Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947, despite incessant opposition by Indian National Congress and her allies. At its birth Pakistan was faced with apparently insurmountable problems. The immediate worries were rehabilitation of millions of refugees and restoration of industrial and agricultural infra-structure. The national exchequer was empty. India refused to transfer Pakistan’s share in financial.
Pakistan overcame insurmountable problems of influx of 1947 refugees, skimpy finances and myriad other problems to emerge as a viable entity. We welcomed refugees, while India is all set to drive out 4.7 million Rohingya refugees from its eastern state of Assam.
Fanatic Hindus in Indian National Congress thought that Pakistan would, at best, be a still-born baby. But, Pakistan was able to survive all hurdles. It proved its viability despite severe politico-economic jolts.
Despite lapse of over 70 years, India still has to reconcile with Pakistan, as a reality.
When Jinnah left India on August 7, 1947, Vallabhai Patel said, ‘The poison had been removed from the body of India’. But, the Quaid said, ‘The past has been buried and let us start afresh as two independent sovereign States’.
Even Nehru, an outwardly liberal leader, regarded creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reached crescendo in his remarks ‘I shall not have that carbuncle on my back’. These remarks have been quoted by D. H. Bhutani in his book, The Future of Pakistan (page 14).
Nehru’s followers continued their anti-Pakistan efforts in the post-Partition period.
Liberal Jinnah versus Hardliner India
Rashtryaya Swayem Sevak Sangh (RSS) is the religious wing of ruling political party Bharatya Janata Party. It exploits issue of beef eating by minorities. India however is the biggest exporter of beef (through Dua Corporation). Yet, mobs of Hindu vigilantes (gau raksshik, cow guards) lynch beef eaters. They worship cow-urine (gau mooter) and cow dung (gau gobre). RSS is increasing its influence and outreach to the world.
Rashtryaya Swayem Sevak Sangh (BJP’s militant wing) held a conclave (Sep. 16-18, 2018) in New Delhi. It was attended by over a thousand intellectuals from all walks of life. Change in RSS’s outlook is understandable. It has grown phenomenally during the past five decades. Its swayamsewaks now hold the top four constitutional posts of India’s president, vice president, prime Minister and Lok Sabha (house of people) speaker. They occupy 20 Raj Bhawans. Eighteen of them are chief ministers. Half the Union Cabinet comprises RSS members. The political initiation of over 1,000 members of legislative assemblies and 250 members of parliament has been through the RSS. About a million
Indians daily attend over 55,000 shakhas (lectures) across the country. Its 500-odd frontal organizations manage colleges, schools, media, hospitals, and tribal and Dalit non-governmental organisations. Ten thousand full-time pracharaks (preachers) are active in politics, culture and
Various think tanks at home and abroad.
`Liberals; were stunned when chief minister Yogi Adityanath of India’s Uttar Pradesh state equated cows with human beings (Tribune , July 25, 2018). They expressed similar reaction when Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma of Rajasthan High Court told reporters (May 31, 2018) `All doctors are frauds and we could have all been cured of diseases with nothing more than cow’s milk.’ He `urged the Centre to declare cow as India’s national animal and recommended life imprisonment for cow slaughter’. Scientists must have smiled at his assertion that `cow inhales and exhales oxygen’, and `a peacock is a lifelong celibate like Krishna’.
At the conclave a Muslim wing of the RSS distributed a pamphlet echoing Sharma’s sentiments. The RSS’s rising influence among all strata of Indian society cannot be ignored. Huffington Post dated August 3, 2017 published a detailed report on benefits of cow-and-dung recipes like: (a) A cow-dung-and-urine beauty soap could stall ageing. Krishna looked like a 12 year old as he used such soap. (b) Cow dung and urine (gao mutra and gau gober) could prevent radiation when used to construct a bunker or rubbed on a mobile phone. This compound can defuse even an atomic bomb. (c) Pregnant women should have cow dung-urine derivatives for normal delivery.
India’s prestigious `Institute of Technology has received about 50 proposals from top research institutions across the country to explore benefits of panchgavya (mixture of cow urine, cow dung, milk, ghee and curd). India’s Union Ministry of Science and Technology has constituted a 19-member panel to conduct a detailed research on cow derivatives and their benefits.
The portents are that the RSS would have a critical role in influencing 2019 general elections.
Rising Hindutva influence does not portend well for minorities in India, otherwise a constitunally `secular’ republic.
On December 6, 1992, Hindu fanatics demolished Babri masjid. There is no evidence about Babur constructing a mosque in Ayodhya after demolishing a Ramjanmabhoomi temple. All sources are mute, be it Babur’s memoir Baburnama, Humayunnama by Babur’s daughter Gulbadan Begum, Abul Fazal’s Ain-i-Akbari or Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. The first reference to Babri appears in a travel account by Jesuit priest Joseph Tiefenthaler in 1768. The inscriptions, inside the mosque, often quoted in books on Ayodhya or Babur, were fake. They were fixed in the mosque 280 years after its supposed construction in 1528.
Babur did visit Gwalior temples. But, neither he, nor his commander Mir Baqi (distinct from Baqi on masjid inscriptions), ever visited Ayodhia. Mir Baqi of the Baburnama was never governor of Ayodhya.
The dispute is about property. The claim that god (Ram) was born there is fictitious. Indian Court ignored the fact that the Muslims have been in current possession of the disputed site since times immemorial. No claim by Hindus during Moghal or British raj? Shankaracharya’s Nyas originally owned only one acre of land, the rest of the land (additional 42 acres of so-called undisputed land) was given to it on lease by Kalyan Singh government in 1992 to develop a Ram Katha Kunj (park).
Threat of anti-minority riots
When Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi demanded a nation-wide ban on cow slaughter (Hindu, November 21, 2005). His demand was bolstered by India’s Supreme Court’s judgment (October 26, 2005) that reversed a 36-year-old ruling, and upheld the constitutional validity of a Gujarat law imposing the ban on slaughtering of bulls, and bullocks.
The fanatics often exploit issue of beef eating to kill minorities. There were anti-Muslim riots in 1707 and 1714, after the death of Moghul emperor Aurangzeb. More anti-Muslim riots took place in Kashmir (1719), Delhi (1729), and Bombay (1786). In Benares (1809), bloody anti-Muslim riots were due to a mosque allegedly having been built by Aurangzeb atop a temple (quasi-Babri-Masjid issue). When the Muslim functionaries were unfairly downgraded, riots took place at different places in Uttar Pradesh (Koil 1820, Moradabad 1833, Shahjahanpur 1837, and Alahabad 1837-52).
The riots in the 1990s were due to Advani’s Rath Yatra (chariot procession), resulting in death of over 200 people mostly Muslims. In January 1993, over 3000 Muslims were killed in Bombay by Shiv Sena in collusion with the police.
