AMAN KI ASHA
Feel odd to see those two words side by side doesn’t it?
Terror, hatred and fanaticism some how sit more comfortably in our minds when we think of the other side of the boarder.
Words that we’ve been fed in daily close over the last six decades. And in grater does over the last one year.
Shutting our minds to the undeniable truth that people across the boarder are above all, people. Like us.
So here’s the question. Is there any chance at all, that we would still raise our hand, not in anger but in greeting?
Depends on who raises his hand firs, some come of us would say. Also how, whisper a few others. But mostly at all boils down to one simple question.
Why must we do it? Why do we need them? Why don’t they first say sorry for what they have done? And answer is simple.
It’s easier to say Hi than to say a Sorry. It’s shorter too. Besides there is no rules that says a book has to be closed before a new one is opened. Not even if it’s a history book.
So on the first day of this New Year we’re going to make a start again.
With Aman Ki Asha. A brave new people to people initiative by The Times of India and Pakistan’s Jang group to bring the people of two fine nations closer together. Culturally, emotionally and peacefully.
Starting with the series of the cross boarder cultural interaction, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizens meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefield of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.
In the hope that one day, words like Pakistan, India and love will not seem impossible in the same sentence.
FRIENDS ARE DIFFERENT. ENEMIES ARE SAME.
No two friends are the same. They feel differently, talk differently, dress differently, love and even hate differently, and still stay friends.
It is said that the most beautiful thing about the friendship that two people can grow separately without growing apart.
Enemies on the other hand are almost always similar. The share same of hatred, suspicion betrayal and revenge on both side of the battle line. Which is what’s make them enemies.
So here’s a question. Why is it, that we cannot have differences with our neighbors without making them our enemies?
Yes, we are being naive here. But being intelligent and complex hasn’t really got us anywhere.
So we are going to make a start again with Aman Ki Asha. A brave new initiative by the Times of India and Pakistan Jang group to bring the people of two fine nations closer together, culturally, emotionally and peacefully.
A people-to-people project, Aman Ki Asha is an open platform for a series f cross boarder cultural gathering, business seminar, music and literary festivals and citizen meets.
So that the human bond that binds all people gets a chance to survive outside the battle field of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.
And lets us celebrate a simple truth that we can have differences. But still be friends.
Although history has taught us that bitterness and hatred have never bought about the solution of many problem, humankinds, it’s appears, is prone to repeating errors of the past, and puerile is its desire to learn from experience not history.
The announcement about the Indo-Pak Peace Project – AMAN KI ASHA initiated by Times of India and Jang, brought a whiff of fresh air and hope on the first day of the New Year.
The appeal of these messages lies in its ability to delve deep into our psyche and stir the talent and emotional and sentimental chords of the Sindhi community. Separated from there homeland in 1947, the deep rooted bonds have not entirely snapped and neighbors across the boarder have been viewed with a certain warmth of fondness albeit tempered with some apprehension and regret the prevalent relationship.
I reproduce two articles featured in earlier issue of SINDHISHAAN which reiterate the sentiments of this laudable initiative.
Excerpts from my Editorial Volume 3, Issue 2 April-June 2004
SPINNING THE MAGIC
I think the Indian cricket team felt that they and Pakistanis should jointly comply with the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bidding. So probably Saurav Ganguly told his teammates “khel jeetnay ka kaam hum karengey, dil jeetnay ka kaam unko kayney do” – Let us win the game and let the Pakistanis win over Indian Hearts.
Amazing stories related by retuning Indians who visited Pakistan for watch a cricket –
“How can I charge you fare? You are our guest” said our rickshaw driver.
“We’ve been totally bowled over by Pakistani hospitality.”
“Although cameras and binoculars were not permitted into the stadium, the rules were waived for Indians visitors’’
“The shred their food with us during launched hours and exchanged notes on food, Ajmer dargah, Bollywood.”
“Shopkeepers rushed to offer us free gift and discount on every purchase.”
