Friday, August 5, 1994
I come from a
In 1947, the
Indian subcontinent was partitioned by the British, creating
India and Pakistan.
For some, this
was the culmination of their dreams of an independent homeland,
a place where they could practice their own religion, pursue
their own language and culture and bring up their children in a
For others, this
was a time of sadness. Separation meant partitioning a country
that had been at its height of glory for many centuries; rich in
history, culture, resources, manpower and trade; a country with
a proud and fierce military tradition that even the British
looked up to; a country that once had been the envy of the rest
of the world.
was bloody and bitter, causing millions of deaths. I am a
product of the separation. My family chose to live in Pakistan
but never really could adjust to the new environment. Their
hearts remained in India and I recall how desperately my parents
longed to visit their birthplace. They were unable to go because
political relations between both countries were not conducive to
innocent visits. Like many others who opted for Pakistan, my
parents lived with divided loyalties.
generation of children born after 1947 unwittingly and
unwillingly became part of the insidious hatred and rivalry that
was part of the subcontinent culture.
In 1971, Pakistan
was further divided between east and west resulting in the birth
of Bangladesh. This also was preceded by a bloody war. Thousands
of innocent people died or were maimed and tortured in the war
for separation. Ultimately, neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh has
gained from the partition. Both countries suffer from
illiteracy, poverty and monumental financial problems which they
might have overcome, had they remained together.
Today, as I sit
in Canada, I read and listen in amazement as politicians talk of
splitting up Canada. Of course, I have no fear that this split
will be in any way bloody or will cause a war. If Quebec gets
independence, it will be through a democratic process - very
civilized and very peaceful. Later, if other provinces also want
to follow suit and separate, they will be allowed to do so
because this is a fair, peace-loving and just country.
Then, why the
example? I want to draw a parallel and prove that separation of
a country kills the soul of a people even in the absence of war.
Before 1947, people lived side by side in the subcontinent. They
practiced different faiths, spoke different languages and lived
different lifestyles. But they did not hate each other with a
vengeance as they do now. Separation has caused hate and dissent
among people who lived as neighbors and friends. Innocent people
were caught in the web of deceit for taking sides. Today, if
Pakistanis and Indians socialize freely with each other, albeit
outside the borders of their own country, it still is akin to
politicians are nave if they think that separation of Quebec is
the key to their problems. They obviously have no idea what a
Pandora's box they are opening. Maybe it is not their fault
because they have never seen the other side of the coin. Right
now, it seems to be a simple issue of language and land, but the
problem lies deeper than that. The results of separation are
far-reaching and much more complex than you and I can envision.
would like Canadians to reflect seriously on the future of their
country and their children. No matter how peaceful a separation,
it is bound to have repercussions - maybe stronger than we
think. People will be forced to take sides and it will create
negative feelings that last for generations.
Most of all, it
will weaken the backbone of the country and leave it vulnerable
to takeover. There is enough in Canada for everyone to share
whether they are from Quebec or B.C., native Indians or
immigrants; anglophones or francophones. In the end, it is the
unity and security of this country that is at stake, not
language or culture.
Canada is a
wonderful country. This is where people come to find security
when their homeland is threatened or divided. This is the
country that has the worldwide image of being a peacemaker. But
you don't need me to tell you that. I just want to reiterate the
point in case you have forgotten how blessed you are.
© 1994 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.