The recent World Book Fair, New Delhi, included a session on ‘Shared History-Shared Hopes’ with Prof. Chaman Lal, Sadia Dehlvi, Ram Mohan Rai and Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi, organised by Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a cross border initiative for Indo-Pak friendship.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti founder Ravi Nitesh moderated the session, starting with a recital of the Lahore-based writer Saeed Ahmed’s poem ‘Hamare tumhare saanjhe hain’ that Ahmed had sent to Nitesh just the day before. The poem honours writers and artists whose works and thoughts the people of India and Pakistan revere — like Manto, Ismat Chughtai, Premchand, Krishan Chander, Khushwant Singh and Bhagat Singh.
Prof. Chaman Lal expressed the vision for a visa-free South Asia like US-Canada and the European Union. He said he still hopes for the day when Lahoris can come over for Amritsari lassi and Amritsaris can go for Lahori kababs whenever they choose.
‘Goli nahee Boli chahiye’ (We all need talks, not bullets), said social activist Ram Mohan Rai, who also paid tribute to the late Nirmala Deshpande, a great bridge-builder between India and Pakistan.
Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi of South Asian University talked about the changes in history books that both countries made after 1960. He also stressed the need for more exchanges at the level of youth, students, academics, activists and people besides government.
Member of a divided family, Sadia Dehlvi shared the experiences and difficulties of meeting family across the border due to visa issues. She talked about her friend and mentor the late journalist Khushwant Singh who loved Pakistan so much that he would say ‘My Makka Madina is Pakistan’. She also talked about Sufism and the common culture of both countries. As two houses under one roof, both India and Pakistan have to move on the path of Insaniyat (humanity), mohabbat (love) and dosti (friendship), she said.