by Devika Mittal
It was a happy day for some of us who had gone to Kotla Stadium on the 3rd ODI match between India and Pakistan with our face painted in flag colours of the countries, displaying posters and distributing pamphlets with messages of peace and friendship to the cricket fans of both countries. We were moved by the appreciation that we got, especially from people from Pakistan. Some of them had come to us themselves, introduced and asked us for the pamphlets. Our event, under the initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, turned out to be a huge success even on social networking sites and was picked up by some major news portals.
It was deeply satisfying and our labour was paid off as we thought that we have started on our journey to move for a better future together. But two or three days later, the media reported the border clash. Initially I had not imagined how it would change things overnight. But the social networking sites became another battlefield. Status messages and comment thread, the “shared photo culture” developed by Facebook pages and new pages devoted to questioning peace initiatives, digging old graves, debating if India is a “soft” state or if India always stabs Pakistan(by the Pakistan side) and poems dedicated to soldiers and the army.
It was and is all over – on the news channels ofcourse, on Facebook posts, in Facebook pages and in the tea-time discussions, debating if we should continue the ties or not. Following the clash, there have also been innumerable articles challenging and finding the loopholes in all the claims starting from the report of beheading to the role of a third party to manipulate the politics in its own favour.
But the question no longer is about who started it and did it involve beheading or not because the damage has already been done. What has sadly come out of this is the notion that it’s only “we” who want peace and that “they” have always stabbed “us”. This notion exists on both sides of the border.
And this notion is enough to persist another decade of hatred and suspicion. People on both sides have sided with the army that have otherwise, accounted for human rights’ violations and with the politicians whom we refuse to accept as our representatives. They refuse to see any “anti-nation” sentiment. And once again, the “nation” as an identity has become important surpassing the individual and the individual opinion and desire. The peace activists or anyone with a voice of dissent are once again seen as not only “anti-nation” but as passive, idealists and those who have not seen the “reality”. This article is not to pacify anyone or to convince. It is only to bring out some “realities” which cannot be challenged.
This is based on my own personal observations and on the articles that I have come across. If I talk about the articles, I have read many articles which have brought out the loopholes in the theories put forward by both the countries. There has been the questioning of the hazy and inconsistent reporting by the army on both sides, loopholes in the reports and questions for media to have covered issues which have shown India or Pakistan only in a bad light. This brings us to one fact that the truth is partial. None of us can claim to know the truth. There is a need to establish a neutral news source accepted by both countries.
For those who feel that peace is only the desire of one side is mistaken. To begin with, if this was true, Aman ki Asha would not have received equal appreciation on the other side of the border. Coming to my personal observations, I have been following the posts and tweets of people from across the border (Pakistan) and have some interesting revelations. It is true that some of them, like some of us, have tagged peace initiatives as bogus and indulge in a sort-of “godification” of army generals and soldiers. But it is also true that many have also condemned this incident. I have some friends there and there has been no change in the nature of our interaction. I also came across a facebook post today by someone asking if peace should be continued with India? I found the very status very interesting as the same question is posed by most of us as in this status, there is an assumption that “we” are peaceful. Most of the comments favoured yes. There was a comment that said that we should, if they also do the same. Those who said no had also added reasons stating how India has often stabbed back or because they do not want peace. It was essential to give this “private” post as it reveals some facts and demands an action.
We, and here I mean the people or anyone who likes to have an opinion, should be critical of our own Government, media and army. On both sides, we need to accept that there are people who do not want peace, for their own motives. But more importantly, we need to accept that humanity is beyond boundaries. On both sides, there are humans and human lives. Those who want war or can even think of it should imagine what it is like to live in the bordered state. Or even ask an average soldier if he wants war. A soldier has seen a war and knows what it involves. But he takes part because he has to. A famous Bollywood movie, Heroes, puts it beautifully, “hum hamara kaam kar rahe hai aur wo wahan apna” (We are doing our work and they are doing theirs).Their duty is to defend their respective motherlands and they do that. And no-one thinks about them because if they did, they wouldn’t have asked for more hatred. War is not the solution to anyone, never has it been and will never be. It is true that “we” must not sit back if the “other” retaliates but we must do that in a constructive way because the fire will not just burn them.
We need to realize that there are people on both sides, there are “wounds” to be healed on both sides, sufferings, impartial truth and misunderstandings on both sides. People on both sides have their own challenges to meet. To an average Indian and Pakistani, earning their daily bread is much more important than demanding war. We have to realize… not to pacify ourselves but to realize.
Devika Mittal is a 4th semester student of M.A. Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, South Asian University, New Delhi, India.