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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Mar 14, 2014

Peaceful neighbour: India, Pakistan need to learn from EU lesson

People in Pakistan and India need to recount stories of
human fortitude and kindness from the days of partition to cut through the
propaganda narratives of hatred about each other’s country.

Those forgotten factual events in which people helped each
other during the communal riots of 1947, regardless of religion, would be the
perfect antidote for mutual misunderstandings, Pakistani and Indian peace
activists said on Thursday.

The activists, who also urged visa relaxations and more
people-to-people contact between the two countries, were speaking at a seminar
organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) to welcome a
four-member Indian peace delegation.

Veteran peace activist and Secretary-General of the South
Asian Fraternity Satya Paul Arora said he was a 13-year-old in the princely
state of Faridkot at the time of partition.

Arora, who is leading the Indian delegation, said they
formed a peace committee in Faridkot which successfully prevented riots in the
area because of mutual cooperation among Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.

“We have to work to pass on this culture of peace to the
next generation,” he said.

Veteran Pakistani writer and researcher Ahmed Saleem said a
member of his family died saving a Sikh neighbour during the partition riots.
Saleem lamented the fact that stories of humanity were eclipsed by stories of
mindless violence and killings from 1947.

Violence was an undeniable reality of partition, Saleem
said, however, the hatred between the two countries has persisted because no
one has bothered to promote events inspiring hope, which also took place during
partition.

Speakers also mentioned the example of the European Union
and said the countries of Europe had realised the importance of reconciliation
after years of bloody battles. They said the South Asian neighbours should
learn from the European model.

Arora said the Indo-Pak conflict was caused by bad politics,
which can be countered with the power of the people.

"People have to be mobilised for peace," he said. “The
public should also push their politicians to improve Indo-Pak relations.”

Arora said all routes between India and Pakistan which
existed in 1947 should be reopened for travel and trade. He also called for
relaxations in visa issuance for journalists, students, lawyers and doctors.

Gram Bharati Samiti Jaipur Chairman Bhawani Shankar Kusum
said that the new generation of both the countries should be trained to love
and respect each other.

Shri Khairati Lal Bhola, a New Delhi-based rights activist
who was born in 1929 in Pind Dadan Khan in Jhelum, said he will write to the
Indian prime minister to advocate that journalists and writers should be
allowed to travel across the border.

"I pray that there are more people-to-people contacts
between the two countries to remove the hatred," he said.

Ranjit Singh, secretary of the Lala Lajpat Rai Birthplace
Memorial Committee in Dhudike village of Indian Punjab, said he could not see
why Pakistanis and Indians, with their common languages and shared history,
cannot live in harmony.

"This barbed wire (between India and Pakistan) should be
removed. The Germans tore down a wall, why can’t we remove a wire," Singh, who
spoke in Punjabi, said. "Together, we can achieve more progress."

SDPI Acting Executive Director Brigadier (retd) Muhammad
Yasin said both the countries should create an atmosphere of mutual trust to
resolve their differences.

Speakers also mentioned that both countries had common
heroes such as the visionary leader and humanitarian Lala Lajpat Rai, who led
the struggle against British imperialism in Lahore and was fatally injured by
police brutality during the Simon Commission protests of 1928.