On Dec. 13, 2001, a suicide squad
attacked the Indian Parliament
in New Delhi. India blamed
Pakistani terrorist groups for the
attack. Amid shock and anger,
India mobilized and moved tens
of thousands of soldiers to its
border with Pakistan. War
Pakistani military and political leaders threatened to use
nuclear weapons if India
attacked. Top American diplomats and generals were convinced that Pakistan wasn’t
bluffing. South Asia was in the
grip of its first nuclear crisis.
Television networks began calculating what might survive of
cities like New Delhi and Lahore
after a nuclear attack.
The spring and summer of
2002 turned into a long season
of furious nationalism. The air,
rail and road links between the
two countries remained closed.
India was also shocked and
polarized by February 2002 riots
in the Western state of Gujarat
under the watch
of Narendra Modi,
chief minister at
the time. About
were killed and
people were displaced.
In July 2003, in
a small step
hostility, the sole
between the two
Lahore and New
unlikely passenger on that bus
from Lahore to New Delhi
became a moving reminder of
common humanity and decency.
Noor Fatima, a 2-year-old girl
from Lahore, had several holes
in her heart. The surgery was
prohibitively expensive in
Pakistan. Nadeem Sajjad, her
father, a marketing executive,
traveled with his ailing child and
wife across several thousand
miles, a difficult history and a
toxic politics, to Narayana
Hrudayalaya, a hospital in
Bangalore, in southern India.
The girl’s visit to Bangalore
became a major media event.
Ordinary Indians offered finan-
cial support; celebrations fol-
lowed her successful surgery.
Gauri Lankesh, the editor who
was assassinated this month,
wrote about Noor’s surgery,
India and Pakistan in the
Patrike. Her origi-
nal essay was pub-
lished on July 24,
2003. Ms. Lankesh,
a fierce critic of
tics and a champi-
on of equal rights
for lower castes
stood up against
the powerful and
stood for justice. In
seasons of national-
ist fury, she stood
for pacifism. We
are publishing this
to honor Lankesh’s
courage and generosity of spirit.
very evening, a peculiar convention takes
place at Wagah, a village along the India-Pakistan border.
Border gates of both
countries stand five feet apart.
Flags of both countries flutter
nearby. On occasion, the soldiers
on either side of the border ask
after one another: “Good day!
How are you?” When I visited
Wagah in 1999, a senior Indian
Army officer introduced me to
his Pakistani counterpart. I
stepped inside the no-man’s
land between the two countries.
The Pakistani Army officer came
forward. We shook hands, even
as the two countries were at war
in the northern mountains of
Kargil (in the disputed Kashmir).
Amicable with one another
during the day, the soldiers of
both countries get into a kind of
contest as the evening sets in.
Ordinary Indians and Pakistanis
gather near the gates and the
daily ritual of lowering the
national flags commences. (A
choreographed exercise follows
as both Indian and Pakistan soldiers stomp their boots angrily.)
On which side were the soldiers
more bellicose? On which side
were they stomping their boots
more vehemently and loudly?
Mindful of details like these, the
citizens clap and shout slogans
and root for the soldiers from
their country. It begins to feel as
if a small war is about to break
out between the soldiers.
A strange sight follows: After
the flag-lowering ritual is over,
Indians and Pakistanis rush
toward the border gates. They
stare at one another curiously. A
sense of rivalry isn’t seen among
them. A “you are just like us”
sentiment prevails instead.
Hoping to see relatives separated
from them at the time of the partition in 1947, some Indians and
Pakistanis visit the Wagah border time and again. They stand
in silence searching for a familiar
face on the other side of the border and head home only when
the soldiers drive them away.
Noor Fatima has brought back
these memories. News of her
surgery has spread far. What I
liked most though was the moral
and economic support that
Indians extended to her. They
have offered her the help that
politicians have been unable to
give. Noor’s parents have wel-
comed it graciously.
Numerous Indians have
donated money to the Dosti
Fund (Friendship Fund) that
Noor’s father set up to offer aid
to poor Indian children. An
industrialist, who had lived in
Lahore before migrating to India
after the partition, has offered
1. 2 million rupees. This act of
generosity from an Indian Hindu
to a fund set up by a Pakistani
Muslim demonstrates that the
people of the two countries need
friendship and harmonious coexistence.
At a time when efforts to
divide people in the country
along lines of caste and religion
are underway, ordinary Indians
have proved that they won’t let
religious difference divide them.
The Noor episode clarifies that
India’s hostility toward Pakistan
is limited to its own security and
does not extend to the people of
that country or their religion.
Indians have ignored the fact
that young Noor is from another
country. Those Indians who hesitated to come out in support of
Muslim victims of the Gujarat
violence have stood in support
of a Muslim girl from Pakistan.
Our hearts don’t have to be filled
with hatred. Noor made us see
Gauri Lankesh was the editor of
Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada
newspaper published in Bangalore.
Evidence that India’s hostility toward Pakistan does not extend to the people of that country
to come out in
of the Gujarat
support of a
By Gauri Lankesh
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) commandant Sudeep, center right, presents sweets to Pakistani Wing Commander Bilal, center left, on the occasion of
the Eid al-Adha festival at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post, Sept. 2 Below, Indian demonstrators hold placards with the picture of journalist
Gauri Lankesh during a 'Not In My Name' protest in New Delhi, Sept. 7.
INDIA ABROAD October 6, 2017 12 SECOND OPINION