Monthly Archives: May 2014
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
With about 814.5 million eligible voters, India is voting for the Lok Sabha elections. It has a multiparty system with approximately 50 regional parties, including two major national parties: the INC (Indian National Congress) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). Besides these two national parties, the newly emerged Indian political party, the APP (Aam Aadmi Party), formally came into being on November, 26, 2012. Interestingly, it won 28 out of the 70 seats in 2013’s Delhi Legislative Elections, leaving behind the Indian National Congress and becoming the second largest party.
Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate and the leader of Bharatiya Janata Party, is looking for a marginal win in the mammoth general elections of India. The polls indicate that the BJP is likely to win, but it is seemingly impossible for it to attain a majority, or 272 seats, in the elections. Therefore, it is said that Narendra Modi may become India’s next Prime Minister with the help of a coalition.
“The 2014 Indian elections are important as these will indicate a swift but critical turn in the nature of India’s state and society. On the one hand, a vote away from the Indian National Congress is challenging poor politics of an old party with hereditary politics. On the other hand, this is about India turning towards the right-wing, just like other states in South Asia or even the world,” said Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a well known Pakistani Political Analyst, further adding: “What is noticeable in Pakistan is actually lack of interest in the Indian elections. No one is concerned about Narendra Modi or the changes that may take place as a result. It is as if India does not exist.”
Many analysts are of the opinion that if the hardline Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi were to become India’s next Prime Minister, he, then instead of getting tougher with Pakistan, will follow his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee who developed close ties with Pakistan. Therefore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also seems to be unworried and looks forward to having close ties with Narendra Modi. Additionally, former BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee not only initiated Pak-India bus diplomacy but also signed a 1999 peace declaration in Lahore. Amazingly, we saw more “ups” than “downs” in relations at the time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were in power.
It is interesting to note that Narendra Modi brought economic prosperity to Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister. Therefore, it is expected that after becoming the Prime Minister he will boost up trade and economic relations with Pakistan. He also enunciated in an interview that he would follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as far as ties are concerned with Pakistan. His present inflexible stance towards Pakistan, analysts say, is to attract the nationalist Hindu voters.
On the other hand, it is to be noted that India’s foreign policy will depend on the strength of the coalition. For example, if the upcoming coalition government led by Narendra Modi is weak, then they will be engrossed in their own domestic tribulation as they were during the time of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). If the coalition is strong, Narendra Modi and his party may be inflexible towards Pakistan and other neighboring countries.
Frustratingly, both countries have seen more “downs” in bilateral relations with each other than “ups” due to communal violence, water disputes, the Kashmir problem and numerous military conflicts from the very beginning.
Narendra Modi is disliked by Pakistan’s Muslim majority due to two major reasons: Firstly, he allowed and abetted the carnage of 1000 people in Gujrat, mostly Muslims, who were slaughtered wholesale by Hindu fascists in 2002. Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujrat back then. This took place following a rumor that a Hindu passenger train was set ablaze by a Muslim mob. After the violence that followed, Muslims were marooned. Secondly, Narendra Modi has remained a lifelong member of the Fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and he has devoted his entire political career to it. The RSS was held responsible for the demolition of Babri Mosque. In this regard, it is also said that Narendra Modi helped organize a rally in 1990 to pit the fascist Hindus against Muslims, which eventually led to the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992.
In spite of these two conspicuous reasons, Narendra Modi has not apologized for the carnage of 2002. Conversely, when asked about his confession for the 2002 incident he said he regretted Muslim suffering the same way he would regret a puppy being run over by a car. He has also refused to wear the Muslim skullcap and did not condemn the riots in Uttar Pradesh in 2013 where again, most of the victims were Muslims.
Unfortunately, what seems to be more alarming is the post 2014 situation in Afghanistan when the US/Nato/International Security Assistance Force will leave the war torn country. It is believed that after 2014, Afghanistan will lead to a proxy war between India and Pakistan. The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 allowed India to expand its influence in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai in his meeting with Manmohan Singh, in 2013, asked for heavy weaponry from India. Recently, India has also signed an agreement under which it will supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country. And this move has certainly angered Pakistan.
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
On March 16, 2014, while Pakistan’s Hindu community celebrated Holi, the country witnessed an unpleasant incident in Sindh’s Larkana District, where a frenzied mob turned violent following a rumour that a member of the Hindu community, Sangeet Kumar, 35 – reputed to be a drug addict – had desecrated the Holy Quran.
In Larkana, after the incident, people wanted to harm the accused man but the police and rangers, somehow, managed to take him away to a safe location. After his safe escape, however, the angry mob attacked and vandalised the Sindhi Hindus’ dharamshala (community centre) and also partially damaged a Hindu temple in the same district, to express their anger.
This district, which is the hub of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), houses more than two million Sindhi Hindus. And as compared to Pakistan’s other three provinces, Sindhi Hindus make up a great chunk of Sindh’s total population. But they, in spite of being densely populated in Sindh, are neglected by the PPP government socially, politically and economically.
