Between Holi and Good Friday this week, the India-Pakistan universe changed in such subtle and fundamental ways that both countries won’t likely be the same again. On Holi in India, the celebration of the colours of life coincided with former Pakistan army chief and president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s first press conference in Karachi after his return home. And on the eve of Good Friday, with the air pregnant with emotions of atonement and forgiveness, celebrated Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt broke down in public over his role in the terror acts of 1993, allegedly masterminded by Pakistan.
In India, at least in the metros, all the elements of a traditional Holi were in full flow: the application of ‘gulal’, dry colour that easily washes off with water, ‘pakka rang’ or permanent colour that doesn’t, the eating of ‘gajiya’, really a flaky pastry dipped in ‘gur’ and concentrated sugar syrup, ‘bhang’ or marijuana-laced ‘thandai’, and much else.
Music was guaranteed by the professional ‘dholki wallah’, the do-it-yourself CD player or even off-key human singing, each of them spawning appreciative audiences. Amitabh Bacchhan’s eponymous ode to Cezanne’s “Bacchanalia — the Battle of Love”, “Rang barse” must have won, hands down, the vote for the most popular song in the Indian subcontinent on Holi.
Considering the movie in which it features, Silsila, is more than three decades old, clearly, there’s more to its popularity than Amitabh’s amazingly liquid voice. Fact is “Rang barse” is really a song that is embedded in the Braj, a language that is synonymous with the Hindi heartland around Mathura, Barsana and Vrindavan, barely 150 kilometres from Delhi. This is the cow belt that Krishna made famous with his mythological gambolling with Radha and countless other women, none of them his wives.
It is interesting, given the immensely patriarchal norms prevalent across north India, how people across ‘Brajbhoomi’ still greet each other with a ‘Radhey-Radhey’ instead of the ‘Ram-Ram’ that is much more common across the remaining Hindi heartland. This, of course, is a reference to Radha, amongst the first feminists in Hindu mythology, whose love for Krishna could not be confined to the love for her husband.
Several sociologists have, in fact, pointed out that the greeting of ‘Ram-Ram’ in north India, a reference to the god Rama is a reflection of the inequality between the sexes that prevails in that part of the country today.
Which is why Holi becomes the ultimate subversive festival, allowing women to come out of their homes in villages and mohallas and towns, and play Holi with men, both intimate and stranger. Everyone eats and drinks and dances and listens to music in the same space. For one blessed, anarchic day, Holi collapses the conventions and allows women to push back their ‘ghunghats’ and just have fun.
And so on Holi, Pervez Musharraf held his first press conference in four years in Karachi, and what a strange press conference it was. He was his own minder, picking who asked the question and choosing to answer it in his own way, ultimately a one-man show. Certainly not a grand recipe for political success.
The press conference was a measure of how much Pakistan had changed. There was no longer the apparent deference often on public view when Musharraf used to be president. Instead, a woman reporter asked the Kargil question and Musharraf went on to give the strangest answer: how he had seen his men cry when the Indian Army and the Indian government worked hand-in-glove with Bangladesh’s Mukti Bahini to break up Pakistan in 1971 and how a few years later, in 1984, he saw, with so much anger, how the Indians raced up the heights and took position on top of the Siachen glacier.
I am proud of the Kargil operation, Musharraf said, his jaw set obstinately. It left many of us in India half-stumped and half-amused at the incredible bravado we had almost forgotten was such an integral part of his psyche. Perhaps, Musharraf hasn’t heard of the ‘safe passage’ option being offered by the Indian government to former Kashmiri militants who now want to return home. Several are said to be tired of living in Pakistan, just across the Line of Control (LoC) and yearn for the apple orchards of home, as well as the innocence of their youth. According to the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, about 370 former militants have already exercised this right and are back from Pakistan-held Kashmir.
