Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA)    &
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Peace & Harmony Stories from South Asia

For the last many years, we have been featuring peace & harmony news in the ACHA Peace Bulletin, our monthly electronic newsletter. Also, from time to time, we publicize them through our electronic discussion forums namely, Asiapeace, Kashmir Solutions Forum, and India Pakistan Peace Day.

We strongly believe that these stories help us counter the myths about the prevalence of conflict propagated by the popular media. These myths in turn help engender a climate suitable for growth of discrimination, hatred and violence against people.

In this spirit, with the help of Dr. Ingrid Shafer, our Director of Communications Systems, we have decided to create this special section for these stories on our website

Best wishes,

Pritam Rohila, Ph. D.

Executive Director



* Muslim celebrations, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, Hindustan Times, November 12, 2004

* Bharatanatyam to Islamic Pakistan : The saga of the Mithas , PK Balachanddran, Colombo,  December 4, 2004

* Ayyappa Shares Place with Babar, Mid Day, Mumbai, India, January 15, 2005

* Religious Harmony in a Village in Gujarat, India West January 28, 2005

* Mumbai Students March for Peace and Harmony, January 30, 2005

* Dandi Yatra-II: Gandhi Kin to Exorcise Godhra Ghost, Times News Network , March 08, 2005

* A Hindu temple built by a Muslim, Zee News, March 9, 2005
In Godhra, on the Road to Communal Harmony, Express India

* Tsunami Aid to India from Pak Students, India West April 1, 2005

* Undeterred by Yesterday’s Terrorist Attack, Indian PM will flag off bus,, April 6, 2005

* South Asia Forum-Madison (SAF-M) Holds Evening of Expression and Dialogue, Saturday, April 9, 2005

* Peace March in Washington , DC on April 16

* A temple fest where Muslims are on a par with Brahmins, New Indian Express, April 24 2005

* Final Day of India Pakistan Peace March (New Delhi to Multan), March 23, 2005 to May 11, 2005
Sandeep Pandey &.Karamat Ali

* Mocking the Frontier: The Baba's Dargah at Chamaliyal, Yoginder Sikand, May 17, 2005

* Children from India and Pakistan Talk About Peace & Friendship. June 17, 2005

* Kashmiri Pandits-APHC resolve to work towards Pandits' return, Mukhtar Ahmad, July 19, 2005

* Mosque run by Hindu trust, Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, Times News Network, August 09, 2005

* Pakistani Peacenik Writes From India, The South Asian, August 18, 2005

* Muslim children appeal for clemency for a Sikh prisoner in Pakistan, India West, September 2, 2005

* India-Pakistan Peace and Friendship March, Washington, DC, October 15, 2005

* Pulling the communal wall down in Ahmedabad, New Kerala, Dec. 31 2005

* Peace Marches in India and Pakistan, Alka Roy, December 12, 2005

* Muslim celebrations, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, Hindustan Times, November 12, 2004,00120003htm

Most of my Hindu friends think that Muslims don't celebrate Diwali. But they are mistaken. The Indian Muslim community has always admired the Festival of Lights. In Zakir Nagar, the Bansals – the only Hindu family in this Muslim-dominated area - happen to be my immediate neighbour. Every Diwali, I make it a point to illuminate two lamps on my balcony facing theirs so that they aren't surrounded by the 'usual' darkness.

It reminds me of Akbar Allahabadi's couplet: Har makan mein phir jala deeya Diwali ka/ Har ek taraf ko ujala  hua Diwali ka! (Lamps have been lit in every house on Diwali/ There was the light of Diwali everywhere.)

Jashn-e-Chiraghan (festival of lights) was the name given to Diwali by the Mughal emperors who participated in the festivities with an enthusiasm that was no less than that on Eid. Akbar had his own inimitable style of celebrating Diwali. According to Abul Fazal in Aain-e-Akbari, Akbar would get thoroughly engrossed while celebrating non-Muslim festivals like Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Basant and Nauroz.

In Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, Jahangir describes Diwali as the festival that "kindles light unto dark hearts". At his palace, Jahangir arranged a Diwali bhoj (feast) and the entire city of Agra was bedazzled. More important than the lighting was the manner and arrangement in which it was lit. The Mughals lit colourful phuljharis, mehtabis, rockets, hunters, anaars and chakkars.

According to Ellison Bank Findly's Noorjahan: Empress of Mughal India , the Mughal queen performed charity on the occasion of Diwali and arranged marriages of poor Hindu girls. Thousands of such marriages took take place during the month beginning with the

During Shahjahan's Shahi Aatishbazi (royal fireworks) at Shahjahanabad, he sent Mumtaz Mahal on top of the Qutub Minar in Mehrauli every Diwali. Shahjahan used to order sweets a month in advance inviting the best halwais from Agra , Mathura , Bhopal , Delhi and Lucknow . Tonnes of desi ghee would be arranged from nearby Delhi villages for preparing these tongue-tingling sweets.

Bahadur Shah Zafar took special interest in ordering Diwali sweets, all prepared in the Red Fort both for the nobility and the common man. On the occasion of Dhanteras, the festival in which new utensils are bought, Shah Zafar used to replace the kitchens of all
his officers and nobles with new copper utensils. Every Diwali, he would arrange a special Lakshmi Pooja in his Urdu-e-Mualla (Red Fort) attended by one and all.

Apart from emperors, many Muslim poets  such as Nazir Akbarabadi, Hamidullah Afsar Merathi, Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, Shafiuddin Naiyar, Ghulam Rabbani Taban and Wajid Sehri, have celebrated Diwali in their verses. So Diwali is much more than a Hindu festival - it's an Indian one celebrated by everybody.

* Bharatanatyam to Islamic Pakistan : The saga of the Mithas , PK Balachanddran, Colombo,  December 4, 2004

For the past 53 years, Indu and Tehreema Mitha have been doing the impossible in Pakistan.

Without any fanfare or publicity, the mother-daughter team has been diligently teaching Bharatanatyam to Muslim girls in a country where Islamic zealots will not allow girls to dance, and where an avowedly Islamic state has all, but banned public dance performances by women.

Indu and Tehreema have been the only teachers of Bharatanatyam, or perhaps, any form of classical dance, in Pakistan .

