Not all Indians are rapists just like not all Pakistanis are terrorists

Published: July 29, 2017

Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik gives final touches to his sand sculpture at Puri beach on October 9, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

As a Pakistani, I always thought of the Indian media as anti-Pakistani and excessively nationalistic. So when I recently got the opportunity to work with Indian journalists, I was not sure what to expect.

I was on my way to London for the Chevening/South Asia Journalism Fellowship. The program brought 17 leading journalists from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Maldives to live and work together in London for two months. Getting off the plane at Heathrow Airport, I wondered what it would be like to have a frank conversation with an Indian journalist. India is almost four times the size of Pakistan, yet their news media seem to be obsessed with us. My thoughts, as I settled into my temporary flat, revolved around wondering if they were the same as the journalists who seem nothing more than hatemongers. After all, they are all part of the same media machine.

On my second day in London, I thought I would cook something and invite my new fellows over for dinner and some conversation. To my surprise, senior journalist Sudhakar Reddy Udumula from Hyderabad, India, beat me to it. He extended an invitation to me and other fellow journalists from the program to join him for dinner. That night, we discussed the rise of right-wing politics over home-cooked rice and chicken.

Hina and Anshuman Tiwari.

Udumula’s dinner table became a space for frank conversations. We would huddle into his studio apartment, and while he did most of the cooking, we talked about hard issues such as extremismcaste system, the separatist movements, the Kashmir conflict, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We also shared jokes like the one about the pungent smell of Indian cooking that lingers long after the occupants leave, and how estate agents use cinnamon sticks to get rid of it.

Soon, we were showing each other videos of our families, and every discussion about home was followed by an invitation to our countries. When Udumula suggested that I visit India, I told him,

“My family would not allow it because India is unsafe for women. Besides, I am a Pakistani.”

He had this look of veiled frustration on his face and he said earnestly,

Not all of us are rapists, just like not all of you are terrorists.”

It was déjà vu.

Three years ago, I said the same thing to an American (a devout Catholic) during a similar conversation,

“Not all of us are terrorists, just like not all of you are paedophiles.”

He was not the only Indian in London I could relate to. Anshuman Tiwari, a senior business journalist from Delhi, always appreciated my ability to quiz the media professionals we met during the fellowship program. He shared my love for fitness and Urdu poetry, surprising me with quotes from Jaun Elia. Tiwari had visited Pakistan and agreed with my concerns about Pakistan’s economy.

Every time we I took a road trip, went for coffee or visited a museum, I learnt something new about life in India. Take cinema, for example, many Indian people budget a portion of their salaries just for cinema outings. It is about enjoying life despite having limited means.

As our program was approaching its end, I realised that my perception of India was limited to what I had seen in Bollywood movies and a handful of news channels. I wondered how I could have gone most of my life with such a narrow view of such an immense and diverse society. But conversely, I saw that my Indian friends also had a skewed idea of life in Pakistan. I often found myself trying to explain to them the complexities of my multi-faceted society.

Cohort.

On our last day in London, our conversation turned towards education and how children should be raised. Udumula moved me deeply when he told me he’d want his daughter to be like me when she grows up. I didn’t have the words to respond to that. We came to London as strangers but were leaving as friends.

It is truly unfortunate that our media only focuses on stories about hate and war. Too often, Indian nationalism is used as a synonym for anti-Pakistani sentiment, and vice versa. But that does not need to be the case, and it should not be the case. We have far more in common than it appears, for instance, our love for cricket.

The ICC Champion’s Trophy cricket tournament started soon after I returned to Pakistan. During the matches between India and Pakistan, our entire group exchanged messages, which devolved into play-by-play commentary. We acknowledged one side for outplaying the other. We wished we could be watching the game together.

Hina, Sudhakar, Rifat and Nida.

As I write this article, I realise the 70th anniversary of Partition is just a couple of weeks away. This is the first time I will celebrate our Independence Day knowing that I have friends across the border.

