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South Asia

Is secularism dying in India?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Gauri Lankesh was shot to death on September 5, 2017.  A consistent critic of Hindutva politics and right-wing Hindu extremism, the journalist-activist edited Gauri Lankesh Patrike her own weekly.  She was not the first. 

In August 2015, Malleshappo M. Kalburgi, a noted scholar who was opposed to superstition in Hinduism, was assassinated.  Both Lankesh and Kalburgi were staunch proponents of the theory that their Lingayat religion was distinct from Hinduism.

Also in 2015, in February, it was Govind Pansare, a left-wing politician who also opposed religious superstitions (like, for example, the ritual to ensure a male child), and also lobbied vocally for the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act.  Then there was rationalist Narendra Achyut Dabholkar, who made debunking religious superstition and mysticism his life’s work.  In August 2013, he was shot and killed as he took his morning walk.  Following his death, the Anti-superstition act he had worked so hard without success to get through the Maharashtra state government was finally enacted.

The killings of three rationalists, i.e. atheists, and a strong dissenter have cast a pall.  Voices are being stilled.  There is much more as evidenced by the complicity of authorities in instances of mass killing, their mono-cultural narrow vision in a multicultural and multi-religious society, and insurgencies in many parts of the country.

Celebrating 70 years of independence last August 15, India has much to be proud of including strong economic growth.  Yet in this new century India’s steps are clearly faltering given its darker side, and, while it tries to assume a role on the world stage, the state within is cause for some despair.   

 Last month on August 25th, following the rape conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — a former Sikh, styled the guru of bling for his flamboyant lifestyle — thousands of his Dera religious supporters ran amuck burning buildings, vehicles, railway stations and bringing life to a halt in the states of Haryana and Punjab, and even in parts of Delhi.  More than 30 people died and a curfew was imposed.

Indeed gurus are popular:  Mr. Modi has appointed a saffron-robed, Hindutva firebrand religious leader, Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state.  This was after local elections there in which communalism was an essential ingredient of his party’s victory.

Also on August 25th, activists across the country observed Kandhmal day in memory of the victims of an anti-Christian pogrom in 2008.  Kandhmal is in the state of Orissa just southwest of Bengal and over a thousand miles east from Punjab. 

A 2016 documentary directed by K. P. Sasi vividly illustrates this notorious incident.  Titled Voices from the Ruins:  Kandhmal in Search of Justice, it relates the story simply and without resort to emotion.  The effect is devastating as the horror of pitiless violence unfolds.  In this orgy of arson and bloodshed, the victims were Adivasi and Dalit Christians — converts continue to be remembered as Dalits in their communities.  Dalits are the lowest caste of Hindus formerly known as untouchables.  The Hindutva perpetrators destroyed over 350 churches and 6500 dwellings.  Eight years later fear and intimidation still rule, and the more than 56,000 people who were displaced have not returned.  Churches and homes remain the ruins they were after the pogrom.  

Devastating as it was, it is an event not as well known as the 2002 Gujarat riots directed against another minority group, the Muslims, in which at least 1000 were killed.  Gujarat is a 1000 miles south of Punjab.  The geography of the three incidents is an indicator of how  communal hatred has infected people across the nation.

Rana Ayyub, (author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up and a friend of Gauri Lankesh) is the journalist who, at tremendous personal risk, exposed administrative and police complicity through a sting operation sponsored by Tehelka magazine.  She has just been honored in Vancouver with a Courage in Journalism Award.   On her heels, the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has secured the convictions of 119 individuals including a minister (Indira Jaising, Outlook magazine, March 2015).  The founders of CJP are paying for their success:  Several cases have been filed against them, including criminal charges for such transgressions as accepting about $290,000 over a ten year period from the Ford Foundation.   Some use these cases to question their veracity; others say they are being subjected to a campaign of harassment in the courts.

The last twenty-five years have seen the delicate fabric of communal amity rent repeatedly for political gain by upper caste Hindu nationalist parties.  For instance, Prime Minister Modi’s new laws against cattle slaughter not only affect a $10 billion industry employing mostly Dalits and Muslims, but added to the incendiary rhetoric his ruling party have  fostered a climate of hate leading to tragic events.  Attacks against Muslims and Dalits have intensified. 