In their brave and sustained effort to find a foothold for Bharatanatyam in an unfriendly environment, they have adapted this essentially "Hinduistic" South Indian art form, to the cultural ethos, the religious background and tastes of the Pakistanis.

Although Bharatanatyam, like any other classical dance, is still to strike roots in fundamentalist Pakistan , the dancing duo has made a seminal contribution to dance by creating a distinctly "Pakistani" Bharatanatyam and setting an example to others wanting to make cross-cultural adaptations in an increasingly globalised world.      

Under the tutelage of Indu and Tehreema, three Pakistani Muslim girls, Sultana Noon, Sophia Khwaja and Nadia Khan, had dedicated themselves to this alien art form, completed a rigorous course, and had an arangetram - a student's first formal public stage performance before an invited audience. 

* Ayyappa Shares Place with Babar, Mid Day, Mumbai, India, January 15, 2005

Muslim commander Babar was Ayyappa’s lieutenant and is worshipped next to mother goddess

The artisans of the Ayyappa pandal, Matunga, have created what looks like a Taziya, carried in the procession during Muharram.

To mark its 50 th anniversary, the Shree Ayyappa Bhaktha Samithi, the oldest of its kind in the city, decided to highlight a little-known aspect of the life of a deity, who was the foster son of a Kerala king. His shrine, in the hills of Sabarimala, attracts millions of pilgrims every year. But what sets him apart from other Hindu deities is the significant presence of a Muslim personality in his life.

The mosque-like structure in Napoo Gardens, Matunga, made from plantain stems is a shrine to Vavar (probably Babar, a migrant from Turkistan, who later became a local army chief in Kerala). He was a former adversary turned lieutenant of the Ayyappa. Vavar’s shrine shares space in the pandal with those of the mother goddess and two attendants of Ayyappa.

The shrine of Vavar, near Sabarimala, is a mandatory stop for every pilgrim visiting the pilgrimage center. “The Muslim facet of the pilgrimage is little known to those who have not made the journey. We decided to the highlight this,” said V. Gopalkrishnan Nair, president of the Samithi.

Today, the Ayyappa pooja is an annual cultural and religious event in the months of December and January in neighbourhoods that have a strong concentration of Keralites, in the city. The first such pooja was held in 1950 by hotelier V. Krishnan Nair at the Napoo Hall, Matunga. The Samithi was registered in 1955. “At that time, Mumbai’s South Indian community was concentrated in and around Matunga,” said Nair. Artist from Kerala were brought to create temples made from plantain stems.

* Religious Harmony in a Village in Gujarat, India West January 28, 2005

Ahmedabad (Times of India): Just as it has for centuries, a small predominantly Hindu village untouched by the religious divide in the state celebrated Bakrid (Eid-ul-Zuha) on Jan 21.
Utelia, a village founded in 1640 by Bhav Sinhji, a member of the Vaghela Rajput Clan, has witnessed elaborate processions led by the princely family to mark Bakrid. Last Friday (Jan 21) was no different in the village of over 3,000, situated near the Harappan site of Lothal.

Yuvraj Bhagirathsinh led a procession of over 500 villagers from the palace to the village mosque, about half a kilometer away. Here, he offered a nishaan – a green flag with a crescent moon and star, and 25 kilogram of malida, a local variety of sweet.

Legend has it that soon after Bhagirathsinh’s great grandfather was crowned at a tender age of six years, the nawab of Cambay attacked Utelia. Realizing that the state’s small army was no match to the might of the nawab, the prince’s mother urged Sufi saint Magdum Pir to help. With his “supernatural powers,” Pir managed to ensure hat the nawab’s army beat a retreat. “Since that day, a diya (lamp) is first lit in the mosque and then in our palace temples aftersunset,” Bhagirathsinh said.

On Bakrid, the procession, accompanied by dholis and shenai players, leaves th epalace after a ceremony of sprinkling Gangajal (water) and attar (perfume) on the nishaan and the red-green flag of the erstwhile princely state. After the ceremony, the villagers gather in the mosque compound and feast on snacks.

The royal family believes that the significance of the ages-old tradition has increased in contemporary times. “At a time when the entire state is being blamed for the misdeeds of a few, these kind of instances will only help people from different communities come closer,” Bhagirathsinh said.

* Mumbai Students March for Peace and Harmony, January 30, 2005

A Communal Harmony Peace Rally was organised from Azad Maidan to Hutatma Chowk to Commemorate Gandhi's 57th Death Anniversary. National Service Scheme (NSS) students from 37 colleges of Mumbai and SNDT University along with a group of 6 Japanese students, social activists and peace loving citizens of the city participated in the rally. At the end of the rally a pledge was taken by all to oppose all forms of communalism, casteism, chauvinism, to never to resort to violence and to work for promoting harmony, goodwill and peace in the world.

* Dandi Yatra-II: Gandhi Kin to Exorcise Godhra Ghost, Times News Network , March 08, 2005  

Will Dandi neutralise the Godhra poison? When about 350 marchers from India and abroad retrace Gandhi's steps from here to Dandi later this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the epoch-making event, it will be the mantra of communal harmony that they would be chanting loud and clear in the riot hit state.   “ Gujarat was turned into a communal laboratory by divisive forces. People's hearts were poisoned. We need to go back to Gandhi. Gujarat mein sadhbhavna ka amrit wapas lana hai (We need to bring back to the state the nectar of communal harmony).
Humanity has to be brought back to Gujarat ," says the Mahatma's great grandson Tushar Gandhi, managing trustee of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation that is organising the march from March 12 along with the Congress.
"There were secular forces in Gujarat who saw the signs of a growing discord but kept their eyes closed and did not take on the fanatics on both sides. We have all cried in disbelief that such instances of communal violence took place in Gandhi's Gujarat But, Gandhi's gone for more than 50 years. It is us who failed to keep his spirit and ideas alive," says Tushar.
Along the 482-km route, the marchers will stress on the "need to talk" to bring communities together. Tableaux with messages of communal harmony will be pulled by a caravan of camel-carts and street plays will focus on the theme. The marchers will camp at places where Gandhi had halted and interact with the local people.

