Midnight at Wagah
- August 1, 2005
Thanks for your best wishes for my trip to Wagah. For Mallika, Jan, Kristin, Karen and other bloggers who wanted to know…here it goes.
I along with my husband Saumya, had gone to the Wagah border that has divided the two Punjabs since 1947. On the midnight of the 14th of August, we went to celebrate the Independence Day of India and Pakistan, with what seemed like a lakh other people. Kuldip Nayar, a very senior and respected journalist had started a unique initiative with 11 other people in 1995. Everybody thought he was mad to even think such an endeavour would have any takers. But these 12 dreamers marched on to the border with candles in their hands and a firm belief in their heart. Ten years later, a sea of people gathered there to listen to music by performers from both sides of the border. They also heard eminent people speaking on issues of peace and harmony. It was pure euphoria! Then some of us walked to the border with candles at midnight, to reiterate our beliefs. As the peace caravan moved towards the zero line, the security men used force to prevent the people from stepping into the restricted area, but we did manage to go till the gate.
There were much lesser people on the other side as protests and public gatherings aren’t easy in a military regime. And therefore, some of the strong and rebel voices from Pakistan had crossed the border to express their solidarity and represent the true sentiments of their people. Asma Jehangir, one of the most vocal voices on human rights issues (especially gender related) led the Pakistan delegation. By the way, I felt like the only outsider as everyone else was talking in Punjabi! It was really difficult to decipher anyone’s nationality. It seemed totally bizarre to divide the state of Punjab into two.
We cannot reverse the biggest exodus and tragedy that happened on both sides of the border. But we can celebrate the Independence Day together as an important ritual of remembrance, a commitment to let go off the anger and resentment and a pledge to have a common vision for peace and harmony for all. Sometimes such symbolic gestures go a long way.