The bitter truth is that Musharraf’s return to Pakistan opens old wounds and reiterates old prejudices. India cannot wish away Kargil in 1999 or the Mumbai attacks in 2006. For all the self-congratulatory euphoria over completing five years in power for the first time since it became independent, Pakistan’s political leaders must think deeply about the kind of country they want and how they want to locate it in a larger South Asia.
As for Dutt, the wheel of life seems to have taken an incredible turn, sending him to jail for five years for a crime that he admits to have committed and whose punishment he will now fulfil. Pakistan, said the Indian Supreme Court, masterminded the 1993 attacks, unusually naming a foreign country, as it handed down the judgement to Dutt and a host of other people.
Crying, with his sister Priya by his side, Dutt said he would not seek pardon just for himself, as that would be a moral travesty of the law. On the eve of Good Friday, Sanjay Dutt promised to atone for his sins. It now remains for India to forgive its once-errant son.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2013.
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well now that the Supreme Court has found Sanjay Dutt guilty, shall we partonise him by flocking to his movies or shun them to set up an example...atleast till he serves his time.
@fonzarelli Snare: How many people died in communal riots in Gujarat? 750 Muslims and 254 Hindus.. When'd did they occur 11 years back. Have rioters been prosecuted and sentenced? Yes. Have there been any riots in the last 11 years in Gujarat? No. Now ask yourself similar questions about target killings in Karachi and see what the answers are.
On Babri structure, it was under legal dispute for 150 years. No worship had been carried out there for over 50 years when British had ordered the structure locked due to the dispute. The destruction is a blot and I will not defend it. But it was not a worship place and no namazis were killed. When did this happen? More than 20 years back. Has such an incident recurred? How many mosques have suffered suicide attacks in Pakistan in 5 years? How many dargahs and Ahmadi worship places? How many people died because they had just gone to worship? From this you can draw your own conclusion.
ET- I am responding to someone who write to me directly. Please allow.
@fonzarelli Snare: I cannot speak for others. I have no problem in acknowledging that many Indian Muslims DID fight British occupation and also that post 1947 many Indian Muslims have made strong contributions to our nations progress. If someone was disrespectful to all Muslims as a class, that is unfortunate. I have never done that and cannot ever imagine doing that in future.
Except for Pakistan, which is viewed as a pariah state by the majority of Indians and, incidentally, also the world, including many Muslim nations, India has had fairly cordial relations with its smaller neighbours even though there have been differences as any two states, anywhere in the world would have, with each other. Differences can also be settled if one refrains from terrorism and sending armed killers carrying Pakistani army assault weapons to kill and maime innocent men, women and small children. Alas, that is not the case with Pakistan which having lost face in a straight encounter between armies resorts to terrorist acts. Is that a role model for any country? Even Somalia does better than that. I find it ridiculously funny and absurd for a Pakistani to talk about role models. Is Pakistan a role model for any country? Many Egyptians, as an example, were recently saying in the course of the upheavals euphemized as "Arab Spring, that they are becoming "another Pakistan" (!!!). What does that say? Please, dear friend Sajjad, put your hand on your heart and be honest enough to ask who is really a role model.
@gp65: Just to refresh your memory, the original poster that I replied to used the words "How many of YOUR so called people" with the implied referal to Muslims in general, and with a hidden note of contempt might I add. Then we have your need to clear up the unecessary distinction that Muslim League members did not go to jail...so what??? why is it difficult in general for Indians to understand and accept that Muslims DID die in the fight for independence from the British?
"Most Indians are glad that Pakistan exists and have no desire whatsoever to reverse partition" - That makes two of us, but are you really in a position to speak for what all Indians beleive? I suspect you're not really in sync, or in a state of denial with what Indians really think on Pakistani news forums and blogs concerning it's existence? The muslim minority (however large that maybe) suffer from daily inequities at the hands of the hindu governed majority. Disguising yourselves to be a secular democratic nation that governs all in fairness has me in stiches. Findings from a high powered committee appointed by THE Govt. of India stated that approx 95% of Muslims live beneath the poverty line. I am presenting you with a single major fact, but the list is pretty endless. Go and research the facts for yourself, then tell me why this specific minority suffers in your country?
