NON-FICTION: Bridging the gap

Published January 17, 2010

The partition of India and Pakistan will remain a live subject as long as there is tension between the two countries which is sometimes on hype and other times at a low; at times raising the fear of a nuclear warfare while sometimes reining in the madness and emphasising the need to lasting peace.

The book under review is an attempt to cool down the heated atmosphere and find a way for the two nations to live in peace and work for prosperity. If one were to analyse the research conducted since partition to date, they will find that the wounds that were inflicted during the mass migration are still raw and vested interests are hell-bent to reap the crop of hatred and animosity. This is a dangerous trend which will not only affect India and Pakistan, but also destabilise the whole region.

The authors of the book have therefore emphasised the need to look at the positive side of the events in order to heal the wounds. Though there were rapes, abductions and murders of the innocents, there were also numerous instances of when humanity prevailed over the insanity.

People rescued their neighbours, protected the honour of women and guarded property irrespective of religion and faith. Even clerics belonging to different faiths saved the lives of many people by offering them shelter in temples and mosques.

The book includes interviews of those brave people who performed heroic feats at the risk of their own lives.
The authors focus on ways to create a congenial atmosphere, look forward and promote friendly relations between the two countries. This, they say, can be done by promoting literature, films and providing media coverage to the humane side of the partition.

Another suggestion is to build a memorial-cum-museum at the Wagah border to commemorate the victims of the partition along with the names of the good samaritans who kept the spirit of humanity alive through their brave deeds.
Other suggestions include the opening of a peace park, visa free travel for individuals over a certain age and cultural exchanges to help encounter extremism. But the most important step would be to stop the distortion of history which requires drastic changes in the school curriculum in both countries.

The book emphasises the need to eliminate the distrust that exists between India and Pakistan and normalise relations as it is vital for peace and prosperity in the entire region. It contains a series of interviews with people from diverse backgrounds who were of various ages at the time of partition.

Twelve interviewees belong to the Indian side, out of which seven were directly affected by the riots while five are family members of those affected. Their ages vary from five to 25 years at the time of partition while two were born post-partition.

Eleven interviewees are from Pakistan, out of who eight were personally involved. Their ages too range from five years to 25 years at the time of partition while one was born post-partition.

The narratives of all these individuals from both sides of the border are illustrative of the bonds of humanity. Since the authors have focused mainly on the partition of Punjab, it provides an opportunity to understand the cultural affinity between Pakistan's Punjab province and the Indian state of Punjab.

The authors conclude that there was one thing in common between all the interviewees — their desire to witness a peaceful relationship between India and Pakistan.

The authors fully subscribe to the rational and realistic approach of Aitzaz Ahsan who once said 'The Indian may continue to deny the distinctness and the Pakistani may continue to repudiate the commonality, but both — commonality and distinctness are facts. What has to be understood is that the Indo-Pak divide straddle this distinctness and commonality and that we must cherish both.'

Tridivesh Sing Maini is a senior staff writer at the Indian Express. Tahir Malik is a senior journalist, currently chief news editor at Waqat News Channel in Lahore and Ali Farooq Malik is a Lahore-based journalist working with the daily Waqat.

 

Humanity Amidst Insanity Hope during and after the Indo-Pak partition
By Tridivesh Singh Maini, Tahir Malik
and Ali Farooq Malik
UBS Publishers, India
ISBN 978-81-7476-630-4
186pp. Indian Rs295

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