Celebrating Pakistan Day in India
by Devika Mittal
Published on Countercurrents
Every year, the National day of Pakistan that falls on 23rd March is celebrated in New Delhi. The National day of Pakistan commemorates the Lahore resolution of 1940 that had called for the establishment of an independent state for Muslims and the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan. Every year, Pakistan and the Pakistan High Commissions in other countries celebrate this day.
Our Indo-Pak friendship initiative named Aaghaz-e-Dosti was fortunate to be invited for the celebration this year. From the Indian side, Ravi Nitesh and myself went to attend the celebration. In this piece, I would like to share our experience of attending this symbolic event as Indians and peace makers.
National days are important sites of inculcating nationalist fervor and sentiments. But we found a few important deviations from this norm. The national day celebration was not just symbolic of nationalist sentiments as one would naturally expect. Below is what we learnt about Pakistan on the national day celebration at Pakistan High Commission:
Pakistan High Commission is situated on the Shanti Path in Chanakyapuri area which is also called the embassy area as all the embassies are situated here. Shanti Path literally means the path of peace. The entire area is a high security zone. However, we were surprised that on the national day celebration that took place on 2nd April with the newly-appointed honorable Pakistan High Commissioner, Mr. Abdul Basit, there was minimal security checking. We regarded this as our first encounter of trust. Trust had won over suspicion.
The honorable Pakistan High Commissioner and other dignitaries of the High Commissioner were greeting every individual with a warm smile. We are always moved by a certain sense of warmth that we experience seeing and talking with the people of the High Commission. When we introduced ourselves and said that we work for Indo-Pak peace, the honorable High Commissioner said, “Mashallah! Hope to see you again”. We were moved by his words that showed his commitment for peace and friendship.
The celebration began with the national anthems of both India and Pakistan. People stood for both the anthems. We considered it to be very thoughtful and also symbolic. This gesture not only celebrates Pakistan as a separate independent sovereign but also states that Pakistan does not accommodate xenophobia. It respects India and desires for harmonious relations with it. After the anthem, the honorable High Commissioner had also addressed the gathering. He spoke about the meeting with the President of India, Sh. Pranab Mukherjee that had took place earlier in the day. He spoke high of the president and showed respect for him. He also spoke the Indo-Pak relations and the move towards peace and friendship. He concluded his speech by the typical warmth. He invited everyone to enjoy the Pakistani cuisine.
The gathering comprised of high-ranking delegates, diplomats of various countries, armed forces officers, journalists, activists and students of Pakistan studying in Delhi. They were all dressed in their traditional dress. The ambience and other gestures also spoke a lot. The middle stage was decorated with the flag of India on one side and the flag of Pakistan on the other side, with a portrait of the Quaid-e-Azam, Md. Ali Jinnah. This was again symbolic of a hope for harmonious relations.
There was another very thoughtful gesture. It was the slideshow that displayed the beautiful heterogeneity/diversity of Pakistan. The slideshow displayed pride in the rich past and present. We know the importance of representation. Nation-states always try to homogenise the population to bind them together. It is always easier to administer over a homogenous population so the nation-states are notorious for promoting a homogeneous culture. In India, there are problems because of this tendency. Being an Islamic republic, one would expect Pakistan to have a single, united, homogeneous identity. But this slideshow presented a different picture. It took pride in the diversity. It showed the real essence of Pakistan, the vision of the Quaid-e-Azam. The white portion in the Pakistan flag represents the religious minority. The slideshow with its temples, the statue of Buddha, a beautiful church and other images represented this glory of Pakistan.
On the whole, we were totally mersmerised by the exterior beauty of the ambience and this internal, embedded beauty reflected in various gestures. It was not just a national day celebration. It not only marks the beginning as a republic, it also marks a hope for a new beginning of a peaceful and prosperous future of India and Pakistan.
Devika Mittal is the Indian convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. She is the core member of Mission Bhartiyam