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The Human Tragedy in India-Pakistan Relations.

I am a psychologist living in Wah Cantt. I have an eight-year old daughter. Last month, I wrote a post on the Aman ki Asha Facebook Page wall to share the lifelong trauma of my mother Nasim Zaman who died on December 8, 2010. She had come to Pakistan after partition in 1947 from Amritsar when she was ten years old. Her mother had died just few months earlier and was laid to rest in Qadian in Gurdaspur, in Punjab.
My grandfather remarried in Pakistan, and had four other other children. After doing her postgraduate degree in Chemistry from Government College, Lahore in the early 1960's, my mother became a teacher. She retired as Assistant Professor and Head of the Chemistry Department, Government Post-Graduate College for Women, Gujranwala, on August 10, 1991.
All her life, my mother desperately wanted to visit her mother's grave but due to her government job and the strict visa policy between both countries, she was unable to fulfill her dream. Whenever she was ill and in pain, she would cry out, "O Amma kidhar ho" (O Mother, where are you). 
My mother lies buried near Wagah border in Handu Gujjar. Across the border lies buried her mother. I am sharing this story to illustrate the pain that the visa policy of India and Pakistan inflicts upon ordinary people.
I want to visit India to say a prayer at my grandmother's grave in Gurdaspur, but I don't know anyone there who would send me an invitation letter, or get me a sponsorship letter signed that is required for a visa.
I am sharing with you the desire of a daughter and granddaughter. I don't know what good my little effort to write and share this will do, but at least I have expressed it. I hope and pray that my dream comes true, for my mother's sake, and for the sake of my daughter who deserves to connect with her past.
- Rahila 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013 


The common enemy is war
This is something I read on the Aman Ki Asha FB page and was not much surprised. Over the two years that I have studied and explored several aspects of the India-Pakistan tragedy (yes according to me it is a tragedy!), I have come to the conclusion that even if the academic and political debate over India-Pakistan relations revolves around matters like political, economic and nuclear, the most important part of the tragedy is missing - the human element which should in fact be the most important one since relations among nations are also about the relations between respective citizens. The tragedy of India and Pakistan is the one which has prohibited contact between immediate neighbours. So hilarious is the fact that while most of us are aware about what is happening in USA and Europe, we do not know much about our neighbouring country, our own brother. The same can be said about the Pakistani population who have been bred with ill-will about India. I wonder what is that which prevents states from allowing its peoples to meet and freely mingle with each other. Getting a visa for either country is a nightmare because of the endless harassing visa processes, police reporting and then the intelligence agencies following you throughout. Also you are not allowed to visit places that you like, your stay is restricted to one or two cities at the most in each country. What do these diplomatic hurdles actually convey? Is there any meaning and sense to the people to people dialogue when the citizens of two countries cannot have a smooth ride into the 'other' side. While reading the article above, I forgot all about the nuclear power status of the two nations, their baggage of hatred, their animosity towards each other and only wondered if it is a big mistake for one to be either 'Indian' or 'Pakistani' because it can be assumed very certainly that most people from the two sides have never met each other and hence have very fixed ideas about the 'other'. What is it that goes out into the minds of families who have relatives on both sides, on the minds of children whose parents belonged to either place and now they are unable to visit their parent's hometown. There must be countless such cases. This is so unlike the era of globalization where we so callously claim that the world has become one. The world has not become one for these two nations who have been so bitterly engaged in a fight since 6 decades. So much so that even human contact has become difficult to achieve ... of course the internet and social media are playing a big role in bridging the gap. Why can't there be some discussion and deliberation on this human aspect? Have we become so inhuman? The partition and the two nation theory is a thing of the past and we should at least allow normal people to meet each other. Meetings will evidently result into an alteration of perceptions. Then at least people like Rahila will be able to fulfill the wish of their mothers whose only wish was more human than anything else. Let the Indian and Pakistani governments, media talk about this grave injustice happening with the people of India and Pakistan. We do not want a borderless sub-continent but atleast don't let borders come in the way of contact. We have lots of enemies to fight - hunger, deprivation, poverty, terrorism, malnutrition, illiteracy, superstition - lets unite against such enemies. It is criminal to keep families and relatives way from each other and governments on both sides are doing just the same. Narrow agendas should not affect the relationship continuum and instead the spirit should be to revive human relations. 

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