August 14 and 15 are historic days when one-fifth of humanity freed itself from British rule in 1947. On this occasion we, the peoples of Southasia and the diaspora around the world, while reflecting on the past 75 years, have great hopes for the future of this region.
Birthplace of great civilizations and religions, the area is rich in culture and resources. Unfortunately, orchestrated conflicts and jingoism hold back our potential as do deliberately continued poverty and illiteracy.
As we celebrate the historic landmark of the creation of the nation states of India and Pakistan (West and East Pakistan) and independence from Britain colonial rule, we also aspire for dignity and equal rights for all peoples of the area. We have more in common than our differences.
August 15 is doubly significant for Bangladesh as it also marks the day when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members were brutally massacred.
If the present atmosphere of hostility persists, our progress will remain hostage to it.
At this historic juncture, we recognize the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom, as well as the suffering and loss of millions, including those displaced during the birth of these great nations.
We welcome the announcement by the Akal Takht (or ‘the Eternal Throne’, the supreme seat of temporal authority in Sikhism) to hold common prayers for Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus killed during the partition of Punjab in 1947.
We also express our solidarity with the efforts underlying commemoration of the South Asian Heritage Month which takes place annually from 18 July to 17 August.
The stakes are enormous. Given that the problems are intertwined and complex, we need to work together to resolve them.
The Southasia Peace Action Network is a coalition of organisations and individuals calling for regional cooperation and freedom of movement in the region – http://www.southasiapeace.com
Note: Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word which means ‘dream’. And, borrowing from Himal Southasian, we use ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”.