Amidst the incessant hyper war mongering and the proxy war virtually happening in the media of both India and Pakistan, a section of population of the old cities such as Lucknow, old Delhi Jaipur, Bhopal, Hyderabad of India is least worried about which country takes a lead. This section comprises of the people-Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus-who still have members of their families in Pakistan. In this war milieu, this section apart from being viewed as a vulnerable group by cultural nationalists for being soft towards Pakistan is governed by the complexities of their sociological order bound by its own insecurities. Interestingly, these insecurities are beyond the political play of nationalism or patriotism but are more entangled in the familial or kinship networks that are spread across the border.
People belonging to such cities, grew up listening to the narratives of partition from their parents and grandparents and have passively lived the experience of partition that separated their families overnight by two different national identities. What is more haunting is the fact that these two national identities are poised as ‘enemy’ identities. Ironically, in terms of culture, that ‘enemy’ culture would be the closest one can relate to as far as language, clothing and food habits are concerned. For the families whose members either migrated to Pakistan after partition or were already living in the provinces that later became part of Pakistan, this ‘enemy’ theory did not affect their personal relations. Physical mobility is of course affected by the state of contemporary political relations between the two countries but the emotional bond is not dependent to any diplomatic or military success or failure between the two countries. Over the time, these families have devised various sociological techniques to strengthen and preserve their relations irrespective of the territorial divide. Cross border marriage became one of the major agency cementing the dispersed families on two sides of the border. Despite being a subject to several legal formalities-visa and citizenship issues- these marriages have continued to take place, evoking a sentiment of association with their kinsfolk.
These marriages are not always arranged by the families as there had always been a scope for blossoming of love between boys and girls while they visit their relatives living across the border during weddings, festivals or casually. Emotionally charged relationships such as these are always at a fragile spot as their relation is dependent on and haunted by the geopolitical dynamics of their respective countries. So in such circumstances when these relationships are already vulnerable, the present media propaganda of war only further deteriorates these alliances. A feeling of disassociation, pain of separation and longing for family members living across is all that war would bring to them. The present atmosphere has instilled in their minds a fear psychosis which is echoed in their insecurities when such war mongering hovers in the media.
After a strong demand of banning of the Pakistani artists from India by these war mongers followed by violent threats of the MNS (Maharashtra) regarding the same, their fear has only accelerated. Their fear revolves around the next possibility that this situation will have to face and that is the cessation of the train and the bus services between the two countries. The closed borders will result in complete non-mobility of people from the two sides. This situation troubles the class of ‘matrimonial migrants’ the most comprising mainly of women who had been married in the ‘other’ country. Hyper moments such as these restrict them from visiting their native houses and meeting their parents for a long time. A kind of gender inequality diffused in such marriages can also be located as we come across that only women become a subject of such matrimonial migration as they are the ones who would leave their country and settle in the other country. This kind of rupture brings an emotional uncertainty not only to their relationships but also to their everyday existence.
What is interesting is that such uncertainties apart from affecting the existing tans-border marriages also affect the trans-border engagements that were scheduled to take form of marriages soon. One such example of it is the engagement of Sanam (name changed), a girl from old Delhi who got engaged to her cousin Farukh (name changed) living in Lahore before the Uri attacks that triggered all the hunger for war in India. The engaged couple was deeply in love and was vying to live their life together after getting married. But when a hue and cry started in the media of both the countries regarding a possible war happening, especially after the ‘surgical strikes’ conducted by India, their engagement became a prey to such war-hunting. The girl’s parents broke the engagement citing the possible closing of borders due to increasing animosity as was visible in the media as one of the major reasons behind their decision. Though there remains a possibility of commuting via Dubai, but weary official procedures inhibit people from taking such a course.
In a recent incident, Minister of External affairs Sushma Swaraj came to the rescue of a Jodhpur boy Naresh Tewani and his Karachi based fiancée Priya Bachchani in order to save their scheduled wedding that was impinged due to non-issuance of the visa in the present warlike circumstances. This is just one case, where the case became as popular as the minster’s public promise to issue the visa. But the problem is not new. What is new is the hope that this case arouses in people stuck in similar situations but whether their problems will also be addressed with the same vigour is a matter of contemplation.
Such individual experiences and personal histories reflect a psychology of fear and nostalgia. At the same time, they also become metaphors of the unsettled circumstances in which such relationships are cultivated. Life experiences for them are torn between the hostilities prevalent among their countries and their everyday encounters. Much to the exasperation is the fact that detached from the real tensions happening on the borders, the free floating media propaganda that generates much hate against the ‘others’, does not take cognizance of these complexities.
Such a discourse advocating a very abstract idea of ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism’ caters to particular sensibilities of people which in turn create a distinct ‘public sphere’. In doing so, it is also intruding into the private spaces and minds of the local people affecting their notions of love and intimacy. It completely negates or ignores the complexities of the lives of the people whose families were also divided with the territorial partition in 1947. This class of people existing in both the countries though signifies a compound social structure, but their sensibilities cannot be and should not be ignored. Their major aspiration being the continuation of the social and spatial mobility that would help them in perpetuating and preserving their familial structures that had existed much before the partition occurred.
Much indifferent to these aspirations, the political and defence analysts of both the countries while accusing their counterparts of fabricating truths and boasting of their defence super-powers get too much carried away by their hyper nationalistic ‘masculinity’. I wonder why we never see women as defence analysts in the news rooms and why only the moustached retd. Army men can serve the purpose of trapping the soft patriotic emotions of the people. Although with the present circumstances, it would be just another speculative possibility that can change the mood of the people from hatred and revenge to love and reconnection.