The Shiv Sena is reported to have rapped the spian Nasiruddin Shah for asking why Indians 'hate' Pakistanis when on the other side of the border he saw nothing but 'love' for India. Incredible! The party of the 'Marathi Manoos' will actually have to address that query to many other Indians, some known but mostly unknown who like Nasiruddin have spoken of 'love' they discovered for India after visiting the Land of the Pure.
Confining to Nasiruddin's remarks, it might be pertinent to suggest that the abundance of 'love' for India that he discovered among Pakistanis is actually due to the pull of Bollywood and, dare one say, the 'soft power' of India that endears the country to many lands beyond the sub-continent.
It has to be said, of course, that most people in the two countries, still overwhelmed by poverty, do understand the need for living as friends for a better future. The harsh truth, however, is that India-Pakistan relations have been anything but friendly right from the time of division of British India in August 1947. Surely, India alone cannot be blamed for this state of affairs.
To say that India returns Pakistani 'love' with 'hate' is not going to end the mutual bitterness which has a long history. But it can be conceded that most Pakistanis, Punjabis to be precise, can be more effusive-and hospitable-in their interactions with Indians than the other way round. This cannot be translated as Indians nursing 'hate' for their neighbours.
Reading the accounts of Pakistanis 'love' for India brings to mind a recent YouTube clip one saw. It showed a group of young Pakistani students happily changing their tune of 'hate' for India into 'love' for India when they realised that their performance was filmed for an Indian audience.
Does it strike anyone that the overflow of 'love' for India among Pakistanis converts into 'hate' when they are talking among themselves? The reverse may also be true, but then Indians have already been condemned as being incapable of showing 'love' for the Pakistanis!
Travel across the length and breadth of India and decide if 'most' Indians love or hate Pakistan. It is not untrue to say that the intensity of feelings against Pakistan recedes considerably outside the 'Hindi heartland'; some would say it hardly exists beyond north India and parts of western India.
Those who discover no hostility against India in Pakistan are obviously not making any political statement. Their observations can be called superficial, even though well meaning. Most visitors have time only to make polite conversations with their hosts. They are not inclined to wade into political matters while chatting with strangers during a short visit, usually undertaken to meet relatives or friends.
A few, not many, Indians like Nasiruddin also travel to Pakistan in response to invitations from professional bodies or institutions.Talking seriously about India-Pakistan political relations is not part of most of these visits. There is just not enough time to probe the minds of the hosts on 'serious' bilateral matters.
The real depth of 'love' for India in Pakistan cannot be judged by the sentimental responses of the ordinary men and women when they may be able to detach themselves from the 'real' image of India that is embedded in their minds.
Facile stories about 'love' and 'hate' between the people of the two countries may make interesting readings, but not very educative. The objective of clearing the air of mistrust between the two countries is praiseworthy. The 'ordinary' people of the two countries and frequent interactions between them do have an important role to play in achieving that objective.
This is widely recognised and accepted. But eventually political considerations prevail. Caveats are attached when efforts are made to improve bilateral relations. India has been told time and again that there will be no forward movement in relations with Pakistan unless Kashmir issue is resolved. Does that make it possible for 'love' for India to prosper in Pakistan?
Right from childhood, every Pakistani is exposed to an environment, in schools, mosques and public platforms, where he or she hears nothing but hateful words for India. Some try to 'balance' it by alleging that the picture is not very different in India. The Indian textbooks may not appear very balanced about Pakistan but they are not toxic. Most Indians have no idea of the distorted and bilious manner in which India is written about in Pakistani textbooks and many of the 'scholarly' works by Pakistanis.
Nor do many here recall the extent to which officials and the media in Pakistan goes to paint India in the darkest colours. Much as we may curse our TV anchors as being loud and jingoist, their Pakistani counterparts are miles ahead in that respect. How deep or genuine can 'love' for India really be in such an atmosphere?
Denial and misinformation is frequently used in Pakistan to demonise India. Just two examples will do. A Pakistani minister is on record as having said that India was behind the terrorist attack on an army school in Peshawar; India is held responsible for floods and droughts in Pakistan. Do people who hear such talks day and night really 'love' India?
Of course, the Indians who 'hate' Pakistani also base their emotions on what they hear-and see. But is it only Indian 'propaganda', as the Pakistanis allege, that Pakistan has nothing to do with the ceaseless terror attacks on India since late 1980s? Families of those thousands of innocent Indians whose lives have been lost will perhaps find it difficult to drum up sentiments of 'love'.
The Shiv Sena was only addressing its right wing, 'patriotic' constituency rather than raise a stink against the likes of Nasiruddin. But the facile manner in which some Indians gush after discovering 'love' for 'Bharat' (Pakistanis do not like to use the Urdu word 'Hindustan' for India) in a country that proudly claims to be the anti-thesis of India cannot be dismissed as something light hearted and frivolous. It is pointless to talk about, much less compare, the alleged 'love' for India among Pakistanis and the 'hate' for them in India.
Syrupy accounts of 'love' based on stray and casual encounters with a handful of Pakistanis can be as misleading as the generalisation that all Indians 'hate' them. Selective recollections of a fleeting visit cannot be used to make Indian feel guilty of their failure to reciprocate the so-called friendly feelings of the Pakistanis.
- Exclusive to BAZH