On June 22, 2017, three days before the Muslim holiday of Eid, four boys were returning home to Mathura on the train from Delhi following a shopping trip.  Recognized as Muslims, they were taunted as beef eaters and then set upon.  In a moving train with other travelers looking on, they were beaten severely and 16-year old Junaid Khan stabbed fatally.  One should note that much of southern India eats beef as does the northeast, and of course Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. Kerala’s legislature protested the Modi slaughter restrictions by having a beef breakfast.

Gau rakshak or cow protectors, whose vigilante bands now number over 200 in Gujarat alone, are terrorizing innocents.  Their attacks on meat-eating Dalits, who skin carcasses for sale to the leather tanneries, and on Muslims have led to several deaths hitting the headlines lately.

Thus on April 1st this year, a dairy farmer from Haryana was transporting cows purchased legitimately at a cattle fair in Rajasthan back to his home, when he was set upon by gau rakshaks.  Beaten mercilessly, Pehlu Khan died from his injuries two days later.  The police have done nothing so far to apprehend the suspects despite the man’s family traveling to the capital, New Delhi, and holding a vigil demanding justice.

Last year on September 13, 2016, two men again legally transporting a cow and a calf were attacked by a cow-protector gang and also severely beaten.  One of the men, Mohammad Ayub, died from his injuries shortly thereafter at a hospital in Ahmedabad.  The police first registered a case of attempted murder naming the vigilantes as Janak Ramesh Mistry, Ajay Sajar Rabari and Bharat Nag Rabari.  But as Pratik Sinha, a human rights activist, reported in a Facebook post after Ayub’s death, the police filed a second case underlining India’s present-day reality.  This time, instead of naming the assailants, they wrote down ‘unknown’.  The license plates of the cars involved in the attacks are also known.  Dalits and Muslims can expect little in the way of justice.   Except for a belated word, Mr. Modi has remained notoriously silent on the issue.

Overall figures for minority communal violence according to official statistics are  averaging 700 per year, leading to thousands of deaths.  In such an environment of hate, it is not surprising some were celebrating Pakistan’s recent victory over India in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy finals by a record margin.  For this 15 celebrants were arrested in Madhya Pradesh and charged with sedition.  When this farce could not be sustained, they were charged with disturbing ‘communal harmony’. 

Legislators in the U.S. became concerned enough to send Indian Prime Minister Modi a letter.  Dated February 25, 2017, it was signed by 26 congressmen and 8 senators and expressed grave concern over the ‘intolerance and violence’ against religious minorities.  They specifically cited the killings of Hasmat Ali in Manipur, Mohammad Saif in Uttar Pradesh, and two Sikh men during demonstrations protesting the desecration of their holy book.  Innocent Sikhs were also the target of revenge attacks after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard.  Almost 2000 were killed.

In the April 2015 issue of National Geographic, a magazine few would call political, an eye-popping map of India is displayed in its signature graphic style. A rusty, dried-blood light brown, mapped carefully adjacent to areas of government control, it reveals almost a quarter of the country where the Naxalite rebellion coupled with the Adivasi (another minority) struggle for land rights has taken hold. The area runs south from the Nepal border, to Kolkata (Calcutta), then along the Bay of Bengal almost to Chennai (Madras).  Westwards, it approaches close to Varanasi (Benares) on the Ganges, then towards Nagpur in Central India and to Bangalore (India’s IT capital) in the south.  Add the insurgencies in Assam, Manipur (minorities) and Kashmir (minority Muslim) which is bleeding again, and fully a third of the country is in strife.  Figures vary but frequently quoted is 100,000 dead in Kashmir with no end in sight.

Post independence the promise of the first prime minister’s socialist secularism brought forth a focus on education and heavy-industry development.  Flourishing first class technological institutes and rapid industrial growth was one result.  Yet illiteracy proved stubborn, and the country mired by corruption and strife became bogged down in an inequality stasis with crushing poverty, where it still remains.  Jawaharlal Nehru had fought for India’s independence, and as India’s first leader strongly emphasized a secular state.  Wealthy and highest caste (Brahmin), educated at elite Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge before taking law and the bar exams through Inner Temple, he became a Fabian socialist.  One wonders if he is turning over in his grave.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

South Asia

Pakistan Securing Its Maritime Interest and CPEC

Qura tul ain Hafeez

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The IOR is a major sea route that unites the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and America. The excessive economic growth of littoral states of Indian Ocean obliges them to protect their energy needs and interests in order to endure their purchasing power. This has great security implications for the sea line of communication of the littoral states of IOR like Pakistan.

