Tuesday January 23, 2018
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Indian filmmakers on mission of unity denied Pakistan visa

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exemption from visa

Radhika Bhirani 

In a unique apolitical ‘exchange’, some Pakistani filmmakers came to India as part of a peace initiative called Zeal for Unity last week. Indian filmmakers who were to visit Pakistan were denied a visa, though.

From India, filmmakers like Tigmanshu Dhulia, Tanuja Chandra, Ketan Mehta and Bejoy Nambiar were slated to go over to the other side on foot through the Attari-Wagah border check post for Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s (ZEEL) Zeal For Unity (ZFU). But they couldn’t.

On being asked about why the Indian entourage of 20 people wasn’t granted the visa, Manzoor Ali Memon, a diplomat from the Pakistan High Commission here, told agencies: “We have checked with our concerned officers, but we don’t have any such applications… We have no details and applications of such kind.”

The ZFU team maintains the applications were made in time, but information on visas was delayed beyond March 16 when they were to travel and then the passports came back without the visa.

An initiative to use the “strength of creative thought leadership” from both the countries to bridge the divide between the two, ZFU involves six Indian directors, including Aparna Sen and Nikhil Advani, and six Pakistani directors of the likes of Mehreen Jabbar, Sabiha Sumar, and Meenu-Farjad, coming together on a common platform.

Pakistani filmmakers, except Jabbar, walked into India on March 15. After a day in Amritsar, they were to walk back into their country with the Indian entourage, and head to Lahore on March 16.

But since the Indians didn’t get the visa, the Pakistani filmmakers decided to stay an additional day, thereby not dissolving, but strengthening the purpose of the exchange.

Their bonhomie in Amritsar turned out to be “unforgettable” for the filmmakers, some of whom said the denial of visa would be a “forgettable story”.

Shailja Kejriwal, who spearheaded the initiative and is behind Zindagi channel which brings Pakistani content closer to Indians, told the agencies: “We were looking forward to visiting Pakistan and experiencing the beautiful city of Lahore, but the visa not coming through did not hamper us in achieving our objective.”

“For the first time ever, directors from both the sides came together on one common platform, and not getting the visa, this time, should not take away from us achieving this feat. This hurdle was actually turned into a blessing in disguise,” said the Chief Creative – Special Projects, ZEEL.

Emotional upon her return to Mumbai after two glorious days in Amritsar, Shailja shared that everyone “spoke at length about our cultures and our similarities and laughed together so much that we almost cried”.

ZFU involved the 12 filmmakers to make movies touching upon different subjects, and they had the freedom to choose their own tales and formats.

Dhulia, known for films like “Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster” and “Paan Singh Tomar”, was happy that “rather being formal with each other in the short span of time we would have got in Lahore, we spent a wonderful time together in Amritsar and those memories will be with all of us forever”.

Tanuja Chandra, who directed “Sangharsh” and “Dushman”, said: “To me, not getting visas didn’t outrage or diminish me in any way. Government agencies will work how they will and they have their reasons which we don’t need to jump upon with emotional reactions immediately. I was looking forward to visiting Lahore because it’s a beautiful city and our Pakistani friends were very keen to host us.”

She said that at Amritsar “we had a fun evening exchanging stories, poetry, jokes and warmth. The affection only grew. We had an extraordinary time. This has been an unforgettable trip. I look forward to many more such interactions, to making films together and finally to peace.”

Nikkhil Advani, who has directed “Kal Ho Naa Ho” and “D-Day”, wasn’t going to Lahore in the first place and had cancelled his shoot to be with the Pakistani filmmakers for an extra day. For him, he said, it was worth it.

“The objective of the initiative, bringing Indian and Pakistani directors together, was met. Launching ‘Zeal to Unity’ at the Wagah border was an overwhelming feeling and nothing can take away from that… I happily extended by stay to be with everyone and I’d do that anytime again in the future without a moment’s hesitation, because I believe sometime all it takes is to extend a hand.”(IANS)

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

Next Story

India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.