It is unknown whom the decades-old India – Pakistan rivalry has benefitted, but it surely has costed the people of both sides a lot.
Especially the people who wanted to visit the other side of the border due to ancestral affiliation, emotional bond or to explore the similarity among the sister cultures. A recent victim to this cross-border tension was Pakistani film-maker Mahera Omar, who won an award in India due to her work but was denied the visa.
Mahera’s The Rebel Optimist was given the best documentary award in Across The Border category at the prestigious 7th Delhi International Film Festival 2018 but she, unfortunately, couldn’t go to receive it.
“The festival authorities too have tried to help me, but it is very difficult for a Pakistani to get a visa” – Mahera said, as reported by a local news source.
Apart from receiving the award, Mahera has always wanted to visit India because her grandparents belonged from there. She says she has always felt a sense of belonging from the country.
Zafar Omar, Mahera’s grandfather, wrote detective fiction and hailed from Aligarh. His house, Nili Chatri, still exists there but has been taken over by Aligarh Muslim University.
Ever since they crossed the border, Mahera’s aunt has been to Aligarh once. She says the home still exists there and her grandfather’s room has his picture still hanging on the wall. The old family retainer was still there and asked her ‘You are back’. She says it was heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, Mahera has her heart broken again after being denied the visa. She is not the only Pakistani who has faced the ordeal. Back in July, popular Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s daughter Moneeza Hashmi was invited to speak on 15th Asia Media Summit but her name was dropped off the list due to visa restraints.
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