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First published in The News Aman Ki Asha here >  http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=1496

A special prayer: Special needs children pray for Pakistani children. PTI photo

By Ilmana Fasih

December 16, 2014 was the darkest day in Pakistan’s history. Over a hundred young, bright lives were barbarically extinguished at the hands of hate and bigotry. I switched on the television and there was a man wailing, “We took 20 years to raise our kids, and they did not even take 20 minutes to finish them”.

Adjectives strong enough to express my pain seemed non-existent.

I went to office, wondering who would ask the first question and what it would be. As I entered the office, I learnt that Peel District School board in Mississauga, several thousand miles away from Peshawar had decided to lower its flag at half-mast till December 19.

On Twitter, Indian Prime Minister Nartendra Modi tweeted with a heart touching message appealing to schools across India to observe two minutes of silence the following day as a mark of solidarity.
It was evident that the pain was not just of the Pakistanis. It had travelled across borders and seas. Sympathies started to pour from all corners of the world.

A friend responded quoting a verse from Kabir: “Heart goes out to beautiful Pakistan. Sadho dekho jag baurana!”

Then there was this dream tweet with the thoughtful hashtag #IndiaWithPakistan from Tehseen Poonawalla:

These could so easily be our kids. Nothing justifies harming these innocent children.#IndiawithPakistan

Oh and then another, with the same hashtag, then another. There was a treasure of tweets and every single one was coming straight from their hearts.

A. Dhanvantri Prayers for our brothers & sisters from Pakistan. #IndiaWithPakistan

Rituparna Chatterjee IndiaWithPakistan today as one nation, one tragedy, one voice. Terror will not break us. Will not drown our voice.

IndiaSpeaks Some days overwhelm years of painful history. Today is one such day. Politics & battles can sit this one out #IndiawithPakistan

Arun Nambiar When you lose family, the only shoulders you want to cry on is family. We are one with our family in Pakistan! #IndiawithPakistan

Priyashmita Guha Hearing the wail of parents on TV. How do u even make sense of this? How do u tell parents it will be ok #IndiawithPakistan

In no time, was trending at the top on Twitter after Peshawar Attack.

With re-tweets, tears rolled down my eyes. Bewildered, one moment I was sobbing in grief, the other smiling at the empathy that every tweet of 140 characters or less carried.

When I reached this tweet, I could not hold back anymore and began to cry aloud.
Chandan Bharti Aaj padosi ka choolha thhanda pada hai, bhookh hamaree bhee mar gayee #PeshawarAttack #IndiawithPakistan

I kept scrolling down my timeline. There was an ocean of compassionate messages of solidarity and of grief from Indians as if it was their own tragedy.

Even the remote corners of India had responded with a testimony of a picture:
Nitin Jaunpuri Tears from the remotest disaster hit area of India #Uttarakhand #IndiawithPakistan #PakSchoolSiege #PeshawarAttack

Overwhelmed by the deluge of love and empathy, I tweeted: “I am so proud of #India I grew up in. Compassionate and tolerant. United with #IndiawithPakistan as #Pakistan is shaken by #PeshawarAttack”

The most amazing thing was that the outpouring of emotion was largely un-orchestrated. Prime Minister Modi did provide it a framework but its expression came not just from the usual peace activists but also from the man on the street. The rickshaw-wallahs, the tea vendors, teachers, children, housewives and every other section of the society you can think of. It was unscripted and uninhibited.

That brings us to the question, where was this camaraderie when India and Pakistan were at each other’s throats after the infamous jockey match in the Champions Trophy semi-finals? The Indian media and public went from being a sore loser to overwhelmingly magnanimous in a matter of three days. Pakistan went from being aggrieved and counter-attacking to humble and receptive.

Another week later, as the sympathy recedes, the conspiracy theories, the lecturing, sarcasm and stereotyping are making their way back into the public narrative.

What we need is consistency and maturity of behavior on both sides of the border. Pakistan is not a monochromatic hotbed of bearded ‘mullahs’ perpetually plotting, planning and executing violence against India. There are some rabid and regressive elements but when has the public ever voted for them? Similarly, India may have its share of preachers of hate and some of them may have tasted political power but any objective assessment would indicate a largely tolerant society.

It is time the silent tolerant majority in both countries kicks the troublemakers out of the limelight and asserts itself. It would help if the authorities in both countries took necessary steps to allow a free people-to-people contact through a liberal visa regime. #MilneDo

The writer is an Indian gynaecologist and health activist married to a Pakistani. She blogs at www.thinkloud65.wordpress.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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