Sunday, October 4, 2009

An evening with Pakistani students in JNU Campus: A first-hand report of the interactive session

A delegation of some 40 Pakistanis was in the JNU campus for an interactive sessions with JNU students yesterday evening at the Sutlej Hostel mess of JNU campus (which proved to be small for the occasion).

The programme was scheduled to a begin at 9:30 pm but the guests arrived at about 11 pm due to a traffic situation and a bus driver with little knowledge of the Delhi routes. There were more than 10 women [all of them vivacious] in the Pakistani delegation unlike in the JNU audience which had very few women (this was also something that was rued by the guests).

Most of the visitors were students [Journalism students, BBA course, European Studies, Environmental Science, LLB student, M. Phil Sociology etc.] from various universities and institutes in Pakistan. It was quite an interactive session full of shero-shayari and camaraderie with members from both sides speaking alternatively which was followed by a Q and A session. Saeeda Deep [peace activist from Pakistan] was leading the delegation. Prof Vijay Kumar, Gandhian Scholar [Bhagalpur University, Bihar] also addressed the students among others.

Saeeda Deep [the middle-aged lady in the green salwar suit] like a true leader, spoke very little and wanted to give all the time to others [students]. She, among other things, insisted that there were forces on both sides that did not want Indo-Pak friendship [for nefarious reasons like sale of weaponry etc.]. She thanked Indians for the hospitality and invited people to Pakistan asking them not to judge Pakistan on the basis of the media-bashing.

Sandeep Singh [JNUSU President], Dhananjay Tripathi [former JNUSU president], Anand Pandey [National General Secretary, NSUI], Jahid [lecturet, DU], Samar Pandey were some speakers from the Indian side. The programme was convened by Prakash K Ray who narrated many anecdotes from his experiences on conducting such meetings in the past.

A soft-spoken Hajra, [the girl in the first photo here] spoke in chaste English about her experience on the visit. She said her family was against her visit to India. She said the “wrong perspective” totally changed after coming to India [everybody was so supportive from the auto driver to the bus driver "like in our homeland"]! She remarked that our food, culture, tradition was all same then “why do we need the visa and borders?”

An ebullient Hasaan [the bespectacled buy sitting on the left of Saeeda; student of Environmental Science?] thundered a warm Salam Walekum which got its obvious reply from the JNU audience! He said he was from Punjab and Punjab [Pak] to Punjab [India] was not different at all ["culture, jabaan" all similar]. He insisted that we were “friends forever”, friends for life and these “chhoti mulakatein” were very significant as katra-katra hi dariya banta hai!

Our Pakistani friends [the guy on the extreme right in the above photo in particular, a mass communication student, he was also interviewed by the BBC Hindi reporter present there] regretted the fact that Indian Media was always busy portraying Pakistan in a negative light ["hamare ghar me jhagde ho jaate hain aapke channels ke chalte!"]. He also suggested the audience to ask the Indian government to allow Pakistani channels in India. The Pakistani girls painstakingly explained that Pakistani media was quite sober in reporting news about India unlike the Indian media. Some other questions related to Abul Kalam, Bhagat Singh, the status of minorities in Pakistan, representations from Pak administered Kashmir in peace delegations, extremists in Pakistan [Wahabi presence in universities] etc. and the Pakistani students handled the questions with frankness [the girls often interjected and added more info and balanced the answers].

The Pakistani students did not mince words while criticising their own history, political culture and government [Zia-Ul-Haque's Islamizing regime was frequently lambasted, for example, by the Pakistani students]. The general mood was in favour of Indo-Pak friendship [dismantling the Wagah border by the united strength of the people on both sides], people to people contact and an end to warmongering by politicians on both sides.

An interesting student in the Pakistani delegation was this guy [wearing the Che tee; can't recall his name] who is a JNU aspirant. He handled many questions from the audience and even asked revolutionary strategies from the JNU comrades [it was kind of 'anticipatory socialisation' for him]! Samar Pandey, drawing from his wealth of experiences in Allahabad University and JNU campus, suggested him the strategies ["mobilising people" should be your primary aim] but stopped short of suggesting any violent methods.

Samar Pandey was also one of the most applauded speakers of the evening. He introduced an “amendment” [it's 'all of Hindustan' and 'not just JNU' that welcomes you all] and spoke on the irrelevance of borders and regretted that ‘muskurahat ka rishta’ [the smile that people of various nationalities flash at each other when they meet in a metro or elsewhere] was not given the primacy in the modern day world.

A lot of shero-shayari happened given the mood:

दिल से उठता है या जान से उठता है

ये धुंआ सा कहाँ से उठता है?!

अब मजहब कोई ऐसा चलाया जाए

की इंसान को इंसान बनाया जाए!

बस इतनी सी बात पर उसने मुझे दंगाई लिखा है

क्यूंकि मेरे हर घर के बर्तन पे ISI लिखा है!

दुश्मनी जम के हो मगर इतनी गुंजाईश रहे

जब कभी हम दोस्त बन जाए तो शर्मिंदा न हो!

The session ended with the hope that someday Indians will not need visas to visit Bulleh Shah’s majar and the Pakistanis will not need visas to visit Ghalib’s Majar. Saeeda Deep also invited the JNU students to Pakistan and informed them of the application process beginning in a few days time. Please visit me or leave a comment if any of you want the 90-minute audio of the meeting.

Also see:

1. Shashi Tharror, Sachin Pilot and D. Hooda in JNU

2. Arundhati Roy in JNU campus

3.Independence Day celebrations in JNU campus

4. Political wall posters in JNU

5. Rahul Gandhi in JNU Campus: Black flags, Healthy exchange

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