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Joint Press Release: Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara Group Of California and Friends of South Asia


Milpitas, California, March 24, 2002

Military standoff between India and Pakistan enters its four months and does not show signs of abatement. Distressed by this war like situation in South Asia, peace-loving people all over the world continue their simultaneous monthly global vigils for peace, urging the two governments to resolve all issues through dialogue. On March 24, Cardoza Park in Milpitas was the site of the third of a series of monthly vigils, organized by Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara (the Punjabi International Friendship Group) and Friends of South Asia. More than 40 people assembled at the park to say prayers and listen to speeches given by community leaders.

The first of these monthly vigils was held on January 27, in 18 cities all over the world in India, Pakistan and the US, attended by thousands of people. In Bay Area the vigil arranged by Friends of South Asia and Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara was held in Palo Alto. The second vigil was arranged in Fremont on February 23rd and was attended by over 60 people.

This month's vigil started with a beautiful Punjabi prayer sung by Lal Singh Bhatti, Mehar Singh Mahal, and Gurbrinder Singh Sandhu. This was followed by recitation of Quranic verses by Aijaz Asif. The rally was very ably emceed by Mr. Satwant Singh Gill.

Speaking to the group, Mr. Pete Mecugh of Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor expressed his gratitude to the organizers of the rally for inviting him to the program. Jose Esteeves, a Milpitas Council member, said that the participants of the vigil should not only be talking about peace in South Asia, but should vie for peace all over the world. Jim Lawson, another Milpitas Council member, expressed his thoughts on achieving peace and harmony in the world. Mr. Satnam Singh Chahal, the president of Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara and the main organizer of the program, thanked the participants; he also expressed his desire to bring South Asian communities together and relentlessly work to have peace in South Asia. Zeya Mohsin, a community leader, said that just as different religious communities hailing from South Asia are living peacefully together in Bay Area the same way these communities could and should live with peace in our homelands. Reshma Yunus, another community leader, expressed similar thoughts on solidarity. Ali Hasan Cemendtaur of Friends of South Asia said that peace groups need to come up with solutions to South Asian problems; in his opinion autonomy to regions and letting communities take care of their own affairs are viable solutions. Deepaka Lalwani and Farhat Hussain of the local community also expressed their views on achieving peace among religious communities of South Asia. Idress Munir of local community and Paul Hay of the Planning Commission were also present at the occasion; both of them informally talked to the group after the formal ceremony was over.

The common memorandum prepared by Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara and Friends of South Asia is addressed to both Pakistani and Indian governments and urges them to take concrete steps to deescalate the current tensions in the region and establish long-lasting peace. The memorandum advocates the reopening of all trade and travel links between the two countries and urges the two nations to sign a No War Pact. As Girish Agrawal from FOSA pointed out, over 10 million people in India and Pakistan have close relations living in the other country but travel between the two nations is very difficult because of restrictive regulations, and has become almost impossible since all bus, train and airplane services between the two countries have been suspended following the Dec 13th attack on the Indian parliament.

The memorandum also included requests for a permanent dialogue process to be set up between the two governments which would allow them to hold negotiations on all outstanding issues such as that of cross-border terrorism and the self-determination of Kashmiris; and also a plea to reverse the arms race and participate in global nuclear disarmament measures.

Several of the demonstrators present at the vigil carried home-made signs with slogans such as "Cowards Make War, the Brave Make Peace", "When Governments go to War, Citizens Die" and "No one wins a Nuclear War." In recent days, the "nuclear option" has been verbalized by many policy makers in India and Pakistan even as their armies are lined up eye-ball to eye-ball along the long common border. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been scaled back following the recall of the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan by the Indian Government. India has accused Pakistan of harboring terrorist organizations and has repeatedly spurned all offers for dialogue. On January 25th, India test-fired its intermediate range nuclear capable missile, Agni II. Pakistan has also reciprocated its readiness for the madness of nuclear war by deploying massive formations of troops and armaments along its border with India, and shortening the time required to arm its missiles with nuclear warheads to a mere three hours. Pakistan insists that India should pull back the troops from the border first and then engage in peace dialogues including Kashmir issue; India remains skeptical and unresponsive.

Many attendees of the program later gathered at Mr. Satnam Singh Chahal's residence and devised strategies to become a potent group in order to effectively spread the message of peace in South Asia.

2002 - Friends of South Asia (FOSA). Site hosted by