Memories the Greek word ‘historia’ which means to find

Memories of the common past; Perceptions of Children about PakistanRashmeet Kaur Suri, M.Ed scholarCIE, Delhi UniversityAbstractThis paper attempts to explore the common perception of children about our immediate neighbour Pakistan. This study is significant in understanding the dynamic of perception amid this epoch of persisting turbulence and turmoil. To do this study, various secondary sources have been explored. A set of implications have been given on the basis of findings from the analysis of these sources.INTRODUCTION”What is history but a fable agreed upon” This quote by Ralph Waldon Emerson quoted in his essay ‘History’ in 1841 said it all in one line. History has a great significance in shaping our values, beliefs and attitude. Who we are today, what has made us so, what situation are we living in has its roots in our past and studying that past is a tricky business. Our past differs with our subjectivity. Two same people witnessing an event might narrate it in different way and no one way can be considered right. When this past, is taught to collective group of young children, it becomes a formal discipline of History. The word history is taken from the Greek word ‘historia’ which means to find truth. Thus, it becomes the task of history as a formal discipline to take the reader as near the truth as possible. The phrase ‘near the truth’ instead of ‘the truth’ only is used here because of the principle of objectivity. It is easy to establish a truth by hypothesising, conducting experiment, verifying and then concluding, just like it’s done in Natural sciences. However, the same can’t be replicated in History. To substantiate the point just made, let’s take the abovementioned example of two people giving different narratives of the same event. The selection of narratives becomes even more complex when there are a number of events, sometimes inter related, sometimes interdependent are to be included in the history curriculum which is meant for a large population. Not only should it have relevance for them but should also be conducive for the smooth running of society. As a consequence, it becomes difficult to separate history from ideology. It isn’t easy to define the aims of education and education subsumes, Krishna Kumar in his book ‘Education, Conflict and Peace’ writes;’The fact is that there is no consensus on needs (of education) exists ; except in a facile sense ,which is implied when people say that education must address the problems of illiteracy and ignorance , poverty and unemployment moral values and self esteem, personal aspirations and national development etc. This kind of listing of needs is facile (apart from being permanently incomplete as the ‘etc.’ Is meant to indicate) because it does not reveal the depth at which social order relates to education. When we attempt to sort out the needs and aims people associate with education, we discover that not only there is no consensu , but, in fact there is a sharp conflict among different groups, classes and ideological lobbies'(Kumar, 2016)In this paper, it is analysed how this ideologically charged subject of overflowing subjectivity has shaped the perception of the children about our neighbouring country; Pakistan.WHY PAKISTAN?Being situated just next to us, the two countries (India and Pakistan) share a common history. Both the countries were once a part of Indian subcontinent and separated on the grounds of religion among other factors in 1947. Partition of any country any community or even of a family, by its virtue is a sad event. In the case of India and Pakistan, the latter being born of India as a consequence of the above mentioned event evokes a lot of emotions. This becomes all the more intensified when the event turns out to be violent. This memory of Partition has a significant bearing on the psyche of an Indian mind. Those who have migrated as the consequence or those who have witnessed this exchange of homelands happening has witnessed a s significant event in the history which continues to shape our present day reality. Even if that violent event is over, it has given rise to a number of symbolic battles on the political, economical and even socio-cultural forefronts, And these symbolic battles are driven by an ideology. This ideology inevitably and implicitly seeps into educational aims. Clubbed with the primary socialisation of the children in both the countries, and the depiction of the ‘other side’ in our popular media, our present structure of education normalises animosity, hatred and sense of superiority with reference to our neighbouring country. Also, this is further aggravated by lack of scholarship in one country about the other. The popular Indian mentality is that since Pakistan is born out of India, and is in such close vicinity geographically , it is presumed that we know everything about them or there is no need to have knowledge about them. As a consequence we end up making blatant statements about the ‘other’.METHODOLOGYTo explore the popular perception and the factors contributing to it, multiple sources(secondary) have been referred. Previous studies, newspaper articles and popular bollywood movies were examined. POPULAR PERCEPTIONSIn a study conducted by Krishna Kumar(Kumar,2001), he compared and analysed essays of children from India and Pakistan on the topic of “The division of India and Pakistan”. To bring in a variety of views , he collected these essays from schools catering to different economic sections of the society. In India, essays from children going to elite school, private school and government school were taken. In Pakistan children from An elite and an urdu medium school were taken to express their views however since the present study focuses on the perception of Indian children, the latter group won’t be discussed in much detail. The students who participated in this study expressed a variety of opinions through their essays. The views expressed by the children of both the countries have a bearing on their socio economic environment in terms of the language used, issues discussed in the essay and even handwriting. Among the Indian children’s essays, most of them could be arranged in two extreme standpoints; the liberal extreme in which the partition is perceived as a British conspiracy, in extension to their divide and rule policy, on the other extreme the event is the group that believes that Partition of India happened because of the pressure exerted by muslim community. This group sees Pakistan as a muslim nations and wants India to be a hindu nation. This group views the time before 1947 as prolonged period of slavery; first by Muslims( Mughals) then by British. In one essay, the child goes on to say that the event of partition was good for Indians as it ‘Cleansed our nation’ from the muslim people. Those who adhere with the first standpoint emphasise the role of Jinnah as the catalyst in the process of partition. This group recognises the secular character of the nation unlike the other group who laid emphasis on Hindu India. Almost all the students have mentioned themes of cricket matches and