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The Shining

Mehmal SarfrazNarendra Modi won the Indian elections with a landslide victory. It was certainly quite a disappointment for many around the world to see a man accused of being complicit in a communal pogrom all set to become prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. Some Pakistanis tweeted critically about Modi’s win but were told to mind their own business and look at the mess Pakistan is in.

When Sherry Rehman and some other Pakistanis raised a question about the number of Muslim MPs in the newly elected Lok Sabha, they received flak for it.

INEXPLICABLE:  For every progressive Indian, it should have been a day of reckoning when Narendra Modi was elected but it was disturbing to see that most of them were not even willing to admit that something did go wrong. Pic/AFP
INEXPLICABLE:  For every progressive Indian, it should have been a day of reckoning when Narendra Modi was elected but it was disturbing to see that most of them were not even willing to admit that something did go wrong. Pic/AFP

A lot of Indian Muslims felt offended that Pakistanis were showing ‘concern’ about them while many others ‘reminded’ Pakistanis of the treatment meted out to the minorities in our country.

Those tweets were not condescending but were in fact coming from people who keep an eye on international politics and comment on it. If you look at the tweets from the Indian Twitterati, many of them consider it their birthright to comment on anything and everything related to Pakistan. Many of those tweets are in fact condescending, mocking, patronising and sometimes downright offensive and/or abusive.

Liberal and progressive Pakistanis have never stopped Indians from commenting on Pakistan even if it is on internal matters that should not be India’s concern at all. So when Pakistanis commented on Modi’s win — something being discussed all over the world — and were critical, many Indians just could not take what they dish out on a regular basis.

Yes, Pakistan is in a mess but many of us keep raising our voice against the military establishment’s flawed policies, against terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), etc. We speak out against our own state’s backing of jihadi terrorist outfits. We speak up for the rights of the Baloch, Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, etc. We do not condone the way our minorities are being treated and call out our state for its failure to protect its own citizens. We stick out our necks when we highlight atrocities committed by state and non-state actors. We can be killed for doing so but at least we do not sweep such issues under the rug. Shaheed Salmaan Taseer did not back down on the issue of Aasia Bibi and the blasphemy laws till his last breath even though he knew it could get him killed, which it eventually did. Sherry Rehman has never shied away from raising the issue of misuse of the blasphemy laws and the plight of minorities even though her life is under threat. My friend Raza Rumi was almost killed by the LeJ because he spoke up for the Shias and against terrorism. Secretary General SAFMA Imtiaz Alam was attacked by ISI goons because he spoke the truth about 26/11 on national TV. Many of us are called traitors and Indian agents because we are pro-peace and question our state’s policies. As a Pakistani who has admired Indian secularism and its strong democratic traditions, Modi’s win is an abomination and everyone has the right to comment on it.

It is a well-established fact that Modi’s politics is of communal exclusion and discrimination. There can be no denying that the Indian polity’s swing to Modi is a cataclysmic indictment of ‘Secular India’. For every progressive Indian, it should have been a day of reckoning when Modi was elected but it was disturbing to see that most of them were not even willing to admit that something did go wrong.

The harsh reality is that both India and Pakistan can be equally exploitative, oppressive and bigoted societies. A progressive society is not just built on high economic growth but on values of secularism, rights of minorities, inclusiveness and a truly pluralistic social fabric. This column is not meant to be a rant to vilify India but a call to ask for introspection and an honest conversation with the progressive people of India.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.com

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