Efforts have been made in the past to ferret out causes of communal riots in India. Past inquiry reports into major riots (Delhi 1984, Bhagalpur 1989 and Ayodhya 1992) lament poor governance in preventing or controlling the riots, and prosecuting the rioters. Those having academic interest in details may refer to analysis by V. N. Rai, N. C. Saxena, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Asia, besides reports of the Commissions of Inquiry into Disturbance at Bhiwandi (1970), Tellicherry (1971), and Jamshedpur (1979). For further insights, one may look into reports of seminars, titled “State Protected Lawlessness from Ayodhya to Bombay” and Communal Riots and the Role of Law Enforcement Agencies”, convened at Bombay by Iqbal A. Ansari and Dr Asghar Ali (founder secretary general of Minorities’ Council of India).
It appears that the past studies are post-mortem reports. They do not try to determine statistical correlation between cause (economic, political or communal), issues and places of riots to formulate a testable hypothesis about probable causes and venues of riots in future. Lack of futuristic orientation or reliable data may have been fetters to the researchers’ feet.
In the past, fanatic Hindus has started riots to snatch or destroy well-to-do Muslims’ properties. The economic motive behind starting the riots is the foremost in Hindus’ minds. Let us look into the past trend of riots, and the issues on which they were started.
Hindutva. Anti-Muslim violence in India has risen pari passu with upsurge in Hindutva. The leading politicians side with the Hindu extremists for myopic electoral gains. Even Congress leaders have been distributing tridents on plea that their party’s policy is no bar on it. In 1991, India’s thent home minister undertook Rath Yatra (chariot journey) from a Hindu temple in Gujarat to Ram Janam Bhoomi (birth place of Hindu god Ram). That symbolic journey engendered Hindutva upsurge, which resulted in destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992. Subsequently, the BJP, then a marginal group with only two seats in Indian parliament witnessed the party’s cataclysmic rise into a ruling party, as of now.
Hindutva influence has permeated not only into the bureaucracy but also in armed forces, security agencies as also the judiciary. Hindutva influence on Indian armed forces became manifest in the national elections of 1991 when India’s top 25 ex-military officers joined the BJP. Stephen P Cohen in “The Indian Army” says that India’s three wars with Pakistan contributed to the communalisation of her armed forces, as exemplified by an Indian general’s characterisation of Indo-Pakistan wars as ‘communal riots with armour’. In the 1990s, India’s top 25 generals joined the BJP.
To preclude police brutality who acts in unison with mobsters, Khushwant Singh suggested in 1969 drafting a substantial number of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians and Parsis into the Indian police forces. Police force of Punjab and Haryana should be non-Sikh, and that of Kashmir being non-Muslim, so on.
Battle cries used in the army are Ha Har Maahadev (Shivaji’s slogan), Bajrang Bali ki Jai, Bol Javala Man ki Jai. Hindu mobs attacking the Muslims also use the same slogans. How could the army jawans control the mob chanting the same slogans?
The Ayodhya case judges ordered excavation of the site in disregard of res judicata principles. Possession is nine-point ownership. Existence of Babri Masjid for centuries debars the Hindus from invoking their right to ownership of the site under Limitation Act, enshrining the principle `equity helps the vigilant, not the indolent’.
Professor M. Mohanty of Delhi University is of the view that”Increasing intolerance among the Hindu fundamentalist organisations, which pose a grave threat to democracy, are an indication of the rise of fascist forces in India. Professor Kanti Bajpai of Jawaharlal Nehru University agreed, “The rise of right –wing politics in India is far more advanced and violent than in Austria”.
The Economist: World in 2003 (page 77) states, ‘…nothing so pleases as burning of a few Muslims, the prospects of war with Pakistan and revenge for Muslim invasion of India many centuries ago’.
Gujarat state has lifted the ban on government employees’ becoming members of RSS. Uttar Pradesh state’s legislature has placed restrictions on building and use of places of worship. After approval of the parliamentary committee, Savarkar’s portrait has been hung in Indian parliament. Savarkar thus stands resurrected as a hero of the freedom movement. Savarkar wanted India for the Hindus only.
The riots in the 1990s (e.g. destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992) are markedly different from those in pre-1990s period (e.g., 1948 Hyderabad riots against takeover by India). The pre-1990s pogroms affected mainly slum-dwelling poor Muslims. But, the riots in 1990s hit poor and rich Muslims alike. The stimulating motive was to pauperize the affluent Muslims by looting away their life-long earnings. The affluent and influential Hindus no longer tried to play the role of mediators (unlike the case of previous riots in some industrial cities).
In the Hyderabad riots of 1990, Indian cricketer Azharuddin was attacked in his hometown. During January 1993, Mrs Rahi Masum Raza, wife of script-writer of TV-series Mahabharata fled uptown Bombay for refuge in Bhendi Bazar. In 1991, Muslim professors of Delhi University ran away from their houses to seek safety elsewhere. There are countless other instances of harassment of Muslim prodigies like Dilip Kumar, Saira Bano, Shabana Azmi, Farah Khan, and Ali Sardar Jaafri (poet with Padma Shri award) who was asked by the police to prove his nationality.
From the recent trends, it is obvious that future riots are more likely to take place in localities where the Muslims are economically competitive and affluent. Muslim-owned industrial and business establishments will be the targets.
In fact, Nehru had foreseen this changing pattern of riots, as reflected in his letter September, 1954 to a chief minister (Nehru’s letters to Chief Ministers, Vol. IV, edited by G Parthasarthy, New Delhi Oxford University Press, Delhi). He wrote: “There is also a new motive which previous to the partition was not present. This is the lure of property. In the pre-partition days, whatever communal trouble took place, no one ever thought of driving out the other party from their houses or shops. No one ever thought of profiting by any such action. Now this element has come in and is thought that if the Muslims in a particular area are frightened and made to leave, that property would naturally come to the Hindus”.
Nehru’s observation is borne out by Jabalpur riots in 1961 which aimed at hounding out the Muslim bidi (mini-cigarette) magnate from the local market. Bhiwandi (Maharashtra) riots of 1970 and 1984 were aimed at dispossessing the Muslim of their control of power loom industry. Moradabad riots of 1980 were outcome of jealousy against prosperity of Muslim brassware artisans. Riots of 1984 in Andhra Pradesh destroyed $ 10000 worth of Muslim businesses.
Riots usually take place in urban areas, particularly in industrial cities, like Bombay, Bhewandi, Baroda, Surat , Kanpur, Moradabad, Meerut, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bhopal. Refugee or Bengali migrants dominated areas are particularly riot prone.
They occur usually at places where Muslims are numerically and economically competitive and do not reconcile with an inferior status. No riots take place in areas with thin downtrodden Muslim population, resigned to subjugated fate because of perceived vulnerability, e.g. in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, or in the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Issues Triggering Riots. Cow slaughter (actually, if not politicized, it is a non-issue). Hindu extremists desire to enforce a uniform civil code ostensible under Articles 44 and 48 of the Indian Constitution, but actually in violation of Articles 14 (no religious discrimination), 16 (equal opportunities for minorities), 26 to 28 (minorities freedom to manage their own religious affairs), 30 (maintaining minorities educational institutions), 345, 347, 350, 350-A (rights of linguistic minorities). Loud music and Bhajan singing before mosques. Non-traditional routes of processions. Reservation of jobs, and seats in educational institutions. Elopement of Hindu girls with Muslim boys. Characterisation of one by the other community as Malichh and Kafir. Routes of Religious processions. Conversions from one religion to another. Singing or playing Vande Matram aloud before mosques. The de facto status of Urdu especially in Uttar Pradesh. Muslim Personal Law and Uniform Civil Code. Suspicions about Muslims loyalty to India. One could visualise from the past trends where the future riots would take place, and on what issues.
