The ninth edition of the initiative saw participation from diverse groups such as students, teachers and eminent personalities of the two countries
NEW DELHI — The 9th Indo-Pak Peace Calendar 2021 was launched online on Sunday by Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak civil society Friendship Initiative. This time Aaghaz-e-Dosti has collaborated with Tehrik-e-Niswan for the peace calendar.
More than 200 Indian and Pakistani citizens from all walks of life participated in the virtual event, Aaghaz-e-Dosti said in a press statement. “It was wonderful to see that students as young as nine years old to citizens as old as 93-year-old advocated peace and enjoyed the session together,” said the statement. For many it was first such experience to interact and participate with someone from across the border.
This was the ninth year of the initiative and peace calendar. Usually the calendars would be launched in several cities of India and Pakistan but owing to COVID19, the launch was shifted online which turned out to be a blessing in one way as it brought together speakers, students, and audiences from both sides, otherwise impossible in the physical world owing to visa issues.
“This diverse participation enjoyed not only important words by esteemed speakers and few eminent participants, but also from school teachers and young students,” the statement added.
The programme ended with beautiful couplets of Bulleh Shah.
This peace calendar is a collection of selected paintings of Pakistani and Indian school students along with messages from 12 peaceniks from both countries.
While speaking on the occasion, panelist Ms. Sheema Kermani, the founder of Tehrik-e-Niswan Pakistan, warmly reminisced her dance and theatre tours in India, especially focusing on one of her tours where she and her group performed a play – “Jinhe Lahore nai dekha ve jamiya nai” in 17 cities India. She focused on the importance of cultural exchanges, through art, music and travel and spoke from her own experience how impactful that was. In her own words, she admired the efforts of young students and encouraged them to adopt art for a positive change in society.
Prof. Saleem Kidwai, a former professor of JNU, and academic advisor to George Washington University of Peace, stressed on the importance of a liberalised visa policy arguing that the conflict between both countries is essentially owing to a lack of interaction between its people.
The young students who drew the painting for the calendar expressed emotions at the event. A student Sachneet Kaur from India said the relations between two sides are “just a puzzle that can be solved beautifully with patience”. A student Iraj Hasan from Pakistan said as a cricket fan, he sees cricket can be a medium to foster peace.
This year, peace calendar carries messages from historian Prof. Romila Thapar filmmaker Tapan Bose, academic Prof. Saleem Kidwai, civil society activist Shabnam Hashmi, journalist Anuradha Bhasin, human rights activist Rita Manchanda, author Anam Zakaria, journalist Mohammad Ziauddin, novelist Mohammad Hanif, historian and rights activist Dr. Ammar Ali Jan and poet Azra Abbas.
“Students of Pakistan and India expressed their desire for peace through this peace calendar. This is something we need to recognise as a demand from the young community in both countries where youths are of majority in population and their secured, safe, and peaceful future should be in the agenda of both sides of governments,” Said Ravi Nitesh, founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti initiative.
Raza Khan, Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti (Pakistan) said that ‘Aaghaz-e-Dosti aims to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and seeks to become the medium to discover and recognise the misrepresented reality on the other side of the border.
Devika Mittal, convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti (India), underlined the importance of the calendar saying it is a collection of shared dreams and hopes for friendship which we will be reminded of every day.