There is rarely a day when either Pakistan or its ‘all-weather friend’, China – or both – does not hog Indian media attention. The export of Jihadi terrorism into India and its consequential impact on Indian security; Chinese support to Pakistan as an instrument to weaken and keep India off-balance (contrary to the recent lunatic pronouncements of the BJP’s entertainer-maverick Subramaniam Swamy). The Pakistan-China cross is a burden India is condemned to carry, the challenge for India is to make sure that the price for Islamabad and for China is disproportionately high.
Nothing comes easy on the often vexatious journey from soft to hard state, from a minor power afraid of its own shadow to a greater power assertive of its appropriate weight. Kashmir jihadis challenge Indian authority; this is being met with quantum increases in robust response. The days of pussyfooting are clearly over. The penny belatedly dropped for an India faced by the reality that is engaged in war without the formal declaration. The global Diaspora of Kashmir’s Hindu Pandits, many of whom were driven from their ancestral homeland by the Valley’s emboldened jihadis, have welcomed India’s current hard-bitten Kashmir policy.
On separate set of this revolving stage, news of the kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam and marriage to Muslim men, of two Hindu girls - Reena and Raveena by name and barely in their teens - in Pakistan’s Sindh province, which has a substantial Hindu minority. Several years ago, their parlous plight was taken up by the Catholic Bishop of Lahore, as Hindu Sindhis lacked proper representation. Unable to get any redress, the Bishop took his own life, His cortege was followed to its place of rest by Sindhi Hindus for whose rights the Bishop gave voice. Such is the broader canvas to this harrowing tale.
The distress of the minority Christian minority, concentrated in Punjab, is just as dire. The tyranny of Pakistan’s notorious and repugnant blasphemy laws have taken heavy toll of Christian lives and property. A mere Muslim complaint without supportive evidence, of A Christian man, woman or minor allegedly blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed or Islam’s holy writ.
These cases have been well documented and remain in the public sphere.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj issued a note verbale – a verbal diplomatic protest – which elicited a crusty response from Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chowdhary, that this was an internal matter. However, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised an immediate investigation of the tragic affair. Such incidents have continued with impunity.
Such developments must be placed in a wider context if the problem is to be fully understood. A Pakistan governor of Punjab, Salman Taeer, was assassinated by his security guard simply for advocating a more liberal interpretation of blasphemy legislation. Bar associations across the country were in hysterical mode in defence of the assassin.
The most recent case of murder for blasphemy was a Muslim academic, Khalid Hameed, at the Government Sadiq Egerton College in Punjab. His alleged crime was his proposal to hold a mixed gender event in his English Department. He was knifed to death for this ‘un-Islamic event by a student. The bereaved son of the professor, Waleed Khan, has lashed out the government for its inaction. ‘My father was employed by the government of Pakistan. The incident happened inside the premises of the college but the government has neither shown any concern nor expressed any reservation against the incident,’ throwing doubt on the ‘promise of tackling extremism and radicalization.’
However, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has not the slightest qualm about China’s brutal crackdown on the Muslim Uighers of Xinjiang. No blasphemy on China’s part. This indignity is swallowed meekly by Pakistani jihadis and their patrons in Islamabad.
American concerns for violations of human rights, press freedom, gender equality and much else that dilate pupils and nostrils in righteous indignation of the great and good in Washington have been part of thel package of regime change abroad. The Modi regime, for reasons of geopolitics, is increasingly perceived through a glass, darkly. Its studied refusal to participate in the Trump administration’s capricious crusades in almost every continent has become frustrating for the self-appointed leaders of the ‘free world. The following passage from the recent US State Department report reads: ‘With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate , self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify and even threaten physical reprisals.’
This surely is an apt summary of the domestic American scene. The US mainstream press and TV channels dance to the orchestrated rhythms of administrations in power. National enemies are identified, pilloried, abused and their countries invaded, if need be, for the salvation of its benighted citizenry. Whistleblowers on US torture chambers and practices are tried and imprisoned for treason. With the Mueller report exonerating President Trump of collusion with Russia, where does that leave aspirants to the Pulitzer Prize, in the American mainstream press?
Noam Chomsky, the iconic American thinker and academic, recently gave a series of lectures entitled ‘Requiem for the American Dream.’ People everywhere should read Professor Chomsky’s ennobling words in meditative tranquility. .Professor Chomsky dissects clinically the calcified arteries of contemporary American: vast concentrations of wealth in diminishing hands; the deepening abuse of executive power; sprawling inner city slums, hubs of crime syndicates, racial conflict, indulgent gun laws, declining standards of primary and secondary education and crumbling infrastructure cheek by jowl with ballooning defence budgets. Freedom from want is as elusive as freedom from fear.
In pursuit of the mirage of limitless security – the right to impose its vision of global order on the rest of humanity, the US has brought calamity to itself and catastrophic humanitarian disasters in lands across Southeast Asia and the Great Middle East. The American mainstream media have been (and continue to be) accessories in these crimes against humanity. The country’s vaunted think tanks are septic tanks. The present US administration has lauded Haiti for its democracy when want, hunger, malnutrition, disease swell the ugly reality. America’s penchant for corrupt client dictators in clover – Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Rioz Mont in Guatemala, a litany of shame..
The Indian body politic has myriad disfiguring warts, from caste, gender inequality, to ethnic and religious conflicts etc. As a society in transition on a grand scale there is, alas, a combustible cohabitation of the deeply regressive and visionary enlightened. However, the liberating interventions of India’s Supreme Court, have upheld freedom of thought and speech in films and the printed page. India would have been in dire straits without its judgments on critical issues at critical moments. Voting in India; its is a public exercise overseen and monitored at every stage by the country’s Election Commission. They are well organized and scrupulously overseen. There are markedly fewer felonies around balloting than there are in the United States. It is not the critiques of Indian politics and society that are objectionable; just that the odour of sanctity, of wearying double talk stink to high heaven. .
IPL curtain-raiser to World Cup
We are in the early days of the Twenty/20 Indian Premier League, after a dull and unpromising start by last year’s champions, the Chennai Super Kings versus Royal Challengers Bangalore. The following day the tournament came truly alive, when the Kolkata Knight Riders, emerged from the jaws of defeat against star-studded Sunrisers Hyderabad, whose Australian star batsman hit a memorable 85, lost against the odds to Kolkata Knight Riders, who pulled off a miraculous victory, thanks largely to Andrei Russell’s thunderous hitting, ably supported by teenage sensation Shubman Gill, with the ground laid earlier by upcoming Nitin Rana’s fluent 69. Later that evening, Delhi Capitals obliterated Bombay Indians, due largely to Risabh Pant’s blitzed 78 in 27 balls.
Finally, the Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings XI was one of high drama with the run out of the Rajasthan star Josh Buttler, the circumstances of his dismissal likely to be the talking point for hours, days, perhaps years. Rajasthan who should have cruised home, withered on the vine and lost. Manwhile Royal Challengers Bangalore lost their second consecutive tie, this time to Bombay Indians. The brittle Challengers are unlikely to go far in the tournament.