The current Ghazwa-e-Hind narrative and its perspective in Pakistan and India
A tragedy befell Kashmir and the Muslim world on August 5, 2019, when India revoked the autonomous status granted to Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Since 2014 and the rise of Hindutva, India has transformed from a secular state (on paper) to an exclusionist one (in practice).
The excluded being the minorities of Muslims, Christians, Dalits and anyone attempting to raise their voice against the fringe ideology of Hindutva. From the mob lynchings of Muslims to the forceful conversions of non-Hindus to Hinduism; from the removal of objective news editors and anchors to the killings of reporters; from the appointment of anti-Muslim ministers to Muslim MPs in parliament becoming endangered; from the deaths of a plethora of Kashmiris by Indian state forces to complete communication blackouts in the valley. All of the preceding has been facilitated by the BJP overtly or surreptitiously. The Hindutva environment that they have incubated has become a bane for non-Hindu minorities.
“They’re trying to crush our village. They did crush our village”
“They’ve unleashed savagery here”
Kashmir man tells of severe torture by Indian soldiers [on video] despite threats against sharing his ordeal with media pic.twitter.com/3M5YHqgX3V
— Baba Umar (@BabaUmarr) September 17, 2019
Due to India’s unrelenting actions in mainland India, animosity against Pakistan, and more recently their misstep in IOK, the bells of war are ringing yet again on both sides of the border. Such an environment is a provocateur for nuclear rhetoric, jingoism, and warmongering. Therefore, India’s misadventurism has led to “Ghazwa-e-Hind” and the discourse of war coming to the foreground.
India and the BJP, obviously, discern the Ghazwa as extremely negative. The BJP, trapped in the past, purposefully inculcate an environ of fear within the Hindu populace regarding Ghazwa-e-Hind.
According to Google Trends, on August 5, 2019 (after the revocation of Kashmir’s special status), the term “Ghazwa e Hind” began surging in popularity worldwide – it peaked with a ranking of 100 (the highest possible score) on August 17, 2019. In Pakistan, too, the ranking steadily increased after the first week of August. The ranking peaked in Pakistan on August 24 and reached 95 on August 30. In India, the rise was not as significant as in Pakistan, but it did proliferate during the same period – it peaked with 100 on August 15. This clearly indicates that after August’s debacle, “Ghazwa-e-Hind” has piqued the interest of Pakistanis and Indians.
It is true that in the past Ghazwa-e-Hind, did not enjoy mainstream popularity in Pakistan due to the term being hijacked and propagated by fundamentalist groups. This was the period, pre-9/11, when Pakistan used proxies to instigate violence in IOK. However, in the wake of September 11, the country heavily clamped down on proxies due to international pressure. Unfortunately, the BJP establishment has not been able to come to terms with this.
Not only are they actively using proxies in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also have continued to falsely accuse Pakistan of supporting terrorism whenever they can – the most recent example being falsely accusing Pakistan for the Pulwama attack. With regards to Ghazwa-e-Hind, objectively, no country would want to hear a prophecy that presages its demise but the BJP, media, and Bollywood actively demonize the Ghazwa by showcasing it as a Pakistan-supported Islamic terrorist’s pipedream.
Depending on whom you ask in Pakistan today, however, “Ghazwa-e-Hind” can espouse optimistic feelings in many, while apathy in others – but there has generally been a positive shift in the Ghazwa’s overall outlook (discussed ahead). Since the world and the Pakistani people today are aware of the brutalities the BJP are conducting in Kashmir and other parts of India, Ghazwa-e-Hind is starting to resonate in the average Pakistani. They see India as an occupation state, which has killed thousands of Kashmiris; a state that attacked Pakistan post-Pulwama; that has tried to isolate Pakistan diplomatically; and one that has made the life of Muslims in India treacherous.
Due to this antagonistic behavior, the average Pakistani sees war with India as legitimate as Pakistan is defending not only its interests but also of the Muslims in India. In other words, the Ghazwa or war generally is being perceived as a reactionary step against Indian misadventures. In my opinion, this has popularized a modern-day Ghazwa-e-Hind at most and informed the unaware of the Ghazwa at the very least in Pakistan. This is not to say that extremist and ultra-conservative elements in the country do not anchor on Ghazwa-e-Hind anymore, but only that the Ghazwa is being regarded by many in the general public as a justified war against an India that wants to end Pakistan.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan has declared Ghazwa-e-Hind, says Jihad is a pillar of Islam. pic.twitter.com/3Y5rXb3fWA
— NayaDaur Media (@nayadaurpk) September 5, 2019
While it is true that most TV channels in Pakistan shy away from discussing Ghazwa-e-Hind, a few major personalities openly deliberate on its arrival. For example, Pakistan’s current Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan, publically discusses the Ghazwa on talk shows stating that Indian barbarities against Muslims will lead to the prophesized war. Orya Maqbool Jan, a popular television personality and columnist, is also a vocal proponent of a modern-day Ghazwa-e-Hind.
