Let Lahorites vist Lahore without visa, says a new book


Amidst all the talk about visa on arrival to Pakistan, a new book suggests the government should allow all those aged sixty five and above to travel across the border without visas.

For many Indian Punjabis, the city of Lahore continues to exert its charm more than any other metropolis of the world… there is a burning desire among the ageing generations of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims to visit the land of their birth across the border,” says Pran Nevile, a former IFS officer, in the revised edition of his book “Lahore: A Sentimental Journey”.

“For decades, the post-partition generations have been fed tales and anecdotes by their elders about the towns and villages from where they were forced to flee. So, even the young Punjabis are keen to visit these places, not only to satisfy their curosity but also to ineract with their ethnic counterparts on the other sides, says Nevile, who has also worked with the United Nations.

He hopes the governments of India and Pakistan would give due consideration to this issue, especially from a humanitarian angle and initiate suitable steps to facilitate such visits on either side.

On Wagah border, Lahorite Nevile says in the epilogue of the third edition “there is a talk of converting it into a tourist spot, but one of the most laudable suggestions has been put forward by Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed of Stockholm University. He has proposed the building of a memorial in the no-man’s land as a permanent symbol of the common suffering of the victims of partition.”

The resumption of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in 2003 and recent developments directed towards establishing stronger ties of friendship, harmony and peace between the two countries augur well for the Wagah border, he says.

The politics of the two countries has practically nothing to do with the people who would love to meet those across the border, bound together as they are by a common language, culture and history, says the book.

Nevile, whose family lived in Lahore before partition, says Germany and France are the two countries, which caused major destruction through wars in Europe. And yet today they are part of the European Union with free movement of people and no customs barries. Here, the Punjabis on both sides of the border can play a very significant role.

“Within the framework of the Indo-Pakistan cultural exchanges, let us encourage and sponsor the visits of Punjabi artists, writers and theatre groups from both side as the first step towards bridging this enforced divide,” he says.

Focusing on Lahore, the book tries to explain what is it about the city, feted as the “Paris of the East” – that sets it apart from other pre-Partition bustling centres on both sides of the border.

“Even after fifty years and numerous social adjustments, the love that we have acquired for our new places of abode cannot quell the acute sense of loss and longing that accompanies thoughts of our native land. Most of us grapple daily with feelings of rootlessness and are constantly seeking our identity,” he says.

Nevile’s emotional attachment to Lahore found expression in this book, first published along with a Pakistani edition in 1993.

Returning to the city of his moorings in 1997, Nevile brings to this edition the contrast in the Lahore of his memory and the city as it is today.

The pain of Partition is very much visible in the epilogue penned after his visit. Only upon his visit does Nevile realise that a friend – to whose memory he had dedicated the first edition of the book – was very much alive. (About the book: Lahore: A Sentimental Journey By Pran Nevile; Published by Penguin Books; Price Rs 250; PP 207)