Social media and women peace activists

Women peace activists have been able to use social media to advocate for peace between India and Pakistan. For example, after the Pulwama attack, women’s rights activists in Pakistan used social media actively to show their concerns for the safety of future generations faced with an increasing threat of war and violence in the South Asian region. They made speeches and raised slogans demanding that the governments of both countries follow dialogue for defusing tensions instead of war. They sent their message of peace to Indian women and pleaded for support to save future kids from war and destruction. The story about this

Pakistani women’s protest published on February 28 by India Times has been shared on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, around 50,000 times (Sengar 2019).

On the other side of the border, Indian women reciprocated and sent peace messages to their counterparts in Pakistan. They raised slogans like “women for peace” and “yes to books not to bombs”. For instance, Pan-India women’s marches called for changes in the “environment of hate”. The march, held in over 100 locations in more than 20 states, saw women and transgender persons marching against what they termed “politics of hate” (The Indian Express 2019a).

Connecting to the past: shared values of people of India and Pakistan

There is commonality in the history, culture and values of both countries as the sub-continent had been one country during Hindu, Muslim and British regimes until its partition into India and Pakistan in 1947. The specific unity point for Indian Hindus and Muslims was the struggle for independence from colonial rule. There are several personalities—Hindus, Muslims and Sikh—who have been revered both by Indians and Pakistanis equally as freedom fighters. The commemoration of the birth and death anniversaries of such personalities could be a positive step on the social front in connecting the sentiments of people on both sides. For example, on July 31, 2019, some activists from the legal community in Pakistan’s Lahore city observed the 79th martyrdom day of freedom fighter Udham Singh for the first time in the history of Pakistan. Referring to such gestures, representative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India chapter Devika Mittal noted that such cooperation is necessary between India and Pakistan given their shared history, religion and culture (The Times of India 2019a).

Hindus and Muslims of Indo-Pak have spent many centuries together and have been participating in each other’s marriages, funerals, cremations and festivals as part of a communal life. Civil society peaceniks might disseminate such communal exchanges of the past on social media to expose young people to their common history and life. For instance, on August 9, 2019, a Muslim couple cremated their Hindu neighbour and friend in the Indian city of Kolkata by performing his last rituals in accordance with Hindu customs and his wishes (The Times of India 2019b). Peaceniks picked this example of Hindu—Muslim communal harmony from “The Times of India” newspaper and circulated it on Twitter, where it received around 2000 “likes” and about 200 times was retweeted. On YouTube, video of this ritual has been viewed more than 4500 times (Pratidin 2019).

Inclusive business—brands and media marketing—can connect people of different religions and celebrations through cultivating the sentiments of intercommu- nal care, empathy and goodness. For example, in 2016, an Indian business started a television commercial named Neki Mubaarak (“Best wishes of goodness”) in the holy month of Ramzan as part of its business chain Big Bazaar. Every year more than 400 million Muslims in India and Pakistan fast in the month Ramzan. In this advertisement, a Muslim female, who is the medical doctor in the town hospital, prefers to see a Hindu patient in their home even though it prevents her food preparation for breaking the fast. The Hindu family reciprocates for her dedication and next day prepares food and requests that she break the fast with them. This gesture may appeal to the emotions of millions of people in India and Pakistan (Best Media Info Bureau 2016). This commercial on YouTube has been viewed more than 175,000, liked 4631 times and attracted more than 200 comments by viewers.

Civil society can also promote the exchange of food which may connect people of both countries. There are many foods which are in high demand in various seasons, particularly the drinks, both in India and Pakistan. The people of both countries can benefit and connect from the trade of food items across the border. For example, Pakistan offered a drink known as Roob Afza to export to India when there was a witnessed shortage of it in Indian markets. Roob Afza is produced in Pakistan and India by Hamdard Laboratories which was founded in India in 1906 by physician Hakim Mohammed Kabiruddin. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the business was split between two brothers who now operate separate ventures in the two countries. Activists from both sides stirred a debate about this offer on social media (#roohafza) terming it “Rooh Afza diplomacy” (Kaifee and Sabah 2019).

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