“I hope and pray we Indian can match their standard of hospitality when thy visit India.”
Well it was the British who were instrumental in pushing us apart and how it is their very own game of cricket that seems to be bringing us together at a time when the cricket teams of both of counties – India and Pakistan are more than a match for the English team of today. Irony of fate.
Great expectations have arisen. There has been meeting of hearts and friendships sealed. As Shri Dayal Jethwani responded to SINDJISHAAN’s opinion poll with “PEACE IS NOT LONGER AN OPTTION – IT’S A COMPULSION.” We look up to the leaders and politicians of both the countries to take further step to strengthen the hands of our visionary Prime Minister who has never shied about talking bold and innovative step towards peace and stability. Let’s usher in the era where missiles’ means only Shoaib’s inswingers and ‘defense’ refers to Dravid’s ‘wall.’
Expert from articles, volume 6 issue 2, April – June 2007
TIME TO RETHINK?
I AM AN INDIAN – was the opening remark of Ajmer Jaleel, Ex Vice chancellor, Allana Iqbal Open University, Islamabad (Pakistan), while presenting his dissertation “A Sindhi – free from Partition’s Communal Dogma.” At the international seminar on 6th March 2007, ‘relevance of Sindhyat in Modern Times, ‘hosted by the department of Sindhi as a part of the sesquicetenary celebrations of University of Mumbai. “I was born in INIDIA; there were no Pakistan then; and above all I am a Sindhi!” – He continued.
“We are the first firs and foremost SINDHIS and then Muslim and Pakistanis” was the refrain of a group of a Muslim Sindhi from Pakistan who participated in an informal working session at the 11th International Sindhi Sammelan, held in London during July 2004. “Why we accorded a cold reception to the point of making us feels unwelcome at Sindhi Forums hosted by Hindu Sindhis” was their singular lament. SILENCE. There were no answers forthcoming.
At far as I can recall, right from my childhood days, none of the elders in my family; parents, aunts, uncles of grandparents ever uttered a single word against the Muslim Sindhis from the pre-partition days. On the contrary they always sang praises and had kind words for their Muslim neighbors and friends. Neither do I recall having read a single article written by Hindu Sindhi deriding the Muslim Sindhis on any ground whatsoever. There are ample stories and anecdotes about the Hindu visiting mosques Pirs and Sufi shrines with almost respect and devotion.
THEN WHY THESE DIVIDE?
Why is it that when we refer to SINDHI DIASPORA we count the only Hindu population and do not include the Pakistani Sindhis. After all, SINDH of today is not the same as it was before partition and I have read and been told by several visiting Sindhis from Pakistan that the Muslim Sindhis in Sindh feel outsider in their own home state. When they can, without any apprehension and fear, although they are under constant threat of retribution for such acts, openly decry there brotherhood with the Hindus why is it that the Hindu Sindhi shies from reciprocating.
Nayantara Sehgal reviewing Popti Hiranandani’s – SINDHIS – The Scattered Treasure states that “The book impress upon the readers the secular outlook of the Sindhis who draws his language, cultural and inspiration from both Hindu and Muslim streams.’’
Ram Jethmalani in his article ‘SINDH AND SINDHIS’ written in 2004 states “when Hindu parted from his Muslim brothers, often tearful scenes were witnessed and as Pakistan plunged into economic backwardness and military dictatorship, the Muslim Sindhi in melancholy and nostalgia wished for the return of his Hindu brothers.”
It will not be amiss to reproduce some extract from Ram Jethmalani’s address at the International seminar mentioned in my opening paragraph:
“Our origins go back 7000 years to the banks of the great river Indus. There was no religion at that time. I am not a man of religion but I mean no disrespect to religion. I am of the firm belief that religion has done more harm than good. Maybe it provides comfort, some solace, some hope to the unhappy people who are looking for the something in the world that they could not find otherwise. On the whole religion has a negative balance sheet and that is why after a study of all religions I have a found a one line religion of my own – “make as many people happy as you can during your short span of life.” Religion and virtue are both a special form of ego and ego is a cause of trouble, strife, conflict, violence and war.
