India and Pakistan have fought three wars. Rest of our lives have also been spent obsessing about each other. So, it is natural for our Indian peers to ignore any piece of advice coming from this side of the border. But some lessons simply cannot be ignored. Especially when they are learnt the hard way.
In the past 15 years Pakistan has been to hell and back. After paying a heavy price, I think we have earned the right to warn you of the roads that lead to oblivion. And India must pay heed. It, after all, has more to lose.
In a recent party meeting held at Somnath, in India’s Gujarat, Narendra Modi seems to have suggested that as a guru dakshina (tradition of repaying one’s teacher) L K Advani ought to be elected as India’s President once Pranab Mukherjee steps down. Now no matter what spin Indian media puts on it, Advani and Modi have never enjoyed formal teacher student relationship. So, what is the guru dakshina about? Advani is known to have led the Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 which resulted in the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque, culminating into communal riots which left over 2,000, mostly Muslims, dead. That shock doctrine seems to have put a hitherto fledgling BJP on the map.
Birds of a feather really. Modi is known for his own shock doctrine in state of Gujarat where around 2,000, mostly Muslims, were killed as a result of communal riots in 2002. While media can again get creative with facts and claim Modi’s rise within party ranks was due to good governance, truth is, it was primarily owing to these riots that he rose to prominence. Is it Guru Dakshina for showing Modi the way? It would seem so.
Still when Modi was elected as Prime Minister, many were willing to give him benefit of doubt. Politicians do outrageous things when they are out of power. But when they assume responsibility, they often tend to behave. At least, Modi was claiming to focus on vikas (development). But progress since then has mainly been in the direction of radicalisation. Three elaborate episodes of brinkmanship have shown how Modi and his cabinet are out of their depths in facing crucial policy challenges. First episode was of Kashmir, where state brutality has stooped to new lows, using pellet guns within lethal range, blinding and killing many including children. There has been no let up there. Second case is of the so-called surgical strikes within Pakistan. It was heartening to see Pakistan exercising restraint or else this half-baked Indian claim could have led to a nuclear war. Third episode came in the shape of demonetisation of currency. Though numbers are often fudged, Indian economy reportedly has not been able to recover from the shock.
And yet in the state elections especially in Uttar Pardesh (UP), the most populous Indian state, his party swept to power. Shock doctrine is evidently working. But now dissent is silently disappearing. Media has given up any semblance of independent thought. Opposition parties are silently dying. Even the apex courts seem to be giving in. BJP’s union cabinet members and leaders from party’s parent concern, RSS, speak openly of social engineering and purging society of outside cultural influences. Then Modi’s choice for UP’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is on record of having asked his followers to rape dead Muslim women. In one TV appearance he took pride in claiming to have converted 1,800 Christians to Hindu faith in just one district.
Meanwhile, Swami Aseemanand, a self-confessed Hindu terrorist, member of Abhinav Bharat which once was associated with BJP’s sister concern VHP and mastermind of various terror attacks including Malegaon and Samjhuta Express blasts, was all set to walk free as these lines were being written. In 2015 Rohini Salian, a prosecutor investigating these charges, claimed in an interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HswN_uR0YK4) that she was being pressured by authorities to go soft.
Now what India does is its own problem. But take it from the citizen of a country that has been there, radicalism really does numbers on you. There is no doubt that we have had a Muslim extremism problem for long. But despite being a predominantly Muslim country our state sees the problem and fights it. Indian state still refuses to see its Hindu extremist problem and most likely will be condemned to repeat our mistakes. It has more to lose than us and we have lost a lot.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2017.