Joint Indo-Pak defence
He hoped India and Pakistan would live in peace after Partition. In his Will and Testament
He bequeathed a part of his fortune to educational institutions in Aligarh, Bombay and Delhi. He never changed his will as he hoped to visit India again.
Lord Ismay, Chief of Staff to the Viceroy recorded an interview with the Quaid. Excerpt: ‘Mr. Jinnah said with the greatest earnestness that once Partition has been decided upon, everyone would know exactly all troubles would cease, and they would live happily ever after where they were’.
Ayesha Jalal in his paper Why Jinnah Matters (Meleeha Lodhi, edited papers, `Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, pp. 33-34 ) recalls `Just before his own death, Jinnah proposed a joint defence with India as the Cold War started to shape the world and the two power blocs began to form. Jinnah was still thinking as a South Asian nationalist. … Had Jinnah’s vision prevailed _and found an echo in India, we would have seen a very different South Asia. ..there would have been no crippling defence expenditures. There would have been no reason to join one or other camp of the Cold War. There would have been open borders, free trade and regular visiting between the two countries…. a more humane sub-continent might have emerged … In 1971, when Pakistan was broken in two, its critics jubilantly cried, `Jinnah’s Pakistan is dead’. They were wrong. Jinnah’s Pakistan will be alive as long as …’.
Evolution of Pakistan idea
Lahore Resolution to Pakistan resolution
How the Lahore resolution, as it was called on March 23, 1940, became the Pakistan Resolution? The original resolution of 1940 mentions states, not one state of Pakistan. But, Congress party’s criticism, as also Gandhi’s virulently critical letters to the Quaid, forced the Muslim nation to convert the Lahore resolution into Pakistan resolution. The resolution passed on April 19, 1946 at the Delhi convention, clarified doubts about the word ‘states’ in original Lahore Resolution. It stated, “The zone comprising Bengal and Assam in the North-East and the Punjab, Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan in the north-west of India, namely Pakistan Zones, where Muslims are in a dominant majority, be constituted into a sovereign independent State and an unequivocal understanding be given to implement the establishment of Pakistan without delay? True, the Pakistan resolution was not over-night exploit of a single figure.
It was Allama lqbal who convinced the Quaid of the futility of the idea of continued Hindu-Muslim amity. On June 21, 1937, Allama Iqbal wrote to the Quaid, “In these circumstances, it is obvious that the only way to a peaceful India is a redistribution of the country on the lines of racial, religious and linguistic affinities.” The Muslim leaders only wanted that after departure of the British rulers, The rights of Muslims ‘community’ should not be usurped by the brutal Hindu majority. On March 2, 1941, the Quaid said, “It is as clear as daylight that we are not a minority. We are a nation and nation must have a territory. A nation does not live in the air. It lives on the land and it must govern land’.
The Quaid said at Minto Park on March 22, 1940, “Musalmans are not a minority as it is generally understood. Musalmans are a nation according to any definition of a nation and they must have their homelands, their territory and their state’. On October 27, 1945, the Quaid said at Ahmedabad, “Pakistan is the question of life and death for us. I shall live and die for Pakistan.” “The moon of Pakistan is shining and we shall reach it” (Dawn, October 28, 1945). “We must get Pakistan at any cost. For it we live and for it we will die.” (November 24, 1945, Mardan). “Without Pakistan, there is only death for Muslims.” (February 24, 1946, Calcutta).Creation of Pakistan is a miracle. Hindus’ paranoid hatred converted the Lahore resolution into the Pakistan resolution.n Pakistan Day: What was Jinnah’s idea of independent state for S. Asian Muslims?
Members of the Muslim League were told they could not hope to share power with the Congress unless they submitted to its discipline and became its stooges. There was naturally a rapid, revolutionary change in the outlook of the Muslim League. In 1938, under Mr. Jinnah’s leadership, it formally repudiated the federal scheme of the Government of India Act 1935, and began to consider other constitutional possibilities. In 1939 it declared that Muslim India was ‘irrevocably opposed’ to any federal objective; and in March 1940 was passed at Lahore a resolution, demanding the partition of India and the formation of the Muslim majority zones of the north-west and north-east into an independent sovereign state. Thus, ostensibly, the Muslim League, under Mr. Jinnah’s leadership, had accepted as its goal the chimerical, impracticable scheme of students led by Ch. Rehmat Ali, which the League spokesman had disliked a few years earlier.
The Lahore Resolution was interpreted differently by advocates of Pakistan, but the fact is Pakistan was to be a completely independent sovereign (federal) state. It came into being on 14 August, 1947, with Mr. Jinnah as its first Governor-General and the first president of its Constituent Assembly. The first observation he made in the Assembly was: “You will, no doubt, agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious belief of its subjects are fully protected by the state…I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you’ll find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that’s the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state…You’re free to go to your temples, you’re free to go to your mosques or to any place of worship, you may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with business of the state…If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, especially of the masses and the poor.”
It was culmination of the series of event; and movements that converged into the idea of Pakistan: Muhammad bin Qasim established the first Muslim state in the Sub-Continent in 712-715 AD. Shahab-ud-Din Ghouri wrote to Prithvi Raj in 1192 AD that the latter should cede the MusIim-majority areas of the Punjab, NWFP and Sindh to him or be prepared for a war at Tarain battlefield (page 101, tareekh-e-farishta). After Qasim, Qutub-ud-Din Aibak and the Moghul established their rule in India. There were 76 Muslim rulers who ruled over India for about 690 years. Since early 1870s, there were several movements, which asserted ‘Muslim nationhood’. They covered a broad spectrum of Muslim religious, educational, cultural and political life Aligarh Movement (1870s), the Mohammedan Educational Conference, the Urdu Defence Association (1900), the demand for separate electorates, the foundation of the Muslim League, the Muslim university movement (1910), the pan-Islamic movements beginning with Italy’s raid on Tripoli (1911) and ending with the Khilafat movement (1918-24), and the Kanpur Mosque agitation (1913).
From Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to the Quaid-i-Azam, all the Muslim leaders kept striving for Hindu-Muslim amity. The Quaid began his political career by attending Congress meeting, for the first time on July 28, 1904, Thereafter he struggled for about three decades for the rights of Muslim whom he regarded as a ‘minority’, rather than a nation.
