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3rd International Peace Fest

(Sep 27-Oct 01, 2008 - Chandigarh)

  • A Report 


This was not a conference, nor a symposium. No one was pontificating others 'to do something about growing distrust and violence', nor was anyone exhorting the government to wake up, and, no groups or individuals were targeted for igniting violence. Everybody was taking a baby step to move towards a larger goal, even though it appeared impossible, the goal to achieve world peace. Hence, appropriately it was called International Peace Festival, where peace was a matter of rejoicing rather than debating.Didi Nirmala Deshpande

Organized in sacred memory of Didi Nirmala Deshpande, a former Member Parliament, Rajya Sabha and senior Gandhian Peace Activist whose relentless struggles for peace among people of this region was witnessed by a whole generation in Asia, particularly in Pakistan and India. Her commitment to all sections of the society for national integration and communal harmony remained paramount throughout her life. In reality she was a crusader and a great peace icon who believed in building stronger and durable relations among Asian countries.

Images are also important. So, an everyday object takes on symbolism based upon our life experience. A child’s hand, which share universal meanings in every culture, was the logo for the Peace Festival. The outstretched hand is a token of both giving and receiving the gift, representing the life journey which calls us inward to deeper understanding and sends us outward in the expression of service.

The aforesaid four day initiative of 3rd International Peace Festival that concluded in Chandigarh on the eve of International Day of Nonviolence and birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi i.e. October 1, 2008, had about 250 young participants from diverse cultures, who are deeply aware of the need to know about people from other cultures to overcome various misgivings, which are at the root of suspicion, hatred and violence.

The young participants came from Pakistan, Bhutan, Iran, Nepal and different states of India. It became evident on the very first day that, hunger to know others was greater than the opportunities available to do so. Instantly, a bond was struck between students from Pakistan and Amritsar, between Nepalis and Tamilians, in fact, a few challenged students who had come from ARUSHI-Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, said, that a special event should be organized only for physically challenged students from other countries. The local students played host to the students from other states and countries. This put both sides in a position wherein they will put their best foot forward. It resulted in creating a natural environment of bonhomie.

In the introductory session, participants welcomed each other in a friendly musical show that was energy filled and spontaneous. If Sanskrit shlokas were recited, Tamil songs made people tap their feet, Punjabi bolis had them clap and giggle and then, a serious nazm in urdu. The kaleidoscope of diverse cultures offered new motifs and patterns. While invited dignitaries like Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Minister of State for Finance and Parliament Affairs, Government of India, Mr. H S Mattewal, Advocate General, Punjab,  Mr. R K Mishra, Director, CYP Asia Centre, Mr. Pardeep Chhabra, Mayor of Chandigarh, Mr. S K Setia, HCS, Mr. Mubashir Mirza, Chairman, CYDA, Mr. M. Maruthi of Harijan Sewak Sangh, Tamilnadu Branch and  Mr. Ram Chander from Hindu Vidyapeeth, Nepal talked about the need to have peace in the Asia region, one could observe many friendship bands being exchanged among the young participants. These ambassadors of peace were playing their befitting role to help evolve a larger spectrum of peace and harmony.

On the second day, 'Art for Peace', a unique craft evolved by veteran artist Ignatius Xavier, helped young participants give expression to their aspirations and dreams. Surprisingly, they realized, it is only their languages and scripts that differ, the content they shared was the same. Some participants were not willing to be restricted to paper sheet alone, they painted their palms with messages and shook hands to leave the colour of their aspirations into other hands. So, while some wrote shanti, others wrote peace and aman. In another stimulating event, ‘One Sky One World’, the participants flew kites in sky where borders lose relevance. They did not miss the symbolism behind the event and filled the sky with colours of their hopes for peace. Mr. BC Gupta, Home Secretary, Government of Punjab and keen lover of promoting a culture of friendship and brotherhood also graced the occasion at Gurukul School.

The third day had many surprises for them. For the participants who had come from Pakistan and Iran, a Ramlila show by Theatre Club of KB DAV Sr. Sec. Public School was not only a spectacular presentation of a narrative, it offered a peep into other culture and religion, where gods acquire human trappings. The spectacular dazzling display of fireworks at the end of the show left every body spell bound. To make it big, the young participants of Peace Festival were joined by a galaxy of dignitaries on this day like Maj. Gen. Rajesh Pant, Chief Signal Officer of Western Command, Indian Army, Mrs. MadhuPawan Kumar Bansal (MP, Rajya Sabha) addressing the audience Bansal, wife of Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Minister of State for Finance and Parliament Affairs, Government of India, Mrs. Dheera Khandelwal, IAS, Managing Director, Haryana Financial Corporation, Mrs. Gayatri Surjewala and around 1500 students and parents of children of KB DAV-7.

