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Narratives: Stories from India and Pakistan

The month of April has led three members of the Melton Foundation’s Project Narratives team, Marleen Haupt, Nickhil Sharma, and Julian Klauke, to India to conduct interviews for our second documentary, this time focussing on the influences of the India-Pakistan conflict on people’s lives.

After roughly 6 months of contacting potential collaborators and organizing interviews with our partner organizations, we were ready to meet a diverse set of people on both sides of the border.

In Delhi, our travels were very rewarding and through our partners Aaghaz-E-Dosti we met an amazing array of peace activists, artists, historians, educators, students and journalists who have been working very closely with the India-Pakistan issue. Our interactions were warm, personal and powerful and it has been a good push for us in the right direction — to continue working on collecting and sharing Narratives. Many of their stories will keep with us for a long time and we are already looking forward to sharing these in our documentary.

We were now looking forward to hearing stories from Pakistan, too, so in our original plan, we were supposed to meet the interviewees arranged for by our other collaboration partner, the Citizens Archive of Pakistan.

Sadly, in the days leading up to our departure, it became clear that we would not be getting a visa to enter the country. Although we followed protocol, our intended purpose of visit, stated clearly in the required invitation letter, rerouted our visa applications to the Ministry of the Interior since matters of Indo-Pak relations are treated with a lot of scrutiny on both sides. This process ended up delaying the decision making until it reached a point where we had to get our passports back empty-handedly, in order to at least be able to travel to India for our interviews there.

However, we didn’t quite give up that easily. Reaching out to contacts within the Melton Foundation as well as outside, such as activists we met at conferences, our partner organizations, or even the German Foreign Ministry, we tried our best to find ways of speeding up the prolonged process.

Sadly, although many of them responded very positively about our project and tried to help us as much as they could, it proved to be futile in the end, largely to the difficult situation between India and Pakistan and the delicate matter of state sovereignty, expressed in the power of a government to grant or deny access. What became clear is that for our contacts working in such an environment meant to exercise special care to not jeopardize their own position and mission.

So, our first task, after reaching Delhi, was actually to set in motion the wheels for a plan B.


(Story by Melton Fellow Julian Klauke)