*A Hindu temple built by a Muslim, Zee News, March 9, 2005  

A new Shiva Temple was inaugrated in Benares , UP, India , to mark the annual festival of Mahashivratri. Although new temples are being opened everyday, tThe unusual thing about this one is that it was built by a Muslim women, Noor Fatima.

* A Well of Communal Harmony at Aligarh Muslim University , Indian Express Mar 10 2005

A well dug by Hindu and Muslim students in premises of Aligarh Muslim University in 1878 still spreads message of communal harmony. Presently, the well is not in use, but it continues to spread the feeling of brotherhood and communal harmony. The well was dug up in 1878 by Hindu-Muslim students of the first batch of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), earlier known as the Mohammadan Anglo Oriented College .   During that time the Hindus students did not prefer drinking water from 'Mashaq'. As a symbol of brotherhood, members of both the community came together and dug a well in college. "Sir Syed took care of everybody's feeling, he initiated to build a well for the non-Muslim community. With the help of both Hindus and Muslims this well was made which came up as a symbol of Secularism," said Dr. Rahat Abrar, the PRO of AMU   * In Godhra, on the Road to Communal Harmony , Express India   The Sabarmati train carnage and the bloody riots that followed have left an indelible blot on Godhra. A church has made a small effort to wipe out the bitter memories and narrow the communal schism. The Methodist church has donated 500 square feet land on the Godhra-Dahod state highway for road widening to facilitate a traffic island dedicated to communal harmony. The city administration has decided to theme the traffic island on harmony complete with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a mast for the tricolour.   “This decision of the church has come as a shot in the arm for us. On one side we have vested interests unwilling to vacate properties occupied unlawfully and here we have a church that has decided to forgo land legally owned by it, in the larger interest of society. It should be a model for all communities to follow if we want to remove the bad name earned by our city,” said Brahmbhatt.  

* Tsunami Aid to India from Pak Students , India West April 1, 2005  

A delegation of women students from Pakistan presented a check for $100,000 for tsunami relief to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New Delhi , on March 28. 
* Undeterred by Yesterday’s Terrorist Attack, Indian PM will flag off bus,, April 6, 2005
Undeterred by Wednesday's attack on Srinagar 's Tourist Reception Centre, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh will travel to Srinagar on Thursday to flag off the inaugural Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus.

For more info on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service visit in.  

* South Asia Forum-Madison (SAF-M) Holds Evening of Expression and Dialogue,

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Madison-Wisconsin:Borders whether real or imagined have played a significant role in the history of all nation-states. Perhaps they arise from the human necessity to delineate the “self” from the “other, the majority from the minorities, and “us” from “them,” often at the cost of alienating the “other” for being different. Geographical borders may be indeed be artificially created, but they have the power to divide not just land, but human lives and emotions. The legacy of Partition has been one such experience.

South Asia Forum-Madison (SAF-M) organized an evening of expression titled Aman-O-Shanti (peace), in an effort to promote dialogue between Indians and Pakistanis in diaspora. The event was held in conjunction with the Indo-Pak Peace march which commenced in New Delhi on March 23 rd and is planning to reach Multan on May 11 th 2005. This event is the first of its kind in which Indians and Pakistanis will walk (based on permission from both governments) through cities and villages, as well as rural and urban settlements of both countries, talking to people along the way about their lived experiences, their lives, their struggles and their desire for peace in the Indo-Pak region.

n an effort to express solidarity with the Indian and Pakistani brothers and sisters involved in the peace march, many South Asian expatriate communities are holding local events in their countries of residence to promote a people-to-people dialogue between the two countries.

The peace event held by SAF-M, an on-campus organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison , provided the opportunity to many Indians and Pakistanis both on and off campus (as well as other international and local students) to socialize and share their experiences. The event began with the screening of a short film called “Little Terrorist.” This Oscar nominee is based on the true story of a 12-year-old Pakistani boy who mistakenly crossed the Indo-Pak border and was restored to his family by the Indian government, thawing the earlier tension between the two countries who had come close to a war less than a year earlier (Kargil). The film deviated from the actual story in that the young Pakistani boy was sheltered from Indian soldiers by a Hindu Brahmin and his niece, who helped him reach his home safely across the border. The message was clear: the only hope for peace is to realize the humanity that is universal in us and that cuts across all borders and boundaries.

The film was followed by a discussion in which participants candidly spoke about their experiences of and feelings for each other: things they had learnt about each other since childhood, stories they were told, books they had read, debates on national media and so forth. A myriad of emotions were expressed: fear, curiosity, resentment, desire for harmony, hope, tolerance, compassion. People spoke of random acts of kindness that changed the way they thought about each other and dispelled previously held biases, as well as those awkward moments that followed when one confessed they were Pakistani to an Indian cab driver and vice versa. Participants shared songs and poems which they had either written themselves or had selected from the works renowned poets of the subcontinent such as Faiz, Faraz and Tagore. Favorite topics of discussion included (but were not restricted to) Partition, Bollywood, cricket, Kashmir, cricket, the current governments and global political issues, cricket, music, cricket, ethnic conflicts, folk festivals, cricket, religion, cricket…and cricket!

Afterwards, everyone got together to paint a banner that will be presented to a delegation from Minneapolis who is traveling to the Wagah border for the grand peace ceremony in May. The event ended with a bhangra in which everyone joined in.

SAF member Ayeshah commented, “ Peace in the subcontinent is not a far off, idealistic dream. It can be achieved, despite political propaganda and religious fundamentalism. But it can only be achieved when the people - the masses - make an effort to know their Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain neighbor on a personal level; when people learn to celebrate similarities and respect differences. And this action begins with ourselves.” In the words of poetess Munnawwar Sultana: "Mohabbat ke hunar ko istarah taqseem karna hai, Rahe tera bharam bhi aur khud ko bhi tasleem karna hai" (Let us share love in such a manner that you are content and I too am allowed my views).

