While tensions keep mounting between India and Pakistan, delegates from the neighbouring country who attended the 10th edition of the Global Youth Peace Fest (GYPF) 2015 took back cherished memories with them. Out of the total 300 delegates who attended the fest that concluded in the city on Thursday, 15 were from Pakistan.
For 23-year-old Laraib, a youth activist from Lahore who is currently pursuing her masters in philosophy in gender studies, India has always held a special place in her heart, thanks to her grandparents who belonged to Gurgaon. “It was like a dream to visit India,” said Laraib, who had visited the country for the first time in 2014. Talking about her bus journey from Amritsar to Chandigarh just two days ago, she shared how she got to know that Sikhs carried a “kirpan” as part of their “dharam pampara” (religious customs). “I figured out what my co-passenger said, thanks to my knowledge of Bollywood movies. I feel I know Hindi better than Urdu,” she said. Acknowledging the hospitality she experienced during her visit, Laraib said: “I feel hatred is between political parties and not among the general public. I feel I am both a Pakistani and an Indian. We are one.”
‘Miscommunication fuelling conflict’
“It is important to empathise with each other and spread the message of peaceful co-existence. That is why I am here,” said Islamabad’s Aliya Hasir, 24. As a co-ordinator of the Aaghaz-eDosti campaign, a youth-based initiative that seeks to bridge the gap between the two countries, Aliya believes that it is the lack of communication as well as miscommunication that has fuelled the conflict.
Aliya, whose first interaction with Indians was during an exchange programme to the USA, said: “I remember we had all gone to watch a cricket match between India and Pakistan and when India lost to Pakistan, there was an exchange of unpleasant comments and taunts. Gradually, we forgot about it and actually got along pretty well.” She fondly remembers how some Indians looked after her when she fell ill and was hospitalised. “It is then that I realised how our eating habits are similar too,” she said.
Need to foster peopleto-people interaction
Other delegation members, including Irfan Haider, 30, whose NGO works for women’s empowerment in South Asia, and Raza Khan, 35, who has been working on issues of minority rights, said their generation was working religiously in bringing about a change and fostering brotherhood between the two nations. “It is important to create a cohesive environment to encourage dialogue and resolve issues,” said Khan. Meanwhile, Rajesh Kumar, 25, from Hyderabad, Sindh, said it was important to make the right use of social media to foster relations.
In a first-of-its-kind initiative, children of Carmel Convent School interacted with students of KIPS School, Lahore, through video-conferencing on issues of women in India and Pakistan.
This cross-border dialogue was organised by Yuvsatta as part of the ongoing activities of the 10th edition of the Global Youth Peace Festival (GYPF). Leading the initiative was Namra Nasir, a research and development associate at KIPS head office and GYPF delegate from Pakistan, along with Umar Shuja Kazi from Karachi and Vishal Anand of the Pakistan Hindu Youth Council.
“The purpose of this virtual conference is to work towards peace and friendship, to discuss issues of women in both countries and to initiate a think tank to solve issues,” said Namra, American Gandhi Berne Meyer said: “If we want to establish peace, we must listen to each other. This is a good beginning. I am glad to be here.”