… Ask the peace caravan
Published on SACW.net, by Jawed Naqvi, 19 January 2009.
It’s curious that while millions of Indians have to produce a dozen proofs to get a passport or a driving licence, and brace the ordeal of getting elusive police certificates, gazetted officers’ signatures and the neighbourhood politician’s goodwill, Pakistanis who are caught on the wrong side of law in India are readily identified by the wrapper of the chewing gum found in their pockets, or a matchbox made in Karachi, or a cigarette packet from Lahore.
There is of course the ubiquitous SIM card and occasionally a telephone diary found conveniently in his shirt pockets if the Pakistani happens to be declared a terrorist who was shot dead in an encounter. The media gave up the practice of using alleged, suspected and so on long ago, which helps widen the eligibility gap between Indians and Pakistanis for official recognition and identification. I believe Indian passport seekers must demand parity with their Pakistani counterparts to ease the peculiar identity crisis they otherwise face.
Some 20 odd Pakistani peace activists are due in New Delhi this week, which is just as good an occasion as any to ask these and other similar questions, not only of the Indian establishment but with focus on matching absurdities in their own patch. There was a slight improvement in the ‘identity crisis’ between the two countries last week. The lone survivor from the gang of terrorists that attacked Mumbai was finally acknowledged by Pakistan to be one of its citizens, though not before Islamabad fired its national security adviser, (who incidentally had gained considerable credibility with India), for saying precisely what his government admitted weeks later. But the problems of identity between the two are not waning anytime soon. There is still a question mark, to quote one example, about the identity of an Indian who was, or perhaps still is, languishing on the death row as a convicted terrorist in a Pakistani jail. The Indian media says he is innocent and calls him by a different name to the one the judge used to condemn him …
… And, by the way, the Mumbai attacks seem to have produced another gem of an irony. No, not all Indians face problems getting passports issued. The raging story doing the rounds, though it has been shunned by the otherwise alert electronic media, is that a fisherwoman who saw the six (or was it all 10) men, landing from their boats at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, was whisked away to America for several days grilling. Another key material witness, the nanny of a Jewish infant whose parents were murdered by the terrorists, was flown off to Israel even before the siege of Mumbai was over. The Mumbai police have not come up with a cogent explanation. What’s going on? Of course, these are not the kind of issues that serious peace activists usually bother to get involved with. Fortunately, the questions are not going to go away simply because they may remain unasked. Never mind if it’s winter. We’ll wait for spring. (full text).