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When closeness breeds distance!

Huzaima Bukhari

We are now living in a post–Roosevelt, post-Reagan universe. What comes next will not be post-partisan, because faction is an intrinsic human impulse”―Jon Meacham (writers, reviewer and presidential biographer)

A cursory glance around the globe would reveal some very interesting developments. With technology in full swing, the world has shrunk in the palms of individuals no matter which country, city or even social status they belong to, which language they speak, which faith they profess and whatever their occupation maybe. The plain truth is that we as a global community are closely connected to each other and can reach out in just a few seconds. The most minor of incidents is immediately reported, sometimes in real time and wealth of information is readily available for instant reference. Anyone emitting a sigh or passing a comment or deriding about anything becomes a target of opinionated audience that considers its duty to deeply scrutinize every word uttered and even every emotional symbol attached.

Amazingly, what was earlier understood as privacy is now reduced to perhaps the restroom. It seems that one’s surroundings are cluttered with close circuit cameras and every move is being monitored by everyone. Even the closed doors of one’s home have become translucent. Our activities, whereabouts, likes and dislikes, the food we are eating, the events we are attending, our hobbies, professions, our families, our children, our images, our travels, our impressions; thus there is a total exposure to the whole world to see, read and comment. This implies that by opening up ourselves we are getting closer to others, but are we really? Could it be that this closeness is actually leading to disintegration of the society rather than creating amity?

At best, in the backdrop of the Indian Sub-continent, this is exactly what appears to be happening. A decade back it looked as if the peoples of this region were becoming friendly with each other. There was a feeling of oneness with the arrival of Facebook and other social mediums. The entertainment industries on either side of the Indo-Pakistan borders were seen collaborating and producing films. Pakistani budding crooners were much appreciated in singing competitions in India and UAE. There were frequent sharing of artistes, and events were organized where participants from both countries performed with great vigour, drawing the local crowds in large numbers. People not only enjoyed watching their favorite stars live in their respective country, there was talk about harmony, compassion, regard and brotherhood.

A temporary veil had befallen on the two-nation theory and for a moment it seemed as if this region was eventually on the road to becoming an Asian Union in the likes of European Union. Traders were trying to find new markets and on the diplomatic front pressures in granting visas had eased up. International cricket saw members of the national teams of India and Pakistan playing together in Indian Cricket League matches, in 20-twenties and other One-Day Internationals frequently held in different countries. Tourism, particularly religious, had gradually picked up with Sikh and Hindu yatrees [pilgrims] visiting Pakistan and eager Pakistanis going to Ajmer Sharif shrine to pay their respects. Buses had begun to commute between Lahore and Delhi with heavy traffic across the borders. Reunions between friends and relatives were being arranged with much jubilation and fanfare. Then just as peace started taking roots in the region all hell broke loose!

Somewhere along this journey, there were those for whom this entire process of accord and understanding was alarming. Their nefarious intentions regarding the political scene of the Sub-continent were getting affected. The villainous vested-interest group was viewing with terror the growing fondness between the peoples of both countries. Restraining policy of ‘divide and rule’ was causing great damage to the concepts of religious bigotry and racial prejudice. The frequent get-togethers of stalwarts and celebrities belonging to either side were ruining prospects for the fundamentalists who see their own survival in igniting fires of hatred, unrest and distrust. Creating sandstorms helps to divert attention of the public from the more pressing issues of food, employment, education, health, security, poverty etc. and ensures perpetuation of the rule of bigoted leadership. It is this detestable lust for power and control that has led to turning man against man.

History is meant to teach lessons but the adage “history repeats itself” proves otherwise. Men, especially those in power, never learn. They continue to cause destruction using the most despicable means among which these days, spreading lies perhaps tops the list. One spark of gossip, a tell-tale video, an out-of-context remark or the callous blabber of an influential is enough to set the fire of maliciousness ablaze regardless of who gets engulfed in its flames. Such disruption was witnessed in the earlier century that led to two world wars and this century also seems starved for an analogous recurrence of massive destruction, at the hands of fanatics. The monster of terrorism was already unleashed on 11 September 2001.

Even technology looks helplessly as the sane try knocking sense in the minds of the easily gullible in order to expose the real culprits. One can easily make out from the debates on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social and electronic media that there are clear factions among people who are constantly talking for and against these atrocities. If this was restricted to verbal exchange it would not have been as bad as the physical impact that ensues as a result of these discussions. The ignorant take to the streets on the most frivolous of disagreements or propagation of falsehood. The blind followers of Mephistophelian paragons of power have no respect for humanity and in their rage, can go to any extent by killing, looting, destroying and eradicating anything that comes in their way. 

So just when it felt that eventually the peoples of the Indian Sub-continent would be blessed with peace and harmony, that technology would play a key role in settling deeply embedded misunderstandings and misconceptions, bridging the gulf between two large nations, in came the disruptive forces of evil to mercilessly separate not only the two but sow the seeds of disunity among their own people which may result either in a third world war or in the disintegration of a federal republic that considers itself the largest champion of democracy.

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The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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