The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Students ride bonhomie bus
- Indian and Pakistani youths make film and friends

Islamabad, July 13: Few eyes among the select audience were without tears as a group of youths disembarked from a bus holding hands in a 10-minute docu-drama produced by 25 students — 12 from India and 13 from Pakistan.

Bus (Enough!), screened at the conclusion of a camp at Karachi on Saturday, started with a group of Pakistani and Indian youths travelling together. The bus breaks down during the journey (a swipe at the Delhi-Lahore bus that is back on the road after a break of more than 18 months), giving the travellers time to discuss their animosity fuelled by the political rhetoric that emanate, from the centres of power on both sides of the border.

As it turns out, their dialogues bring out their prejudices but eventually, at the end of the journey, they help each other see reality and become friends.

The students had gathered to attend a 12-day camp, Youth Without Borders — Peace through Art, Film and Dialogue. It was organised by the Youth Initiative for Peace, a year-old organisation promoting sustainable peace on the subcontinent that counts young people from both India and Pakistan as members. The camp was held on the campus of the Textile Institute of Pakistan at a scenic location on the outskirts of Karachi.

The students seemed to have drawn heavily from media reports for the central theme of Bus that suggested that continuity in contacts was essential for better understanding and removal of misgivings.

“The visit has changed my opinion about Pakistanis,” Harmus Masani, a student from Nashik, told the audience at the valedictory function. “Before coming here I hated them. I thought all men would have beards and women in veils. But today, I can say Pakistanis are my best friends.”

“After meeting Pakistani students for the first time and knowing them, I feel differences should be understood and not fought,” added Rashmi Bhure, a student from Mumbai.

Lalita Ramdas, 60, who had accompanied the delegation from India, said people of the region shared thousands of years of history, heritage, traditions, but vested interests in both countries have focused on the events of the past five decades only.

These elements did not want peace to return, fearing that they might lose their grip on power if peace prevailed. She was happy to see that young people had decided to do something to achieve peace, she added.

“The purpose of the film is just to show that the people of the two countries can work together even in the shortest possible time,” said the wife of Admiral (retd) Ramdas, a former chief of the India-Pakistan Peoples Forum for Peace. “Despite my age I came with them because they are our future.”

“We travelled a long way, but I am glad now that the bus service has resumed and next time maybe I can take it to come here,” she said. “I feel I am leaving friends not enemies (behind),” said Sikandar Gopal, another Mumbai student, as the team headed home.

The function, which began with an Indian classical dance performance by Zohra Omar, concluded with all the participants of the camp singing a song of peace, We who believe in justice shall not rest until it comes in seven languages.

“It was a very successful visit and we look forward to further exchanges,” said group coordinator Ragni Kidwai, a 17-year old Pakistani student.

Other speakers, both from India and Pakistan, at one of the largest gatherings of Indians and Pakistanis also underlined the need for restoring and maintaining at all costs communication links — travel, newspapers, books, magazines — between the countries.

Such exchanges could clear young minds fed on slanted or biased versions of history in the textbooks, they stressed. The idea of the camp had sprouted during a 2002 meeting of the Youth Initiative for Peace in Singapore when they realised the need for greater interaction between the youth of the two nations.

The camp was preceded by a visit by an Indian MPs’ delegation led by Kuldip Nayyar and a three-member tea trader’s team within the last four weeks, confirming the thaw in Indo-Pak relations.

Karachi, the commercial and financial capital of Pakistan, expects more such meetings in the coming weeks and business houses are looking forward to resumption of air links with Mumbai, a popular destination for both small businessmen and big traders from Pakistan, particularly the Memon community with old family connections.

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