Home > Archives > IL Spotlight > Year 2006    


August '06: 1947 to 2006: In search of Present

Individualland spotlight is a monthly monitor on political affairs printed on the 17th of every month by individualland.com. Individualland would welcome reproduction & dissemination of the contents of this report after proper acknowledgment.

1947 to 2006: In Search of Present
(August 2006)
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?

The Interjects

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.

Examining Interjects

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 'other'?

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 years.

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 of yesterday.

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.



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

Powered by CivicCodes