As troops from India and Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir and the two governments continue to trade escalating rhetoric, citizens of the neighboring countries have taken to social media to appeal for peace.
Tensions between Indian and Pakistan over the contested region of Kashmir, which has been at the heart of two wars since the departure of British colonialists in 1947, have risen sharply over the past two weeks. After militants attacked an Indian army camp in the contested region of Kashmir, killing 19, India launched retaliatory “surgical strikes” last week. Pakistan has denied it was involved with the military base attack.
Gunfire has since been exchanged between rival forces across the Line of Control, which separates the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled sections of the Himalayan region.
That hostility has also crossed into the cultural sphere. Last week, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) blocked Pakistani actors and technicians from working in Bollywood. That stance was then followed over the border, with Indian films being banned from cinemas in Pakistan.
But as fears increase of further conflict between the two nuclear powers, many in India and Pakistan are urging common ground. Facebook and Twitter users have been utilizing the hashtag #ProfileforPeace and changing their profile pictures to a message for their political leaders. The campaign was started by Mumbai-based Mumbaikar Ram Subramanian, who has begun similar crusades in the past.
“This is the idea,” read his original post. “Do join in if you believe in peace being the way forward. Write this message on a post it note, take a selfie and make it your profile picture #ProfileForPeace. No more artists being banned. This is my voice. This is our voice for our Mumbai, our India. Enough of hate politics. #SpeakUp”
Many have since followed Subramanian’s lead, including Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt who sent the following message to his 1.75 million followers on Twitter: “Dear leaders, do not let the actions of a few violent men write the future of many people, like me who want peace. #KillTerroristsNotTalks #ProfileForPeace.”
Perhaps signaling the extent of the animosity between the two countries, the reaction has been far from uniformly positive. Some social media users accused Bhatt of disloyalty to India and supporting terrorists.