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When words of mere gratitude put Ramya’s patriotism at stake | Shazman Shariff

7 September 2016

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The Times of India - August 31, 2016

My father, an Indian who became a Pakistani national after migrating to the neighbouring country, often indulged into extensive discussions within his circle of erudite friends, mostly from journalist community, about the never-ending conflicts both the neighbouring countries faced off and on. Although he had left India as a teenager, he stayed deeply connected to his roots, which he preferred not to cut off even after he adopted Pakistan as his permanent residence. While he prospered and flourished breathing in the new country, he could not forget the scent of the soil, richly defused in his mind.

But his emotional attachment to his country of birth was not to be considered as a chink in the armour of patriotism, Pakistan, his adopted home, had conferred on him.

Woman’s Day Celebration with Shobha Karandlaje and Ramya in Vijay Karnataka Office

Recently when Ramya, a former MP visited Pakistan as part of a SAARC delegation of young lawmakers, more than her visit and the outcome of the meet, what created a furore and grabbed headlines in media were a few words of goodwill, she said on her return. “What I found (in Pakistan) was not hell but a country that is home to people just like us who happen to be ruled by a regime that does not inspire confidence,” her words, spoken to show gratitude towards her host country and carrying the power to go a long way in defusing tension and creating harmony between the two countries, were unfortunately, in the first place were taken as a rebuttal to a statement issued by the defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, who had recently said, “going to Pakistan is same as going to hell.”

Sadly enough, the issue did not culminate here; it was further blown out of proportion when Ramya not just faced a strong social-media backlash but also encountered sedition charges filed by some NGO. People in the political circle, mostly from her rival party, believed her statement had hurt the sentiments of most Indians.

Kannada Sena activists protest

I am sure she had never imagined a mere statement issued to exhibit her positive experience and intended to generate some affability between the rival countries would end up eliciting a reaction reeking of jingoism at her home front. I admired the strong stance which the young minister maintained about her words; her refusal to withdraw her statement or issue an apology to her countrymen proved that her patriotic sentiments were far too sturdy and secure to be shaken by mere words, spoken to express courtesy and gratitude.

Hurling sedition charges at her, doubting her patriotism and giving an ugly political twist to her statement was akin to make her pay a heavy price for a non-issue, which seriously never merited this level of importance. It was rather a manifestation of hatred, harboured by group of people for the neighbouring country. “Would she have faced a similar situation, if the same words were used for some other country?” I wondered.

For those who have never visited Pakistan, the country is poorly perceived to be a place dotted with jihadi camps, where massive bomb blasts rock cities every now and then and hapless citizens live a battered, deprived life breathing in air smelling of gun powder and foul stench of flesh and blood. Gun fires, shooting, killing and every heinous form of crime and terrorism grip the place like a monster with myriad tentacles that suffocate any form civility and sophistication of people. In short, they are unfortunate dwellers of man-made hell.

I have had the first-hand account of such portrayal of the country of my birth as people often asked me questions which literally made me think if they would be able to stand by their thoughtless inferences, fashioned mostly by media, about Karachi, if ever they get a chance to experience the exuberance of the City of Lights.

For an Indian, if showing general goodwill towards other country, particularly Pakistan is tantamount to hurting the sentiments of fellow Indians, then how would one describe a situation when an Indian issues insensitive statements that hurt the feelings of Pakistani citizens? Naturally, nobody wants his/her country to be given the title of a hell or nightmare especially if they are the biggest sufferers of menace in the form of terrorism that ruthlessly wipes out cheerful innocent lives from their motherland.

When unnecessary negativity forces its way into rare show of amiability, the Indo-Pak strife gets further stimulated and the dismal scenario is promoted to higher limits where germination of any act of goodwill is obstructed.

Ramya was right, when she said, “people there are like us.” People of Pakistan surely want their country to prosper and talked about in a positive way; they hate to be labelled as merchants of terrorism or architects of hell.


The Above article from The Times of India is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use