South Asia Forum-Madison (SAF-M) is a Madison based collective consisting primarily of students, activists and others who are interested in promoting discussion and awareness about issues pertaining to South Asia . Ideologically, it is a group committed to an agenda of peace and harmony among peoples - across boundaries of nationality, religion, race, class, color, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. The main focus, however, is on the South Asian region. For further information, please contact Ayeshah Iftikhar at  

* Peace March in Washington , DC on April 16  

Dr. Mohan Bhagat, a senior Professor at the University of Maryland, and peace-loving citizens of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. have organized a Peace March on 16th April to coincide with the arrival of Peace Marcher from Delhi at Wagah on their way to Multan. The plan is for people to gather at the Pak embassy, and recite some songs and poems related to peace and shared heritage, before marching to the Indian Embassy.  

* A temple fest where Muslims are on a par with Brahmins, New Indian Express, Sunday April 24 2005 12:37 IST

MANJESWARAM (KASARGOD): Attired in bright red clothes and their chests covered with garlands of jasmine flowers, the oracles of the Udayavar Mada temple visit the nearby Juma-at mosque on the second Friday after every Vishu to invite the local Muslims to the annual festival of the temple.

The oracles proceed to the mosque accompanied by local people carrying the customary swords and koothuvilakku and playing the traditional musical instruments. The procession is accorded a cordial welcome by the members of the Juma-at committee in the mosque courtyard.

This custom has been going on for the past two hundred years in the Tulu-speaking belt of Manjeswaram, keeping alive a tradition that reinforces the bonds of love, mutual respect and communal amity between Hindus and Muslims of the area.

This year, the oracles were received by Juma-at committee president Monu Haji, secretary Abdul Rahman and Ameer Ali amidst the blowing of trumpets.

The oracles then invited members of the mahal committee to the temple with these words: We have great love for the Shaikans (Shaiks). We meet at the temple every year for the past hundreds of years and it is an occasion for us to exchange greetings and strengthen our mutual love and brotherhood.

We beseech you to come to the temple to help us conduct the festival in accordance with tradition. The Juma-at committee members nodded in agreement and accompanied the oracles through the mosque courtyard.

The Muslims who come to the temple to attend the annual festival, which begins on May 8 this time, have a separate place to watch the Theyyam festival. Traditionally, Muslims enjoy equal rights as Brahmins in watching the festival.

The Juma-at committee contributes money to the temple. They also send provisions such as rice and fruits to the temple during the festival. The temple committee, in turn, donates rice, ghee and coconut oil to the annual Uroos festival of the mosque. Hindus also make votive offerings at the mosque and Muslims do the same at the temple.

*Final Day of India Pakistan Peace March (New Delhi to Multan), March 23, 2005 to May 11, 2005
Sandeep Pandey &.Karamat Ali

Ek hi khwaab jo kai baar dekha hai ... ... ...
aur aankhein kholne par bhi ... ... ...
... ... ... yahii khwaab sach ban kar saamne hota hai...
Ek hi khwaab kai baar dekha hai maine...

India Pakistan Peace March today on May 11, 2005, reached a historic milestone - the destination where it was supposed to end - Multan. The support of the people of both countries has been ever growing to this movement, and it was so evident on the last day - more than 4500 people from all across Pakistan had traveled to come over and
participate in the concluding day programmes of India Pakistan Peace March. The city of Multan had many billboards welcoming the people to India Pakistan peace march and hundreds of banners/ posters put up all across the city to mobilize people for the concluding day events in Multan. This is definitely unprecedented for this movement and
provides tremendous assurance for future too.

When the Indian peace marchers reached near the city of Multan, thousands of people were lined up with flowers and love dispersed all around for nearly 3 kilometres of distance. People were overwhelmed and emotions flowed uninhibited. The enthusiasm was at a record high, undoubtedly. The peace marchers went to the mazar of sufi saint bahodin zakaria and after seeking the saint's blessings, they moved forward.

On the last day, a peace conference was held and close to 1000 people registered in today's events. They participated in a march procession and went all around Multan to spread the message of love and harmony.

This entire peace initiative, connecting thousands of people with love and harmony gives a strong mandate for peaceful co-existence. This stands starkly in contrast to the way governments of India and Pakistan responded to the peace marchers with rude reluctance and unsuccessful bids to thwart the march. Considering the high level peace process which is going on between the two nations, the support and patronage of the governments of these two nations should have been upfront, forthcoming and exemplary. Sadly it wasn't so.

The stumbling blocks that came across the way of India Pakistan Peace March were indeed many, agreed, but the dexterity and steely resolve of the people of India and Pakistan grew phenomenally too, to take the peace march forward. Although today the peace march might come to an end, but the peace process connecting people of both nations, has a very long way to go. With the unprecedented love and support this peace march got from people of both nations, the seemingly impossible dream of restoring harmony between these two nations, never looked so possible.

* Mocking the Frontier: The Baba's Dargah at Chamaliyal, Yoginder Sikand, May 17, 2005

Just then, a flock of birds flew overhead and went sailing right across the frontier. The senselessness of that invisible blood-stained line struck me then with a force that mere words fail to express.

The rickety bus from Jammu to Ramgarh, a distance of some forty kilometres, took more than two hours to reach its destination, stopping after every twenty minutes to pick up large crowds of people heading for the Sufi shrine of the Baba at Chamaliyal. It was Thursday, a day particularly important for the Sufis, and the usual Thursday festivities were being held at the shrine, located right on the Line of Actual Control that separates Pakistani- and Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Lunch at Ramgarh was simple fare--thick, hot daal and crispy rotis, washed down with a glass of sweet, frothy lassi. There had been news of heavy firing the night before between the Indian Border security Force and the Pakistan Rangers in the Samba sector, where Chamaliyal lies. Luckily, Chamaliyal had been spared the fury of the gun-shots, though it was said that some neighbouring villages on both sides of the Line of Control had been hit.

No vans or buses were plying to the border villages for fear of coming within the range of the continuing shelling. My hopes of visiting the Baba's dargah, about which I had heard so much, seemed dim, when an amiable Sikh drew up to me, leading his horse-drawn tonga. He offered to take me to the dargah for a surprisingly nominal fare. I readily agreed, and hopping into the tonga, we set off for Chamaliyal, some five kilometres away.

