PESHAWAR: For the first time in the history of the province, Hindus will celebrate Diwali with Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Kalash neighbours with the aim to strengthen interfaith relations and send a message about Pakistan to the rest of the world.
All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal discussed the event and mentioned that conflicts between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in India were crossing the border and affecting Pakistan’s communities. “Upcoming Diwali celebrations are an attempt to denounce the bias that Hindus in Pakistan hold the same views as the few extremist factions in India,” said Sarbdiyal. He added respect for followers of all faiths was necessary for communal harmony.
Dawn of a new age
In the past, Diwali was a simple affair for Hindus in the city. However, this year, adherents of the faith have planned a grander event and will include the entire community. According to Sarbdiyal, “Diwali celebrations will begin with Pooja Paat (ceremonial worships) in their homes on November 11 and the concluding ceremony, with at least, 1,000 participants from different faiths, will be held on November 14 at Guru Gorakhnath Temple in Gor Gathri.
According to Sarbdiyal, the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement plans to decorate their temple and the adjacent mosque with lights to show their respect for all places of worship. He added Hindus in K-P decided to participate in the celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak with Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) and also celebrate the forthcoming Eid Miladun Nabi with Muslims. “We are determined to eliminate hatred amongst people of different faiths,” he said.
Celebrations in style
Sarbdiyal acknowledged the attempts made by the federal government to organise a mega event for Diwali in Islamabad. However, he mentioned the festival did not include any cultural and traditional aspects of the Hindu communities of Pakistan. “Our event in K-P will revive all our traditional colours with Ram Leela and display our culture with dandia dances and specialty foods,” he said.
Non-governmental organisations have provided support for the event and Sarbdiyal is counting on the K-P government for security. Radesh Singh Toni, a Sikh rights activist, told The Express Tribune no invitations had been received by the Sikh community so far. However, if invitations came, he assured Sikhs would participate. According to Toni, “Hindus should be appreciated for sending out a positive message to the world from a province that everyone only hears about in reference to conflict.”
Special Assistant to K-P CM on Minority Affairs Soran Singh said, “We support the Diwali event and are ready to celebrate with people from all religions. Our people have already suffered from militancy and natural disasters; we cannot afford any more conflict and hatred.” He added they intend to celebrate Sikh religious events with the same fervour to promote harmony and prosperity in the province.