There are lessons that need to be learned from the growing intolerance in the subcontinent

Secularizing the constitution wouldn’t be of any use unless serious efforts are made to change the mindsets

After the incitation from the local temple in Dadri, a mob consisting of more than 100 villagers killed a 50-year-old man while injuring his 22 years old son – for allegedly eating beef. According to the slain man’s daughter, the mob took her father outside and beat him with bricks, as he died.

This isn’t the only incident that took place in India recently. A village mob in India beat a Muslim to death over ‘smuggling’ of cows while severely injuring 4. To make matters more ridiculous, police booked the survivors over the charge of ‘animal cruelty’.

A secular state, India has been on its way to the destructive right.

Months before Modi was elected, there had been widespread disarray across the concerned circles as they feared Hindu Nationalism sweeping Indian politics. Being an active member of RSS – the Hindu extremist party, Modi’s intentions were never unclear.

Either it was dissent for Indian National Congress or his proposed economic reforms, Modi was elected prime minister by the Indian majority – the man who was banned from travelling to America for a decade over failure to stop the anti-Muslim riots of 2002. US State Department invoked the law of terming people ‘responsible for violating religious freedom’ for visa ineligibility. Modi is said to be the only person ever to be banned under this provision.

After Modi came to power, the RSS connection was just too evident when the speech of its chief was telecasted live on the State Television.

Since then, India is drifting towards the right at an alarming rate.

Commenting on the Dadri incident, PM Modi said, “The Dadri incident is undesirable and unfortunate. But what is the central government's relation with these incidents.”

Liberal voices in India reacted strongly against this statement.

As the polarization grows, 35 of the top Indian writers have returned their awards in a revolt against growing extremism in India. Uday Parkash, one of the first Indian writers to return his award, said: “I have never seen such hostility before.” A lot more joined in the protest last week when Hindu extremists smeared black paint on the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni – an activist who agreed to launch ex Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Kasuri’s book.

Salman Rushdie, one of the leading writers striving for freedom of expression tweeted:

Currently, 24 out of 29 Indian states have imposed penalties of varying magnitude over cow slaughter and beef eating. Supporting the ban on cow slaughter, Indian Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said those wanting to eat beef must move to Pakistan.

Chief Minister of BJP-led Haryana State in a statement said, “Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef.”

A Muslim MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid was thrashed by BJP legislators inside Jammu and Kashmir Assembly when he protested against beef ban.

Many in Pakistan have opined that Modi is doing to India, what dictator Zia did to Pakistan. While Pakistan is trying hard to recover from the disastrous effects, our neighbors don’t seem to have learnt a lesson.

Such incidents aren’t foregone in Pakistan too. From burning Ahmadis alive in Gujranwala to killing a Christian couple to death over alleged blasphemy, religious intolerance is quite common in Pakistan. After thousands dead and Pakistan on threshold of destruction, the state is beginning to realize how important it is to rid the country off the monster of religious extremism – NAP, however flawed it is, has been implemented to some extent.

The intolerance doesn’t seem to be India’s or Pakistan’s problem only. It is rather recurrent in Bangladesh too, where 4 bloggers have been hacked to death this year for their liberal and secular views.

The waves of fanaticism, bigotry and jingoism seem to have swept across what was once called Subcontinent.

These stigmatic incidents point to another question too. While liberals in Pakistan are striving for a secular constitution, deeming it to be the way forward –is there something to learn from the examples of India and Bangladesh?

Yes. Of course, secularizing the constitution is going to ensure the basic human rights of minorities and check the extremists. But like India and Bangladesh, where the constitution is secular, it wouldn’t be of any use unless serious efforts are made to change the mindsets – else, beef will be banned, ‘deviants’ killed, blasphemy accused lynched and radicalization will reach catastrophic proportions.

Umer Ali is an Islamabad-based journalist who reads and writes about Pakistan and its history. He aspires to see a tolerant and progressive Pakistan. Follow him on Twitter

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt