Aside from being an artistically choreographed act of insanely high air-kick-marching, all it really does is increase bitterness between citizens on both sides of the gates. The soldiers, let me assure you, are exchanging cigarettes and chatting when there isn’t an audience. And that’s what they should be doing. Also Read: Barring wars, never a break in retreat ceremony
I was at the Wagah border in August three years ago. Our side was (as usual) overflowing with people and the Pakistani stands were at roughly 30% capacity. Both sides were playing blaring patriotic songs to rile up the crowds before the act began, and on our side, people lined up to wait their turn to be given a giant Indian flag holding which they would run towards Pakistan and wave with an angry expression.
We really need to ask ourselves, what is the objective of this?
On the one hand we talk about peace and friendship, and on the other, we encourage a 60-year-old systematic and choreographed act of animosity to play out twice a day, everyday. And all in front of a live audience of impressionable six-and seven-year-olds who stand in a line tugging their mother’s dupattas saying “mera number kab aayega” just to run up to the kilometer of no man’s land and yell “vande mataram”. Also Read: LoC tension sours Bakrid exchange at Wagah post
I felt the need for a calming dip in the Golden Temple after watching this hideous process. Yes, people may feel a heightened sense of national pride when they stand together and watch our army be emotive and appear resolved. The fact is patriotism unites us, and one can’t overstate the need for unity in India. But after 67 years of independence, we need to find common factors other than our juvenile, hard-wired hatred for Pakistan, to unite us. The entire country – not just the intellectual elite – needs to realize that being angry and hating our enemy state is entirely useless. Also Read: Who’s the Wagah? An artwork near Wagah border blends stories of migration, identity and harmony
Pakistan, for all practical purposes, is a failed state being led by faceless leaders. We can’t keep second-guessing the motives of each of the power centers that emerge out of Pakistan; this is the reason that most dialogue with Pakistan has been inconclusive. Our safety as a nation lies in a safe neighbourhood and we must do our part to see that the most troubled member of our neighbourhood stabilises and thrives. This is the only way there will be continuation in Pakistan’s leadership and therefore a meaningful conversation with India.
But before all this, we must be friendly. At the risk of sounding like a high-school idealist, the next time we’re at Wagah, let’s feel patriotic about our reasonably successful democracy, and let’s exchange gifts of Indian culture: poetry, literature and mithai instead of spitballs and airkicks.
And let’s join our prime minister in praying for the victims of the cowardly attack at Paksitan’s side of the Wagah border last night.