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Our Bridge हमारा पुल ہماری پل

a cross-border link for journalists from India and Pakistan

We drink tea, love samosas and care about our profession and communities

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What is this website about?

This is the work of a group of Indian and Pakistani journalists, who share their reporting from their own countries and across their borders.

How Did It Come About?

The journalists have taken part in a project sponsored by the East-West Center of Honolulu, Hawaii, to create reporting that links the journalists of India and Pakistan, that helps them to share insights about their countries, and that offers a place to update their skills and to improve their profession. For more about us, go to the About page.

What will you find here?

You will find reporting that took place when these reporters traveled to India or Pakistan to provide a human face and voice to stories that help understand the people of these two countries. This reporting is continuing with stories from across the borders. The stories are produced by teams working on similar themes in their home countries.

What is the interest for others, especially journalists?

Here is a place where you can learn and gain from the journalists as they share their work, and interests. Across the globe, journalism changes almost daily and journalists need and want to be part of this change.

What is the language of this website?

It is in English, but because it is the work of journalists from across India and Pakistan, it is open to the languages of these countries. Journalists from both nations are the editors and contributors of this website.

So, please share a cup of chai, taste a samosa, try a curry (spicey please) and enjoy  the work of these journalists as they tell stories across borders.

Tell us what you think. Tell us how we can help our profession and our communities.

Namaste. Assalam 0 alaikum

 

Featured post

When will Eid-ul-Azha come? Only then can we manage to eat some meat!

We couldn’t eat beef this whole year. One kilogram of beef cost 550 taka which is beyond our wildest dreams. I went to collect beef which is given to the poor by the wealthy households with my younger son Sumon early in the morning. Here for the Eid-ul-Azha the richer people sacrifice a cow and divide it into thirds and give one third to the poor. I was not able to go to many houses because it was raining from the morning onward. It’s also difficult to wait in the lines for hours with my little son. After the whole day, collecting pieces of beef from door to door and waiting in the lines, I managed to collect 1kg of meat. My elder son and daughter are waiting for me at our makeshift house. They have not eaten anything since last night. After I will return home, I will prepare Chapatti and beef for them. We kept waiting for this Eid-ul-Azha to come! Only then can we manage to eat some meat! – Najma 25 From Pakistan

False practices, force and early marriages in Pakistan 

In this so called Islamic society of ours, its surprising how so many false and unfair practices are followed even by our most educated families. One of those is forcing your child to marry someone absolutely without their consent. 
‘Abhe nae pasnd tou kia hua, aik bar nikkah krdo sb theek hojaega.’
‘Bacha hai tou kia hua, prhae likhae shadi k bad krlega’
And the list goes on and on. I completely respect the fact that parents have the right to ‘suggest’ their children who they should marry and who they shouldn’t, but Islam does NOT give them the right to take this decision all by themselves, specially when their child isn’t willing to. 

It is estimated that 21% of girls in Pakistan are forcely married before the age of 18. 
These marriages either end up in divorces or children blaming their parents all their life.
Here’s a small series of photographs I recently took portraying this horrible act which has been practiced by years. I know it wont end this practice, but at least it may convey the darker side of it and educate someone to take a step.

Photo Credit: Rida Shah’s Photography

@MehwishAbbasi

#Sindh #Pakistan still suffering from poverty, illiteracy and professional begging.(By Mehwish Abbasi)

Pakistan is one of the richest countries in Asia but the people of Pakistan are suffering from poverty. The main cause of poverty is that they are not getting their basic rights. Most of the poor people are begging in the streets of different cities of Pakistan. If their rights were given they would not beg.
However, nowadays some people have adopted begging as profession/ business. Rich/influential people post beggars at different points in different areas. Mostly the beggars are children and women so that we take pity on them as per human nature. These beggars work for their lords in lieu of salary. I request/suggest the government to take a serious action and stop this business (professional begging) on the one hand, and on the other, some worthwhile steps must be taken for the rehabilitation of genuine beggars.

