From helping reunion of friends, families, to sharing pictures, group is bringing people together amid hostilities
NEW DELHI (AA) – At a time when relations between two South Asian nuclear-powered neighbors are defined by acrimony and hostility, a social media group on Facebook is attempting reconciliation and bringing understanding between the people of two countries.
Created three years ago, by a Pakistan-based heritage lover the membership of the India Pakistan Heritage Club has grown to 194,000.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on eve of independence days of Pakistan and India that they are celebrating on Saturday and Sunday respectively, Lahore-based Imran William said his club is documenting history by recording stories of people.
“This group successfully connected families which had separated during 1947,” he claimed.
He said that the mission of the group has been to connect people on both sides in a positive way and forge peace and love between India Pakistan.
William said that many times people from India asked him to show their forefathers’ place in Pakistan.
“So many times, I went and showed them their forefathers’ place. I took them on video calls and what happened next was a very emotional moment of my life. Family’s cry when they saw their childhood place where they were born and spent their childhood,” he said.
According to the administrator, the group has membership from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh diaspora as well. The moderators are from both countries who say they ensure that “nothing negative is posted”.
Anshuman Jakhmola, an Indian national who joined the group a year back and is now one of the two administrators told Anadolu Agency that he “wanted to hear stories of people who had migrated, what was their individual experiences”.
“I see some people are still searching for lost ones,” he added.
The administrators said that the group was originally named Punjab Khoj (Discovery of Punjab). But it was rechristened to expand the reach.
Reunion of families and friends
On June 26, a Pakistani Syed Khalid Ahmed posted a few pictures in the group seeking help to trace a friend of his late father D. B. Bhatia, who had migrated to India and then to England in 1947. Such was the quick reunion that another group member Neelmani Bhatia Dolly replied in the group informing that Bhatia was her maternal uncle.
“We are so very excited to read this message. He was my Mama ji (maternal uncle). My grandparents were from Abbottabad and my mother used to tell us stories about her childhood spent there,” she said.
She informed Ahmed that her maternal uncle’s daughter Soniya Suri will be soon getting in touch with him.
Jakhmola said his experience as an administrator so far tells him that people generally want peace and harmony and many want South Asia to emulate the route of the European Union.
From helping to connect lost friends and families, to sharing pictures about each other, the group is serving as a platform in bringing the people of two countries also closer.
Jasbir Singh Jogi, a resident of the Indian province of Punjab has posted a picture of a women’s clothing store called Pakistani Attire in his city of Ludhiana.
The group members have posted some heart-wrenching stories of Partition as well, which witnessed the worst communal riots and large-scale migration of people.
A group member Saad Khan posted about a woman Suraya Bibi whose parents left her at Jalandhar station in India in 1947.
“Her mother’s name was Hamida Begum. Her family came to Pakistan, but the daughter Suraya was left behind in India where a Sikh family took care of her and later was converted to Sikhism. She is dead now,” he said.
Her daughter and son-in-law in India are seeking to meet their mother’s relatives in Pakistan. “If anyone has any information regarding this family please let us know,” read the post.
Another user from Pakistan Jawwad Zaki posted a painting of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak. He wrote that this painting in watercolor was drawn by his father in 1942. His father had taken this painting along with him to Pakistan.
“It has survived the migration in 1947 and is one of those few things that survived the upheaval of that year,” read his post.
Pragya Srivastava, a New Delhi resident, also a member of the group told Anadolu Agency that India and Pakistan share a common cultural past and the group “is a beacon of hope”
“The group has around 194.6 k members. It is nothing but love, respect, and nostalgia which has brought all of us together,” she said.