Pakistan is a dirty word in India. There exists an entire country in the imagination of Indians—one that is different from actual Pakistan—and maintaining this punching-bag version of Pakistan in India has a socially high cost. Earlier this year, helpless Muslims of Delhi collapsed under rods held by goons and paid with their lives for a mental preoccupation of countless Hindus with a country one fourth the size of India.
In recent times no other subcontinental country has promoted a two nation theory better than India as it told its dissenting citizens to ‘Go to Pakistan.’ To make sense of this newly radicalized India, I’ve often turned to my Hindustani friends of many years but they become conscious of my Pakistani origin and have repeatedly handed me guarded, unconvincing replies.
Oblivion and guarded opinions
“See, the CAA was being politicized. Whatever happened in the Delhi riots was obviously sad but believe me Hindus and Muslims coexist beautifully here, there is no discrimination, not in Mumbai at least,” said Vikram, a choreographer friend. When I changed the subject to mob lynching for alleged beef consumption he had simply retorted, “Arre, maybe all that happens in U.P, Bihar na.” As if in his consciousness North India wasn’t exactly a part of his country.
That was all I could extract out of Vikram. We had in the past (like I had with any other Indian friend) sipped cutting chai and discussed Pakistani life in detail, particularly favourite aspects of it with Indians like Pakistan army, ISI and the beloved ‘mullah.’
Indian friends have essentially denied me an equal opportunity to discuss the trembling foundations of their society with them. This supremacist attitude and the redrawing of national boundaries between buddies has agonized me. Especially when much of contemporary Indian-ness is being shaped by invoking the name of Pakistan. A practice that has tested the patience of even the most forbearing Pakistani over the years.
For as long as I can remember I had always been an India lover. My Mohajir (migration) background, love for Bollywood and frequent trips to India made it easy for me to process Indians as people of various shades and not just a collective enemy sulking across border. But who can now intellectualise this fast an acceleration into fascism? It is one thing to blame the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology, fake news machinery for brainwashing but nothing could have happened without the inner willingness of the people at large.
Indian fascism continues to scale new heights. Reminder to the world that #IOJK has literally been an open jail — the world's largest — for THREE HUNDRED days. Atrocities against Kashmiris by Indian security forces have been unrelenting.
— Moeed W. Yusuf (@YusufMoeed) June 1, 2020
Pretense and ignorance towards Pakistani identity
For a long time I was also slightly uncomfortable with my Pakistani identity; wherever one traveled in the world we were regarded as the nation of frequent bomb blasts, in a cozy relationship with extremism. So for years I had hoped, like other vulnerable Pakistanis, for a makeover of our society, a change from within. And now that a softer, more tolerant image of Pakistan is actually underway— through the promotion of tourism, a successful visit of the UK royals and overall better absorption of minorities—my Indian friends that grumbled against Pakistan have broken my heart by feigning ignorance.
“Acha. I don’t know much about it. Send me some link on it if you have,” read the terse WhatsApp reply of an Indian saheli (dear friend), a published writer no less, when I had wanted to know her thoughts on the Kartarpur Corridor last November, after its historic opening.
So, I have come to accept that openly acknowledging Pakistan beyond our Tv dramas, fair females or Coke Studio comes hard to Indians. It is out of their comfort zone as it betrays the idea of a Pakistan they have been sold. Not surprising then, Bharat is also home to countless experts on Pakistan who have never been to Pakistan for even a day! And the Delhi-based journalists that do come over sporadically stay huddled to their well-connected Lahori friends, limiting interaction with locals for a fuller experience.
Perhaps this awkward silence of Indian friends is born out of embarrassment, that while all of Pakistan is trying very hard to emerge from the shadows of its dark past, India has happily set itself up on a regressive gear. The unthinkable has become a reality.