Famous Poet, Lyricist & Film Director – GULZAR
This is the best time to have the Aman Ki Asha initiative. For friendship, love and peace it is always the right time. People think there is a war on between India and Pakistan. Jung chal rahi hai so we shouldn’t talk about peace that is AMAN. However, I feel, it is all the more important to talk about peace. It is all to more important to extend the olive branch of peace. If there is a war on, naturally one must seek peace.
We must tell those who have gone astray, we must tell those who are doing wrong – on either side of the boarder – that thy ear being swayed be negative emotions. We are fond of each other. If you look at the two peoples, one-to-one every Indian and every Pakistani cares about the other. It is only when it comes to politics, and we start looking at the whole country and at politicians that matters start to go awry.
What is common between us our culture, our values. The fine arts, the air, the water, the sea. The birds from both our countries fly back and forth. If there is a difference in our political agendas we must sit across a table and sort out these differences. By fighting we stand to gain nothing. Both our cloths will be torn.
And there are people on both sides who want peace. This is not so say that there are no fundamentalist on both sides. If it comes to fundamentalism then that also exists on either side. In Pakistan the fundamentalist issues look more intense because of their boarder trouble in Afghanistan, etc. Btu it is not as if we don’t have fundamentalist in our country. They exist here very much. Within India, we have a Naxalite movement, we have a Bodo movement. And may other fundamental parties who have their own agendas. The point is there is a trouble waiting to happen right here. But these problems are political.
However, common man to common man: we love each other, respect each other. We must respect each other’s identity. Only then we will be able to bring peace. And, we want peace. Like as I keep saying this is the right time to take that peace initiative. Aman ki asha karein hum.
The response from across the boarder seems to be equally exuberant. I reproduce a column written for Jang by Iqbal Haider, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court in Pakistan, and the co-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
In the gloomiest atmosphere around us in a Pakistan, we had no reason to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The morning of Jan 1, 2010, however, gave us a pleasant surprise when we read that the editors of the Jang group in the Pakistan and of the Times of India group have taken a bold initiative to join hands for promotion of peace, economic prosperity, educational and health, much needed by the one-and-half-billion people of our two countries.
This was not the only good news on Jan 1. The civil society of the Pakistan, realizing the importance of peace had also observed a solidarity day under the banner of “Aman Ittehad” and took rallies in more than 35 countries of Pakistan, attended by he exuberant citizens despite a hartaal in Sindh and fear of the terrorists. This demonstration once again vindicated the burning desire of the people for peace.
I can state with the confidence that the ordinary people of the India equally desire peace with the same keenness, desire and spirit. It is most this reasons that supporters of peace in India have a once convened a conference in New Delhi on Jan 10 in search of “A Road Map towards Peace.’’ We greatly appreciated this initiative of all intellectuals, leaders, human right activist, NGO’s, journalist and other people, including former Prime Minister I K Gujral and Kuldip Nayar, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, who are two of the hosts of this meet.
The vast majority of people do agree that war is not the solution. Over the past 62 years, the three wars with India and two battles of Siachen (1987) and Kargil (1999) couldn’t help in any way of Pakistan is already at an unending war for the past over three years, with the worst enemies – the terrorist within. I hope all thinking sections of public in India would appreciate, that, now or in future, Pakistan can not afford to indulge in any aggressive designs and any adventurism against India. Hence, there is nothing to fear from Pakistan.
