Promotion of cultural identities and a departure from our obsession with the idea of nation-states can help bring Pakistan and India closer.
Indian English writer and journalist Tridivesh Singh Maini expressed these thoughts during a lecture on “The Role of Writers in Regional Peace” at the Islamabad Press Club on Monday.
“We have become so wrapped up in our definition of nation-states that we think we can’t have dual or triple identities,” Maini said. “We need to promote soft, cultural identities.”
He said east and west Punjab and Sindh-Rajasthan could best advance peace in the region, because of their cultural similarities.
Tahir Malik, a journalist from Lahore, who joined Maini at the lecture, said literature is deeply tied to prevalent social conditions. “People are not going to get any reprieve through politics or economics,” Malik said. “The writer is the main hope for the common man.”
Malik also mentioned a book he co-authored with Maini in 2008. “Humanity amidst Insanity” tells the stories of survivors of the 1947 partition who owed their lives to other communities, for example, Muslim families, now living in Pakistan, who were only able to migrate from India because of help from Hindus and Sikhs.
The lecture was attended by journalists and writers. The participants expressed the need to promote peace in the region by exploiting cultural similarities between the two countries and exchanging literary texts.
Poet Parveen Tahir stressed the need for translating Punjabi works from Gurmukhi to Shahmukhi script and vice versa, so they could be read across the border in east and west Punjab.
Maini said the peace process between India and Pakistan, which has been limited to the political top brass and economic elite so far, should be owned by the people. “We need to expand the stakeholders’ base,” Maini said. “Apart from politicians and businessmen, [both governments should encourage] greater interaction between people across borders.”
The lecture was organised by the Progressive Writers’ Association.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.