By Saswat Pattanayak
“No, I didn’t love my country, if pointing out what is unjust in what we love amounts to not loving, if insisting that what we love should measure up to the finest image we have of her amounts to not loving.” – Albert Camus
In professing love for their respective countries, politicians from both India and Pakistan have established a woeful yardstick. Their barometer of patriotism involves maneuvered acquisitions, militarist occupations and immoral propaganda. In direct breach of peoples’ trust, beliefs, and needs, the nations have emerged as more powerful than their citizens, the administrative servants are now masters of the enslaved population – their phony diplomatic rounds and gimmicky bus trips devoid of sincere attempts to restore peace. The warmongers on both sides are pretending to be the peaceniks while their chief accomplices dictate from Washington DC. Macabre series of political doublespeak take pretentiousness to newer heights as innocent civilians die of curfews, poverty and abject violations of basic human rights.
India-Pakistan peace talks are deliberately redundant and more importantly, oxymoronically misleading. Quite simply, they are not talks between the peaceful citizens of India and Pakistan. In vastly oppressive lands, where intelligence of the masses are routinely undermined by overworking propaganda machines, few bureaucrats and politicians suddenly declare themselves qualified to resolve the problems they are more keen on sustaining. The perpetrators of human rights violations dress up for pretentious occasions to address human rights. The nuclear weapons lovers get together amidst fancy entourage of hawkish sycophants to affirm their love for peaceful coexistence. Nefarious land-grabbers imposing curfews to institute order upon daily wage workers invite each other over to redefine peoples’ sovereignty. Religious zealots remarkable for their abilities to trample upon minorities on both sides exchange their self-proclaimed secular credentials. And living upto the expectations of such meaningless diatribes masquerading as dialogues, the so-called Indo-Pak talks predictably fail, each time, every time.
In latest episode of this reality television show, Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai declares that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai blasts. Pillai chooses to spit his venoms on eve of the much touted foreign ministry-level talks at Islamabad. The first attempt at a dialogue following Mumbai blasts is murdered even before its potentials are explored. Pakistani officials find legitimate excuse to hold press meets to denounce Indian motives, and Indian officials cry a river over lack of coordination between home ministry and external affairs ministry. Media on both sides indulge in juicy headlines on how SM Krishna, Indian Minister for External Affairs, was now less of a man, and create investigative reports based on conspiracy theories – the bestselling one describes Pillai helping ISI and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) by divulging details of Deavid Headley’s interrogations. Certified patriots earning headlines is always a win-win situation, talks or no talks.
A win-win situation for politicians and the press demands heedful observations. Tacit supports for opportunistic statecraft have been prevailing from the fateful days of 1947. If India and Pakistan were meant to harmoniously coexist, there were hardly any needs for partitions. Divisions of lands and peoples as a condition for independence were mutual agreements between political elites to ensure power sharing. The grand visions associated with the great Indian freedom struggle had simply nothing to do with the final decisions of the former colonial masters. Post-partition, it was not the biggest migration in world history. It was simply the biggest fraud committed upon the aspirations of the largest mass movement against colonialism.
When the freedom struggle against the British was waged by oppressed people across religions, languages and diverse cultures, it should have been equally inconceivable to negotiate on the desirable prospects, if the independence were to be attained. Instead, egotist, albeit, towering personalities took it on their stride to determine what was appropriate for their power aspirations and silently awaited orders from the masters to proceed on a criminally divisive geopolitical map.
If we are not used to question the intent of the partition process that resulted in India and Pakistan, it is because the people of both countries are systematically instructed to confuse mutual hatred with patriotism. It is because for generations we are instructed to glorify the foundations of our respective ‘free’ nations that are primary causes of the largest massacres across religious lines. Instead of questioning the roots of Indo-Pak divisions that were orchestrated in the most brutally inhuman manner so that we can address them afresh in changing times, we are brainwashed into embracing an intolerant, schismatic normative.
If India and Pakistan are constitutionally devoid of mutual love, it is because they were never meant to be in love, to begin with. Despite claims to the contrary, the partition was not a historical necessity; it resulted from power greeds and quests for personal fames. Maulana Azad writes in ‘India Wins Freedom’ : “Patel was an even greater supporter of the two nation theory than Jinnah. Jinnah may have raised the flag of partition, but the real flag bearer was Patel….Patel said whether we liked it or not, there were two nations in India. He was convinced that Muslims and Hindus could not be united into one nation. There was no alternative except to recognize this fact. In this way alone could we end the quarrel between Hindus and Muslims. He further said that if two brother cannot stay together, they divide. After separation with their respective shares, they become friends. If on the other they are forced to stay together, they tend to fight every day. It was better to have one clean fight and then separate than have bickering every day….”