Her dream is going to university (Early Child marriage) by Mehwish Abbasi

Almost one year ago, I started working. The day when I first came to work it was my elder sister’s 13th birthday. She reads in class nine and I read in class five. Last year, a marriage proposal came for my sister, Sonia. She was broke and cried a lot by holding her dairy. I snatched that from her and saw there was a composition inside, which was ‘My dream’. Her dream is going to university. She was crying and begging to our mother not to marry her off. That day our mother did not talk to us. I saw tears in her eyes too. I usually love to sleep but that night I could not sleep and thought a lot about how to save my sister. I saw my mother was also not sleeping. Then I told my mother, I can also break bricks with her and earn for our education. She showed me her hands and said I could never do that. I told her I can do it. For us my mother is breaking 300 bricks every day for past 10 years. Then why cannot I break 100 bricks a day for us? I forced my mother to break my sister’s marriage proposal. And my sister started to go to school again. Now I earn 600 taka every week and give for her education. Every day after finishing school I come to work. When I return home, I seat to study. Many times my sister tried to stop me to come to work. I told her very soon she will work and I will only study. But sometimes it hurts a lot to hold pen. But I can manage. I can write well with the same hand that break bricks. 
– Chadni (9)

Sindh, Pakistan 

22nd of June 2017

To get bucket of drinking water is a struggle for most women/girls in #Sindh#Pakistan by Mehwish Abbasi Sindh Pakistan

#Water has become the most commercial products of the century. This may sound bizarre, but true. In fact, what water is to the 21st century, oil was to the 20th century.
To get bucket of drinking water is a struggle for most women/girls in #Sindh#Pakistan.
In many rural areas, women/girls still have to walk a distance of about 2.5 kms to reach the source of water. They reach home carrying heavy pots, not to rest but to do other household chores of cooking, washing, cleaning, caring of children and looking after livestock. Again in the evening she has to fetch water. Thus a rural woman’s life is sheer drudgery.
Photo and lines by Mehwish Abbasi Sindh Pakistan 20 june 201719399244_927705527369727_449297630156532857_n

Our Love For Each Other’s Religion

sindhI opened my eyes in a Hindu village but grew up with Muslims whose families had migrated after wars. I was never told by my parents that if someone is a Muslim, and I should not be friends with them.

The only thing which was a norm was to marry within the same religion. My family is one of the oldest families of our village and that is why I have been part of all the events and decisions of the village.

I remember our family put the first brick of the mosque in our village and to show unity, the Muslim community renovated our temple.

My children and I always celebrate Eid, my wife cooks tasty sweet food for their friends. On Divali, the Muslim children come in our courtyard to play with firecrackers.

My daughters and daughter-in-law are very good at applying Mehndi so our house gets crowded on Chand raat. I have never seen a cow getting slaughtered on Eid in Tharparkar. To perform the ritual, our Muslim friends limit themselves to goats.

I love my village, the unity between the people here and our love for each other’s religion. For me, this is heaven.

#WeAreAllEqual #HOPforPeace

Interview by Mehwish Abbasi

https://mehwishabbasi.wordpress.com

sindh-village

See the story that goes with this picture in Mehwish’s blog

village

Will We Ever Meet Again?

We were one once

Nikita Sharma

I FELT tears well up in my eyes as soon as Jana Gana Mana was played after Qaumi Taranah, Pakistan’s national anthem, during a presentation by a veteran journalist at an India-Pak dialogue of mediapersons in Colombo.The feeling was contagious. A gathering of 30-odd journalists from both countries struggled to hold back their tears as they stood in reverence and rapt attention.We all knew the trauma the Partition had wreaked on us, and how things stood now. An odd silence, followed by a feeling of despair, descended. For a moment, the wounds of Partition seemed to haunt. Why did it happen at all, I asked myself, for I saw no good in the decision made over seven decades ago. I was sceptical on meeting somebody from the Pak-land. But my apprehensions soon faded, as I started interacting with people from that side of the border. Eureka! We looked similar and spoke the same language! For once, I was unable to make out who was from India and who from Pakistan. Why then was I sceptical?The more I interacted with them, the more connected I felt. A sense of commonness prevailed. I found nothing unusual. After all, we were separated cousins! This made me even sadder. The largest mass killing and migration in human history witnessed the displacement of millions of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh families. It must have been a terrible phase; it brings shudders even now.The five-day conference saw inter-mingling of cultures, tastes and what not. As soon as the day’s discussion would end, the teams would go out to explore the city, and sit by the beach at night. Enthusiastically, those from India made known to their Pakistan counterparts their admiration for legendary Pakistan singers — Abida Parveen, Ghulam Ali Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mehdi Hassan, among others. They sang with their heart and the Colombo beach absorbed the anguish. But those from Pakistan were a step ahead when it came to their knowledge of Indian music and Bollywood. A journalist’s wife, who accompanied him from Karachi, confessed that she missed Indian television soaps as their favourite channels had been blocked in Pakistan.It was the last day and we were to get certificates. The atmosphere was sombre, not knowing when we would meet again, if at all. Bidding adieu was tough. Some contained their tears, while others let them flow.Questions began forming in my mind — will we ever meet? Will we ever witness India-Pak bonhomie? All I remember are the tears of separation. This sentiment, I know, was felt by all. Mr Modi and Mr Sharif, hope you get the message. from the India Tribune

