South Asian Contrast: Ayodhya and Kartarpur

November 9, 2019 will go down in South Asian history as a day of sharp contrasts: While Pakistan restored and opened Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur for Sikh pilgrims, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the construction of a Hindu temple on the site where Babri Masjid stood for centuries. Can India and its western apologists still claim to have shared values?

Shared Values:

At a congressional hearing on the Capitol Hill in Washington in October, 2019, American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked Ms. Alice Wells, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, the following pertinent question:

"Kashmiris have been restricted from communicating outside their country for 50+ days. In Assam, almost 2 million people are being asked to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started. At what point do we question whether PM Modi shares our values?"

The question of shared values has been forcefully answered in the negative by the Indian Supreme Court in its Ayodhya verdict. This judgement by India's apex court has rewarded the criminal acts of Hindu Nationalists by ordering the construction of Ram Temple on the land where centuries-old Mughal-era Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992.

Mr. Modi's actions and Indian Supreme Court's acquiescence have forced Financial Times's Gideon Rachman to conclude that  "India’s Narendra Modi has had a free pass from the west for too long". And Ed Luce, also from Financial Times, has written as follows: "During my session (at Bangalore Literary Festival) I was asked about the biggest threat to the future of global liberal democracy. My answer was Narendra Modi".

The only shared values between Washington and New Delhi are those of President Trump and Prime Minister Modi. Both leaders share hatred of minorities, particularly Muslims and  immigrants.

Kartarpur Corridor:

Pakistan restored and opened Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and signed an agreement with India to open a visa-free corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrim to visit the shrine on Baba Guru Nanak's 550th birthday.

Prime Minister Modi also wants to take credit for the corridor to attempt to show that he is not against minorities. But the fact is that Prime Minister Imran Khan left Modi little choice but to go along by making Kartarpur Sahib reality in record time.

Hindu Temples in Pakistan:

Pakistan Supreme Court recently took suo moto action to protect ancient Katas Raj temple in Chakwal district. The temple has a water pond that has been drying up due to falling water table in the region. The Supreme Court has ordered local officials to come up with a plan to restore the water pond to restrict ground water withdrawal by industries and farms to maintain the pond considered holy by Hindus.

Pakistan has also opened a 1,000-year-old Hindu temple in Sialkot for puja for the first time since partition in response to demand by the local Hindu community, according to media reports. In addition, Pakistan is restoring and reopening 400 Hindu temples across the country.

Indian Muslims:

While the actions of Prime Minister Modi's government have caused a great deal of concern among Muslims for their future in India, Indian Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict has shown that the institutions of Indian democracy are surrendering to the the growing power of Hindu Nationalists. Indian Muslim journalist Rana Ayub has summed up their fears in her Washington Post column as follows:

"Muslims in India fear that this would indeed be the beginning of reimagining India with Muslims as second-class citizens as envisaged by right-wing supremacists. A resounding message has been sent to the more than 200 million Muslims in the country that they must bear every humiliation and injustice with the silence expected of an inferior citizenry. I and millions of my co-religionists have been made to feel like an orphan yet again in the land we have loved, cherished and called our own. A land whose liberation from the British was fought by revolutionaries and freedom fighters that included our own forefathers. I wonder if that cherished freedom holds any meaning in the new India that seeks to erase my legacy and my existence".

Jinnah was right:

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah saw the threat posed to Muslim interests by Hindu majoritarianism in India as far back as 1938.  Speaking to the Muslim League in the Central Legislative Assembly, he set out his stance of permanent majorities and minorities as follows:

 “From the first contact it is not a democratic majority in the seven Congress provinces [that came to power after the 1937 election]. It is not a democratic majority that has formed the Government and is carrying on; it is the permanent Hindu majority which cannot be altered by any change whatsoever and therefore it is the travesty of the system which may be worthwhile in England. But when it is planted here, you see, that it is a failure. What is the result – the permanent Hindu majority and the ministry that is a Hindu ministry.”


While Pakistan is trying to make amends by promoting religious freedoms for minorities, Prime Minister Modi's India is turning into a Hindu Rashtra by making Muslims second-class citizens. Yet, India's western apologists are still promoting the idea of strategic partnership based on shared values. Mr. Modi's actions and Indian Supreme Court's acquiesce have forced Financial Times's Gideon Rachman to conclude that "India’s Narendra Modi has had a free pass from the west for too long".

