Mar 15, 2010

From Aman ki Asha to Aman ki Bhasha

Both Indians and Pakistanis share the same helplessness
— a consequence of a long drawn war that neither side wants

By R Vasundara

Even as the Aman Ki Asha campaign is surging ahead, opening dialogues and cultural exchanges between India and Pakistan, a few others have been inspired by its success to do their bit in lessening bitterness and strife between the two countries.

One such movement is the Aman ki Bhasha campaign, formed by a group of peace activists from both India and Pakistan.

"This concept was evolved during a 10-day meet between peace activists from the SAARC countries in Kathmandu," said Faizur Rehman, a Chennai-based peace activist who is one of the founders of this campaign.

"The Indian and Pakistani delegates got along like a house on fire. We’d often gather together for informal discussions and we realised that all the mistrust and conflict are really due to a lack of communication on both sides. That’s when we hit upon the idea of a cultural exchange programme. And the name Aman ki Bhasha or Language of Peace made perfect sense to us since Aman ki Asha has already given the peace process a big boost."

His counterpart in Pakistan, Shafqat Mehmood, a retired brigadier working in Waziristan in North-West Pakistan that border Afghanistan, and the chairperson of Paiman Alumni Trust, was equally enthusiastic about the idea. "All dealings between the two countries have hitherto been completely at governments’ level," he explained.

"As a result, even when peace processes and summits are initiated, the smallest hitch sets us back by two years. And bringing them up in international forums has only served to worsen it due to trans-national interventions," said Mehmood, adding, "We shall be initiating an exchange programme, where people of both countries visit each other, spend a few days together and get acquainted with the ground realities. I believe that both Indians and Pakistanis share the same helplessness –– a consequence of a long drawn war that neither side wants."

Reiterating Mehmood’s statement, Rehman felt that both countries share similar sentiments regarding the peace process. "It’s the same on both sides," he said. "Some people want to whole-heartedly extend their hand, some are hesitant to do that and some thoroughly mistrust the other side. We need to break down the ice."

However, both sides are well aware that any initiative turns into a deadlock when the Kashmir issue comes up. "If we can’t eliminate a problem, it’s better to just defuse it," declared Mehmood. "When it comes to the Kashmir issue, since we can’t resolve the situation, why not maintain status quo and let things take its own course. It will give both sides the opportunity to lessen the bitterness and tension and some much needed relief."

Courtesy: The Times of India


The Indian and the Pakistani delegates who came together to form the Aman ki Bhasha campaign pose during a conference;

Faizur Rehman, a Chennai-based peace activist represented India.

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