How We Can Contribute To The Secularism,
Democracy And Human Rights Of India And Pakistan
James Baldwin once said, " ... where there is no vision
people perish." I would like to add, " when there is
nothing visible but utter destruction, we find ourselves planted
in the abysmal."
What is at the root of our disheveled realities? Are we truly
filled by enmity or is this the work of a few? If it is the latter,
why are we constantly plagued by this ignorance? To find the answers,
we need to look inside ourselves. We need to take a glimpse through
the looking glass from which time and history unveil themselves.
We need to examine the trepidations that have formed the rudiments
of the subcontinent dubbed as the land of fraternal hatred.
In the wake of partition, though independence was granted, so
were many miseries. Traumas. Unfinished karmas. Social upheavals.
These were but a few names for the sufferings of the multitudes
of displaced people.
Angst was obvious and miseries were immense. Nations needed to
be built but no one knew how. At least not without bloodshed.
For how else could one account for the assassinations of Liaqat
Ali Khan* and Mahatma Gandhi?
But yet life continued. Yet the Indo-Pak people saw themselves
enter the various phases of their countries. Including a war from
which a part of Pakistan was turned into Bangladesh.
Simultaneously, on the international scene, the post world war
ii period saw the creation of institutions such as the United
Nations, the World Bank , and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). These were the institutions that held the potential for
so much but failed so many. They were set up for the purpose of
empowerment but are now the biggest curse for most nations. So
much so, that Pakistan and Bangladesh now rank amongst the worlds
50 most indebted countries.
In an age when Bill Gates can lay claim to having a salary higher
than the GDPs of four countries including Bangladesh, it is sheer
lunacy. Monetary availability is not the problem. Political and
individual priorities are. The IMF in Washington D.C. is an institution
that is notorious for its 7 economists per country policy with
backdoor deals and indentured poverty. It is an institution that
controls the fates of over 75 developing countries and then ceaselessly
inflicts the destructive patterns of the export model economy
The export model economy is one where the given country is expected
to have their fiscal budget largely geared towards exporting products
and services. You consequently, have less money to spend domestically.
This therein leads to the following problems; higher inflation,
cutbacks/lack of funding for social programs or education, higher
incidences of child labor and a devolution of women's status.
Perhaps we can now see a common thread of humanity that binds
us all. If not, let us awake and look around us to view the ignorance
with which we have festered ourselves. For this is how we heal.
This is how we rejuvenate.
But how do we know it in the context of an internalized strife?
Listen to yourself. How does it make you feel when you hear notions
from the other side?
"The breakdown of Babri Masjid is a fine example of why
its not safe for Muslims to live in India. Thank God for our Pakistan."
"Nothing good ever happens in Pakistan. It's not capable
of such things."
Familiar comments? Unfortunately yes. And unfortunately, these
are the comments that make us cringe. They make us cling more
strongly to the hurt we feel.
This has to stop. Animosity cannot override us. If were hurting,
so is everybody else. We have to rise above the ashes and rebuild.
We have to become acquainted with the non-indigenous cultures
through various means. This entails not only acquiring knowledge
or exposure of the opposite country as it were but also of the
counter religious or regional cultures as well. We could achieve
this by reading, watching documentaries, participating in cultural
events or just by talking to people.
In reiteration, what lies at the helm of our animosity is ignorance.
Our ignorance can be washed away when the rolling tides of humanity
are merged freely to become the expansive ocean called the universe.
We can look towards donating or aiding the cause/s of the opposite
country. If Im Indian, I can sign petitions supporting the causes
of Pakistani women. If Im Pakistani, I can donate money to an
Indian orphanage. The cleansing from the ripples of hatred commence
Apathy can no longer be our name. Especially as South Asians
living in North America. It is imperative that we look not only
beyond our insular streams of non-secular identities as South
Asians but also that we embrace all that stands before us as the
We have the villa of opportunity to not only exchange and disseminate
information between North Americans but also with those people
who live here and are not of the mainstream society. Grassroots
struggles no longer need to be kept marginal. A lamp of hope can
be lit in every village across this earth. But of course, in order
for a flame to be lit, you need a candle or a set of matches.
That candle can be lit right here in Canada if we so choose. The
flame can start with a philanthropy fair in some of our hometowns.
We can link the different ethnic communities including ours, alongside
mainstream society and hold an internationalized grassroots fair.
>From crutches to books to technical information, all kinds
of aid could be given, exchanged or disseminated. The ethnic communities
could help represent philanthropic groups from their country of
origin and collectively benefit the latter in the optimal way.
Campaigns ranging on the macro international level could also
heighten support through participation in this. Mainstream groups
could consider the donation of non-perishable food items as part
of a localized movement.
As can be seen from the aforementioned, problems concerning basic
amenities exist in industrialized countries like Canada as well.
44 000 people visit the food banks in St. Johns, Newfoundland.
The difference for developing countries is that the levels of
inequalities are far more decrepit.
And that, my dear friends, is part of why secularism and democracy
fail to prevail as they should not only in India and Pakistan,
but around the world. When things are ridiculously unfair outside,
any existing tensions inside can only be festered further.
The world needs to commingle. We need to unite. We need to lobby
governments and nations to stop these atrocities. We need to keep
alive our essence of humanity for as Nelson Mandela once stated;
"Our common humanity transcends the oceans and all the national
boundaries. Let it never be asked of any of us what did we do
when we knew another was oppressed."
Swati Sharan Liaqat Ali Khan was the second prime minister of