Give peace a chance: Activists urge India, Pakistan, to step up for #SouthAsia

The Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) has begun a series of online discussions aimed at reclaiming the people’s narrative. The PIPFPD The page has several video excerpts from these and other discussions. Below reports on both discussions by Neel Kamal, published in Times of India and Aman Ki Asha.

Times of India, July 13, 2020

Give peace a chance: India, Pakistan peace activists want their countries to discuss people’s language more than state language

By Neel Kamal

Taking forward the ‘Guftagu band na ho’(Let talks not stop) initiative to ‘Mulaqat jald ho’(let us meet soon), peace activists from India and Pakistan want the narrative to be changed for the better, distances and differences of decades to be bridged in times to come.

The effort themed Resisting War mongering: Reclaiming People’s Narrative, organised by the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), Pakistan chapter, highlighted this message at an online seminar Saturday evening, stressing that efforts for peace between neighbouring countries must be renewed.

The first webinar in this series was organised by the PIPFPD India chapter on May 31, titled ‘Guftagu band na ho’. Taking this a step further, the recent one was titled Mulaqat jald ho —  despite being aware that this is unlikely to happen given the worsening relations, with the big international issue being dominated by soldiers from both sides being killed with Kashmir as.   

“Discuss people’s language more than state language, by which I mean talk about climate, poverty, the immediate issues of people. There is need to reconceptualize how democracy should look like. This understanding is needed to move towards peace dialogue. There is need to recognise unspoken charters and resistance in majoritarian countries”, said feminist activist Nazish Brohi from Karachi.

Nazish Brohi, Siddiq Wahid, Gautam Mody, Beena Sarwar participating in the discussion. Screen grabs.

“People’s narratives from Kashmir on either side have always been silenced by the two nations, which need to be changed”, said Nisar Shah of Awami Workers Party, Rawalkot, Pakistan.

“A new generation of consciousness, new forms of unity, new conversation are required for both countries. Let us identify the weaknesses. A new narrative and new kind of energy is needed to have conversation”, said trade unionist Gautam Mody from Delhi. He added that both countries have not had meaningful trade union conversations since 2009.

“We need to highlight issue of fish workers, others jailed on both sides, fishermen chase fish that see no borders and yet they are jailed or killed or persecuted. There is need to think how do we replace state sovereignty with people’s sovereignty”, said academic and author Siddiq Wahid from Srinagar.

Beena Sarwar, journalist and peace activist from Pakistan said that SAARC is dysfunctional because of the tense and complicated bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. “We need to push for South Asian regional cooperation and talk about bilateral issues within that framework”.

A signature campaign for the release of fishermen and other bilateral prisoners has been launched, to be completed by August 14. The memorandum will be sent to the Prime Ministers of both countries, said M. Tahseen, Convenor PIPFPD Pakistan chapter and M.J. Vijayan, Convener India chapter.

Neel Kamal is a senior reporter with Times of India based in Bathinda, Punjab, India. This report was originally published in The Times of India, July 13. See earlier report below.


Times of India, June 1, 2020

‘Guftagu band na ho’ – Cross border activists want the peace process to continue

Undeterred by past failures, peace activists from both India and Pakistan have renewed efforts for dialogue between the neighbouring countries, saying that peace must be given another chance. Wanting at least people-to-people interaction to continue, organisers titled the effort as ‘Guftagu band na ho’ (let talks not stop).

Well known activists from either side bared their hearts in a webinar on Saturday late evening where they stressed the need to continue talks between their countries despite relations being at the lowest ebb. During these turbulent times when soldiers from both sides are being killed with Kashmir as the big international issue, talking peace may be seen as insanity but they refuse to lose all hope.   

Munizae Jahangir, Vijayan MJ at the webinar. Screen grabs.

“There have been many initiatives for peace between India and Pakistan including Aman Ki Asha, Aaghaz e Dosti and others, but we have not achieved our goal of improving relations between both nations. Still, peace loving persons cannot sit back and mutely witness the destruction being caused by worsening relations”, said Vijayan MJ, India coordinator of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD).

That is why PIPFPD partnered with other organisations to revive a ‘Guftagu band na ho’ process, something that most people from both sides want, he added. Launched in 1994, PIPFPD is the oldest and largest peace group between the two nations.

The daughters of renowned Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and lawyer Asma Jahangir respectively Salima Hashmi and Munizae Jahangir, renowned peace activist IA Rahman, Nighat Khan, journalist Beena Sarwar, Kashmir-based young photojournalist Sanna Mattoo, India based journalist Anuradha Bhasin, former Indian Navy chief Admiral Ramdas and Lalita Ramdas, Dr Syeda Hameed, Tapan Bose, Jatin Desai, Devika Mittal, Dinesh Mohan and many others strongly advocated the reviving of peaceful ties between both the countries and providing people more chances to interact and even hug each other.

Complete video of the first discussion at the PIPFPD Facebook page, at this link.

Neel Kamal is a senior reporter with Times of India based in Bathinda, Punjab, India. This report was originally published in The Times of India, June 1.

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