Towards the end of 1930, Allama lqbal used the word ‘community’ for the Muslim population in his address at Allahabad. It was only Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, who used the word ‘nation’ for Muslims in his pamphlet ‘Now or Never (1932)’. Intolerance of Hindus forced Muslims to realise that their rights would be trampled under Hindu Raj. Lucknow Pact (1916) was acknowledged as pillar of Hindu-Muslim friendship. However, Nehru, at the behest of the fanatic Hindus, shattered the spirit of peaceful coexistence by formulating his Nehru Report (1928).
Jaswant Singh had, in his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, and Independence made the revelation that Jinnah shelved the idea of independent Pakistan by putting his signatures to the Cabinet Mission’s recommendations. The Quaid even accepted the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission. This Mission envisaged keeping India undivided for ten years. The constituent assemblies were to consider the question of division after 10 years. When Congress refused to accept the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission, the British government decided to divide India.
Jinnah’s state of mind is reflected in Shorish Kashmiri’s revelation on page 509 of his book bu-e-gul nala-e-dil dud-e-charagh-e-mahfil (Matbuat-e-Chatan, 1988, Lahore). He quotes the Quaid having said `What is Muslim League? I, and my typewriter’. At another place Shorish quotes Quaid as having said `meri thaili main saarey sikkey khotey hain’ (all the coins in my pouch are base).
A democracy, not a theocracy
Doubtless, the Quaid visualised Pakistan to be a democracy, not a theocracy. In a broadcast addressed to the people of the USA (February 1948), he said, ‘In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims _Hindus, Christians, and Parsees _ but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan’ (Maleeha Lodhi (ed.), Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State) When an over-ebullient admirer addressed him as `Maulana Jinnah’, he snubbed him. Jinnah retorted, ‘I am not a Maulana, just plain Mr. Jinnah’. About minorities, the Quaid often reminded Muslim zealots ‘Our own history and our and our Prophet(PBUH) have given the clearest proof that non-Muslims have been treated not only justly and fairly but generously. He added, ‘I am going to constitute myself the Protector-general of the Hindu minority in Pakistan’. He joined Christmas celebrations in December 1947 as a guest. In his first seven-member Cabinet, he included a Hindu.
Till his last breath, the Quaid remained an ardent supporter of rights of minorities as equal citizens of Pakistan. Our ministers and other dignitaries shun rituals and customs of minorities. But, the Quaid participated in Christmas celebrations in December 1947 as a guest of the Christian community. He declared: ‘I am going to constitute myself the Protector General of Hindu minority in Pakistan’.
One member of his post-partition cabinet was a Hindu. A Jewish scholar, Mohammad Asad, who embraced Islam, held important positions in post-partition period in Pakistan. Many ‘religious’ scholars copy from his works copiously.
Majority of Pakistanis wish to see Pakistan emerge as a moderate economically viable power. Their attitudes mirror-image the Quaid’s vision. He wanted Pakistan to be a liberal and democratic Muslim state, not a theocracy, plagued by sectarian violence. The following extracts from the Quaid’s speeches and statements as Governor General of Pakistan reflect his vision: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan…you may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State…We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of the one State”.
The Quaid visualised that `in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”. A. K. Brohi, in his The Fundamental Law of Pakistan, argues that Pakistan is an Islamic state, but not a theocracy.
Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, also, epitomises his vision.
The 1954 Justice Munir Kayani Commission ‘Report on the Anti-Ahmedi Riots of Punjab in 1953’, inter alia, elucidates Jinnah’s vision of an Islamic State. The Munir report makes a poignant observation. “Most important of the parties who are clamouring for enforcement of the three (anti-Ahmedi) demands on religious grounds, were all against the idea of an Islamic state. Even Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi of Jama’at-i-Islamic was of the view that the form of government in the new Muslim state, if it ever came into existence, could only be secular. Everybody … agreed that Ahrar was a subversive force.” The report concludes: “…if Ahrar had been treated as a law and order question without any political considerations, one District Magistrate and one Superintendent of Police could have dealt with them.”
We mix religion with politics at various levels and forums. Our Constitution has a long list of Islamic rights. But they are circumscribed the proviso that they are not enforceable through courts. Our law of evidence lays down conditions to qualify as a competent witness. But, a proviso makes any witness acceptable if a competent one is not available.
Islam protects the rights of people from all walks of life, weak and strong, including parents, children, relatives of the poor, spouses, minorities, and prisoners. For instance, Islam gives: right to protect life (Quran 17:33), to protect own and others’ properties (2:188), to protect female modesty (4:24), privacy, own and others’ (24:27), one’s faith, even if it be other than Islam (2:256, 6:109), right of expression (29:46, 4:148), of holding function (3:104), to oppose corruption (5:33), receive education (2:129), justice (2:129), and equality (49:13).
Likewise Islam outlines duties of its followers like the duty to follow the instruction (4:59), abide by the law (7:85, 2:229), maintain peace (25:63), protect life (15:32), to follow persons (2:83), obey parents (17:23-24 31:14), duty to be fair in dealings (55:9, 4:10).
He believed in Islamic principles and democracy and advocated the cause of Pakistan and its masses. The use of the Islamic idiom was not limited to confrontational situations involving India but extended to domestic reconstruction policy. Thus, on February 4, 1948, he told a Sibi audience that he, in wanting to give Balochs a voice in the administration of their province, had been moved by his commitment to the Islamic principles of democracy.
God had taught Muslims that they should settle the affairs of the state through mutual discussion and consultation. “It is my belief that our salvation lies in solving the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law giver, the Prophet of Islam. Let’s lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideal and principles.” The architect of Pakistan had a dream; he visualized a welfare state. He had conceived Pakistan based on foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which stress equality and brotherhood of man. Like Allama Iqbal, he was concerned with the problem of poverty and backwardness among Muslims for the eradication of which they looked, on the one hand, to the urges of dynamism, struggle and creativity in Islam and, on the other, to the Islamic principle of distributive justice.
Pakistan needs to change the status quo. A report in Pakistan Economist Intelligence Unit notes “Change is hindered not least because the status quo suits the wealthy landowners who dominate the sector, as well as federal and provincial parliaments. Large landowners own 40 per cent of the arable land and control most of the irrigation system. Yet assessments by independent agencies, including the World Bank, show them to be less productive than smallholders. They are also poor taxpayers, heavy borrowers and bad debtors”.
Our major problem is structural. The economy rests on a narrow production base, heavily dependent on the fallible cotton crop and the low-value-added textile industry; irrigation supplies are erratic (deficiency or floods), and soil erosion and salinity widespread. Low productivity in agriculture can only be reversed through the implementation of serious land reforms (opposed by feudal aristocracy). The opulent wealth in the upper strata of our society need to be ferreted out, and cut to size through radical land reforms and wealth taxation.
Stanley Wolpert paid tributes to the Quaid in following words, “Few individual significantly alter the course of history. Few still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone could be credited with creating a nation State. Muhammad All Jinnah did all three”.
Mr. Jinnah’s speech at the 30th session of the Muslim League during the freedom struggle reflected his vision. “It will be a people’s government. I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They’ve forgotten the lesson of Islam. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate to the interests of others in order to fatten themselves…If they’re wise they’ll have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they don’t, God help them; we shall not help them.”