"By the way Shias and Ahmadis can pray safely in India." - I only need to remember the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque or the gujrat riots by hardline Hindu extremists to remind me how safe they really are?
Letting foreign mountaineering expeditions visit the glacier does not equal military intervention!
If you feel that India was right in preempting Pakistan through military means, then why complain about Pakistan doing the same across the LoC?
@fonzarelli Snare: Muslims did participate in the freedom movement against Britsh occupation but not Muslim LEague. You cannot find a single Muslim league member who went to jail for a single day as against people like Nehru, Tilak, Gandhi who spent year upon year in jail fighting the British occupation.
Most Indians are glad that Pakistan exists and have no desire whatsoever to reverse partition. SO the negative attitude is not towards Pakistan's independence but to its ongoing aggression. Secondly since India is a secular country, you will be hard-pressed to come across anyone especially Indian Muslims who believe in the 2 nation theory which essentially states that people of two different religions cannot stay together in one country. If Indian Muslims believed in that theory they would have moved to Pakistan but did not. If Indian Hindus believed n such a theory, they would be creating the same nightmarish condition for SIkhs, Christians, Buddhists etc. in India that prevail in Pakistan. By the way Shias and Ahmadis can pray safely in India. Can you say the same about your country? India respects diversity and hence Indians will never agree with TNT. IT does not mean we are against Pakistan's independence.
@Corrector : You are probably referring to 26/11 and she is referring to the serial bombings in Mumbai suburban trains in July 2006 where actually more people died than in 26/11. So you are right but she is not wrong.
@Sin Sall: I am appalled to see how shallow your thoughts are and how ignorant you are when it comes to history. There was no big big Mahabhharat-one Bharat you are crying about, this whole areas was a British colony and it was divided into two countries, namely Pakistan and Bharat, when the colonial masters decided to leave. Historically it is Pakistan which was once known as Sapta Sindhava, and this is our Paksitan where the Vedas were written, and this is our Pakistan which gave birth to great civilizations like Indus and Gandhara. The people of Indus are the true inheritors of the great civilizations that sprouted along the banks of Indus, and your Saffron propaganda cannot take away their rights from them. Now accept these facts and move on, hatred breeds hatred and ignorance breeds ignorance, learn to live in peace and let the others live in peace.
Of Punjabi romantics and hard liners - may the almighty save both India and Pakistan from them. In a perverse way, they both support each other. They can't let either country move on and be itself.
Musharraf: it is the northern India Punjabi media that is obsessed with Musharraf. The crazy hero worship that you see by Barkha Dutt, Thapar and Kuldip Nayyar is not visible in Pakistan. Pakistan realizes the damage wrought by the me-first dictator and seems to have moved on.
Sanjay Dutt: If you do the crime, you MUST do the time. But no .... once again the rich and influential want India to show her magnanimity and pardon criminals amongst them.
@sajjid, again, again wrong history books and wrong news papers you read. srilanka, china, bangla, nepal, bhutan, nobody is bitter with india, if they are bitter there trade with india will not be growing steadily with india. Any way u compare your trade with others and our trade with same people. This will show who is bitter with whom. Money is the great leveller, not religion or faith. As i said earlier, find something good to do to yourself, yourfamily and then to your country in the same order, instead of your religion. Everything will fall in place. In our part of country they say, from me it is our family, from my family it is my society, from my society my city/state, from my state is my country.
find peace for yourselves first.
@assad: " ... Indian pre-emption in Siachen is another example of Indians taking action where and when it suits them. ... "
Here is what happened. In the 1980's your country began encouraging mountaineers to ski the length of the Siachen Glacier to test the waters. If Siachen was a no-mans land, you should have prevented these expeditions. You did not; the rest is history.
