Pak students at peace meet: ‘War narrative limited to media’
More than 250 young peacemakers from 33 countries — including a 20-member ‘Girls for Peace Group’ from Pakistan — arrived in the city to be part of the 11th edition of the Global Youth Peace Festival, on Tuesday.punjab Updated: Sep 28, 2016 19:29 IST
More than 250 young peacemakers from 33 countries — including a 20-member Girls for Peace group from Pakistan — arrived in Chandigarh to be part of the 11th edition of the Global Youth Peace Festival, on Tuesday.
The festival begins on Wednesday and ends on Sunday (October 2). The focus will be on the Pakistani guests, given the recent tension on the border.
Aliya Harir, a young peace activist from Pakistan, is spearheading friendship initiative ‘Aaghaz-e-Dosti’. “There is enormous warmth and camaraderie between people across the border and we are just exuding a minuscule portion of it,” she said.
The delegation has brought special greeting cards and messages of peace from Pakistani school students.
“It is great to celebrate friendship by exchanging cards with fellow classmates across the border,” said Urwah Sultana, another Pakistani participant.
“There is hype created that there is tension between the two countries. But this narrative of war remains limited to our governments. When we stepped into India, we didn’t feel any difference. We felt Pakistan and India are the same,” said Lahore’s Alveena, who only gave her first name.
She said “we are the same people” and “artificial borders” have been created between India and Pakistan. “The general public over there and here want peace. I feel very welcome and at home,” she said. “I think it’s time we realised that we exist as collective community.”
Asked what is the mood in Pakistan when attacks like Uri happen, Alveena replied, “People do get scared because there is also a lot of hype in the media.”
“At the end of the day, I think we share common history and if you put aside this narrative that we are going to war, then I don’t think the common man is concerned with anything more than the fact he should have a decent life,” she said.
Sultana, also from Lahore, said her family, like many others’, was worried about the visit at a time when the tension between the two countries are on rise in the wake of the Uri attack that left 18 Indian soldiers dead.
“They said if tensions further escalate, what will happen? I told them, if, God forbid, war breaks out, we may die over there (in Pakistan). So how would it matter if I die here,” she said.
Sultana is a student of social and cultural studies at University of Punjab and her ancestors belonged to Amritsar. “Common Pakistanis want peace. They are big fan of Bollywood films. Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor are hot favourites. There are many fans of Arjun Kapoor also. The hype about war is just in the media,” she added.
Afghanistan has sent 10 schoolchildren. Not only will they attend school with local children at Carmel Convent and Gurukul Global, but also will stay at their homes.
The participating countries include Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Liberia, Malaysia, Motswana, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Senegal, Taiwan, Uganda, US, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“It is time to sink our differences and work for global peace,” said Pramod Sharma, coordinator of Yuvsatta, the organisation behind the event. (with PTI inputs)