Young Minds, Old Hatreds

F S Aijazzuddin, Principal Aitchison College, Lahore, wrote the following in February 2009 after a speech to 500 young Aitchisonians by the then outgoing Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan

It was a fitting occasion for a farewell speech. The setting was a 122-year-old college for boys, established in Lahore at a time when the British intended to rule forever and to use the princes of the Punjab to perpetuate that rule. The speaker was the Indian High Commissioner, making his last formal speech in Pakistan before relinquishing charge.

The parallel that came to mind was of an Indian Socrates bidding farewell to the youth of Pakistan. On 5 February, the outgoing High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal addressed about 500 pupils of Aitchison College, Lahore. That it was coincidentally Kashmir Day [a holiday declared by the Government of Pakistan to express a nation-wide solidarity with the Kashmiris] was not lost either on the speaker or on his audience. Had there been anyone else, anyone other than such a consummate diplomat, there could have been tensions. Instead, the session ended on a remarkably positive note. The conclusion was not to agree to disagree; it was that disagreements are no longer valid currency.

The High Commissioner talked about a shared history, the Muslim contribution to the kaleidoscopic identity of India, of the technological leap India has made, and the positivity generated by the Confidence Building Measures that both countries had achieved so painstakingly.

But India was hurt, he said. More in sorrow than in anger, he recounted the trauma that the Indian public had suffered after the Mumbai attacks. He did not hold Pakistan as a state responsible for the attacks, but he said the evidence was irrefutable and compelling that the Mumbai terrorists had come from Pakistan. If the High Commissioner did make a slip during his mellifluously persuasive explanation of his country’s position, it was when he said that Kasab and his companions “had been sent by Pakistan”, rather than they had “come from Pakistan”.

To the teenage audience seated before him, the High Commissioner represented a country their textbooks vilified. They were too young to fight certainly either on behalf of their own country or on behalf of Kashmir, but they used their claws as would have the lion cubs in a lair into which a Daniel had entered.

The Q&A session that followed the High Commissioner’s speech was an insight into the minds of the yet-to-be informed. They questioned India’s assertion that it wanted peace in the region. They cited the attitude of the press that fomented anti-Pakistan rhetoric. The wondered aloud why a 61-year-old problem like Kashmir could be blamed entirely on Pakistan. Wasn’t part of the blame attributable to Indian intransigence? The session ended on a mutually reassuring note of optimism. Both sides wanted peace, not war. War, the High Commissioner agreed, was not an option. It became even less of an option when one recognised that both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers, with the ability to annihilate each other. Nuclear holocausts are easier for diplomats to envision; students on the threshold of their futures find the prospect of evaporation in a nuclear attack more difficult to accept.

The last word belonged to a young student who had just returned after attending a scientific competition in Gurgaon. He had spent five days interacting with Indian students of his own age. He had travelled in the Metro, eaten in Paratha Galli, visited the shrines, explored the temples, been to Indira Gandhi’s house in Safdarganj Road, visited Rashtrapati Bhavan, done all the sights, but finally was undone by the level of hostility he encountered, springing from the page of every Indian newspaper. He was too young and too green to comprehend the word “jingoism”, but he could see it being manifest, and it made him uncomfortable and vulnerable.

There should be more exchanges at the student level, it was agreed. Five, at least from each side, visiting their counterparts for a week, or better still a fortnight at a time. One was reminded of a proposal made some years ago for a Chair in Pakistan studies to be endowed at an Indian university, and vice versa. To be truly beneficial, it was suggested that a Pakistani should teach Pakistan studies to Indian students, and vice versa. Sadly, it was not accepted. Pity. It would have concentrated their minds wonderfully, knowing that they could be annihilated in a fortnight.

38 Comments

Filed under Children, Education, India, Pakistan, Partition, Terrorism

38 responses to “Young Minds, Old Hatreds

  1. Milind Kher

    The tragedy with Pakistan is that the face of Pakistan to the world is JI, TTP, JeM, JeM (a.k.a. JUD) and other such organizations.

