(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Donald Trump trusts Narendra Modi on issues which make damning headlines around the world. But he won’t be up on his feet till India delivers the trade balance he wants between the two countries.
Trump went away home after two days in India on Tuesday with a ringing approval of the country and “his friend” Modi. He is now looking for India to do its bit to satiate the obsession he is known for around the world—trade.
President George Bush had his neurosis on “war on terror”, Barack Obama on “climate change” but it’s trade for Trump who won’t be drawn, for instance, into Hong Kong as long as he could muscle out trade concessions from China. India shouldn’t expect anything different.
Trade though was on the backburner in the overall theme of Trump’s visit. It was all about a reception unlike “anyone had received anywhere in the world at any time of history,” as Trump mentioned more than once in his interaction with the press on Tuesday evening.
The press corps looked for that one quote which could put Modi in poor light. But it never came. Kashmir was an issue “which has been on for a long time.” Trump was willing to help his two friends—Pakistan’s president Imran Khan and India’s prime minister Modi—if they wished so but to suggest it was an offer of mediation or intervention would be a stretch of imagination.
India’s contentious new Citizenship Act, the reporters were informed, wasn’t even discussed between the two leaders who had met privately in the afternoon. Trump viewed the ongoing violence in the Capital as a matter India could handle. Of course, religious reforms figured in the talk between them but Trump was mightily assured Modi’s India meant no harm to any religious group. When a specific question on Muslims was raised, Trump mentioned Modi and his “powerful statement” that Indian Muslims have grown from 140 to 200 millions in a very short period of time.
All this must be music to Modi’s ears. But he would’ve to do his part on trade to keep Trump in similar humour. The US president noted India had managed to bring down its trade surplus from $23 billion to $14 billion in a short period of time but he expected more. Trump hoped for a trade deal between the two nations by the end of year.
India’s trade advantage vis-à-vis US is miniscule, at least 20 times less than what China enjoys against the US at $345 billion. Yet it’s an irritant in Trump’s eyes. In 2018, he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium. In April next year, India lost its spot in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme of the United States. It affected India’s exports to the tune of $5.6 billion.
India responded with tariffs of its own on 28 imported items from the United States. It’s high tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, retaliatory moves on farm and dairy products also didn’t go down well with Trump. India seeks to improve its bargaining position in the service industry, have more employment visas for its young and talented. For sure, this is not an exhaustive list of contentious trade issues but just a sample.
To be fair, Trump has been unambiguous about what he expects from the world on trade matters. His inaugural address as President in 2017 was littered with mentions of America’s “foolish” trade policies…which had redistributed its wealth across the entire world.”
The US president looked fresh and eager, up on his toes for the better part of an hour in the evening, fielding questions from the press corps. There was no sign he had as hectic a day as he had endured on Monday, hopping from city to city, and viewing India’s people, culture and monumental masterpieces from close quarters.
On Tuesday, he met India’s president and business tycoons, paid respect to India’s father of nation Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial and oversaw negotiations between the officials of the two countries. His better half and the First Lady Melania Trump at times accompanied him and at other times charted out her own engagement in a local school in the Capital. By late evening, the two had headed for home.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India doesn’t believe it is reading too much in the designs of arch-rivals Pakistan in opening up its doors for Sikh pilgrims to visit the resting place of their founder, Guru Nanak Dev, within its territory.
The two Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, stood at two sides of border to facilitate the first batch of 500 Sikh pilgrims make a 4-km trek to the holiest of their shrines, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, on Saturday.
India sensed a chill behind the warm words wafting through from across the border as Imran Khan bemoaned the lockdown in Kashmir and his foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi mocked if India could do the same for Muslim pilgrims longing to visit their holy places in Kashmir.
A few days ago, India was stung when Pakistan had released an official video welcoming pilgrims which showed images of three major slain militants who wanted to carve out a separate homeland for Sikhs in Indian state of Punjab in the 80s.
Though the separatist movement for Khalistan, a homeland for Sikhs, petered out in the 1990s there is still fire in the dying embers and India believes Pakistan would do its best to stoke its doctrine of “bleeding India with thousand cuts.”
India has tightened security, including ban on drones, in its north-western state of Punjab as it fears it could be a route to supply arms and terrorists to Kashmir—and that the holy corridor for Sikhs could act as a cover.
India finds Pakistan’s new-found affection for Sikhs a coat of deception and remembers multiple instances as a marker in support of this theory.
No sooner had Pakistan came into being as an Islamic state in 1947, Sikhs along with Hindus were driven out, killed and raped in thousands who retaliated by doing the same to Muslims from across the border. This set in motion the greatest migration in human history which cost two million lives, the horror of the violence rising up to the scale of the Holocaust.
Still, after the fire of Partition had died out, almost 23 per cent of Pakistan’s population comprised of non-Muslim citizens which now has been reduced to less than 2 per cent. Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were repressed and displaced whom the Indian government now is trying provide citizenship through an impending Act.
India is still battling the scars of five lakh Hindus being driven out of Kashmir Valley in the 1990s as grave terrorism spouted within its borders and the hands of Pakistan in spurring it to life was internationally acknowledged.
Pakistan also couldn’t keep its Bengali Muslim brothers within its fold as it let loose a reign of terror in East Pakistan in late 60s, killing hundreds of thousands, before the local resistance, with the help of India, broke free and a new nation Bangladesh came into being.
