The Shining

Narendra Modi won the Indian elections with a landslide victory. It was certainly quite a disappointment for many around the world to see a man accused of being complicit in a communal pogrom all set to become prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. Some Pakistanis tweeted critically about Modi’s win but were told to mind their own business and look at the mess Pakistan is in.

When Sherry Rehman and some other Pakistanis raised a question about the number of Muslim MPs in the newly elected Lok Sabha, they received flak for it. A lot of Indian Muslims felt offended that Pakistanis were showing ‘concern’ about them while many others ‘reminded’ Pakistanis of the treatment meted out to the minorities in our country. Those tweets were not condescending but were in fact coming from people who keep an eye on international politics and comment on it.

If you look at the tweets from the Indian Twitterati, many of them consider it their birthright to comment on anything and everything related to Pakistan. Many of those tweets are in fact condescending, mocking, patronising and sometimes downright offensive and/or abusive. Liberal and progressive Pakistanis have never stopped Indians from commenting on Pakistan even if it is on internal matters that should not be India’s concern at all. So when Pakistanis commented on Modi’s win — something being discussed all over the world — and were critical, many Indians just could not take what they dish out on a regular basis.

Yes, Pakistan is in a mess but many of us keep raising our voice against the military establishment’s flawed policies, against terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), etc. We speak out against our own state’s backing of jihadi terrorist outfits. We speak up for the rights of the Baloch, Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, etc. We do not condone the way our minorities are being treated and call out our state for its failure to protect its own citizens. We stick out our necks when we highlight atrocities committed by state and non-state actors. We can be killed for doing so but at least we do not sweep such issues under the rug.

Shaheed Salmaan Taseer did not back down on the issue of Aasia Bibi and the blasphemy laws till his last breath even though he knew it could get him killed, which it eventually did. Sherry Rehman has never shied away from raising the issue of misuse of the blasphemy laws and the plight of minorities even though her life is under threat. My friend Raza Rumi was almost killed by the LeJ because he spoke up for the Shias and against terrorism. Secretary General SAFMA Imtiaz Alam was attacked by ISI goons because he spoke the truth about 26/11 on national TV. Many of us are called traitors and Indian agents because we are pro-peace and question our state’s policies.

As a Pakistani who has admired Indian secularism and its strong democratic traditions, Modi’s win is an abomination and everyone has the right to comment on it.

It is a well-established fact that Modi’s politics is of communal exclusion and discrimination. There can be no denying that the Indian polity’s swing to Modi is a cataclysmic indictment of ‘Secular India’. For every progressive Indian, it should have been a day of reckoning when Modi was elected but it was disturbing to see that most of them were not even willing to admit that something did go wrong. The harsh reality is that both India and Pakistan can be equally exploitative, oppressive and bigoted societies. A progressive society is not just built on high economic growth but on values of secularism, rights of minorities, inclusiveness and a truly pluralistic social fabric.

This column is not meant to be a rant to vilify India but a call to ask for introspection and an honest conversation with the progressive people of India.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


Dadoji said…

Where I agree with you:
1. Anyone can comment on how elections in any country play out and the results. More so when it is a neighbouring country. Even more so when you consider it to be your bĂȘte noir.
2. Indians can dish it out but not take it
3. Indian Twitterati consider it their birthright to comment on things Pakistani. By virtue of point #1 above, it actually is.
4. Late Salmaan Taseer, Raza Rumi et al did (and are doing) a sterling job of rescuing Pakistan despite grave and serious danger to their lives.
5. "both India and Pakistan can be equally exploitative, oppressive and bigoted societies"

