Whenever the words ‘’India-Pakistan’’ come to mind, so does war (1965, 1971, Kargil), Cold War, cricket clashes, bans on broadcasting media, Samjhota Express and Mumbai attacks… the list goes on. Yet Indians and Pakistanis keep signing petitions for Indo-Pak peace, appealing for visa restrictions to be lifted, creating cross-border friendship groups on Facebook, expressing their feelings of love through articles, organizing their own projects for Indo-Pak friendship – making these efforts, hoping for the best, despite knowing that peace is not easy to achieve.
Among them is a young girl who since her school days has been convinced about the need for Indo-Pak peace. I know her story very well. Come, let’s read about it.
The year 1999 turns a new leaf in Indo-Pak relations. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyaee’s visit to Pakistan, the Lahore Declaration, and the Dosti bus service bring hope for better relations. Soon afterwards, the Kargil war ruins the happiness. The feeling of joy turns into enmity in a few seconds.
It is in that year, 1999, that this girl with the hope of peace is born in Bhit Shah. Her father names her “Khushboo” – to spread the “fragrance” of peace and humanity in this world.
The school she receives her early education from, The City School Bhit Shah, is more than a school for her. It is the platform that gives her a real sense of peace, leading to her personal pledge to become a peace-maker. She has great interest in Indo-Pak history.
She is a big fan of Mahatma Gandhi, especially a keen reader of his autobiography Talash-e-Haq (The Story of My Experiments with Truth). She learns some very personal and bitter but honest facts about Gandhi’s life. She is moved by Gandhi’s honesty to face her own desire for peace. As a follower of Gandhi, she believes strongly in non-violence.
This is a girl with different mindset. An academic topper, her curiosity leads her to explore issues, whether related to her academics or daily life. She asks so many questions. A kind of detective, she is.
At ten-years old, she reads about how Hindus and Muslims fought against British and gained independence for India, as well as a new country, Pakistan, how they created so many hardships for each other and how “they are like two sides of a coin which are always different to each other”.
When she asks her father about this, he becomes the first person to nurture her ideas about peace. He briefs her about a history full of grief and bitter incidents but also teaches her about peace and humanity. He teaches her to be honest, patriotic and realistic but to be optimistic and peaceful too.
In 2010, she participates in an activity called “Hankering For Peace” at her school, organized by Aman ki Asha. She writes messages of peace and friendship on handkerchiefs that are later sent to Indian students. This activity inspires her to think about the positive side of Indo-Pak history.
As she grows up, she decides to work towards turning her dream of Indo-Pak peace into reality. She initiates a small project with an Indian schoolboy, Arsh Arora, with whom she connected through her school when they organised an online community. They call it the “Indo-Pak Peace Project”. Both youngsters are full with enthusiasm, hope, dedication and optimism.
They introduce their project to their respective schools and teachers. Their schools support them in organising video-conferences and a peace event. It is nominated as a most influential event by Peace One Day, the NGO founded by Hollywood actor Jeremy Gilley, that aims to institutionalise Peace Day, 21 September.
Other like-minded people on both sides of the border support them and appreciate their efforts – people like Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar – Khusboo’s “Nidhi Api”, who was always there to buck up her – Yogesh Ravindra Mathuria (founder, Peace through Pilgrimage), Kia Scher (founder, One Life Alliance and survivor of the Mumbai terror attacks, 2008), young film-maker Ranjini Maitra, and Geeta Rajan, global coordinator, St. Mark’s School, New Delhi).
Another huge supporter is Khushboo’s father Danish Jatoi. “I am really proud to call myself a father, teacher and mentor of this young peace agent. I am really happy to see her dedication towards peaceful relations between India and Pakistan”, he says.
Everything seems wonderful. But as we know, the journey of peace isn’t as easy as we expect. Khushboo has faced a lot of criticism and negative comments. If she uses Hindi words, some hurtfully call her an “Indian agent”. When she discusses Gandhi’s book her friends tease for her being “Gandhi ki chamchi”.
In fact, at one stage, her father tells her to limit her activities so as not to attract the attention of those who are anti-peace. Like every other father he cares for her while encouraging her to remain firm in her path.
Khushboo also reached out to the Editor, Aman ki Asha seeking to join the India-Pakistan movement on a larger scale. She is now a writer for Aman ki Asha. This is her first article.
I know my story is not new. You must have read loads of stories like this. But that is what makes me hopeful and confident about Indo-Pak friendship, something I have yearned for since my school days. I stand proudly to be counted among the list of Indo-Pak peace makers.
When I first participated in an activity of Aman ki Asha at age ten, I never imagined that one day I would express these feelings as an official writer of Aman ki Asha.
Khushboo Danish, 17, studies at Government College Bhit Shah. She is also a moderator at Generation Global and an intern at Lighthouse Project, India.
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