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Examining Interjects: The Outlook Of Students Of India And Pakistan

Being a Punjabi one can't but grow up listening to stories of partition. It's around us, within us, regardless of the fact that our fore fathers were from 'this' or 'that' side of the border. I have heard and personally lived the agonies of the grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and distant friends but fortunately for every agonizing story I heard, I was also told two instances which talked of the human kindness and affinity, of ordinary people becoming extraordinary to save human lives during those traumatizing days. As I grew older I realized the lack of narratives of similarities, of collective unities, of shared heritage, wisdom of traditions (which facilitates social cohesions) in my formal surroundings and is clearly missing from the present generations pockets of knowledge as well. I shuddered to think what this generation would grow up to believe, consider and accept as reality in the 59th year of Independence.

The Introduction

The partition of India was one of the most devastating events in history of the Indian sub continent. Redrawing of the borders not only divided the Indian subcontinent into two different countries of India and Pakistan, but also snapped families, cultural connections and also disrupted the emotional, economic and trading rhythms of the population. Though, popular assumption is that religious self-identification was emphasized, but partition was largely the outcome of politics and economics. It was a political event with economic undertones, which drew upon forms of religious identification.

In the case of India and Pakistan, partition as a "collective memory" and images of the enemy other that go with it, have been passed down over four generations as memory and meaning of an event, that people from both sides experienced personally. These memories and meanings have come to be stored and interpreted by social institutions in both the countries through the family narrations, school textbooks, films, news media and continue to enforce the boundaries between 'them' and 'us'. The question of the political justification of partition is still a core issue in the discussions on the subject between the two Nations.

The political and historical discourse in both India and Pakistan continue to be polarized on the subject of partition. Ideology, dominant language and speech in both the countries are used as a means to glorify one's own country, to demonize and dehumanize, create and recreate the 'other'.

India and Pakistan: The Past and the Present

As we step into the 59th year after partition, one would have expected "the scars and anguishing memories" to ease, the "collective unities" to surface, "reconciliation and acceptance" to happen, and a consensual 'normalcy' to occur in the relationship between India and Pakistan, but alas we are far from it!

The massacres on the eve of partition leading to death, destruction and displacement of millions of people across the new borders resulted in the greatest migration of people in history. In the fall of 1947, approximately 12 million people became refugees as Muslims in India fled to Pakistan and Hindus in Pakistan fled to India, becoming instant minorities in their homeland.

In the present time the depiction of interpretation of historical events, particularly those that shape the identity of nations, have the potential to become conflict perpetuating factors, particularly in regions where co-existence is age old and prejudices are deep rooted.

Thirty one percent (173, 478,760, Males/163, 852, 827 Females) Population of India and thirty nine percent (33, 293, 428 Males/31, 434, 314 Females) of Population of Pakistan is below 15 years. They are the youth, the lead and the leaders of both the nations who are going to set the mood for the 21st century.

What we teach the youth directly or indirectly effect the future of a country to a great extent. In schools or in peer groups these young children have conversations on various topics including political discussions, and it is commonly observed, whenever a talk over Indo-Pak relations is held they use the words such as 'enemy, untrustworthy and treacherous', which clearly expresses a feeling of distrust.

Running After the Mice in The Minds

There are some factors which constantly shape the outlook of the children. Some factors are obvious and visible, but there are also many factors which operate at a more subtle level. These interjects howsoever mild can sow the seeds of distrust. Some of the interjects which shape the minds, the outlook, the perceptions of the youth of both the nations are home, books and media.

The study Examining Interjects: Outlook of Students of India and Pakistan was conducted with the sincere hope to identify and confirm the interjects, to see how the students from India and Pakistan perceive their world and also to know their views regarding their need to have knowledge and concept of the 'other', to be friends with the 'other' and to recognize the obvious interjects which work on the conscious and sub � conscious minds of the younger generation of both India and Pakistan to shape their outlooks.

The total sample comprised 85 students of class IX and X of India and Pakistan, 50 students from India (Chandigarh & Barnala,) and 35 students from Pakistan (Islamabad, Rawalpindi & Quetta) comprised the final sample. The questionnaire was validated by among others, Prof. A.H. Nayyar (SDPI, Islamabad) and Dr S.P. UdayKumar (Transcend Asia, Nagercoil). The study was essentially a descriptive one using a questionnaire for in-depth study of the problem, the sampling procedure was incidental in nature and the data was analyzed item wise.