    Most people in India just do not buy the concept that there are people in Pakistan who love culture, fine arts and peace. For this, Pakistan will have to do some major media ops and PR

  2. Luq

    @MK
    Pakistan is doing its bit to root out those organizations and soon it *will* overcome those nuts with a few more sacrifices.

    The Indians OTOH have their own fascists in the form of the sangh parivar. Nothing is being done to check them. There are having a free run. In the foreseeable future there is no program to flush out the sangh terrorists.

    In that way dont you think India is in a greater danger? The problem gets compounded when you bring the maoists too in the picture.

    Luq

  3. Vajra

    @Luq

    Excellent observations.

  4. Hayyer

    Luq:
    The fascist Sangh parivar can function legally as long as it does not indulge in violence or break the law. Unfortunately one of its limbs the Shiv Sena does precisely as it likes in Bombay but the state responds only with feeble counters. Here it is not the Union Government but the State Government that is responsible for letting those thugs run riot. A revival of the provisions in the Penal Code to whip offenders would set the Thackerays right.

  5. mohammad

    Given the very nature of our problems including kashmir issue it will take decades if not many life times till we get to viable resolutions. Cultural exchanges are needed when vox pop in pakistan takes indian society as lewd and a bit alien, wrongly based on their exposure to bollywood alone. In near future if we sort out our economies that will be a quantum leap towards good relations.

  6. Hayyer

    Bollywood takes its cue from Hollywood and India takes its cue from Bollywood. While India is not Bollywood there are many in the metros who believe that city is New York.

  7. Hayyer

    their city not that city.

  8. Luq

    >In near future if we sort out our economies that
    >will be a quantum leap towards good relations.

    Economic growth doesn’t discriminate between the needy and the crooks. Both benefit in equal measure. The fascists will use the benefits of good economy to further their cause of spreading more hatred. They are simply hungry for power.

    Coming back to what you actually meant … sorting out our economies will indeed improve relations between the two countries. But the govts are so preoccupied with fighting the terrorists that expecting them to do much about improving the economy is at the moment not going to materialize, unless of course the load is shared by everyone, every citizen.

    The funding for terror operations has to be stopped first and foremost. I wonder where they get the huge amount of funds to carry on with it.

    Once the low intensity war with India by whoever is involved, there is less reason for any hostility from India and relations will improve is less time than is being thought possible. In fact after the mumbai attacks other than elaborate breast-beating /rona-dhona what else has India done? leave alone, being aggressive.

    The mumbai attacks themselves didn’t achieve much IMHO. It was but a pinprick, when you compare the sheer size of India.

    >The fascist Sangh parivar can function legally as
    >long as it does not indulge in violence or break
    >the law. Unfortunately one of its limbs the Shiv
    >Sena does precisely as it likes in Bombay but the
    >state responds only with feeble counters.

    The sangh parivar is functioning legally even after breaking the law.

    Shiv sena’s actions are small compared to the crimes of Modi and Advani and the RSS (gujarat and ayodhya movement). And the fact that they are getting away with it inspite of the legal system being in place is frustrating to say the least.

    One can only hope that the next generation refuses to get brainwashed by the hate mongering, follow a very liberal form of their religion (or not at all) and above all get *educated* in the true sense of the term.

    Luq

  9. Luq

    correction……
    low intensity war with India by whoever is involved, *stops*……..

    Luq

  10. Hum

    Luq, Apropos your worry about RSS – India voted for a person named Vajpayee and not RSS. The RSS backed BJP is dying a quick political death, and RSS et al will exist in very near future in some remote corner of Maharastra as it did for decades. They have never been able takeover vast regions remotely comparable to FATA. The BJP had their time democratically not by using rocket launchers. You might agree that there *is* some difference.