Aside from Post –Partition Muneer Report on Ahmedi Riots, Moghal-period religious scholars were muckrakers. Aurangzeb’s chief justice, who died in 1675, left behind a fortune of one lac ashrafi (precious coins) and cash of Rs five lac, besides a lot of gold and jewellery (Mubarik Ali, barr-e-saghir main mussulman muashrey ka almia [The trajedy of Muslim Society in the Sub-Coontinent]. page75). Soofis (dervishes) were ruling clique’s touts. They lived in Hindu-majority areas. And never made a genuine effort to spread Islam in non-Muslim communities. Only one non-Muslim embraced Islam at the hands of Nizamuddin Aulya during his life-time (Mubarik Ali, page 45 ibid.). Through their edicts (fatawa), Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Abdul Bari Farangi Mahal exhorted others to migrate from India (darul harab) to Afghanistan. But, they themselves stayed back in India (Mubarik Ali, page 105 ibid.).
The Mughal and Sultanate rule was neither equitable nor Islamic but dynastic. Jehangir hanged the light-man who happened to have slept during the night. Not merit, but proper connection and pedigree was the Palladian which determined key appointments to the moghul durbar(Moghul court). Mubarik Ali caustically observes the history of the sub-continent would have been different if Muslim communities had aligned with the jat, sikh and other non-Muslims (Mubarik Ali, pages 16, 58, 64 ibid.).
Should India and Pakistan toujours remain at daggers drawn?Jinnah’s vision should be a beacon of light to both India and Pakistan-democracy, equality, peace and welfare of the masses.
India’s multi-alignment: the origins, the past, and the present
In the initial two decades following India’s independence, India’s foreign policy was heavily determined by the personal predilections of its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his protégé VK Krishna Menon, both influenced by British socialism. Nehru himself handled the external affairs portfolio until his death in 1964.
The policy of ‘non-alignment’ which the duo initiated in India’s foreign policy gained world-wide attention since early 1950s, which later became a full-fledged movement and forum of discussion in 1961 (NAM) that consisted of developing and newly decolonised nations from different parts of the world, primarily from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
But, the policy never meant isolationism or neutrality; rather it was conceived as a positive and constructive policy in the backdrop of the US-USSR Cold War, enabling freedom of action in foreign and security policies, even though many of the individual NAM member states had a tilt towards the Soviet Union, including India.
However, the lofty Nehruvian idealism of India’s foreign policy in its initial decades was not successful enough in integrating well into India’s security interests and needs, as it lost territories to both China and Pakistan during the period, spanning 1947 to 1964.
However, when Indira Gandhi assumed premiership, realism had strongly gained ground in India’s political, diplomatic and military circles, as evident in India’s successful intervention in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Even at that point of time, India still sticked on to the policy of non-alignment until it was no longer feasible in a changed international system that took shape following the end of the Cold War, which is where the origins of a new orientation in India’s foreign policy decision-making termed as ‘multi-alignment’ lies.
Today, India skilfully manoeuvres between China-led or Russia-led groupings such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with its involvement in US-led groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or the Quad), in which Japan and Australia are also members.
Militarily though, India is still not part of any formal treaty alliance, and is simultaneously part of a diverse network of loose and issue-specific coalitions and regional groupings, led by adversarial powers, with varying founding objectives and strategic imperatives.
Today, non-alignment alone can no longer explain the fact that recently India took part in a US-chaired virtual summit meeting of the Quad in March 2021 and three months later attended a BRICS ministerial meet, where China and Russia were also present.
So, how did India progress from its yesteryear policy of remaining equidistant from both the US-led and Soviet-led military blocs (non-alignment) and how did it begin to align with multiple blocs or centres of power (multi-alignment)? Answer to this question stretches three decades back.
World order witness a change, India adapts to new realities
1992 was a watershed year for Indian diplomacy. A year back, the Soviet Union, a key source of economic and military support for India till then, disappeared in the pages of history, bringing the Cold War to its inevitable end.
This brought a huge vacuum for India’s strategic calculations. Combined with a global oil shock induced by the First Gulf War of 1990 triggered a balance of payment crisis in India, which eventually forced the Indian government to liberalise and open up its economy for foreign investments and face competition.
India elected a pragmatic new prime minister in 1991 – PV Narasimha Rao. The vision he had in mind for India’s standing in the world was quite different from his predecessors. Then finance minister and later PM, Dr Manmohan Singh announced in the Indian Parliament, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”.
This was during his 1991 budget speech and it marked the beginning of building a new India where excessive control of the state on economic and business affairs seemed no longer a viable option.
At a time when Japan’s economy was experiencing stagnation, China was ‘peacefully rising’, both economically and industrially. The United States remained as the most influential power and security provider in Asia with its far-reaching military alliance network.
As the unipolar world dawned proclaiming the supremacy of the United States, PM Rao steered Indian foreign policy through newer pastures, going beyond traditional friends and partners like Russia.
In another instance, 42 years after India recognised Israel as an independent nation in 1950, both countries established formal diplomatic ties in 1992. Indian diplomats accomplished a task long overdue without affecting the existing amicable ties with Palestine.
In the recent escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it is worth noting that India took a more balanced stance at the United Nations, which was different from its previous stances that reflected an open and outright pro-Palestine narrative.
Today, India values its ties with Israel on a higher pedestal, even in areas beyond defence and counter-terrorism, such as agriculture, water conservation, IT and cyber security.
Breaking the ice with the giant across the Himalayas
China is a huge neighbour of India with which its shares a 3,488-km long un-demarcated border. Skirmishes and flare-ups resulting from difference in perception of the border and overlapping patrolling areas are a regular occurrence in this part of the world.
For the first time after the 1962 war with China, which resulted in a daunting defeat for India, diplomatic talks for confidence-building in the India-China border areas were initiated by the Rao government in 1993, resulting in the landmark Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the defacto border between India and China.
The agreement also provided a framework for ensuring security along the LAC between both sides until a final agreement on clear demarcation of the border is reached out. The 1993 agreement created an expert group consisting of diplomats and military personnel to advise the governments on the resolution of differences in perception and alignment of the LAC. The pact was signed in Beijing in September 1993, during PM Rao’s visit to China.
Former top diplomat of India Shivshankar Menon noted in one of his books that the 1993 agreement was “the first of any kind relating specifically to the border between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China … It formalized in an international treaty a bilateral commitment by India and China to maintain the status quo on the border. In effect, the two countries promised not to seek to impose or enforce their versions of the boundary except at the negotiating table.”
The 1993 pact was followed by another one in 1996, the Agreement on Military Confidence-Building Measures. The following two decades saw a number of agreements being signed and new working mechanisms being formalized, even though two major standoffs occurred in the Ladakh sector in 2013 and 2020 respectively and one in between in the Sikkim sector in 2017.