terrorism in their essays. While most of them exemplify cricket matches as battles however one essay grieves the loss Indian hockey team has suffered due to partition because if Indian and Pakistani teams together would have been invincible. The Kashmir issue finds mention in the essays but not much has been said about the nature of the issue. There hasn’t been any prominent discussion describing the nature of the problem in detail. This is surprising because an absence of opinion is noted on the issue which is always on the news and frequently shown in movies and serials. This absence of opinion as described by the author might be either because of indifference of students towards these larger political problems or because of their belief that this problem is insoluble and thus needs no attention. The author also draws an overarching theme of tiredness found in the essays of both the nations. This tiredness is found when children mention the over stretched and prolonged conflict, tiredness in the wastefulness of war and so on. Another important point of discussion is that, that nowhere in the study is it being mentioned that all the essays strictly side with one of these viewpoints, rather these two points are inferred from these essays and provide a framework enabling the reader to put things into perspective. WHAT FORMULATES THIS PERCEPTION?Textbooks, which are important instruments of the state controlled curricula becomes an important source of official knowledge. What we study in formative years of our life becomes the imprint of our thought process. This imprint then shapes our knowledge, beliefs and attitudes along with the tactic knowledge received during the years of primary socialisation. There is an overt dependence on textbooks especially in India since our system of education, despite all the developments is highly examination centric. So the students study what is important from the examination point of view, for this they consider the textbook as bible. Since what is given in them is what is usually the acceptable answer in examination. As a consequence, textbooks then become the source of official, reliable and often ‘absolute’ knowledge. This also generates stock responses, since all the students write from one source, not only their answers but also gradually their views and opinions become similar. With this tendency of giving similar responses, the wide variety of opinions given in the above mentioned study stand out as an exception. There can be multiple reasons for this variety found;1. 1947, i.e partition of India marks as the end of modern history in the textbooks used in India, leaving no official source of knowledge to rely upon.2. Since most of the children have heard something or the other about Pakistan at their home, the issue excites them.3. The children seldom get any opportunity to express themselves on such controversial topics.Now that the question that why such variety in responses has been addressed, another question that surfaces is that what formulates these perceptions if not just textbooks and primary socialisation.The following extract from a renowned newspaper deserves our attention here;Artilce 1:One: In 1947, when Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, opted to stay independent, Pakistani armed intruders from Pakistan attacked Kashmir. Hari Singh then signed an agreement to join India, and the Indian army was sent in to defend Kashmir.Two: Hari Singh started a brutal campaign to drive out Muslims from Kashmir. Over 200,000 people in the princely State, supported by the tribesmen of the Northwest Frontier Province, were successful in liberating a large area of Kashmir from the Maharaja’s control. So Hari Singh was forced to turn to India for help and in return acceded to India.Article 2:Text books in Pakistani schools foster prejudice and intolerance of Hindus and other religious minorities, while most teachers view non-Muslims as ”enemies of Islam,”. ”Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,”.”Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam whose culture and society is based on injustice and cruelty, while Islam delivers a message of peace and brotherhood, concepts portrayed as alien to the Hindu.”The abovementioned newspaper article extracts, though taken from different newspaper have one thing in common. The comparison of the Pakistani curriculum is done with respect to the Indian curriculum. The latter is presumed as absolute and sacrosanct. The former deviating from the latter is erroneous and is solely responsible for instigating hatred. Even in popular media like bollywood movies, Pakistan is portrayed as somewhat mysterious, not only different to India but also inferior to it. The Pakistani characters are always even and are depicted in such a way that it is very easy for an individual to extend that presence of evilness to the religion as well. Thus, equating Pakistan with muslims finds expression in these movies.In the end, it can be said that even though glorifying one’s achievement is the easiest thing to do, but it also limits the cognitive capacity of the young minds, to whom this glorification is fed.CONCLUSIONFor Pakistan, the consolidation of national identity is a complex and a manifold process. Through their curriculum, they have to lay the foundations and put forth the justifications of separating from India. However, the explanation of partition is comparatively easier in India, because Partition by its virtue is a sad event and it wasn’t a desirable from the Indian side. Indians did not demand partition but had to submit to the demand. The very act of resisting an unfateful event but eventually submitting before it becomes an expression of ‘compromise’ and even ‘sacrifice’ on the part of Indians. This act of ‘sacrifice’ which only kins do for each other finds its manifestation in the father-son relationship or elder brother and younger brother relationship that Indians assign to the two countries.This discourse of animosity, hatred and conflict has become so normal that after attaining a certain age, a child is expected to express this sown hatred in his behaviour or talk. This attains a sort of ‘normalcy’ which becomes hard to look beyond.IMPLICATIONSReiterating what was said about history earlier “Who we are today, what has made us so, what situation are we living in has its roots in our past”. The same will be true for 50 years from now. The kind of society we want in future, it’s seed needed to be sown now.There needs to be a Truth and Reconciliation committee (TRC), which is being operated in a lot of post conflict societies. Since, history bears the responsibility of taking it’s reader as near the truth as possible, it becomes a matter of quintessence importance to provide a real account of incidents, which not only recognises different voices contributing to it but also accommodate reconciliatory component in it which gives way to peace.Exchange programmes in the schools of two countries and projects like “The History Project’ initiated in Pakistan must receive funding and encouragement from both sides of the border. 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