  11. Hum

    About the pet hate MODI on this site, it should suffice to say that one should compare the pre and post riots records of communal violence in Gujrat. The state which saw very frequent communal riots has seen rapid growth in prosperity. That does not look like a coincidence. Mass execution of a particular community was not the right way of going about it, right? What exactly is Pakistan army doing in FATA? Killing a section of it’s own population which has been causing immense problems right? So where is the difference? Should we have waited for a taliban/Maoist to happen? Okay, I am through, now you can start spilling your verbal diarrohia here (-;

  12. Luq

    @hum
    >India voted for a person named Vajpayee
    >and not RSS

    Not all Indians feel the way you do. It is a fact that the RSS’s front organization, the BJP got to power by crook and by hook. Some were conned off their votes by the promise of a Ram Mandir, some were shows Vajpayee’s face and so on and so forth. At that particular juncture the hindu right wing was riding on the mandir wave. The support was at its highest.

    >The RSS backed BJP is dying a quick political
    >death, and RSS et al will exist in very near future
    >in some remote corner of Maharastra as it did >for decades.

    Dying is not quite the same as dead.
    And in your own words “will exist” will mean they will be active – not idle or inactive. It will keep trying and harder each time.

    >They have never been able takeover vast
    >regions remotely comparable to FATA.

    Why take over militarily when its coming legally via elections……don’t you agree?

    > The BJP had their time democratically
    >not by using rocket launchers.
    >You might agree that there *is* some difference.

    It would be naive to believe your argument since…

    1. Fascists start by taking control gradually by leagal political means.

    2. Mass murder example gujarat did not need RPGs, the crude methods were clear enough.

    3. That they will not hesitate to use rocket launchers is obvious -> Colonel Purohit, etc. The moment they start using more violent means, their political future will become zero. But they will not hesitate if the need arose.

    >About the pet hate MODI on this site, it should
    >suffice to say that one should compare the pre
    >and post riots records of communal violence in
    >Gujrat.

    Suffice? How?

    After the massacre of the muslims (a small fact) that there has been no repeat performances is itself used to argue that they (modi and co) have been/become saints, enough to let them get away with the murders.

    >The state which saw very frequent communal >riots has seen rapid growth in prosperity.
    >That does not look like a coincidence.

    Care to tell me how the two are related?

    >Should we have waited for a taliban/Maoist to happen?

    You already have the RSS which is no less than Taliban.

    Luq

    Luq

  13. Vajra

    @Luq

    Why are you wasting time and effort on vermin? Please don’t respond to such fly-by correspondents. It is distracting and inappropriate.

  14. D_a_n

    @ hum

    ho hum!!!!

  15. bushra naqi

    It is true that we are fighting militancy today with determination because we realize it has the potential to destroy us. But what are we doing to eliminate extremism which is festering today and will explode in our faces tomorrow.

    We have never nipped a problem in the bud and keep hoping and waiting till it explodes.

    What are we doing to teach children to be moderate and liberal in their views on religion, ethics, gender and social values etc.etc.? No we are doing nothing!
    Todays average youngster is far more bigoted than its previous generation. What we are sowing today we shall have to reap tomorrow.

    In todays global order of globalization only the broadminded, tolerant, and outward looking…I mean looking beyond ones own borders…can flourish and survive.

  16. Vajra

    @bushra naqi

    Just to add to your stress levels, there are responsible people who contribute to these columns who think it is a good idea to continue the old hatreds as it will charge up the Army to beat the Taliban and the TTP. So teaching them that Indians are behind the T-men is the thing to do, it gets their adrenaline up.

    What chance do we have?

  17. “The tragedy with Pakistan is that the face of Pakistan to the world is JI, TTP, JeM, JeM (a.k.a. JUD) and other such organizations.
    Most people in India just do not buy the concept that there are people in Pakistan who love culture, fine arts and peace. For this, Pakistan will have to do some major media ops and PR…”

    Its ridiculous to say this in this global Villa….
    While watching Indian channels or bollywood movies Indian show of Nationalism just irritates me as it seems the same as JI and mullahs dont leave any occassion from funeral to the wedding ceremonies for propagating their views…..Anti Pakistan attitudes are an integral part of Raam-Raawan episode……After all they should have reason for Akash and Agnis

