Sunday, October 25, 2015

False Comforts

In the last few days, former-Indian-now-Pakistani newspaper Dawn has been publishing a great many editorials that celebrate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an Indian version of Zia ul Haq and one who has somehow broken down the difference between the two countries that were and remain one nation - not mentioning that the difference they were referring to would be described in the West as that between a civilized state and a group of barbarians with guns. This is all claptrap of course and nothing more than false comfort for the Pakistani elite that, for some unknown reasons, seems to want to compare Pakistan to India all the time.

India is not a perfect place - communal incidents have been happening for centuries. At one time, it was Islamic rulers destroying Hindu temples, then it was Hindus fighting Muslims, and now it's pretty much everybody fighting themselves and each other. While this seems horribly bleak, it needs to be put into some perspective. The population of India is the second highest in the world among countries, and given the torturous history, there are certainly going to be violent incidents - no country in the world, not even the rather homogeneous Scandinavian states, can claim otherwise. But when seen in the context of the Indian subcontinent, India is a remarkably free and peaceful place, indeed the most democratic nation in this part of the world.

A few days ago, the Muslim world celebrated Muharram, a Shi'a festival. In India, Shi'as celebrate it through private rituals as well as the rather public display of self-flagellation. Aside from minor scuffles in some remote part of the country, life continues as always. In Pakistan, for years now, Shi'as have been murdered in terrorist attacks. Whole anti-Shi'a militias exist and, like their anti-India/Afghanistan/US/Israel/Iran counterparts, they disappear and reappear after every ban. And Shi'as are still Muslims - in 1947, Pakistan had the second-largest Hindu population in the world, and today there are just a handful left, fewer than the population of much smaller Nepal. In contrast, India's Muslim population has risen over the years. The state-approved discrimination of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic is unimaginable in India, where even today, the Vice-President of the Republic is Muslim, as was arguably the greatest President. In Pakistan, only a Muslim can hold those posts, by law.

By this metric, for Dawn to say that India has turned into Pakistan since Modi came to power is rich. It is the false comfort that the Pakistani left lives in, totally unattached to the violence and systemic destruction of 5,000 years of history that happens everyday, right outside their gated communities. In fact, as Rupa Subramaniam wrote for Newslaundry, incidents of communal violence have decreased and are largely limited to just a few states, chief among them being UP (for statistical as well as political reasons). It seems Dawn has been taking the staunchly anti-Modi, Left-Liberal Indian media (lovingly called #Presstitutes here) too seriously. There is no reason for Dawn to believe the likes of NDTV, the Hindu and the Indian Express. Not too many people in India do either. 

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