Tuesday, March 4, 2008

60 years on, a flood of apologies on partition

Indo-Asian News Service
August 11, 2007
First Published: 00:34 IST(11/8/2007)
Last Updated: 00:35 IST(11/8/2007)

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An online signature campaign seeking an “apology for the heinous crimes” of 1947, when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned, is receiving a tremendous response from people across borders.

The Association for Communal Harmony In Asia (ACHA), formed in the US in 1993, has initiated the campaign to empathise with and apologise to the victims and survivors of the 1947 Hindu-Muslim riots. Its petition, launched on August 1, has been signed by hundreds of netizens and will be wrapped up at the end of this year. ACHA has as its members Indians, Pakistanis as well as Bangladeshis.

India, after it gained freedom from centuries-old British rule, was divided into two countries on the basis of religious affinities and Pakistan, a federation Muslim majority states, was born. Pakistan was later partitioned to form Bangladesh.

In the frenzy of communal violence, the petition says, around 15 million people were forced to leave their homes. Millions lost their lives. The horrific memories of mass murder, rape, pillage and suffering are unforgettable for the victims.

Sixty years since then, the wounds still ache and people have not been able to live with the rigors of the forced migration. “The partition in 1947 was perhaps the darkest period in the history of the region (sub-continent),” says Pritam K Rohila, executive director of ACHA.

“The ACHA is inviting people to join us in the long-delayed effort by signing our apology petition to the victims and their families at www.indiapakistanpeace.org,” Rohila said.

The association, which also includes Pervez Hoodbhoy, a known nuclear physicist and peace activist from Pakistan, and Haroon Habib, a journalist from Bangladesh, focuses on pursuing the agenda of peace between India and Pakistan, rather than “wasting them in condemning anyone and inadvertently publicising the work of hate-mongers”, added Rohila.

The association has since 2004 been conducting a campaign to encourage people to organise India-Pakistan Peace Day everywhere between Pakistan's Independence Day (August 14 and the UN Peace Day (September 21). The petition of apology is one of the two core elements of the peace day campaign. It wants signatories to read aloud an “affirmative statement of peace and harmony.”
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