Two youth groups in India and Pakistan recently launched their third Indo-Pak peace calendar featuring selected paintings by students from India and Pakistan and messages from well-known personalities.
The calendar will serve as a daily reminder of “shared dreams and hopes for friendship,” says Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a joint initiative of Mission Bhartiyam, India and The Catalyst, Pakistan.
Students from around both countries participated in the calendar competition, sending entries from Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Chitral and Karachi.
The launch in Delhi on Dec. 28, 2014 was followed by a seminar titled ‘Sharing of Hopes’. Speakers as well as audience members including some Pakistani visitors to India highlighted the commonality of cultures, their experiences of meeting ‘the other’, and the need for more people-to-people exchanges.
Prof. Chman Lal, Professor-Coordinator at Centre for Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture, Central University of Punjab, Bhatinda, highlighted the importance of shared heroes like Bhagat Singh, B.R. Ambedkar and Tipu Sultan.
Graphic novelist and political cartoonist Vishwajyoti Ghosh shared his experiences of love and hospitality during his visit to Lahore and talked about the need to engage more critically with the discourse on partition.
Deepak Malviya, Secretary of Servants of the People Society, established in 1921 by Lala Lajpat Rai in Lahore talked about Lala Lajpat Rai’s legacy, that includes Gulab Devi Hospital in Lahore. He also talked about the need to increase people-to-people interaction.
Saima Sayed, First Secretary (Political) at High Commission of Pakistan, highlighted the need for student exchange programmes, interactive sessions and initiatives like Zindagi channel that help to bring people closer and realise they are the same.
Manoj Jain, owner of Ultrawalls, one of the event sponsors, said that peace is the desire of the people and is the way forward.
Secretary of Gandhi Global Family, Ram Mohan Rai remembered Dr. Nirmala Deshpande, known as “Didi”, whom India honoured with the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and Pakistan with Sitara-e-Pakistan. He talked about his visit to Karachi where he found no difference in the thinking of people.
In India for a conference, Dr. Rafida Nawaz from Multan said that she had found Indians to be just like Pakistanis, warm and loving. She urged people to forget the past and move on for a prosperous future for both countries. She said that there should be competition but it should be confined to cricket matches. Renowned Hindi poet and journalist Pankaj Singh also shared his experiences of interacting with Pakistanis when he worked with the BBC. He developed strong bonds of friendship with them that still exist.
Pankaj Chaturvedi from National Book Trust talked about the need to strengthen the civil society in both countries. He denounced the war industry that people need to be aware of.
Students from Delhi whose paintings were selected were present at the events along with their parents and teachers. They talked about their paintings and vision for peace.
Parmod Pahwa, one of the organisers of the blood camp in Delhi held in solidarity with Peshawar, shared his experience of visiting Pakistan and stressed that peace talks are the only way ahead.
More launches are planned in January, in Chandigarh, Nashik, Panipat, Ajmer, Chennai, Lahore and Islamabad. This year’s calendar initiative was organized in collaboration with Indian Council for Talent Search and Competitions and Yuvsatta, India and Social Awareness Media and Art Junction (SAMAAJ), South Asian Writers and Artists Network (SAWAN) and JAD Foundation, Pakistan.