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Gaza caravan passes Wagah challenge

December 05, 2010

LAHORE, Dec 5: Twenty-eight Indian and one Japanese peace activists crossed the Wagah border on Sunday to hand over a Palestinian flag to Pakistani activists joining a ‘Gaza caravan’, although the government, for security reasons, asked the visitors not to use the land route for going to Iran on their way to Palestine.

The participants of the Asian Gaza Solidarity Caravan will return to New Delhi on Monday to take a flight to Tehran. The activists were barred from walking into Pakistan by the Indian authorities on Saturday, resulting in protests on both sides of the border. They were half way back to Delhi when the Indian government reviewed the decision and allowed them to cross over to Pakistan.

However, by that time the local activists had dispersed and a reception planned by the citizens for the visitors at the Bagh-i-Jinnah had been cancelled.

Farooq Tariq, one of the hosts, said the visit was of a symbolic nature because the team was to return to India handing over a Palestinian flag to the 12 Pakistanis who would cross over to Iran from the Zahidan border.

He regretted that while the first attempt by an aid flotilla to break the Israeli siege of Gaza had been foiled by Israeli guns, the Indian and Pakistani governments had used the visa tool to disrupt the second one.

Muthu Krishnan, a journalist from Tamil Nadu, was upbeat about achieving the goals of the caravan despite the difficulties on its way.

He said the call for the caravan had a wider appeal in India because Palestine and Yasser Arafat were household names in the country, although its present rulers were toeing the US-Israeli line.

Despite the fact that he was a Hindu, the central mosque in Madurai town had given him a rousing see-off and dedicated a Friday sermon to him to demonstrate solidarity with the cause.

Koichi Sakaguchi, the Japanese peace activist, said he had a great feeling for the besieged Gazans and had decided to contribute his time and energy and face all the difficulties that might come on the way to Palestine. The caravan is scheduled to reach the West Bank on Dec 27 after passing through Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Syria.