August '06: 1947 to 2006: In search of Present
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political affairs printed on the 17th of every month
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report after proper acknowledgment.
1947 to 2006: In Search of Present
This August newspaper headlines reported about the
possible de-railing of the peace process between
Pakistan and India. Diplomats are being expelled.
Threats of ``hot pursuit" are being given.
Allegations of nursing terrorists are being made
which are ferociously denied. Human rights
activists' rooms are being searched. Amidst this, on
both sides of the Wagha border, celebrations of
independence are being carried out. However,
Individualland would like to ask when will we
celebrate freedom? Freedom from intolerance and
hatred of the ``other". We are children of South
Asia. We've forgotten that. When Gandhi died Lahore
the city of lights mourned. Shops closed down. There
is no 'other'. In it's August individu-spotlight, we
would like to submit that the `other" concept is
being created & our interjects such as films, text
books, traumatic oral histories are reinforcing this
concept of "us" and the "other" on both sides of the
border. Tragically even peace activists while
eulogizing the concept of peace ignore this
shackling concept of the ``other. "What exactly is
this concept reinforced through the politics of
semantics is what Dr. Navita Mahajan, a young
academic from India shares in the August individu-spotlight.
Individualland is grateful to Dr. Mahajan for
sharing her thoughts.
Powerless to be Born
As I came back from a ten-day training program for
young Indians and Pakistani's, I carried back with
me among other things a thought. A thought of what
an unborn child may have absorbed from a mixed group
of Indians' and Pakistanis'. Asifa's unborn baby had
spent 10 days with us, listening, absorbing and
being with our energies. As India and Pakistan get
ready for the 59th Independence day celebrations, I
wondered what the world had in store for the baby.
Would the child have a different space than us to
breathe in or will it have the same things we had
when we were to be born? The same mistrust, the same
suspicion, the same situation? Yet again? For how
long? For how many more generations will we be
stereotyping the children of both the nations in our
own intergenerational relations? What is that which
makes us hate the 'other' across the border? Why are
we still wandering between two worlds one dead, of
our elders and the other, ours, the futures,
powerless to be born why?
The Partition: Seeds of Distrust
For most of the people of India and Pakistan the
Freedom Movement and Partition are parts of echoing
history, gleaned from the faint memories of
relatives and from school textbooks. Whatever we
learn as students is colored by someone else's
perception and we are never allowed the luxury of
interpreting events ourselves.
The young children, who have not seen any of the
tragedies that took place in the past, have not
heard the live conversations about that mis-adventure.
They were not even born when the last war between
Pakistan and India took place in 1971; even then
these children are becoming the part of the same
stream of distrust of creating and hating the
'other'. How do the semantics of politics lead to
reincarnation of the rampant 'other'? Why we are
teaching them the lessons of hate and violence? What
are these seeds of hatred and distrust? What are the
interjects impregnating their impressionable minds?
After four generations, the stories of partition are
still shared at home and they continue to be a
reality in the lives of present generation. In the
case of partition, both sides see themselves as the
victim and the other as the perpetrator. Their
sufferings and grief were not part of the political
and historical discourse. There are no memorials at
the border acknowledging their pain, nor has it been
remembered publicly, anywhere else. All that remains
is oral history, which is fraught with emotions.
These stories keep the memory alive but ironically
only the pain, anger, hatred and distrust survives.
Our present is traumatizing enough; it becomes more
so because of our imagined or misconstrued past
which keeps following us and would no doubt follow
the future generations also .
Governments everywhere use education to further the
process of nation building and National Identity.
Through the teaching of history, language and social
sciences, children are taught what the state and
society believe should be part of their identity and
perspective for understanding the world. And the
vicious cycle of preaching hatred through distorted
history textbooks continues and consequently shapes
and cements the state rhetoric amongst youth.
As far as India & Pakistan are concerned different
articles published in newspapers, magazines modify
our attitude and opinion. Along with playing a
positive role, media has also played a significant
role in dehumanizing the 'other' across the border.
The articles, the stereotype presentations, movies
play an important role in shaping the outlook of the
young minds. We disregard the fact that the silver
screen might just balance out the hatred and enable
audience in each country to develop a tolerant view
of the ``other."
A Constant Reality
A constant reality for the youth in both countries
then is in stories that they hear in the family,
maps that they learn to skillfully draw in their
geography class, textbook history they are taught in
school and images of the "enemy other" that they see
through the media. These "enemy" images have been
further reinforced by three ensuing wars between the
two countries and minimal interaction among people
across borders. The duality, of being Indian and
anti-Pakistani and of being Pakistani and anti
Indian on both sides of the Wagha border is a
reality for most of the post-partition generation of
both India and Pakistan.
In a recent research (refer to Individual-land
occasional comment paper ) ``Examining Interjects:
shaping the outlook of Students of India and
Pakistan" examined and confirmed the role of home,
textbooks, print media, films play in shaping the
outlook of the youth about the 'other'.
The discrepancy between what the youth feel, and
what they are taught came upthe youth of both the
sides invariably gets caught between defending their
own history and blaming the 'other'.
If a strong need and desire on the part of the youth
to know about the geography, history, economy,
historical heritage, cultural value, problems and
challenges of both India and Pakistan is met
wouldn't it then lead to deconstructing of the
The Silver Lining
The world is a more complex place today, demanding a
very multi-layered approach. The changing geo
political scenario and emergence of South Asia as
one of the major global economic barometer has
changed the whole global weather. The youth of both
the nations are alive to the fiscal possibilities,
to financial opportunities. There exists an urge to
know what's behind the hill and beyond the bend of
regional cooperationperhaps the interjects which
have been polluting the Indus for 59 years have not
completely contaminated them yet.
Learning to Unlearn
The present day youth has to become conscious of the
fact that oral histories, education and media bind
us to crippling intolerance and prejudices. They
need to question, who really needs the past of the
partition? To what and for whose contemporary ends?
Where, how, and why does struggle over past of 59
years continue to animate the present?
The formal systems to a great extent create and
shape the thinking, behavior and assumption of the
next generation about the 'other'. If this 'other'
was and is being constructed then we have an equal
choice of deconstructing it. But to deconstruct or
unlearn there is no one-way. It requires a strong
intent and a desire to generate an alternative
involving engagement, endurance and resilience
rather than keep recreating the past.
A solution of creating the 'other' worked well in
1947.It can't work well now. If we continue to relay
on yesterdays solution we then stop ourselves from
learning and living the new and present. It is only
desirable to enter into open dialogues with all the
stakeholders of present to do away the need of
creating the 'other' or we aren't going to get very
far of 1947. Actually we really haven't in these 59
Walking the Walk
We are today stepping into our 59th year of
independence, of existence, of being, of growing, of
living and sadly also of constantly reincarnating
the 'other'. Youth of both the nations need to at
least cultivate a new type of reality, a truth that
was already therebuilding on the commonalities while
acknowledging the differences, building a mutual
future from a past which is divided, of building
dialogic spaces within the civil societies on both
the side of the borders at the futility of creating
and recreating the concept of the 'other'.
We have two realities in which we can welcome
Asifa's new baby. One would be where it will be a
witness to something numbingly familiar, to the
recurring nightmares of previous generations that
many have kept stored in the recesses of their
collective memory. Where tomorrow would be a repeat
Or the second reality where the present may have a
chance, where the child doesn't search for the
present, where Asifa's baby takes birth after '59'
years of partition of India and Pakistan.