June 21, 2002

 US city pages

  - Atlanta
  - Boston
  - Chicago
  - DC Area
  - Houston
  - Jersey Area
  - Los Angeles
  - New York
  - SF Bay Area

 US yellow pages


 - Earlier editions 


 - Astrology 
 - Cricket
 - Money
 - Movies
 - Women 
 - India News
 - US News

 India Abroad
Weekly Newspaper

  In-depth news

  Community Focus

  16 Page Magazine
For 4 free issues
Click here!
 Search the Internet
E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Indians, Pakistanis to march for peace
in Boston

Suleman Din in New York

Anita Sharma's father wasn't too thrilled that his daughter was trying to create dialogue aimed at Indo-Pak unity.

Hasan Abbas' critical writings of the Pakistani government got him a warning from Islamabad.

And Vinay Kumar is proud to be an Indian, but sees no sense in going along with a conflict that could destroy the country he loves.

In spite of their particular challenges, these three South Asians have come together as part of a greater effort in Massachusetts to show that South Asians can get along, and that peace in the region can be achieved.

"I know there are certain people who say they want war," said Sharma, 26, who last was in India during the Kargil war. "They only say that because they don't see any alternatives. What they really want is peace."

On June 22, members of the South Asian Center in Boston will march from Cambridge City Hall to Copley Square, a distance of almost three miles, in a rally for peace in the subcontinent.

By bringing people from all countries in the region together, Sharma said the rally would show both South Asians and others alike that not everyone wanted war.

"Peace is the basis of our rally," the graduate law student explained. "But we don't want just the flowery, symbolic peace; we want a commitment to a peaceful mechanism of bilateral talks and people-to-people communication."

Sharma expected at least 200 people to turn out for the march, which she said would be staged on the busiest streets of Massachusetts for maximum attention.

The genesis for the march came out of monthly meetings and discussions at the South Asian Center, she explained.

With the crisis edging onwards between India and Pakistan, Sharma got down to talking with others about how they could mobilize. They began advertising with student groups, sending out flyers to South Asian publications, and talking to both Indian and Pakistani community groups.

That was important, Sharma said, to make sure that the crowd wasn't simply all Indians.

"We've tried as much as possible to keep it balanced," she said. "Our outreach extended to Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis."

That's one reason why Hasan Abbas decided to get involved in the rally as well.

A native of Lahore, Abbas felt it was important to show that South Asian animosity was a product of politics and propaganda by the governments of both countries.

"People need to get together," said the 33-year-old political student. "They don't realize that the other side has got a story to tell also."

Abbas, who has lived in the US for almost two years now, said that when he initially came to America, he brought the old stereotypes of Indians with him.

But as he has managed to meet people, and has been exposed to new ideas, Abbas said that he counts many Indians as good friends now.

"One of my law classes, I was instructed to defend the Indian point of view in the conflict," he explained. An Indian girl was told to defend the Pakistani perspective.

"There were strong points on the Indian side of the argument," he said. "Maybe we see things differently, but at least we should try to understand each other's views."

His new perspectives have gotten some unwelcome attention, he admits. Writing in a major Pakistani newspaper, he called the Indian and Pakistani governments 'narrow-minded.' That earned the civil servant a polite but stern reproach from Islamabad

"People asked me, 'Aren't you going back to Pakistan?'" said Abbas, who is beginning a fellowship at Harvard University.

Vinay Kumar also wouldn't let what people say bother him about his views on South Asian unity, even if they were close to him.

"The issue of India and Pakistan going to war is the biggest threat to everything else that we've done," the native of Mumbai said. "It makes no sense. What we want is peace, and harmonious growth."

He blamed the governments of both countries for continuing the conflict, without regard to its consequences.

"It is we who live in Mumbai and New Delhi who are going to die, not them," he said.

What he hoped the march would show is that people from both countries can cooperate, and that a different mindset must be created among their leaders.

"One has to be ready to make deep-rooted changes," he said.

But what ultimately will a peace rally in Boston do to help the situation in the subcontinent? Sharma considered the question.

"Someone will be looking, there could be an indirect impact," she said. "We hope they will realize that someone cares."

And then she thought of her father's initial objections to her activism. "My dad wants peace," she said. "He listened to me, at least."

Terrorism Strikes in Jammu and Kashmir: The complete coverage

Back to top

Tell us what you think of this report