Islamic Pakistan versus Secular India

In Islamic Pakistan religious parties have never won any election but the secular India is ruled by Hindu religious extremists. Comparative study of peoples’ attitude towards extremism in India and Pakistan

 

RASHID AHMAD

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Pakistan was created, at least in public perception, in the name of Islam. But Islamic parties had never been the first choice of the people of Pakistan in elections. The religious parties had always been on the margins of the country’s political landscape in every election. In the just concluded general elections, the scene depicted rather worse picture. This time people denied mandate to the religious heavy weights like Moulana Fazlur Rahman and Sirajul Haqque too. As against this, India is a non-religious (secular) country but Hindu religious extremists are ruling it. Still the international narrative goes against Pakistan and its people. They are projected as “fanatics” and “extremists” in their religious ideas. It could be perhaps for one of the two reasons. The proponents and promoters of this narrative are either not able to grasp the situation correctly or they are biased towards Islamic identity and ideology that refuses them to side with the truth. As for the first reason, they are not as innocents that they can’t differentiate between the salt and the sugar. It is rather their predisposition to Islam that makes them to see a terrorist in every Muslim.

Indian media, in this regard, has shamelessly crossed all limits. The TV news channels in particular are barefaced. Imran Khan, the first choice of the people of Pakistan in the recent elections is known for his freethinking and liberal religious outlook all across the world but they tried every trick in their book to portray him as a ‘religious fanatic’. The revelations his former wife Reham Khan made in her autobiography tell-all is a serious reflection on Imran Khan’s religious life. And it was Indian TV channels which made most of the Reham Khan’s book. In the same breath these channels, however, tried to project him as if Usama Bin Laden reincarnated in Imran Khan. He was addressed as “religious bigot”, Taliban Khan and what not.

There were indeed religious extremist groups in election fray in Pakistan. They included the Tehreek Labbaik of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Allahho Akbar Tehreek of Hafiz Saeed, Sunni Tehreek, Ahl e Sunnat wal Jamaat and Rah e Haqq parties. Pakistani electorate, however, had a vision. They went for traditional political parties rejecting all these religious groups. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed had fielded along with his son and son-in-law around 250 candidates all across the country but not a single of them won the election. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who shot into prominence last year, when he along with his thousands of supporters laid siege of Islamabad and paralyzed the country capital for several weeks, was also rejected by the Pakistani electorate. All other groups also faced similar fate. Even the tradional religious parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JEI), Tehreek Jafriya, Tehreek Islami and Ahl Hadees which had gathered under the banner of Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) faced the worst ever defeat. Moulana Fazlur Rahman chief of JEI, known as the man of all seasons, and Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer (chief) Sirajul Haqque’s defeat was the most startling and surprising.

Three Hindu candidates of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were elected from the Muslim-majority areas in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Mahesh Malani won a National Assembly seat from Tharparkar (NA-222) , while Hari Ram Kishwari Lal and Jamshoro’s Giyanoo Mal alias Giyan Chand Essrani were elected from the provincial assembly seats PS-147 and PS-81, respectively. All the three candidates won from the general seats.

However, the scene in secular India is quite paradoxical. Hindu religious extremists not only occupy seats of power here but, in fact, owe their rise to political power to religious extremism. They caught the imagination of the Indian voters only after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The 500-year old mosque was brought down by Hindu extremists led by BJP’s the senior-most leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Umma Bharti in 1992 to build a Hindu temple on the site. The demolition of Babri Masjid was celebrated as national victory all across India, though with the exception of a smaller section of Indian society. The BJP, the political face of Hindu extremists, hence on became the darling of Indian voters. L K Advani, who rose to the position of deputy prime minister, in Vajpayee’s regime in 1999, admitted it publicly that the Ram Mandir movement (of which demolition of Babri Masjid was fundamental part) helped the BJP to gain power in Indian politics. Just a few years before the demolition of Babri Masjid BJP won just two parliamentary seats in a House of 543 in 1984. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani lost the election.