His show, Harf e Raaz is widely viewed by Pakistanis on TV and YouTube. He also has a personal YouTube channel, which garners many viewers as well – his video on Ghazwa-e-Hind uploaded on August 13, 2019 has already amassed around 300,000 views. Other famous personalities like Dr. Shahid Masood have also discoursed on Ghazwa-e-Hind and Naimatullah Shah Wali (RH).
It must be noted that none of the above personalities are extremist in any sense and do not promote war but merely state that Pakistan must be ready as India’s intentions are insidious. Another extremely popular Pakistani YouTube channel named “Haqeeqat TV” (2.3 million subscribers) which has become a prime source for behind-the-scenes news for many Pakistanis has opined on Ghazwa as well. He and many of his subscribers recognize India’s belligerence and are ardent supporters of a modern-day Ghazwa-e-Hind to protect Pakistan. His various videos on Ghazwa-e-Hind and Naimatullah Shah Wali (RH) have around 500,000 to 2 million views on YouTube. Therefore the Ghazwa’s recent discourse primarily on social media and its bourgeoning momentum are an indicator of how many Pakistanis are rebuffing India and grasping onto it as a ray of hope.
The Pakistani government (which has generally not raised the slogans of Ghazwa-e-Hind) and the media’s tone is that it does not want war but if pushed by India, will reply with full force. Before the current escalating tensions, Pakistan on a myriad of occasions attempted to placate stresses between both countries. Imran Khan, sick of the vicissitudes in Pak-India relations wanted to foster people-to-people contact and facilitate greater trade but India spurned all such calls. Khan also pushed for the Kartarpur Corridor as it would hopefully ease tensions – even now when both countries are on high alert, efforts on the corridor are ongoing with 90% work complete. However, unfortunately, India is ostensibly immutable in its stubbornness.
India and the BJP, obviously, discern the Ghazwa as extremely negative. The BJP, trapped in the past, purposefully inculcate an environ of fear within the Hindu populace regarding Ghazwa-e-Hind. This is a classic fear-mongering tactic that far-right Hindu groups such as the RSS (and the BJP) employ – one other example of fear-mongering is how Hindutva groups demand population control laws due to the long-held belief that Indian Muslims will overtake Hindus in numbers.
Irony is that while India wants to portray Pakistan as an extremist state, it is the BJP that has mainstreamed the terrorist Hindutva ideology, while Pakistan is only guilty of electing a moderate leader who has wanted cordial relations.
It is notable how Pakistan’s government and media relatively do not fixate on Ghazwa-e-Hind at all compared to their Indian counterparts. It is indeed India’s own dual actions that have allowed the proliferation of “Ghazwa-e-Hind” – the first, as already mentioned, are their atrocities against Pakistanis, Kashmiris, and other Muslims in India, while the second is them propagandizing that Pakistan is a terrorist state and will launch Ghazwa-e-Hind to convert Hindus to Islam.
India leaves out the part that it is Hindutva aggression that is causing a renaissance in the Ghazwa’s popularity in Kashmir and Pakistan but rather displays it as one of the many Pakistani “conspiracies” against India. Therefore, the vilifying of the Ghazwa is a small part of India’s “Pakistan is behind the instability in IOK” discourse. This narrative sells well in India especially in the Hindutva circles – however, international news agencies recognize that the current iteration of the Kashmiri protests is “homegrown” and not a Pakistani gambit. Even objective Indian analysts and authors have appreciated the same overtones – Indian author David Devadas, for example, who recently wrote a book on Kashmir, states that the current generation of Kashmiri youths have “seen violence and instability from the time they were born,”.
