Run away or let's sit back and think

Seema Duhan January 12, 2011

We can't compromise on the blasphemy law. It's a divine law and nobody can change it. Our belief in the sanctity of our prophet is firm and uncompromising and we cannot tolerate anyone who blasphemes. Whoever blasphemes will face the same fate as Salman Taseer. - Qari Ahsaan, from the banned group Jamaat ud Dawa, while addressing a rally in Karachi

What kind of love or respect for the prophet is it that instigates one to take life of some one? What is so divine about the blasphemy law? A law brought in place in 70’s by a person who had just one aim in life to be in the seat of power and maintain it by hook or crook. The person was General Zia-ul-Haq whose name is repulsive in minds with a metallic sour aftertaste.

Salman Taseer visiting Aasia Bibi

Late Mr. Taseer and family visiting Aasia Bibi at Sheikhupura jail near Lahore. Picture Courtesy: Salman Tasser via Flickr

The recent assassination of Salman Taseer is not an isolated incident and restricted only to the Pakistan’s cause. But it transcends all delineated boundaries of political imagination. Such incidents are raising the alarm every passing moment that next turn is yours or mine or whoever dares to speak freely and fearlessly without taking heed to institutions of intolerance, oppression, extremism, violence etc, be it state and its establishment or the frivolous non-state actors of the so called religious righteousness. Religion from being a matter of personal concern and practice, first came out on the streets, then in the name of same religion policing for ethical codes of conduct began and consequently it is becoming an asylum for religious extremism and intolerance.

What a tragedy South Asia is enduring? Tragedy of not being able to coexist, respect and sustain the most diversified zone in terms of culture, language, people, religion and so on. The terra firma of one of the oldest human civilisations, diverse ecosystems is finding difficult to breathe with itself and every other day is getting pushed closer to self annihilation. The region is confronting the acutest socio-economic and political problems of modern times which are eyeing for being immediately addressed but the religious fanaticism of the majority religious communities in this region is standing rock hard in letting them to surface up. Religion has become a trump card to seize the hot seat of power by fanning the emotions of people.

What an irony that Pakistan was carved out of India under the pretext that Muslims – a minority community in terms of population would not be safe in a secular-democratic nation of India, went on to become a theocratic nation itself where the other religious minorities were suppressed and looked down on. Now, in every decade of more than sixty years of formation of Pakistan State, the struggle for its existence went on intensifying. India on contrary was declared as a secular democratic state, nevertheless steadily progressed to prove the hunch that Muslims would be ill-treated under the shadow of majority religious community. And today, the situation in India is that every single Muslim is suspiciously looked upon as potential terrorist. It seems that in the relay race of struggle and strife of existence, Pakistan has handed over baton to India. And the challenge before India is whether it will be able to reverse the progression of religious extremism, taking cues from Pakistan where the journey leads and ends?

There’s a hope against the hope, yet a hope that region will be saved before being engulfed by the religious fanatics or else two decades down the line India will not be able to mourn the assassination of secular voices much like Salman Taseer. After all, any hatred towards other ‘self’ finally ends up eating the own ‘self’.

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the argument,"What an irony

the argument,"What an irony that Pakistan was carved out of India under the pretext that Muslims – a minority community in terms of population would not be safe in a secular-democratic nation of India.."unfortunately mimics the dangerously dominant historiography in India. Pakistan and India came into being as nation-states simultaneously and it was not a dismemberment of a nation already in existence for ages as the school textbooks in India love to wail.This is very important because this theory has played a significant role in making "every single Muslim suspicious as a potential terrorist" long before the current global hullabaloo.

