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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Terrorists don't need visas

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

The Milli Gazette Online

Lucknow: Tum aao gulahan-e-Lahore se chaman bardosh / Hum aayein subeh-e-Benarus ki roshni lekar.... (You come from lovelorn gardens of Lahore / We reciprocate with morning-freshness of Benaras), the defining couplet of Ali Sardar Jafri adored the banner in Rai Uma Nath Bali Auditorium, Qaiserbagh Lucknow on April 29 stressing the longings of an evergreen peace between India and Pakistan.

The function was organized by the U.P. chapter of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) in cooperation with Imkan, an Urdu monthly published from Lucknow. The meeting brought together poets, writers, politicians, authors, activists, journalists, musicians, lawyers and bureaucrats. 

Sabira Habeeb, head of department of Russian and Foreign Languages, Lucknow University, took over as an anchor to the show and invited Professor Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad, the president of Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy to be the first to address the audience. He introduced the special issue of Imkan on Indo-Pak friendship. Malikzada emphasised how poetry as a form of art is everlasting unlike the real art on any canvas which tends to weather down after some years or may be decades. Science, he said, is ever changing as Galileo had proved everything wrong prior to his time and now nationsal boundaries are all subject to change but the words of Homer, Shakespeare and Meer Taqi Meer do not change. He regaled the audience with couplets from Sahir Ludhianwi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Jigar Muradabadi who had once said, Unka jo kaam hai woh ahle siyasat jane/Apna paigham mohabat hai jahan tak pahuche, (Politicians may keep-on doing their work/Our mission is to spread love wherever it reaches). Poets and writers have always transcended the boundaries and have never cared for the political mood of the system. The political standpoint the writers and poets have always strived for is a better world. It is they who foretell dreams which are later translated into realities.

Malikzada stressed on the uphill task and the different times faced by writers and poets who don’t get any royalty from publishers but their zeal commands them: Rait per gulab khilane ki manind hai (Its’ like growing a rose on sand). 

Sandeep Pandey, recipient of the Magsaysay Award in 2002, was just back with his first hand experiences of a march from Delhi to Multan. Dressed in the Ghandhian khadi kurta-pyjama and sporting Rabindranath Tagore beard he spoke in Hindi which he said was understood in Pakistan but not in a Hindu Nepal. His agenda is a total nuclear disarmament of India and Pakistan, their defense budget to be slashed and diverted towards health and education, and that Kashmir issue should be decided in accordance with the will of Kashmiris.

Sandeep chose a cautious line and said that today the official peace initiative between India and Pakistan is getting termed as ‘irreversible’ but who knows what happens tomorrow. Politicians have their own agenda but the real peace should come from people within as peoples’ initiative for peace is guaranteed to last long. He took the visa laws of India and Pakistan to task which persecute the ordinary people. "We want porous borders between India and Pakistan. We face questions like that terrorists would enter India if borders became porous. But, do terrorists need visas for their activities?" he asked.

He then elaborated that one cannot enter Pakistan from India as a tourist. "You need to have a relative or else can’t go," he said adding that greedy officials are more interested in dealing under the table to stuff their pockets. He said that despite Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh hugging each other, the reality was the same for those involved in the historic march as not even one-tenth of the Pakistanis who had intended to join us from Delhi to march towards Multan via Wagah were given visas by the Indian authorities. The way Meera, the actress from Pakistan was stranded in Delhi and asked to fly back to Lahore and re-enter India from Bombay is nothing but ridiculous, he said. Sandeep had had a chance to meet the prime minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz and India’s External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and yet the 119 Indians who were on the list to march from Wagah to Multan had to be cut down to just 12, with the condition that they would be allowed to travel only by bus from Lahore to Multan and there would be no such scene as Indians marching into the Pakistani soil. We will be allowed to stay for only six days and the march will culminate on May 12.

On why did he choose to march from Delhi to Multan, Sandip said that in 1257, Nizamuddin Auliya had taken the same route and marched until Multan for the sake of peace. No borders had existed then and this march is solely directed towards sensitising people on the need to build on a shared heritage of human values of tolerance preached and practiced by Sufis of the Sub-continent.

The next speaker was K. Vikram Rao, who informed that 151 Indian journalists would be visiting Pakistan as a goodwill gesture in coming October. He is an old associate of Indian Federation of Working Journalists, founded in 1950 on the initiative of Nehru and is the oldest organisation of journalists in India. He referred the present time as the most opportune for a solid foundation to be laid between India and Pakistan as both Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh were born in each others’ country and are hence in a much better position to realise the need for better relations. Rao did not miss to inform as to how the great nationalist Rafi Ahmad Qidwai had asked the Khaksars to wind up from Lucknow, thereby averting a communal show down. He quoted from a book Bhartiya Vibhajan aur Muslim Rajniti (India’s Partition and Muslim politics) by Durfeshan Dalazak who was present in the function. 

Sandeep Pandey wound up the programme by screening a film on the march from Delhi to Wagah which was released by President APJ Abdul Kalam and 400 of its copies have been sent to Pakistan. He also informed that after Indian marchers were denied visa by Pakistan, editorials appeared in the Pakistan media expressing solidarity with the cause.

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