PUCL Bulletin, Nov. 2000

Letter to the editor: Pakistan - India People's Forum Report:

Dear Editor,
I congratulate the leaders of the forum for organizing joint conventions (PUCL Bulletin, August). For quite some time, in our own ways, we have held forums to bring the peoples of the Indian Subcontinent closer. With our own funds, my family and I have been to all three partitioned countries. The April 8, 2000 Declaration is laudable, but workshop deliberations could have been written openly racist [those who think Muslims and non- Muslims form different races, like the Muslim Leaguers,] anti democratic and anti secular Islamist groups of Pakistan.
From the document one would hardly find that there are serious fundamental institutional differences between Pakistan and India. Those who believe in democracy, tolerance and secularism should strive that for, not only India, but also for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma and Tibet. If Indians think that India will have a higher standard and others to have a lower one, the laws of physics and that of Mother Nature suggest it won't work. Although small and marginalised, I am aware of such individuals in Pakistan [and in other countries] who like their country to be a secular democratic one. We should not undermine them.

Any religious, linguistic, caste or regional bigotry must be condemned, including recent attacks on Christians. I would ask you to use similar forums when Christians or others attack Hindus, otherwise the Forums intention will be questioned. For about two decades Christians have been attacking Hindus in some area of the Northeast, especially Meghalaya. Should we condone that? It has been difficult to organize even Durga Puja, a popular festival of Hindus there. I know Hindus who have been murdered there.

What is "Brahminised upper caste Hinduism"? I have heard this more in Bangladesh and Pakistan, including from people who haven't seen a live Hindu, than in India. Does this sort of hyperbole serve any purpose?
I don't know anyone who doesn't like a "just" solution in Kashmir. I hope the forum could spell it out more clearly. Can ethnic cleansing and pluralism exist side by side? Can intolerance and tolerance be part of the same platform? Should Kashmiri Muslims have one standard than say, Gujarati Christians, Naga Hindus, Tamil Muslims? In Kashmir, do the ethnically cleansed Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistani Azad Kashmir have any right of independence or autonomy?

I support the Forum's effort for easier travel and communication. Moreover, those Pakistani - Indians and Bangladeshi - Indians and their descendants, many of whom serve in high positions in India should try to live in their homeland now: Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir & Bangladesh as Indian Pakistani (British) Salman Rushdie, have just done. Those who preach tolerance and unity must prove by their actions what the3y believe in. It may help secularize and democratize not only India but her neighbours as well.

-S G Dastidar, Distinguished Professor, State
University of New York, 9th September 2000

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