Parallel Bigotry: Community Exclusiveness in India and Pakistan – The Friday Times
A prominent German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, defined enlightenment as “the emergence of humanity from self-imposed immaturity”. Enlightenment is the first step to emancipation, the highest human virtue and a promised status that humanity can achieve in the process of being human.
The prerequisite for this very process is to define and interpret human dignity. Human dignity can be defined as the mutual respect between human beings to accept, recognize and tolerate “predestined human differences”. Predestined human differences are race, color, sex, caste, creed and religion. The growth of human dignity can be measured by the parameter of its inclusiveness and pluralism towards such differences over the selection of which humans have no control or authority.
Ironically, the contemporary world is divided between East and West. The latter has learned more lessons, relatively, for developing a humane society that can build consensus to address common and shared goals.
These common and shared goals have contributed to a peaceful coexistence between the different groups. The Dark Ages, caste and class violence, religious brutality and sectarian intolerance were the malignant diseases that culminated in World War I and World War II. The horrific events of the world wars had compelled the West to shift its focus from low and self-imposed differences to the dignified way of addressing common goals. The product was “The European Union.
The miracle behind the unprecedented success of the EU has been to create a “valueless” system beyond social, cultural, religious and congenital discrimination.
However, the East has been passive and slow to learn lessons that could raise the moral and social standards of their societies to create fair conditions for peaceful coexistence. In the East, India and Pakistan are exciting and revealing case studies; both states failed their citizens to provide them with an environment where they could learn to raise their moral standards to get rid of their hatred towards predestined differences and self-imposed immaturities.
Both countries, India and Pakistan, had freed themselves from the colonial rule of Britain. The partition of Indo-Pakistan was designed on religious and community bases – the Hindu majority in India and the Muslim majority in Pakistan. Therefore, the two newly created states needed the slogans and mantras of “nationalism”.
The entrenched doctrines of religions compelled their establishments to develop spheres of nationalism based on religious and communal lines. They used religion as the main instrument to define the future discourse of “would be Indo-Pakistani nationalism”. It was the beginning of the threat that would afflict both states for generations to come. He had exploited the internal fault lines that were already tearing their societies apart.
However, the founders of both states, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Gandhi, had dreamed of establishing societies based on tolerance and inclusiveness. Stanley Wolpert quoted in his book Jinna from Pakistan“Now I think we should keep before us our ideal, and you will find that over time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will 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.
The founder of Pakistan was explicit in his rhetoric to create a Pakistani society where the common goals of peace and prosperity would be addressed and implemented rather than tackling communal hatred and religious differences.
Similarly, Gandhi had expressed his vision of the future India “I will go for an India, in which the poorest will feel that it is their country, an India in which there will be no upper class and lower; [and above all] an India in which all communities will live in perfect harmony.
After anticipating the brutal hatred between Muslims and Hindus in India, he said, “I am striving to become the best cement between the two communities. In nature, there is a fundamental unity that runs through all diversity. Religions are no exception to natural law. They are given to humanity to hasten the realization of fundamental unity. The need is not the establishment of a universal religion, but a greater need to develop mutual respect for different religions.
The vision of the two founding fathers was clear: mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.
However, the parallel religion-dominated “deep state” factor had forgotten the lessons of the terrorist leaders and used communal hatred to promote their nationalist agendas.
At the top level, both countries abused communal differences to escalate hatred, culminating in the all-out wars between India and Pakistan. Pakistan and India fought large-scale wars that resulted in brutal bloodshed, which catalyzed communal animosity between the two countries.
In addition, cross-border infiltrations, border disputes, bombings and terrorism remained on the agenda. The two countries, since their inception, have spared no time in harming each other’s economic and political interests in regional and global forums. This inherent hatred towards each other has had a terrible impact on both countries. They have spent more and more on defense and advanced military equipment, even though people on both sides are impoverished and most citizens live in poverty.
It may seem that the two states have learned nothing from the experience of the world, especially the Western world, that you can fight for thousands of years and that ultimately the states must learn to respect the interests and objectives of the other. However, state-to-state hatred and fanaticism have transformed in the lower levels of societies. The spread of hatred and bigotry in the lower strata of society has become the Achilles’ heel of both countries.
