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Lahore attack: India can’t afford a govt that directly or indirectly encourages majority extremism

The new BJP narrative of an overly religious/Hindu national identity will be the antithesis of everything the freedom movement had sought to avoid and foreclose.

Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: March 28, 2016 12:08:59 pm
Men mourn the death of their relatives after a blast outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, March 27, 2016. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza Men mourn the death of their relatives after a blast outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan. (Reuters/Mohsin Raza)

Unfortunately, it could if India and its governments aren’t careful.

And I don’t mean Pakistani terrorists from across the border which unfortunately has been quite common or local Muslims who have only occasionally engaged in it. I actually mean elements of the Hindu population doing to Indians what Pakistani Taliban do quite regularly to their own majority and minority populations in pursuit of a theistic extremist agenda.

Terrorism is as old as humanity and isn’t about to wither away forever from our earth anytime soon. As our world civilised terror receded as a way of resolving our differences or challenging the status quo. Its presence and extent always denotes a corresponding diminution of civility and humanity. It easily takes hold when narrow dogmas and differences – be they political or religious – trump and degrade our common humanity.

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In the last few years Islamist Jihadi terror has been taking its toll in Africa, Asia and Europe. In the Middle East ISIS has been killing Sunnis that disagree with its diabolic interpretation of Quran. They kill Shias, Yazidi Christians and Kurds without any compunction what so ever. They wreak havoc in Turkey too. They have carried out attacks in Spain and Britain and more recently killed and maimed civilians in Paris and Belgium. The New York 9/11, Mumbai 26/11, London 7/05 and scores of others preceded the more recent spate of terror.

With all of these attacks, the puritan Jihadists have sought to style themselves as the true inheritors and guardians of all things Muslim. They have tried to frame their onslaught in civilisational terms; them against the West and the rest. With the Mumbai attacks they tried in one fell swoop to cast themselves as the potential ‘liberators’ of Kashmir and the sworn enemies of the Hindus, Jews and the Westerners.

Since the whole raison-d’être of the Pakistani state was and is its religious identity, its Madarssaisation and Jihadisation was somewhat inevitable. For that to not have happen, the rulers would have to have been farsighted and vigilant. Instead successive Pakistani regimes have tried to achieve legitimacy by appealing to peoples’ narrow religious sentiments. Thus an almost complete Jihadisation of the society can’t be said to be an altogether unintended or unanticipated development.

Though the United States of America assisted and encouraged it, the original Taliban was the creation of Pakistan itself -ultimately proving to be its very own Frankenstein’s monster. Had US not taken a short sighted view of things, had Bush junior not unnecessarily invaded Iraq and had Pakistan not resorted to the proliferation of Madarassas, the modern terror monasteries, the world today would have been a different and much less violent place.

The most recent Jihadi terror attack in Lahore is part of the Islamist agenda of complete Jihadisation of an already officially Islamic Pakistani state started by Zia Ul Haq, often encouraged and definitely not stopped by any of his successors. There have been many brutal terror attacks in Pakistan. The last to attract any significant world attention was the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar peopled by children of the Pakistani military elite. The Peshawar attack had killed and injured scores of students and many teachers.

The Lahore attack came on the Easter weekend in a Park at the time full of Christians and others. Once again the Jihadists are telegraphing their ultimate aim of eliminating religious minorities from Pakistan turning it into a monolithic Sunni ghetto in South Asia.

The sad irony is the site of the attack Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park had been so named in the memory of the famous poet Muhammed Iqbal who had once written the unofficial national anthem of India – the still beloved and revered “Saare Jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara“. Shortly after writing and singing this memorable song he had been swayed by the forces of religious division to write another song this time praising his Islamic religious identity over his culture of India. He subsequently supported the division of India and creation of Pakistan which subsequently and inevitably became a theistic state.

I refer to poet Iqbal not out of any disrespect but to simply point out that often even the ablest and sharpest of minds succumb to narrow, dangerous and inevitably destructive interpretations of identity rather than claiming the larger cultural heritage of their societies as their own.

The most recent Indian example of the dangers of narrow identity exclusive of our common country or humanity was the barbarism and violence in Haryana in the name of caste. India is going through a crucial phase where narrow dogmas, religions, castes, regions, languages and whatever else comes easily to the opportunistic politicians in pursuit of narrow political ends is used to divide Indians from each other. ‘Treason’ and ‘patriotism’ are the latest epithets in aid of pure partisan objectives not even remotely connected to or concerned with India’s collective good.

Eighty per cent of Indians are Hindus. But vast majority of them and other Indians do not believe India is or should be a Hindu country; it is a country of all people and faiths that call India home. Unfortunately the Hindutva narrative is incessantly being pushed by the Indian state under the BJP as the national narrative. Though the Congress has been guilty of many crimes including pandering based on religion, caste, region and language it never advanced any one religion as the basis of a national narrative. The new BJP narrative of an overly religious/Hindu national identity will be the antithesis of everything the freedom movement had sought to avoid and foreclose.

Across the border to the West of India is Pakistan, a monster that India must never be; India mustn’t ever be the Hindu country ISIS dreams for it to be. In Pakistan it is the elements of the majority Sunni population that want to turn it into fascistic Islamic state.

In India we have seen the recent deadly violence against rationalists, intellectuals and just simple Akhlaqs. The perpetrators have been known to be from the religious majority community. Some believe Abhinav Bharat’s hand may have been behind the Samjhauta Express blasts. Is it then too far-fetched for anyone to be afraid of some from the majority faith turning into Taliban style marauding terrorists? Could what happened in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Lahore happen in India?

One can’t categorically dismiss these fears. The BJP mustn’t allow India’s rich religious diversity to become its weakness.

The BJP can’t be oblivious to the dangers of the narrow narrative and path of pushing Hindutva it has chosen under Modi. India can’t afford a government that directly or indirectly encourages majority extremism or turns a blind eye to it. If BJP is even remotely blind to the dangers of where it is leading India with its Hindutva narrative it doesn’t deserve to continue to govern India; not for a nanosecond more. For the sake of India the only option BJP government has is to change course or resign!

Views expressed are personal.

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