I went to Amritsar on August 12 2009 and returned on August 15. This three day visit was to participate in several events related to peace between India and Pakistan. The main event was organized on 14th evening and ended after midnight of 14th and 15th of August, which are Independence Days of Pakistan and India respectively
On the 13th there was a seminar on Indo Pak Relations and Role of Civil Society organized by several Amritsar based organizations like The Folklore Research Academy, Hind Pak Dosti Manch, Punarjyot and Punjab Jagriti Manch. The main speakers were committed politicians from Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, eminent journalists like Kuldip Nayar, Satnam Manik, poets like Kishwar Nahid from Pakistan, Mahesh Bhatt a well known film maker, dedicated to justice and peace, academics and activists. I was one of the speakers in this seminar and I spoke on behalf of Sangat, SAHR and Peace Women across the Globe. The seminar was attended by about 200 people.
On the same day in the evening a very powerful play on the Partition of India and Pakistan was staged by people from different parts of Punjab. It was heartening to see that most of the actors were young women and men and all of them seemed passionate about peace between the two neighbours. The play was directed by the well known and socially committed theater director Mr. Kewal Dhaliwal. The big hall was full and the audience response was very good and totally for peace and harmony between India and Pakistan and between different religious communities. After the play Kishwar Nahid from Pakistan and Mr. Satnam Manik and I from India were invited to speak.
On the 14th evening there was a gathering of about 30,000 people for the Hind Pak Friendship Mela ( Fair) held about two kilometers from the Border. This was the 14th Peace Fair organized by Hind Pak Dosti Manch, Folklore Research Academy and others. People from neighbouring villages and towns come for this event every year. Eminent singers from Punjab, Hans Raj Hans, Vadali and a woman singer sang passionately of peace and friendship with total audience participation. This large gathering was addressed by some of the main guests from India and Pakistan.
This year the seminar and the Mela were dedicated to the memory of the Sandhu couple who worked for peace and harmony for many years. Both of them passed away in a road accident last year. Their young daughter and son joined the events and made a commitment to carry forward the work of their parents for peace and harmony.
At midnight about 50 of us went to the Border and lit candles. Our counterparts from Pakistan were on the other side of the Border and we were able to exchange greetings from a distance of about 10 feet. This was very exciting.
After lighting the candles we went back to the cultural fair which went on till about one in the morning. For this programme about 15 peace activists, politicians and media –persons from Pakistan were able to join us.
This annual event has become the largest peace gathering in South Asia. Every one there desires lasting peace between the two countries which can lead to well being and prosperity on both sides.
To all these events I had carried Sangat banners which made the place very colourful.
It was very energizing to participate in and support these events and to spend time with committed cause from both sides of the border.
South Asians for Human Rights
August 18, 2009