I write in Pragati – The Indian National Interest Review about Lessons from Pakistan on why we must guard our state from religiosity and our society from majoritarianism.
Organised murders and terror strikes stemming from religious fanaticism are unfortunately far too commonplace in the Pakistani society today. Even then, two recent incidents have shaken up the conscience of the ordinary Pakistani. The first incident was the terror attack on the Wagah border and the second incident was the lynching of a Christian couple on unsubstantiated claims of abetting blasphemy. Expectedly, the reactions to the two incidents in the Indian print and social media fell in two broad categories. The foremost reaction was that of disdain, that such acts were indicative of the karmic retribution that Pakistan deserved. As it sowed, so shall it reap. The second reaction was broadly that of self-righteousness, one that projects India’s many ills like a pale shadow in front of the gargantuan battles of the Pakistani society. Statements like “We can’t expect anything better from Pakistan” or “Thank God! We are in India” fall in this category of reactions.
As a discernible reader would recognise, such reactions are based on an edifice of India’s tolerant culture, a culture that has some inborn resilience to radical ideologies. It is this resilience that makes people believe that India will never go down the path that Pakistan has submitted itself to. And yet, this grand narrative of a tolerant society can get punctured easily. Though an ultra-religious, majoritarian Indian State might appear like a far fetched possibility to many, examples from experiences of other countries show that such a scenario is not as improbable as it is made out to be. There are two reasons why we must be wary of the claims that project tolerance as an inherent and everlasting attribute of a nation.
We must realise that the ideology of today’s Pakistan can’t be defeated by inculcating reactionary ideologies that are similar in form to those prevailing in Pakistan. That will only vindicate the blatant propaganda that has been unleashed on large sections of the Pakistani society today. Instead, Pakistan’s ideology can only be defeated by summarily rejecting the religiosity and sectarianism that went on to become the basis of today’s Pakistan.
[Full Article: A solemn reminder, courtesy Pakistan, 15th November 2014 ]