Ever since the partition took place there has always been a rift between India and Pakistan. Divided on the basis of religion, these two countries have seen more than 70 years of independence from the British rule. While under Britishers, India was a tolerant, undivided land practicing true secularism. The diverse communities co-existed with dignity. The British not just looted India of its gold and invaluable worthies but also its peace and left behind two bitter wounded states. Since then, the two nations have competed in every sphere of development. This rift played a major role in fulfilling agendas of the succeeding governments and media on both the sides. India and Pakistan continued to look at each other as their enemy and it still does.

But can we take a government’s motive as the common motive of each and every citizen of that nation? Is it always the case? Is it correct to judge a person by their government? There have been several incidents which gives a big NO to these questions. Amidst many of those incidents is the peace messages and Indians’ polite gesture towards the Pakistani victim families who lost their children in 2014 Peshawar attacks. That challenging situation turned out to be an opportunity for many Indians and Pakistanis to share a warm moment.

This incident also became an inspiration for an online forum named Paaq Bandhu to initiate. Paaq Bandhu is an online forum for people in India and Pakistan to engage in dialogue and work on issues which are common in both the nations. Paaq Bandhu comes from Urdu word ‘Paaq’ which means pure/loyal and ‘Bandhu’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘friend’. So Paaq Bandhu literally means pure/loyal friends. Started by an Indian independent documentary filmmaker, and a Peace Practitioner Shreya M., Paaq Bandhu connects over 3000 people from India and Pakistan for several online and offline activities. In the past 5 years, Paaq Bandhu has organized some very interesting and daily live activities like, online antakshari between Lahore and Lucknow, Paigaam-E-Cinema Film Festival where they screened several popular fiction and non fiction Pakistani films in India. At the moment, Shreya is engaging in dialogue with some popular Pakistani personalities who are breaking stereotypes around Pakistan and Pakistanis through their work. The names include Ahsan Bari, Kami Sid, Adeel Afzal, Samar Khan, Hajra Yamin, Sheema Kemani and Tahira Habib Jalib.

Having a background in journalism and mass communication and majoring in Community media, Shreya aspired to connect several communities from both the nations to engage them in discussion and resolution of the similar issues faced by those communities.

“The way our governments and media is functioning these days is very dangerous. They are feeding on the vulnerabilities of their citizens to fulfil their vicious desire for power. This exactly why they divert us from the real issues of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, hunger, degrading environment, inequality, women’s issues, discrimination, regionalism, corruption, etc. As nations coming from the same roots, it is of utmost importance that we fight these issues together,” says Shreya who faces hate comments, criticism and threats for running this platform.

In the recent future, Shreya will bring to us a series of interactions between the acid attack survivors of India and Pakistan. She is also planning an online storytelling workshop for youth, collaboration with musicians, a filmmaking workshop, a youth exchange fellowship and a women’s collective in both the nations.

Citizens Together supports and endorse the efforts of Paaq Bandhu towards building a peaceful environment.

Join and support Paaq Bandhu group and page on Facebook and Instagram.

https://www.facebook.com/paaqbandhu

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