Results

Major conclusion of the in-depth study confirmed the existence of interjects and their subtle effect which shape the outlook of the students of both India and Pakistan. The results also brought up traces of a general curiosity, acceptance and a positive outlook regarding 'other' & from across the border.

The institutional learning, the ideologies of supremacy of war, the myth of sovereignty and superiority are very visibly being passed on to the students through the education system of both the nation. A few of the results are as follows:

Education

The results exhibited a strong need and desire on the part of the students to know about the geography, history, economy, historical heritage, cultural value, problems and challenges of both India and Pakistan. When asked to list adjectives attributing to the people of other country, majority of the students gave negative adjectives for the people across the border but when asked if they would like to befriend or visit the 'other' country, the students of both the countries responded positively. The discrepancy between what they feel, and what they are taught came up�the youth of both the sides invariably get caught between defending their own history and blaming the 'other'.

Creation of the Other

Almost all the sample from Pakistan were of the opinion that partition was a`` right thing" to do as compared to the differing opinion of Indian sample which considered partition `incorrect." Holistically speaking, a majority of the sample from both the nations reiterated that the violent riots and consequent loss of life and property was not necessary during partition, and were of the opinion that 'this should never be repeated anywhere in the world'. The overwhelming majority of the sample from Pakistan stated that partition could have been a more peaceful process as compared to sample from India, which thought otherwise.

Stereotype

The sample had not witnessed any war except the Kargil 'episode', had mixed knowledge about the number of wars both countries had gone into but still their outlook regarding partition, factors responsible for partition, Kashmir, major conflicts and their solutions is prejudiced and stereotyped .The basis of this could be the information gathered and reinforced by home, education or various forms of media mainly print, television and movies.

The 'Other'

Majority of total sample from India and Pakistan acknowledged that they had no reason to hate people of country across the border. Those who did have reasons to hate the 'other' from the Indian side gave the reason such as 'We heard from parents and teachers how Pakistanis murdered people and sent them India by train', 'They think they can win it (Kashmir) but they do not know that it is signed to be with India' and 'I hate Pakistani's, they think negative'. The reason given by a student from Pakistan to hate Indians was,' I have seen Kargil war'.

Kashmir

The majority of the total sample from both the countries responded with their belief that the root cause of conflict between India and Pakistan was Kashmir. The sample from Pakistan was more favorable to a future of 'peace' if the Kashmir issue was resolved, whereas partial sample from India and Pakistan thought there would be absence of peace 'even' if a Kashmir issue were solved.

Media

More than half of the total sample from India and Pakistan considered information from newspaper / Magazine / radio / TV / film etc. as their main source of information. Television was the favorite source of entertainment for a large part of sample from Pakistan where as for the respondents from India, televisions and films were the favorite source of entertainment.

Hindi movies are watched and enjoyed on both sides of the border. The sample's responses regarding 'Gaddar', being a 'true story of partition' (Student from Pakistan), 'depicting reality of history of India and Pakistan' (Student from India) exhibits the amount of information the students from both the nations absorb from Hindi movies. Similarly their views regarding 'Border' which made 'them angry at Muslims', 'told them of war of 1971'(Students from India) or 'suffering of people of those times', 'arousing curiosity' (Students from Pakistan) in comparison their extremely differing views regarding 'Veer Zara' being a 'true, good love story' (Students from Pakistan), 'increasing positive feelings about India and Pakistan', and 'India and Pakistan meet in the end' (Students from India) show the effect a positive humane theme can have on impressionable mind. The reasons given are powerful as not only they are interjects shaping the outlook of the students but also a source of information.

One does not need to be and expert to deduce that positive narratives and correct unbiased information of the history of the countries in Hindi films would lead to a finer balance.

Students gave varied responses regarding enjoying cricket and listening to each other's music. The cricket matches had now shifted from mutual antagonism and literally 'dying to win', to matches being played as 'friendship series'. A significant number of students India and Pakistan liked listening to all the popular music of the day, mainly Junoon, Jal Pari and songs from Veer Zara and Rang de Basanti. Thus confirming how these two different mediums have given and can give a common platform to interact on, leading to bridging the gaps and building bridges.