Not only were the wars in past six decades destructive, but equally counterproductive and destructive was the strategy to promote jihad and jihadi organizations in Pakistan, on the pretext of keeping the Kashmir issue alive. The activities of the jihadis and extremist militant religious terrorist in the past three decades have not resulted in further loss of life, places for warship and properties not only of the Kashmir’s but more so in Pakistan. The so-called jihad could not force to India for budge an inch or motive any country, including our closest allies, to pressure India to resolve the issue peacefully. Nor was the Indian economy or its image damaged by the jihadis in any significant manner. On the contrary, it is Pakistan that is bleeding profusely on the account of the undeclared, endless war unleashed from within by the terrorists.
Indeed, the people of India have suffered many terrorist attack, included the attack on Parliament of India, the tragedy of Nov 26 in Mumbai and bombing of the markets in Delhi are some of the most heinous, condemnable crimes against the state and people of India, I share the grief of the people of India and join them in condemning these terrorist forces. I would however, draw the attention of the people in India to the fact that the people of Pakistan are suffering such disasters and barbaric incident of far worst terrorism almost every day in every nook and corner of Pakistan, where several thousand innocent citizens have lost there lives and properties. Hence, peace is our need not only for our country but also for the entire region. We can only succeed in eradicating the terrorism with concerted efforts and joint line of action in our two countries, without any further loss of time. Not only the people but also the governments of two countries agree that all disputes can be resolved through dialogue, with sincerity of purpose.
In the first place, dialogues between the two countries must resume unconditionally and with the sincere commitment to resolve the issues. There is no harm of Control, with some necessary adjustments, as the international boarder, at list for the time being. It would be in the best interest of all the people if the two agree to establish visa-free boarder and free ex-change of economic, cultural, academic, intellectual groups and access to the electronic/print media.
I am conscious of the fact that such bold decisions can not be implemented without mobilizations of opinion of the public and the leaders. Here I see the most vital positive role hat can be played by the media of the two countries. We are fortunate that the two biggest groups of publications – The Jang group and The Times of India group – have come forward to save one-and-a-half billion people from a wars, prejudices, terrorism and poverty.
AND then words of wisdom on the subject form our own Legal Luminary Shri. Ram Jethmalani
On his returns from Peace Mission of Sindh (30th August 2003)
From a long time I had the desire to visit Pakistan. I was just a waiting to take advantage of the right opportunity to go there. You must have heard that we are running an institution by the name of Kashmir Committee. Many organizations from Pakistan had invited to this institute to come and talk with them. But due to some reason and other this visit kept on being postponed. South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), who calls themselves to representative of the Free Press and other Medias of communication, has a branch in Pakistan besides other SAARC countries. Feroz Imtiyaz, member of SAFMA – Pakistan, along with other members had come to Delhi and it was decided that a delegation consisting of 50% parliamentarians and 50% journalist should go to Pakistan.
When we reached Pakistan via the Wagah Boarder, the warm welcome that we received, was to be seen to believe. It seemed that the Pakistan people have not understood that there army officers are making a fool of them. These officers just need their designations, money, bribes, luxurious life styles and these are the once who do not want the disputes with India to be settled. And because of them the economy of Pakistanis in shambles and a dire state. They feel that now they should revolt against these so called leaders of the Pakistan. Leave alone the official organizations, parties’ representatives, on the Wagah boarder, even the common man was standing there with big placards standing, we don’t want terrorism, we don’t want violence, we want land, we want love and peace. They had come to welcome us at the Wagah boarder with placards. During the 3 - 4 days of our stay in Pakistan, the way they served us, the way they behaved with us, the way they showed their hospitality to us, seeing all this truly, we felt a joy in our hearts. After experiencing their welcome and generosity, we felt that not in some strange and foreign country. Today such an atmosphere has been created that if you visit Pakistan, you shall not feel that you are in some foreign country, but in your own country.
During the course of our visit we also had a meeting with General Musharaf Sahab. I was asked to do the winding up. I told the president, Mr. President, I don’t want to ask you question, but I do want to share some thoughts with you. The first thought that I want to share with you is that nothing in the world is unconditionally good except goodwill. Therefore God’s sake does not make this argument that first you solve the Kashmir problem, only that can create goodwill. Goodwill is solvent, the most powerful solvent. I don’t want to quarrel with you. You say that Kashmir is a core problem and my Indian friends say that it is not a core problem. I say that my Indian friends are wrong, you are right, it is the core problem. But let me tell you, that if you create goodwill, that solvent will make the core problem eminently solvable.
