Since the partition more than 6 decades ago, the relations between India and Pakistan have been characterized by suspicion and mistrust. The communication gap that has existed between Indians and Pakistanis for decades can now be bridged thanks to a vast amount of information and communications technology available to the public. Beyond Violence is launching the online campaign “Sarhadpaar.” During the first stage of the campaign, Pakistanis and Indians are invited to share their stories of friendship on multiple online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and make their own contributions to building positive dialogue.
The name of the campaign is a Hindi and Urdu term meaning “Beyond Borders” in English. It conveys a message that travels across the indifference, learned hatred and borders to create a future of harmony, progress and cultural prosperity. Beyond Violence believes that civic engagement and civic participation are crucial in bridging gaps, overcoming hatred and building trust, laying the foundations for a strong bilateral relationship. Even though strict visa regulations make physical interaction between Indians and Pakistanis extremely difficult, with the emerging power of social media, peaceful voices from both countries now have a strong, solid platform to not only rely on, but to expand on indefinitely. Through this campaign, Beyond Violence aims at providing a platform for individuals who believe that through constructive nonviolent means and a process of engaged conversation between adherents of different nations, conflicts can be transformed from destructive methodologies to positive and more constructive approaches to conflict resolution. Instead of focusing on the violence that was unleashed as a result of the partition, we want to invite Indians and Pakistanis to show the other side of the story; peaceful coexistence of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; members of different communities engaging with each other and stories of friendship. Participants can share their stories via Twitter @sarhadpaar or #sarhadpaar.
Throughout their history, India and Pakistan have been on the edge of conflict since the partition in 1947. The two nations, separated at birth, have fought three major wars over the relatively small, but strategically important region of Kashmir, leaving the disputed areas in a political deadlock. The partition of 1947, which led to widespread communal riots and the largest mass migration in human history, was a violent and traumatizing experience for both nations. Today it continues to define the image that is projected of the “enemy” on the other side of the heavily guarded border. Hindus and Muslims simply cannot live in peace, they say. But Hindus and Muslims lived side by side in peace for hundreds of years before a border came to serve not only as a separation of territory, but also as a dividing line between religions and ethnicities.
Deep skepticism about negotiations has taken root among Indians and Pakistanis. Insurgency, violence and poverty deprive vulnerable citizens such as Kashmiris from many basic human rights. The border dispute is unlikely to be settled any time soon, yet there is still much that can be done. The people of India and Pakistan have many things in common due to their shared history and culture, such as the Urdu and Hindu languages, food and music. The governments have made it almost impossible for Pakistanis and Indians to meet each other, but Beyond Violence believes in the power of positive dialogues in fostering a constructive environment for peace building. “Sarhadpaar”, the “Beyond Borders” platform, will make it possible for Indians and Pakistanis to meet virtually instead.
We believe that communication is the key to solving problems caused by inter-communal and inter-religious mistrust, suspicion and hostility. Common citizens need to have their own voices heard so that progress toward a peaceful tomorrow can begin today.
Written by Sofie Chen and published on 02-March-2015