Stuck on stereotypes
Most people desire to live in peace. If that is the case then why the states of Pakistan and India have failed in this quest? One may blame the politicians, diplomats, civil and military decision makers of both the countries for exhibiting tunnel vision at critical junctures to reach conflict resolution. This put the onus on the common folks across the borders to engage in meaningful dialogues to develop a better understanding of one another.
Most people neither have the means nor the time to make visits across the borders to see for themselves how their counterparts think about them and their country. Often those who appear in the electronic media and write in the press have either peculiar agenda to pursue or experience certain invisible restrictions which do not allow them to freely express themselves. Moreover, these people are not ‘common’ folks in the real sense of the world. It was my desire to find how a common Indian thinks about Pakistanis that I picked up a book by Mr U V Singh, a highly educated Indian with vast experience in corporate management and possessing a doctorate from New Delhi, a post-doctorate from France and having the authorship of three books to his credit including the ‘Indo-Pak relations-glamour, drama or diplomacy.’
To gain the confidence of one’s opponents for fruitful engagement, one has to first engage the other with all the due courtesies and civilities. I leave it to the readers to decide how the people of the two countries can advance towards a people-to-people rapprochement if an ‘educated’ Indian has such feelings about Pakistan and its citizens. For example, he terms the creation of Pakistan a ‘nefarious adventure’. He calls its birth an ‘unpleasant act’. To him “Pakistan is like a fakir with only one cloak of anti-Indianism to cover its body.” In his grand view, “The rationale of Pakistan’s existence is to be anti-India and anti-Hindu”; that Pakistanis blindly parrot out, “India is our enemy number one”; that its rulers are ‘mentally distorted’ and “Pakistan’s real intention is not to do anything to improve relations with India so as to keep its population poverty stricken and development denied”; and “without anti-Indian opium, Pakistan’s rulers suspect that the country might not survive.” He then concludes that Pakistan is an ‘evil’ and India is a ‘non-evil’ much like Ronald Reagan labelling the erstwhile Soviet Union as an ‘evil empire’.
After such harangue about Pakistan, he sharpens his tirade against the Pakistanis by branding the ‘Pakistani mindset’ as an ‘Islamist mindset’ by which he means that the whole Pakistani nation is nothing but a mass of religious militants. He equates the post-partition violence as the ‘vicious Islamic violence’- a deliberate attempt to establish a link between Pakistanis and their religion, Islam- as being inherently violent. Whereas several historical studies have proved that the post-partition violence was primarily motivated by personal greed and sense of vengeance on the part of the perpetrators whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. Moreover, though every student of religion knows that no religion preaches hatred and bloodshed of humans; this ‘educated’ Indian argues that “Islam was never a religion of peace” and that “sword and bloodshed have appealed [to the Muslims] more than dialogue and understanding.”
With such sweeping generalisations about Islam, he delves into the history of Hindu-Muslim relations in the subcontinent where he finds Muslims only as ‘invaders’, who killed, plundered and forcibly converted Hindus to Islam during the course of interaction extending over a millennium. Without quoting any historical authority, he surprises the readers by stating that the All-India Muslim League had two ‘vicious militias’ that indulged in the killings of Hindus in horrendous proportions after the League’s Direct Action call in 1946. What were the names of those ‘vicious militias’? ; Who were their heads? And who has historically investigated their ‘heinous’ acts? ‘Our worthy writer has not even bothered to answer these questions.
There is an unmistakable hint of fear in this Hindu Indian of Muslims, whom he look upon as ‘predatory invaders’. He feels a constant threat to his country from Pakistan, which is much smaller in size, numbers and defence capabilities than India. Thus, about the first Indo-Pak war over Kashmir in 1947-48, he ignorantly asserts that Pakistanis tried to grab the whole of Kashmir ‘under the guise of a tribal attack’ whereas historical researches have revealed that the first Indian Governor-General Mountbatten and Premier Nehru had secretly sent artillery and forces to Kashmir much before the tribal invasion. And then this ‘educated’ Indian ‘innocently’ whips Mountbatten for fooling ‘Chacha’ Nehru to go to the UN for a favourable outcome of the conflict as if the ‘Chacha’ was not an astute politician but merely a ‘goofy kaka’. With sheer naiveté bordering either on ignorance or spitefulness, this Indian makes a startling allegation that Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dreamt of separating India’s north-east by cutting it off at the chicken’s neck with the Chinese help and when this did not materialise then the state of Pakistan fuelled the Tamil insurgency. He brings his discourse to the present-day efforts being made for Pak-India normalcy by stating that “The leopard [Pakistan] is not changing spots; it is not ready for peace. Whatever it might say for public consumption, Pakistan firmly believes that peace with India is not in its interest.” In one go, our ‘educated’ Indian has decided to act as the judge, jury and the executioner.
He represents the educated and informed Indians and is not the mouthpiece of India’s political or military establishment but ironically his views about the past, present and future of Pak-India relations are quite identical to the stereotypical ‘official’ views of the Indian state. The propaganda machine of ‘democratic’ India has proved to be as good as that of ‘authoritarian’ Pakistan. Can there be a meaningful meeting of minds even with educated Indians if this is what their views are about Pakistan and the Pakistani nation. Let the two peoples judge themselves.
The writer is an academic and journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org