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2nd Indo-Pak Students Peace Camp

(Oct 02-06, 2007 - Chandigarh)


Overall Report of 2IPSPC


Ahsan our young vibrant friend from Pakistan began “hum mein ek roshni hai jise hum saari duniya mein phailana chaahte hain” There couldn’t be a better way to introduce you to the enthusiasm and intention of the 2nd Indo-Pak Students Peace Camp that was held in Chandigarh from the 2nd to 6th of October. These five days were intended to delve into issues of peace, non-violence and cross cultural ties, which in fact we did to a more than satisfactory level.


It is barely 9.30 on a sunny October morning and the basement of Dev Samaj College already hosts an excited crowd – students, teachers, participants, host families and volunteers from the country and seven students from neighboring Pakistan. Participants from across the country including Dev Samaj College of Ferozpur, COVA from Hyderabad, students from Delhi, Solan and Gwalior, CYDA of Pakistan, Manav Sadhna from Ahmedabad and BIRDS from Belgaum provided a diverse cultural group to kick start the 2nd Indo-Pak Student’s Peace Camp in Chandigarh.


The camp was organized by Yuvsatta; an NGO based in Chandigarh and was supported by CYDA-Pakistan & Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi. Mr. Pramod Sharma was the chief coordinator of the event and it was his tireless efforts with of course valuable assistance from his team and other participating organizations from India and Pakistan which made this event possible. There was Mr. Patil from BIRDS, Belgaum, Mr. Ashok from Manav Sadhna, Ahmedabad, Mr. Mohd. Ghouse from COVA, Hyderabad and Mr. Mubashir Mirza from CYDA Pakistan. We also had with us Mr. Hushang Garmroud from Tanzania, a keen volunteer who stressed on moral education and helped materialize the moral standards of punctuality, cleanliness and obedience. He was an engaging speaker and helped preserve the energy levels of the sessions.


The first day constituted mainly of a formal inauguration of the peace camp with the presence of some distinguished guests like Mrs. Satinder Dhillon, Convener Campaign for Peace-city Chandigarh, Mrs. Madhu Bahl Principal KB DAV Public School;Kanwaljit Singh, Cooperation Minister, Punjab Dr. Shashi Jain, Principal Dev Samaj College; Shri R M Patil, Executive Director, BIRDS; Shri Ashok Patel, trustee Manav Saadhna, Mr. Mohd. Ghouse, Coordinator, COVA, Hyderabad and Mr. Mubashir Mirza, Chairman, CYDA, Pakistan. The chief guest for the day was Capt. Kanwaljit Singh, Cooperation Minister, Punjab.


We began the second day of the Indo-Pak Students Peace Camp with Mr. Hushang who took us through a recap session of the first day and ran through some important lessons we learnt. He L to R: RM Patil, Madhu Bahl, Satinder Dhillonstressed the importance of not holding fast to a religious identity and gave the Bahai as an example to show acceptance of all kinds of people – different backgrounds, religions and communities. The most significant task, he emphasized, lies in overcoming this misunderstanding and the willingness to accept all kinds of people without barriers.


In his re-interpretation of the educational system Mr. Hushang suggests a new one - it is in fact to turn the present system upside down, resulting in a system in which moral education is primary. Moral education includes values such as study, worship and respect for elders. Children need to be taught right and wrong, good and bad, he opined. Whatever is taught to children at that young age becomes engraved in their lives and thus those values are proliferated into all of society at a later stage. For instance, to eradicate murder little children need to be taught to love one another. Thus values are passed on from one generation to another through children.


The next speaker Arti Patel from Manav Sadhna in Ahmedabad addressed the gathering on the issue of the link between peace and poverty. She began her presentation with a very thought provoking question – “How likely is peace?” She is currently volunteering with Manav Sadhna and says that it helped her realize that as long as poverty exists there will be no peace. Education, she views, is the source of reducing poverty thereby leading to peace. There is a dire necessity to be real and not be ideal. We have to empower the people in order to give them confidence to realize their goal and live their life to the fullest. Such confidence comes only from education, acquiring knowledge and skill. Human development is a product of education. Man is a social animal and education provides her with the means of engaging in any sort of social activity. Lastly social development is a product of education. Education is the means to social evolvement which is fundamental to the life of any human being in any country. 