Ironically, the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi also owes his popularity among Indian masses to yet another incident of religious extremism. He caught the national attention of Indian nation in 2002 when around 4000 Muslims were massacred in Gujrat while he was the chief minister of the state. Modi was reprimanded internationally for allowing the mass murder of Muslims by rioting Hindu extremists. America and a host of European countries had banned his entry into their countries. But, at his home turf, he emerged as national hero which ultimately saw him taking the control of the Prime Minister’s House in 2014. Modi scored an unprecedented landslide victory. It was the first time in 30 years that a single party had won a parliamentary majority on its own.

Amit Shah, who was home minister during Gujrat Muslim massacre and faced jail in yet another fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin is BJP’s national president and poster boy of “new India”. The mass mandate to Modi and Shah is seen as authentication by the Indian electorate to their communal extremism. It is perhaps for this fact that Hindu extremist groups have taken control of the streets across India. Not a single day passes without killing a Muslim in one or the other corner of the country. Justifications are galore and come handy. Carrying or eating beef is the primary one. And if you are not carrying beef then you must be a child-lifter or a love-jihad activist. Killings made so easy.

The religious persecution is not restricted to Muslims only. Other religious minority communities and Dalits too face discrimination and persecution. Since BJP’s ascendance to power in 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated drastically. A report released by US Commission for International Religious Freedom that monitors violation of religious freedom abroad, some months back had stunning revelations about religious persecution in India. The report had recommended the US Government to put religious freedom and human rights at the heart of all trade, aid, and diplomatic interactions with India.

For its extreme religious conduct, the BJP has taken control of 22 out of India’s 29 states. The worst known Hindu bigot and head of a religious institution (Gorakhnath Matth), Adityanath was appointed chief minister of Utter Pradesh (UP), the most populous state of India. Nowhere in the world, with the exception of Iran, does this situation prevail, not even in Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia or Saudi Arabia. For public consumption India is a non-religious (secular) country but Adityanath symbolizes amalgamation of religion and politics. He has successfully accomplished all his agenda—‘love Jihad’, reconversion (Ghar Wapsi), closure of slaughter houses, change of syllabus in Islamic Madrasas, tacit support to rampaging cow terrorists.

Muslims and other religious minorities in all the BJP-ruled states are living in permanent fear. Some months back police arrested a Muslim Engineer wearing a burqa at a railway station in UP. On investigations it revealed that the Muslim engineer had worn burqa to conceal his identity from Hindu zealots. In neighboring Haryana, Muslims are banned from praying in public. Last month, Hindu goons attacked a Friday congregation in GurGaon disrupting the prayers. Some time back two Muslim women were gang-raped by four Hindu hoodlums In Mewat Haryana on the pretext of eating beef. The plight of Muslims in India was summed up by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor as “being cow in India is safer than being a Muslim”.

The saddest of all this is that there is open institutional support to the different forms of Hindu extremism. The idea of India is definitely in serious crisis but those supposed to protect and promote it look the other way.

 

Some interesting comparisons

Pakistani voter rejected Islamic parties in every election including the recent one. But in India Hindu extremists were voted to power only after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes his popularity among Indian people to mass murder of Muslims in Gujrat when he was chief minister of the state in 2002.

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In Islamic Pakistan senior religious stalwarts Sirajul Haqque, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami and Moulana Fazlur Rahman of Jamitul Ulema e Islam were denied mandate by the Pakistani electorate in the just concluded elections. In secular India, a Hindu religious head Adityanath (head of Gorakhnath Matth) was appointed as the chief minister of Utter Pradesh, the most populous state of India.

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Hindus form just around one percent of overall population of Pakistan but three Hindus won National Assembly and Provincial Assembly elections defeating Muslim candidates on Peoples’ Party ticket. But in UP where Muslims have 20 per cent population, not a single candidate was fielded by the BJP in last year’s assembly elections.

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Published in today’s Kashmir Monitor (August 12, 2018)

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