Events are planned today in Lahore, Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, Cambridge MA, Washington DC, New York and Toronto to observe a vigil for India-Pakistan peace. More details given at this Facebook page. Event created by SAMIR GUPTA and disseminated by Aman ki Asha. Given below is a statement.
India – Pakistan Peace Now – Global Vigil
January 27, 2013
Lahore – Lahore Press Club, Shimla Pihari at 6 pm
Mumbai – Gateway of India 7 pm
Delhi – Gandhi Peace Foundation 5:30 pm
Karachi – Karachi Press Club, 5:30pm
Cambridge, MA – Harvard Square Pit, 4-5 pm
Washington, DC – Chutney Restaurant, Springfield, Virginia, 6 p.m
New York – Near Gandhi statue at Union Square, 5 pm
Toronto – 365 Bloor St. East, outside Indian Consulate, 5 pm
The hate mongers have had their moment of fame. It’s time to tell the political leadership of India and Pakistan what we stand for. We, peace-mongers around the world, are gathering on January 27, 2013, in different cities as part of a series of peace events. All we have is some candles, some placards and many hearts full of love. We want the governments of India and Pakistan know that people in dozens of cities across six continents want them to continue the dialogue and take forward the peace process.
We are deeply disturbed by the recent violations of the 2003 Ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), resulting in the loss of lives on both sides that we sincerely condole. We condemn as totally unacceptable any kind of mutilation or beheading of human bodies and urge independent investigations into these reported incidents – the families of the fallen soldiers deserve to know the truth their sons lived and died for.
The 2003 Ceasefire had provided people in the area relief from the death and injuries that had filled their life with miseries and tension. The recent incidents of firing have shaken the confidence of the people, causing tension and panic.
The reported attack has been at the top of the Indian news agenda since Jan. 8. Leading private TV channels and newspapers have flashed headlines such as “Pak’s open aggression” and “Indian jawans brutalized”. Some political leaders demanded “ten Pakistani heads” in return and Army chief General Bikram Singh’s comment that “We expect our commanders to be aggressive” added to the rising tension and calls for abandoning the ongoing negotiations with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Monmohan Singh, who has been pushing for a rapprochement with Pakistan, despite opposition not only from the opposition political parties but also from within his ruling coalition, was forced to state that there could be no “business as usual”. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said ties could not remain unaffected by the flare-up on the border.
The border tensions, exacerbated by the belligerence of sections of the media and politicians, have the potential to derail the ongoing peace process resumed in March 2010. Since then, we have travelled far. India and Pakistan have made remarkable progress in recent times in easing the visa regime, improving trade relations and securing many other confidence building measures that hold great promise for both the countries, leading to hopes of long-term peace, economic stability and SAARC-wide integration.
The new visa agreement that was to start being implemented from 15 January 2013 has been put on hold. Pakistani singers have been forced to cancel their programmes. Pakistani Hockey players were sent back. The performances of Pakistani theatre groups at the international theatre festival organized by the National School of Drama were cancelled (we take heart from the spontaneous performances of the Pakistani plays organised in Delhi at private venues).
If tensions are allowed to prolong, they will compromise the goodwill that has been built and cause massive sufferings to the people of not just the border areas, but the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, on both sides. Besides, they will provide a greater space to extremist, hawkish and fanatic elements as well as empower the warmongers on both sides who want to derail the peace process. Greater contact between the people of the two countries will weaken these forces and take us forward to peace.
We appreciate that the two governments have reiterated their commitment to continue the dialogue process and to strengthen the mechanism for resolving the disputes on the LoC to minimize violations.
We urge both governments to immediately take steps to ensure that extreme factions are not allowed to restrict long-term friendship and trade between the two countries. We urge all officials, serving and retired, civil and military, and the media to exercise restraint in their public utterances.
Both governments must seek-long term solutions rather than shortsighted politics seeking temporary wins. Both countries must show restraint and remember that the families of soldiers and members of divided families suffer most due to cross-border tensions and an aggressive or reactionary stance.
We urge the governments to counsel their officials, serving and retired, civil and military, and the media to exercise due restraint in their public utterances.