Read More: “Okay! We Won’t Eat Beef” Indian Muslims
Maligning Pakistan becomes India’s purpose
India’s soul has been contaminated by indulging in routine anti-Muslim behavior, like the public’s excessive interest of living in the past centuries. Sometimes I imagine the Mughal emperors must be on the verge of coming out of their graves and begging to be left alone. The obsession with Imran Khan makes one think that there has to be a dedicated person at Indian news channels whose sole job is to hunt for morose looking pictures of our PM, and make complementing hashtags for the ‘sensational’ story of the day.
Dyeing the Coronavirus in shades of green merely confirmed that the land of yoga is in dire need of anger management. But for any treatment to commence one needs to stop being in denial of the ailment first.
Energy channeled in the right direction
As India wobbles under global glare Pakistanis have also marked themselves as spectators to its despair, not just because it validates our founder Mr. Jinnah but because it also feels like a payback from karma. When we watch our neighbors display their fanatic best on social media, it releases us from their false accusation of always being inferior to them in every department.
Possibly our humiliation in the neighborhood took its early narrative shape with Sunny Deol films. And maybe it was the decades-long mocking of our English-speaking skills by Indians that finally got under Pakistani skin.
“Come again? Pakistan has shopping malls?” my friend Kashif, a Mughal history aficionado based in Delhi, had once laughed for several minutes repeating his surprised expression till I cut the call from Lahore. “I am sorry yaar, I was just kidding,” he did call back. Apology was accepted, but clearly I have been in no mood to play with the neighbour, not when he’s displaying his Sarkari Muslim colours.
Sarkari Muslim is a colloquial term one has been thankful to learn off late. It has helped categorise even the mighty Bollywood Khans that choose silence to fight a fascist regime and even celebrated poets like Javed Akhtar.
Indian hypocrisy and prejudice at its best
Although an atheist, Javed Akhtar has previously appeared on numerous Tv programs to ‘lecture’ Pakistan appropriating his Indian Muslim identity. It is an ultimate exhibition of patriotism for the Indian audience, and a hallmark of Sarkaris. The same poet did not utter a single comforting word to the Kashmiris when their basic rights were stripped away on August 5th of last year. But Akhtar was back on Twitter with his reprimanding danda (stick) for PM Imran Khan, when he urged the world to take note of human rights violations in India, because for our neighbors prejudice has its copyrights only with Islamabad you see!
For years problematic Indian intellectuals like Javed Akhtar had also patted bigots like Tarek Fateh on the back because a Pakistani badmouthing Pakistan is music to Indian ears, sadly. Their publishing industry instantly laps up all anti-Pakistan voices from our side because it safeguards the melodramatic, often barbaric enemy that thrives in Indian minds.
Pakistanis cannot be freed of all responsibility
We generate business in India; win them elections; but it starts troubling the soul when the name of our country becomes a buzzword to carry out their genocidal crimes, like the one that unravelled in their capital. Then it becomes hard to look away from the video clips capturing panicked whispers from rooftops and blood-soaked images of the victims. Who are often loosely regarded as the leftover crowd from the business of partition.
Incidentally the only folks who have been uninhibited in dialogue with me about the communal divide on their landscape have been my Indian relatives. The ones whose elders stayed behind in 1947 for the love of their land. They sound panicked in a country that refuses to reflect with honesty. Everyday there is additional pressure on their identity to cleanse itself of allegations, their mental well-being under constant attack. They are desperate to let the world know what’s being done to them.
Indian Hindus have betrayed their roots
Modern Indian Hindus have done great disservice to their ancient faith by assuming superiority over Muslims of the subcontinent for far too long: recycling the word Pakistan to bully their own Muslims into ‘staying in their place,’ and at the global stage instantly blaming their neighbor for any local misadventure. Eventually pushing Muslims to a point where we are not willing to forgive them their arrogance anymore.
Pakistan has been the only trick up the sleeves of the world’s largest democracy to escape its real issues. Wisdom will then tell you that at the back of every hatred with a commitment lies one solid secret admiration.
Maria Sartaj has a degree in Cultural Studies. She is passionate about social observation, especially all things South Asian. She tweets @MariaSartaj. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.