#Muharram is a holy month for #Shia Muslims. The #IndianArmy's presence in #Kashmir prevents #Muslims from practicing their faith freely, as they did before #Article370 was scrapped. The #Hindutva politics of #Modi & #BJP invites more extremism in Kashmir. pic.twitter.com/7DaH5mIEwf
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) September 16, 2019
Let us examine the narrative building conducted by India. Current BJP minister Giriraj Singh among others is on record for equating the Ghazwa with extremism and has shockingly called popular Indian actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Kamal Haasan who have raised their voice for Kashmir as “agents of Ghazwa-e-Hind”. This is another BJP and Hindu right-wing strategy where any dissenting voice is immediately labeled as “anti-India” and they are told to “go live in Pakistan”. Vikram Sood, the Indian spy agency RAW’s ex-chief, wrote an article in late 2018 titled “Warning bells: If US troops exit Kabul, and the Taliban holds sway, Pakistan could unleash ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ against India”. He stated if American leaves Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban will declare it a victory of faith over another superpower.
He continues “This will be enough encouragement to unleash its [Pakistan’s] assiduously nurtured India-specific Ghazwa-e-Hind battalions against India.” Ajit Doval, the current hawkish Indian National Security Advisor, also loves to antagonize Pakistan. After Pakistan’s justified response when India revoked the Kashmiri articles, he tweeted that Pakistani machinations include conquering India, and Kashmir by conducting Ghazwa-e-Hind – falsely implying that Pakistan is the aggressor state.
Quite interestingly, Sacred Games, an enormously popular Indian show on Netflix has recently used Ghazwa-e-Hind as a major plot point. Season 2 which aired on August 15 cost an astounding 100 crore Indian rupees to create. This season includes an extremist named Shahid Khan, a Pakistani, who has created his own terror cell to usher in Ghazwa-e-Hind. His master plan is to detonate a nuclear bomb in India. The Ghazwa is clearly shown as a Pakistani-Islamic terror plot. Coincidence or not, the release of season 2 just 10 days after the abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir and subsequently the resurgence of “Ghazwa-e-Hind” is uncanny.
It is no secret that the Indian media today is a shell of its former self. Articles on the Indian media’s abysmal state under the BJP are manifold with Reuters, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, openDemocracy, DW and others voicing similar sentiment. Inherently anti-Pakistan, the Indian media is an epicenter for BJP propaganda. This is not to say that the Pakistani media is a paragon of journalistic virtue, but in comparison, it is the lesser of two evils. After the Pulwama incident, the Indian media was heavily ridiculed by many international news agencies for lying, warmongering, and jingoism against Pakistan.
— Rizwan Hameed Ibad (@Rizwanibad) September 10, 2019
Al Jazeera called out the Indian media’s warmongering after Pulwama stating that the media “descends into unjournalistic ranting”. After Pakistan destroyed two Indian jets in response to India’s invasion of its territorial sovereignty, the Indian propaganda machine began a face-saving mission but to no avail – Pakistan’s narrative was corroborated by The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and Reuters. This same Indian media, which harbors such malignant sentiments regarding Pakistan, also, without surprise, actively demonizes Ghazwa-e-Hind. The media myopically fixates on the Ghazwa by only linking it to fundamental clerics and Islamist groups. Indian news channels like Zee News have conducted reports and have pushed the very same narrative.
They even falsely portray moderate clerics and analysts merely discussing Ghazwa-e-Hind as a sign of Pakistani “aggression”. These moderate clerics do not state that Pakistan should attack India without rhyme or reason, as this would be un-Islamic and furthermore a political faux pas. The Indian media also invites anti-Pakistan journalists like Tareq Fatah to their channels who perennially bash Pakistan and also vilify the Ghazwa by calling it an extremist Pakistani stratagem. This propaganda makes Hindus uneasy and further untrustful of Muslims in Pakistan and more importantly in India – this Muslim-Hindu schism is extremely integral for the future of the BJP’s “Hindu Rashtra”.
See this https://t.co/FlFKh4nK64
— Syeda Saba Orient (@SabaOrient) September 10, 2019
irony is that while India wants to portray Pakistan as an extremist state, it is the BJP that has mainstreamed the terrorist Hindutva ideology, while Pakistan is only guilty of electing a moderate leader who has wanted cordial relations.
In conclusion, talk of the Ghazwa, whether one believes or disbelieves, has amplified across the subcontinent due to Indian actions. Furthermore, perspectives on the Ghazwa being reactionary and for the freedom of Kashmir are increasing in Pakistan, while its perception by Indians as a Pakistani extremist ploy remains unchanged but more pronounced. The question is will this eventually lead to war?
Sarmad Ishfaq writes as a researcher for Lahore Centre for Peace Research. Sarmad has several publications in international journals and magazines in the fields of Terrorism/Counterterrorism and International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy