Anna’s Trip to Pakistan: Should He Or Shouldn’t He

By Akshaya Mishra for Firstpost

Should he or shouldn’t he?

The supporters of Anna Hazare are in a bind. Two days after the Gandhian accepted the invitation of a human rights delegation from Pakistan to visit that country, the public opinion in India stands divided.

The Shiv Sena was first off the block opposing Anna’s move. Its argument follows the usual political theme. Islamabad must stop sponsoring terrorist activities in India first. The anti-corruption crusader should have taken cognisance of the sentiments of people before even considering such an invitation, it said.

Others are likely follow the Sena’s line soon. The hard line Hindutva followers, who have been silent so far, may erupt in anger, putting a communal spin to the visit.

Anna might just have put his feet in uncharted territory, and a minefield of potential controversies. Pakistan is not an easy proposition even for seasoned politicians to handle. He could be risking his reputation.

So, should he or should not he? There are no easy answers.

Anna is not just an individual, he is a phenomenon. He is an idea that easily transcends boundaries. The massive support to his anti-corruption movement across the social spectrum was a pointer to the fact.

“I will go to Pakistan. In fact, I will go anywhere for the sake of peace and poor people,” he said while meeting the Pakistani delegation, which included former judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan Nasir Aslam Zahid and founder of Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy Karamat Ali.

Anna might just have put his feet in uncharted territory, and a minefield of potential controversies. PTI
“I believe in the religion of humanity, and humanity should begin with your neighbour. Like Indians, Pakistanis too are suffering due to widespread corruption in their country,” he added.

The statements reflect the man as he is — simple, honest and innocent of concerns that bother others so much. It’s possible he would not have given a serious thought to the troubled India-Pakistan equations. It is possible he would be worried about people and their happiness only, not issues or borders.

Isn’t corruption a big issue in Pakistan too? Don’t people suffer because of that? That would be his line of thinking. He would be oblivious to the fact that any movement there guided by him would amount to challenging the rulers in Islamabad and that any intention to help the country would inflame passions in India.

Sena chief Bal Thackeray has sounded the warning note. “Be it Anna or anyone else, they should first speak to kin of those killed in the Mumbai and Delhi blasts, before anointing themselves Nishan-e-Pakistan (Pakistan’s highest civilian award),” he wrote in the party mouthpiece Saamna today.

“Whether Anna goes to Pakistan or not is another matter, but it would have been better had he given a thought to the country’s sentiments on the issue,” he added.

Earlier, the party’s spokesperson Sanjay Raut had made his disapproval clear. “Anna should have told the visiting delegation to go back to Pakistan and create awareness among the people about the Pak-sponsored terrorism in India. The entire world may have praised the anti-corruption movement in India, but Anna cannot ignore sentiments of the people in his own country vis-a vis Pakistan,” he had said.

Anna is likely to lose most of his following in India if he goes ahead with his Pakistan trip, which for all practical purposes would be a symbolic one. Worse, notwithstanding the nature of his visit he would turn a political entity, without intending to be so.

His biggest achievement so far has been that he has managed to stay apolitical despite the desperate efforts from parties to align with him. He represents the common Indian and the other India, which stays out of the power circle that rules the country.

But the other India hates Pakistan too. This is where Anna is likely to run into a problem. Questions could be raised about his intention — the ordinary follower is not expected to understand and appreciate the nuances of his high thinking. The adulation for him is likely to shrink.

Anna should not let that happen. Pakistan can wait.

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  1. September 23rd, 2011

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