The agreements served as the basis upon which robust economic ties flourished in the 2000s and 2010s, before turning cold as a result of Chinese aggression of 2020 in Ladakh. However, the 1993 agreement still was a landmark deal as we consider the need for peace in today’s increasingly adversarial ties between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants.
Integrates with Asia’s regional architecture
Before the early 1990s, India’s regional involvements to its east remained limited to its socio-cultural ties, even though the region falls under India’s extended neighbourhood, particularly Southeast Asia. But, since 1992, when the Look East Policy (LEP) was formulated under the Rao government, India has been venturing into the region to improve its abysmal record of economic and trade ties with countries the region.
New Delhi began reaching out to the ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1992 and was made a Sectoral Partner of the association in the same year. Thus, India kicked-off the process of its integration into the broader Asian regional architecture.
In 1996, India became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a key platform for talks on issues of security in the wider Indo-Pacific region. India became ASEAN’s summit-level partner in 2002 and a strategic partner in 2012.
A free trade agreement (FTA) was agreed between ASEAN and India in 2010. And in 2014, the erstwhile LEP was upgraded into the Act East Policy (AEP). Today, the ASEAN region remains at the centre of India’s evolving Indo-Pacific policy.
Bonhomie with the superpower across the oceans, the United States
1998 was an important year, not just for India, but for the world. Until May that year, only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possessed nuclear capabilities. That year, ‘Buddha smiled again’ in the deserts of India’s Rajasthan state, as India under PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee successfully conducted a series of underground nuclear bomb tests, declaring itself a nuclear state, 24 years after its first nuclear test in 1974 code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’.
The move surprised even the US intelligence agencies, as India managed to go nuclear by bypassing keen US satellite eyes that were overlooking the testing site. Shortly after this, Pakistan also declared itself a nuclear state.
India’s nuclear tests invited severe international condemnation for New Delhi and badly affected its relationship with Washington, resulting in a recalling of its Ambassador to India and imposed economic sanctions, which was a big blow for India’s newly liberalised economy.
But, a bonhomie was reached between India and the US in a matter of two years and then US President Bill Clinton visited India in March 2000, the first presidential visit since 1978. The Indo-US Science and technology Forum was established during this visit and all the sanctions were revoked by following year.
Bharat Karnad, a noted Indian strategic affairs expert, notes in one his books that, “Vajpayee’s regime conceived of ‘strategic autonomy’ to mask its cultivating the US, which resulted in the NSSP”.
The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) between the US and India was launched in January 2004 that covered wide ranging areas of cooperation such as nuclear energy, space, defence and trade. This newfound warmth in Indo-US relations was taken to newer heights with the conclusion of the landmark civil nuclear deal between 2005 and 2008.
Today, India is a key defence partner of the United States, having signed all the four key foundational pacts for military-to-military cooperation, the latest being the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation, signed in October 2020. The two countries are key partners in the Quad grouping and share similar concerns about an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Like his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to cultivate this special relationship with the United States, reinforced by cooperation in the Quad grouping and also by constantly engaging a 4.8-million strong Indian diaspora in the United States.
The leaders of both countries, from Vajpayee to Modi and from Clinton to Trump have reciprocated bilateral visits to each other’s countries. And, India looks forward to the Biden-Harris administration for new areas of cooperation.
But, a recent military manoeuvre in April, this year, by a US Navy ship (which it calls a FONOP or Freedom of Navigation Operation) in India’s exclusive economic zone, off Lakshadweep coast, casted a shadow over this relations.
The US openly stated in social media that it entered the area without seeking India’s prior consent and asserted its navigational rights. This invited mixed reactions, as it was highly uncalled for. While some analysts consider it humiliating, others think that the incident occurred due to the difference of perceptions about international maritime law in both countries.
Today, along with the US, India skilfully manages its ‘historical and time-tested’ ties with Russia, a strategic foe of the US, and moves forward to purchase Russian-made weapon systems, such as the S-400 missile defence system, even after a threat of sanctions. But, in the past several years, India has been trying to diversify its defence procurements from other countries such as France and Israel and has been also promoting indigenisation of defence production.
A BRICS formula for responsible multilateralism
India is a founding member of the BRICS grouping, formalised in 2006, now consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the emerging economies of that time with a potential to drive global economic growth and act as an alternate centre of power along with other groupings of rich countries such as the G-7 and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
India always stood for a responsible global multilateral system and rules-based order. Indian leaders have attended all summit-level meetings of BRICS since 2009 unfailingly. Last year, the summit took place in the backdrop of India-China border standoff in Ladakh, under Russia’s chair, a common friend of both countries, where the leaders of India and China came face-to-face for the first time, although in virtual format.
The primary focus of BRICS remains economic in nature, but it also takes independent stances on events occurring in different parts of the world. The grouping also established a bank to offer financial assistance for development projects known as the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai, China, in 2014, with an Indian as its first elected president.
BRICS also became the first multilateral grouping in the world to endorse the much-needed TRIPS waiver proposal jointly put forward by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid vaccine-making during the duration of the pandemic to provide developing countries that lack adequate technologies with means to battle the virus.
As India gears up to host this year’s upcoming BRICS summit, there is no doubt that being part of the grouping has served the country’s interests well.
Manoeuvring the SCO, along the shores of the Indo-Pacific
The SCO or the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a regional organisation consisting of eight Eurasian powers, largest in the world both in terms of land area and population covered. It stands for promoting mutual cooperation and stability, where security issues can be freely discussed and conflicts are attempted to be resolved.
India is not a founding member of the SCO, which was created in 2001. Both India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. The grouping’s members also include Russia, China and four Central Asian countries, excluding Turkmenistan.
Sharing a common platform with Pakistan and China and the presence of a long-term friend, Russia, has helped India diplomatically in key occasions. Using the SCO platform, the existing differences between member states can be discussed and prevented from escalating into major conflicts.
This was evident most recently visible in 2020 when the foreign ministers of India and China agreed on a plan for the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops from the LAC, as a major step in the diffusion of tensions in Ladakh that had erupted since May that year.
But, Russia and China collectively oppose the usage of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, something that surfaced into political discourse with the famous speech delivered by the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007 in the Parliament of India, calling for “the confluence of two seas” and hinting at a new maritime continuum of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
It is in this context that the grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the United States gained prominence. The four Quad countries came together to offer humanitarian assistance following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the ambit of the grouping’s co-operation ranges from maritime security to cooperation in Covid vaccine production and distribution.
After a decade since the first joint naval exercise of the four Quad countries took place in 2007, the ASEAN’s Manila summit in 2017 provided a platform for the four countries to connect with each other and enhance consultations to revive the four-nation grouping.
The Quad has been raised to the summit level now with the March 2021 virtual summit, and has also conducted two joint naval exercises so far, one in 2007 and the other in 2020. This loose coalition is widely perceived as a counterweight to an increasingly assertive China.
India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land border with China. At the same time, India is also the only country that is not a formal security ally of the United States, meaning if India quits, the Quad ceases to exist, while the other three countries can still remain as treaty allies. However, setting the US aside, cooperation among the other three Quad partners has also been witnessing a boom since the last year.
