Kumar’s visit to Pakistan as a Chief Minister of Bihar and representative of the North Indian cultural zone is a welcome development
According to media reports in India, Bihar’s chief-minister Nitish Kumar along with few members of his party and government will be paying visit to Pakistan in November 2012. Prior to him, Lalu Prasad Yadav, former chief minister of Bihar and political rival of Nitish Kumar, visited Pakistan in 2003. As usual Lalu, by virtue of his attire and talks, attracted the Pakistani crowds. Nitish Kumar, however, is a different personality. He is very calculative and no non-sense man. His visit will definitely offer a different picture of Bihar to his hosts.
Since Nitish Kumar disclosed his plan of visit to Pakistan, a question has been raised: why is he paying visit to Pakistan? Nobody knows the answer. But everyone it seems is curious. Conspiracy theory has it that he is going to Pakistan in order to consolidate the support of Muslim votes in Bihar. This reason is being cited and spread not only by the right-wing Hindu nationalists, but also by, what sociologist Amita Baviskar calls, everyman. If Nitish Kumar thinks like this or those who hold this view think they are right in their assessment, they have to re-think about their knowledge of politics.
Though Mohajirs (those who migrated to Pakistan, due to partition in 1947) are culturally similar to Indian Muslims; their problems are different from the Indian Muslims. Also, this thinking is completely illogical and irrational because even after publicly accepting that M. A. Jinnah was a secular leader, which was denied by his mother-organization - RSS, Mr. L. K. Advani, NDA’s projected Prime Ministerial candidate in the last general election, could not attract Muslim votes for his political group. In case Mr. Kumar too is going for it, then it is sure that he will also meet the same fate. To seek votes from Muslims of Bihar, it’s better if he implements Sacchar Committee plan at least in Bihar, where he is at the helm of affairs. He can also win Muslim support if he opposes the witch hunting of the innocent Muslim youth.
No doubt Nitish Kumar’s visit to Pakistan will win him lot of attention. Bihar is the only Indian state that attracts attention and is being publicly discussed in all South Asian states. Reasons for it are different. It is Bihar where vociferous demand for a separate cultural and territorial state for Muslims was made. Once their demand turned into a reality, others occupied seats of power with Mohajir elites. Millions of economically weak Mohajirs were treated as unwanted guests in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Till today, they are scornfully called Biharis in both countries. The reason for degradation of their status after migration to Pakistan was that they became a part of another cultural zone; while in British India, they were representative of a dominant region.
In India it is this cultural zone which represents or carries the burden of “idea” of India. It decides what is Indian nation, who is “nationalist” and it has also manufactured “enemies”. In Benedict Anderson and other constructionist’s words, manufacturing of alien “others” is the most important task carried out by the dominant group. As a dominant representative of this cultural zone the Hindus (including upper castes, other backward castes, schedule castes and Dalits) decide about the entire mentioned thing and are widely considered “ideologically” responsible for everything that happens in India. This is not a new phenomenon; rather it has dominated the territorial boundary of India since ancient time. The first empire in India was set up by Maurya King Ashoka. According to Professor Romila Thapar, Ashoka’s kingdom was extended to almost all parts of present India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. His capital was Patliputra (present Patna, capital of Bihar). Then, Mughal emperor Akbar and later on British colonial ruler gave “idea” of India to Indians. After independence, this zone took “moral” responsibility to build or re-build nation.
In case India and Pakistan have to improve their bilateral relationship, the willingness for it has to emerge in this cultural zone. Also, those who are continuously and consistently engaged in act of improving bilateral ties between India and Pakistan have to engage with the people from this region. Through their acts they have to generate a consensus among the dominant group of this region to either deconstruct their obliterated idea or re-visit their “construction” about the alien other. Unless this happens, relationship between two countries cannot be improved.
In light of all this Nitish Kumar’s visit to Pakistan as a Chief Minister of Bihar and representative of the North Indian cultural zone is a welcome development. He can lead the others to change their perception about Pakistan. Good Luck to him.