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 hai

Sabahat Ashraf of the host organization was invited to read FOSA's statement of indignation on the recent arms deals between US and India and Pakistan.
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.”


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.