|Between the lines
Crossing the bar
By Kuldip Nayar
Yet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee favoured people-to-people contact in the musings he wrote from the Andamans only a month ago. He, however, shrugs his shoulders when you tell him that visas are denied to leading citizens from Pakistan. He says he does not know who are the people wanting to come and who in the government is stalling their entry. Vajpayee should realise that every application is routed through the Home Ministry.
Home Minister L K Advani has begun spreading himself all over _ he even carries journalists in his special plane for coverage _ the shrinking of the Prime Ministers space is too apparent. Advani discusses defence deals in France and economic matters in Singapore. No doubt, he is the Deputy Prime Minister but he is essentially the police minister.
Advanis anti-Pakistan bias may be one reason for freezing visas but another reason adumbrated by top officials is that the relaxation of visas, coming after the withdrawal of forces from the border, would give Pakistan the impression that India "continued to be a soft state."
It does not make sense. People across the border are from the same stock and share the same history, the same language and the same emotional ties. Individuals like Asma Jehangir and I A Rehman, the two human rights activists, are more South Asians than Pakistanis. Such are the people who keep the standard of democracy and fair play aloft in the world. By stopping them New Delhi hurts itself, not Islamabad.
Relaxing visa facilities would have been another feather in the Vajpayee governments cap. It has already won international support in not having talks with Pakistan till it stops cross-border terrorism. US ambassador Nancy J Powel at Islamabad only underlined the point when she said to General Pervez Musharrafs embarrassment to make good his assurance "to prevent infiltration across the Line of Control and end the use of Pakistan as a platform of terrorism."
Apparently, this had little effect on Islamabad. Infiltration is said to have increased. It is counter-productive. It has not brought the solution of Kashmir any nearer. It only allows the BJP-led government to heighten suspicion against Islamabad and gives credence to the impression that the democratically returned Jamali government had made no difference to the armys policy of infiltration.
New Delhis anti-Pakistan posture fits into the calculations of the BJP-led government. In Gujarat it reaped a big harvest in the state election when it aroused feelings against Pakistan. And it looks as if the BJP will pursue the same policy till the end of the Lok Sabha polls, nearly 20 months hence. By then 10 states would have also elected new assemblies and tell the BJP whether it is on the right lines. So far the anti-Pakistan card has tended to polarize the society. True, the loss of around 14 per cent electorate, the Muslims, is substantial in the keenly contested constituencies. But the BJP believes that it can offset the loss of Muslim votes if it converts the election into a battle between Hindus and Muslims.
The RSS, mentor of the BJP, is already harping on the partition days to re-ignite the embers of hatred, which are cold after the lapse of 55 years of Indias division. Hatred against 150 million Muslims living in India is sought to be created to remind people that the Muslims had created Pakistan.
RSS chief Sudarshan has blamed Mahatma Gandhi for the partition. This is not true. Lord Mountbatten told me in 1972 at his residence Broadlands near London that Mahatma walked out of the room at the Viceroys lodge at New Delhi when the partition formula was spelled out to him. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel had accepted the formula, much to the helplessness of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Its futile to argue about who was responsible for the partition of the subcontinent. Such an exercise can only be an academic distraction. But the differences between Hindus and Muslims had become so acute by the beginning of the forties that something like partition had become inevitable.
Has partition served the purpose of the Muslims? I do not know. In Pakistan people avoid the word partition. On August 14, they celebrate their deliverance not so much from British rule as from the fear of Hindu rule. During my trips to that country, I have heard people say that they have at least "some place" where they feel secure, free of "Hindu domination" or "Hindu aggressiveness." The Gujarat carnage seems to have confirmed them in their belief.
But I feel that the Muslims have been the biggest losers; they are now spread over three countries _ India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Imagine the influence their numbers _ their votes _ could have commanded in the undivided subcontinent. They would have been more than one-third of the total population. But it is no use going over the partition exercise. How we can overcome its ravages, still exploited by some political parties, is the question. How the prejudice built and sustained by the Sangh parivar against Muslims can be demolished. The BJP thrives on the anti-Muslim bias because it gives the party an electoral advantage. It is a power-oriented game even at the expense of Indias unity. When power becomes the end, the means cease to matter.
My purpose of visiting Pakistan a few weeks ago was to tell them how their policy of cross-border terrorism had strengthened the BJP on the one hand and harassed Muslims on the other. I found very few responsive ears. At the government level, I suspected a fiendish satisfaction over the emergence of Hindu fundamentalism in India. In any case, what Indian Muslims might face because of Pakistans policy was not a factor in the reckoning of Islamabad.
Undoubtedly, India is responsible for its own citizens and a government that creates hatred against a particular community is anti-India. It is betraying the constitution based on secular ethos and destroying the concept of equality before law. Still if Pakistan allows its territory to be used by terrorists and finances their preparation in India, the Muslims of India, I am afraid, might have to pay the price. This is unfair and a travesty of justice. But when the terrorists, dead or alive, turn out to be Muslims, and some from Pakistan, the BJPs accusation sticks.
The battle could be fought more effectively if peoples believing in the pluralistic ethos in both countries were to join hands. In this context, people-to-people contact becomes all the more important. The atmosphere is too stifling and dreary at present. EOM
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