So, please, do not obfuscate facts. And do not lie to yourselves. Your establishment tried to be clever, but failed.
Across the India, i have traveled many places and the most common greeting is Sita-Ram or radhey-radhey and in few regions radhey-shyam or ram-ram. In my entire life i never heard any body greeting with ram-sita or shyam-radha, and i bet nobody heard.
@Sinn Sall I think you have been taught concocted history. Muslims were ruling Indian Sub-continent before British started invading this area. And Muslims with some contributions from Hindus were the one who sacrificed their lives to get it back from British.
@author and Other Pakistanis, The day pakistanis learn right history in there own country rather than reading or listening from other countries, The day they realise that Kashmir was never there country, Kashmir had acceded to India long before,
that is the day Pakistan will find peace to itself and start from scratch in building itself. Until then Pakistan will be suffering from itsown people and itsown actions.
As for India and Indians, very few have time for Kashmir and its conflict. Many feel it that it is India territory and will be no matter what atleast in there generation.
Hope Pakistan finds peace.
@Pakistan First: Your area? your entire country is area of India. Dont forget there was nothing called Pakistan before the partition. It was a big India and remember it was so for close to 4000 years. How many of your so called people ( Muslim league leaders went to jail for the independence struggle against the Brits?) now suddenly it has become " your area" Lets for a second assume its your area ! can your govt handle "your area" that you ask fo more? It just don't surprise me any more to see a brainless Pakistani any more .
@assad: ok ..then who is responsile for killings in karachi,quetta and khyber...??
@Pakistan First: so u think pak benefitted from kargil reaction?
Jyoti, You were a much better writer some years ago. This India, Pakistan business is getting a little tiresome. Try something else for a while.
The fact that Pervez Musharraf has come back to Pakistan at all, despite facing serious charges, and believes he has a shot at winning back a country he almost ran five years back serves to show how unrealistically optimistic he is. The airport welcoming committee he was hoping would be in the hundreds of thousands stood at less than 1,500. BUt there are some liberral people in his party the APML and I hope, it wins some seats. The man himself is OK, only his army boots we did not like
Mumbai attacks were in 2008
Ms Malhotra if i was an Indian and i would have heard the press conference of Musharraf i would have felt the same as you have written. Since i am on the other side of the border i don't see things your way. He was straight forward in answering questions. He was in his peculiar way. He was as in command as he used to be. When somebody said there is a bounty on you of Rs 1 crore he replied i will place Rs 2 crore on him, a comment which everyone enjoyed. He clearly has the following if not in this election perhaps the next one for which he won't have to wait for 5 years.
Dutt was well accepted by Indian public after 1.5 years in jail. When he comes back after serving the remaining 3.5 years, he will be once more well accepted. Once he does the time for his crime, no one would hold anything against him. I have same feeling for Salman.
Nothing difficult to understand about Musharraf's comments on Kargil.
Indians cry about Kargil yet not a single one of them regrets India's invasion across the International Boundary to attack Pakistan in the East in 1971.
Kargil was with Pakistan in 1948, parts of which were returned to Pakistan in 1965 and then again taken over by the Indian side through use of arms in 1971. Pakistan's attempts to readjust is no different as all of the action is happening across the LoC and not the IB.
Indian pre-emption in Siachen is another example of Indians taking action where and when it suits them. Pakistan has the right to do the same.
So there is nothing to atone for with regards to Kargil on the Pakistani side. Indians are guilty of everything they blame Pakistan for and more.
While you are usually disliked by the Indians here, your sermon to Pakistan will surely win some of them over.
Writing and publishing such columns wont bring any improvements in relations. Stop supporting insurgents in Balochistan to avoid such bravados in future. Every action has a reaction and kargil was reaction of indians occupying our area of siachins.
"... On the eve of Good Friday, Sanjay Dutt promised to atone for his sins. It now remains for India to forgive its once-errant son. ... "
Yep. Once he completes his term, he will be forgiven.