[On Sunday, 28 August 2022, a major discussion on zoom was hosted by the Organization of Progressive Pakistanis (OPP), Netherlands, in which socially engaged scholars, two of Pakistani origin, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Pervez Hoodbhoy and two of Indian origin, Rajmohan Gandhi and Harsh Mander, spoke in a panel discussion on the 75 years of Partition and its long shadows which continue to haunt relations between the two states of India and Pakistan. We provide below the text of the opening remarks of Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. – Eds.]

Rajmohan Gandhi

Wonderful to be with all of you. Greetings! The terrible loss from the floods and rains in Pakistan is on all our minds.

I would be ready to respond to questions about the past, but the future is far more important!

India has seen a great regression in recent years. We’ve gone back in India! The two-nation theory – the notion that Hindus are one nation and Muslims another — is back with a bang. “Hindu supremacy” has become dominant within India, and minorities have been intimidated. Since India is seen as a market and as a counterweight to China, major governments in the world are not likely to put pressure on India, but the people of the world can. When frank individual opinions about what’s happening in India are expressed in any form on any platform outside India, they make an impact.

There’s a basic contradiction that will eventually finish Hindu supremacy: the contradiction between the demand of the Hindu elite for supremacy in India, and the demand for equal rights for Indians everywhere in the world, including the chance to be prime ministers or presidents anywhere.

One of the best articles on India’s and Pakistan’s 75th birthday was one in the Indian Express by Vikram Patel, professor of global health at Harvard Medical School.

Evidently Dr. Patel’s father spent his early years in Karachi and was one of the millions who seventy-five years ago moved to the “other” newly freed country. Says Vikram Patel:

“I have no lived memory of Partition. But, somehow, I feel as if some part of my identity lies in the other country, one which I am constantly reminded is our enemy to the extent that I cannot even cheer their cricket team, a country which is so despised by some of my fellow citizens that its name is deployed to target political opponents or to troll other citizens who embrace the religion which dominates that country.”

Karachi, the city of more than 20 million with which Vikram Patel feels connected, is the capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province. Before the 1947 partition, about 1.5 million Hindus lived in Sindh. Like Vikram Patel’s father, many of them left. But many did not. Today Sindh’s Hindus number about 4.5 million, not a small figure, out of a total provincial population of around 50 million.

Dr. Patel dares to envision a day when “we might all, the peoples of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, celebrate our independence, together as one large family, with no regrets.”

Even if large-scale joint celebrations are unlikely in the near future, small circles of friendship already exist in some parts of the world where people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian origin are able to refresh links bequeathed by history, language, cuisine, and music. No visas are needed when Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis wish to meet one another in Holland, UK, Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia or Japan — or even in Nepal or Sri Lanka.

The growing global involvement of South Asians could contribute to better relations between South Asians. In a number of countries, Covid has underscored the influence of health care professionals of South Asian origin. Lawyers, accountants, and politicians of South Asian origin are also thriving. They and their counterparts in other professions are not likely, in their new countries, to settle for anything less than equal opportunities and equal rights.  They can also contribute to friendship among South Asians in their new countries.

Passions of hate and anger cannot continue for all time, unless they are stoked by fresh incidents. Prejudice and ignorance can last for generations, not anger or hate. Anything that can be done to remove prejudice and reduce ignorance would be a great service.

Youth from Pakistan, India and BD should meet one another more often in their new countries and get to know one another.

The language spoken by a great number in Pakistan and India, whether called Hindustani or Urdu or Hindi, is a powerful force. Let this common language grow in ways that everyday Indians and Pakistanis can understand, without too many Sanskrit, Arabic, or Farsi words.

I am heartened by the effort among Punjabis on both sides of the border to remember old ties and to heal wounds. It appears that the head of the Akal Takhat in Amritsar Saheb accepted an appeal to organize prayers timed with the 75th anniversary for the one million killed on all sides during the Partition. (end)

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