Here are video clips of US Congress's Hearing on Kashmir held on Oct 22, 2019:

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Views: 204

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 18, 2020 at 10:24am

Nowadays, Indian reactions to Pakistan span the spectrum. There’s implacable hatred for the country in some quarters, vitriol directed at it is motivated by anger over terrorism or designed as a dog whistle to exert everyday pressure on Indian Muslims. Some disgracefully even celebrated the plane crash at Karachi in May. At the other end, thousands profess their love for Pakistani music and television dramas – one has to only see the comments on any Coke Studio (Pakistan) song on YouTube to comprehend the fervour among Indians.

Regardless of the vantage, there’s no doubt that Indians are singularly uninformed about Pakistan in general. Most would fail basic geography tests; is Lahore to the north or south of Islamabad and where do they lie in relation to Rawalpindi? The reasons are not hard to divine. There is no established tradition of allowing journalists to be posted in each other’s countries; tourist visas are hostage to political ties and academic production on Pakistan in India is negligible and often bereft of quality. Bigotry thrives amid the absence of elementary insight; there has for long been a market gap in India for a readable account of Pakistan – and fortunately, Sameer Arshad Khatlani, a Kashmiri journalist, has filled it with a charming, insightful book in The Other Side of the Divide: A Journey Into the Heart of Pakistan.


Punjab also has a longer history of mutuality and belonging which aren’t easily extinguished by the imperatives of geopolitical calculation. The history of Sikhism, for instance, is very much bound with engagement with Muslim communities. Guru Nanak had a Muslim teacher, Maulana Qutab-ud-din, who taught him Arabic and Persian; Rai Bular, a Muslim, was Nanak’s first devotee outside his family and the one who persuaded Nanak’s father to tolerate his other worldly pursuits. Bular figures in the Guru Granth Sahib and donated large tracts of land to Nanak which became part of the Nankana Sahib complex, one of the holiest shrines in Sikhism. Bular’s descendants to this day lead the celebrations on Nanak’s birth anniversary and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has wanted to commemorate Bular’s ‘immense contribution’ to Sikh history.

The portrait of another Muslim, Nawab Rai Kahla, hangs in Amritsar’s Central Sikh Museum, in recognition of his courage to provide shelter to Guru Gobind Singh. There’s more: Baba Farid’s verses “are an important part of the Guru Grant Sahib”, Mian Mir, a Sufi saint from Lahore, is “widely believed to have laid the foundation” of the Golden Temple, while Ram Das, the Lahore-born fourth Sikh guru, established Amritsar’s foundation in 1577 around an estate that emperor Akbar had granted to his wife, Bibi Bhani. Khatlani explains the bonds of Lahore and Amritsar very evocatively and concludes that “an artificial line drawn through the heart of Punjab cannot be deep enough to change the shared language, culture, customs, idioms and attitudes shaped over centuries.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 15, 2021 at 12:56pm

#Pakistan fires 12 police officers for failure to protect #Hindu temple in #Karak. Regional #KP government also suspended 33 other police officers for a year as punishment., offering sharp contrast to #India's #babriverdict. #Modi #BJP via @AJEnglish

Pakistani authorities have sacked a local police chief and 11 other policemen for failing to protect a Hindu temple that was set on fire and demolished last month by a mob led by hundreds of supporters of a religious party, police said.

The 12 policemen were fired on Thursday over acts of “cowardice, irresponsibility and negligence” for not trying to stop the mob when it attacked the temple, with some having fled the scene.

The regional government in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also suspended 33 other police officers for a year as punishment, provincial police chief Sanaullah Abbasi said.

The punishments come amid government assurances that the Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi temple – situated in the remote village of Teri in Karak district, some 85km (53 miles) south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – would be rebuilt.

Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court also ordered the rebuilding of the temple, with the next hearing in the case set for January 19.

On December 30, about 2,000 men ransacked the historic temple built in 1920 and an adjacent Hindu shrine, destroying the compound and setting fire to it.

The mob led by a local Muslim leader was enraged by the renovation of a building adjacent to the temple that was recently bought by the Hindu community to facilitate visiting devotees.

The attack took place after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the temple.

Pakistan is home to an estimated 3.5 million Hindus, who form a 1.6 percent minority of the country’s 207 million population, as per government figures.

More than 30 rioters, including the Muslim leader who allegedly incited the mob, have already been arrested after they were identified in videos of the attack uploaded online.

The arrested included supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who are currently facing trials on various charges.

Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, violence against the minority community often centres around the country’s strict, and heavily emotive, blasphemy laws.

Attacks on Hindu temples, while not common, have been increasing in frequency in recent years.

Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from the British rule, resulting in the formation of Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) renewed its designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern”, citing, among other reasons, “severely restricted freedom of religion or belief”.


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