India and Pakistan’s finger pointing battle on discrimination

It seems that India is capitalising on the vandalism at Nankana Sahib Gurdwara and highlighting the plight of religious minorities such as Sikhs in Pakistan, which is arguably a problem Pakistan must address, to smother Pakistan’s fight against India’s discrimination with hypocrisy thereby discounting any statement or protest by the country.

India

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has issued a statement condemning the vandalism of Nankana Sahib Gurdwara. “We are concerned at the vandalism carried out at the revered Nankana Sahib Gurdwara (in Pakistan) today. Members of the minority Sikh community have been subjected to acts of violence in the holy city of Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji,” the ministry statement said.

The statement added, “India strongly condemns these wanton acts of destruction and desecration of the holy place. We call upon the Government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure the safety, security, and welfare of the members of the Sikh community,”

We have observed a nuanced change in foreign relations between Pakistan and India. Two countries that historically fell back on the narrative of national security within their borders and ignored the persecution of demographic minorities on the other side are now tangled in a tit-for-tat pointing fingers at the religious intolerance that plagues the other side. Following the domination of a Hindutva agenda adopted by BJP, Pakistan has taken every opportunity to remind the world of the validity of it’s birthing ideology: the two nation theory, that dictates the necessity for separate homelands for Hindus and Muslims.

Given the damaging impact of Pakistan questioning India’s claim to democracy on internal stability and foreign relations, India is reciprocating the blow by detailing any atrocities in Pakistan mirroring those in their own borders.

On 5 August, India revoked a controversial constitutional provision, Article 370, that grants India-administered Kashmir special status, as promised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its 2019 election manifesto. According to Article 370, Indian-administered Kashmir shall hold a special status within the country, granting it partial autonomy, including a separate flag, its own constitution, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defense, and communications.

Hindus were reconstructed as a homogenous in-group, with the principle of “one nation, one people, and one culture”. Hindutva’s social imaginary fosters the exclusion of the Muslim minority in India. Guarding the ‘Hindu nation’ against the spread to Islam becomes the basic concern for Hindu nationalist organizations

Experts have speculated BJP’s foreword intervention in Kashmir was to manipulate the demographic structure in the Muslim majority state in order to achieve electoral success in region, agency over it’s internal matters, and an upper hand against neighbouring Pakistan that has fought for the independence of ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’ since 1947 which has declared the region as a disputed territory.

However, the intervention in Kashmir is reflective of Modi’s guiding ideology which has taken root in several states across the country since. Hindutva illustrates an identity rooted in the supremacy of Hindus and isolates and views other religions, like Islam, as inferior. Its notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ were increasingly taken up by Hindu nationalism, expressed in the ideas of Hindutva, and used to redefine India as a Hindu rashtra. Hindus were reconstructed as a homogenous in-group, with the principle of “one nation, one people, and one culture”. Hindutva’s social imaginary fosters the exclusion of the Muslim minority in India. Guarding the ‘Hindu nation’ against the spread to Islam becomes the basic concern for Hindu nationalist organizations.

In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September, immediately after the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir, Imran Khan took it upon himself to educate the global community on the misconceptions surrounding Islam, and the terror that will likely follow Modi’s radical agenda.

Read more: Imran Khan: A Public Hero After UNGA Speech scared Opposition in delaying Protest

His speech said, “Mr. President; I have to explain what the RSS is. Mr. Modi is a life member of RSS. An organisation inspired by Hitler and Mussolini. They believed in racial superiority the same way that the Nazi’s believed in the supremacy of the Aryan race.

This is open knowledge. RSS believes in the racial superiority of Hindus. It was hatred for the Muslims & Christians. They believe that the golden age of Hinduism halted b/c of Muslim rule. They openly stated hatred for Muslims and Christians…

The hate ideology allowed RSS goons under Modi’s CM ship in Gujarat to butcher 2000 Muslims. The Congress party gave a statement that terrorists were being trained in RSS Camps. Modi was not allowed to travel to the US…

The way Kashmiris are caged like animals in homes. Their political leadership arrested, even pro India ones. 13,000 boys picked up & taken to unknown locations. Youngsters blinded with pellets. This will only lead to further radicalisation”

India hit back at Imran Khan’s UN General Assembly address, saying his speech bordered on crudeness. The Indian representative went on to accuse Imran Khan of monopolizing the entire value chain of the terrorist industry and giving brazen and incendiary justifications for terrorism.

Modi’s attack on democracy went beyond Kashmir and dominated the Supreme Court’s actions applying to larger India.

BJP remains adamant on denying its threat to their secular constitutional ethos but if the bill was truly intended to protect minorities it would have included Muslim minorities facing persecution such as Ahmadis in Pakistan and Rohingyas in Bangladesh

In December, India’s parliament passed a bill which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It defines illegal immigrants as foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel documents, or stay beyond the permitted time. Illegal immigrants can be deported or jailed.

The new bill also amends a provision which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship.

Now there will be an exception for members of six religious minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (NRC), hard to ignore, is exclusionary in nature and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution that guarantees equality to all people under the law as it conditions citizenship on faith.

BJP remains adamant on denying its threat to their secular constitutional ethos but if the bill was truly intended to protect minorities it would have included Muslim minorities facing persecution such as Ahmadis in Pakistan and Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

This was complemented by the pan-India implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The NRC was originally an exercise exclusive to the ethnically-diverse northeastern state of Assam, where a movement against allowing any undocumented migrant, irrespective of religion, has been on for decades. Authorities in the northeastern Indian state of Assam have published a citizenship list that aims to identify genuine citizens amid fears millions could be excluded.

Read more: Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) – An Insurance Policy

A total of 31.1 million people were included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), leaving out 1.9 million people, according to a statement from the Assam government.

The CAB and NRC have caused a massive wave of protests across India leading to violent clashes between government authorities and protestors. People have documented the detention and brutality executed by state forces on those refusing to comply with the conditions set out and any Muslims in the regions in question.

Pakistan and India issued a joint statement on the matter opposing any unilateral sanctions that might complicate the situation. Imran Khan tweeted condemning the CAB saying it violated international human rights law and bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India.

Indian authorities responded criticising Pakistan’s incessant need to interfere in their internal matters while its own constitution imbibes discrimination through the presence of the blasphemy law.

In the wake of soaring tensions between Pakistan and India, and heightened religious intolerance under Modi’s government, Prime Minister took measures to induce religious harmony by welcoming Sikh’s from the other side of the border and across the world into Pakistan as the land holds historical and religious significance for said community.

The Prime Minister inaugurated the Kartarpur Corrdior in November as a gesture of goodwill.

The corridor – which is in Punjab, a region divided during the partition of British India in 1947 –  opened just days before the 550th anniversary of the birth of Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak, on 12 November.

It seems that India is capitalising on the vandalism at Nankana Sahib Gurdwara and highlighting the plight of religious minorities such as Sikhs in Pakistan, which is arguably a problem Pakistan must address, to smother Pakistan’s fight against India’s discrimination with hypocrisy thereby discounting any statement or protest by the country.

Amna Zaman is currently employed as Associate Editor at Global Village Space following her Masters of Public Policy & Governance at the University of New South Wales.

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