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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 figures.

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.

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