Last week and this week we suspended our usual series of blog entries on Ghalib. Like many others from South Asia, Nov. 26-28 saw me transfixed to NDTV Online watching the horrific events unfold in Bombay, a city I lived in for the first twenty years of my life, and still think of as home. Much ink has been spilled already in the mainstream and alternative media, the blogosphere and elsewhere on the attacks and the aftermath. Understandably there is much anger among the ordinary Mumbaikars.
But hearteningly the last ten days have seen, not more bloodshed and rioting, not wanton targeting of an entire community just because the killers bore certain names. Rather the last ten days have seen countless vigils, peace marches, and new initiatives within India, across India-Pakistan and in the US. Since the true victory of the extremists lies in destroying trust and mutual goodwill among people, these initiatives are vital in ensuring that no such victory ensues.
Even though angry and upset, I still eschew any language of being “tough on terrorism,” or “waging a global war on terror,” because I have seen all too often how ordinary people pay the price for the “toughness.” The Police has its place, the security forces have their place, no doubt. But far more important, the faith, the trust of the ordinary Indian and the ordinary Pakistan, both equally victims of terrorism, has the pride of place.
Together with the virtual blog partner of mehr-e-niimroz, The South Asian Idea, we propose some steps towards establishing a way forward. This way forward relies on ordinary people in India, Pakistan, the United States, stepping forward to be counted among those who feel that the way to defeat such extremism is to kindle new friendships and renew old ones, to emphasize our commonalities instead of stressing the differences, and realizing that no borders, no number of 9/11s or 26/11s can break the centuries old bonds that tie communities toghether in South Asia.
Here is what we propose:
[From The South Asian Idea]
“To begin with, The South Asian Idea will promote three functions: First, to be an ongoing roll of all the individuals who sign up to play a proactive roll to end terrorism in the world. We will see our names spilling across pages and draw comfort from the fact that there are many of us, that our numbers are increasing, and that we are united.
Second, to be a vehicle for reaching out and joining hands. We propose to initiate this by twinning educational institutions across South Asia – school with school, college with college, university with university, one pair at a time. We will then ask each pair of institutions to facilitate the linking of individual students with each other. These unions will be the bricks of our defensive wall.
Third, to be a forum where these pairs and unions will begin to open their hearts and minds to each other, to air their best hopes and their worst fears, to talk to each other, to raise the tough issues that need to be raised, to discuss the strategies that need to be implemented, to become friends, to fall in love, to provide the mortar that would make our wall of defense impregnable.
Every individual can do but a little. Together we can do a lot. We invite you to reach out and join hands with us.”
Volunteers who wish to join this effort should send an email with suggestions and a description of the skills they can contribute to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
A discussion group (South Asians for Peace) has been set up as a first step to facilitate an exchange of ideas about more specific initiatives for the future. Do join and contribute your thoughts. http://groups.google.com/group/South-Asians-For-Peace