Association for Communal Harmony
in Asia (ACHA)
4410 Verda Lane NE, Keizer, OR 97303, USA
India-Pakistan Peace Day 2004
Ishtiaq Ahmed, Ph. D.*
The Partition of British India in 1947, which created the two independent
states of Pakistan and India, was followed by one of the cruelest and bloodiest
migrations and religious and ethnic cleansing in history. It resulted in
the forced transfer of an estimated 14 to 18 million people between the two
countries. The ensuing religious animosity and communal strife caused the
deaths of an estimated one to two million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and abduction,
rape and killing of countless women and children. It was indeed one of the
most inhuman manifestations of religious and communal intolerance with few
parallels in history.
Those who survived were brutalized and traumatized and still carry the scars
of their suffering which, in so many ways, have continued to dictate the
relations between the two countries for more than half a century. The pain
and suffering of the time have been the subject of many a poignant work of
prose and poetry in South Asian literature and more recently of some touching
and sensitive films.
We sincerely feel that ways ought to be found to ensure that the suffering
and humiliation of that period are neither forgotten nor allowed to occur
ever again. Rather than the Partition leaving a legacy of perpetual animosity
and conflict between Pakistan and India and between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs,
Christians and others, it ought to be assigned a wholly different meaning
and significance. It should instead represent the pain and agony of common
We propose therefore that, as a permanent symbol of the common suffering,
an appropriate Memorial is built along the road in the no man's land between
Pakistan and India at Wagah-Attari. There should be suitable provision for
those crossing the two countries to make a brief stop and, in their own way,
honour the dead and remember the surviving victims of the Partition.
It is our sincere wish and hope that this Memorial will help begin a new
chapter in the history of the Subcontinent - one based on a better understanding
of the past and on mutual trust and respect in the future.
While acknowledging that the South Asian Subcontinent consists of various
independent states whose territorial integrity is inviolable, it is our hope
that the South Asian countries would move away from the path of confrontation
and war, towards a policy of cooperation and solidarity. It would be necessary
to establish and expand trade relations based on mutual benefit.
Equally, it would be imperative that the existing disputes in the region
are resolved in a spirit of mutual accommodation and benefit.
For such a vision to succeed, the present policy of restrictive travelling
between them will have to be abandoned. It is our sad experience that in
the last half a century and more the ruling elites in the region have failed
to create a climate of confidence and trust – the necessary precondition
for resolving the various disputes. It is, therefore, time that their citizens
are involved in a direct dialogue. It is only when people meet each other
and share their common experiences and concerns that lasting solutions to
disputes are found.
It is therefore necessary that easy and quick visa facilities be established
and people encouraged freely to visit each other across the borders.
The Wagah-Attari Memorial, built on the historic Grand Trunk Road connecting
Lahore to Amritsar, would thus epitomize the true spirit of friendship and
trust between the peoples of the Punjab in particular and South Asia in general.
We urge all peace-loving people of the Subcontinent and of the world to join
us in persuading the governments of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to acknowledge
the collective responsibility of their recent history and facilitate the
erection of these Memorials to mark the human tragedy of their peoples.
*Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed is Associate Professor of Political Science at Stockholm
University in Sweden, and Co-Moderator of Asiapeace, ACHA’s worldwide electronic
network of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting working peace,
social justice and enlightened humanism in South Asia and in the world as