The chaos, disorder and mayhem the country finds itself in is mostly because many did not attend a formal classroom, and those few that did were coached on curriculum that left the raison d’etre of our country to be interpreted by bigots and war addicts.
It is Pakistan day, on this day 74 years ago we chose to give our independence a voice. Our determination of not being subjugated by the tyranny of the majority came to life and we asked that there be a separate state for Muslims. However, this resolution included a specific section on the rights of the minorities in this construct of Pakistan. It called for their safeguard, and for the same rights being granted to them as would be to any Muslim.
This sinister inability of our people, years later, to be unable to understand that these two components – demand for a country for a community and the protection of rights of other religions within that community – are not separate but intertwined and one is a logical extension of the other. To demand for one ’s self what you cannot envision for the other is not just plain selfish, it violates the very principle of justice that requires objectivity and utmost fairness.
It is by following this thread of political objectivity that our founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah appointed Pakistan’s first Law Minister to be Jogendra Nath Mandal.
The grand symbolism of that decision was lost with his death. The textbooks took over and our children read that there was a single enemy; it was vicious, violent, barbaric, oppressive and miserly. The enemy was the conniving Hindu that had butchered Muslims by the thousands during and before the partition and therefore we sought our independence in 1947. It stopped at there and did not provide on the context of the violence that was everywhere on all sides.
If the first few decades after partition helped foster this hate, the rest of the decades led on by the Afghan war and the rehashing of our curriculum, with help from friends in high places, now has a narrative of a Pakistani Muslims living in a global minority with their way of life attacked by external forces. At the end this is a frothy concoction of anti-Hindu Talibanization that creates more hate, fear and intense insecurity and results only in a violent blow back.
Specifically our literature, both in the classrooms and those distributed at unregulated mosques and madrassas link Hinduism with paganism and a push to have its existence be a threat to Islam. Thus, a dwindling 7 million Hindus in a burgeoning country of about 180 million Muslims become a foreign body.
No surprise then that a Hindu temple was burned down by a mob in Larkana on March 15th 2014. No surprise that while the Hindu community celebrated the Holi festival while throwing colour powered on each other an extremist mixed the colour with acid causing three people to be rushed to burn units. No surprise that this community lives in the constant state of high alert and on the mercy of a trigger-happy majority. Any member can be framed under the pretext of having committed blasphemy. Anytime. No surprise then also, that Hindu women are forcibly converted to Islam. Often many of these cases of forced conversions go unreported. The real numbers are higher, the humiliation even more so.
To survive the message this peace-loving vibrant community is told to adopt is to go invisible.
Is this why we made Pakistan, so we could wear the hat of the bully, the hegemon, the oppressor?
The only solace that can be offered to this community concentrated mostly in Sindh, is that any right thinking person, any minority community, any woman, child and essentially anyone other than wahabi sunni males are all in this fight with them. We are in it together. We will all either go down together, or fight this menace bottom up.
There is another way to do it as well – top down. It is the government’s responsibility to protect its minorities, especially at times of the plague of religious extremism. Those who desecrate places of worship must be brought to justice, those who forcefully convert must be punished, those who falsely accuse anyone of blasphemy must be made examples of. All religions are sacred under this flag.
It is only if the governments declare a policy of zero tolerance for this systemic violence against minorities that we will truly be able to claim a part of this day and its vision.
Published in Daily Times on March 23rd 2014