Are Pakistanis less prejudiced than Indians?
VIEW: Are Pakistanis less prejudiced than Indians? —Muqtedar Khan
India is a democracy and given its long history of religious pluralism it is surprising that when it comes to respecting the other, India, or at least Bangalore, is found wanting, compared to Pakistan
I read that when Pakistan beat India in a cricket match in Bangalore, they were met with silence, of the thousands of cricket fans in the stadium. I was disappointed. In contrast when India beat Pakistan in Karachi, the crowds roared with approval for the Indian team’s performance. A recurrent theme of India’s tour to Pakistan was the great welcome they received; the hospitality of the local people and the general love and adulation that the Indian team received in Pakistan. The silence in Bangalore in contrast seemed shameful.
India is a democracy and given its long history of religious pluralism it is surprising that when it comes to respecting the other, India, or at least Bangalore, is found wanting, compared to Pakistan. I do not wish to make too much out of this. The poor Bangaloreans were stupefied by the declining batting prowess of the Indian captain Ganguly (who aggregated 48 in his last five innings), but I think that the silence is indicative of how nationalism undermines good nature, and in this case sportsmanship.
Going back, let’s see what Indians had to say about their trip to Pakistan. An Indian visitor to Pakistan last year wrote (Business Line, April 5, 2004):
“It was an overwhelming experience at Karachi’s National Stadium where the Pakistanis were throwing chocolates at the Indian fans cheering their team. Quite a few were carrying the flags of both countries imaginatively stitched together. The guy on the street selling bhuttas refused to accept money from us and so did some restaurant owners saying that we were their guests!”
She was amazed by people on the streets wanting to shake the hands of Indian visitors and “asking us to come home for dinner. Everybody we met had some relative in India. Star Plus is Karachi’s most favourite channel. Shops gave us 40 to 50 per cent discount and again it was the India factor. Taxis, autos, army guys... the list is endless... everywhere we got loads of courtesy and respect; more than we would get in our own country. It is really sad that we consider ourselves ‘secular’ and yet have such a negative perception of Pakistan.”
A report in The Telegraph (March 6, 2005) said: “Almost each of the 8,000 Indians who went to Pakistan for the 2004 cricket series had a story to tell — of a shop-keeper who wouldn’t take money, a taxi-driver who refused the fare and the perfect stranger who called them home for dinner.”
Stories about Pakistani hospitality proliferated in the media last year. I hardly see any such reports this time. I hope many Pakistani tourists too will go back with similar appreciation of Indian hospitality.
But even as the present series began, the Indian media was observing that Pakistanis would not be met as warmly as Indians were in Pakistan. According to The Telegraph, Ali, a restaurant owner in Calcutta, said Pakistanis would not be received with the same fervour because Indians lacked the heart to do so (Kaleja nahin hai).
How should we understand this disparity in the conduct of Pakistanis towards Indians and of Indians towards Pakistanis? Are Pakistanis less prejudiced than Indians or just more capable of rising above hatred and mutual distrust? Does this comparison suggest that the Wahhabi teachings supposedly so widespread in Pakistan are no match for the capacity of Hindutva to sow hatred among Indians.
Pakistanis who live in a supposedly non-secular, non-democratic society do not fear to reveal that they are fans of Indian cricket and hockey teams and Indian movie stars. But apparently in secular and democratic India, showing appreciation for Pakistan is a potential act of treason; one could be labelled a spy!
Amin, a Kashmiri exporter settled in Calcutta says: “There’s no such thing as a Pakistani fan. All Pakistani fans are spies”.
It is a shame that in the new, more confident, more successful India, nationalism and communalism are depriving people of values such as hospitality, often associated with Indian culture. In recent years Indian nationalism has used Pakistan as ‘the enemy’ to explain many Indian problems, providing a justification and cover for the rising Hindutva movement and its egregious anti-Muslim politics.
Indian movies, discourse during elections, the media all focus on how Pakistan’s hand is behind everything, from Godhra to Kashmir. This culture of blaming Pakistan for India’s problems and the deep-seated hatred and intolerance which often does not distinguish between Pakistanis and Indian Muslims may one day cause a terrible holocaust in India which will make the genocide in Gujarat 2002 look like an appetiser.
Dr MA Muqtedar Khan is a non-resident fellow of the Brookings Institution and the author of American Muslims and Jihad for Jerusalem. His website is www.ijtihad.org