Is what is happening in Pakistan and India because of the spread of fear, or because of connivance – this is a crucial question for the people of Pakistan and India in the context of freedom of speech and expression, agreed activists at the Delhi Chapter of Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) at its State Convention last month.
At the meeting, held on July 19, 2014 in New Delhi, delegates planned various future activities of the Forum and reviewed the Delhi Chapter’s work since the last convention.
This was followed by a Public Meeting on ‘Realities of Freedom and Expression – Imprints from Pakistan and India’ chaired by Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty (senior academician and South Asia expert). B.M Kutty (Founder Member, PIPFPD) visiting from Pakistan addressed the meeting, along with Meena Menon (Deputy Editor, The Hindu), Jawed Naqvi (Senior Journalist, The Dawn), Sumit Chakravarty (Editor, Mainstream), Shivam Vij (Associate Editor, Scroll), and Jatin Desai (General Secretary, PIPFPD).
The House agreed on the need for consistency and continuity in the track II and track III dialogues between the two countries. Participants noted the systematic efforts to undermine these critical diplomatic efforts following Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Hafiz Saeed.
“It is essential that people on both sides speak to each other”, and to recognize the public platforms, the journalists clubs, Trade Unions and others that make dialogue possible, beyond the flag holding politics of the governments and its diplomatic communities, noted the Forum.
The House expressed its disappointment and shock at Pakistan’s refusal to extend the visas of the two Indian journalists posted there. The journalists community “has for decades been one of the strongest threads that has continued to enhance peace processes between the two countries”.
No Pakistani journalists have been posted in India since the last few years. PIPFPD demanded that both governments immediately take steps to facilitate the journalists reporting from each others countries, and to provide them multiple entry and multiple city visa.
The Forum urged the governments to not just talk of peace but engage with the critical issues that the people in both countries face. “Journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, common people using social media, writers, poets are all voices of the people,” and must not be restricted.
The Forum highlighted incidents of violence on both sides of the border and condemned attempts to muzzle freedom of expression. With new governments in both countries, “it is important that democratic voices are allowed to echo and strategic political interventions be made,” urges the Forum.