Our forefathers used to say that India and Pakistan are two brothers, who were separated at birth. There was a tremendous sense of attachment among people who had lost their roots in either of the two (or even three if we take independent Bangladesh into account) parts of a land that was historically an inseparable whole.
As a Bengali, I have seen how senior people around me felt nostalgic at a minimum mention of 'East Bengal' or Bangladesh. Several innocent people were forced to dump their histories and cross over to lead a paralysed life, if not totally dead. The same can be said about Punjab, the other state that had undergone the agony of Partition, one of the largest tragedies that had ever unfolded in the history of this Planet.
But that was the story of the generation(s) who had felt the trauma of Partition. For them, India and Pakistan had a sentimental appeal in their minds and hearts. The separated families did not think that there were two enemies that were baying for each others' blood. The India-Pakistan relation was more a human story at the level of people-to-people contact, unlike that at the political and military level where endless bickering has been the cornerstone.
But now, after almost 66 years of separation, the softer aspect of the relations between the two neighbours is gradually diminishing. This is a worrying trend. Perhaps the generational transition and the demand of time make this change a certain but have we put in place adequate efforts to avoid this crucial transition? For, the people-to-people contact or Track II diplomacy can go a long way to normalise relations between nations.
Unfortunately, we in south Asia do not understand the efficacy of such softer approaches and bank on all things political and military. The older generations who had witnessed Partition could feel the pain for they had seen the sub-continent a united whole but the present generations are growing up as citizens of two nations who are arch-rivals. It is indeed necessary now, particularly at a time when the bonding power of history is getting increasingly weakened.
Why put education at the mercy of politics of hatred?
But we have not paid attention to that and our social mindsets have been influenced by the history that is constructed by the contemporary power-centres across borders. Recently, chairman of Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy IA Rehman said that in Pakistan, secondary-school level history teaches that it was the Muslim League which had driven the British away and brought independence. The Indian National Congress, according to the book, did nothing during the freedom struggle apart from creating hindrances.
Another chapter in the Pakistani text said it was Hindu teachers who had encouraged the youth of former East Pakistan to fight for an independent Bangladesh, Rehman revealed.
The situation is similar in Bangladesh as well. A senior academic from Dhaka said in Bangladesh, the text changes with the rulers and history is transformed as per the needs of the power centres. Awami League, a pro-Indian party, promotes one history while the BNP-Jamat alliance, which is anti-India, encourage a reverse version.
In India, the situation might be better but the problem here is with the public media, which is turning increasingly aggressive with each passing day. Too much emphasis on military versions and political blame-game are constructing the media's outlook on Indo-Pak relations and accordingly, the commoners are being fed the same. The rise of Hindu fundamentalism as a reaction to Islamic fundamentalism is also fuelling the fire and the situation is tending to go beyond control at the slightest provocation in these days.
The question is: Can we just count on insensitive statements made by the political leadership of both these states and allow the situation to deteriorate further? The politician-army-media sources can not be the only one for the common people to evaluate each other across the border. There are other important sources as well.
Why talk only about war and conflict?
This is where education needs to play a vital role. We make 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 the four milestones hyphenated by incidents like 26/11 while understanding Indo-Pak relations but there is more to that. Why don't we speak about the cultural similarity between the two countries often than required? Why don't we talk about the goodwill gestures that both neighbours had shown in the past in times of natural calamities, in India in 2001 and Pakistan in 2005? There is a huge population comprising both Indians and Pakistanis across the world and the LoC firing and beheading of soldiers are not the only issues in their daily interaction.
Why media creates an uproar when a Sania Mirza marries a Shoaib Malik? Should human emotions also toe the line of political convenience? Why bodies like Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy do not come to limelight apart from the academic and cultural circles? Shouldn't we give some more time and space to such bodies than the Lashkar-e-Taiba? Why the news that some fundamentalist group has opposed exhibition of Pakistani goods in an Indian city be given prominence by the media? Why only one movie named Veer Zara is made against several ones like Border and LoC?
I know it is a structural issue. India can not act in isolation if Pakistan continues to kill the doves but as a whole, we must understand what lies best for our own interest. Several European nations also fought over centuries. The political map of Europe was hardly consistent over a considerable period of time. But have we seen another Adolf Hitler crossing swords with the Allied Powers after 1945? One of the big reason for is that we should learn to construct a history of peace. Our history only talks about negative politics and military actions. This pattern should change.
We need to write the history of peace
Noted thinker Ranabir Samaddar said today, the European Union and European Commission give aid to write history of peace. Even in those European states which have had long histories of war, efforts are being made to bring out a new angle to understand the history. Acknowledging the history of peace is crucial for successful peace movement.
We, in south Asia, only speak about peace but never give it a chance. Blind jingoism is not our future. N-power is not our identity. Give peace a chance. And for that, think about it.