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Alternative peace ceremony at Wagah, new route to Pak via Gujarat proposed ahead of second Indo-Pak peace march

"Eyeball to eyeball" ceremony at Wagah
By Our Representative
Ahead of his second India-Pakistan peace march, which begins on June 19 at Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, and ends at Nadeshwar Mata, Nada Bet, Gujarat, about 24 km from the border, Magsaysay Award winning social activist and Gandhian Sandeep Pandey has come up with what he calls “alternative peace ceremony” for Wagah border.
Replacing the present “angry eyeball-to-eyeball exchange, thumping of boots and other aggressive gestures”, Pandey in his proposal worked out with students of Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar in the social movements class agrees with the view by Michael Palin of BBC, who called the Wagah ceremony as a “carefully choreographed contempt, where the soldiers mirror each other’s goose-steps, thumb-thumps, martial cries and intimidating stares.”
Pandey, who took out his first India-Pakistan peace march from New Delhi to Multan in 2005, was awarded the Magsaysay Award in 2002 for the emergent leadership category. He shot into prominence after he was summarily removed from Banaras Hindu University’s Institute of Technology in 2016 for holding what the authorities called “anti-national” and “Naxal” views for showing a banned film on Nirbhaya, which he never did.
The main demands of the Indo-Pak peace march include the two sides reach “an agreement to stop killing of each other’s soldiers on border”, grant “easy permission for visas to travel across the border”, even as waiving the visa requirement for old, children, journalists, academics, social activists and labourers”.
Seeking to open a second route for going to Pakistan via the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat border either at Khavda or Nada Bet, Pandey says, this should be supplemented with an Indo-Pak bus service on this route.
Organisations have “endorsed” the peace march include Vishwagram, Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Minority Coordination Committee (Gujarat), Gujarat Lok Samiti, Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan, Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (Karachi), National Alliance of People’s Movements, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, All-India Secular Forum, among others.
Sandeep Pandey
The alternative ceremony for Wagah border’s retreat ceremony which, occurs every day before sunset “to represent ‘machoism’ through rapid-dance like manoeuvres”, says the proposal, should be “not be limited to symbolic handshake of soldiers but a place where hearts meet” in order to engage “citizens from both sides.”
Pointing out that his proposal is to “construct a peace stadium in place of BSF lounge and a guest gallery at Wagah”, the top social activist says, “This is going to be a collective effort as both countries will have to agree upon… We are sending this proposal to respective governments. The activities in peace stadium are meant to have a cultural-cum-people meet because culturally people make strong bonds.”
The proposal says, “The goal of everyday events is to develop common interest centers (Delhi Haat Model) for people. Various retails stores of local goods will be opened. This could include food items, handlooms, embroidery etc. Both countries are culturally rich and very familiar with each other’s fondness with local items”, adding, “Duty free shops of local goods like Jaipur lehnga, banarasi sarees, Lahore shawl and many more can be opened in that arena . So that everyday people across both sides could meet and discuss in open atmosphere.”
Insisting that there should be “impromptu reverse role play games” which should include “exchanging handwritten notes and cards”, shooting of “interesting pictures, videos and short films could be shot, free debates in Intellectual Corner” – all of it at a Communal Harmony Corner, where “people share experiences, songs, etc.”
Also wanting weekly or monthly events where on a scheduled day when the musicians, poets and shayars across both sides would come to a proposed peace stadium to perform to “heal the wounds of people”, Pandey insists, there should be no let down on security arrangements.
In the two-layered security, Pandey says, “First it will be covered by joint security forces” followed by another security channel of the respective country.”

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