Similarly, in a session on sharing experiences, it became evident that almost all of them were overwhelmed by their newly found friendships, by breaking of mental barriers and flooding of love and appreciation for each other. The participants also created a Peace garden for the city of Chandigarh, that first conceptualized the idea of having Peace Clubs in Schools and Colleges where students take a pledge to remain non violent. And this initiative of Peace Garden was inaugurated by Mr. Justice Permod Kohli, Judge, Punjab & Haryana High Court who in his address to young people called for strengthening and spreading these peace bonds further. The contribution of NSS volunteers and students/staff of English Department, escpecially Prof. Anil Sarwal & Ms. Chetan of DAV College who toiled in the soil to bring this Garden to life is also worth appreciating. of the Also, in a session on Make and Take Craft, they exchanged skills from their peculiar cultures and regions and learnt a new art of ‘Collage making’ from a senior artist Prof. Ravinder Sharma.

On the concluding day, the participants inscribed their messages on an eleven metre long scroll with their signatures. Messages like "We want a world without boundaries", "We will create a world which needs only passports of peace," “AMAN-SHANTI-Let’s do it”, “We want bread-not Bombs”, were in plenty, making it evident that the future generation more than understands relevance of peace and will do everything under its control to become harbingers of a peaceful future.  

At the valedictory function the new DPI (Schools), from Education Department of Chandigarh Administration promisedPlay at KBDAV-7 that from the next year more participants from more countries and regions should be included in the effort of the Peace City Chandigarh to connect with institutions spreading a message of peace in other cities, countries and continents as well.

The event was organized jointly by Education Department, Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Samiti, New Delhi, CYP Asia Centre, KB DAV Sr. Sec. Public School, NSS Unit of DAV College, & The Gurukul School. The international institutions which joined hand with organizers to make it a success includes CYDA (Centre for Youth Development & Activities), Sadikabad, Pakistan & Hindu Vidyapeeth-Nepal, Kathmandu.

An important landmark of the whole event was the unique ‘Student Host-Student Guest’ programme, where in for greater sharing of ideas and dreams the students coming from outside stayed with a local student of their age and gender. As Staying together adds a tremendous benefit to the delegates’ experience at the Peace Festival because it allows them informal time with fellow delegates, makes exploring the host city easier and greatly enjoyable outside the planned activities. And this was made possible by active participation of Peace Clubs of local Schools and Colleges. Few important ones were DAV College, Dev Samaj College of Education, KB DAV Sr. Sec. Public School, Govt. Model Sr. Sec. School, Sector 33 D, Moti Ram Arya Sr. Sec. School, Sector 27A, Ajit Karam Singh International Public School, Sector 41 B, Chandigarh and Divya Shiksha Gurukul College of Education, Dera Bassi, Punjab,.

It’s also important to mention the significant contribution of organizations which joined hands from across the India to give it a diverse, multicultural and vibrant look. They were Akhil Bhartiya Rachnatmak Samaj, Harijan Sewak Sangh, Tamilnadu Branch, ARUSHI, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Folklore Research Academy, Amritsar, Punjab and DAV Public School, Amritsar whose students and staff members went all the way to meet and greet the friends from Pakistan at Wagah Border and also organized first public reception for them in their School at Lawrence Road, Amritsar.

Last but not least, the organizers also owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Minister for State for Finance & Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Savita Singh, Director, Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Samiti, New Delhi, Mr. RK Mishra, Director, Commonwealth Youth Asia Centre, Mr. Vivek Atray, Director, Tourism & Public Relations, Chandigarh Administration, Mr. SK Setia, HCS, Govt. of Haryana, Dr. BC Josan, Principal, DAV College, Mrs. Madhu Bahl, Principal, KB DAV Sr. Sec. Public School, Mr. Sanjay Sharma, Chairman, The Gurukul School, Dr. RK Atri, Chief Regional Manager, The New India Assurance Co. & The Managing Director, MARKFED whose vital financial and moral support at the last moment saved the day.