The rains in capital of Sindh, Karachi damaged its drainage system that gave us observing more things from difficulties to racist attitude. Sindhis were targeted during tough time by media houses. The racist approach by media houses encouraged DHS residents comparing DHA with Mohen – Jo – Daro (interestingly, elite could not google history over Indus Civilization that had civilized infrastructure) another resident seen blaming Sindhis by calling that a Sindhi villager held a position who had no understanding.
Unfortunately, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan who says that Sindhis come from rural areas is ruling over Karachi. Really! Would Prime Minister Imran Khan let us know where he did come from?
Racist attitude towards Sindh has had long list – the ruling party members seen insulting culture of Sindh. For instance: Dr. Shahbaz Gill mocked Bilawal Bhutto for wearing an Ajrak pattern mask comparing Mr. Bhutto with the calves whose mouths are tied with a colorful cloth to restrict their milk intake.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People clearly states that any propaganda directed against the culture of indigenous people, imposition of assimilation by other cultures imposed on them by legislative or administrative measures, any action aimed at dispossessing them of their land or resources or any action aimed at depriving them of their distinct cultural values and identities; must be prevented. However, despite being the signatory to this Declaration, cultural genocide continues unabated targeting not only Sindhis – including other provinces. Lately, a federal lawmaker raised an issue and criticized a private TV channel wherein Pakhtuns were shown as terrorists and “Naswar” addicts. Such kind of television programs and newspaper articles satirizing cultures create a divide between the masses and brainwashes them against other cultures. On different occasions Pakistani television serials show the dacoits wearing Ajrak, a pickpocket on Karachi streets with Lyari accent and terrorists from North.
It is interesting to note that while dramas on the theme of rape, drugs and murder are often censored, but TV drama promoting hatred against a culture is televised.
This cultural genocide is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan and it can be seen through several textbooks that “Urdu” is the language of Muslims. The majority cannot speak Urdu and in Punjab elite encourages children to speak Urdu.
It has also been noticed that some of the educational institutions have barred the students from communicating in their mother tongue and in certain cases involving in any cultural activity. There is a dire need to understand the reasons underpinning the hostility towards cultural diversity. The study of different textbooks has shown that Muslims and Hindus had a separate culture. The text taught in our schools did not take into consideration the cultural diversity of Pakistan thereby linking the culture with religion. The textbooks have associated Muslims with the ones wearing Shalwar Kameez and communicating in Urdu.
These kinds of teachings lead to immature actions of destroying the statue of Buddha and insulting Ajrak. After almost 25 years of independence, the Sindhi language was declared as the provincial language of Sindh on 4th July 1972. The media publications like “Urdu ka janaza hai” and mocking Sindhi Ajrak, has played a more divisive role, created miscommunication and barriers than promote healthy literature.
Time has come to initiate an intercultural dialogue where people from diverse cultural backgrounds are given a platform to share their views, acknowledge difference and promote cultural diversity. For example, artisans exchange among provinces, celebrating traditional holidays and festivals are some instances of creating awareness and acceptance. International student exchange programs where students from Pakistan go abroad and stay in the host country is a perfect example of cross cultural learning and increasing their sensitivity to cultural differences. A similar program can be replicated at the country level where students from one province can study one semester in a university outside their province.
At the same time, school textbooks also need to be revisited to incorporate text that creates awareness, inclusiveness and increase cultural literacy like Hemu Kalani, Bhagat Singh, Rooplo Kolhi, Hosh Muhammad Sheedi, etc. can help us understand social reconstruction and the formation of cultural and national identity.
The state can solve problems when we all build bridges and bridges can be built through acknowledge. Let’s give culture a chance this time!
Shehnila Zardari can be reached at @shehnilazardari
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