When it comes to Indian-Pakistani relations, the stories that dominate the news are ones of conflict and political tension. Ever since the British withdrawal in 1947 and the division of territory that followed, these two nations have been at odds. The contested border region of Kashmir has been a central point of turmoil. Over 100,000 lives have been lost and several wars fought over the past 60 years. This history of violence has created animosity and suspicion between the citizens of India and Pakistan, which has escalated at times to threats of nuclear war between the two states
As an online web platform that campaigns for nonviolence through the use of information and communications technology, Beyond Violence is launching “Sarhadpaar,” which translates to Beyond Borders. This campaign will focus on sharing positive stories of friendship that have developed between Indians and Pakistanis. People can share messages, pictures and videos via the Sarhadpaar Twitter page.
Additionally, a memory bank will be compiled so that people can check out all the positive stories. Beyond Violence is not the first organization to enter into this peace building process and lots of great work is already underway. The purpose of these initiatives is to break down the barriers of distrust and misgivings that exist between the two sides; in this case, neighbouring citizens who share a common history.
There are those who believe that the distrust between the two nations can be healed. Amrit Sharma, a former software engineer turned self-funded entrepreneur, is the founder of India Loves Pakistan, a social movement with the goal of adding the human element into the India-Pakistan relationship. The website serves to promote discussion between Indians and Pakistanis and focus on what brings them together rather than their differences. On February 14th, they launched an app called 'India or Pakistan,' designed to demonstrate just how similar they are. Users are presented with a picture of a location and then have to decide whether it's in India or Pakistan; the correct answer is then displayed. The pictures include people, monuments, markets and regular Indians and Pakistanis. With the next update to the app that's coming soon, users will be able to share their score on any social network that's installed on their phone, including email and SMS too. The update will include over 100 new photos, including several photos that users have submitted via email. The app has received a sizable amount of media coverage, from such media outlets like The Express Tribune and The Huffington Post. The app has over 2000 downloads.
Both Sarhadpaar and India Loves Pakistan seek to bring about understanding and compassion between Indians and Pakistanis. Speaking about what he hopes people to get out of the app, Amrit wants users to think “wow, we're not that different, we're quite similar.” That message comes across clearly while playing the app. The inspiration for the app came from a 2012 TED talk, 'Israel and Iran: A love story?,' by Ronny Edry, an Israeli graphic designer. Amrit realized the potential for social media to serve as a platform for unprecedented connectivity and reconciliation. A lot of the media coverage about Indian-Pakistan relations is dehumanizing, pitting nation against nation and citizen against citizen with this negativity being epitomized in the daily border closing ceremony.
Beyond Violence's Executive Director Tim Williams, says “This app is simple but powerful, showing users that their stereotypes of the 'others' are just that: stereotypes. By celebrating our similarities we can grow beyond our differences.” Building upon that sentiment, Amrit states that the “vast majority of people would rather live with each other’s happiness instead of misery.” Gauging from the reviews on Google's Play Store, users agree with this philosophy; and if the results from playing the app are any indicator, spotting the differences is not as easy as it sounds.
Written by Daniel Winstanley and published on 02-March-2015