As the tonga wobbled along, we passed by lush green fields. Sikh families were busy harvesting their crops. Herds of buffaloes lazed around in little muddy pools, soaking in the winter sun. A family of Muslim cattle-grazing Gujjars moved ahead of us, their animals sending up large clouds of dust in the air. Meanwhile, the tonga-driver pointed out the local sights of importance. 'Here', he said, pointing to a field bursting with bright yellow mustard flowers, 'was where more than a thousand Muslim villagers were slaughtered overnight in the violence of 1947'. And then he went on to relate a horrific tale of the bloody massacres of that eventful year, in which he and his family, along with several thousand Sikhs and Hindus, had fled across to Jammu from Sialkot, now in Pakistan, and how an equally large number of Muslims in Jammu had been pushed across into Pakistan.

An hour later, we passed by the village of Dagh, the last settlement on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. We crossed a little stream and then headed up a narrow path. When we came out into a clearing the tonga-driver pointed out to a clump of eucalyptus trees hardly a stone's -throw distance away. 'That's Pakistan', he said. A sudden wave of excitement filled me and ran down my spine. Pakistan! So close, and yet so far!

The tonga trudged down the path in the direction of the trees, streams of sweat trickling down the horse's hairy black coat. Gradually, the large bulbous dome of the Baba's dargah drew into view. We had reached Chamaliyal. At the entrance of the shrine, we were stopped by a smart uniformed Border Security Force guard. He wanted to know what I was doing in the area. 'Just a casual visitor', I said to him. That did not fully satisfy him, but he let me in, nevertheless.

The Baba's dargah is, quite clearly, an Islamic structure. His grave lies under a large, green onion-shaped dome, and in the courtyard, in the shade of a large peepul tree, are the graves of two of his closest disciples, again buried in Islamic fashion. However, since there are no Muslims any more living in the area, the shrine has been considerably Hinduised. A large, gaudy welcome arch installed by the Border Security Force with a brightly-painted Om symbol greets the visitor at the entrance of the dargah, and inside posters of various Hindu deities and figures have been stuck on the walls. No one seems to remember who the Baba actually was. Until 1947 the dargah was looked after by a Muslim family, which had to flee Chamaliyal when a wave of mass killings was unleashed on the Muslims of Jammu. Since then, because there are no more Muslims here, the shrine has been looked after by the Border Security Force, which has constructed a free community kitchen and a guest house for the large number of pilgrims who come here from all parts of northern India.

According to local legend, the Baba was a holy man who was killed in a battle with a local chieftain. Even after his head had been severed from his body, so the story goes, he kept up the fight, and finally dropped dead on the spot where his dargah stands today. Of his two closest disciples, one was martyred along with him, while the other fled the battle-field. That night the Baba appeared to the latter in a dream, and angry with him for his disloyalty, cursed him with leprosy. The next morning the man awoke to discover his body covered with sores and his limbs rotting away. He ran to the Baba's grave and begged him for pardon. The Baba then appeared once again to him in a dream and told him to rub his body with the mud from a pit near his grave and the water of a well close by and he would be cured. He did as he was told and recovered completely. Soon, the fame of the curative powers of the Baba's shrine spread far and wide, and people from all castes and communities started flocking here in the hope of curing various skin ailments. And so it remains till this very day People with all sorts of skin problems come here, and rubbing themselves with the mud of the pit, which they call shakkar or sugar, and the water of the well, stand in the sun for days on end. Scores of men and women may be seen in this condition on any day throughout the year, looking like eerie ghouls.

The Baba is equally, if not more, popular on the other side of the Line of Actual Control. Till the late 1980s Pakistani pilgrims were allowed to visit the shrine during the annual urs or fair, hich is held every June. This has, however, now been stopped by the Indian authorities, unfortunately. Instead, the Border Security Force makes arrangements for the mud and water from the dargah to be transported in trucks to the border, from where the Pakistan Rangers distribute it to the devotees on the other side.

I spent an entire day at the dargah, and after a hearty lunch with a local Sikh peasant family, I strolled over to the BSF bunker just behind the shrine and looked beyond. Hardly a hundred metres away, across an imaginary frontier, were the huts of the Pakistani village of Sayyedawali, and a tall Pakistani border watch-tower, with its green and white flag fluttering merrily away in the breeze. A group of Pakistani farmers were working in their fields and a little country bus was gently rolling down a road. Just then, a flock of birds flew overhead and went sailing right across the frontier. The senselessness of that invisible blood-stained line struck me then with a force that mere words fail to express.

* Children from India and Pakistan Talk About Peace & Friendship. June 17, 2005

Early afternoon on 17th June, 2005, about 10 children from Hyderabad, Pakistan and as many from Lucknow, India talked with each other about the need for peace between the two nations, inviting the other to come spend time with them as well as singing songs.

Despite technical difficulties with unstable internet and video-networking through a web-cam as well disturbance over the phone line that was finally used to teleconference the children in, the enthusiasm and sheer joy of speaking to each other was perceptible.
Some children participating in the workshop Lucknow had tickets for a film later in the day but decided to forego that to find out about their counterparts in Hyderabad.

Before the call in that eventually occurred at about 5:00 PM India time and 4:30 Pakistan time, these groups of children had separately participated in workshops. These workshops included discussions, singing songs, watching parts of a film on 50 years of hostilities
between India and Pakistan, etc.

During the call, the children were very forthcoming, telling each other across over thousand kilometers of space that we needed peace, we needed to work for it. Starting a bit bashfully – talking about the weather, and each other's health – the children opened up as the session proceeded. They talked about themselves – what they liked to read, sports that they enjoyed.

'What picture do you see when you think about India', one of the children from Lucknow asked. 'We see a place with friends', came the answer across the phone line. "Can we be friends?' another voice from Lucknow queries. "Of course', comes a confident reply.

'We have been trying to talk to you for so long', one of the children from Lucknow said – perhaps articulating her frustration at the technical difficulties. She might as well have been talking about the feelings of various Indians and Pakistanis who have been looking
forward to better relationships and greater interaction that has been constrained by the insularity of domestic and international politics.

Sajjad, from Hyderabad, who had come to India with a group of young children traveling through and playing cricket with (not against) kids from various parts of India, described his trips to his counterparts from Lucknow, talking about his experiences in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkatta. 'But you did not come to Lucknow?', some one asked.

Shweta wanted to know more about Hyderabad, besides describing Lucknow and what she liked about the city. Pooja in Lucknow wanted to know more about the lives of the children in Hyderabad, wanting to perhaps find out the similarities they shared and if anything was different.