The cross-LOC bus service started in 2005 had allowed members of divided families to meet after decades, and since 2008 traders across the LOC were able to establish trade relations. We urge the governments not only to take immediate steps to resume normal trade across the LoC but also enhance people-to-people contact by further easing the visa regime.
The current tensions have also led to the bitterly disappointing news of postponement of the visa relaxation process due to start on Jan 15, 2013 by allowing senior citizens visa-on-arrival facility at the Waga-Attari border. We appeal to both governments to implement this facility immediately.
We urge both governments to develop and implement suitable mechanisms to ensure steady communication between the concerned authorities on both sides in order to prevent the recurrence of ceasefire violations. Both armies and intelligence agencies must find ways to collaborate to end infiltration of terrorists and traffickers across the border.
We hope that such deplorable incidents will not affect the dialogue, which must be uninterrupted and uninterruptible till we secure complete friendship and peace between our two countries.
Posterity will judge our courage and patriotism not from the revenge we wreaked but from the peace we won for our respective people in these troubling times, and from the progress resulting from such peace. A prosperous and well-connected South Asia is our best response to these divisive factions.
Note: This statement incorporates points made by several appeals issued by citizens from India and Pakistan, listed below.
1. Prominent citizens from India and Pakistan joint statement signed by Admiral L. Ramdas, Former Chief of Indian Navy, Alibaug; Mahesh Bhat, Film Maker, Mumbai; Lalita Ramdas, Former Chair, International Green Peace- AlibBaug; Jatin Desai, Peace Activist and Journalist, Mumbai; Dr. Mazher Hussain, Director, COVA, Hyderabad; Dr. Amrita Chacchi, Academic, Delhi; Ramesh Pimple, People’s Media Initiative, Mumbai; Sheeba Chacchi, Artist, Delhi; Varsha Rajan Berry, SAHR, Mumbai; Dr. Sandeep Panday, Asha Ashram, Lucknow; Ramesh Yadav, Folklore Institute, Amritsar; Sanjay Nahar, Sarhad, Pune; Vijayan M J, Programme for Social Action, Delhi; Karamat Ali, Labour Rights Activist, (PILER) Karachi; Dr. A. H. Nayyar, peace activist, President Pakistan Peace Coalition, Lahore; B. M. Kutty, Secretary General of Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi; I. A. Rehman, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Lahore; Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Senior economist, Karachi; Dr. Tipu Sultan, Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi; Sheema Kermani, Tahrik-e-Niswan, Karachi; Muqtada Mansoor Khan, political analyst, Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences, Karachi; Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed, academician and peace activist, Karachi; Mehnaz Rehman, women rights activist, Karachi; Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairperson, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi; Iqbal Alavi, peace activist, Karachi; Zulfiqar Halepoto, peace and human rights activist, Hyderabad; Sauleha Ather, women rights and peace activist, Karachi; Farooq Tariq, peace activist and labour leader, Lahore; and Javed Qazi, Forum for Secular Pakistan, Karachi.
2. The Poonch civil society appeal, signed by Iftikhar Ahmed Bazmi, Secretary Bar Association Poonch; Inder Raj Sharma, President Baparmanda Poonch; S. Karishan Singh, Gen. Secretary Cross LOC Trader`s Association Poonch; S. Harbajan Singh, President Journalist Association Poonch; Mohd Farooq, Imam Jamia Masjid Poonch; K.K. Kapoor, peace activist; Molvi Abdul Razaq, Sarpanch Panchayat Hari Budha; S. Divinder Singh, owner Khidmat Centre; Prof. Mussaraf Hussain Shah, Chairman, Syed Habibullah Memorial Society; Muzaffar Ahmed, President, Public Peace & Development Foundation; K.D. Maini, President Heritage Centre Poonch and Zaki Haider, President Anjuman-e-Jaffria.
3. Members of divided families, appeal initiated by the India Pakistan Families Solidarity Association (IPFSA), online at: https://t.co/XH6mxk5y.
4. The Society for Promoting Rationality (SPRAT), India, online signature campaign to condemn the violation of ceasefire by both sides, and urge both the governments and the two armies to honour the 2003 ceasefire. The petition is online at this link https://t.co/MELJD7hv
5. Concerned Indians and Pakistanis’ letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari – see http://bit.ly/VGmTYt
6. Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) statement