Recently, Kuldip Nayar, while speaking at a seminar in Amritsar, proposed that the Punjab assemblies of both India and Pakistan pass separate resolutions condemning the barbaric crimes committed during Partition. But a few issues need to be considered. First, why only the Punjab assemblies? Why shouldn’t the parliaments of both India and Pakistan apologise? Unless of course Nayar feels that Partition conditioned only the two Punjabs. And why shouldn’t there be an apology for the partition of Bengal?
Secondly, if it comes to apologies, bigger crimes have been perpetrated on citizens of both countries by their respective governments — the events of 1984 and those in Gujarat in 2002 — apart from other blunders that caused suffering to every Indian and Pakistani in some form or the other. Not passing resolutions on these would qualify for “double standards”.
Two things may help more than an apology. First, as has been the demand of many (including Nayar himself), allowing people over a certain age to visit their old homes. I met a gentleman called Manmohan Sethi, who was born in what became Pakistan. Sethi introduces himself as “Pedaishi Pakistani, rehaishi Hindustan (Born a Pakistani, resident of Hindustan)”. While applying for his visa at the Pakistani High Commission a few years ago, Sethi was asked “Who are your hosts?” He had replied, “My soil.” In Pakistan, he was hosted by strangers. This visit helped him realise that people wanted peace and now he is working in his own way — by composing music — to promote peace.
Secondly, it is more important for individuals who have deeply ingrained biases to interact with people from the other side. An 80-year-old Lahori, Mirza Nasir-ud-Din — who had rescued non-Muslims during Partition — visited Mumbai a few years later. When a group of Hindus who had killed and looted Muslims during Partition were introduced to him, they cried and sought his forgiveness for their acts.
The crux of the matter is that interaction is pivotal and apologies should be genuine and not dictated. There is no substitute for spontaneity in the subcontinent.