Areeba Javed read out a poem on peace, among other poems and songs sung by a number of the children in Hyderabad. The children in Lucknow also sang a song from 'Veer Zaara'. Then everyone joined in and sang a song from the Bollywood film "Kal ho na ho".

The effort was organized by various members of the recently concluded Delhi to Multan Peace march, some of whom were able to participate in the march and others who could not join the march but played important roles in supporting the march and making it a success. Another call with the same group of participants is planned within the next month.

The organizers view this as follow up action from the march, using available technology to increase people to people interaction. Based on feedback and learning from these calls, the organizers plan to start similar interactions between other groups.

* Kashmiri Pandits-APHC resolve to work towards Pandits' return, Mukhtar Ahmad, July 19, 2005

An extraordinary conclave of Kashmiri Pandit representatives and moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference politicians has resolved to work jointly for the dignified return of local migrant Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes.

The conclave, the first of its kind held at the Rajbagh headquarters of the APHC, also decided that the Muslim and Hindu communities would work together to find a lasting and honourable solution to the Kashmir issue.

A delegation of the migrant Kashmiri Pandit community travelled all the way from Jammu to the uptown Rajbagh headquarters of the APHC and found prominent separatist leaders including APHC chairman Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq waiting with garlands to honour and embrace their Pandit brethren.

Emotional scenes set the pace for the day-long closed-door proceedings of the first ever conclave between Kashmiri separatist leaders and members of the minority Pandit community.

Many prominent Pandit leaders including the Panun Kashmir group have however dissociated themselves from Tuesday's enclave, blaming the separatist leaders for their misery and migration.

Sources said the meeting was held in a warm and congenial atmosphere and cordiality was reflected in the joint statement issued at the end of the meeting.

The joint statement said that the Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir were inseparable elements of the local fabric.

"That Kashmiri migrants return to the Valley with a deeper sense of security and dignity unmistakably requires a favourable environment, for which the APHC along with other sensible elements will endeavor to discharge their duty as effectively as is possible and the Pandit intellectuals will on their part also contribute towards the forward movement as handsomely as is needed," the statement said.

The statement further said, "Participants support the ongoing dialogue process between India and Pakistan with a view to resolving all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir and thus ensuring lasting peace in the region. In this regard, the involvement of the people of the state will further consolidate the process and help build bridges of good will and mutual trust and above everything else the understanding required under the circumstances."
The statement appealed to all sections of the society in the state to 'throw their weight behind our efforts so that the movement forward translated into reality'.

* Mosque run by Hindu trust, Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, Times News Network, August 09, 2005

KOLKATA: Fanatics who squabble over the rightful site for temples and Mosques should take a leaf out of the book of the Marble Palace Trust. Tucked away in the southern corner of the palace, which houses an art gallery, a zoo and a Jagannath temple, is one of the oldest mosques in Kolkata, which is run by a Hindu trust.

In the past 215 years, the trust has maintained the mosque, popularly called Bangali Babur Masjid, with equal care and zeal as it runs the Jagannath temple. It is perhaps the only mosque in the country that is owned and run by a Hindu trust.
In the late eighteenth century, Raja Rajendra Mullick built the Marble Palace and set up the trust for its manintenance. He constructed the temple of the family deity, Jagannath Diu, and the mosque opposite each other because he wanted the estate to be the melting point for all communities.
August is a special month for the trust as it has lined up two big events. For both the religions communities - Janmashtami for Hindus and Kunda for Muslims. Both the festivals fall on the same day, August 26. So, while the temple is being given a face-lift, the mosque has been white-washed, electrical connections repaired and arrangements made for distribution of halwa, puri and kheer to anyone who walks into the mosque on the Chand ka Bais tareekh, the day Kunda is observed.

* Pakistani Peacenik Writes From India, The South Asian, August 18, 2005

Saeeda Diep shares stories from her recent trip with the Pakistani delegation to India . The delegation participated with their Indian counterparts in a variety of events urging greater peace and less bureaucracy.

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you all for showing us such a good time in India . In my opinion, the convention and our overall stay in India was a huge success, thanks to the efforts of all our friends there.

It was 4 a.m. on the 6th of August when Sheetal Ji called from Amritsar to make sure that we were crossing the border in time. Along with 39 other delegates from Pakistan , I was not sure whether we were going because we were waiting for the passports to arrive from Islamabad . I wonder why every time a person crosses the border on foot he/she has to go through so many formalities.

The young man who was sent to the embassy and Ministry of Interior in Islamabad was rather inexperienced and couldn't get things done in the proper manner.

At about 9 a.m. when we reached the border we got our passports. Unfortunately Mr. Ghulam Hussain from Hyderabad , Sindh couldn't get the visa. I felt guilty as Mr. Ghulam Hussain kept inquiring about his visa status as he was really looking forward to going to India .

Eventually 40 delegates crossed the border and Sheetal Ji along with Bobby and Darshan Singh Ji was there to receive us. After having tea at Wagah border we set off for Beas . I would like to explain the importance of Beas . Back in April the Pakistani peace marchers joined the Delhi - Multan peace march in Beas . We were given a huge reception by the Baba Ji in the Gurdwara. This time Baba Ji did a wonderful job of hosting us again and assured us of future cooperation for Indo-Pak peace process. He and other honorable members of the Gurdwara showed a willingness to come to Pakistan and join us in our efforts here.

Our bus took us from Beas to Delhi where we stayed in the Youth Hostels (YWCA and YMCA). We reached Delhi at 5:30 in the morning and the convention was scheduled to start at 10:30 . We had some time to rest and Sandeep Ji was kind enough to put off the convention for an hour to allow us enough time to get settled down.

The convention started with Rajasthani music with a message of love and peace. The activities of the two-day convention were very informative and pertaining to the theme of the convention. MPs from different political parties spoke about a visa-free and nuclear-free South Asia . Pakistani delegates were invited to a dinner hosted by the Chief Minister of Delhi.

Very respectable and well known personalities like Kuldeep Nayyer Ji, Nirmila dede, Nandita Das, Gautam Naulakha, Retired General Moti Dhar ji, Nazim Ali Nizami (Sajada Nasheen Nizam-ud-din Aulia) and others participated in the convention. Nizami Sahab invited us all to the Dargah of Nizam-ud-din Aulia where we were treated to a rather lavish "langar." We were also presented with pretty scarfs.

