Let’s keep talking

Posted on: August 27, 2014

On a day, when the political tensions were running high in the corridors of power in both New Delhi and Islamabad because talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries were called off by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, people of both the countries including Pakistani expats in Delhi were thoroughly enjoying a cross-border film, ‘Bol’ in New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre. Bol was part of a film festival organised by the High Commission of Pakistan jointly with Habitat.

The movie opens with a scene where a woman prisoner who decides to tell her story to the television cameras, from the gallows. This is a story of a young girl, Zainab, who kills her father. She wants to tell the world why she killed her father.

The story goes like this. The father, Hakim, who practices Unani medicine, has seven daughters and one transgender child, Saifi. He thinks all his children are curse for the family. Zainab, the eldest of all, is the most vocal. She often challenges her father for his patriarchal reasoning.

The family lives in dire straits because the father doesn’t earn much by practicing old school of medicine. Zainab decides to send Saifi to work. He is self-taught painter who gets a job to paint trucks. But sadly, Saifi gets raped by two truck drivers. When the father gets to know about it, he hates Saifi all the more and suffocates him to death. The cops get to know about the murder and demands bribe from him to cover up the case. This is a sum of over two lakh which he pays from the mosque funds. But when the clergymen ask him to return the money, he resorts to something very shocking. In want of money, he goes to a man named Saqa, who runs a brothel. Hakim used to teach Urdu to Saqa’s sons. Saqa gives him an option. He asks him to get married to Meena, who is one of the prostitutes and have a baby with her. Since Hakim has seven daughters, Saqa tells him that he can get him a baby girl. The deal is that he will get money when the child is born.

In a few months, the baby girl is born. Hakim begs Meena to give him the baby so that the child doesn’t have to face a horrible future. Saqa overhears this and kicks Hakim out. But Meena drops the child to Hakim’s house the same night. Hakim’s wife and daughters come to know about his second marriage and the child. Meanwhile, Saqa comes to take away the child. In confusion and rage, Hakim tries to suffocate the newborn to death too. Zainab resists but he doesn’t listen. At this juncture, Zainab hits his father with a cricket bat to death and saves the child.

This is Zainab’s story. Before going to the gallows, she raises a pertinent question – Why do you give birth to children if you cannot bring them up properly?

The story has touched upon every issue that Pakistan is struggling with – poverty, illiteracy, sexual abuse of transgenders, violence against women and patriarchal mindset. But any Indian would agree that these are the issues that India too is fighting for decades.

The question that comes to one’s mind is why the two countries cannot take up these issues jointly? There is so much in common, yet the two countries fail to see beyond Kashmir.

And the shortsightedness of the so-called visionary leader, Narendra Modi is the talk of the town now after he called off talks with Pakistan. The man who projected himself to be an “out of the box” thinker couldn’t really move beyond petty politics.

In May, he invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony to show the world that he has great statesmanship. He got his share of praise in national and international media for taking this “bold” step.

But then this decision to stall talks with Pakistan because the Pakistan High Commisisoner to India Abdul Basit met the separatist leaders of Kashmir has exposed his narrow mindedness. He did exactly what the leaders of his parent organistaion, RSS, who protested talks of Pakistan envoy with Kashmri separatist leaders, wanted him to do.

This is certainly to appease BJP’s Hindu leaders who are ambitiously eyeing for 44 seats in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in the upcoming elections. Strange enough, in a bid to accomplish his national mission, he is playing havoc on foreign policies.

Talking to separatist leaders is an old ritual followed by the Pakistani diplomats posted in India. In fact, India too has spoken to Hurriyat leaders in 2000 during the regime of the previous NDA government.

Somebody should tell Modi that his move is extremely puerile. It reminds me of a silly incident in school when two best friends refused to play with each other because one of them had shared his lunch box with the other’s rival in class.

Modi is still to learn the art of diplomacy but it is too early for him to tell the world that he is a novice.

Modi, the new kid in the block, should understand that the hardliners have to show their supporters in Kashmir that they have some say in India-Pakistan talks. And he should also know the Pakistan government has to tell its people back in Islamabad that Kashmir is an issue that remains unresolved without talks with separatist leaders of the Valley.

But till the time, good sense prevails on him, interaction between the people of the two countries should continue to take place through film and music festivals. A senior Pakistan High Commission official says that the Commission will organise music and food festival in association with the Press Club of India for the second year in a row in November. These gestures from both sides are the need of the hour. Let’s keep the dialogue on. Let’s keep talking.


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  • ranginee09: It is clear, justice eludes many but to imprison a man for his humanitarian deeds in a civilised society leaves an permanent blotch in our criminal ju
  • ranginee09: The article points-out a very pertinent social ill. Social ostracisation in childhood may have unwanted results later in life. A child victim is not a
  • Seeker and her search: Thanks for reading, Anne. Yes, I know what you are saying.
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