By Mona Kazim Shah
This symposium is scheduled for the 10th of Oct, 2015 at UT Dallas at 2 PM at Naveen Jindal School of Management. It is organized by #ProjectPakistan, an ongoing campaign that speaks for human rights issues, has philanthropic projects, political radio shows, provides space for open mics, and is working diligently to encourage dialogue to resolve conflicts and promote South Asian art and culture in the U.S.
The focus of this symposium is to bring the youth from Pakistan, Kashmir and India on one forum and to instigate peace talks and healthy dialogue that will finally take their voices further. Since we will be micro blogging and streaming the event live for the participation of the audience in the region, we expect our voices to reach back home. We believe the same youth will be part of our government, bureaucracy, policy making and pressure groups in a very short time and is capable to take these talks to the next level. They have shown serious political acumen and the will to re-open the frozen issues, such as the one under discussion.
The panelists are pro peace, pro dialogue Journalists/Academics/Activists/Artists who have worked in their own capacities for years and have paid a price for it.
Beena Sarwar, a journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker from Pakistan (focusing on media, gender, peace and human rights issues) who also work part time as Editor, Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative between the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan and The Times of India. I asked her about the fact if any change should be expected from younger generation of government/bureaucracy? Her answer was in affirmation she also added that, “Politicians, business people and even a common person is capable of bringing about a change, the younger generation doesn’t have the baggage or carry the animosity. Most want to live in peace and have good relations. I believe that the change is happening, but it will take time” Beena said optimistically. Beena currently teaches Journalism at Brown.
Raza Ahmad Rumi, a Pakistani journalist and policy analyst who serves as an editor at The Friday Times, Pakistan’s foremost liberal weekly paper, had an interesting analysis about the role that media can play in bringing India, Kashmir and Pakistan on the same page. According to Rumi, “The media is a powerful player now, even stronger than state actors. It has a vital role in shaping public opinion for peace-building. However, the disturbing corporatization of media means that you have to sell conflict for profits. This is why peace and diplomacy find less traction and more sensational stuff is witnessed. This has grave implications for the future peace efforts”.
Rumi, himself survived an assassination attempt by religious extremists in Pakistan last year.
Rumi’s book, Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler is a must read.
Dr.Amie Maciszewski, an international musician, a Sitarist who will be opening the symposium with a Kashmiri folk tune told us how her life has been about liminality: negotiating borderlands and building bridges. She has been studying and practicing expressive traditions, particularly music, of a complex region like South Asia. For her Kashmir is one such borderland which has been enriched by intercultural encounter, dialogue, and collaboration. Amie believes, Symposia like this are most important steps towards dialogue, collaboration, and, ultimately, mutual enrichment.
At this much anticipated event, we also have Dr. Pritpal Singh as a panelist. A Physician who has always stood up and addressed Human Rights Issues with great passion. He is an executive with Cigna. He facilitates workshops and projects which aim to fight both religious and political oppression through reflection, awareness, and activism. Dr. Singh is a frequent guest speaker at the educational, religious, and social forums. Dr. Singh believes, “Conflict only furthers tensions and creates more divisions, solutions that take the route of peace are the only ones that provide political and social harmony and is of optimal value.”
Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is on the faculty of the Expository Writing Program and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. She is a native of Kashmir, and a native speaker of the Kashmir language.
Dr. Khan believes that the younger generation of Kashmir has witnessed the militarization of the Valley and has grown up in a traumatized environment. She told me that when she interacted with young people at various academic institutions, she realized that they have tremendous potential. Dr. Khan said, “I hope the right opportunities are created for them, not just in academia and the government sector, but in the private sector as well” She hopes that young Kashmiris tap into the potential that they have, “only then there is hope for light at the end of the tunnel”.
Nyla Ali Khan has most recently edited a major anthology, The Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity, which develops an unparalleled understanding of the region’s culture, resilience and fate as political pawn. Her recent book, ‘The Life of a Kashmiri Woman’ a critically acclaimed work, is a hybrid form of academic memoir and biography on her maternal grandmother, Begum Akbar Jehan. Nyla’s goal is to engage in reflective action as an educator questioning the erosion of cultural syncretism, the ever increasing dominance of religious fundamentalism, and the irrational resistance to cultural and linguistic differences.
Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive. He has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and John Kenneth Galbraith. In addition to his role as the Managing Editor, Pal is the Co-Editor of the Progressive Media Project. He is the author of “Islam” Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today.
Quoting one of Amit’s articles, “The international community including the United States, the European Union and other nations has pressed for India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue”
According to Pal, “Indians and Pakistanis deserve a better future than the fate their leaders have bestowed on them for more than half a century and both countries need to work toward that — step by step”.
The panelists, the audience and the city look forward to this very timely and important discussion that may lead to positive results. This is yet another effort in the name of peace by the people who truly believe that war has not and will not solve anything. We are done with the tired rhetoric and losing innocent lives on the borders. All three regions can use the money it invests on defense on development, health care and education of its masses.
We would like to thank our partners and supporters for trusting us and our efforts for this Peace Symposium and for joining hands with us in making a difference. We thank United Nations Dallas Chapter (UNAUSA Dallas), Pakistan Students Association UT Dallas, Indian Students Association UT Dallas, Embrey Human Rights Program Deadman College, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Never Forget Pakistan, Pakistan Society of North Texas (PSNT) Fun Asia Radio, Dallas, Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), and Dallas Peace and Justice Center from the bottom of our hearts
About the Author: Dr. Mona Kazim Shah is the Founder of #ProjectPakistan, Journalist, Human Rights Activist and a Physician. She lives with her husband and twin daughters in Dallas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org