OPINION

The Human DNA

August 14, 2008
Shantanu Dutta

As the violence in Jammu and Kashmir escalates beyond what bounces of our television screens, the vibrations are also cascading across our borders. Pakistan has of course reacted harshly to the “excessive use of force” to control the civil unrest there and in a typical knee jerk response, the Indian government has condemned the comments from the Pakistani Foreign Minister as an interference in India’s internal affairs.

There is this much to be said in that all countries in the sub continent are from the same genetic make up very literally and all can be blackened with the same brush. A lot can be perhaps said about Pakistan or any other country around making pious statements about human rights considering the overall record of every one here. But still the question begs to be asked – when do political boundaries blur and our human identity begins asserting itself?

When do we feel free and are given the freedom to express a genuine agony and anguish at the violence, broken and bereaved families that every unplanned funeral brings in its wake? This is not about fishing in troubled waters or scoring political brownie points at all. But I wonder - does it become treason to mourn the loss and grief of another because they live across a border that is not even a century old when cultural and ethnic bonds go back a thousand years or more?

When a lament from a neighboring country at the violence that is prevailing here and is flashing globally across television channels and internet news sites is understood to be interference, then the question arises for Indians as to what should they do. People with ethnic backgrounds and languages spoken in India live in all countries that surround us – Bengalis – even Bengali Hindus (for those whom this distinction matters) in Bangladesh, Tamils in Sri Lanka being the most prominent but by no means the only ones.

It seems easier to reach out across borders when natural disasters strike – like tsunamis or earthquakes or cyclones; but some how there is an insurmountable barrier when it comes to even making statements of empathy and condolence when the tragedy is manmade.  Even a word can impute a motive when at least at the level of the common man or woman, none is intended,

Most of us are it the political establishment or those who are part of civil society will find it well nigh difficult to look the other way in the guise of non interference in the internal affairs of another country. If Tamils were to be in the midst of widely publicized media footage be subjected to violence or the Bengalis were, it would be politically inexpedient to sit back and do nothing.

If non interference in the affairs of others is the norm, then nobody in the international community should be speaking into what is happening in Zimbabwe, or Sudan, and India itself should not have moved resolutions in the United Nations when South Africa was still practicing racism. But it is good at times, indeed necessary for people to speak up, take note and make a point in the international communities and forums so that what would otherwise have gone unnoticed and remained hidden in shadows

Of course there is such a thing as undue interest in the affairs of another country; as perhaps best exemplified by the US invasion of Iraq. But there is also such a thing as too little of an interest in the affairs of the world. After all, it is only those who live in glass houses who are scared of stones and so they do not throw any. The world’s largest democracy should not be fighting shy of facing criticism when there are plenty within the country’s own borders who are concerned. Let us own up to the fact there is a common human DNA that makes us all speak up.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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