Pakistanis mourn Nirmala Deshpande’s death

May 3rd, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 3 (IANS) Pakistanis have mourned the death of peace activist and Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande for her contribution to the peace process between Pakistan and India. Deshpande had travelled many times to Pakistan, always promoting the Gandhian ideal of peaceful co-existence. She was known as ‘Didi’ among her large number of fans here, particularly from the civil society.

Pakistan sent a delegation led by Information Minister Sherry Rehman to attend her last rites in New Delhi Friday and to convey condolences from the government and the people of Pakistan. Deshpande was widely respected in Pakistan.

“We have lost a real sister, (who) was beacon (of light) in the present world,” Farzana Sheikh, a rights and peace activist, told IANS. She said that Deshpande would be remembered for years to come for her effort to promote peace between the two countries.

“President Pervez Musharraf called her secretary to condole the death,” said an official. He said that she had spoken to the president last month over the death sentence awarded to Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh.

“Deshpande campaigned tirelessly for peace between Pakistan and India. Her unflinching optimism, even at the worst of times, offered hope and a sense of direction on many occasions,” The News said in its editorial Saturday.

The paper said that it was this spirit which played a key role in establishing the vibrant peace movement that today exists on both sides of the border.

“Nirmala Didi departed at a time when there is still a great deal to be done in terms of building ties between Pakistan and India,” said the paper.

In his condolence message to the family of the deceased, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani praised her noble role for the peace movement for over 25 years.

“She was recognised and respected for her contribution to the cause of peace in the region and her services would long be remembered by the peace loving people on both sides of the border,” said Mazhar Arif, another peace activist in Pakistan.

Deshpande organised the Indo-Pakistan amity meet in 1996 that was attended by academics, artists, social activists and journalists from both countries. She led the Indian delegation to Karachi in 1997 for a similar meet.

In 1999, she again led the Indian delegation to the Pakistan Peace Conference, organised by the Pakistan Peace Coalition.

In March 2000, she led a women’s Bus of Peace from Delhi to Lahore, comprising women from different walks of life. The same year, as founder chairperson of Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia, she hosted two Buses of Peace from Pakistan to Delhi.

She also helped retired services officers to form the Indo-Pak Soldiers’ Initiative for Peace in India and its counterpart in Pakistan. She led a delegation of the India chapter of this organisation to Pakistan in 2001.

“Such persons never die and her lifelong noble struggle for love, affection and peace among various cultures, faiths and especially across the border, would always remind the generations to talk about these accomplishments,” said J. Salik, a former parliamentarian.

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