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Opinion

April 24, 2018

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India’s politics of indifference

Indian politicians seem to have been gripped by an anti-Pakistan frenzy once again. In a statement two days ago, BJP leader and Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan of hatching conspiracies to dismember India, and helping militants across the border to sneak into the Hindu-majority country.

It is unfortunate that Indian politicians employ xenophobic slogans to muster support for their political agenda. In contrast, in the land of the pure, India is no more an electoral issue, and those who resort to anti-India rhetoric are not taken seriously here. Even those who had such a reputation had to mend their ways after being elected as parliamentarians.

Pakistani politics may sound dirty to many, but police, court, employment and construction contracts, development works and social interaction matter more than communalism and sectarianism. The first general elections held in the country are a testament to this claim. The secular Awami League, populist PPP and socialist National Awami Party emerged as the largest political parties in parliament. The presence of religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema Pakistan and Jamiat Ulema Islam was not very significant.

Unfortunately, in the world’s largest democracy, hatred against Pakistan and Muslim-bashing are ways to win popular support. Communalism seems to have become a part and parcel of Indian politics. No leader can shoot to prominence without making inflammatory speeches against Muslims and other minorities. The largest province of the second most populace country on earth is run by a man whose retrogressive thinking is not only unmatched in India, but probably in the region as well. The communal-minded Indian intellectuals are hailed for distorting history, and this kind of bigotry goes unnoticed and unchallenged.

Rajnath Singh needs to understand that it is the philosophy of Hindutva that is poised to dismember the largest democracy. The home minister may delude himself into thinking that his party believes in universal brotherhood and considers the entire world a family but in reality, more than 200 million Indian Muslims, over 300 million low-caste Hindus and millions of Christians have been banished from this gigantic family called India.

What sort of family kills its own people? Agents of hate burnt Indian Christian families alive and felt a sense of triumph over their charred bodies. Frenzied mobs killed Sikh families – men women, children and the elderly – indiscriminately firing bullets in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Zealot activists of Hindu right-wing parties knived pregnant Muslim women, lacerated children and threw people in fire in Gujarat.

The story does not end here. Does the lynching of Muslims on false allegations of cow slaughter prove universal brotherhood? Does thrashing Dalits for allegedly desecrating the temples of upper class Hindus, or killing lower class Hindus for owning a horse, support the idea of universal fraternity? Do attacks on stalls set up for Valentines Day reflect this altruistic philosophy of a universal family? What Indian leaders, including Singh, need to understand is that it is this philosophy of hate that is tearing apart the social fabric of Indian society. The BJP, RSS, Shiv Sena and other right-wing extremist organisations are responsible for mainstreaming this politics of bigotry and communalism. Such organisations were not much politically relevant until the 1980s but shot to prominence with the Babri Masjid incident.

Indian leaders may blame Pakistan for allegedly infiltrating into Indian Held Kashmir, but how will they explain the turmoil in the red corridor? Did Pakistan send infiltrators to establish undeclared rule of Maoists over 367 districts of India, or was it the policies of the largest democracy that left no stone unturned in crushing the marginalised sections of Indian society, forcing them to pick up arms against the state? Can Pakistan be accused of fomenting discontent in the Indian north east, or is it New Delhi’s policy of neglect and indifference that has created a sense of alienation among the people of these states?

In fact, the biggest danger posed to the territorial integrity of India does not stem from Islamabad, but from the slums of the largest democracy which house more than 244 million impoverished Indians, condemned to a life of misery and starvation. The state policy of pumping billions of dollars into the sale of lethal weapons is one of the factors contributing to this misery.

New Delhi is ready to allocate over $200 billion to be spent on useless arms over the years, but is reluctant to invest in health, education, sanitation and decent housing for the millions of Indians. State governments that move heaven and earth to woo the corporate sector – doling out huge swathes of land and showering a myriad of facilities on business tycoons – have failed to prevent suicides of haggard peasants who sold everything to repay agriculture loans but got nothing at the end of the day.

It is not Islamabad’s policy that has swelled the ranks of Indian Maoists and other marginalised sections, but New Delhi’s policy that has contributed to the mass displacement of people in the name of mega projects and large dams. So, it is this policy that Rajnath Singh and other BJP leaders need to change – instead of holding Pakistan responsible for everything that goes wrong in India.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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