Becoming Pakistan?

The response to Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor’s recent reference to the danger of India being turned into a “Hindu Pakistan” has been a concerted attempt at misinterpreting it as maligning Hindus. This is the opposite of what Mr. Tharoor, the author most recently of
Why I am a Hindu
, intended to do. The ugly word in the term “Hindu Pakistan” is not “Hindu” but “Pakistan”.

What Mr. Tharoor was warning about is that if the current political dispensation continues beyond 2019, it will turn India into an intolerant majoritarian state just like Pakistan.

India and Pakistan were conceived at the time of Independence with widely divergent ideas of nationhood. Pakistan was created expressly with the idea of perpetuating the dominance of the Muslim majority. This was expressed most vividly in the slogan “
Pakistan ka matlab kiya, la ilaha illalah
” (“What is the meaning of Pakistan; There is no God but Allah”).

The Indian concept of citizenship as enshrined in the Constitution was vastly different. It grants equality of status to all citizens and expressly rejects the identification of the state with any single religion. Although practice often fell short of the ideal, secularism was held up by the Indian elite as the guiding principle of governance.

Mr. Tharoor was pointing out the grave danger that this ideal faced with the continuation of the expressly Hindu nationalist BJP in power. The wave of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits on the suspicion that they were eating beef is one symptom of this malaise. What is worse is the governing elite’s condoning of such acts as the recent action of Union Minister Jayant Sinha has demonstrated. The feeling of insecurity and discrimination among the minorities, especially Muslims, is now palpable. Mr. Tharoor was warning that religious divisions and communal violence, especially if endorsed by the powerful, could lead to the decimation of India’s democratic structure. India is likely to become a mirror image of Pakistan if the two distinctive features of the Indian polity, secularism and liberal democracy, are eroded beyond repair.

To construe such a warning as an act of treachery is an indication of how low Indian politicians can stoop in their partisan assaults. This was to be expected of the BJP as it was the target of Mr. Tharoor’s criticism. But the attempt by the Congress leadership to distance itself from Mr. Tharoor’s remark is far more shameful. However, one cannot expect anything better from Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, which is trying to rejuvenate itself as a pale imitation of the BJP by toeing the soft Hindutva line for temporary gain.

The writer is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University

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