Peaceful Choices

The total sample demonstrated their awareness of the 'peaceful methods' rather than 'use of the force' for solving problems between two countries. They also made obvious that proper understanding of every groups values and consideration for their rights can prevent inter-ethnic conflicts and religious riots, which revealed their personal perception is still free of interjects.

The Future

Regarding the future of India and Pakistan in 2020, of co-existence, their dream, the students came up with amazingly positive and creative suggestions and solutions which perhaps is a reflection of their outlook giving an opportunity to see and understand India and Pakistan conflict from their point of view. An overwhelming sample from both India and Pakistan agreed that there was a need to look ahead and not in the rear view mirror.

Dreams and Maps

Students were invited to use their imagination and were asked to draw their dreams and map spatially representing their experience. The partially successful exercise gave a preview of their dreams of busses plying freely across borders and worship places existing side by side. The map drawings were simpler with images of war combat while the American president looks on, bombs blowing up everywhere and Kashmir borders redrawn. One look at them, took one on a journey on a road where nothing much had changed in 59 years and perhaps if 'we' don't look at the path we are walking and making the younger generation walk nothing ever would.

Mirror Images

An interesting pattern of mirror images in the perceptions of the conflict of the students emerged. Each side reciprocated the distorted image of the other.

Using this framework, it was attempted to apply it on two levels. One in which the youth mirrored their perceptions of each other and confronted conflicting images of each other; and the other, where they mirrored the process of struggle between their possible friendship with the 'enemy' and their patriotism to their country.

Contradictory images have continued to challenge the perceptions of the Indian and Pakistani youth about themselves and the 'other'. Some of the recurring themes that were identified as emerging in the analysis and interpretation were about views about people of India and Pakistan, partition, factors responsible for Partition and promoting peace.

Response of the sample from India

Response of the sample from India

Response of the sample from Pakistan

Adjectives attributed by the students for self and other

For India

Peace loving, Virtuous, Religious, Kind hearted, Truthful, Honest, Brave, Intelligent, Faithful, Patriotic, Hard Working.

 

For Pakistan

Violent, Cruel, Narrow Minded, Treacherous, Cowardly, Characterless.

Adjectives attributed by the students for self and other

For India

Treacherous, Violent, Narrow Minded, Cowardly, Cruel, Characterless, Obstinate.

 

 

For Pakistan

Religious, Intelligent, Truthful, Honest, Patriotic, Great, Brave, Hardworking, Gentle, Religious, and Virtuous.

Partition was not good.

Partition was good.

Factors responsible for Partition:

'Divide and rule Policy' of the British, disagreement between Political leaders of Congress and Muslim league, differences between Hindus and Muslims.

Factors responsible for Partition

Differences between Hindus and Muslims.

 

Kashmir belongs to us.

Kashmir belongs to us.

India is more than right and reasonable in promoting peace.

Pakistan is more than right and reasonable in promoting peace.

Implications
In spite of the limitations of the study its apparent that the present generations on both the sides of the border are still imprisoned by the past which is reinforced by interjects, wherein they create their own traumatic memory of an event which happened fifty-nine years ago.An event which happened in the past. The c onstant reincarnation of the 'us' and the 'other' by the people born years after it happened leads to reinforcing of creation of the same 'other', which was created for a particular reason fifty-nine years hence.

Thus, it will not be an exaggeration to submit that our past is being recreated and re- constructed for youth on the basis of the preceding generation's memories through the reinforcing interjects. Youth are expected to and they do carry that past within themselves , regardless.

Role of education as a significant tool of conflict transformation and peace building has to be redefined. A joint initiative to promote the use of these interjects in a positive and constructive manner so as to disseminate factual information, giving an opportunity to understand different perspectives, self-reflect and to develop capacity to accept the differences and the realities can be a small beginning.

And to let them know that they have a choice. A choice of experiencing the conflicts, reconciliation and transformation happening simultaneously, where cultural identities are not rigidly divided as an Indian or Pakistani and as Hindu or Muslim. Recognizing that they are rather layered, meshed with times gone by, and for times to come. It is not just possible but inevitable to survive in a culturally complex region like ours. That's the choice we have to make.

This study was conducted jointly by Dr Navita Mahajan and Mrs. Mandeep Sharma. The investigator respectfully acknowledges the work done in this area by academics from both the side of borders as a basis of reference for this investigation. This paper was written exclusively for Individual-land..

 

 

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individualland.com (Last Updated Wednesday, 26 October 2016)

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