India and Japan have expanded co-operation in third countries in India’s neighbourhood such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region and offer an alternative to China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which is perceived as having implications of a potential debt-trap aimed at fetching strategic gains.
Amid the pandemic, both the countries have joined hands with Australia to launch a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) to diversify key supply chains away from China.
However, India doesn’t perceive a free and open Indo-Pacific as an exclusionary strategy targeted at containing some country, rather as an inclusive geographic concept, where co-operation over conflict is possible. This was articulated by Prime Minister Modi in 2018 at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore.
Various additions were made to this view in later stages, as the concept evolved into a coherent form, representing New Delhi’s expanding neighbourhood. This vision aligns well with related initiatives such the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), aimed at improving maritime security, trade, connectivity and management of shared resources.
For India, this is an era of complex multi-alignment, different from the Cold War-era international system, where multiple centres of power exist. At different time periods in the past, India has adapted well to the changing circumstances and power dynamics in the international system.
India’s strategic posture today, despite being aspirational, is to have good relations with all its neighbours, regional players, and the major powers, to promote rules-based order, and in the due process to find its own deserving place in the world.
In July, last year, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has made it clear that India ‘will never be part of an alliance system’, even though a tilt towards the US is increasingly getting visible, taking the China factor into account. Jaishankar also stated that global power shifts are opening up spaces for middle powers like India.
As the world tries to avoid another Cold War, this time between the United States and China, the competing geopolitics of the Eurasian landmass and the Indo-Pacific maritime region is poised to add up to New Delhi’s many dilemmas in the coming years.
The unrecognized demographic situation of West Bengal and consequences yet to occur
World’s second large demographic nation India’s state West Bengal is now apparently residence of over 91 million population. At the same time, West Bengal is the fourth-most populous state and the fourteenth-large state by area in India. It is also the seventh-most populous country subdivision of the world. To get an insight into the present situation of West Bengal anyone has to look back in 1947 and later consequences. As being a prominent ethnocultural region of India, West Bengal faced political partition in the year 1947 in the wake of the transformation of British India into two separate independent nations India and Pakistan. Under the process of partition, the then Bengal province was bifurcated into two segments. The predominately Hindu living area named West Bengal, a state of India, and the predominately-Muslim living area turned as East Bengal and after becoming a province of Pakistan that renamed as East Pakistan and later in 1971, the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh.
In 1971 at the time of partition, the Muslim population of West Bengal counted 12% and the Hindu population of East Bengal remained 30%. While at present, with continuous Muslim immigration, Hindu persecution, conversions, and less production of offspring, West Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 30% (up to 63% in some districts). While as per the counting report of 2011 Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8%. When at the present situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, then life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, having a Muslim-appeasing government. The governance of the elected government led to the demographic and cultural shifts in West Bengal. Prevailing of the same governance after the 2021 Bidhansabha election leads to the destruction of Hindu’s belonging everywhere in Bengal. The situation stood worse in the outskirts where media coverage is poor, compelling Hindu families to flee in adjacent states or to hide. A sizable number of Bengali Hindu families already preferred to shift to Assam.
Looking back as per a striking report of July 2014 by Times of India fewer children were born in Bengal and the prediction was there will be even fewer in the next generation. The 2011 Census shows a decadal growth of 13.84% in West Bengal, which was significantly below the national growth average of 17.7%, and the decadal growth was lowest ever and beaten only by the aftermath of the infamous Famine of Bengal,1942.
While the retrospective study of the demography of West Bengal shows that the culturally dominant Hindu population in West Bengal during the first census of 1951 was around 19,462,706 and in the 2011 census it had increased to 64,385,546. While the percentage of the Hindu population in the state decreased from 78.45% in 1951 to 70.54% in the 2011 Census. The data sharply indicates fewer children birth within families of Hindus only while the population of Muslim counterparts tends to grow over time. Once considered a symbol of Indian culture, what has happened in Bengal for the last few decades is the indicator of West Bengal’s demographic future.
Starting from the diminishing of the Hindu culture, communal riots against the Hindus have started happening for quite some time and the situation has been that the banning of celebrating the festivals of Hindus has started in the last few years. Added to those the recent genocide of Hindus depicting a recent trend of population.
Back in 2015 the famous American journalist Janet Levy has written an article on Bengal and the revelations that have been made in it state that Bengal will soon become a separate Islamic country. Janet Levy claims in her article that civil war is going to start soon in Bengal after Kashmir. Which almost begun in recent times in the wake of the Bidhansabha Election of West Bengal.
Ushering the prediction of Janet Levy mass Hindus will be massacred and demanded a separate country.
She cited the facts for his claim back in 2015 that the Chief Minister of West Bengal has recognized more than 10,000 madrassas who were privileged to receive funds from Saudi Arabia and made their degree eligible for a government job, money comes from Saudi and in those madrassas, Wahhabi bigotry is taught.
In the recent past Chief Minister started several Islamic city projects where Islamic people are taught also started a project to establish an Islamic city in West Bengal. It’s evident that Chief Minister has also declared various types of stipends for the Imams of mosques but no such stipends were declared for Hindus primarily. Janet Levy has given many examples around the world where terrorism, religious fanaticism, and crime cases started increasing as the Muslim population increased. With increasing population, a separate Sharia law is demanded at such places, and then finally it reaches the demand of a separate country.
Author and activist Taslima Nasreen once became reason to test the ground reality for West Bengal.
In 1993, Taslima Nasreen wrote a book ‘Lajja’ on the issue of atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh and forcibly making them Muslims.
After writing the book, she had to leave Bangladesh facing the threat of bigotry. The author settled in Kolkata considering that she will be safe there as India is a secular country and the constitution also provided the freedom of expression. Eventually experienced the nightmare that Taslima Nasreen had to face a riot-like situation against her in 2007 in Kolkata. Even in a secular country like India, Muslims banned Taslima Nasreen with hatred. Fatwas issued to cut her throat on the secular land of India.
Upholding the threat the author was also attacked several times in different cities of the country.
But the secular Leftists never supported Taslima, not even the Trinamool government of West Bengal because the Muslims would get angry and the vote bank would face shaking.
That time first attempt was made in which Muslim organizations in West Bengal demanded the Islamic blasphemy (Blasfamie) law. Raising questions on India’s secularism and action of secular parties.
Janet Levy further wrote that for the first time in 2013 some fundamentalist Maulanas of Bengal started demanding a separate ‘Mughalistan’. In the same year riots in Bengal, houses and shops of hundreds of Hindus were looted and many temples were also destroyed by rioters under the safe shelter of government and police.
After the Bidhansava Election 2021 the Hindus of West Bengal facing the same or even worse situation.
Are Hindus boycotted?
Victorious party supremo of West Bengal was afraid that if the Muslims were stopped they would get angry and would not vote and after getting freshly elected her government falls into that vicious circle again.
