Seventy-five years of independence for the arch-foes: India and Pakistan. A diamond jubilee since parting ways in 1947. In the name of Muslim separatism, Hindu hostility, or divergence of ideological vantage points – the causes are still debatable. Ironically, the forefathers of either nation would probably fail to recognize their respective abode today. Be it Mohammad Ali Jinnah or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the visionary Allama Mohammad Iqbal or the nationalist Jawaharlal Nehru.
The culmination of their determined struggles looks a lot more dismal and bizarre than they could have possibly envisaged in the mid-20th century. Established on the foundation of an anti-colonial mindset, both nations are still enslaved, not by foreign supremacists but by the purveyors of extremist ideology – sadly one of the few factors unifying the South Asian duo.
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Seventy-five years forward
Both countries fervently celebrated their independence from British rule or from each other, I’m still not entirely sure. Yet, we have forlorn the meaning of nationality over the years. The spirit of sovereign respect, while casually chanted in political speeches, betrays the essence of egalitarian coexistence that faded somewhere in history. Today, India is not the secular, humanist haven envisioned by Pundit Nehru. It is not a symbol of freedom, peace, and tolerance conceived by Mahatma Gandhi. Similarly, Pakistan is not a representation of Islamic ideology, a state of refuge for the minorities championed by Quaid-e-Azam.
It is not a sanctuary for the oppressed hailed in poetries by Iqbal and Hali. Today, India has transitioned into a radical Hindu state oppressive towards Muslims, barbaric to its women, and intolerant towards dissenters and critics. Pakistan has followed suit by shaping a selective Islamist culture of pseudo-Muslim values, terrorizing women and children, and subjecting an obscure code of blasphemy that suppresses commoners below the core tenets of humanity.
Seventy-five years of proud identity, somehow unblemished even after barricading innocent Kashmiris in the name of Hindu supremacy. Unfettered by consistent violence in the name of blasphemy. Decades after decades, killings for allegedly slaughtering cows or marrying a Hindu girl. Years were spent lynching and bludgeoning for assumedly burning the Holy Quran. Both countries claim the adoption of modern values, technological advancement, and the promotion of education. Yet one still adheres to the regressive ethnographic caste system. The other still implicitly regards its shite minority as a rebellious fraction of Islam, and still fails to curb traditional brutality against its Hazara community. Both nations make notable efforts to register concern for embattled countries like Ukraine. Yet both refuse to address the fundamentalist tendencies miring their own dominion.
A woeful reality for either nation, proudly celebrating independence, when a third of their women are subjected to domestic and physical violence each year. India is a nation based on Hindu beliefs personifying women in the embodiment of the goddess Durga. Pakistan is a Muslim nation believing in the virtue and exalted status of women taught by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Yet both countries supersede each other in the desecration of their women. Delhi has consistently ranked as one of the global epicenters of gang rapes and sexual harassment. On the other hand, Karachi sets a shameful example by averaging 100 rapes every 24 hours since 2008.
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Shockingly, these statistics don’t capture the frightening reality
We witnessed a glimpse when India set an embarrassing precedent on its 75th anniversary by setting rapists free in the name of ‘good behavior’. Rapists were convicted of raping a pregnant Muslim woman, right in front of her infant, after slaughtering her entire family in the Gujarat riots. They were greeted with sweets and adulation while their hapless victim, still trying to cope with her horrific trauma, watched and questioned her freedom, independence, and right to justice.
But rapists are routinely set free in Pakistan as well. Often because the victim was brutally raped and butchered that the perpetrators could not be indicted. Even when apprehended, the victims are painfully accused of inviting attention when traveling late at night or supposedly dressing provocatively. Such is the absolute mockery of freedom guaranteed and celebrated each year.
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We have a similar language, a comparable culture, and a shared historical narrative. Yet, in the acerbity of our ethnoreligious animosity, we somehow always overlook our common denominators. Bigotry in the form of patriotism; savagery in the guise of honor. Three-quarters of a century has passed, and we have jointly pandered lower and lower on the scale of humanity while vying to one-up each other in diplomacy. Our ancestors sacrificed everything to birth this free world identity we have inherited. But the sad truth is that if they were to choose in hindsight, I believe they would have preferred British subjugation over independence.
The writer is currently working as a writer for South Asia Magazine and a columnist for Modern Diplomacy – a European Think Tank. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.