An op-ed that was published in The Hindu on December 16, 2011.
For Pakistan, the worst fallout of the 1971 debacle was excessive militarism resulting from the deep insecurity of the state.
Forty years ago, South Asia underwent another traumatic experience with the Bengali separatist movement in East Pakistan, the India-Pakistan war and the eventual creation of Bangladesh. South Asians are a strange lot. In 1947, the political elites refused to accommodate each other and a hurried, bloody Partition was imposed on millions. Instead of working to undo the harmful effects of 1947, India and Pakistan found themselves entangled in yet another battle. Again this time it was the intransigence of West Pakistani elites to accede to the Bengali demand for autonomy, and India’s short-sighted decision to momentarily ‘benefit’ from its neighbour-enemy’s woes. The jury is still out on whether 1947, and 1971, were avoidable or at least could have been handled in a manner that involved less suffering, and bloodshed.
What has however happened is that three nation states (some say state-nations) now exist with three standing armies, nationalist discourses, honour and of course tailor-made histories.
In Pakistan, a child grows up learning that it was an Indian conspiracy, woven through the Hindu teachers of “East Pakistan” that led to the separatism of the Bangladeshis. For instance, here is a passage from a secondary school textbook: “There were a large number of Hindus in East Pakistan. They had never really accepted Pakistan. A large number of them were teachers in schools and colleges. They continued creating a negative impression among the students. No importance was attached to explaining the ideology of Pakistan to the younger generation. The Hindus sent a substantial part of their earnings to Bharat, thus adversely affecting the economy of the province.” Continue reading “Erasing memory to deal with loss – Pakistan, Bangladesh and India”