BATHINDA: Taking ahead the peace process between India and Pakistan by the activists of many shades, independent woman magazine eShe organised ‘Indo-Pak Peace Summit led by women’. Over 40 accomplished women from various shades of life came together in virtual summit to share their experiences and brainstorm for practicable solutions to build lasting peace in South Asia.
In a different kind of initiative involving only women, talks were held by peace activists from South Asia apart from Nobel Peace Prize nominee Scilla Elworthy as filmmakers, global youth activists, writers, designers joined hands.
Aekta Kapoor, founder and editor of eShe, said “It is time to take practical steps to foster friendships, collaborations and harmony in neighbouring countries. Through this summit we not want to indulge only in hollow promises but it is about brilliant minds who are actually creating value in their own fields coming together to build peace and women are usually inclined to think in terms of cooperation, sustainability and building relationships”.
The Summit focussed on celebrating the shared heritage of India and Pakistan, channelling the energy of women and youth, and giving a platform to new approaches in literature, art, culture, design, cinema and youth activism.
“Despite many things in common there are different priorities on both sides of the fence as Jinnah has been valourised on one side of the border and villianised on the other side”, said panellist Sheela Reddy.
“Everyone tends to stereotype Punjab as a place that has only agriculture and no culture and no intellectual capital. That’s not true as Lahore was once the cultural capital of India. Manjha house, a public space for literature and culture, was an effort to put Punjab centre stage again”, said Preeti Gill.
“As a couple we have rejected all interviews and documentary requests (to cover the story of our interfaith marriage). We decided that we won’t do numaish but the last 3 months, especially after the new laws in UP criminalizing interfaith love, now it’s out of necessity. We will stand on the pedestal if required and tell the story”, said filmmaker Natasha Badhwar.
“At times, (while researching for my book), it would have been easier to just cross to the other side of the Indus but owing to the presence of Line of Control, I had to go down to Lahore, cross at Wagah, and go up again to the same spot across the river”, said Alice Albania, author of the book Empires of the Indus.
“I feel such a sense of loss and wistfulness at the idea when people travel across countries in their region without passports in South East Asia. Hope it won’t remain a dream but happens in reality (for South Asia)”, said writer Moni Mohsin.
“The export ban affected us as we could only sell from the existing stock at the store. However, our partners played a very important role in establishing the sentiment of wearing Indian contour”, said Sanya Dhir.
Activist Devika Mittal shed light on the earnest efforts through peace calendars being made by Aaghaz-e-Dosti involving students from both sides.
Art educator Tooba Tahir apprised about self healing project, political cartoonist Saadia Gardezi, who is associated with project Daastan that reconnects partition survivors to their ancestral homes using technology apprised about the project.
“Shaadi songs are the same. No matter how much rage or your politics, even at the zenith of conflicts, you will rarely find a Pakistani wedding without Indian songs”, said Natasha Noorani adding my dream is to make an India tour with Pakistani musicians”.
Royal families are preservers of the subcontinent culture. In Pakistan, the royal culture is pushed under the carpet” said Anshu Khanna
“Pakistan artisans are at a level. They are internationally acclaimed. Exposure of each other’s art is required on both sides of the border”, said Vaishnavi.
“When we were on our way to Hingalaj, Balochistan, we were stopped at the checkpoint by officers. They asked us what we are going, we said we are going to “Naani ka mandir” (grandmother’s temple) which is what it is known as. They said – “Naani ko humara salaam dena”, said writer Reema Abbasi., telling about her book historic temples in Pakistan.
“We are not going to manage a conflict free society – that’s a Utopian dream. But are we equipped with conflict resolution, can we talk through it”, said Avni Sethi.
“Women who build peace today are rebellious women”, Meenakshi Gopinath.
“I first recited this sanskrit verse (on Goddess Saraswati) in a jam-packed hall in Islamabad, which is a beautiful city, media reports didn’t do justice to the envisage we received there! There was so much love and acceptance from Pakistan, the people opened up to us and welcomed us with open arms”, said Suparna Chadda
“In 2007, I got a fellowship, from the Asian fellowship foundation – I had the choice to of going anywhere in Asia to study, and I chose to go to India obviously! I wanted to research the revival of crafts after colonialisation. I knew the revival had been taking place in Pakistan and I was curious to know about India”, spoke Amna Sharif.
My art work of 2 degrees talks about rivers, we have shared rivers, water being the same, trans-boundary agreements can be ways of having conversations”, Reena Saini Kallat, spanning drawing artist, sculptor who showcased art works including gate dividing India-Pakistan.
“What strikes me is that we have art, culture, shared history, heritage, common problems, but you are letting politics supersede everything. Politics though divides yet people project moon as saying goes ‘Chand mein bhi daag hai, but chand toh ye nahi kehta ki main aaj raat ko nahi niklunga’ said Mehr F Hussain
“The border is only and only and totally political”, Ritu Khandelwal.
“Through the immigration process, I was exposed to lives of people who are not privileged – people whose families are across the border. For me partition happened when I landed in India (after marriage)”, told Masooma Syed.