Thursday, August 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Lathi charge mars candlelight vigil
Peaceniks refused entry to Zero Line
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

In a unique gesture of friendship, a group from New Delhi displays a 'joint flag' of India and Pakistan  at the joint Wagha checkpost  on the August 14 night.
— Photo Rajiv Sharma

The Pakistan-India Wagah border post
An officer of the Pakistan Rangers (left) smiles as he receives sweets from a Border Security Force officer on Wednesday at the Pakistan-India Wagah border post, marking India’s 54th anniversary of Independence. — AP/PTI

Wagah, August 15
The lathi charge by Punjab Police and Border Security Force personnel marred the candlelight vigil on the intervening night of August 14 and 15, which was held here after a gap of two years. Some organisers were manhandled.

The entry refusal by the BSF to these peace-lovers, who had come here from farflung areas to light candles at Zero Line, disheartened the organisers. Activists of various organisations had to satisfy themselves by lighting candles on the outer gate of the Wagah joint checkpost not visible from across the border.

The organisers gave contradictory statements on permission to light candles at the no man’s land. While veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar alleged that both Indian and Pakistan Governments had withheld permission for the candlelight vigil, Mr Satnam Manak and Mr Daljit Singh Cheema claimed that they had obtained the permission of the authorities concerned.

When the BSF closed the gates to stop the activists from proceeding towards the no man’s land a disillusioned Nayyar commented: “How can we criticise others when our own country disallows peace-lovers from organising a candlelight vigil.

Earlier, Mr Nayyar reached the historical Jallianwala Bagh at Amritsar at about 9 p.m. (late by more than three hours to carry the flame to Wagah to light the candles. Secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh S.K. Mukherji alleged that gates of the Bagh, which were scheduled to close at 7 p.m., had to be opened again for carrying the flame. Mr Anil Kaushik and Col N.S. Pandher, patron and president of All-India Human Rights Watch, respectively, who were waiting along with more than 50 members from different states, alleged that there was total lack of coordination.

Though 200 Pakistani women activists had announced they would reciprocate the Indian gesture, but till midnight they were not allowed anywhere near Zero Line.

However, Mr Imtiaz Alam, Regional Coordinator, South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), in a message from Lahore (Pakistan), said that the annual event at Wagah had become an outstanding feature, reflecting the true aspirations of ‘our people who have remained victim of mutually reinforcing animosity of the two establishments’. He wished “Jai Pakistan, Jai Hind, Jai Hind-Pak peoples’ dosti”.

He said: “We realised after the failure of half-hearted efforts by successive rulers to mend fences between the two states that only the people in a truly democratic and judicious spirit can settle the intractable historical disputes, including Kashmir, between the two countries. The Hind-Pak Dosti Manch’s march on Independence Day is just a beginning of a popular struggle to overcome animosity between both countries.”

Activists of various organisations, including the Folklore Research Academy, Hasham Shah Yadgaar Trust, the Panj Darya Sabhyacharak Kender, the Majha Rang Manch, International Cultural Society, the Sham Chaurasi Vishav Punjabi Foundation, the Jamhuri Adhikar Sabha, Punjab, the Sanjh Saaj Manch, the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, the Maan Boli Sangharash Manch, the Indo-Pak Dosti Front, the BKU, Bhai Mardana Yadgar Society and the Punjab Youth Forum, addressing the audience, emphasised the need for people-to-people contact, free movement, the right of people to visit and manage their places of worship and permission to visit their ancestral lanes without hindrance.

Punjabi folk singer Hans Raj Hans and other artistes enthralled the audience with hit songs on ‘Hind-Pak dosti’. “Iss kandiali taar ne ik din phul banana” (this barbed wire will be converted into flowers one day) captivated hearts of the audience.Back

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