India Uncut

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Kicking schoolbags

On my first morning in Islamabad I met one of the most interesting – and nicest – people I’ve met in Indian journalism: B Muralidhar Reddy. Murali is the Pakistan correspondent for the Hindu and Frontline, and has been in Islamabad for around five years now. I called him up and asked to meet him because I thought that having lived here for so long, he’d be full of interesting insights into Pakistan. He was, and to my surprise and delight, he also turned out to be a regular reader of India Uncut. That makes five, unless I’m not allowed to count myself.

I can’t possibly reproduce the long and interesting chat I had with him, but there’s one bit which stood out in my mind, and seemed blogworthy. We were speaking about how the visa restrictions on Indians in Pakistan are not extraordinary when we consider that the Indian government places similar restrictions on Pakistanis, and he said:
You know, Amit, if something happens to me here, and I report it to Delhi, the Indian government makes sure that exactly the same thing happens to my Pakistani counterpart out there. If I tell them that my house has been burgled, they will presume that it’s the work of the Pakistani government, and exactly the same kind of burglary, in exactly the same manner, will take place in my counterpart’s house in Delhi. I have seen this happening time and again.

That is why we [Murali and KJM Varma, the PTI correspondent here] have decided that no matter what happens to us, we will not report it to our government.
Needless to say, I have no personal complaint: the journalists travelling along with the cricket tour have been treated exceptionally well, with no need of police reporting etc. But other visitors from India often go through hell to get here and have all kinds of restrictions placed on them, all mirroring what the Indian government does to Pakistani visitors. It’s remarkable how petty and immature the two establishments are: It’s like two 12-year-old boys messing with each other's schoolbags during a break. One hurls the other’s schoolbag on the ground, the other reciprocates. Kick the bag. Reciprocate. Spit on it. Reciprocate.

In the end who suffers? The schoolbags do. Forgive me for the shoddy metaphor, but who are those schoolbags?

The people of India and Pakistan.
amit varma, 8:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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