow the will of the people. So far, the governments have tried to create an artificial barrier between the two countries preventing easy access to the other country and free mingling among the people. However, now there is a subtle change in the atmosphere. The governments seem more willing than before to allow people of the two countries to interact freely and also seem to be supportive of the people-to-people level initiatives. A number of peace initiatives are being undertaken to bring down the invisible wall of separation between India and Pakistan. Among these a peace march between Delhi and Multan from 23rd March to 11th May, 2005 is planned as a 50 day walk along the route. The proposed peace march will provide an unique opportunity to people-to-people contact, to inter-mingle, to reflect on and negate the destructive tendencies of distrust, hatred and enmity and spread the message of peace and harmony. It has been decided to evoke the message of Sufis. The march will begin from the dargah of revered Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi and will culminate at the mazar of venerated Bahauddin Zakaria, at Multan. It is a coincidence that Nizamuddin himself had traversed a route from Delhi to Multan in 1257 to meet Baba Farid in pursuance of knowledge seeking endeavour. The message of Sufis is very clear. It is a message of peace, love and tolerance. It is a message that unites people rather than divide. We have to now make a choice. Will we prefer to have a relationship of hate which occasionally becomes violent and consumes precious resources in arms race or can we peacefully co-exist as good neighbours based on a relationship of trust which will not require any weapons for our security? Where does true security lie?

Human beings naturally like to live in peace and harmony. It is only certain extraordinary conditions which force them to take to violence and enmity. But nobody likes to live in a continued state of antagonism. We have had more than our share of violence and tension. Now it is time to unwind and take it easy. Let normalcy be the norm. Let people freely cross over. Why cannot South Asia be like Europe? When people want to meet, the governments should not stand in the way. Can we create a situation like 1257 when Nizamuddin did not need a passport and a visa to go and meet Baba Farid? The Indian and Pakistani Governments are to be congratulated for taking the brave step of allowing people to travel in buses between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad without the requirement of possessing a passport. Can they allow about a 100-200 citizens walking from India to Pakistan to go through Wagha without passports and visas on coming 18th April? Such steps will bring in a sense of security. Only a relationship based on trust can form the true basis of security. Some people fear that opening the borders will open the floodgates for anti-national elements. Actually a tight security border creates an environment where such elements flourish. And do we not have more than our share of such elements within our countries, some of them adorning our parliaments and assemblies? An open border will be in the interest of people of two countries. It will open the real possibility of true and permanent security. The people deserve it and the two governments owe it to their people and the people on the other side. The people are one although there may be two governments. Let the two governments remain but let the people become one.

By Sandeep Pandey