Continuing to Pakistan’s interests in IOR the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has great potential to transmute Pakistan into a central trade platform, which would undeniably gushed the enemies, particularly India, to halt it. The development of Gwadar sea-ports as part of BRI in general  and that of CPEC in particular has amplified India’s concerns’ and aimed for more sophisticated and advanced naval build-up. Furthermore, India perceives the Gawadar port (that is considered as crown jewel of CPEC) as a hazard to its contesting interests in Central Asia countries.  The reason being, India can access Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian Republics (CARs) only through Cahabahar by passing Pakistan and Gawadar  a deep water sea port that is easily accessible to these land locked states then Chahabahr. A couple of days back on 24th December 2018 India has formally over taken the operational control of Iran’s Cahabahar port – only (0 Km away from Gawadar port. India’s aspirations to become blue water navy in the IOR raise serious concerns among Pakistan’s maritime security. CPEC would lead toward increased maritime politics and contestations not only between Pakistan and India but would also involve China and US.

In such turbulent circumstances Pakistan is required to prepare its sea based defense to secure its sea lines.   Islamabad needs to carefully evaluate its options and develop its strategic response accordingly, involving but not limited to continuous development of its naval capability and an even closer maritime cooperation with China. In view of the prevailing power dynamics in Indian Ocean Pakistan Navyin order to secure its interest in IOR inked a contract with China’s State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)in June 2018 for two, Type 054AP frigates. The agreement is an extension of a previously signed agreement in 2017. Recently on December 19, 2018 steel-cutting ceremony for the second Type 054A frigate for the Pakistan Navy was held at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The type 054 AP warship frigates will be equipped with modern detection-state of art sensor and Guided Missiles weapon systems; capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defense operations. According to the report of China Daily report added that the “Type 054A is the best frigate in service with the PLAN”.

It is pertinent to mention here that maritime security is linked with the Economic security and vice versa. Gawader port is one of the most important projects of the CPEC where Pakistan and China are very hopeful that in future this shipping port will generate the revenue for Pakistan’s economy.  There is a big chunk of fishery industry through which Pakistan can earn a lot. It will stimulate business and trade activities at state level and across the region.  The 054 AP frigates ““Will be one of the largest and most technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistani Navy and strengthen the country’s capability to respond to future challenges, maintain peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region” a report on 2nd January 2019 released by  Chinese state owned media said.

In some, to deal with all these existing defies Pakistan Navy (PN) has espoused to a multi divided line of action for safeguarding the port in more effective manners. It conducts security patrolling h and coastal exercises from time to time. Furthermore, previously in 2013 it has inaugurated its Joint Maritime Information Coordination Center (JMICC) in Karachi to provide with an effective mechanism of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).  After receiving these 054 AP frigates warship Pakistan will definitely in far more better position to counter India’s vested interests in Indian Ocean region. It will also help secure the Gwadar port which is the chief component of Pakistan maritime trade activities. China has always been an al weather strategic partner of Pakistan. Although India always tries to propagate that CPEC is military agreement instead of an economic one however, securing the economic interests with an advanced mechanism does not mean at all that it’s planning something militarily. Pakistan has always adopted a defensive policy and it is the right of every sovereign state to secure its interests even if they are economic as there is no morality in international politics, still CPEC is an economic project which welcomes every state of the region for economic cooperation  even if it is India as well.

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South Asia

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir

Irfan Khan

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Kashmir is natural paradise and gorgeous valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it is still a disputed region since partition of United India into India and Pakistan (also Bangladesh in 1971) in 1947.

The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates to 1931 when the people, both Hindus and Muslims, initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (ruler) to have their own indigenous rule. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capital, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character.

Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. Then both India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial Kashmiri citizens vote.

