A mind­less pa­tri­otic mud­dle

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Jawed Naqvi

RABINDRANATH Tagore wrote a poem in praise of the Bri­tish monarch. It was adopted as the na­tional an­them of free In­dia, and the irony of it per­sists. He wrote a poem in praise of his beau­ti­ful land of Ben­gal. It was adopted as the an­them by Bangladesh. Ac­cord­ing to Tissa Abey­sek­era, Sri Lanka's cel­e­brated filmmaker, it was a Tagore com­po­si­tion that formed the ba­sis of Sri Lanka's na­tional an­them - - prob­a­bly the most lyrical of Tagore's songs re­ver­ber­at­ing across South Asia ev­ery­day.

Al­lama Iqbal's poem ap­plaud­ing Hin­dus­tan as a match­less won­der might seem a bit con­ceited if seen from the per­spec­tive of In­dia's smaller and not in­fre­quently wor­ried neigh­bours. That Iqbal was an early sup­porter of the idea of Pak­istan has not de­terred his poem from form­ing the core of In­dian na­tion­hood as re­flected in the com­po­si­tion be­ing played out in school as­sem­blies and mil­i­tary bands across the coun­try.

As is the case with Tagore's an­them with most In­di­ans, Pak­istan's na­tional song is com­posed in such an ar­cane lan­guage that it clearly can't be un­der­stood by a ma­jor­ity of Pak­ista­nis. Why did Hafeez Jul­lundhri who wrote it make it so dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to un­der­stand some­thing meant to stir the pa­tri­otic sen­ti­ments of Pak­ista­nis? Abhi to main jawan hoon

Why could he not have writ­ten it sim­ply, like his more fa­mous song for in­stance about the ex­u­ber­ance of youth ? Malika Pukhraj made the song by the writer of Pak­istan's na­tional an­them a house­hold name in much of north In­dia though most In­di­ans would not know the link.

A sim­i­lar ex­trater­ri­to­rial affin­ity for South Asia's pa­tri­otic mud­dle ex­tends to its armies. Just look at the spot where the fallen sol­dier is re­mem­bered on In­dian Re­pub­lic Day each year. Delhi's im­pos­ing In­dia Gate was built as a war me­mo­rial to In­dian troops who died fight­ing colo­nial wars in Crimea and Afghanistan. The army's reg­i­ments still carry the eth­nic nomen­cla­ture of for­mer ri­val 'races' - Sikh, Marathas, Ra­jputs, Gorkhas, Do­gras and so on.

While much of South Asia sees the 1857 up­ris­ing against Bri­tish rule as a war of in­de­pen­dence, their armies have stu­diously toned down and oc­ca­sion­ally shunned the nar­ra­tive of a revo­lu­tion that failed.

His­tory holds amaz­ing ironies in its folds that mock the evolv­ing cul­ture of a nar­rower na­tion­al­ism in South Asia. As I write this from the is­land of Sri Lanka, which is a short flight away from my home in Delhi, I can't help mar­vel at the ab­sur­dity of its Sin­halese and Tamil peo­ple be­ing as­signed the sta­tus of for­eign­ers in my in­doc­tri­nated In­dian con­scious­ness.

Na­gas and Ma­nipuris, whose lan­guage and cul­ture I am as un­fa­mil­iar with (as they are with mine) are In­dian but Sri Lankans and Nepalese who share far more with 'main­stream' In­dia are aliens. For years, quite in­sen­si­tively of course, the Delhi ad­min­is­tra­tion would help stage the burn­ing of Ra­vana's ef­figy on Dussehra right out­side the Sri Lankan em­bassy in Delhi. The view that the myth­i­cal Ra­vana was a Lankan king was taken lit­er­ally and the en­su­ing prej­u­dices in­flicted. mulk mulk mu­luk

For­tu­nately, a ri­val 're­stric­tive­ness' may also be the an­ti­dote for the bizarre na­tion­al­ist fer­vour that In­dian and Pak­istani pa­tri­ots like to wrap them­selves in. In Dubai, In­di­ans or Pak­ista­nis go­ing home for a break would re­fer to their desti­na­tions as ". The word usu­ally means nation or coun­try. But our trav­ellers from Dubai re­ferred to a vil­lage or a kas­bah they be­longed to. An In­dian re­turn­ing to his or could be head­ing for a vil­lage in the Na­jibabad district off Mo­rad­abad.

I saw a shock­ing dis­play of an In­dian diplo­mat's nar­row-mind­ed­ness in Shar­jah dur­ing a cricket match be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan. The late In­dian film co­me­dian Mehmood was watch­ing the In­dian team's bat­ting with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion when a young Pak­istani fan thrust her coun­try's na­tional flag in his un­sus­pect­ing hands. Khaleej Times

A pho­to­graph of Mehmood with a Pak­istani flag in Dubai's prompted the In­dian em­bassy to make him pose with an In­dian flag the next day. How the pub­lish­ing of that pic­ture saved In­dia's en­dan­gered hon­our still in­trigues me. Khaleej Times

The ed­i­to­rial team of the used to have a good mix of In­dian and Pak­istani jour­nal­ists, apart from sev­eral ex­cel­lent scribes from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a painfully ridicu­lous ex­pe­ri­ence for the team to have In­dian and Pak­istani en­voys breath­ing down the edi­tor's neck be­cause the pub­lished map of Kash­mir did not de­pict their na­tional per­spec­tive.

That their cit­i­zens were pe­ri­od­i­cally ha­rassed or jailed and were usu­ally among the most ex­ploited and un­der­paid work­ers in Dubai was not a ma­jor is­sue for these di­plo­mats, the in­no­cent and ill-de­fined map of Kash­mir was. It was sad that the edi­tor en­ter­tained silly pe­ti­tions by In­dian and Pak­istani di­plo­mats. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, it was a re­lief re­cently to see the Delhi Po­lice, not the most in­tel­lec­tu­ally gifted of state in­sti­tu­tions in In­dia, tak­ing a most agree­able view about the strife in Kash­mir.

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