Then Ms. Sudesh Chaudhury, principal of St. Soldier International School, Chandigarh spoke to us on the purpose of education – pinning it down on awareness as opposed to establishing oneself or creating a hierarchy, the main session of the day – ‘Indo-Pak Friendship’. The chief guest for this session Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal – formulated the Indo-Pak parliamentarians association. The motto of this association was to increase the level of interaction between the people of the two countries and not restrict it to only politicians or students.


The chief guest addressed the gathering and stated that the UN move shows that it is ABSOLUTELY essential to shun violence and move towards non violence. There is a need to strengthen the economy so that everybody feels to be a part of this progress forward. He also said that we must not let ourselves be prisoners of the past. The people should not depend on the government and should take the initiative to force the government to work. Just like war, even peace needs the cooperation of the people. Through our efforts we must weave ourselves into a garland of homogeneity. This is a beginning of an endeavor that will take peace a long way.


After lunch our friends from Manav Sadhna took over and taught us all some really simple yet interesting crafts like origami EKTA Play at KBDAV-7and paper mache. This session was followed by some community games. Then the group headed towards KB DAV Sr. Sec. Public School, Sec-7 and then to milk party at Talwar Dairy in Sec 15D.  In the evening the talented group EKTA from Ahmedabad presented us with their world famous dance performance on communal harmony. This group has also toured the US with this composition.


The third day of the 2nd Indo-Pak Students Peace Camp had a very jovial beginning with outdoor community games conducted by Mr. Ravi at the Dev Samaj College grounds in Sector 45 here. Then the group had a joyous ride to the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctury in Nepli where they camped in an accommodating hut beneath a picturesque lake and had a memorable interaction with the renowned environmentalist Shri Sunder Lal Bahuguna and his wife. They joined us for a short walk around the lake and then interacted at length with the students. He began by telling us about the four necessities in a child’s life – ample sunshine, clean air, clean water and food. The mind, heart and hands are all that we have to serve humanity and we must make full use of these to serve that end. There is no peace or happiness in striving towards materialistic ends. Money is not the means to happiness but seva – service to humanity – is. Shri Bahugunaji also shared his experiences of the freedom struggle and of his association with Gandhiji and shoed us the importance of strife in order to reach our goal. He urged the young children in the crowd to begin working on their goals right away.


Progress, he said, lies not in taking away from each other, but in giving and living harmoniously. The solution to war is peace and the way to peace is to be one with nature. In a gandhian vein of thought Shri Bahugunaji stressed that we have to go back to the ancient Indian culture and its way of life in order to bring harmony in our lives today. Our ancient value system is deeply rooted in our culture and should be our foundation for all action. Then he began a hymn and engaged the entire crowd in chanting. He stated that children are the ambassadors of peace and that unity is the most important factor for progress thus urging everyone to participate in this endeavor of peace.


Also present with him was Shri Ishwar Singh IFS, Director, Department of Environment, Chandigarh who cleared up the misconceptions associated with ‘jungle raj’ and told us all about the formulation and management of the sanctuary andVisit at Sukhna Lake & Wildlife Sanctuary also gave some inputs on hoe the environment can be preserved.


The session after lunch included a painting competition judged by The Tribune cartoonist Mr. Sandeep Joshi and artist ----. They were present for the entire day and thrilled some participants by spontaneous art and caricature. For the next two hours the students were busy engaged in drawing, painting, coloring, sketching and poster making. Having thus expressed themselves they scurried off into the wilderness in order to practice the lesson they’ve been taught since morning – to be one with nature.


