The LUMS family is replete with people wanting to change the country, as well as the entire region for the better. Such is an initiative taken by two universities in two different countries, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan along with O.P. Jindal Global University (OPJGU), India; together they prepared an academic course titled ‘HIST 125 – Introduction to South Asian History.’
The aim of offering this common undergraduate course was to ensure that a wider amount of knowledge and perspective is given to students. Historically both India and Pakistan have very different accounts of how events have unfolded. It is true that on both sides of the border official versions dominate as the only truths, and the subject has not been thoroughly researched in cooperation between the two countries. Major characters from the “other side” have been majorly neglected when teaching history in schools as well.
The course informs the students about much more than just the controversial partition, and the years leading up to it. The events close to the partition have very differing views and characters are perceived very differently in both the countries. The course develops itself as a foundation course introducing history from a different viewpoint, including trade relations very early on, as well as a discussion on the Indus Valley Civilization, which is very important in tracing the commonalities of the two regions.
While speaking to the Indian media, LUMS faculty, Dr. Ali Usman Qasmi explained, “What is remarkable about the course is that it gives an opportunity to students to study a shared but highly contested past. The idea is that students from Lahore and Delhi would discuss South Asian historical processes that impact our present-day state, society and politics.”
Although most of the interactions during the semester-long course took place over Skype, 11 students from LUMS joined OPJGU students, Delhi for the first time in a physical classroom setting. The trip showed the commitment of the students and faculty of LUMS towards the entire initiative. Speaking about the trip, and the experience overall, Husnain Akram, who was enrolled in the coursed, explained, “This course has enabled me to escape manipulated accounts of history which helps me understand the contemporary hostility between both the countries owing to their own versions of "Official" accounts of history. The trip has brought me closer to our commonalities. How we better relations between the two countries is by initiating such academic exchanges and interactions. Peace can be won with the power of knowledge and citizen level interactions. The focus should be on highlighting the cultural similarities and we should also learn to respect our cultural differences. Courses like this can remove our misunderstandings by presenting actual accounts of history.”
Both the universities should be proud of the step that has been initiated in bringing a shared history of the two countries to the limelight even when at times it’s not the official account of the states. Such initiatives can bring great benefits to peace movements.