And yet Sardar Patel, who demonstrably dismissed the apprehensions of Nehru regarding murders of Muslims in Delhi following partition demands, was made the Home Minister after India had immortalized Mountbatten’s claim to fame as the granter of freedom. Our first president Dr Rajendra Prasad whom we glorify as a pacifist took the lead in dividing Indian Army on religious lines. He said “if India was divided into two States, a unified Army should not and could not continue for a day.” When thousands of innocent people were killed over partition declaration, the Army stood helplessly, and when required, took part in the mayhem. The chief architects of newly devised State of India were also the men with a mission – to keep India and Pakistan separate through infusion of mutual hatred, not harmony.
With personality cults sketching Indian destiny, redefining what constitutes unity and sovereignty, declaring with authority that transfer of power from the white elite skins to the brown elite ones was legitimate enough a reason to stop imagining further, all freedom movements have come to a standstill. If the Germans want to reunify, let them. If Koreans continue to assault each other following divisions, let them. If millions of people are refugees in their own lands, let them be. We shall never reconsider uniting with our brothers and sisters. To vulgarize Kipling further, “Oh, India is India, and Pakistan is Pakistan, and never the two shall meet.”
What mentality drives the people to cheer for their former colonial masters when England goes to play cricket, and yet, declares people unpatriotic if anyone were to cheer for the “rival” Pakistan or Indian team? How is it that over a billion people on earth have forgiven their slave masters for universally denounced racist crimes, and yet cannot forgive each other for crimes they never intended to commit on their own? How is it that even as we claim to discredit colonial rule, we carry out its principal legacy of divide-and-rule policies, even after demise of the Empire?
Something does stink here. Perhaps our ruling classes thrive on power by wielding the tools of the former masters. Despite the conditions of destitute that put the entire humanity to shame, if India and Pakistan have not seen revolutionary movements of the oppressed succeed against their consolidated domestic powers, it is because both the countries have developed excellent defense mechanisms. Of course, the people are poor, because we need the budget to support military needs. In face of the aggrandized Arms Race that rivals Israeli and American aspirations, both India and Pakistan regimes have managed to convince their hopelessly desperate voters that security needs are stronger than food requirements. Even as recent studies indicate that majority of poor people of the world live in South Asia, and that, more poor people with greater intensity of deprivation reside in Indian states than in 26 poorest countries of Africa, we have decided it is wiser to invest in the Nuclear Club membership than to improve mutual trade relations among India and Pakistan.
It is easier to rule over people when they are scared. And to keep them scared, it is necessary to keep reinventing an enemy. Both Indian and Pakistani politicians have mastered this skill to perfection. Since they must maintain their hierarchical rule, why not also continue to make enormous profits while at it? Arms race is big business, military budgets largely unaudited, and people fooled into silly patriotic games through snazzy naming of deadly weapons. From India’s acquisition of Vampire jet fighter in 1948 and Pakistan’s Attacker in 1950, much has changed since. Weapons are named as Toofani, Milan, Cobra, Nilgiri, Khukri, Rajput, Godavari, Ghazi, Ghauri, Shaheen, Magar, Vikrant, Natya, Prithvi, Dhanush, Agni, Shaurya, Brahmos, Nirbhay, Trishul, Akash and have predictably gained acceptance into a psychologically numbed landscape of war imaginings.
Just as arms race status quo is maintained in the name of protecting the external borders, domestically, politicians from both nations have resorted to gross human rights violations tactics to maintain power of force. Invoking President’s Rules, Military Orders and civilian Curfews, the ruling powers suppress any popular resentments in a timely fashion. In the latest of attacks upon civil liberties, charges of treason are being introduced against journalists who air dissenting views. Whether or not Pakistani singers/actors will perform in India and vice versa, is now being left to the whims of political goons who have no stake or knowledge about nature and scope of performance arts. The very people who are most responsible for widespread corruptions coupled with lack of basic standards of living are at the helm of affairs to decide on the well-being of the dispossessed masses. People who make a living from planting seeds of hatred are the ones addressing press conferences on needs for peaceful dialogues. Until their status quo is questioned, and their obsessions with controlling the people are addressed, no peace talks will ever look transparent, let alone viable. It is imperative to admit that, be it the renowned Ghulam Ali or the lesser known fruit seller from Kashmir, every citizen deserves to be heard; every resident requires an effective platform where not just votes for the system, but also votes against the existing political frameworks can be exercised.
