By Ayushman Jamwal
India and Pakistan, more than two separate countries with their ups and downs, have an animosity that spans over 60 years. Even as the world has become more connected in the 21st century, when civil rights for minorities have progressed leaps and bounds, where humanity has reaped multiple lines where unity has ceased, our animosity is something akin to a birthright. Our society has paraded and worn this animosity as a badge of honour for decades, fueled by an unending conflict over land.
However, time and providence has already decided the fate of the war.
The fight now is not over anything tangible; it is nothing more than a battle for prestige, where we continue to hold the base, if not barbaric, conscience of linking this animosity with our national pride. We have made it a salient aspect of what makes us Indian or Pakistani, turning it into a glue that unites our citizenry to give respite from the differences within. I reject the notion that I have endowed hate from my forefathers. I reject the premise that barbed wire and angry soldiers make up the giant wall that have divided us for many years. Yet, I do not reject the existence of the demons within our hearts – the fear, doubt and blind faith they possess – and the ease by which they have guided us for decades. The language of our discourse, our news media, popular culture, politics and diplomacy is rooted in this animosity. There is no grand conspiracy for the status quo, there is no cloak and dagger mission to prop up this confrontationist attitude; but, a strange
comfort we have reared over the years, where we have forged the very chains of our hate.
It is easy to brand another country as the ‘other’, a ‘threat’, a race with a ‘savage’ way of life, when the dominant narrative has been no different – when we feel it is beneath us to witness the ways of those who live on the other side of a man-made line, to understand their pain, fear, hopes and dreams. As experience has taught me, it is only when we meet on neutral ground in a foreign land that we end up staring at a mirror – the same language, customs, hopes and aspirations. Yet, the mirror reflects something else we share, the very root of our animosity – our fear.
There is a latent drive within all of us to defend national pride and we fear looking weak, malevolent and unjust. In each others company, discussing the issues within our nations leans towards a tendency to prove one better than the other, the pathology of our forefathers surfacing time and again. Our pride becomes our biggest foe. In this emotional squabble, we refrain from exposing those monsters, that poisonous sentiment and medieval mindset that feed on our insecurities and re-enforce the walls that divide us.
Why do we still struggle with this ‘hate hangover’ which prevents us from discussing the problems in our nations with honesty? Why can’t all Indians and Pakistanis say together that terrorism is a scourge on both sides of the border? Why do we refrain from joining hands to condemn those sinister minds who cause death and destruction in our lands? Why can’t we both admit that corruption, poverty, economic stagnation and communal disharmony are hindering the prosperity of people on both sides with equal effect? Why does our discourse lack the basic understanding that no religion can insulate itself from the evils that run rampant in society? This language must change, something that needs nothing more than conviction to be achieved.
We need to embrace the wisdom, not only to recognize the fear and doubt in our hearts, but garner the resolve to face it. There must be an alternative India-Pakistan narrative to challenge the status quo discourse for legitimacy. The media and civil society of both nations must draw out the liberals and the intellectuals from the two sides, those thinkers with the courage to discuss the state of affairs with honesty and conviction. There is a long list of such people, especially the youth from both sides, who can achieve that, and they must be given the prime platforms. Current India-Pakistan discourse is nothing more than a bar brawl, with open challenges to war. It is not reflective of an enlightened polity, and it cannot be when the fourth estate only features hawks – who are not interested in specific issues and socio-political contexts, but are simply there to uphold an aggressive stance.
It is a huge disservice to our society if our fourth estate, our righteous watchdogs relish promoting such a discourse.
Something as salient as the dialogue surrounding India-Pakistan ties needs to transcend the current avatar of a reality TV show to a serious discussion between those who believe that war, aggression, intimidation and hate have done nothing do bolster the lives of people on both sides. An alternative narrative can help change people’s minds and enlighten hearts. An honest discussion of the social and economic problems, the dogma and apathy in India and Pakistan, an admission of the malaise within both our societies is essential to open the eyes of the citizenry to the truth that our worlds and the evils that abound are not that different from each other. We must unleash the narrative that we face the same monsters at our doors and in our selves. We must understand that we are united in our anger, our despair and our fear, but we are also united in our hope and our courage to eradicate evil.
The first step needs to be to sideline the loud and ever-present discourse that loathes and targets our people for the fear and doubt that rests in all humans. We must seize the opportunity to sow that seed, and, through hard work and faith, facilitate the blossoming of a more harmonious bond for future generations. All we need is our resolve, to understand the prosperity, fulfillment and service to humanity when we tread the road to peace.
Many may call me a fool for holding on to my optimism, as our soldiers continue to die at the line of control and civilians face the blind fury of terrorism. But as a student of history, I have seen that peace and love has always persevered and overcome the trials and tribulations posed by the darkness of humanity. It may not be in my lifetime, but I have no doubt that it is the destiny of all Indians and Pakistanis to live together as friends in an environment of peace and harmony. Politics and Religion will try and stop us, lives will be lost, and we will be scarred with hatred. Nonetheless, I continue to hold on to the faith that we will limp and even drag ourselves to this destiny as our humanity will always prevail. We must carry a resolve in our hearts – those who seek to divide and break us will never rest – and neither should we.