Zuva Is A Journal Of Dialogue And Intertwined Lives In South Asia

Zuva Is A Journal Of Dialogue And Intertwined Lives In South Asia
By Aishwarya Bajpai


The Kashmiri word ‘Zuva’ or ‘intertwined lives’ signifies the profound interconnectedness of our existence. It suggests that we are not isolated individuals but part of a collective whole, where our lives are intertwined.

This gives us the opportunity to enhance and enrich each other’s lives. Those we see as ‘others’ can be our friends, community, society, or our neighbouring countries.

Volunteers and a tiny staff including myself at the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) have been working for years to build peace. I joined in December 2022 as part of the South Asian Solidarity Collective (SASC), which also includes work on fishworkers arrests in India and Pakistan. The SASC is based on the idea of mutuality, to give and take solidarity beyond nationalism.

Since its launch in 1994, PIPFPD has made consistent efforts to sustain ongoing dialogues between the two nations, recognising their shared origins. The aim is to safeguard the invaluable historical, cultural, and human connections that bind them together.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Forum initiated a series of online conversations titled ‘Guftagu Band Na Ho’ (let the dialogue never stop).

Continuing Conversations

This continued even during the crisis that ensued when the Indian state abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution of India that had given special status to the Kashmir state. The decision was made unilaterally by the Indian government without any consultation or consent from the people of Kashmir or the state of Pakistan, despite the fact that both countries have historical claims over the region. It heightened tensions and diplomatic strains between the two countries. Pakistan viewed the revocation as a breach of trust and an infringement on its concerns and interests related to the Kashmir dispute.

While the governments remain implacable, people-to-people dialogue continues with the hope of changing mindsets, easing tensions between the two countries, celebrating each other and our peace victories every now and then.

A recent seminar titled “Troubles in the Neighbourhood: Challenges in Pakistan-India Relations” is a case in point, moderated by PIPFPD founder members and rights activists in Delhi, acclaimed filmmaker Tapan Bose and Dr Syeda Hameed, former Chair of the Women’s Planning Commission of India. Both are co-chairpersons of PIPFPD India.

The event also marked the launch of an online trimester journal Zuva, a joint venture of PIPFPD and SASC. I am a co-editor of this magazine.

Rita Manchanda, guest editor of the inaugural edition of Zuva, talked about how despite ruptured relations between India and Pakistan, with no diplomatic or economic conversations going on, Zuva has taken forward conversations and interactions on both sides of the border.

For independent researcher and writer MJ Vijayan, general secretary of PIPFPD, the Zuva launch was a dream come true. Tensions between Pakistan and India have long been a major obstacle to regional cooperation in Southasia, he pointed out, noting that different generations of peace-lovers have long tried to initiate and sustain conversations across this divide. Efforts have included tracing the history of the relations between the two countries, talking about linked issues and documenting people’s voices and aspirations.

“Caste and communal hegemony politics in Southasia have become a tool for those in power. For the peacebuilding process, we want more conversations and need joint conventions for different sectors to interact,” he said. “Zuva would like to continue talking about these issues.”

Lately, challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic, economic instability, inequality, social unrest, and geopolitical tensions have underscored the need for more open borders that promote collaboration among all levels of society.

Zuva looks at different viewpoints and groups that question traditional government-centred stories. It also presents an opportunity for a breakthrough in cross-border cooperation, beginning with small interventions and engaging in guftgus (meaningful conversations) with each other.

Coming together online, Indian and Pakistani journalists, researchers, parliamentarians, newspaper editors, economists, professors, and filmmakers discussed opportunities and hopes that can be created together through such initiatives. The discussion was interspersed by songs from musician Ananyaa Gaur who presented several beautiful music renditions. Terming the discussion a “wonderful conversation”, she expressed the hope that people will be able to meet and celebrate with each other in person one day.

“She spoke our language today through her songs,” commented a participant in the Zoom chat.

Politics of hate

Manoj Jha, Member of Rajya Sabha in the Indian Parliament, questioned the politics of hate and the trajectory chosen by the two countries which have hindered progress and will not lead to a better future.

Lahore-based freelance journalist and secretary general of South Asia Free Media Association Imtiaz Alam added that confrontation will dry out the resources which should go towards fostering peace and development. He emphasised that the world now wants to move forward in regions and not countries because there is a realisation that a regional response is needed to pandemics, climate catastrophes and even economic progress.
While the governments remain implacable, people-to-people dialogue continues with the hope of changing mindsets and easing tensions between the two countries

Dr Riaz Sheikh, professor at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Karachi, drew attention to ongoing efforts on both sides to doctor school curricula and curb and control independent media.

All this leads to the people of both countries suffering, noted Pakistani journalist Munizae Jahangir. It impacts the historical ties and culture, and holds back regional development. The discourse must change, she said, giving an analogy related to the women’s rights movement.

Just as people used to say, don’t talk about violence against women because it will bring ‘dishonour’ to the family, the establishments of both countries want people to keep quiet against state injustices. Those who draw attention to these injustices are pilloried for “bringing dishonour” upon their countries.

Trade despite tensions

Meanwhile, if India’s continuous border tensions with China don’t deter trade and economic relations between the two countries, why can this not happen with Pakistan, asked Nirupama Subramanian, national editor of Indian Express. There is no easy answer.

The exchange of films and people-to-people relations can play a vital role in rejuvenating cultural ties between countries, noted economist Sushil Khanna. Films have the power to bridge gaps, foster understanding, and promote dialogue between different cultures, which can be crucial for fostering mutual understanding and building stronger connections.

Engaging in trade and economic ties has the potential to lay a solid foundation for building a new trajectory between countries, said Indian writer, Member of Parliament and journalist Kumar Ketkar. Many in Pakistan and India truly desire peace and feel it is crucial and totally worth the effort.

As musician Ananyaa Gaur said, “Itni shiddat se hum mohobatt karte hain, ki ek din sarkar tak zarur pohochengi!” (We love so intensely that one day it will surely reach the government).

That intensity of love between the people certainly exists, but those it needs to reach seem to be deaf to it.


Aishwarya Bajpai is a research associate with the South Asian Solidarity Collective, located in Delhi. With a focus on Southasian affairs, she advocates for the release of Indian and Pakistan fishworker prisoners and addresses Burma’s humanitarian crisis. She is deeply passionate about contributing to social movements, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for various human rights issues.


This is a Sapan News syndicated feature