Unfortunately, the parallel religious and national apparatus had failed miserably in the face of the pluralistic vision of their founding fathers. Pseudo sentiments of false nationalism embedded in religious and communal hatred quickly permeated the lower socio-political and socio-economic levels. The transformations have intensified the fracture and segregation in Indian and Pakistani societies.
Both societies failed miserably to safeguard the rights of minorities and oppressed classes. Dissenting voices are subject to betrayal and blasphemy. It is clear from history that societies and states can derive short-term political goals from the politics of divide and exclusivity; however, this phenomenon would prove fatal to the culture’s long-term growth and development.
Additionally, societies with more potential to tolerate different ideologies and communities will have more growth potential. In the middle of the 17th century, at the end of the religious wars in Europe, an effort was made to lower the horizon of politics so that politics was not reduced to the imposition of a particular religion on the population. .
Instead, it would allow people of various faiths to live together under the system of tolerance, which is the universal value of human dignity. Nevertheless, the primary responsibility of a State is to protect its dignity by guaranteeing the rule of law. Unfortunately, the two states have not been able to learn these lessons since their inception.
Speaking at an international literature festival in Berlin on October 5, 2022, prominent political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that Prime Minister Modi of India is transforming a country that received a liberal constitution and a liberal framework by its founders, Gandhi and Nehru. India under Modi is moving towards a narrow understanding of Hinduism, which is unfortunate because not everyone in India is Hindu. There are billions of Muslims living in India. Therefore, the liberal framework cannot tolerate biased and exclusive cultures.
The meanings of liberal here differ from conventional definitions of “liberal,” which means a free market economy and less state control. Liberal here means a tolerant and inclusive environment where all segments of society can live together without discrimination or violence.
An American political philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, argued in her book on India, The Clash within Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future, that if we are to understand the impact of religious nationalism on democratic values, India provides a profound and disturbing example.
The events of genocidal violence against Muslims and other minorities clearly show how the ideals of respectful pluralism and the rule of law have been threatened by religious ideology. Radical religious nationalism and the upper level have crippled the peace, pluralism and communal harmony of the lower segments of Indian society. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian National Congress, recently visited the community-polarized state of Karnataka, where he appeared holding the hand of a hijab-clad schoolgirl. Jawed Naqvi, Dawn’s Delhi correspondent, argued that it was a stunning picture of Nehruvian and Gandhian India.
Similarly, Pakistani society is made up of many tribal, linguistic and sectarian groups. In such diverse social groups, only policies of tolerance, harmony and inclusion could ensure the peace and prosperity of Pakistani society. Contrary to this, Pakistan has been severely dominated by the politics of hatred, conflict and exclusivity among these socio-political groups.
There are generally three layers of communal violence in Pakistan: religious violence, sectarian violence and ethnic violence. Religious minorities in Pakistan have been brutally persecuted by the tyranny of the majority. The misuse of blasphemy laws has also catalyzed this violence against religious minorities.
Sectarian violence between different sects has condemned Pakistani society with horrific hatred and violence. The marginalization of religious and sectarian minorities is far from over.
The third layer of hatred and violence is ethnic animosity. For political reasons, hatred between different ethnic groups has escalated to murder and separatism. The genocide of the Hazara community and the massacre of the Baloch people explicitly reflected the ethnic division of Pakistani society. Ethnic violence rooted in the roots of provincial hatred is gradually adding to the spiral of communal violence.
A renowned American theologian and religious reformer, Reinhold Niebuhr, once said, “We misjudge people when they are ethnically and religiously different from us.” Making judgments on religious, ethnic and sectarian grounds is pretentious and a symptom of an unhealthy society.
Both Pakistan and India need to harness religious fanaticism at the state level to create a balanced and pluralistic society that could protect the rights of every individual without discrimination. Ordinary people in both countries need peace and harmony. Peace and the unity of the people ensure the collective destiny of any State.
Suppose a nation needs to survive and prosper. In this case, she must adapt the enlightenment process to recognize destined differences, which may be the only path to human dignity and the virtue of emancipation.