Towards a South Asian Union

Samir Gupta

By Samir Gupta

Published in Aman ki Asha, Oct 8, 2013… Justice Katju may be controversial but his sincerity to peace and humanity is unmistakable, finds a young activist at a breakfast meeting

I was bit nervous when journalist Beena Sarwar invited me to accompany her to meet Justice Markandey Katju for breakfast in Delhi. Justice Katju had retired as a judge at the Supreme Court of India and was appointed Chairman of Press Council of India. He is known for his controversial statements, including his comment “Pakistan is a “fake” country “created artificially by the British” – that I had also ridiculed. He sounded like a retired person far removed from reality.

Justice Katju: A strong, secular, democratic vision. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Justice Katju: A strong, secular, democratic vision. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Beena, editor Aman ki Asha Jang Group Pakistan, insisted that he is a sincere friend of Pakistan and a champion of peace between India and Pakistan. She wanted to talk to him about his calls for re-unification that are causing unnecessary controversy and diverting from the real issues at hand. This was going to be interesting.

On the day, I met Beena outside his majestic bungalow near Parliament House in New Delhi. He was much taller than I expected, and very warm in welcoming us. As we sat for breakfast, he regaled us with stories of his days as a judge in Allahabad, meeting his counterparts from Pakistan in Delhi, his views of what ails India and his views on Pakistan.

He said that the partition of India was a result of the British divide and rule policy. Hindus and Muslims shared a rich culture that bound them together until the British divided them in the name of religion. He was brutal in his criticism of politicians in both countries. He talked about how people tend to be easily fooled by vested interests and how easy it is to manipulate them to divert attention from day to day problems.

Hearing him talk, his views about Pakistan assumed a very different meaning. He does not appreciate the idea of Pakistan as a separate entity because he believes that the Pakistanis are the same people as the Indians. Here is a man who is very secular, loves our shared cultures – he is particularly passionate about Urdu and the great poets like Faiz – and who has helped umpteen Pakistanis in his days in the judiciary due to his sense of fraternity with them.

He refuted strongly the allegation that his call for reunification sounded like the Akhand Bharat call by India’s right wing. “No,” he said vehemently. “My view is completely different. I want to see us united under a strong, secular, democratic government. They want a Hindu raj. I will never agree to that.”

He listened patiently to our views and agreed that it would be more strategic and realistic to work towards a South Asian Union or Confederation, along the lines of the European Union. That would fulfill his dream of free movement of people across the border and reviving a shared culture split down the middle by geopolitics. He appreciated the enormity of the problem at hand but encouraged us to continue what we were doing

As we bid goodbye, I instinctively bent to touch his feet. Here is a man who loves so generously. May the powers above grant him good health, fulfill his wish for peace and fraternity in South Asia, and help us in creating a South Asian Union of independent nations.

The author is an IT professional and peace activist based in Ghaziabad, India. samir.gupta@cklear.com

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