Raza Habib Raja
A few days ago, my friend Abhinav Pandya wrote a detailed article on my request examining Modi’s spectacular victory. The article was also a defense of Modi with respect to the assertions made by liberal/left ( or pseudo seculars in the opinion of Modi’s supporters) that Modi’s win would actually tantamount to the rise of communalism or rather death of Indian secularism.
I have shared Abhinav’s article and also my own articles on my Facebook wall and I have so far been amused by the kind of reaction shown by some of my Pakistani friends. I am posting some of the comments ad verbatim.
A friend offered following comments on Abhinav’s article: “It is a justification for a stark irony – irony that a secular nation of 1.2 bln in starvation of economic growth couldn’t find a liberal leader but a fundo n polarizing one. The article tries to justify the phenomenon of typical xenophobia & intolerance of the society ‘.
Another one objected when in one of the threads I wrote that Pakistan should look into its situation before trying to vilify India. “The only difference is, in Pakistan, religious parties get less than 3% of the votes. We turned our religious fanatics into terrorists, India’s turning them into its government.”
Another one was more candid: “ Thank God, the Two Nation Theory has been vindicated. All Pakistani pseudo seculars, like you, should be thankful for Pakistan”
Of course on major newspapers like Express Tribune there has been a flurry of articles debating on whether India is indeed a secular state as claimed by its intellectuals and whether the Modi victory has finally completely justified Pakistan’s raison d’être .
It has been pointed out on PTH and also on other forums that the reaction on Modi’s victory from Pakistan is apparently less severe compared to reaction from India’s own left/liberal/secular circles.
And actually this might be true. In fact let me go a step forward and say that Modi’s victory has actually delighted many Pakistanis in a sinister way. This is so noticeable that an Indian author actually ended up writing a satirical article titled “Congratulations Pakistan”
Yes, many Pakistanis are experiencing a strange mix of concern ( for fellow Muslims in India) and elation that India’s secularism has proven to be a farce because Indian electorate overwhelmingly elected a person who at least initially had become famous due to Gujarat riots.
This victory has actually relieved many Pakistanis. For years, they have been hearing from Indians and for that matter even from many in the West that Pakistan is a flawed idea born out of communalism-which is a regressive concept in the first place- and moreover has completely failed in every sense of the word. Islamic extremism and more importantly religious bigotry are firmly entrenched making it an extremely unsafe place. Muslims instead of feeling secure and independent are in reality being killed by other Muslims and that too in the name of faith. They have been hearing that in India minorities are better protected and average Indian voter is far more sensitive to the plight of minorities compared to Pakistan.
So India decides to vote for Modi, a person who is perhaps the most controversial politician and who before that had been confined to just one state. Suddenly many of my countrymen have a reason to rejoice. In their opinion if Indians have so overwhelmingly voted for a communal party then they themselves believe that India should be a Hindu state which in turn proves that Muslims and Hindus are separate nations. Once their separate nationhood is proven through their own voting choice then of course TNT is vindicated. And vindication is indeed welcome for Pakistanis because for years they have been taunted about how bad the idea of Pakistan was and how the manifestation of the idea in the form of a nation state has been a dismal failure. Pakistan’s pathetic record with respect to its minorities can now be defended by pointing to Modi’s overwhelming victory.
I can understand one of my Facebook friends who had commented, “We turned our religious fanatics into terrorists, India’s turning them into its government.”
Finally in their heads Pakistanis feel that they have actually achieved a moral superiority over India largely because India has voted “fanatics” by choice in contrast with them (Pakistanis) who just have to “suffer” from “some” religious fanatics. Now they can glee and gloat and hurl back insults. Now the pathetic record of our treatment towards our own minorities can even be overlooked or worse, rationalized. Now we can even forget where we actually stand with respect to religious freedom and gender parity.
But how far are these conclusions valid?
Firstly, does Modi’s victory actually signify an increase in Hindu chauvinism? Or for that matter even communalism?
I would like to stress here that there is no doubt that BJP is a communal party but its spectacular performance does not just have one factor behind it. If anything BJP owes its success to softening its image and stressing hard on projecting a better “governance” model. In other words, BJP actually had to change its rhetoric from an overstress on communalism to other issues in order to gain acceptance. If “Hinduvta” had been its major slogan this time, then of course this claim would have been valid. Instead what has brought victory is the shift of focus away from its traditional politics. If BJP had won this kind of victory in late 1980s ( the 1989 election) or 1990s then yes, it would have warranted this kind of perception.
However, what can be rightly claimed is the fact that Indian population is ready to overlook the past stigma in case if the candidate in question has appealed to them with respect to his ‘positive” qualities.
BJP’s core is hard-line but the victory has been achieved by not converting the moderate part of Indian electorate as hard-line but by repackaging the party and giving it a softer image.
In my opinion, it was an oversell but nevertheless it does not mean that communalism was being accepted by more people.
Moreover, the India of today is also trying to wriggle itself out of protectionism and quotas. Many are feeling that they will miss the opportunity to reap the full advantages of globalization if the economic protectionism and quotas ( for minorities) continue. BJP’s success is also due to this factor.
Of course as BJP rises, the communal elements within the party also will become more prominent. Whether they will become too dominant is yet to be seen.
Yes, some concerns are valid but the kind of inferences which many of my Pakistani friends are making ( and getting pleasure out of them) are highly far-fetched and are not based on any objective analysis.
Moreover, it is a matter of common sense that people choose among alternates and if the incumbents fail to deliver then viable alternates take up their place.
Regarding secularism, to say that one victory has some how or the other eradicated secularism or has made India into a religious state ( and particularly when BJP fought this election not on Hinduvta) is once again stretching it too much.
A secular state can have communal parties. It is the constitution and the way executive behaves, which would actually demonstrate how secular a state is. We have to wait and see before giving sweeping verdicts.
With respect to TNT, I would like to say that it will not be either rejected due to break up of Pakistan or nor it would be proven right if India has decided to vote for Modi. Tomorrow if India decides to vote Modi out then would we be saying that TNT has again been rejected? In short, election victories, due to their constantly alternating nature do not endorse or reject complex ideas like TNT.
In my humble opinion, Pakistanis instead of taking false comforts in an election result, are better advised to look into their own house and set it in order. For too long we have justified every problem by looking for places having similar problems. This mindset is inherently flawed as it stops us from actually taking steps in solving the problems.
In short, we really need to grow up here
The author is one of the co-editors of PTH and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org