The 4th and the most exciting day, of the peace camp so far, concluded on a very happy note today at 4pm. Today we had the Mock UN Assembly session with children aged from 12 to 22 take part in an ‘international’ discussion where a group of four children represented a country each in the UN session and worked towards a road map to “Make Poverty History”. The children though young showed immense enthusiasm and intellect and came up with innovative solutions and approaches to the gigantic problem of global poverty. Issues at the international, national, communal and the individual level were addressed. Countries like China, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, KSA were all present vigorously arguing for world peace and eradicating poverty. In order to gain a comprehensive perspective the countries were grouped into the various continents – Asia, Europe, Americas, Australia and Middle East.


Education and disarmament were decided as problems of top priority which should be addressed with immediate concern. Other problems were illiteracy, unemployment. Corruption, unequal distribution of wealth and resources, discrimination of caste and class, financial exclusion and attitude were termed to be main causes of poverty around the world. Solutions suggested at the end of the session were to replicate better agricultural practices, finances on military should be shifted to education, say NO to WTO and YES to free trade, family planning programs, proper distribution of food grains, awareness of human rights and the realization that religion is a unifier and not a divider are priority solutions and suggestions to a poverty free and peaceful world.


Arti Patel currently volunteering with Manav Sadhna from Ahmedabad was secretary general of the UN session and she handled the floor. Assisting her in this task was the consulting secretary Manvitha Singamsetty currently studying in Delhi. Also present at the session was Mubashir Mirza from Pakistan who carried on the task of Sergeant in Arms.


He stressed on the power of visualization and urged the students to starting thinking about their careers and goals right away. It is important to visualize yourself, how you would be and what you want to be 10 years from now. Having this picture clear in mind, no one or nothing can come in your way to become that person you want to be.

Attention during the gathering.


We then had a very interesting interactive student’s session where students were given the opportunity to speak for two minutes on “Peace and Harmony”.


Manisha spoke first and “Are we moving towards an earth without human beings?” she asked. Non violence is a path towards peace; it teaches us brotherhood and develops understanding and unity. This calls for a new beginning for the history of humanity. Kriti began with the essential question – “What is peace?” my understanding of peace before this camp was only a state of no war. But this workshop has told me and others that the meaning of peace is far wider. Things like hatred and segregation create conflict and stall peace. Peace should be made a common way of life, a commonsensical notion of life and war should then only exits in the history books. Mirza stressed that we need peace and not piece! What kind of peace do we desire? Not that which exists in the external world but that which exists within us.  It is based on realization, independence, freedom and justice for all, to live with respect all. We should regenerate the world with kindness and friendship. Smit stressed that love, kindness and care are the three ways to maintain peace.  Tanvi spoke next and made an interesting point that terrorists are us, they are born out of common people like us and so even peace can and will be born from groups like us.


The distinguished vice chancellor of Panjab Univresity, Dr. Sobti, was our chief guest for the day. We also had among us Principal of Government Model School, Mrs. Rashmi, Mrs. Vinod Sharma, Dr. Hushing, Aarushi from Bhopal and Dr. Shashi Dr. Sobti, Vice Chancellor, Punjab UniversityJain. Dr. Sobti appreciated that this is a movement of integration and importantly a movement of mental integration. “We are here to synthesize our thoughts, coming from different parts of India and Pakistan” he said.


These intense sessions, interspersed with cultural events, dance performances, skits and energetic interactive sessions made the entire experience complete. The COVA theatre group – Koshish “Mano To Dev Nahin To Pathar”. This fantastic piece presented in the style of silent theatre had a very strong message of the futility of communal violence and calling all to shed differences and be united. The Manav Sadhna group from Ahmedabad presented us with a whole evening of a cultural dance drama, dealing with India’s problems that arrest her progress which also depicted Gandhi’s solutions to these maladies. Even the sessions were very interactive as students were encouraged to come up and present the audience with a song, or tell jokes or anecdotes or just share their experiences. Such interactions, more exposure, strengthening bonds, forging friendships, camaraderie and lasting memories is what this camp means for everyone. If you’ve already participated in this camp and yearn for more of this valuable experience in a totally different setting, or it’s the first time you are reading about this unique experience and would like to be part of it then do look up or get in touch with CYDA, Pakistan