The Dawn: Feb 7, 2014

How Harappa is different from Mohenjo-Daro!

Mushtaq Soofi 

What is the difference between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro? Little if you know a bit of history. Much if you know a bit of politics. Both are ancient cities, the former being the northern urban centre and the latter the southern of Harappa civilisation (also called Indus Valley civilisation) which had its heyday way back in time in large swathes in Punjab (East and West), Sindh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Harappa in historical terms is more significant than other ancient cities. Not only was it discovered first which pushed back the history of the subcontinent at least five thousand years back, forcing a review of human evolution, but also provided a unique insight into the process that created a multilayered and complex society that is subcontinent. It was Harappa and its surrounding areas that bore the brunt of early waves of Aryans, thus transforming all the aspects of life in our part of the world for all time to come. Here on the banks of river Ravi in the vicinity of Harappa the Rig-Veda, the most sacred of four Vedas, was revealed or composed which laid the foundation of moral, ethical and social code of a newly emerging mixed society as a consequence of intermingling of vanquished Dravidians and victorious Aryans. The seals found in Harappa revealed that it had some form of written language along with Egypt and Mesopotamia though its script unfortunately still remains undeciphered despite the best efforts of linguistic experts. One hopes that the unraveling of this mystery some time in future will again compel us to review the historical march of mankind.

Both Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the glory of the ancient world, are highly important chapters in the book of world history but in Pakistan are excluded from the national narrative due to ill-conceived ideological imperatives evolved by the state and the elite that trace our historical origins in the conquest of northern India by Arabs and central Asian Muslim warlords and kings, obfuscating the undeniable reality that people can change their faith, not their history. So a spectre of history haunts our elite which insist to see our past shaped by our current faith alone. This can only be done by erasing from our textbooks and collective memory the indelible marks that point to what we inherited from our Dravidian, Hindu and Buddhist forebears.

Denying history means denying our very existence which is an outcome of a long evolutionary process driven by dynamics of intermingling strands of diverse experiences. Being unable to handle ‘God’s plenty’ what our ruling club is scared of, is diversity. And diversity is what defines society in any region of subcontinent. To counter the ‘dangers’ to national cohesion posed by the phenomenon of diversity, faith inspired notion of monolithic unity is touted as a panacea by both the Muslim extremists in Pakistan and the Hindu fanatics in India. Whatever they do to have a sanitised image of themselves, they are destined to fail in their unnatural project.

Muslim extremists in Pakistan will never be able to cleanse themselves of their Dravidian and Hindu genes. Similarly, Hindu fanatics will never be successful in ejecting what the Dravidian, Buddhist and Muslim needles injected in their flesh and psyche.

The movement to achieve monolithic national unity in Pakistan, led by mainly by the Punjabi and Mohajir elites, on the one hand denies our glorious heritage and on the other refuses to come to terms with the contemporary diversity and plurality of different regions.

Mohajirs after having been uprooted from their ancestral land, find themselves threatened by a culturally alien majority with a dreadful prospect of losing their linguistic and cultural identity. Hence they cling to what in their opinion is the uniting link between different peoples of Pakistan; the faith in the mould of an ideology.

The Punjabi elite, the so-called representative of majority of the country, suffer from a different malaise; the lust of power. In order to achieve dominant position in the power structure they have given up their language and cultural identity in the name of chimerical national unity. And the means to evolve national unity is faith of course. This is the point where the interests of the Mohajir and Punjabi elites converge. The smaller nationalities of the country especially the Baloch and Sindhis have long sensed the dangers such a canard poses. The Sindhi elite have honed a strategy, political and cultural, to fight the formidable Punjabi/Mohajir politico-ideological force. They have been successful in both political and cultural sense to protect their rights. They have a strong presence in the echelons of power and at the same time have proudly promoted their linguistic and cultural identity.

So what sets apart Punjabis from Sindhis is the difference between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. The former remains a heap of ruins disowned by Punjabis, left at the mercy of elements. While the latter is ever conspicuous at the cultural landscape, owned and protected by Sindhis. Their politics invigorates their culture and their culture enlivens their politics. The Sindh Festival, conceived by young Bilawal and his team, arranged recently at the ancient place of Mohenjo-Daro, displayed the politics of culture and culture of politics which the Punjabi biggies are totally incapable of. Could Punjabi politicians like ex prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Aitzaz Ahsan and Qamar Zaman Kaira, who flanked their young Sindhi leader at the festival, think of doing such a cultural show at Harappa? No. All Punjabi political leaders including the heavyweights of the PML-N, the PPP, the PTI and the PML-Q are brain dead. What can one expect from the dead except the stench of decomposed remains? —

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