From: ACHA-Pritam Rohila <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, Jan 16, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Subject: ROHILAS IN INDIA & PAKISTAN 2010: REPORT 01
ROHILAS IN INDIA & PAKISTAN 2010: REPORT 01
For a few related pictures, please see the attached Power-point Presentation
About 32 hours after leaving home in Oregon, Kundan and I reached Mumbai, at 3:00 a.m. on January 8. With the OCI cards in our hands, we had no trouble at the Immigration Desk. And smiling faces our cousin, Kuldip Mehta, and his wife, Shilpa, at the receiving area of the Arrival Hall, immediately relieved us of our travel stress.
After enjoying the typical Mehta family hospitality, and some sorely needed rest, next morning, we woke up at 2:45 a.m. to start our air travel to Varnasi, U.P., the site of our first Youth Peace Camp, being co-sponsored by our sister organization, People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR).
The thick blanket of frosty fog that covered most of north India, had made life miserable for many people, and had been disrupting the air as well as land traffic, for the last many days.
At Mumbai airport, we used our rescheduled Kingfisher flight to Delhi at 7:15 a.m. Upon our arrival there, an hour later, we found the zoo-like atmosphere at Delhi Airport. Unable to land at their north Indian destinations, several flights had returned to Delhi. Frustrated, tired and sleepy passengers were clamoring for attention of the airline staff for seats on other flights.
Since the connecting Kingfisher flight to Varanasi had already been cancelled, we were accommodated on the 11:30 a.m. Jet Airways flight. Quick and hot vegetarian meals served on both flights were tasty and filling.
More than two hours later than the originally scheduled time, we arrived at the recently renovated Varanasi Airport at 1:00 p.m. The PVCHR representative, who welcomed us there, took us straight to the Hotel Surya, the former residence of a local king.
The first order of business was the ceremony at 4:00 p.m., at a local hotel, for Dr. Mohammad Arif, one of the six ACHA Peace Star 2010 recipients. Inspired by the Gandhian philosophy, Dr. Arif abandoned his teaching career to promote communal harmony, composite culture, secularism and democratic values. In this pursuit he has built alliances of Dalits, Tribals and minority groups; organized awareness sessions for the media, and seminars, lectures, conventions, training workshops for peace and harmony workers, and street-plays for the general public; developed training modules; published awareness and training materials; established a library of resource materials to facilitate research on and documentation of sectarian clashes; and has founded the Centre for Harmony & Peace. Some of his initiatives have helped abort severe conflicts in such communally sensitive areas as Varanasi and have aided capacity building in other areas.
ACHA President, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, presented the award. About 50 individuals representing various sections of the local civil society attended the ceremony. It was covered well by some regional and national newspapers and TV channels.
Next morning we started our two-day Youth Peace Camp, at a hotel in Jagatganj, Varanasi. The camp was conducted with the assistance of PVCHR staffers, Katyayini Singh and Rajendra Prasad. Thirty young men and women, ranging in age 17 to 25, and in education from 9th grade to M.A. (Prev), from Varanasi, and neighboring villages participated in the camp. Katyayini Singh and Rajendra Prasad were awarded Certificates of Leadership Training –Basic Level. The arrangements by the PVCHR for the camp, made it a very gratifying experience for us.
Since trains were running late by as long as 27 hours, our local co-sponsor, the National Alliance of People's Movements urged us to cancel our next peace camp at Baitul in Madhya Pradesh, scheduled to be held on January 14 and 15. With difficulty, the PVCHR staff helped us to get booking on the January 12 Jet Airways flights from Varanasi to Delhi and from Delhi to Ahmedabad, in Gujarat.
We spent the January 12 night at a friend's home in Ahmedabad. Next day we left by private car to Anand via Gandhinagar. Since our arrival here we are enjoying the gracious hospitality of our Doshi extended family.
The atmosphere all over the state of Gujarat is dominated by Uttrayan, the three-day Spring festival. Kite-flying and partying are the main features of the festival. Armed with dozens of kites, and glass-laced string, people, young and old, climb up on their roof-tops and terraces to engage in kites-duels with their neighbors. The aim is to cut the string of the opposing party making them lose their kite. The neighborhood children run around streets chasing and gathering the kites thus lost. Sometimes these duels lead to fights and shouting matches.
Accidents are not uncommon. According to a news report nine individuals have lost their lives and about a hundred have been injured in the last two-days of kite flying in Gujarat. Also, about 700 birds have suffered injuries. Kite accidents frequently cause electricity outages, making work and life difficult for many.
Punctuated by noisy blasts of firecrackers, the cacophony of religious and popular music played loudly at various gatherings in the neighborhood has overloaded our senses, and made conversation arduous. A bout of diarrhea and vomiting that I suffered yesterday did briefly elevate my personal stress level as well. But, surrounded as we are by some Doshi angels, no stress has been too bothersome, nor any problem too difficult.