Marching to Peace
By A.H. Cemendtaur
A historic peace march recently
completed by a group of Indian and Pakistani peace activists
has become a source of inspiration for people who want to
see good relations between the two South Asian neighbors.
The peace marchers left Delhi on March 23, reaching Multan
on May 11. To commemorate the successful completion of Delhi-Multan
march, Friends of South Asia (FOSA), a group of Bay Area
Indians and Pakistanis, held a solidarity walk in San Francisco
on May 15.
The starting point of FOSA's solidarity march was the BART
station at 16th and Mission. After a few words from the
organizers about the purpose of the solidarity event, the
participants started marching towards their destination,
the Gadar Memorial.
Gadar Memorial was chosen as the termination point of the
march because of the Memorial's significance in the common
aspirations of people of South Asia. The historical building
was the headquarter of the Gadar Party that worked for the
independence of South Asia from its British colonizers.
Holding colorful placards and a big banner marchers covered
a distance of almost three miles, walking through the historical
parts of the city including the Castro district, home to
world's largest gay community.
The march that started with 21 people ended with 34 participants
as people kept joining en route, and a few joined the rally
at the Gadar Memorial. A sporadic light rain didn't bother
the hardy marchers who included two popular teachers of
the area: Linda Hess who teaches in the department of religious
studies at the Stanford University, and Hamida Chopra, who
used to teach at UC Berkeley, and presently gives Urdu classes
at the Indian Community Center.
A brief conclusion ceremony was held at the Gadar Memorial.
The organizers thanked the participants of the solidarity
march "that would, through media, send a strong message
of support to all the people in South Asia who are working
for peace between India and Pakistan."
The organizers also thanked Ekta, AID, ASATA, Pakistanis
at Stanford, and the Progressive Muslims Union for cosponsoring
the solidarity march.
Speaking to the rally Shridhar Natarajan of AID emphasized
the importance of the Delhi-Multan peace march and thought
such events should be regularly held. He asked the participants
of the solidarity march to take the message of peace and
spread it in their spheres of influence.
Hamida Chopra read "Ai Sharif Insanon", an inspirational
poem by Sahir Ludhyanvi.
Is liye ai sharif insanon,
jung talti rahe to behtar hai
aap aur hum sabhi ke aangan main, shama jalti rahe to behtar
Sabahat Ashraf of the
host organization was invited to read FOSA's statement of
indignation on the recent arms deals between US and India
The rally ended with a brief background of FOSA given by
the organizers. The crowd was told that "FOSA is a
group of Indians and Pakistanis of various convictions.
But one belief that is common to this diverse group is that
whatever needs to be done should be done peacefully. There
is no room for violence."
In response to an oft repeated accusation of FOSA being
too critical of India or Pakistan at one or the other of
FOSA's cultural programs, the organizers said:
"As a group FOSA doesn't owe any loyalty to any state.
We consider a state to be just one expression of a union
of people. There are many other expressions of union that
exist. People can unite on the basis of faith. Or they can
believe their linguistic, racial, or cultural bond to be
the primary factor that binds them together in a group.
We don't have any problems with any such groupings. But
at the same time neither we owe any allegiance to any such
union, nor we prefer one genre of grouping on the other.
We owe our utmost loyalty to the building block of any such
union, and that building block is the human being. We work
for the material and spiritual well being of the common
man/woman of South Asia and whenever we find a union working
against the interests of its people we speak against the
injustice. We strive for a South Asia where people live
peacefully irrespective of their religious, racial, linguistic,
cultural, or other differences.”