With information technology disrupting the very idea of borders through its global outreach, the need for cross-border reporting has never been greater. Globalisation, especially in the last decade or so, has brought about with it unprecedented threats ranging from environmental pollution to organised crime networks and terrorist outfits. It has, therefore, become imperative upon journalists, in many instances, to look beyond borders to get the complete story.
This project is an attempt to train aspiring journalists to broaden their scope and think of stories that are relevant across borders. It largely draws inspiration from the people residing on either side of a border that was arbitrarily drawn up as a result of the hasty retreat of a colonial regime from the subcontinent.
On either side, the days start off with a heavy dose of halwa puri, followed by biryani over perhaps a screening of ‘Sholay’. Be it Eid or Diwali, women and children adorn flowery patterns made out of threads and motifs. They travel in the same worn-out buses down hot dusty roads of tropical towns whose streets are brimming with the smells and sounds of economies struggling under the weight of their populations. The stories are the same. The people even more so. This project is an effort to celebrate those connections.
As part of their coursework, student journalists from the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi (http://www.jmi.ac.in) and the Center for Excellence in Journalism in Karachi (cej.iba.edu.pk) are encouraged to work on common themes on either side of the border. Covering issues as varied as fashion, gender, migratory patterns and environment, the reportage will build narratives on language, culture and history, highlighting the similarities and sometimes dispelling myths in the process.
Through this reportage, we will endeavor to bring to light the common thread of humanity that binds together the rich traditions and cultural fabric of the subcontinent. But the idea simply does not end here. The ultimate goal is to expand this project to include all SAARC countries and enable aspiring journalists to think beyond borders and report on issues that affect the whole region. We hope that this project will be our small contribution to a healthy dialogue.
Lastly, we do not hold any grand political aspirations. We simply wish to state the obvious – that there are people on both sides of the border who breathe the same air, share a water source and just want a reason to smile and wave across the barbed wire.
The East-West Centre based in Honolulu, Hawaii (www.eastwestcenter.org ) has been our partner on this India-Pakistan student media project. The East-West Centre has initiated several cross-border journalist exchanges and dialogues throughout South Asia.