70 years after partition: Why the Lingering Animosities?
Even though I was born a few years after the partition of India, the carnage, mayhem, and destruction ensued during partition always puzzles me. People coexisted thus far, the people of the same stock and origin, suddenly turned violent for no apparent reason. They turned on each other and annihilated a million of their own brethren. I have difficulty then and now to comprehend the actions or the mindset that triggered such atrocities.
Many things changed in this world since then. Cold War ended, despots displaced, and democracy has extended its wings to many countries. Closed societies are opening up accepting international norms on human rights and gender equality. Wealth, wellness, and education starting to improve steadily across the globe. Advancements in technology increasingly bonding us ever closer, thus, the world is becoming one much faster. Yet, we see old hostilities prompted by cultural hatred, religious biases, and regional differences based on many overt and perceived attributes flare up sporadically across the globe. In spite of many positive changes, the great divide is yet to bridge completely.
The old rivalries, and historical grudges between the two nations, India and Pakistan, continue to remain right above our heads like the Sword of Damocles. Even after generations, the animosities continue to impede friendly, neighbourly relationships. Is it because of pure nationalistic beliefs or the lingering pains of the old wounds that are further inflamed by the rhetoric of fundamentalists? Do religious beliefs play a role in the hate-filled actions?
Even though the fundamentals of all religions are the same, historically religion is the major cause of division in the world. Increasing religious fundamentalism, separatist ideologies, and majority-minority-class issues are kindling a kind of anti-India sentiment among splinter factions with in India and outside. Somehow, we are still carrying forward, certain inhibitions, biases, and misconstrued loyalties. Thus, we are confused about our own coexistence, and allegiances.
Coming back to the question of Pakistan’s negative attitude towards India, I refer to an article, “Why My Father Hated India”, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal (Aatish Taseer, July 16, 2011). As I read the article, I found possible answers to some of my questions. As an Indian living in India and of a prominent Pakistani father, Aatish narrates the conundrum people of Pakistan face after the separation. It is not one feeling; it is the confluence of many deeply entrenched feelings exacerbated by religious, political and other factional ideologies.
The article continues to state, “In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals, and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.”
The above statement also reinforces the notion that people of the same origin would stick together due to the common heritage, and cultural values no matter how isolated and segregated. “Cultural cleansing", however, dictated, is not an easy option. The case of Indian indentured workers who left India in the 1800s and settled down in various parts of the globe solidifies that notion. They, in more ways, try to identify with their Indian heritage than their adopted cultures. Suffice to say; it is not easy to wipe clean the culture we inherited regardless of the place we call home, be it Trichi or Trinidad.
(The author, a technology professional, resides in Toronto, Canada with his family)