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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Talking of Pakistan's tolerant, secular side

Rameshinder Singh Sandhu , Hindustan Times   Ludhiana, February 17, 2014
First Published: 10:38 IST(17/2/2014) | Last Updated: 10:39 IST(17/2/2014)

Being a Hindu, how do you stay in Pakistan? Shift to India," this is the advice that Sapna Kavita Oberoi, a 38-year-old trader from the neighbouring country, has been getting from visitors at the ongoing Indo-Pak International Trade Expo in Ludhiana.

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The board on her stall, 'Oberoi Traders Pakistan', catches the eye of many a visitors and customers, who end up showing more interest in her religion than the suits she has brought from her Pakistani Punjab village of Busal, which falls in Mandi Bahudin district. "For many years, I have been participating in trade fairs at India. Every time, my customers ask me less about my suits and more about how my family and I live there," she says. However, she says Indians have a misconception about  how non-Muslims are treated in Pakistan. "People there love and respect us. They celebrate Diwali with us and we celebrate Eid with them," Oberoi says.

Oberoi pauses and adds, "My friends and I often discuss Gita and Quran. They understand that one religion is as good as the other, be it even Sikhism or Christianity," she says.

Shaheen Kousar, her friend from Lahore and a trader at the fair, credits Oberoi for motivating her to come to India. "She is like a mentor. I never had the confidence to leave Pakistan, but she prepared my mind," Kousar says. "My lovely Hindu friend is like a sister to me."

Oberoi, who also manages 175 acres of farmland with her father, says peace and friendship is what India and Pakistan need. "People on both sides have misconceptions about each other. Why is that Indians think that my family and I are discriminated against in Pakistan, despite us being as much part of Pakistani society as our Muslim counterparts," says Oberoi, also an executive member of Faisalabad Chamber of Agriculture and Kinnow Growers Association of Sargodha. "Perhaps, that's why, we never shifted to India," she says.

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