The convention started on Hiroshima day and concluded on the Nagasaki Day with upwas(fast) at Raj Ghat. Many people including Kuldeep Nayyer Ji, Nirmila dede, and people frm Nepal and Bhutan spoke on that day. The fast ended around 5 in the evening with Nirmila dede giving us each a glass of juice. We also had the good fortune of visiting Gandhi Ji's samadi in Raj Ghat. Our last day in Delhi was reserved for shopping and site seeing and dinner that night was given by Nirmila dede.

Next morning at 5 a.m. we left from Delhi for Agra where we were given a reception at a local school. Some of us visited the Taj Mahal while others wandered the streets of Agra . We were invited to the College of Visual and Performing Arts where the administration extended a warm welcome in the traditional Indian style. From there we went to Gandhi Ji's ashram where we all prayed for "shanti" and then had dinner. We bid farewell to our bus driver at 10:30 p.m. at the Agra Railway station, as we had to catch the 11:00 train for Lucknow .

We arrived in Lucknow at around 6 a.m. It was decided that in Lucknow delegates will be staying with families. At the railway station we were greeted by Arundhati Ji and our respective hosts accompanied by the beat of drums and garlands of flowers. Staying with the local families was a wonderful experience as all the delegates were very happy with their host families. Loretto school in Lucknow gave us a reception at Pack and Chew restaurant. From there we rushed to Lucknow University where the students and faculty were awaiting us. The Chief Minister of UP invited us for tea, spoke to us and presented us with gifts. Dinner was hosted by the Mayor and Commissioner of the city. We were showered with gifts and beautiful Urdu poetry. As we had only one night in Lucknow we had a rather tight schedule. After dinner people rushed to the cinema where they saw the much awaited Mangal Pandey, the rising. Everyone enjoyed the film and were taken from there to their host families.

Next morning, breakfast was served at a friend's house, followed by lunch at Shia College by Mr. Kalb-e-Sadiq. We were extended a warm welcome by the students and teachers at the College. From there we had to rush to the railway station to catch our train for Amritsar. Thanks to the railway authorities the train was half an hour late and we had extra time to chat with our friends in Lucknow. From Lucknow, Sonia Ji, Manish Ji, Chanderlekha Ji and Rajehswar Ji accompanied us to Amritsar.

On our way to Amritsar from Lucknow, at Hardoi Rilway station we were greeted by the D.M. along with school children, locals and media representatives. People from both sides of the Pak-India border chanted peace slogans.

We arrived in Amritsar at 9 in the morning where we were greeted by Sheetal Ji and Dr Prminder Singh. We were taken to Guru Nanak Dev University to freshen up. Later we joined the seminar on Pak-India relations. Unfortunately at about 1:30 p.m. we found out that we had not been given permission for stay in Amritsar. So we rushed to the border and at the border we all got very sentimental. We all had such a fine time that nobody felt like leaving. Our friends and hosts in India have become dear like family members and we will miss them greatly.

Before concluding, I must thank Monica Ji, Faisal Ji, Sandeep Ji, Arundhati Ji, Sheetal Ji, Darshan Singh Ji, Harsha Ji (who came all the way from Bombay to attend the convention and meet Pakistani yatris), Sonia Ji, Rajeshwar Ji, Chanderlekha Ji, Manish Ji, Jai Krishan ji, Mahesh Ji, Tinzin Ji (who came from Benaras with mango plants), Nand Lal Ji, Munna Shukla Ji, and any others that I might have forgot to mention, I apologize for that.

Thank you very much once again Sandeep Ji and Arundhati Ji whose unfailing commitment and dedication to the cause of peace and friendship between the two countries made our trip to India possible. I am convinced that if more dedicated people like you join us in the peace process, and we are able to decentralize the peace process and take it to the common people, we shall soon overcome.


*Muslim children appeal for clemency for a Sikh prisoner in Pakistan, India West, September 2, 2005


Indian Muslim children gathered at an Amritsar mosque, on August 26, to plead to President Musharraf to show clemency to Sarabjit Singh.

A resident of Bhikiwind, a village, 30 miles north of Amritsar, Sarabjit Singh was convicted of spying and involvement in a string of bomb blasts in Pakistan. In prison for the last 15 years, he has been held at a high security prison in Lahore. A few weeks ago, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.

He and his family deny the charge, and insist that he had accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory, in August 1990, while farming his land near the border.

Recent threats by his wife and two daughters to commit suicide, if his life is not spared, have sparked widespread public support in India for the case of Sarabjit Singh. Even the government of India has agreed to intervene on his behalf.

* India-Pakistan Peace and Friendship March

October 15, 2005 was a historical day when 17 diverse associations representing Indo-Pak community organized a peace and friendship march from the Embassy of Pakistan to the Embassy of India covering about 3 miles of main thoroughfares of Washington, DC.

Professor Mohan Bhagat welcomed the participants and requested everyone to observe a two-minute silent prayer in memory of thousands of departed souls victimized by the recent earthquake in Kashmir valley and other parts on India and Pakistan. Mrs. Sultana Kamal updated the participants about the needs of the surviving families in the area and Dr. Ravi Kuchimanchi mentioned about the establishment of a Relief Fund for the victims under the Association for India's Development (AID).

The march was led by Magsaysay award winner Dr. Sandeep Pandey, who briefly described the affection and kinship expressed by people on both sides of the border during the march he had led from Delhi, India to Multan, Pakistan last spring. He also appreciated the cooperation the marchers received from both governments of India and Pakistan.

The march started at 1:00 PM from Pakistan Embassy and ended in front of Mahatma Gandhi statue at 3:00 PM. The marchers carried banners and placards with slogans and signs of Salaam, Peace, Shanti, and India-Pakistan Friendship, etc. and also sang unity songs along the way. The passersby in cars supported the march by honking horns and the marchers were warmly greeted by large number of people near the National Zoo and in the Dupont Circle area.

The march ended with the recitation of sayings of Sants, Sufis and other great men and women signifying the importance human relations, unity among diverse groups and our responsibilities towards the mankind and the mother earth.

