New Delhi: In first of its kind, video conferencing is used to conduct an interaction between youth activists from Pakistan and Indian students with the aim to counter stereotypes and misconceptions. This was Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s twelfth Aman Chaupal. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is an Indo-Pak Friendship initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst – TC. Aaghaz-e-Dosti has conducted 12 aman chaupals or Indo-Pak peace sessions wherein someone from Pakistan interacts with students in India (or vice versa). This was the first time that ICT has been used to connect and start an interaction between people of both countries.
In this session, youth activists and Pakistan team of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Aliya Harir (Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti from Pakistan) and Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah, had interacted with about 100 students and faculty members from Headstart School of Bangalore who were on an educational trip in Delhi. The educational trip, organised by renowned Heritage Artist Vikram Kalra, was to cover places in North-Indian states especially Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Wagah border. The trip aimed at giving students a better understanding and multiple perspectives of historical events. Aman Chaupal was organised to give the students a perspective of Pakistan from the Pakistanis themselves.
The session that was conducted in a mixed language of Hindi/Urdu and English went on for over an hour. The questions revolved around the history of Pakistan, the partition narratives, the culture of Pakistan and the everyday life of Pakistanis.
How are Indians different from Pakistanis?, asked a student. Aliya Harir replied that there is no difference. Life on both sides of the border is just the same. We share a similar culture, language, challenges and even the same stereotypes. Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah responded that while the media on both sides project that we are different, there is no difference on ground.
A student asked if Pakistanis are very religious. Aliya replied that there are extremists and moderates in every country. Pakistan also has its share of both.
There were questions around the struggle of independence and partition narrative. Students asked how the partition is presented in Pakistan. Aliya Harir told them that in the official narrative, partition is seen as a moment of liberation. Another question was on popularity of Bhagat Singh in Pakistan. Aliya said that Bhagat Singh is a renowned historical figure and memory in Lahore side.
A student asked if Pakistanis feel that they got less land or an unfair distribution of resources during partition. Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah replied that there is no point thinking about what happened in the past. We should now focus to think about creating a better present and future.
A student came and told that his Nani’s sister lives somewhere in Pakistan and he want to visit there.
Hall was filled with curiosity and emotions, everyone wanted to talk with them and the whole environment expressed the reality that how the people of two countries want to meet each other and they never make any attempt fail to live in the moments when they get a chance to meet and to talk.
In a very emotional moment at the end, these Indian students gathered together in front of screen and sung “lab pe aati hai dua banke tamanna meri”, a song written by Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan, for the youth activists from Pakistan.
Article submitted by Devika Mittal and Aliya Harir (Convenors)