Liberal India? | Pakistan Today

Liberal India?

While Pakistan makes up for its past India sheds its secular image

Prime Minister Imran Khan in a recent statement said that “We will show the Modi government how to treat minorities. Even in India, people are saying that minorities are not being treated as equal citizens”.

In reply to Khan’s statement, authorities in India launched a barrage of criticism on Pakistan, accusing the country of treating its minorities unfairly. While in the past, Pakistan may have faced pressure from some right-wing segments when it comes to protecting the rights of minorities, Pakistan of today and what is shaping for tomorrow is a country which is striving for inclusiveness on all fronts.

Here is some evidence. On Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birthday, Khan, in a tweet said that “Quaid envisaged Pakistan as a democratic, just and compassionate nation. Most importantly he wanted our minorities to be equal citizens. It should be remembered that his early political career was as an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity”. On 25th December, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa joined Christian community at Christ Church, Rawalpindi to take part in Christmas Celebrations. Bajwa recognized the role of Christian and other minorities in Pakistan’s creation and its eventual progress which continues today. In August 2018, in a first, COAS Bajwa hosted a dinner for some of the country’s most senior Christian leaders including priest Joseph Coutts who was appointed as cardinal in the Vatican City by Pope Francis. Recently, one of the ultra-right wing Islamist group, TLP’s leadership who instigated violence against the state as well as Muslim and non-Muslim groups was put behind bars. In another unprecedented development, Pakistan pushed for the openings of the Kartarpur corridor to not only honor the wishes of the Sikh population of Pakistan but also millions of Sikh’s living across the border in Punjab. Pakistan’s effort to open the Kartarpur corridor was met with widespread resistance in India and some even called it a conspiracy on the part of Pakistan to instigate some sort of anti-state sentiments in India. Moreover, sectarian and other incidents of religious violence among different faiths have reduced significantly. On the whole, some of these actions at the state level indicate the narrative and discourse which point toward a consolidated effort to make Pakistan a more plural and vibrant state.

On the other hand, the government in India is doing everything to not only impair its so-called image of a democratic and secular state but also registering new trends to showcase alarming levels of social and political violence against minority ethnic and religious groups. The last four years of the BJP’s government have taken India to a height where the country only reflects the image of a vile and angry state which is hell-bent on destroying its religious and ethnic minorities. While India may be a big state as the country boasts, the former also houses one of the largest number – 71.5 millions – of people living in extreme poverty. The country’s economic elite, including Muslims, have openly talked about the emerging changes in India where even they are insecure about the national identity. One can only imagine the plight of middle and poorer classes of Indian society.

The so-called secular and liberal constitutional values that Indian leaders are eager to discuss are clearly under threat

A recent report which was carried out by a Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the UK-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) stated that India saw more than 700 outbreaks of communal violence last year that killed 86 and injured 2,321 people. From 2012 to 2018, 45 people were killed in 120 cases of cow-related violence reported across India between 2012 and 2018. The so-called ‘cow protection gangs’ in India threaten and kill people with impunity. On December 3, the killing of a Sikh police officer who was accused of not prosecuting a Muslim man blamed for slaughtering a cow has added to this worrying statistic. The so-called secular and liberal constitutional values that Indian leaders are eager to discuss are clearly under threat. Evidently, majority of the attacks lead by violent Hindu gangs reflect a policy at the state level to the sideline and punish minority sects of the country. According to a recent article published in Al-Jazeera, “The BJP fears the loss of popularity so much that it feels the need to ignite another communal conflict to stay in power.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state which houses 22 percent of India’s total 15 % Muslim population, logged the most instances of violence against Muslims in recent years. The recent appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu hardliner with controversial anti-Muslim views, as chief minister, also led to an increase in anti-Muslim violence in the state. Some reports even indicate that Muslim families have been fleeing their homes in Uttar Pradesh. India, under Modi, has banned the slaughtering of cows which has further emboldened right-wing Hindu gangs. It’s comical and ridiculous that a country which celebrates a discourse of liberalism and secularism has forbidden the slaughtering of an animal which a majority population of the country considers sacred. India is anything but a secular and liberal state as it consents Hindutva and sanctions violent mobs against its minorities under the state patronage.

Beyond mainland India, the recent butchering in Kashmir indicates the same policy of punishing minorities, particularly Muslims. What is more tragic is that the world continues to ignore New Delhi’s senseless policies. While Pakistan is mending what may have gone wrong in the past, New Delhi is turning into an apartheid state.

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.