It is evident from the aftermath of the election result in West Bengal that not only riots but to drive away Hindus, in districts where there are more Muslims, boycotting Hindu businessman. In the Muslim majority districts of Malda, Murshidabad, and North Dinajpur, Muslims do not even buy goods from Hindu shops. This is the reason why a large number of Hindus have started migrating from West Bengal like Kashmiri Pandits, here Hindus leaving their homes and businesses and moving to other places. These are the districts where Hindus have become a minority.
Invoking such incidents Janet, stated that the demand for partition of Bengal from India will soon begin from the land of West Bengal. No demographic theorist interpreted the present demographic situation of West Bengal sabotaging Malthusian theory.
In accord with Janet’s analysis, a few recent sources also indicated the number of the Muslim population, in reality, is much higher than the number on record given to the hiding of numbers of children by Muslim parents when a survey takes place. Implementing CAA, NRC could have been way out for West Bengal to check the proper demographic status and to prevent further population explosion to sustain Bengali Hindus. Perceiving the appeasement politics of government for the last 10 years it’s seeming to be unlikely to get any sharp solution.
Covid-19 has made Feminist Foreign Policy all the more Relevant to India
As the impact of the year long COVID19 pandemic continues to be felt across different parts of India—where patriarchy is entrenched in the social code and inequalities against women are being intuitively practised—the repercussions of the health crisis along with the ever deepening gender gaps are being disproportionately and severely borne by women. Yet, most of the discussions revolving around the pandemic have either been gender-blind or gender-neutral, often resulting in the systemic subjugation or marginalisation of women.
In light of these challenges, the thematic debate on gender equality can no longer continue just on papers, it in fact, needs to be converted into actions by the Indian government in order to deal with the short term consequences of the pandemic as well as to develop long-term sustainable peace. The adoption of a Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) framework is the best way to achieve this dual goal. A FFP could offer a concrete opportunity for India to build a more inclusive policy making set-up; breakaway from the predominant patriarchal notions; and, address pandemic relief strategies—from the viewpoint of women and other vulnerable or under-represented sections of society.
Gendered Impact of COVID19 in India
Within India’s socio-cultural and economic realms—that have historically been marred by inequalities and rigid stereotypes—the gendered effects of the COVID19 pandemic have been both, intersectional and complex.
To begin with, owing to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients, health-care workers in India, particularly the nurses of whom approximately 88.9 per cent are women remain much more vulnerable to contracting the deadly virus. The existing problem of shortage of basic equipment for these healthcare workers further aggravates these concerns.
Second, the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on an already shrinking Indian economy resulting in financial cut downs and rising unemployment. Women—either due to the deeply embedded patriarchal attitudes or due to the subconscious bias that arises out of such attitudes—have stood at the forefront of being temporarily or permanently laid-off from their jobs. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, with the commencement of the nationwide lockdown, the rate of unemployment reached 23.5 per cent in March to April 2020 with higher shares of unemployed women. The unemployment rate for women further reached 12.39 per cent as of February 2021.
Third, women in India are now being confronted with a shadow pandemic where forced proximity, isolation, increased substance abuse, lack of access to justice etc. during the on-going health crisis has resulted in an increasing threat of domestic or gender-based violence. As per a set of data released by the National Commission of Women in April 2020, there was an almost 100 per cent increase in domestic violence during the lockdown.
Nonetheless, these are only some of the immediate effects of the pandemic on women in India. There are other sequential consequences that will emerge in time including, the problems of depletion in savings and assets, pandemic-related widowhood, etc., which would collaboratively make recovery extremely difficult for women.
Evidently, in India, the pandemic is exploiting pre-existing economic and social inequalities along with social norms that give men embedded advantages, and has been posing a real threat to closing gender gaps. In fact, according to the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, India has already slipped down 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries in comparison to its 112th position among 153 countries for the year 2019-2020.
But despite bearing a differential impact, women in India have not been included either directly or indirectly in the development of response strategies to deal with COVID19. As such, they remain absent from decision-making tables that involve the shaping of the future of our societies. However, research indicates that the inclusion of women along with other diverse voices makes for better options in policy making and in bringing about comprehensive outcomes that accommodate the needs and concerns of all groupings.
How can a FFP help?
These unfortunate states of affairs demand an adjustment in India’s thinking and strategy, bring about a paradigmatic shift in its traditional policymaking and allow for diverse representation to effectively deal with COVID19 pandemic. The present crisis is therefore, precisely the time to be talking about a FFP in India and for its representatives to make a stronger commitment to mainstream gender at the policy level.
By critically reflecting on the existing international power structures, a FFP framework focuses on protecting the needs of marginalised and female groups and places issues of human security and human rights at the heart of discussions. In doing so, it provides a fundamental shift from the conventional understanding of security to include other arena of foreign policy such as economics, finance, environment, health, trade etc.
With this new perception of health risks and crisis management as a security threat, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, India can potentially explore broadening the humanitarian trade options under its international arrangements to address shortages of medicine and lack of access to personal protective equipment for health workers within its territory— a vast majority of which continue to be women.
The adoption of a FFP could also pave the way for an increased regional cooperation, facilitate regional discussions on myriad issues and enable the development of targeted recovery program designed specifically for the empowerment of women. Such a program would account for the fact that the economic repercussions of crises disproportionately affect women and therefore, help India in securing assistance from its neighbour to address the gendered economic and social effects of the COVID19 pandemic.
Besides, FFP does not only mean considering power structures and managing relations at the global level alone but also evaluating outcomes within the country’s own domestic landscape. In this sense, a FFP could provide India with an important starting point for bringing about an internal shift by focusing more on gender issues, especially in terms of the strictly defined patriarchal gender roles and eliminate barriers that continue to restrict women’s participation in decision-making processes.
An emphasis on women’s participation in India’s leadership positions would in turn catalyse the application a gender lens to the process of domestic policymaking, thereby, achieving comprehensive outcomes that are inclusive of diverse perspectives. Such policies will promote women’s concerns as humanitarian issues, prioritize and safeguard the continuum of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and continue to facilitate the provision of information and education, thus making women better equipped to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.
Adding on to these factors, given that the FFP is an all-inclusive approach, its application could also potentially strengthen cooperation between the Indian government and civil society organisations or women’s network at home as well as abroad to manage the pandemic and its deleterious effect on people, especially women. At a time when the government resources are overwhelmed in their fight against the pandemic, greater involvement of civil society organisations can in fact, play a critical role in advocating social justice, women’s rights, social equity, and provide medical and food support, distribution of hygiene kits, spreading awareness about the virus, etc. These efforts could bring about a considerable improvement in women’s vulnerable position under the current Covid19 crisis in India.
As such, the FFP approach offers huge potential to address some the major institutional and organisational injustices against women in India, and the COVID19 pandemic represents a critical juncture in this regards. A FFP is important not only to ensure that the gendered imbalances inflicted by COVID19 do not become permanent but also for the long term economic and social development of the country, the strengthening of democratic institutions, and the advancement of national security as well as peace. But whether India will adopt or even consider moving towards a FFP in the near future remains to be seen.
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