VIGILS FOR PEACE BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN CONTINUE IN BAY AREA
By Hina Wyne, April 27, 2002
Lytton Plaza, downtown Palo Alto, was the site
this Saturday, April 27th, of the fourth of a series of monthly
vigils, organized locally by the Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and
the Qaumantri Punjabi Bhaichara. The idea of simultaneous monthly
peace vigils held around the globe was conceived by peace groups
in India and Pakistan. The program of simultaneous vigils calls
for peace-loving people all over the world to gather in the name
of peace on the same day every month. The hope is that a global
effort will help influence the policies of India and Pakistan. The
first of these monthly vigils was held on January 27, in 18 cities
all over the world; thousands of people attended the vigils in India,
Pakistan and the US. FOSA -- having already held two vigils in the
Bay Area for Peace in South Asia -- joined this effort and has been
holding monthly vigils since. Attendees at the April 27th vigil
said prayers and listened to speeches and poetry presented by local
Speaking to the crowd, Mr. Amin Zain explained
why it was important to hold vigils even when the international
media had lost its interest in the current India-Pakistan conflict.
He said that the current upsurge in tension has entered its fifth
month and the border situation hasn't changed at all. Two well-prepared
armies are alert, eyeball-to-eyeball, ready to go to war at a moment's
notice; long-range missiles are ready to be deployed any minute;
aircrafts fitted with nuclear weapons are ready to fly as soon as
the green signal is given. Mr. Zain asked how peace-loving people
of South Asia could stay quiet in such disturbing circumstances.
How can South Asian expatriates get a good night's sleep when their
compatriots are living under the constant fear of a nuclear war?
He added that when the Indian and Pakistani governments are not
talking to each other, it is important for peace groups to create
opportunities for people-to-people contact, and that is why FOSA
is resolute in holding monthly peace vigils open to all.
Sabahat Ashraf read a couple of poems written
by Harris Khalique, a Pakistani poet and essay-writer whose work
often carries themes of solidarity between the people of India and
Pakistan. In his speech Mr. Ashraf explained
that FOSA vigils were similar in nature to Gandhian satyagrahas--public
events to apprise people of events and politics in South Asia. He
said that FOSA vigils will be used to inform people on the latest
developments in South Asian countries. Continuing on this idea he
talked about the referendum being held by Pakistani military dictator
General Parvez Musharraf.
Speaking to the participants of the vigil Ali
Hasan Cemendtaur noted that South Asia is home to a plethora of
diverse communities, and when people identifying themselves with
different religious beliefs, cultures, and languages live side by
side there could be a few problems. He said that there are many
more problems between South Asian groups because their leaders are
bereft of vision. The shape of South Asia, as seen today--the creation
of Pakistan, later the creation of Bangladesh, the recent carnage
in Gujarat--is because of the friction between South Asian communities.
He said that FOSA wants to remove this mistrust between communities
by starting open dialog between them.
Shalini Gera and Ashish Chaddha informally spoke
to the group later.
Several of the demonstrators present at the
vigil carried homemade 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.'
FOSA plans to hold its next vigil on Saturday,
May 25, at Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto. All peace-loving people are
encouraged to participate.