‘Aman Chaupal’ Forges Friendship Between India Pakistan
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
27 July, 2013
In a rare gesture towards mending India Pakistan ties, a new peace initiative called Aman Chaupal was organized in New Delhi with the aim to enhance people-to-people contact between the two countries.
Imitating the traditional South Asian village life style, where folks sit together in a common place called Chaupal and discuss issues facing them, in Aman Chaupal, people from India or Pakistan share their experiences with common citizens.
'Aman Chaupal' is an initiative by India-based organization Mission Bhartiyam that works to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and call it of Aaghaz-e-Dosti or beginning of friendship.
The first Aman Chaupal was organized in July 2013 at Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Vikaspuri, New Delhi and was attended by 6th to 12th class students.
It was addressed by Ms Saeeda Diep, a renowned Peace activist and Chairperson of Institute of Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS), Lahore, Pakistan.
Like in our traditional Chaupals, this too had an interactive session meant to address the concerns of the Indian students about Pakistan and clear their misperceptions and arouses curiosity among them about the much hated neighbouring country.
The interaction was entirely in Hindiustani as according to Ms Saeeda, speaking in English would be very "artificial" and the essence of communication will be lost in the process. She gave the example of words such as ‘Beta’ which in Hindustani means my loving child, could best be described as ‘my dear’ in English, that tweaks of its affection.
In her address Ms Saeeda Diep talked about the general stereotypes and misconceptions that the people in India have about Pakistan and Pakistanis. In fact, she listed them out and said that a few more can be added to such hyperbole.
The peace activist tried to describe about the other side of Pakistan that the common Indians do not know because of lack of communication. She blamed the "hawkish" media that’s biased towards Pakistan and is one of the reasons behind Indians having the negative image of Pakistan.
The session was entirely devoted to a question-answer format wherein Ms Saeeda answered students' questions with great affection and aplomb.
Question -Ma'm, Do Hindus live in Pakistan? Asked a student
Answer - Yes Beta, there are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people of other religions living in Pakistan.
Question - What do people from Pakistan think about us, was another question.
Answer - Pakistanis know about your country and culture much better then you know about Pakistan because they have access to Indian TV channels. Unfortunately, no Pakistani channels are permitted in India, so Indians only know what the Indian media portray to them about Pakistan. Indian newspapers and TV channels do not truly portray Pakistan, she felt.
During the interaction, several other questions were posed to Ms Saeeda, some of them related to political issues and controversies surrounding Pakistan and she gave a very candid reply to all of them.
The Principal of Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Ms. Deepshika Dandu shared her personal experiences with Pakistanis during her stay in a foreign country.
She remarked that, "In a foreign nation, Indians and Pakistanis often form a transnational community bounded by a shared culture, language and experience."
The students had quite a learning experience through Aman Chaupal initiative and many of them were pleased about the knowledge they acquired about Pakistan from this interactive session.
‘My entire perception has changed after this interaction; I only had negative perception about Pakistan, now I feel there is more in common then simply hating Pakistan’, said Sandeep Singh Pramar, a class eight student of the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, New Delhi.
This programme was co-ordinated by Mission Bhartiyam’s initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti team that consists of Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal and V Arun Kumar. Ms. Meenu, the coordinator from the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, helped organizing this program.
The organizers of Aman Chaupal plan to have similar programes organized in several other schools in India as well as in Pakistan.
At a time when political agenda is ruling the roost and the so called national media is poisoning the social relationship, it’s high time the hate mongers free run should be checked by initiatives such as Aman Chaupal.
This is more so because recently events such as the killing of Srabajit Singh in Pakistan and Sanaullah in India, has soured the Indian- Pakistan relationship to all time low.
The event such as Aman Chaupal tries to build bridges of peace and friendship between the two countries. It essentially tries to preach that India and Pakistan has more things in common than the much hyped incorrigible differences.
In such initiatives like this and others effort is made to highlight the similarities between the two countries. These similarities are based on common language values, mores and norms that have longer history then the differences that are essentially of recent origin and politically motivated.
In such context it is important that common Indians should know what the people from the other side of the border think about them.
Similarly, the messengers of peace from India should go to Pakistan to dispel their misconceptions and spread the message of peace and friendship. The message should be that India and Pakistan are not two nations but essentially one country.
Aman Chaupal is one such initiative to mend the disturbed relationship and the need is to have many more events such as these being organized in the two countries at regular intervals.
Peace and harmony in South Asia can only be built when India and Pakistan, shun their differences and embark on the process of cooperation for the betterment of the people living in this part of the world.
Sooner this wisdom downs upon the leadership of these two countries, the place where we live now would be much better habitat for dwelling.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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