Stifling voices of the people is the biggest crime on part of any State. Ironically, in committing the crime – while suppressing certain dissenters – both Indian and Pakistani administrators claim to be resolving problems. Kashmir is the biggest testament. For over six decades now, the Kashmiris have refused to take sides and have instead prepared themselves to any eventualities. Their demands for autonomy are neither unjust nor untimely. In fact, true implementation of Article 370 would grant them as much. The Report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) has been advocating for “a series of constitutional and legislative measures to restore the political autonomy that Jammu and Kashmir was guaranteed at the time of its accession”. Rivaling it is the Report of the Regional Autonomy Commission (RAC), which represents the Hindu right-wing sponsored by US-based Kashmir Study Group and it seeks to restructure the State along dangerously divisive lines – “by creating eight new artificial units expressing adherence to the communal principle”.
It should not be much of a guess as to how we deal with Jammu & Kashmir – the gordian knot when it comes to Indo-Pak talks. It is high time for Republic of India to acknowledge that human rights issues are international issues. Kashmir is soon emerging as the next Palestine. Refusal to acknowledge the crisis is not prudent, nor acceptable. Indian military exploits in Kashmir simply do not get absolved by replacing them with “terrorism in Mumbai” charges against Pakistan – a country that has way more victims of terror than India (170 died in Mumbai blasts – a number that’s monthly statistic for Pakistani deaths from terrorism attacks).
India needs to recognize that majority of Kashmiris are sick and tired of Indian Army deployment there. Killing of young boys (as happened in this Summer) is not going to improve its reputation. In a classic instance recently, when the corpse of 17-year-old Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat was found, the official version that he had jumped into a stream to escape Indian security forces was denounced. There were torture marks on his head and neck, and the doctors declared after post-mortem that he was killed by the security forces. No sooner than people took the body in a procession that Indian CRPF men fired at them and killed their first victim, 35-year-old Fayaz Ahmad. Several others, including 18-year-old Abrar Ahmad Khan, were also shot dead by the police. These are also instances of terrorism, and are no different just because they are committed by the State. Around the same time, this July in Pakistan, extremist Deobandis of Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Data Darbar, the sacred shrine of Sufi scholar Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri. 42 worshippers who died belonged to Berelvi sect (Sunni Muslims following tenets of Sufism).
Politicians need to look at the complexities of terrorism levels to convey a clear message that both Hindu and Islamic terrorism are results of sectarian fanaticism without mainstream supports. Terrorism must be discussed in details, but so also should Kashmir – the largest victim of terrorism. Kashmir crisis does not get solved by nationalistic assumptions of unity and sovereignty. And it certainly does not get addressed by being ignored at high-level peace talks. In fact, quite the contrary. The more transparent, both India and Pakistan are regarding their role in maneuvering Kashmir situation, the sooner are the peace talks going to actually embrace peace.
Like the Kashmir issue, India-Pakistan talks require “autonomous” handling. We need to identify pacifists and citizens who can take “government” out of context while reinitiating dialogue. Unlike a debate, a dialogue process is not about who wins, it is about empathetic understanding. Unless military controls are undermined, economic independence are encouraged and religious fanaticisms are legally suspended, all talks about Indo-Pak future are merely showy and expensively dispensable.
A new dialogue about India and Pakistan require new imaginations. A federal reunification manifesto with autonomous rights to both nation-states is not as dangerous a proposal as the original partition sketch. A mutual agreement for complete disarmament between India and Pakistan is not likely to be as unfriendly a conversation as the surreptitious nature of warmongering going on for decades. An increase in fair trade agreements between both the neighbors with an aim to benefit both economies is definitely more desirable for the entire subcontinent, than seeking out the first world powers as primary business partners who have traditionally monopolized over our collective resources through employment of deceptive means.
Finally, a new dialogue requires preparation for the societies to question the historical assumptions through rigorous examining of the true knowledge of our peoples’ history. We have been renaming the cities to reflect our anti-colonial stance based on half-baked history textbook lessons. A progressive people’s history would have taught us to fully implement our aversion towards colonial legacies and thereby reclaim our Pakistani brothers and sisters, as our own, as much as open ourselves to their fold. It is essential to conceptualize India and Pakistan away from the Eurocentric lens. If our patriotism must be about loving our countries, as Pablo Casals once said, it must not stop at the borders.
(This essay by Saswat Pattanayak appeared as the Kindle Perspective in Pakistan-India RoundTable 2010)