The second thought is that you saying, “Let us carry official dialogue, we are waiting for the dialogue to start and we suspect that you have no intentions of solving this problem.” You are right about the intentions of the Indian Government. I, myself am not satisfied. But I don’t agree with you that you should go on talking about the formal dialogue. A formal dialogue requires homework. You did not do your homework and your both summits failed. Let this homework be done. And this homework being done by the people not by you or by your bureaucrats. Your bureaucrats will meet, but they will come out of the meeting within four hours and will announce to the world that is there talks have failed. Sir, let us talk, we people were solve the problem, and then we will come to you and compel you to accept what we people decide.
Extract from “India and Pakistan”. Article composed by Shri. Ram Jethmalani in 2004 from his book ‘Conscience of a Maverick’
Both Pakistan and India have realized by now that war has not solved and will not solve any of their outstanding disputes and problem. A solution will sprout only from the soil of peace and goodwill, watered by mutual understanding and rational approach.
Before partition, India as a whole had an integrated economy. Logically, the country’s political partitions need not to have drastically disrupted and existing economic arrangements. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The policies pursued could well be described as that a cutting one’s nose the spite one’s face. At the time of partition, Pakistan was agriculturally more developed and India was industrially more advanced. Pakistan had in abundance, jute, which the manufacturers in Calcutta absorbed. The natural Indo-Pakistani trade in jute virtually came to a stop. Pakistan began to build an independent industrial base on itself. Even for this, it needed Indian coal and iron ore, but it would not take them from India. Perceptive economist ruefully recorded, “each country is trying to be self-sufficient and, in trying to be so, denying itself the product of the other. Questions of cost have been disregarded largely due to consideration of nationalism. The specializations that have evolved over a period of centuries have been shuttered and new economic pattern and relationship are being evolved in two countries. Politics based on communal hatred and suspicion is systematically undoing the work of generation by defying the factors of economic geography and the laws of economic science.”
In the eighties, some effort is made to establish private sector link between the two countries. There were exchange of delegations and meetings of Finance Minister. The size and range of trade, however, continued ridiculously small and narrow. The available data for 1988-89 show that Indian export to Pakistan amounted Rs. 36.43 crore and Imports Rs. 72.58 crore. Now that both the countries are breaking free from Government control and are firmly set on the free market path, entrepreneurs in both countries must meet and resolve to end the suicidal trends.
India Pakistan have long common boundary. Owing to their not-so-good economic and political relations, they are spending huge amounts out of their scarce resources on defense. The defense expenditure for undivided Pakistan in 1969-70 was Rs.274.9 crore, which sputtered to Rs. 812 crore in 1976-77. It spiraled to Rs. 1710 crore during 1981-82. Pakistan’s national defense claimed 26.4 per cent of its total expenditure during 1982-83. It was equivalent to 6.1 per cent of its GDP. This is the highest level of 36 low-income and 60 middle-income countries listed to the World Bank Development report, 1981. The share of military security in the total US economic and military aid to Pakistan was 52 per cent on the average during 1947-62.
India spent about 3.5 per cent of its GDP (as factor cost, 1960 prices) on defense per annum on an average during the period was 42.2 per cent annually on an average. It was higher than Union Government’s expenditure on development, which was 39.7 per cent. In fact, development expenditure declined in favour of the military sector form 1962-63 to 1972-73. Thus, the net availability of public sector for non-military purposed has suffered obviously of an account of the claim of defense on gross revenue of the country. Its overall net impact on the rate of Indian Economic growth has been negative.
