Sapan Kapoor recounts how his hatred for with the people of Pakistan following the
Mumbai attacks turned to love..
On a damp, gloomy evening of December 3, 2008, I was among the 20,000 or so Indians who congregated near the Taj Hotel in Mumbai to express solidarity with the victims of the heinous attack carried out by Pakistani gunmen, the last of whom was neutralized by the Indian security forces just five days earlier. Seething with anger and craving revenge, the agitated but disciplined crowd, young and old, blasted Pakistan as well as callous Indian politicians. 'Khoon ka badla khoon!' (blood for blood) was the main war cry.
I myself screamed so much that for the next three days I could not speak without feeling pain. The Mumbai attack left deep scars on the psyche of millions of Indians like me. It literally changed the world around us. We were devastated, humiliated, shattered, and deeply hurt. Mumbai - the city I loved the most - had been desecrated and molested, and so brazenly. I started to despise and loathe Pakistan from the bottom of my heart, tarring the nearly 170 million people of my neighbouring country with the same brush.
Revenge for 26/11 became a top priority of my life. I wanted Pakistan to pay for its sins, and as a journalist I got many opportunities. While working for a premier news organization of India, people at my office hailed me as a hero for an anti-Pakistan story I wrote related to Mumbai attacks that made headlines across India and abroad.
But I regret that now. I feel shame for what I did. Today I'm not here to shower hatred upon Pakistanis but to tell them how sorry I am for having stereotyped Pakistanis. I had become so blind in my anger towards Pakistan following 26/11 that I lost my ability to differentiate between the good and the bad. I forgot a basic lesson which is taught to all Indians in schools and homes that there are only two kinds of people in this world - the good and the bad. I forgot Mahatma Gandhi's words: 'An eye for an eye will make us all blind' and 'Violence is an invitation to more violence'.
Alas! In a fit of anger, my young dilettante mind could not see that just as there were good people in India, there were bad too. These good and bad people are everywhere in the world and Pakistan is no exception to this. Don't good people exist in Pakistan? Don't bad people exist in India?
I agree with my fellow Indians that the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice, and that we must bring this painful episode to its logical conclusion. I agree that we must have zero tolerance toward terrorism. However, at the same time we must also try to be best friends with the people of Pakistan who have only love and friendship to offer to India. Just because they have Ajmal Kasab and Hafeez Saeed, should we stop loving Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Zafar? Similarly just because we have Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnanni, should Pakistanis stop loving Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan? We must at all costs avoid such dangerous stereotyping.
I've never been to Pakistan. The first Pakistanis I met were the family members of 80-year-old Pakistani virologist Khalil Chishty who had come to New Delhi from Karachi seeking his release from an Ajmer jail where he was undergoing life imprisonment. I shall never forget that emotional encounter with the Chishty family in a lodge near Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi. It was November 2011, and the news agency I worked for had assigned me to interview them. It was while talking to them that I realized how much the common Pakistanis loved India and understood their strong desire to make friends with India. This human encounter opened my eyes, enabling me to differentiate between the good and the bad. I realized that the Pakistanis were also ordinary people like us. I saw no difference whatsoever between them and me - we conversed in same language and I was very comfortable talking to them.
So it was only after I personally interacted with Pakistani people that my anger towards Pakistan started to wither away. It helped me to finally realise my folly. I asked myself - how could I despise an entire country for the acts committed by a few individuals? How could I be so unfair on the people of Pakistan? In retrospect, I hang my head in shame today. I'm sorry, Pakistan.
Pakistan. What should I say about Pakistan? It's a country that has fascinated me for the last 20 years of my life. I've been literally obsessed with everything Pakistani -- music, cricket, food, culture, and last but not least our common language. I'd say many Indians and Pakistanis are obsessed with each other. Why are we like this? The answer lies in our shared history and culture.
When I was a teenager I used to wonder why these people of Pakistan - who seem so similar to us - are separated from India? Why is there so much animosity between our two nations? At first I could not understand the reason behind my deep curiosity about Pakistan. Then I learned that Indians and Pakistanis were actually twin brothers who were separated at birth in 1947. Well don't brothers fight with each other? I now realise that it's not the people of India and Pakistan who have animosity for each other, but that the problem lies elsewhere. I've come to know that the people of India and Pakistan are actually truly, deeply, madly in love with each other. But they won't accept it. Isn't it true that not a single day of ours passes without thinking of each other; when we do not sneak through our heavily manned borders to see what's happening on the other side? Isn't it true that our hearts beat for each other? If not love, what else could be the reason behind our immense obsession with each other?
I confess that my heart beats for the people of Pakistan. Why shouldn't I love my own brothers and sisters? For they were once a part of my soul. Yes, I love you, Pakistan. I know Pakistanis love India too. It's time we made our love public though. I strongly believe now that conflict between India and Pakistan must retire at the age of 65 and give way to peace, friendship, love, and harmony; that we must be best friends with each other and demolish the walls that separate us. India and Pakistan - these two beautiful nations - can co-exist peacefully and be like brothers as they were before the partition. We've had enough of conflict. We cannot afford more bloodshed. We cannot afford to lose more precious lives. It's also important to maintain communal harmony between different communities in both our countries, especially in India. Enough of conflict; it's time to love India and Pakistan.
Nazar me rahte ho jab tum nazar nahi aatey, yeh sur bulate hain jab tum idhar nahi aatey!
Love and only love from India :)
The writer is a journalist and Indo-Pak peace activist based in India. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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