As tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan simmer, some people – mostly youths – are trying to build bridges and dialogue between the two neighboring countries.
The #SayNoToWar campaign on Twitter comes shortly before Pakistan announced that the captured Indian pilot, who was shot down over Kashmir, would be released Friday in an attempt to defuse the gravest crisis in the disputed border region in years.
It is unclear who launched the hashtag on Twitter, but Kashmiri journalist Sagrika Kissu was one of the first to promote it on Tuesday, a check by CNN shows.
“Let’s trend the hashtag #SayNoToWar. We don’t want more lives to be snuffed out. We want peace. War has never solved any problem. It never will. Thanks,” she wrote on Tuesday.
After being picked up by celebrities from both countries, politicians, rights group and common users, the hashtag began trending worldwide and was among the top trends in India and Pakistan before becoming a Twitter moment.
The Dataminr social discovery platforms shows that more than 128,500 tweets were published using the hashtag in the past two days, with peaks of 2,000 tweets every 10 minutes on Wednesday at noon, CNN analysis shows.
Kissu, who belongs to the Kashmiri Pandit minority, told CNN her family migrated from Kashmir to Jammu in 1991 because of the insurgency in the region.
“I have grown up listening to the stories of Exodus and conflict. And it is etched inside of my mind and heart,” she said. “Now, when we are on the brink of having a war there are people who are promoting war in the name of nationalism, which is purely jingoistic.”
She said she pushed the hashtag on Twitter in an attempt to help break the cycle of violence and war before it’s too late: “Soldiers and innocent civilians on both sides will die at the border. War will only lead to destruction. India and Pakistan need to heal their injured egos and sit down and talk.”
Both Indians and Pakistanis used #SayNoToWar to make a pledge, including actors and politicians.
One of the most prolific tweeters on the issue was Bollywood singer Vishal Dadlani, who retweeted Pakistani political activists Tooba Syed’s post:
Kissu said that besides a few trolls the overwhelming response was very positive, particularly from young people.
“People were very receptive,” she said. “The hashtag took life of its own because of the people responded positively, especially the youth. And that was the heartwarming moment.
“Never thought Twitter can make such a huge difference.”