Dr. Mohan Bhagat, Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Dr. Priya Ranjan, Dr. Sirish Agarwal, and Mr. Rohit Tripathi organized this event and members of Aligarh Alumni Association (AAA), Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA), Association for India's Development (AID), DC Collective, Hyderabad Association of Washington Metropolitan Area (HAWMA), Non-Resident Indians for Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), Pakistan Association of Greater Washington Area, Sadbhav Mission and Young India(YI) participated in the march. Dr. Najma Sultana and Ms. Vidhi Parthasarthy came from New York and Professor Zia Mian and his wife traveled from Princeton University to participate in the march.

* A Hindu's love for rozedars, Shailvee Sharda, Times News Network, October 22, 2005 03:42:38 am

LUCKNOW, INDIA: Like any one of us he goes off to bed at 11 pm but his day starts twice. Once at 2.30 am to wake up the rozedars* Muslims who fast during the pious month of Ramzan, and then again at 8 am when he begins his daily life.

Strangely, he is not a follower of Islam, but even then, not a single Muslim in Aliganj forgets to bow his head before him whenever he passes by for they all are so grateful to him for waking them at the crack of dawn.

For the past 18 years Barati Lal Gupta popularly called as Barati Baba has been religiously waking up his Muslim neighbours before 'Waqt-e-seher'**.

The Iman of Aliganj mosque and a few other elders in this locality will swear that whether it has been frosty winter, or incessant monsoon rain or the humid summer he has never failed to recite the 'nats' in his soulful voice in the grace period before 'sehri' (when people eat in the morning before beginning their fasts).

After each 'nat'***, he warns the people about the time left for that day's roza (fast) to begin so that the rozedars have enough time to eat before fasting through out the day. A 'nat' is a recital in praise of Prophet Mohammad, sung or recited in Sufi or even non-Sufi style.

Of Arabic origin, the 'nats' are an indispensable part of the auspicious rozas. Recalling how it all started, Gupta said that it was a promise he had made to an old Muslim in 1986. He had gone to a tailor to get a pair trousers stitched for himself.

But the old man refused stating that for this, he would have to work overnight as a result of which he might miss out on his morning prayers. "I had promised that if he would stitch my pants I would take the responsibility of waking him up throughout Ramzan. The old man, however, had laughed it away," added Gupta.

Next morning a fakir was heard waking up the rozedars. A few who saw him described him as a man in an over-sized gown and face covered with a monkey cap, who went around singing Allah's praise. All this continued for the next 4-5 years where people spoke about the fakir with admiration.

"But no one knew who he it was that appeared under the cover of darkness and vanished before the crack break of down. But to everyone's surprise, one day my uncle discovered that the fakir was actually Barati bhaiya," said Islam Rehman a native of Pandey Tola.

A lot of time has passed since then. People have also forgotten about the fakir and now that man is famous as Barati Baba. "Even the elderly people of this locality who called him by his name earlier do not hesitate in calling him Barati Baba," added Rehman.

* Pulling the communal wall down in Ahmedabad, New Kerala, Dec. 31 2005

The new year is set to usher in communal harmony in strife-prone Ahmedabad with the inauguration of the Muskaan park - an endeavour of an NGO to fill the divide between Hindus and Muslims here.


The Society for the Promotion of Rational Thinking (SPRAT) has set up a recreation and adventure park, named as AUDA-Muskaan Park, for children of both communities in Juhapura, a communally sensitive neighbourhood.  

The division on communal lines touches ridiculous heights in the Juhapura and Vejalpur areas, evident from the wall stretching two kilometres that separates the two religious communities...."We have selected the most sensitive location for the park, where people of both communities do not know each other. Forget children, there are many who have never talked to people belonging to the other religion.


"We want to make this conflict zone as the launch pad for the promotion of peace and harmony. Our ultimate objective is to dismantle the wall," SPRAT president M.H. Jowhar told IANS.


*Peace Marches in India and Pakistan, Alka Roy, December 12, 2005

ndia and Pakistan Chapters of Pakistan-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) have organised a peace march from Jodhpur to Munabao in Rajasthan and parallel Peace March from Hyderabad (Sindh) to Khokrapar in Pakistan from December 17 to 23. There will be meetings, street plays, and mushairas (poetry recitals), on the way to Munabao.On the evening of December 23, there will be Aman (peace) Melas at Munabao on Indian side and at Khokrapar (Eastern border check-post of Sindh, Pakistan). PIPFPD intends to hold joint candlelight vigil of people from both the side at Zero point after the border. It is intended that they will meet at the border, exchange greetings and get a chance to light the symbolic candles of peace.


Thousands of people are desperately waiting to see, meet their relatives on the other side of the border. Trains used to run on Munabao-Khokrapar route, before they were stopped on the eve of the1965 Indo-Pak war. People residing in Rajasthan and Sindh are demanding train service to continue. In fact, local residents from Munabao and Khokrapar areas are organisng marches regularly demanding resumption of train services. The scenario, in a limited sense, is similar to Kashmir. Thousands of families are divided. They are finding it difficult to meet each other as getting visas is not easy and for that one needs to go to either Delhi or Islamabad. Crossing the border is not easy either. One needs to go all the way to Wagah border. Thus, people living few miles away have to travel minimum of 1,750 km. Most of the people living in these desert areas of both countries are not rich enough to afford long travel.


As a confidence building measure (CBM) both governments have announced new dates of resumption of train service between two countries. Earlier, it was to commence from October 2, 2005. Now it has been rescheduled to January 1, 2006. To build up the tempo and to hasten the Indo-Pak peace process, it is necessary that common people of both the countries travel each others country extensively. It will automatically remove misconceptions about each other. To make this possible, visa regime needs to be liberalised, more consulates needs to be opened. Apart from this, as both the countries share a long border more places needs to be opened up to cross the border. Visa on arrival should be made available to the people, at least to the senior citizens.


Sindh assembly has already passed resolutions demanding train service to resume on Khokrapar-Munabao route.


To boost this cause, one farmer has agreed to donate some land, where PIPFPD plans to build a Peace Park. 


PIPFPD organizers have issued an appeal to people for their support for these projects.

List revised 17 March 2006