By Sapan Kapoor
After the Indian High Commissioner, Dr TCA Raghvan and his wife met the hearing and speech-impaired ‘Hindu’ girl in Karachi, reportedly stuck in Pakistan for 13 long years, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj vowed on Twitter,
“We will bring Geeta back to India.”
“Our High Commissioner believes that Geeta is an Indian,” Swaraj added, while thanking all the wonderful individuals in Pakistan who looked after the wretched girl like their own daughter and sister.
Geeta – whose heartrending story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a character named ‘Munni’ in the Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan – is unable to return home, for she cannot remember or explain where she is actually from.
Geeta has my good wishes.
First of all, it was extremely nice of the minister to take time out of her busy schedule and pay attention to this humanitarian issue, especially at a time when she finds herself in deep water over her alleged help for the tainted former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner, Lalit Modi, in obtaining UK travel documents. The opposition has been relentlessly demanding her resignation for helping a ‘criminal’ with serious charges of money laundering against him, amongst some other names.
But we forget, it was a case involving a ‘Hindu’ girl stuck in Pakistan. I am convinced had it been about a ‘Muslim’ girl stuck in India, the Islamic Republic would have shown the same zeal. Yes, this is what India and Pakistan relation is all about – religion (duh)!
I have a few questions for the honourable minister in this regard.
If the girl stuck in Pakistan were Yasmeen, instead of Geeta, would you have even taken cognisance of the case? Would you still call her an Indian rather than being happy in getting rid of one more Muslim voter?
If only we could once look around the lens of religion, we would find thousands of Yasmeens and Geetas longing to be reunited with their loved ones. This is the tragedy of the Indo-Pak relationship, for oceans of ink could be bled to expound on the damage partition has done to our people.
Think about a well-off, educated Pakistani man who actually contemplated crossing the border illegally to meet his relatives in India after repeated visa rejections by the authorities. He eventually resorted to doing something so desperate, which may have cost him his life also.
Think about those hundreds of unfortunate fishermen who languish in our jails for years for no fault of their own. Ponder over the misery of that Indian-Pakistani woman who could not be with her father in his last moments because her visa was rejected. Think about the thousands of men, women, and children who lost their precious lives in 1947, at the hands of those whose only religion is hate. Think about the plight of Kashmiris.
People, who had been living together as brothers since time immemorial, were divided along the lines of religion by simply drawing a line that ran across their homes, villages, fields, and above all, the hearts of our people. The violence that ensued was unprecedented. Thousands of people were murdered, raped, and forced to flee their lands where they had been living for centuries. We are still paying the price for that madness and reaping the whirlwind.
Who were they to divide a people whom the God had made one?
Today, when we burn in the fire of hatred and fast hurtle down towards mutually assured destruction, my mind dwells upon Mahatma Gandhiji’s message to all of us in his last moments before he was murdered by a Hindu nationalist.
On January 17, 1948, just 13 days before his assassination, during Gandhiji’s fast unto the death at Birla House in Delhi. His condition was deteriorating. During his prayer meeting that evening, he said that the number of telegrams he was receiving was increasing. There were many telegrams from Pakistan too, in fact that day, Gandhiji received a telegram from Karachi. Muslim refugees, who had been driven out of their homes from Delhi, wanted to know if they could now come back to their country India and reoccupy their homes.
“This is the test,” Gandhiji said on reading the telegram, writes Tushar Gandhi, the former’s great grandson in his book, ‘Let’s Kill Gandhi’. His representatives fanned out and distributed copies of the telegram to every Hindu and Sikh refugee camp and explained to the people what they would have to do to make Gandhi break his fast.
The telegrams were good, so far as they went, the author writes. But as their friend and well-wisher, he was bound to tell those who were moulding Pakistan’s destiny, if they failed to see and admit the wrongs for which it was responsible, they would not be able to make that country permanent. He had accepted the Partition as a fait accompli and added that he would not mind India becoming Pakistan if Pakistan meant what its name implied – the land of the pure.
That did not mean he approved of partition or ‘a voluntary reunion’.
“But I wish to remove and resist the idea that Pakistan should be reunited by force of arms. I hope that this will not be misunderstood as a note of discord. Whilst I am lying on what is truly a deathbed, I hope all Pakistanis will realise that I would be untrue to them and to myself if from a sense of weakness and for fear of hurting their feelings, I failed to convey to them what I truthfully feel. If I am wrong … I should be told and, if I am convinced, I promise that I shall retract what I have said here. So far as I know the point is not open to question.”
Sudheendra Kulkarni, a socio-political activist and columnist, during his recent visit to Lahore met a maali (gardener) whilst taking a stroll in the garden. When Mr Kulkarni asked him if he thought that Pakistan should improve its relations with India, the reply was direct and startling.
“Dekhiye, yaa to Hindustan ko Pakistan mein milaa do, nahin to Pakistan ko Hindustan mein mila do. Is batwaare ne bahut nuksaan kiya hai.”
(Look, either merge India into Pakistan or Pakistan into India. This partition has caused a lot of harm.)
I second the benevolent gardener.
For as the hymn goes:
Who is smitten with the arrows of love,
Knows its power
(The author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at sehar-anawakening.blogspot.in/ and tweets as @dRaconteur.)