The world is not simply a collection of states, nor is it composed solely of religions and civilizations. Our world is woven of the endeavours of countless human beings who may share particular backgrounds but no two of whom are the same. But the bonds of friendship provide a basis from which to resist the currents of hatred and incitement at times of heightened tensions between countries or deepened conflict between religious traditions. Envisaging the faces of individual friends, determined not to allow society to become a place where they would feel unwelcome, we can work to create a transformation from conflict to coexistence, starting in our immediate environment. One such persistent effort towards building peace between India and Pakistan is Paaq Bandhu –currently an online group with more than 1200 members from people in India and Pakistan to ‘engage in dialogue’ and make way for a permanent solution.
In conversation with Shreya Mazumdar – the Ideator and Director of Paaq Bandhu.
“People talk about differences (between the two communities); but aren’t those differences much lesser in number than the commonalities between any two communities? Aren’t we common as humans? Aren’t our needs and wants to survive peacefully, common? How can we forget these few basic common points of life?” This is how Shreya started when asked about her views on the mutual hatred between India and Pakistan. She also mentioned that the over-hyped disgraced relations between the two nations, is a reflection of the bitter relations of Hindus and Muslims since the 1947 partition.
“In today’s time, when people have plethora of options for news and entertainment, they generally fall for whatever is fed to them, without cross checking and verifying, which has hampered peace and tranquillity of the land at various junctures of society.” She also stressed that people must question the source from where the news is being generated and its’ perspective. She also mentions, “Whatever perceptions we have about Pakistan as an Indian, is because of what Indian media has shown us and our government told us. But that is only one side of the picture. And also, we cannot and must not judge the entire country by what few people in power in that country decide for their entire nation.”
Shreya, whose roots also come from Pakistan, as her grand-mother was born and brought up in Sindh Hyderabad and is also a 1947 partition survivor, questions the ability of the all the ruling governments since then for being unable to find a permanent resolution to this issue.
Recently finished her studies in Community Media from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Shreya also understands the importance of role of media in building a society. She thinks that apart from government, mainstream media is also to be blamed for not showing the various stories of friendship and love between people across the border. She said, “Apparently, digital media is/can be coming up as a saviour to put our efforts in. That’s because digital media is majorly owned by the users themselves. Facebook, Twitter and other social media are emerging as strong platform for people to interact with the world. That’s how the sane community, which understands the importance of peaceful coexistence can come together and stronger.”
When asked about what her idea of permanent solution is, she says, “The only permanent solution to any problem is the shift in the mindset of people. It begins with one person. Although social media is a very transient and temporary solution to this/any issue, it invokes a feeling of belongingness with people with whom we interact and make friends with, online, which works for this cause. But we understand that what we (Paaq Bandhu) are expecting is a gradual process, because we are dealing with people and their behaviour. Also, it is important for people to make their voices be heard, which digital media makes it easier with its huge bank of users and speedy reach and penetrability. Paaq Bandhu is just an effort to show people the flip side of the story, which generally remains unheard.”
Shreya is determined to bring a change and we completely support her and the cause. Because as she rightly says, “This fight for change is not just for tomorrow, but for the coming 200-400 years.”
We wish her good luck for the future and wait to see how Paaq Bandhu emerges in future.