Where I differ with you:
1. Just because people read a lot and comment does not make them correct, accurate or authoritative.
2. Dishing it out - Indians are not unique in that although I personally do not like it. However, Indians do not reject critical data. Pakistanis do. Kargil, Kasab etc....the list is endless.
3. The manner in and extent to which Pakistan has involved itself in the affairs of the Union of India makes itself a fair game. The three fingers pointing at oneself and all that.
4. You may recall that in most of my reponses on your blog I have always admired the few Pakistanis who are trying to do the right thing. Sadly, a very large percentage of Indian population are not aware of these efforts. They are aware of an army that refused to acknowledge and take back their dead, terrorists who shoot/blow-up women and kids who disagree with them, the bogey that India is all set to devour Pakistan and the immediate/reflex denial everytime Pakistan is suspected of some terrorist attack. Remember Hamid Gul? The whole of India saw him on Indian TV channels stating rather emphatically that Mumbai attacks were stage managed and that Pakistan was not involved. Three days ago we saw a strategic affairs analyst wagging a nuclear finger and a cunning mention of the 'muqaddama' related to Mumbai attack. People have long memories when it comes to their neighbours. Would Indians be wrong to be #justasking 'SherryRehman ishtyle' which guilty have been proven and prosecuted?
5. Indian society, whilst exhibiting largely common behaviours with Pakistani society (generally speaking, no specific social strata), has begun diverging in significant manner on many aspects. If you dig very deep, you will discover that the few rabid Hindus who dislike muslims actually dislike the vote bank politics and preferrential treatment rather than the religion they practise. I am not sure the same can be said about rabid muslims in Pakistan. Before you point to Babri masjid take a moment to find out how much has been spent by way of Haj subsidy and then try to understand the resentment that has been building up. Heck, the muslim cabbie who drove me home from airport yesterday was angry about SP, BSP and Congress. That sentiment is reflected in the election outcome.
6. Modi's election is not an abomination. Rather, it is an effort to finally live in a secular manner. Constantly viewing Modi through coloured glasses would distort the vision but you can certainly pay attention to what he has said and what he has not.

Before you digest my comments, let me also set the context:
1. I did not vote for Modi or BJP. I have, however, followed his election campaign with great interest including the elections results and the noises he has made since then.
2. I consider myself to be a human being and practise no particular religion. I am happy to participate in cultural ceremonies when invited irrespective of their religious basis.
3. I am on record on your blog that I wish for a reformed, developed and peaceful Pakistan that minds its own business.
4. The last word on 2002 riots is yet to be written. Some of the govt. reports on the riots are not worth the paper they were written on although it is true that in some of the areas muslims were systematically targetted.

To be continued...
Dadoji said…

5. I am interested in the progress of my country. I have no inherent desire to see Pakistan burn. It certainly gets to me that Pakistan (more specifically the Army and ISI. The Air Force and Navy are a slightly different breed) keeps attacking my country and does not let us live in peace. Sherry Rehman's tweet which may appear to be innocent but is either ill composed or ill motivated or ill informed. Does she not know the answer to the question she has asked or does she not know that India has had muslim Presidents and several MPs over the years. Is she not aware of names like Abu Azmi, the Owaisi brothers, Madani and other such 'fine muslim gentlemen' to have graced our parliaments and assemblies? If her defence is that she was asking about the newly elected parliament I can give an equally cute response that Indian parliament is not about religious identity. Democratic secular republic, yes?

As long as their suecidal tendencies remain overt and/or covert an average Indian like me will be forced to stand with a hand on the dagger although we may not be eager like your envoy to stand 'daggers drawn'.

Ideally, Pakistanis need to give Modi few months before judging him. He may well turn out to be the wolf in sheep clothing but first hand independent experiences from his state point in a different direction.

Pakistanis also need to watch Mian to see whether he acts in line with the noises he made as part of his election campaign. So far he has spectacularly failed to live up to them, perhaps again because of Army and ISI but methinks there is more to it. Do not expect Indians to be friendly if you are not friendly to them. They may not attack you but they will certainly not grease up and bend over.

The need for introspection and honest conversation is much more on the Pakistani side. You will find several willing Indians on the other side if Govt of Pakistan establishes credibility through their words and actions. You can choose to dismiss my comments as 'not from a progressive Indian' but then you would repeat the mistake that most Pakistanis have made over the years. If the likes of Shobha De and Arundhati Roy are your references for 'progressive Indian intellectuals' then may Allah be with you. Stay away from the fakes and focus more on people like G Parthsathy, Tarun Vijay (or even Jyotiraditya Scindia or Sachin Pilot or Milind Deora) to understand what the actually Republic of India thinks like. And if Sherry Rehman wants to see a muslim name in that list you can tell her to follow Javed Akhtar or Amir Khan. Both would fit Sherry's criteria but consider themselves to be Indian rather than representative muslims. Precisely the reason to mention their names.


Not expecting a response but would welcome if there is one.

Dadoji said…
Having seen how the visit and maeetings took place, I have developed a new respect for Nawaz Sharif and his team. I now believe that if Nawaz and Modi work together it will help Pakistan as well as India - the former more than the latter. Fingers crossed.
Hey Mehmal,

Congratulations on completing 9 years of regular blogging. You are an inspiration.


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