The people of Kashmir, despite of being injured since long could not lost their hope. They believe in United Nation(UN), assuming it will advocate choice of freedom for them. During the July-August 2018, people from entire Srinagar and other towns, were protesting government of India’s violation of Article 35-A of Indian’s constitution. 35-A, assure special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Whenever, there is peaceful demonstration from them, then they must suffer basic human rights violation, fear and state of starvation as response of Indian government. In 2018, 111 civilians are killed which is double to the previous year recorded 40 killing by the Indian forces. India has some 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. Popular unrest has been rising since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani, was shot dead by Indian forces.

Pakistan always has been bolstering the way of peaceful talk with India over the issue. Last year, in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan, repeated Pakistan’s stance that the solution to the region’s dispute laid in dialogue. He said,”It is time India realised that it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UN SC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in response to PM Khan said we welcomed “Pakistan’s concern” but called for Pakistan to “do much more” to “put an end to the appalling grind of repression and human rights abuse that Kashmiris are suffering at the hands of Indian state.

Happily, UN has issued human right report on Kashmir in June 2018. The report of 49 pages strongly emphasis on human right violation and abuses and delivering justice for all Kashmiris. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked “The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering. Therefore, any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties and provide redress for victims”.

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir. Hope so, Pakistan and India sandwiched by UN would resolve the issue based on Kashmir people’s choice of freedom so that human violation could be ceased.

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South Asia

CPSEC: The Saudi addition to CPEC

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CPEC has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s long-term macroeconomic policy, and no matter who has been in power, the resolve to continue it further has been steadfast. Pakistan has realized its geopolitical advantage and has focused on constructing trade, energy and transportation corridors throughout its length. China and Pakistan in 2015, had agreed on partnering for the development of an economic corridor which would connect China’s western front with that of the Indus Belt and eventually with the Arabian Sea. The plan saw $ 62 Billion being committed to the execution of the project, building roads, rails, and power projects all along the length of Pakistan.   Contrary to popular belief, the economic corridor actually benefits both countries. China needs alternate routes for uninterrupted trade and energy supply, while Pakistan direly needed infrastructure and power sector development.

Saudi Involvement

At the recent Investment Conference titled “Davos in the Desert”, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister had pitched the investment opportunities in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia now wants to be a partner in the CPEC project. The investment revolves around the establishment of an “Oil City” in Gawadar. Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister had said Saudi that the investment in the huge Oil City project in Gwadar would be $22 billion.

Recently after the twitter spat between the US and Saudi Arabia, the relations have been strained between the two long-term allies. Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally in the region is looking to diversify its relations with other nations to reduce its American dependence. This is why Saudi Arabia wants to partner into the CPEC project.

What benefits does Saudi Arabia have with the joining in the project? Saudi Arabia is still the largest supplier of crude oil. It has been looking to secure its oil exports and look for stable markets for its oil export. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world, accounting for 18.6% of the total global import. The US, on the other hand, is the second largest importer of crude oil, though it also has a huge domestic production which accounts for 40% of its total domestic use. China clearly has the demand and the will to import Saudi oil and for this reason, Saudi Arabia wants to establish refineries, storages, and oil processing units at Gawadar to allow for uninterrupted oil flow into western China. The flow of this oil would be through Pakistan which has longstanding friendly bilateral relations with both Saudi Arabia and China. These relations are also independent of each other, hence the relations would not be affected by overlapping national interests. China also wants to have an uninterrupted energy supply to its mainland via alternate routes, which could not be affected by the geopolitics of the seas.

Saudi Arabia also looks at Pakistan as its long-term partner and a potential market for its exports.  Pakistan has a 202 million population, 70% of which is under 35 years of age. In case, peace returns to the region, Pakistan could show exponential growth and bulge of a new vibrant and energy-hungry middle class. In addition to that, Saudi Arabia wants to have stakes in Pakistan’s economy and what better way of doing all this than to invest in an Oil City, which also happens to be geographically nearby Saudi territory. Pakistan has also been very eager for investment diversification in its economy to avoid being labeled a China-only economy. Showing to the world that’s its doors are open for any country willing to invest into Pakistan.

Convergence of interests

This incredible convergence of interests paves the way for the China Pakistan Saudi Economic Corridor to be a very constructive regional partnership.  This partnership would see three regional powers engaging in positive regional trade and connectivity projects which would eventually increase trade, trust, and dependence on each other. Pakistan and China, both have repeatedly stated that CPEC is open for all to join in and collectively reap the benefits of trade and regional connectivity.

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