Completing 20 years of successful people-to-people intellectual and cultural exchanges between India, Pakistan and the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir, the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) held its national convention between 20 and 22 September 2013 hosted in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti at the Gandhi Darshan, New Delhi. The convention with its focus on ‘Peace and Democracy in South Asia: The Emerging Challenges’ brought together over 160 delegates from across the country along with a delegation from the Pakistan chapter of the Forum.
The Convention began with an Inaugural Public Meeting and Cultural Programme on September 20, 2013 at the Ghalib Institute, New Delhi. The public meeting focused on exploring people’s perspectives of peace and democracy in Pakistan and India. The panel included Tapan Bose (Co-chairperson, PIPFPD-India chapter), Com. B.M. Kutty, (socio-political activist and author, PIPFPD-Pakistan chapter); Seema Mustafa (journalist and political analyst); Praful Bidwai (noted columnist and peace activist); Anuradha Bhasin (editor, Kashmir Times); Sukumar Muralidharan (senior journalist & media person), Sumit Chakravarthy (Editor, Mainstream) and Ashok Choudhary (General Secretary, All India Forum for Forest Working People and Vice President,New Trade Union Initiative). The panelists set the tone of the convention at the public meeting by raising concerns on the need for disarmament in South Asia with a focus on demilitarizing Kashmir and the need to understand these issues in the context of what is emerging as public perception while looking at Media as combatants in conflict. Historically positioning the demand for peace and democracy, originally emanating from the slaves and the revolution led by Spartacus, the speakers reiterated the Forum’s commitment to bring together the working people of South Asia, in realizing the dream for a peaceful and democratic region.
The position taken by the Forum through this convention has been to focus on pushing for demands for disarmament in South Asia. There were extensive discussions on the clarity required and the need for disarmament and demilitarization. Religious extremism as it is emerging and becoming even stronger in both countries was an issue that the members decided to focus on along with looking at terrorist activities and what that really implies. The situation of people living in highly militarized areas of Jammu & Kashmir was spoken about while paying special attention to how important the ceasefire is for the villages right next to the LoC. The intrinsic relation between women’s issues and the need for disarmament, a fight against repression and the need for peace was emphasized. The Forum reiterated the demand for dialogue between the governments of both countries and relaxation of the visa regime to facilitate people to people exchanges.
The thematic sessions organized on the second day of convention focused on ‘Who are the terrorists and what do they want’, ‘Ceasefire and lives of people around the LoC’, ‘Securing peace, freedom and democracy in Afghanistan’. Parallel working groups focused on rights of fishworkers and other prisoners; economic policies and the impact of Globalization on Pakistan and India; the energy paradigm; gender, peace and security and the visa regime in South Asia that is emerging as a threat to people’s rights. The working groups presented the group’s report and recommendations which now reflect in the convention’s resolutions.
The Forum members discussed the growing impact of corporate globalization on South Asia. The participation of mass organization like All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) and National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) also facilitated specific sectoral dialogues for strengthening the working class movement in South Asia.
Issues of fishworkers who are caught between the marine security forces of India and Pakistan was discussed in detail at the PIPFPD National Convention. The Forum condemned the bureaucratic approach of both governments in arresting the fish workers. The Forum urged both the governments to release the fishworkers and captured boats and demanded that India and Pakistan follow a ‘no arrest policy’ when it came to the issue of fishworkers crossing over the imagined water borders. Many traditional fishworkers and boat workers from Saurashtra region of Gujarat participated in the National Convention.
Mr. Balraj Kumar, one of the senior most members in the Forum and Chairperson of the PIPFPD Delhi chapter, passed away on 18 September 2013. Forum members paid their tribute through a condolence meeting at the convention.
Keeping with its commitment to endorsing a deeper understanding of our culture and ethnicities, cultural performances were organized as a part of the convention.Dr Vidya Rao’s mesmerizing classical recital on the inaugural day was followed by experimental fusion led by Ashish Dha, Debamitro Charkraborti and Hemant Kanojia. The second day concluded with the screening of the award winning film by Nirmal Chander ‘Dreaming Taj Mahal’, about the small dreams of ordinary people of India & Pakistan and how that features in the agenda of peace-building. Ghazals by Saba Prateeksha and a performance, ‘Partition Dastan’ by Darain and Ankit concluded the convention.
It has been a great move forward that for the first time in the Forum’s history, senior women members Dr Asha Hans and Anuradha Bhasin were selected as its Co-Chairpersons. The election results from the Forums National Convention is as follows:
Co- Chairpersons: Dr Asha Hans & Anuradha Bhasin
Secretary: Jatin Desai
Joint Secretaries: Haris Kidwai & Rahul Mukherji
Treasurer: Zafar Bakht
Other National Committee Members: Pushpa Bhave, Anwar Rajan, Shekhar Sonalkar, Geeta Dayal, Jitendra Maurya, Ashok Choudhary, Munnilal, Khalid Hussain, Santosh Khajuria, E. Deenadayalan, Amrita Patel, Aashima Subberwal, Vijayan MJ, Jivan Jungi, Ramphal Dahiya, Prof. Sushil Khanna, Madhuresh Kumar, Manimala, Sumit Chakravarthy, Bhagwan Prakash, Hansa Suyani, Sudha, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Prof. Noor Ahmed Baba, Abdul Aziz Engineer, Nand Kishore Sharma
For further details: Jatin Desai: 09869077718 | Aashima Subberwal: 09818407882 | firstname.lastname@example.org