Pakistan and India share a tumultuous relationship on many platforms. Yet ordinary citizens of both countries have chosen to continue living their lives without paying too much heed. We love Shah Rukh Khan, they love Fawad Khan. We love Bollywood, they love Pakistani dramas. We love cricket, they love cricket. We love mixed chat, they love paani puri. We love sarees from Kala Niketan, they love Kurtas from Khaadi. The ordinary citizens of both countries agree that politics is politics and what our governments choose to say or do should not hamper the goodwill between Indo–Pak artists, cricketers and the citizens of both countries who have developed life long relationships with each other (when they have forged friendships living outside of their home countries).
However, when Indian PM Modi uses strong rhetoric against Pakistan, we do not pay heed as common Pakistanis because it is the government talking, and government lingo has nothing to do with the common Pakistani or Indian. But when Indian actress Kangana Ranaut announces a ‘Destroy Pakistan’ slogan, when Shabana Azmi cancels a trip to Pakistan, when The Cricket Club of India pulls down Imran Khan’s portrait from its walls, we sit up and listen.
Artists and cricketers from both countries have taken the lead in promoting cross border positivity over the years. Shabana Azmi and husband Javed Akhtar visited Pakistan in November 2018 to participate in a literary festival. On the occasion of the Faiz festival, they remarked:
“The love and respect we received during the visit will never be forgotten,” – This comment must have melted many hearts in the nation.
Tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi teamed up with his Indian counterpart Rohan Bopanna to raise the bar on tennis diplomacy when they planned a fund raiser to assist flood-affected victims in Pakistan. Qureshi had once remarked:
“By pairing together through our tennis, we are trying to give a message of peace to people of India and Pakistan.”
At Wimbledon, the pair wore T-shirts and sweatshirts with the message: “Stop War, Start Tennis”.
When Pakistani actresses Mahira Khan and Saba Qamar acted in Bollywood films, Indian audiences harbored great expectations and turned out in large numbers to view the talent across the border.
It is a sad day then, when our Cricket and Film industries turn to burning bridges rather than building them. The last stone was cast last evening as Indian sponsors IMG Reliance decided to pull out of PSL broadcast commitments. (It takes many days to build a bridge, and only a few moments to burn it down.)
As the storm continues to rage high over Indo-Pak diplomatic relations, it seems like it will take time before the waters calm. (Especially since the Indian election is coming up). Perhaps the lone voice of reason can come from social media users – ordinary citizens who post instant and personal reactions to the current series of events.
As one follower responded to Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Destroy Pakistan’ slogan: “Reach out to the families who are suffering from this huge loss … be a human first and stop these divide and separate tactics.” Others however nodded in agreement and supported her stand, praising her as a legend.
Both Pakistanis and Indians have reacted sharply to the sudden turn of events after the tragic Pulwama terror attack where Indian soldiers lost their lives. As usual, emotions run high and the rhetoric is intense.
In times like these, the voice of reason is brutally punished, as former cricketer Navjot Sidhu learnt the hard way. His comments below instantly landed him in hot water:
“Nations cannot be held responsible for the dastardly acts of terrorists. The terrorists do not have deen, mazhab (sect and religion). There are good, the bad and the ugly. Every institution has them. Every nation has them. The ugly need to be punished. But individuals cannot be blamed for the dastardly act.”
Unfortunately, this remark did not go down too well with the makers of The Kapil Sharma Show (Sony TV) in India, who did not want to take on the cause and the resultant negative publicity. They had to sack Sidhu (who had already participated in a few shows) for his conciliatory remarks.
However it is in times like these perhaps, that it is best to pause and listen to the voice of reason, that has time and again proven to be the only sane response to intense hatred and anger – and to quote actress Shabana Azmi from an earlier time:
“Film is the medium through which feeling of love can be generated among people of India and Pakistan. More films should be made through which message of love and peace is imparted, and there should be a joint collaboration between the nations”.
We see ourselves going down a long and painful road all over again, and we wonder, “Will there ever be a light at the end of this tunnel? As one social media user commented in frustration: “Will this Indo-Pak issue ever Ennnnd!”