The recent Uri attack and the ‘surgical’ strikes have resulted in all sorts of scalpels being sharpened on both sides of the border. I will start off by saying that I find war and its close relatives (terror attacks, suicide bombers, infiltration et al) an infinite waste of everything possible: lifetimes, lives, time, money, common sense, and which give vent to demonstrations of severe immaturity and a childishness that is breathtaking in its peevishness. This last is best illustrated by the strident voices in India asking Pakistani artistes to condemn the terrorist attacks against Indian army camps or else leave, and their counterparts in Pakistan banning Indian films and TV shows.
Where will it all end? Can someone ask Pakistanis who have Indian relatives, even parents, in India, and vice -versa to start condemning each other? Will Pakistani nationals working in Indian multinationals abroad (I am sure there will be some somewhere) have to do the same?
I wonder that were there upside-down world, and had there been a similar but vice-versa situation, would Indian artists working in Pakistan condemn India’s acts of complicity? I don’t think so because like all of us, we would fear the backlash which could be brutal. In any case, how can a citizen with no control over the army or the government be in any way responsible for their actions?
But how is this state of affairs possible? Mainly because we are a subcontinent of soft targets, and the more high-profile they are, the better. The rule and writ of law is undermined by the sheer pressure of numbers because about 20% of the world’s population lives in approximately 3.5% of the world’s land surface area. The system cannot keep pace or keep the peace. In both countries, therefore, there is disrespect for decency, decorum, and discipline. The law is like traffic lights that work intermittently, and even when they do they are ignored.
The ‘feudocracy’ that is prevalent on both sides of the Indo-Pak border has led to a mai-baap ethos which in turn has led to people practicing all possible misdemeanours with the almost certain assurance that the law, if at all it catches up, will be like the cops in a Hindi film, late, mostly ludicrous and ineffective, because of the power of the hand (political/bureaucratic/social/religious) that shields them.
A mai-baap society thrives only when and because the people have no faith in the governance of the land, which simply means that they do not believe everyone is equal before the law.
There are innumerable instances of politicians and their kin beating up, maiming and even killing citizens who had, for example, the temerity to overtake their cavalcades or refuse to serve them a drink because the bar was closed.
Mobs have killed people just for being of a different caste; politicians have openly condoned rape (one of the senior-most politicians of Uttar Pradesh said “boys will be boys” when asked about youth rapists from his state…and nothing happened. There was the usual news TV ranting, but was he admonished by the law? No. Imagine a senator in the US saying something like that and getting away scot-free.
And in Mumbai, local political parties have initiated and encouraged the beating up and intimidation of taxi drivers because most of them come from other states in India. In fact, they started a movement to exile them from Mumbai…so what price Pakistani artistes pay? When citizens of a country engage in force against their own, and this happens in both our countries, then violent xenophobia and jingoism is but a short step behind.
So to come back to where we started, why does all this happen with impunity? Because taxi drivers, ‘lower’ castes, schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistani artistes and suchlike are all soft targets.
They cannot raise a voice against their oppressors because they will shoot first and be asked questions much, much later…if at all. As an aside, anyone who can murder schoolchildren in the name of religion shows how low the human race has stooped in our part of the world.
As Samuel Johnson said with great perspicacity way back in 1775, “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels”. 240 years later, on both sides of the border, this sadly holds true. And where can such elements find their expression of patriotism…why, against the soft targets of course! How else can anyone prove he is holier than thou?
Today I feel that we tolerate all the things we shouldn’t and are intolerant about all the things we should tolerate. Many of the loud voices we hear today sanctimoniously asking for Pakistani artists to be banned did not and do not speak up against all intolerance as they should.
But it is also clear that the anti-India ‘brigades’ (I use the word advisedly) in Pakistan bear the responsibility for this state of affairs. When internationally designated terrorists roam free, there is a visible and real problem. When investigations into terrorist crimes in which innocent lives are lost are delayed beyond any reasonable time frame, there is real and understandable anguish.
The common excuse of ‘non-state actors’ performing such deeds is completely disingenuous for the simple reason that terror killings are not ‘acting’: the blood and deaths are real. In fact, as delicious irony, the real non-state actors are the Pakistani artists, aren’t they?
I read today about the Indian Home Minister saying that the border would be sealed by 2018. How tragic we all have become. When Europe has become a Common Market with open borders despite the worst war in history being fought only 75 years ago, when the Berlin Wall could be broken, when the internet and mobile communications are eliminating all boundaries, it is the curse and the cross we have to bear in the subcontinent that we are determinedly going backwards.
Good people everywhere must question why we are regressing and it is interesting to note similar views on this from two historical polar opposites. Napoleon said, “The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of the good people.”
And Martin Luther King Jr said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Why don’t artists everywhere, Indian and international, including those from Pakistan, especially those who have built much of their stardom in India, make a start by condemning terror wherever it may happen?
A united stand in some form would surely be hugely inspirational and impactful. That would indeed take the wind out of many people’s sails and perhaps steer the subcontinental ship in a new, positive direction.
Finally, the words of poet Sahir Ludhianvi from the film Pyaasa made way back in 1957 echo in my mind, for when he said “Yeh duniya mil bhi jaaye to kya hai…” he summed up the futility and meaninglessness of conflict, whether personal or national.
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CEO, Igniva Consulting India (www.ignivaconsulting.com)
Managing Partner, South Asia & Africa, Results International Group (www.resultsig.com)
Regional Director, South West Asia, APRAIS Worldwide (www.aprais.com)
Mr Gupta is also a writer having penned down his 23-year journey in the word of advertising in his book ‘Living on the “adge” in Jhande Walan Thompson’. He is also a sports commentator and actor.