The May newsletter of the International Network of Museums for Peace brought information about a new peace museum.
It is being built on the Attari-Wagah border between India and Pakistan, in the Sarhad food and culture park.
Sarhad celebrates the common architectural, cultural and culinary heritage of pre-partition Punjab in general, and Amritsar-Lahore in particular, its motto being:
“FOR PUNJABIS HUNGER FUELS ANGER, FOOD PROPELS PEACE”.
It will celebrate the Punjab’s shared heritage. Amanbir Jaspal (a postgraduate from the Norwegian School of Economics) had visited Lahore in Pakistan and found a common desire for peace and friendship, especially among the youth on both sides of the border. The double-storeyed museum spread over 6,000 sq feet is expected to be opened early next year and will showcase items to dispel myths and promote peace. Amanbir explained: “It will help the youth understand strong bonds their elders shared before the Partition . . . (and) help people to forget the past and move ahead by touching hearts.”
With the help of his father, D.S.Jaspal (until his retirement in 2012, a Chief Secretary of the Punjab Government in India), the idea found instant support and encouragement from leading political figures on both sides of the border, including former Prime Minister Mr I. K. Gujral, Mr Kuldip Nayar, Mr Tarlochan Singh, Dr. Farooq and Huma Beg of Islamabad. D.S.Jaspal hopes that the museum will highlight the bonds shared by different communities before partition with contributions from NGOs, universities, historians, young people and others.
The museum design is inspired by buildings in the walled cities of Amritsar and Lahore, reflecting the architectural heritage of exquisite design and craftsmanship in exposed brick work which still survives in some of the old buildings. The patterned tile floors are modelled on those in Amritsar’s Golden Temple and Dera Sahib Gurdwara. Amritsar arch forms in brick and woodwork have been recreated and the air-conditioned first floor of the food hall has coloured glass inlay work in the window grills.
Pakistan’s internationally acclaimed truck artist Haider Ali has painted two Indian mini trucks at Sarhad and the museum will have exquisitely designed furniture and ceramic screens created by master craftsmen from Lahore.
On display will be maps of villages in undivided Punjab along with their brief histories. Jaspal’s wife, Sameena, who is helping her husband realize his dream, said they have proposed collaboration between universities on the either side to generate databases of these villages. They are collecting pre-partition cinema and railway tickets besides letters, revenue stamps, newspaper clippings, artefacts and video clips for the museum. “We don’t mind paying for these valuable possessions,’’ he said. “We have to buy certain video clips from the BBC and CNN from their archives.’’
The Jaspal family and all those supporting the project hope that the museum will inspire peaceful co-existence and contribute to the healing of the traumas caused by partition.