A group of youngsters recently organised a workshop in Mumbai with the aim of understanding partition without any preconceived notions. Ria Mirchandani, Zara Rustomji, Kunal Mehta, Niyati Mahimtura, Raghav Sawhney and Shawn Wadia sought to separate myth from reality and leave behind the prejudices attached to the traumatic period by organising such a workshop.
The event was kickstarted by a skit where the students dressed up like various prominent leaders of that era -- Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. After each 'historical leader' put forward their point of view, a discussion by eminent members of society from different walks of life took place. Manjeet Kripalani, executive director of Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, talked about Was partition necessary at that time, actor and social activist Rahul Bose discussed the topic Are the scars of the tragedy permanent and theater and movie actor Tom Alter talked about Indians and Pakistani will never regard partition without emotion .The panel comprised members of both India and Pakistan.
The lively discussion dealt with some serious misconceptions about Partition. Tom Alter made a striking statement by saying that Gandhi, who gave up his life for the freedom of the nation, was not allowed to live in the free land for more than five and half months. He was a man who dared to celebrate the birth of not only the Indian nation but also of Pakistan, he said. Alter pointed out that Pakistan was created after a consensus between the Congress, the Muslim League and the British empire, and its creation was not illegitimate.
"We cannot afford to forget partition, we need to own up and learn from what has happened," said Bose.
The students who participated in the discussion agreed that time and effort will heal the scars of partition. "The younger generation does not have the burden of memory to carry it forward; they have started a fresh and new vision, which has a faint memory of the tribulation. The aim is to learn from these faint memories, not to forget them," said the youngsters.
M J Akbar, one of India's leading journalists, told the young participants that they had 20-30 active years before them, and they can undo the wrongs of the past. "The two nations are united by their culture and hence one can't be termed better or worse than the other. Due to certain circumstances, the idea of India has become stronger than India which is opposite in the case of Pakistan, where the idea of Pakistan is weaker than the nation," said Akbar.
According to him, this has happened because a secular state, which was the vision of Jinnah, has lost its relevance in modern Pakistan. He urged that the speech given by Jinnah in the Karachi assembly should be included in the syllabus of Pakistani students. In his speech, Jinnah had clearly outlined that the state has no responsibility to intervene in the private sphere of an individual; its role is to guarantee security and livelihood to them.
Akbar urged the organisers to take their Pakistani guests to Mohammad Ali Road in south Mumbai and let hem have a look at how Indian Muslims live in India. "In the absence of democracy, gender equality, secularism and economic equity, the journey towards the modern nation is incomplete. Therefore both these nations are struggling to achieve this aim," said Akbar.
Amna Siddiqui, a student from Pakistan who attended the workshop, said, "The experience is exhilarating, Mumbai is very much like Karachi and I hope that people to people level contact like this will facilitate a deeper understanding between these two countries as our cultures are similar".
Image: Actor Tom Alter with the participants