Our economic relationship should produce a vested in each other’s prosperity. That perception will be the best insurance against any military adventures and wars. The Kashmir dispute will then be seen in prospective and cease to be a casus belli. An honorable situation involving some ‘give and take’ will cause no embarrassment to either side. The poor and either side will be the main beneficiaries.
PRIYA: The stories are legion; everyone you meet has one. My latest is the cabbie in Singapore at last week, born in Haryana but moved to Pakistan. My mother is the cab with me, born in Rawalpindi but moved to Delhi. They talked, reminisced, mentioned familiar place…..they both spoke in Punjabi. He refused to accept the cab fare, around Sing $ 25!
What a wonderful initiative! May 2010 give its wings to soar! At some deep level, I do believe the people of both countries want this to happen. We meet outside our two countries, and celebrate each other’s festivals and share each other’s lives. We respect each other, and enjoy each other’s company! It falls apart at the National level. Maybe it’s time to sidestep the politicians, radicals and vested interests and let the people connect at a people-level.
SANJAY: Well for the first time in life I interacted with Pakistani when I went to USA to work and study. I must confess having grown in India I had my typical stereotypes about Pakistani’s. I expected them to be very conservative religiously fanatic. To my utter surprise I mate with the smart educated people who had an enlightened view of the world. We soon figured out that one on one, people to people we get along well. It’s only at a group level we have a problem. As chances are just like me, before I went outside India I had never made Pakistani face to face. So many opinions of the Pakistanis were based on just what I read in newspaper and magazine which was all about conflict….. But when I met someone for the first time in my life face to face from Pakistan it was very different.
HARISH: “HAI DELLO ME FIR JAGI EK NAYI ASHA….AMAN KI ASHA
SARHADE INNHE NA ROK PAYE ASHAYE HAI YEH AMAN KI HAWAYE…”
--AMAN KI ASHA
Yeh koshis hai apano KO manane ki
Diye the joh jakham kabhi hum-tum ne unhen bhlulane ki
Mana huye the khafa kabhi joh hum-tum, joh hua so hua
Fir saal dar saal lade kyun hum-tum,
Yeh jo chali hai hawa sarhado ke paar
Tu bhi ho le inape sawar kar ab tu bhi Karle
AMAN KI ASHA…AMAN KI ASHA
Main bhi jaanta hu… tub hi jaanta hai,
Jhutha nahi hai yeh ehsaas
Rukta kyun hai ab na ho udas,
Sarhade sab mita denge, duriya sab hata denge
Mein bhi jaanta hu tu bhi jaanta hai
Tere – mere Maine ki hai yeh asha … AMAN KI ASHA
Tera bachapan gaya, meri javani bhi gayi,
Be vajah hi kaie sanse bhi thami…
Mene ki hai suruvat tub hi Karle aaj,
Yeh jo chal rahi hai hawa sharhado ke par, tu bhi ho le inape savar
Kar le ab tu bhi kar le … AMAN KI ASHA
WHAT PEACE CAN DO –
Saadat Ali is one of thousands who come to India for treatment for his son Rahim. Sources in Escorts hospital said 151 patients from Pakistan were treated at their hospital in 2008 and about the same number in 2009 as well. Apart from Escorts, Apollo hospitals and Max receive patients across the boarder throughout the year, Chandigarh, Delhi and Chennai the preferred cities. Little Rahim had to undergo an open heart surgery which went off well. Ali is sentimental about the trip, seeing India as his savior. “Not only did the doctors across the boarder save Rahim’s life by carrying out successful open- heart surgery but also waived of all the medical expenses which I wasn’t able to pay,” says a grateful Ali, watching his son around the room. Naila, Saadat’s wife too, vividly recalls incidents where Indians went out there way to show their affection for Pakistanis. She recounts the generosity of two Sikh girls at the hospital who offered to donate their blood for young Rahim. The doctor himself was all kindness, treating the Ali family as his own. Interestingly, even at the airport, they were accorded special treatment. Officials allowed the couple through without making them pay money for their excess baggage.