The Pakistani Denial: Collective Indifference towards our Past.
So, Sophomore Year:
I took a class offered as a 300 level course because, at first, it sounded pretty cool. “The Unwritten Epic: Partition through the lens of film and fiction”- I mean, who wouldn’t take up a course like that? Sounds dangerous. Anyway, as the course title pointed out, we did look at the history of Partition through a very different light. The class was a brown envelope, labeled “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL” in red. It was ultimately hitting upon the groundbreaking reality- that Partition was a faux bluff to gain power over land, which backfired.
Sifting through the works of all those damned writers who couldn’t be sold to the theoretical niceties of partition it was haunting to exhume the dead, look them in the eye, and let the realization slip in; Partition is an ultimate reality which we all are affected by.
I will get back to that later, but first- why such a subtle click-bait title? It isn’t click-bait, trust me. It was the topic of my research paper that I wrote. One of the things about this class was that there weren’t any exams or weekly assignments. There was only an end-term research paper and a one-page paper listing the answer to the question “What’s your identity, and where do you come from?”. That was it, however, in the process of doing my assignment I discovered various details about myself and the society.
The Interview: So, the interview that later inspired me to research on this topic was a nice little sudden interview I had with an activist (whose name I may not reveal). In the interview, when Mr. X here was asked. “Do you think we are still affected by the Partition?” He felt more inclined towards providing factual details as to why the history didn’t matter, sharing his personal experiences to support his claim; it was a thirty minute long discussion about how history couldn’t do well anyway, and we should progress forward and think about correcting our future. And though he did mean well, insensitivity was pretty much evident through his tone and style of deliverance. “Had the Partition never happened, I would have to look over, say, 14 million people rather than the 5 million I can take responsibility for right now.”
I saw it all around me though, a certain sense of nationality in people’s mind. They run on false sense of identity and nationhood. In an interview with Alok Bhalla on the topic of Identity, he gruffly dismissed the concept as a “foolish concept created by foolish people.” I couldn’t agree more. A structural model, that is enforced by such concepts of identity and nationhood, prevails around us and we, as victims of the overarching structure, are pressured and subtly coerced into conforming in order to “fit in” with the rest of the society and environment. That’s how the concept of identity is widespread. It adds a certain sense of being relatable- a sense of being part of the “bigger picture”. The psycho-social analysis revealed how the effect collective indifference was not an individual’s own effort but a collected effort of many. Which is why, whatever answers I got for my research paper about identity and people’s indifference towards knowing their history, the responses seemed similar.
I underlined people’s behavior to avoid bringing their identity and state endorsed nationalism into question as a consequence of selective amnesia. The people I came across, all possessed somewhat similar reasons as to why they thought of themselves as Pakistanis and felt the need to represent their nation. They called it as part of their “Inheritance.” See, ‘inheritance’ was a loaded term. It came with a condition; one of the reasons why people turned a blind eye towards reviewing revisionist histories and alternative narratives of the Partition was because they didn’t want dismantle their beliefs of their “roots” (their inheritance).
Though the research did open up further questions, such as, who were the main enforcers of this behavior (so far, it was deduced that that there were certain state approved censorship on the educational material these individuals received in their respective educational institutes.), how their surrounding social structure impacted their concept of inheritance, and whether their indifference towards history could be changed had they been put into different social environments. My research had been limited, however, it was definitely a new concept I touched upon. I never thought of collective pressures being so influential as to making an individual actively forget their link with tragedies such as the Partition.
All that seemed to be intriguing ideas to pursue, and I did promise my Professor that I will continue researching more into this. So here’s to starting my own blog, and sharing my research and experiences with the world.