 

What dangers photographers face

Here is a video about the safety problems photographers face. Saumya of our group, a photographer for the Hindustan Times, is one of the photographers. She talks here and asks others what steps are needed. This truly matters. We shared our concerns about this at our meeting in Colombo, so let’s share our thoughts about what photographers do, and what more can be done.

What do you suggest? Training? Guides on safety precautions? 

Reporting without agendas

Sri Lankan Media Minister Calls On South Asian Media Owners to End Nationalistic Coverage Aimed at Boosting Profits

HONOLULU (Jan. 18, 2017) — Speaking to a group of Indian and Pakistani journalists gathered in Colombo recently for a dialogue on cross-border reporting issues between their countries, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Mass Media called upon corporate media owners in South Asia to stop promoting nationalistic reporting to make bigger profits, saying that such news coverage becomes “part of the conflict” that prevents the region from reaching its global potential. (Watch video of his talk.)

 “The market value for nationalism is very high,” said Gayantha Karunathilaka, Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media for the Government of Sri Lanka. “Politically and commercially driven media have to be replaced by good ethical and public-interest driven media.” He blamed heavy competition, especially in television, as one of the factors driving nationalistic reporting.

Karunathilaka was addressing 32 journalists from 14 leading Indian and Pakistani media houses at the five-day dialogue that was a capstone event of the East-West Center’s two-year “Improving Cross-Border Reporting” exchange and discussion program for Pakistani and Indian journalists. The program was supported by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

The exchange program took journalists from India and Pakistan on reporting trips hosted by partner news organizations in each other’s countries, where visa restrictions have generally made it very difficult for news outlets in the often-clashing neighboring nations to base their reporters. The exchange has resulted in more than 45 print and broadcast stories and many social media posts by participating journalists who continue to use this bilateral network to include neighbor-country perspectives in their reporting.

During the dialogue in Sri Lanka, Indian and Pakistani partner teams planned cross-border reporting projects to run in 2017.  East-West Center Media Programs Manager Susan Kreifels said the journalists are very committed to pursuing these projects and that they have stayed in close touch through social media.

“The Indian and Pakistani journalists discovered more in common between their two countries than differences,” Kreifels said. “They really connected both personally and professionally and developed close bonds.”

Jabbar Chaudhary, a participating broadcast journalist from Pakistan who traveled to Mumbai and Delhi, wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times that the program was “a game-changer” for him.

“Just one visit under this exchange enabled me to build a strong bridge with my Indian journalist friends. This sort of cooperation proved itself right and fruitful,” Chaudhary wrote. “We can fence our borders but can’t stop our voices to cross it.

Sri Lanka knows the impact that media can have on conflict. Karunathilaka said “agenda-driven journalism during 30 years of civil war” in his country helped drive the conflict, adding that nationalistic rhetoric was again becoming part of the country’s “media language.”

He said the Sri Lankan government is working to create an independent news media regulatory commission that would make it illegal to “push journalists to violate ethics” and instead encourage professional reporting.

Karunathilaka said he was happy to see Indian and Pakistani journalists pursuing cross-border work on “common-interest” stories that could bring new dimensions to the bilateral relationship rather than focus on antagonistic reporting. He urged the journalists to “take an innovative approach” in reporting about solutions to regional issues.

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The EAST-WEST CENTER promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options

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