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When Indians Gathered To Offer Tribute To A Pakistani

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It is rare that Indians and Pakistanis consider someone as their own equally, but recently, Dr. Mubashir Hasan’s demise has brought this rare gesture where not only Pakistanis but even Indians too joined to offer him tribute.

Dr. Hasan was born in Panipat (Haryana, India) in 1922 and later migrated to Pakistan where he rose as an eminent political leader being a founding member of PPP and later Finance Minister in Govt. of Pakistan. He advocated peace and regional coordination and supported Indo-Pak Peace by heart.

When the people in Panipat heard the news of his demise, many who knew him became sad. Hali Panipati Trust (A local trust named upon renowned poet Altaf Hussain Hali) organized a memorial meeting to offer tribute and many joined in. Many other Indian progressive groups, individuals, and journalists wrote about him on social media and in newspapers. Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) issued a statement as a tribute to him. It looked like Dr. Hasan made people united by hearts even after his death. This tribute and memorial meeting was widely covered by local media. 

I never met him personally, but knew him as a stalwart through many friends who met him. Dr. Syeda Hameed (Syeda aapa) – a well known activist who also authored political biography of former Pakistani PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with title ‘Born to be hanged’ – also talked about him many times when I met her. She told about how she travelled to Lahore and met him several times.

The connection of Dr. Hasan with Panipat played an important role as people in Panipat still remembered the year 1997 (50 years after partition), when a 23 member Pakistani delegation reached India including Dr. Mubashir. They were hosted in Panipat by Dr. Nirmala Deshpande and their colleagues like Dr. Syeda Hameed and Ram Mohan Rai. This visit is still afresh in minds of people in Panipat who met the delegation members that time. Efforts of Dr. Nirmala Deshpande in organising such delegation visits were commendable and she motivated many activists to spread the message of peace among common people.

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During their stay in Panipat, hosts in India arranged stay of Dr. Mubashir in the same house that he had lived once but left during partition. Mr. Rai described how Dr. Mubashir remembered names of many streets in Panipat even after so many years. He used to walk in old streets early morning and sometimes even knocked doors of houses that he knew.

He met with old friends and said ‘O yaara, kitthe ho? Twada purana yaar aaya hai’ (dear friends, where are you- your old friend is here). After these utterances, he and his friends would become emotional.

He was also full of humour and would extend an on spot reply. During another visit to Panipat in year 2008 on the occasion of Hali Mela, the then Chief Minister of Haryana and the then Vice President of India Dr. Hamid Ansari were on stage. Dr. Mubashir Hasan spoke that he is proud upon being a Panipati to which the then CM Hudda replied, ‘you are Panipati only’ and Dr. Hasan immediately responded, ‘then give me citizenship of Panipat’ while everyone was cheered up.

Very few people receive such ‘across the border’ respect. I had witnessed it also when Asma Jahangir left us and we all had gathered in Delhi on the call of PIPFPD. Similarly, when Kuldeep Nayar left the world, I read how people in Pakistan poured their tribute. People like Khushwant Singh and Kuldeep Nayar also got respect of having their ashes flown on the other side of border after their death. Dr. Nirmala Deshpande’s death brought people from many countries together and even her ashes were flown to rivers in South Asian countries. These are the real gestures these people received for their identity of being human first and their vocal speaking of such, irrespective of their other identities. Many amongst such people were those who had history on the other side of border.

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Now after 72 years of partition, we are losing the generation who had kept memories and attached with other side while evoking emotions. During these seven decades, unfortunately, many events led us towards a poisonous atmosphere where it has become seditious to love the other side. But it doesn’t mean that everything ended as still many people are advocating for unity of hearts through demolition of walls of hatred. I remember that how during our Aaghaz-e-Dosti Yatra from Delhi to Wagah, even rural women came on road and extended support for peace and Aaghaz-e-Dosti. When asked why they supported, their reply was simple: ‘Because there is nothing in war and conflicts. We need proper food and living and not bloodshed. These conflicts should end.’

I know that most of the villages in Pakistan and India demand this and they deserve it too. Our governments must look prospects of peace in these voices to pave a way for a peaceful future.

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