All photos: Hina Ali

Hina Ali

Hina Ali

The author is a Karachi-based documentary filmmaker and a journalist. Her work focuses on human rights and politics. She is a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow. She tweets as @alikhina (twitter.com/alikhina)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • vinsin

    Never heard that Indian is unsafe for women. India has lowest rape rate in the world India nationalism has nothing to do with Pakistan. Conspiracy theories and hatred towards minorities defines Pakistani.Recommend

  • Srikant Tellikepalli

    Well written…
    For Indians – What we need to understand is the dilemma that more a Politian and media talks about anti-Pakistan, more rating it gets but I am sure hat peace lovers are there on both side.
    For Pakistanis, I have a advice not too much carried away with Anti Pakistan rhetoric in India. Majority wants peace in the region. I know vast majority of Pakistanis believe the Mumbai and other such incidents were fabricated to defame Pakistan but the truth lies somewhere in between.
    Let peace prevail.Recommend

  • Duniya Hasan

    HAHA!! Good joke IndianRecommend

  • PorkSmasher

    Rapes happens everywhere but terrorist factories are only operating on Pakistani soil.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Don’t come.
    You are NOT welcome here.Recommend

  • Osama

    What an idiot you are. What does the truth lies in between mean?Recommend

  • NewIndia

    Atleast i am sure all Pakistanis are terrorists……Recommend

  • Irfan Farooqui

    Ya we all knows that all indians are rapistRecommend

  • Rahul

    In Pakistan the establishment sponsors terrorism as state policy, North Korea may be the only other place that does the same.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    for Pakistan, India is everywhere. You will see 1 to 9 top news in newspapers (like dawn, tribune) related to India like modi, bollywood, muslim beating. Their world is limited, Most of people think that Fawad khan is extremely popular in India. Pakistani drams are seen everyday in India.Recommend

  • Reddy

    right ,india with lowest per capita rape in the world is unsafe for women,pakistan with highest per capita bombings,suicide bombers is the safest country…sure,pakistanis are not welcome in my country..even if you want to visit,u couldn’t..as we already stopped giving visas to pakistanis from all walks of life..Recommend

  • Sane

    For some section of Indians, hatred against Pakistan is deep rooted. They are not ready to listen any rational argument and want to live in their shell. Indian politics revolves around hate against Pakistan and Muslims. While there is nothing such thing in Pakistani politics. This is the basic difference.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    If we look for problems, we will find problems. If we look for solutions, we will find solutions. Loved your article Hina. I can relate to it having excellent FB friends in India. We are just like a family and avoid discussing negatives.
    I would always want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Generalizing everything is never the solution.Recommend

  • Simla

    There are no rational arguments in this blog. A rational arguments would contain stats of rape per 100, 000 of population per country, not just anecdotes. How can Pakistanis talk about facts when there was no census in Pakistan between 1998 and 2017.
    Take a simple challenge. Over one week period count how many stories, editorials, opinion pieces and blogs are run on India on this very newspaper. Indians would not be on these pages if you just concentrated on your country.Recommend

  • Simla

    May be in Pakistan looks can get you wherever you want to be but in India and the rest of the world , it’s what you have in between your ears counts. Brain trumps looks every time.Recommend

  • Simla

    India and Pakistan are both 3rd world countries, both inherited patriarchic culture and backward mindset. However, India through education has made some strides in female emancipation but there is still a long way to go. More rapes are being reported nowadays in India than compared to say 20 years ago. Pakistan having a low score in all human development indices than India is less developed, therefore not all rapes are reported in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Duniya Hasan

    For God sake you people rape women in broad daylight while the by standers watch.Recommend

  • Duniya Hasan

    Are you saying that I’m lying? I have read so many articles where women are molested and raped in broad daylight in buses while the by standers watched. Also men masturbating on women in broad daylight is on the rise in india. Go stop your media from publishing such news Recommend

  • Srikant Tellikepalli

    Saleem jee, this 1971 is controversial as Modi jee has acknowledged what we did to help banglas so all this is twisted history and cant blame pak army as mukti bahni were doing in pak army uniform. Point here we indians are globally being cursed as rapst so need to correct instead of point scoring.Recommend

  • Srikant Tellikepalli

    …and this is yet another issue with us as Indians. Our media is blindly following bjp hinduvta mindest and portrays as we are developed nation. I have visited pak and was surprised to see infrastructure and development.Recommend

  • Srikant Tellikepalli

    Salim jee, Mukti bahni was made by India and they were there to do anything to serve india as modi jee said. But that is history now.Recommend