Don’t label me ‘Mohajir’

Published: February 11, 2014
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I continue being increasingly convinced that the label of Mohajir has made it near impossible for me to be accepted as a Pakistani in Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE

I continue being increasingly convinced that the label of Mohajir has made it near impossible for me to be accepted as a Pakistani in Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE I continue being increasingly convinced that the label of Muhajir has made it near impossible for me to be accepted as a Pakistani in Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Being a first generation Mohajir might have felt like stepping into an exciting new territory full of adventures in reassertion of identity, a deeper assimilation into the national fabric and finding a voice in a country teeming with provincialism.

However, as a second generation Mohajir reflecting over the three decades that have transpired since, it seems that these were nothing short of a fool’s dreams that at least I could have survived without. Objectively, I feel that having chased these dreams has actually left me more devoid in numerous avenues than empowered.

Retrospectively, I find it hard to understand why we had to push for an ‘identity’ in a country that was in reality created as our collective identity regardless of language, race or creed. However, much to the contrary, the forthcoming generations of Mohajirs, myself included, are ostracised for having migrated from India while the groups that did not fret are more comfortably assimilated in the national soil.

Talk about giving the dog a bad name and hanging him.

I continue being increasingly convinced that the label of Mohajir has made it near impossible for me to be accepted as a Pakistani in Pakistan. In fact, I wonder where exactly I belong. Personally, I believe it was entirely unnecessary to have even attempted to carve out a ‘niche or identity’ for us in a country that was made for all of us anyway. I feel like I’m labelled as an outsider on account of being Urdu speaking. And on the political front, regardless of whether or not I agree with the party agenda, being Urdu speaking makes me an unwitting member of the only political party representing me.

Interestingly enough, Urdu speaking, like myself, are now even arrogantly brushed aside by ‘rishta walis’ (aunties with proposals) who have added the ‘Urdu speaking’ clause to their regular questionnaire. Many a times when making selections, we, Urdu speaking girls, are not usually preferred. This is just one of many ways we are side-lined in the social avenues.

I hate to be blunt but the steadily increasing notoriety of the party over the years has polished off on the whole lot of us and has a lot to do with the situation.

Overly simplistic as it may sound, I often wonder why it was at all necessary to have created the student association specifically for Mohajirs or Urdu speaking. Initially, the Mohajir students were grouped aside and gradually, the label spread to the Urdu speaking population in general that had emigrated from India. I think I was better off labelled ‘Muslim’ in a non-Muslim country than as a whole different creed of Muslim who is shunned in a Muslim country.

On that note, I don’t even know why we are even called ‘immigrants’. An entirely new country emerged on the globe in the form of Pakistan on August 14, 1947 and our elders moved here as new citizens.

So why the label ‘Mohajir’ at all?

This forced label only hurts my presence, my participation and my identity in a country that I consider my own but that has gradually disowned me over the years.

As a student, I stood out among my peers in my educational institutions. Now I stand out among my colleagues and in my social circles. The fact that I know only Urdu and English is enough indication that I am a Mohajir. Residents of the other four provinces speak the third provincial language and even if they don’t, it is certainly spoken in their homes. I have even noticed people getting visibly uncomfortable around me. They prefer to flock together with ‘similar feathers’ and give preference to another province resident rather than an ‘Urdu speaking’ like myself.

My list of complaints could go on and on.

Don’t pat my head and tell me it is all in my head because it is not.

We have started to suffer a lot now and the situation can no longer be brushed aside as a story in our heads or simple paranoia. Karachi has become a crazy hell hole and the burning city has stamped our infamous presence and name in the discussion columns around the world, which is soon disregarded.

Frankly, I have turned into a minority in the country, representing the white part of our flag, and sadly enough, minorities aren’t very kindly accommodated here, especially, an unsavoury one. By hook or by crook, I might enjoy an upper hand in Karachi but in the other areas I am not looked at very kindly. Despite having emigrated from India, being a Mohajir wouldn’t have been such an ‘issue’ if it hadn’t been ‘made such an issue’ with the emergence of an identity that honestly is no help to the common man.

So dear countrymen, do me a favour and refer to me as a Pakistanis and not Urdu speaking or Mohajir.

Putting tags on each other and setting each other aside does nothing to strengthen our or the country’s identity internationally or domestically. It only demotes Pakistan at a time when it is imperative to pull together as a whole and not break apart into pieces based on labels, which might be hard to put together later.

aalia.suleman

Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (twitter.com/aaliasuleman)

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