  18. Hayyer

    Hum:
    “The state which saw very frequent communal riots has seen rapid growth in prosperity. That does not look like a coincidence. Mass execution of a particular community was not the right way of going about it, right?”
    What exactly are you saying? That prosperity excuses mass murder, even if it was not the right way to bring prosperity? Or that communal riots have stopped because there is prosperity?
    “What exactly is Pakistan army doing in FATA? Killing a section of it’s own population which has been causing immense problems right? So where is the difference? Should we have waited for a taliban/Maoist to happen?”
    Do you mean that there is no difference between Modi’s pogrom against Muslims and the Pak Army’s battle against a rebellious TTP? Should who have waited for a Taliban/ Maoist to happen? Modi or the PA? Please explain if you were expecting the arrival of the Taliban or the Maoists? Do you believe that by encouraging the massacre of innocent Muslims Modi has frightened off the Taliban, if not the Maoists?

  19. Punjabi

    Lets stop pretending that both sides want peace. they don’t. What they want is to win against the other, to cement the superiority of their national philosophy versus the other’s.

    I am one of those secularists. I wouldn’t agree to concede anything to the islamists or the hindutva types, not unless the concession gets in return the end of religious nationalism on the subcontinent. Any peace that rewards the dominance of religious nationalism on the subcontinent is not acceptable. I am not flexible on that point. Pakistanis are not flexible on their islamist nationalism. The jan sanghis are not flexible on hindutva. The Indian secular nationalist isn’t ready to concede anything to the religious nationalism of Pakistan.

    So who here wants peace enough to give up what they want? Nobody, except the apologists for one group or another.

  20. mohammad

    I apologise in advance if I seem a bit naif, what this business of RSS has to do with matters of contention like kashmir or water distribution. I do not think sectarian tension in india will spill over in pakistan, simply because of demographic realities. Over in sindh where we have a composit hindu muslim society, people are highly tolerant given to their sufi traditions stretching back more than a thousand year.

  21. Vajra

    @Punjabi

    Yes, that is true. Peace at any price is no peace at all. Unless and until we get guaranteed end of religious nationalism in the sub-continent, there won’t be peace. That doesn’t equate to some kind of territorial re-structuring or re-thinking partition or anything remotely like that. It merely means the leaching out of overt religiosity from our constitutional structures and processes – on both sides. It is not as difficult of achievement as any other arrangement which creates a foundation for peace (a peace which permits Hindutva and Islamic nationalism is not a peace). I am sure that giving this core principle away means a hollow arrangement, which will not last. Regarding how to achieve that, it is a matter for consideration by the best minds on both sides, and will take years of thinking. It is unlikely to be resolved in this forum, by any of us. But what we can say with confidence is that the Pakistanis will have to work on restructuring themselves as a secular democracy of largely Muslim citizens, while the Indians will have to work on refining their social structure to allow more space to the disenfranchised of the ages, the lower castes and the tribals, both of the forest as of the mountains, with some recognition of Dravidian pride along the way.

    @Mohammad

    We can’t discuss things logically as long as there are bigots and fascists on both sides, and the totally tainted elements with a vested interest in violence on one side. We have to remove them, each of us from our own side, before we can have reasonable dialogues which lead to settlement. We can’t do it for you, you can’t do it for us. All we can do is encourage each other in our efforts.

    That is what I thought this blog was about.

  22. Bloody Civilian

    @Punjabi

    I am one of those secularists.

    full stop? what does “those” mean here? what is it supposed to mean? you are one of what kind/group/[other] of secularists? kindly clarify.

  23. Hossp

    It is sad to see that every discussion about India and Pak relations veers to exchanging barbs about RSS and the terrorists.

    I just don’t know what the point of discussion is when it can’t go beyond the two issues that are mostly temporary in nature. I have been guilty of that too in the past and I think no matter how well meaning some of us are, we all are unable to see beyond the current problems.

    Indian and Pakistani diplomats are human like us and they too, despite a slightly better picture that they have about the issues, often argue like we do on many forums.

