Boro Indians, Pakistanis seek peace at home

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Indian and Pakistani Americans living and working in Queens have expressed deep concern about the conflict between their two nations and are praying for peace in their homelands.

“So many people would be killed and for what?” said Parvez Mahmood, a Pakistani-American resident of Long Island who works in Jackson Heights. “War should not happen no matter what.”

International diplomats last week worked to ease tensions between the two nuclear powers.

India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since the two countries were partitioned in 1947 and gained independence from Great Britain. World governments fear the two nations are on the brink of another war.

The current crisis is over the disputed northern territory in the Himalayas known as Kashmir, controlled mostly by India. On May 14, militants stormed an Indian army camp in the region, killing 32 persons. India has blamed the attack on Pakistani Islamic militants, but Pakistan has denied the accusation.

Indian and Pakistani Americans in Queens were anxious about the fate of their relatives in South Asia. Sunny Kumar, an Indian-American who works in Flushing, said he was concerned about his parents, who live in India.

“Everybody’s worried like that, no matter what you believe,” he said.

While many said they thought threats have been exaggerated, others said nuclear war is possible.

“This is the last world war,” said Syed Bakheri, a Pakistani tailor who works at Lahore Fashions of Main Street in Flushing. Bakheri said he prayed to God to stop the crisis.

Despite their fears for their relatives’ safety, many said they avoid discussing the possibility of war. Indian and Pakistani residents said tensions between the two countries have not carried over into Queens.

“In New York, the people mingle together,” said Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill and a native of India. “I have a gentleman who I rented out a part of my house to. He’s from Karachi, Pakistan. We sit together, eat together, laugh together and joke about our leaders together.”

In Flushing, Main Street in the vicinity of the Queens Botanical Garden is dominated by Indian, Pakistani and Afghan businesses. The establishments range from video stores to groceries to shops of authentic clothing imported from South Asia. Employees of those businesses said the tense relations between India and Pakistan have not been felt on Main Street.

“Most of my customers are Indian,” said Atya Ambreen, a Pakistani-American woman who works at Lahore Fashions with Bahkeri.

Many said they felt the problem was between the leaders of the two countries, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and not the peoples of the two nations.

“It is the governments that are causing the tension,” said J.D. Thakral, an Indian-American who ran against Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) for City Council. “If you ask anybody, they will tell you they feel the same way as I do. The leaders of both governments are doing this for political gain. It has been going on since 1947.”

Nevertheless, many keep their allegiances to their homelands.

“They’re militaristic,” said Ganesh Kumar, an Indian-American who works at a Flushing video store, speaking of Pakistan’s government. Kumar said he thought Musharraf was pushing the nations toward war.

“I am in favor of my president, Musharraf,” said Zeeshan Khan, who works at the Chatkhara Kebab House, an Indian, Pakistani and Afghan restaurant in Flushing. Khan said he supported the Pakistani president because “he doesn’t want war.” But he added that his feelings did not prevent him from getting along with Indian employees at the restaurant.

“I have three Indian guys working in the kitchen, and we are good friends,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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