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Needless controversy

February 21, 2019

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JINGOISM and nationalistic hysteria can find sinister designs in even the most innocent of actions. This unfortunate tendency is illustrated by recent events surrounding the Mama Baby Care School in Karachi against the backdrop of the Pulwama attack in India-held Kashmir. A rumour that the school had played the Indian national anthem and that some of its students danced to it, created a furore on social media. The directorate of private institutions in Sindh promptly suspended the school’s registration without giving it a chance to respond to its show-cause notice. It turned out that the school had organised an open day which aimed to educate the students about the cultures of different countries, one of which was India. And the ‘anthem’ was actually a popular Bollywood song — of the sort that are so popular at wedding functions in this country. A report in this paper on Tuesday quoted the school principal as saying that well-known aspects of each country were showcased on the occasion; for India these being the Taj Mahal and its sports and film stars.

It is lamentable that we seem to have reduced ourselves to competing with India to see who can outdo the other in pettiness. Just a few days ago, cricket clubs across India reportedly took down portraits of Imran Khan. Does that change the reality that Mr Khan is considered one of the best cricketers in the world? In the same vein, should we keep our children ignorant of a culture practised by over a billion people? Is that not a disservice to our younger generation? Good sense should be able to distinguish between unpatriotic behaviour and the imparting of knowledge, or in competing in sporting events against each other. While this incident pales in comparison to the frenzied sabre-rattling across the border, it is nevertheless an overreaction. The Indian state’s brutal oppression of the Kashmiri people is a fact; a school trying to give its students a well-rounded education should not become collateral damage.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2019