When I was born in the mid-1960s and was growing up in the 1970s in an independent Bangladesh, our parents were telling us stories about how the then West Pakistani rulers, after the partition in 1947, were depriving the country’s eastern wing as well as repressing the people of then East Pakistan.
We used to ask them about the east and the west. They facilely used to respond to us, saying that it was a long story of repression.
At the same time, as they told us the narratives of Bangladesh’s independence, they also narrated stories of how the British had divided one country in 1947, resulting in a saga of enmities. As we grew up, we saw their enmity grow further. With awe, we observed that there were absolutely no signs in the behaviour of these two countries that just a few decades ago, had been one country, one nation.
I myself have been watching their enmity for the last five decades. It’s absolutely OK with me to accept them as two countries, but it’s hard to accept how they built up themselves as arch-rivals in everything. They had stepped into the British trap called Partition, and since then have only emitted hatred against each other. Since then, they have been telling stories of hatred.
There were, and still are, only a few people who tried to tell the stories of one nation in order to increase people-to-people contact between the two countries. A few in both the countries tried to tell the stories of how they were divided, but they never told the tales of Partition together.
If they could have written the stories together, the situation between them would have been much better now.
They fail to understand that their war is a myth. The war between them is not only unfeasible and undesirable, but it is also economically impossible. The governments as well as the media of both the countries seem at war; they seem to sell conflict and war rhetoric more than they disseminate peace. We don’t see any mutual respect for each other.
This is where writing Partition narratives together might work in order to bring back memories of togetherness.
There are serious trade issues that are preventing them from doing business together. Not resolving the trade issues is also a way of depriving the people of the two countries; they are indeed being deprived of using goods and products that are being manufactured in both countries.
Another way of depriving the people is not to play cricket together. The game of cricket, although a British legacy, had played a major role in recreating the lost bond between many countries. India and Pakistan should also start playing each other — if not in their own countries, in a separate country. For example, Bangladeshi venues could be an excellent destination for their cricket teams. Hockey is another sport they are both good at.
As I was watching their politicians and their media, it became clear to me that they were trying to impress their respective populations with hatred against each other. On the other hand, the politicians are far from trying to solve the real problems.
Problems in these two countries are more or less the same. Illiteracy, poverty, diseases, water crises — there are so many common issues irking the lives of the people in these two countries.
Their governments should allow their civil society to mingle with each other in order reduce their gaps; the civic bodies have done some great work over the decades for keeping the commonalities alive among the minds of the two populations.
In the current situation, none of the countries has put the people’s interests first. As both Delhi and Islamabad are taking credit in blazing their guns, it is the people along the border that are suffering. There should be meaningful and honest effort for solving their border crises. The border issues cannot continue.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.
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