    The communalism in India and the jihadist in Pakistan were minor issues just twenty to thirty years ago but the relations between the two countries were still poor. Pakistan and India did not have diplomatic relations for a long period of time in the sixties and seventies.

    People often talk about the root causes but the real root cause is: both the governments and to some extent the people too are not ready for better relations, and they are not ready for the last sixty years.

    In today’s world, without an active desire to have better relations at the highest levels in governments, it is not possible to motive people to improve relations.

    Better relations with India are certainly in Pakistan’s interest but looking at it from a Pakistani point of view: how you can get assurances from India that its desire to be the regional power will not have an adverse impact on Pakistan. India obviously is not willing to even discuss this point whereas Pakistani are not willing to move forward before they get some guarantees that India will not develop some aspirations for regional hegemony that could impact Pakistan’s national interests adversely. Without any substantial good will shown by India, it would be hard for Pakistan to not be hostile and not take stabs at India.

    So chances are India and Pakistan relations would remain where they are for the next five or ten years or until the situation on Pakistan’s western borders stabilizes.

  24. punjabi

    @bloody civilian

    My apologies, it was bad editing on my part. I should have deleted “those” when I deleted the context setting sentence that was irrelevant to what I was saying.

    It was a reference to the Indian secularists who draw rich scorn from the subcontinent’s religious nationalists (both Hindu and Muslim) as well as JNU type Indian lefties. I meant “I am one of those”. An irrelevance.

  25. Bloody Civilian

    thanks, Punjabi. “Indian secularists” and “subcontinent’s religious nationalists”. understood, sir.

  26. punjabi

    “Without any substantial good will shown by India, it would be hard for Pakistan to not be hostile and not take stabs at India. ”

    A specious and vaguely circular argument. It puts the burden of pakistan’s behavior on India’s shoulders, while sidestepping the possibility of Pakistan taking the initiative to sue for peace.

    India could prove its good will. or pakistan could take action to invite such good will.

  27. Bloody Civilian

    hossp

    what Punjabi has referred to, is indeed a ‘hor choopo gunnay’ argument, really. what guarantees? in what shape and form? either it is in pakistan’s interest, and in her estimation in india’s interest too, to have good relations.. or it is not. if such relations are to be built, it can only ever be one brick at a time. somewhere along the way the conditions you wish to set will be arrived at, and the journey can continue. or it can continue until it arrives at that juncture, and then carry on past and beyond it. or it can be abandoned. but this is not about finding an answer to united india’s constituitonal problem at the eve of british rule, where the brits decided the deadline and therefore the pace of events. this is int’l diplomacy and co-operation or lack thereof between two sovereign states which happen to be and shall remain neighbours as long as they exist.

  28. Bloody Civilian

    India could prove its good will. or pakistan could take action to invite such good will.

    is, of course, equally circular. perhaps, deliberately so.

  29. Punjabi

    indeed.

    and thats what I mean when I say that no one wants peace despite emollients to the contrary.

    Everybody could do something of their own accord to show good will. But they don’t. they make self-righteous demands of others of what they must do, and so put the responsibility for peace on everybody else, except themselves.

    There is no peace on the subcontinent because no one believes that compromise will bring them the sort of peace they would want to live with. And that goes to the question of what sort of peace each of the parties want to live with. THAT is the conflict.

  30. Bloody Civilian

    Punjabi

    you do like making big, bold strokes with the heavy brush you like to use. of course, there are many advantages to that approach. someone has to make a start somewhere, i guess… but the real gem i shall hold on to, for it is bound to amuse me for long, and show me my place, is, of course: “Indian” secularists and “subcontinent’s” religious nationalists🙂

  31. Punjabi

    The blog posted a broad statement “Both sides want peace, not war” but an equally broad response is mocked for being too broad brush.

    Well, it is true that I tend to try to aggregate and simplify opinions and positions so that my simple mind can understand and handle them.

    I would be deeply embarrassed at the rebuke I’ve been handed if I thought that understanding and resolution on the subcontinent depended upon the microscopic, supposedly nuanced, analysis the esteemed commentators engage in so robustly.

