Monday, January 12, 2009

A Tale of One Nation

Yesterday, during a meeting, the song “saare jahan se accha” came up. Since Iqbal, the poet had migrated to Pakistan during the partition, Mr. X saw it fit to change the lyrics of the song to “prano se priya yeh bhu hai”. Lyrics can be changed, but does it diminish the composition? If Iqbal's migration is so hateful an act, shouldn’t the song be banished from our consciousness never to be sung in India? With the wounds of Taj still sore in our memories, Indo-Pakistan relations are in the doldrums. Terrorism fueled by religious fundamentalism and with its base in the extremist factions of Pakistan has afflicted us for long. Even through all this the governments on both sides must remember that we are still one people who share a story stretching more than five millennia.

If fundamentalism in Pakistan is to blame for terrorism, we also have our own brand of Hindu extremists. While India is potrayed as a meddling bully in Pakistan, Indian media does no better in the prejudice with which Pakistan is potrayed. Sixty two years ago we parted ways. We have been at loggerheads ever since. People on both sides witnessed the carnage that followed the birth of the two nations, one born out of religion and baptised in the blood of those who migrated to fill it, the other with secularism as its ideal and divided as the people that call it home.

Though Islamic in character, Jinnah viewed Pakistan as a state where all citizens were equal. No contradiction was admitted in the political apparatus of a democratic state. However, under General Zia, the state’s ideology was subverted and Pakistan acquired the ideology of a theocratic state. After nearly half a century of independence, Pakistan does not have the appearance of a country that was envisaged by the nation's creators. Religion has come to be accepted as the ideology of today's Pakistan. India was founded on more secular grounds with freedom and equality promised to all. Democracy here has somehow managed to survive inspite of various insidious elements, the events of 1975-77, the only blip.

India has to deal with terrorists in the North-East and the “Pakistan backed” ones operating all over the country. While Pakistan also has to contend with taliban backed mujahedin who view Paksitani suppport of the US war on terror as blasphemy. The two neighbours have to forget their differences and stand on some common ground if they are to grow. The constant military confrontation does not do anyone good and results in a drain of funds which can find better utility in both countries. History sometimes happens in ways that is not willed by its main participants. Over 60 years, 3 wars and nuclear wepons later, India and Pakistan have not become the friends Jinnah and Gandhi hoped. But when the dust settles, that day surely, will come.

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