As far as the attack on the temple in Larkana is concerned, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP’s Patron-in-Chief, condemned it via Twitter but, unfortunately, did not come out of the Twitter world to meet and compensate the Sindhi Hindus whose shops and properties were burnt down in the incident.
Besides the Larkana incident, there are three more reasons why PPP can be held reprehensible for the Sindhi Hindus’ suffering.
First reason: Thar and the famine
Thar, where Sindhi Hindus are overwhelmingly populated, has been suffering from a grievous famine. So far, it has taken away the lives of more than 150 Sindhi Hindu children. And they could not even celebrate Holi, due to the bereavement that a large number of their children have died of malnutrition in the famine-hit-areas of Thar.
Under these circumstances, how can anyone celebrate his/her religious festivities?
Besides this incident, Thar has remained neglected for years. After the fatalities of these children, the mainstream national media unearthed the issues of Thar’s dwellers, which ranged from socio-economic problems and dysfunctional systems to lack of educational institutions, clean drinking water and low literacy rate. They have been suffering from these issues for decades now while the PPP has turned a blind eye to them.
Second reason: Destruction of the Shri Krishna Bhagwan temple in Karachi
Secondly, during PPP’s rule in 2012 – when they were holding majority seats in both the province and the centre – a furious crowd was rallying against the anti-Islam film, the Innocence of Muslims, and to vent out their anger, the mob damaged Pakistan’s sole and oldest temple, The Shri Krishna Bhagwan, in Karachi. Surprisingly, there were no security guards for the security of the temple, at such a volatile time. That is why they desecrated the temple with ease. They also plundered the valuables of the Hindus living in the vicinity of the temple. This time, too, none of the desecrators were brought to justice.
Third reason: Forced conversions of Hindu girls
Thirdly, the forced conversion cases of Hindu girls in Sindh have not yet been resolved.
Though this trend began in the 1970s, it intensified tremendously during the PPP regimes later on, where Hindu girls would routinely be picked up from anywhere in the interior Sindh and would be forced to denounce their faith and accept Islam.
One such example is that of Rinkal Kumari, who was forcibly converted in 2012 and her case was also taken up by the Supreme Court.
Similarly, her uncle, Raj Kumar, while speaking during in a seminar at the Karachi Press Club called his six-year-old Jumna on to the stage and said that she and her 10-year-old sister Pooja would have been forced to change their religion, had the media not raised their case.
Yet, these cases of forced conversions have not been taken seriously. Such cases have compelled many Sindhi Hindus to migrate to India. And many of them have left the province for other parts of the country in hopes of safer lives.
Despite the aforementioned reasons, the PPP always peels away the Hindus’ votes in Sindh. Neither the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nor the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has been able to get votes from them. Therefore, minority voters see no other option but to vote for PPP, despite the multiple challenges they encounter.
PPP has a responsibility towards every voter and the fact that PPP has voters from the Hindu minority makes them responsible for the deplorable conditions they are in today.
(Courtesy: The Express Tribune blogs)
Dr Ayesha Siddiqa is an internationally known political analyst based in Pakistan. She has authored the book Military Inc. And she has done her Ph.D. in War Studies from King’s College, London. The blogger Muhammad Akbar Notezai spoke to her about Indian elections and its impact on relationship with Pakistan.
Interview by Muhammad Akbar Notezai
The 2014 Indian elections are important as these will indicate a swift but critical turn in the nature of India’s state and society. On the one hand, a vote away from Indian National Congress is challenging poor politics of an old party with hereditary politics. On the other hand, this is about India turning towards the right-wing, just like other states in South Asia or even the world.
If Narendra Modi were to be become India’s next prime minister, will he get tougher with Pakistan or he will follow Vajpayee to try to establish good relations with Pakistan?
The political government has been very patient towards Narendra Modi. They believe that they will be able to work with him as they did with a previous Bharatiya Janata Party government. However, the establishment also tends to look at Narendra Modi with suspicion. He was responsible for the carnage in Gujrat. What will perhaps determine relations under Narendra Modi is the way communal relations in India pan out under Narendra Modi. Any rise in Muslim-Hindu tension will have its repercussions
What do you think should the both countries do to improve the relations with each other?
Both countries should work to increase trade and people to people contact. There is no alternative to this. Until work is done to change the mindset, we will drift away from each other.
What are your thoughts about the coverage of Pakistani media regarding India’s elections?
What is noticeable in Pakistan is actually lack of interest in Indian elections. No one is concerned about Narendra Modi or the changes that may take place as a result. It is as if India does not exist
After the NATO force withdrawal, will Afghanistan become a problem for Pakistan and India?
After NATO force withdrawal, there is a likelihood of increased India-Pak competition in Afghanistan. Sadly, the war will be fought through proxies.
Published in Prabhat Khabar Newspaper (Hindi), India.
Muhammad Akbar Notezai is a freelance journalist and researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Akbar_notezai