Most Indians have no love lost for this belligerent neighbour of ours. We tend to mock and censure it and in extreme cases, love to hate it. Whether it is its precarious economic status or its defeat in a game of cricket, nothing delights some of us more than putting it down.
Yes, I am talking about Pakistan. Indian news channels regularly highlight its plight in jingoistic terms and dedicate hours of screen time to panelists who take great pleasure in enumerating Pakistan’s faults and fault-lines.
Yet, if we are not careful, we might soon be in the same implosive situation that our bellicose western neighbour finds itself in. I say this because implosion creeps up on people, societies and nations stealthily. Its approach is slow and innocuous; only the highly-prescient and those with eyes wide open can see it coming.
Let’s look at Pakistan closely. Its raison d’etre (purpose or reason for living/existing) was religion, religious affiliation and religious cohabitation. The fact that Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns and Bengalis did not share any cultural features with each other or the ruling Punjabi dispensation at the time of its formation in August 1947 was, perhaps too conveniently, overlooked.
The formation of Bangladesh out of what was East Pakistan in 1971 was a relatively early and solid indication that a nation formed solely on the basis of religion (excluding all other factors) was essentially doomed to fail. Since then, insurgencies have arisen and become entrenched in all of Pakistan’s provinces. Its economic condition is deplorable, it survives on loans from international financial institutions, it has become a ‘factory’ of terrorism and has not even a semblance of democracy, with its all-powerful military and intelligence services effectively calling the shots in a dilapidated nation.
The core point here is the motivation/intention behind the creation of Pakistan — hate, hatred, animosity.
In 1947, it was hatred for the idea of India and all that it stood for. Then came hate for Bengalis and the ‘others’; this was followed by discrimination against its many ethnic minorities; then it was the turn of sectarian violence among Shias and Sunnis (apart from against Sufis, Barelvis, Ahmadis, Hindus and small groups of Deobandis) and this has further deteriorated into conflict among the factions part of these sects.
In effect, anyone not seen as closely-aligned with the causes and interests of a very narrow group of Punjabi-speaking elite with a military background is deemed ‘unrelatable’ at best and ‘persona non grata’ at worst. In short, Pakistan is on the verge of implosion and its inherent destruction is only a matter of time. It is not a question of ‘if’ here but ‘when’.
Unfortunately, if we are not vigilant and alert, India might soon be headed down the same winding road to certain disintegration. There are several reasons why I feel this way.
One of the most obvious is the readiness to take offence that seems to have spread like a plague among, mainly, the Twitterati and social media denizens. The latest instance of this was seen in the outrage that followed the song ‘Besharam Rang’ in a forthcoming movie starring Deepika Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan, in which Deepika is shown gyrating to music wearing a ‘saffron’ bikini. This was preceded by boycott calls around the film ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ starring Aamir Khan, who had said, way back in 2015 that “a sense of insecurity and fear” had been growing in India.
Another manifestation of the changing societal reactions to insults real, imaginary and with a ‘saffron’ touch is the wanton manner allegations of ‘love jihad’ and ‘business jihad’ are levelled against members of the minority community.
The spectre of ‘love jihad’ has been around for a few years and is conveniently brought out of storage and used to create a sense of dread about the minority community. Be it the Shraddha Walkar murder case or the more recent death of TV actor Tunisha Sharma, ‘love jihad’ has now become commonplace in the public discourse. The new boogeyman is “business jihad”, where the minority community is accused of exploiting the majority through business deals and in partnerships.
Alarmingly, bulldozing of homes of Muslims — who were believed to be involved in violent protests following controversial remarks made against Prophet Mohammad by senior members of the BJP — has also been resorted to. This is unprecedented in modern Indian history and is deeply alarming.
Other warning signs that point towards India’s increasing radicalisation and the normalisation of once-pariah rituals and practices is the emphasis by, among others, the right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal on preventing the celebration of Valentine’s Day (a ‘Western import’) and harassing those doing so. The bogey of ‘Westernisation’ and of terming strong, independent women as ‘feminist type ki auratein’ (women who ‘act’ like feminists) has been raised to either coerce women into submission to a particular, majority-favoured narrative or shame them into withdrawing into their shells and becoming wary of ever openly speaking out on ‘such’ topics.
All this portends ill for India and where it is heading — quite parallel to the direction Pakistan has chosen.
But one incident that stands out in 2022 for its sheer audacity and glaring impunity is the feting of convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case. Not only were they garlanded and fed sweets, they were also called ‘Brahmins’ and said to have ‘good sanskars’. Remember, these were men who had been convicted of the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.
Alarmingly, exactly like Pakistan, there’s now a growing propensity in India to allow and support only one kind of social, economic, political and cultural narrative. Anyone not complying with this narrow, bigoted view of events is called names, castigated and abused. If you are a woman, this abuse becomes more caustic and often takes on a sexual, violent form — death and rape threats.
They say hate is predatory and consumes its host. Hate, in any form, guise, structure is also self-annihilating. Going by the direction the majority community in India is taking, it would not be an exaggeration to say that if we are not careful, we might end up imploding like Pakistan — an ignominy of gargantuan proportions and an irony without parallel.