Sanjeev, its not that

Sanjeev, its not that argument precisely that has made Muslims to be labelled as terrorists. but yes formation of Pakistan did contributed in perceiving them as "the other" or in their alienation in India. though in the article not much emphasis has been laid upon the historiography you are pointing towards. I am aware of the misconstrued historical facts stating India as an ancient nation state, while the fact is that consciousness of nation hood emerged in the late 18th century and strengthened with the consolidification of colonial powers. and that consciousness of one nation was felt by the masses residing in the land mass of present day Pakistan-India-Bangladesh collectively against the oppression of colonial power. the movement for having a separate nation state for Muslims started gaining ground in the late 20's or early 30's of 20th century leading to the partition of 1947. India as a nation had emerged in the minds of the people quite early, including the minds of leaders responsible for the formation of Pakistan. Pakistan as a nation state definitely emerged out of that imagination of Indian state and this phenomenon is part of recent history. its pretty much the same as Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan. And further, India and Pakistan as part of South Asian landmass have shared history (though it does not mean that all south asian nations have shared history). the reason behind animosity for pakistan has much to do with non-acceptance of the fact that now its a separate nation entity, however cruel the partition had been, and how may ever it was politically imagined and practiced. Pakistan might have emerged in the name of Muslims but that does not justify the act of Muslims being looked down on.

thanx seema for responding in

thanx seema for responding in detail. i didn't say the theory "precisely" did the labeling, but it "played a significant role". your note may have not put much emphasis, but the problem is when one writes about pakistan from india it acquires damning dimensions. The power of that dominant history writing becomes evident again when you reiterate that “India as a nation had emerged in the minds of the people quite early, including the minds of leaders responsible for the formation of Pakistan. Pakistan as a nation state definitely emerged out of that imagination of Indian state and this phenomenon is part of recent history.” Against the colonial state many strands of imagining nation had come into being. The nation imagined by the insurgents of chauri-chaura or malabar or Chittagong need not be the same. And as subaltern histories have shown these imagined nations had nothing to do with the nations of the elite ‘national’ leaders. When Iqbal spoke about the autonomy of muslim majority areas of north-west in the Muslim league annual meeting in 1930 he may have had an entirely different nation on his mind. So I would emphasize that it is not “pretty much the same as Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan.”

Sanjeev, i don't deny the

Sanjeev, i don't deny the relevance of alternative or rather many other parallel narratives such as the subaltern imagination of nations states. Many have been dug out an many still have to be discovered. thanks for reminding about it. its indeed worth. however, yes in that sense i have taken into account the idea of nation state of only big fat leaders of that time.

I agree with Sanjeev's Critic

While Seema's article is quite appropriate and welcome in every other sense, I do agree with the critical point that Sanjeev raised. This kind of "one-way road" historicism is something that has even clipped Pakistan as a nation. Jinnah's idea (from whatever we could analyse) is a totally different nationhood, but that doesn't affect Pakistan as nation for many reasons. The collective consciousness of a nation was brainwashed to a theocracy by a gradual process. In similar lines, in India we should stop shouting the age old non-sense perpetuate (mostly) by the right wing nationalists, not (only) because it is regressive but because it doesn't fit the case either.

India and Pakistan were two nations born after August 14, 1947, from what was THEN known as British India. I think that is clear and factual enough. If we have to dig deeper, it must be an academic exercise and not a casual "everybody knows WE WERE INDIA THE GREAT". But yes, I am not accusing you of carrying any such hyper nationalist notions, just reminding a word about "political correctness".

Apart, it was well written and congrats.

Thanks Ayyapandas for the

Thanks Ayyapandas for the comments. However, I find its pertinent to make clear that I did not have any purpose of falling in the rhetoric of "India the Great", something which does not gel with even the parochial definition of 'nationalism' I may have.

Discourse, of alternative nationalisms and their relevance and significance is a matter to muse. However, the context of focus in the article was to understand the comparative and parallel narrative between the two nation of India and Pakistan, not the other kind of nationalist struggles continuing or suppressed all the while in these two nations. There is definitely a need to narrow down the divide between the practiced and theorized/academic politics.

Good piece of work. Finally,

Good piece of work. Finally, something that is not leftist propaganda related on this site. Thanks!

Thanks Rajesh for the

Thanks Rajesh for the comments. However, let me remind you, that propaganda as a word has more to do with expression of ideas assertively what one believes in rather than making look anything malicious. In that light many kinds of propaganda are surviving and are being generating. Right wing also has a propaganda, which on my personal account i never could find logical but just abuses and accuses. Atleast, Left even on the pretext of being branded as propaganda, which in my understanding, though is much more than that, has been able to reverberate the consciousness of human kind that was in oblivion, with the discovery of many perspectives of analysing the society at large.

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