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What a lot of fuss about the few possessions of the Mahatma which went on sale in New York. His ideals are evoked but seldom followed.....

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published: March 8, 2009 12:31:36 am

What a lot of fuss about the few possessions of the Mahatma which went on sale in New York. His ideals are evoked but seldom followed. His memory is recalled only two days every year—October 2 and January 30. The suggestion from the owner of the artefacts that India devote more money to health was obviously embarrassing. Now at least Vijaya Mallya has rescued them for the nation though I doubt if the old man would have approved either of the air travel or the alcohol companies Mallya owns or even the calendar he brings out. But good for him. Everything the Mahatma disapproved of by way of Westernisation and modernisation has generated Mallya enough money to let him buy the stuff. I like irony.

Yet,the real question is how would the Mahatma have responded to the attack on the Sri Lanka cricketers in Lahore. Or rather how should India respond to it. I can appreciate that many in India feel a sense of schadenfreude. Here at last is a vindication of what Indians were saying about 26/11 which many in Pakistan were disputing. Now it has happened to them in broad daylight,repetition of the same story. People are saying this is the end of international cricket in Pakistan and some may even gloat in that possibility.

But Gandhigiri points another way. Recall that when 26/11 happened Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari did say that Pakistan was as much a victim of terrorism as India was and that the two countries should fight terrorism together. Many in India believe that parts of the Pakistan State,especially the ISI and perhaps rogue elements in the Pakistan Army,are also implicated in such acts. But there is no denying that in the Islamabad Marriott Hotel attack as in events in FATA and now in Lahore itself ,Islamist terrorism is devastating Pakistan. What would the Mahatma’s response have been?

After he came back from Noakhali,Gandhiji wanted to go to Lahore since the Pakistani half of Punjab was aflame. He refused to acknowledge that Pakistan was now another country. But he was delayed in Delhi with his last fast which was to ensure that Pakistan got its due share of the assets of British India. This is why he was murdered by the friends of Hindutva. Since then,India has regarded Pakistan as an enemy rather than an estranged brother nation. Regarding Pakistan as an enemy may help cohere the nation but it leaves India’s 150 millions in a situation of stepchildren. Those who worship the people who murdered the Mahatma ride high and insinuate that Muslims—all Muslims—are agents of Pakistan.

Maybe the time has come to respond in radically different fashion. India should join hands with Pakistan and defy the terrorists. There are people within Pakistan who are as distressed about what happened in Lahore The forces of democracy and secularism—yes secularism since Jinnah was,as Advani correctly said in Karachi,a secularist—in Pakistan need India’s help. India is bigger,more stable,more firmly democratic. It should as the older brother take the issue up and lend its hand across the border to Pakistan.

I would appeal to Vijaya Mallya and the BCCI and IPL to offer to stage one spectacular fixture of the IPL in Lahore in defiance of the terrorists. Lahore after all is the place on December 26,1929,where Jawaharlal Nehru led Congress members to take the vow of Purna Swaraj .Lahore is therefore the birthplace of the intense phase of India’s freedom struggle—all of India as it was before Partition. There should be a match between Pakistan and the champion IPL side staged in Lahore and televised around the world. This would assert that cricket overrides all differences between nations. It is the favourite sport of South Asia where all four nations—Bangladesh,India,Pakistan and Sri Lanka— are mad about the sport.

It can be done. It should be done. I do hope the IPL and the BCCI and the Government of India have the courage and the generosity to do this. If they need a twelfth man to carry drinks on to the pitch,I am happy to volunteer.

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