  32. Bloody Civilian

    Paaji, tussi khush rao, saaddi khair ae😉

  33. Milind Kher

    @Luq,

    We slapped those fascist nut jobs on the face big time during the elections.

    The next step is to book the guys guilty of rioting. This will help big time.

  34. Milind Kher

    @Hossp,

    The barbs exchanged are really sad. This is genuinely a time for all secular and moderate forces to combine.

    Before I do any finger pointing at Pakistan, I believe that those guilty of the Babri Masjid incident, the riots thereafter and the Gujarat riots need to be given exemplary punishment.

    That being said, I am sure that the rank and file of Pakistanis is also getting together against their own monsters.

  35. Hossp

    punjabi
    November 22, 2009 at 6:15 am
    “A specious and vaguely circular argument. It puts the burden of pakistan’s behavior on India’s shoulders, while sidestepping the possibility of Pakistan taking the initiative to sue for peace.”

    Anything taken out of context would look specious and circular logic. And the context was Indian desire to be the regional power in the area and Pakistan has many issues with that. After reading your previous post about some secularism that forbids you to talk to religious nationalist, I am sure my logic was way above your level of understanding.

    Bloody Civilian

    November 22, 2009 at 6:34 am
    “what guarantees? in what shape and form? either it is in pakistan’s interest, and in her estimation in india’s interest too, to have good relations.. or it is not.”

    “Guarantees” is not the best word but something along the lines of a no war pact or an agreement that both armies would stay away from the borders or even an agreement for some mediation mechanism.
    Good relations always are helpful but it is not a priority at this time. So just acknowledging that good relations are in mutual interests is not good enough. To have good relations, obviously, some efforts have to be made on both sides to bring down some of the misgiving or uncertainties over the other country’s ambition. As I wrote in my previous post, without first removing the fears of Indian hegemony, I don’t see any chance of better relations between the two countries, at least not in the near future.

    “if such relations are to be built, it can only ever be one brick at a time. somewhere along the way the conditions you wish to set will be arrived at, and the journey can continue. ”

    Well this approach is always right in normal situations. What we are dealing with is a failure of the Baby steps strategy that you visualize.
    Many baby steps have been taken in the past but before they mature, something cuts the cord and then we start all over again.

    I don’t think this strategy would work again. Pakistan and India will have to sit down and try and hammer out big agreements. Conditions don’t favor that big bang approach right now. So the best way is to step back, take a deep breath and may be wait another ten years to come back to the table.

    Both countries have strong cultural ties. Mumbai is the cultural capital of Pakistan too. So if both countries just stick with cultural ties at this time, they have a good chance of moving forward on political issues in the next ten years or so.

  36. Punjabi

    my, what big egos we have here! If I don’t buy your logic its because my intelligence is too low to understand it!

    Firstly, “fears of Indian hegemony “is such a vague and broad notion. Precisely what is it that will assuage pakistani fears of indian hegemony?

    Secondly, the opposite can argued. “Without first removing Indian fears of pakistan’s eternal enmity towards India, there is no chance for better relations”

    Either side can argue that first THEIR fears/concerns be addressed, vague and broad as they are.

  37. Bloody Civilian

    hossp

    perhaps you do have a point in terms of baby steps not being capable of collecting momentum to get the ball rolling, given the inertia/baggage/dead weight/quagmire.

    btw, the sharif-vajpai baby step in lahore failing in a matter of 3 months was bad even for a baby step. whether it was a bad political decision on sharif’s part, or extremely poor military analysis on the part of the army.. or something much worse, is another debate. a lay person like me, can only come to a crude, balance of probability, conclusion about the whole affair.

    Punjabi

    what do you expect from us – your subcontinent’s quitessential religious nationalists – if not big egoes, at the very least?

  38. Milind Kher

    A common enemy, and especially one as vicious as the Taliban could be a great unifying factor.

    This could catalyze, if the political will is there, on either side, not just baby steps but giant ones. The faster India and Pakistan get on the same page, the better it is for peace in the region.