Pakistan’s flip-flop in run-up to the opening of holy corridor for Sikhs hasn’t gone unnoticed too. The “goodwill gesture” will now cost Sikh pilgrims $20 dollars on each visit though the first two such trips, including the 550th birth anniversary of their founder, Guru Nanak Dev on November 12, would be free. Further, while Imran Khan has waived the requirement of passport for pilgrims, his omnipotent military is insistent on such a requirement.
“Pakistan is professing love for Indian citizens but this is the same country which is refusing its air-space for Indian prime minister to fly out on his foreign trips. Which Pakistan do you think we should believe,” said a retired diplomat who didn’t want to be named.
This is the latest saga in the frosty, bitter and violent relations between the two nations which share a common heritage yet have fought four wars and accuse each other of one or other violation practically every day. The guns haven’t stopped booming at the borders. Let’s hope this fresh smell of rose is for real.
(This is a reprint from rt.com)
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back from the United States. During his sojourn, he had the President of the United States in attendance and in audience in the Houston event; won the “Goalkeepers Global Goals Award” from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and above all had the world eating out of his palms on Kashmir. No Indian, arguably since Swami Vivekananda, ever set foot on United States and returned home with such global acclaim. (Never mind if our own Shashi Tharoor is working overtime to argue that Modi’s is not unprecedented, even if he has to resort to fake news on Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru).
If Houston was imagery, the concurrence of world on Kashmir in the United Nations was real substance. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan looked no better than a gangster, smoking gun from a nuclear upholstery, faking the championing of his country on behalf of Kashmiri Muslims, never mind he didn’t even whimper on one million fellow Muslims being kept in concentration camps in Xinjiang by China or that his country was responsible for over a million killings of fellow Muslims in once East Pakistan. Pakistan is today seen as what it’s worth in the world.
Be that as it may, Operation Kashmir is now in its second phase. It’s a phase when at some stage the Modi government would’ve to consider lifting the ban on internet, freeing thousands of politicians, activists, businessmen etc who unknown to their families are lodged up in and outside Kashmir. The present clampdown in Kashmir can’t go on forever. At some stage, elections would’ve to be announced and before that happens, the government and security forces would’ve to pull themselves back in the trenches. Leaders of regional political parties– Abdullahs and Muftis–would need to be freed. Longer it’s delayed, faster India would lose the world which is now standing next to it.
Or, Modi could act indifferent to the world. The world today is wooing him not because it’s convinced of Kashmir being an internal issue but because it wants India by its side. West, in particular, is wary of China and sees India as indispensible in halting the Dragon’s march. India’s market and the growth story is no less attractive to them. Modi thus could keep the frills out, delay elections in Kashmir as long as he deems fit, keeps Muftis and Abdullahs in house arrest and to hell with the cacophony of the seculars. He could put internal security above all other considerations, given the intelligence inputs.
Before the Houston event, Modi met a group of Kashmiri Pandits and assured them justice. Kashmiri Pandits–and their numbers run in lakhs–of course have a yearning to return to their homeland from where they were driven out in the 1990s. It’s been almost a generation since BJP has made it a part of their manifesto. The abrogation of Article 370 has raised hopes in the hearts of these Kashmiris.
But it won’t be easy. Muslim Kashmiris in the Valley today are incensed at the curb on their freedom and their knowns being lodged up in jails. The post-1990 generation have no idea that theirs is a land where once syncretism prevailed and Muslims and Hindus lived check-by-jowl. They are likely to see returning Kashmiri Pandits as intruders and not rightful owners of their hearths and homes. The natives would be seen as aliens. The reconstruction of their vandalized temples, as the Modi government has vowed, would be fodder to canons of insinuations and rumours. Winning hearts without compromising in security or allowing Pakistan to stir up mischief with its mercenary terrorists won’t be easy.
Lutyens Media is ready with its texts, blurbs and headlines once clampdown is lifted in the Kashmir Valley. These sob stories would be endlessly played. Modi would be shown to have committed a Himalayan blunder in tampering with Kashmir’s special status. Modi government would need to be on its toes to fight this war of misinformation. For every word of misinformation, it needs an article of facts to be put on public display. It would need nothing less than a separate Ministry against Misinformation on Kashmir.
Lutyens media has latched on to Imran Khan evoking the image of 2002 Gujarat riots. They of course won’t tell that every Court in the country has cleared Modi of culpability in the crime. (And it is not as if only Muslims were killed. The figures, released by the Congress-led government itself in 2005 put the figures as 794 Muslims and 254 Hindus killed). Similarly, Lutyens Media has gone to length to highlight the dozen protestors who stationed themselves in front of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, petitioning against the award to Modi on Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). They won’t let you know that the Mission is almost 100 per cent successful. Nearly all villages of the country are now Open-Defecation Free (ODF). As Sandipan Deb wrote in the Mint: “The WHO study estimated that SBM Grameen is likely to have averted more than 300,000 deaths between 2014 and October 2019. BMGF’s survey found that in ODF districts, there were 32% fewer cases of diarrhea among children, 15% fewer cases of stunting, and 37% less women with lower body mass index, compared with non-ODF districts.”
Governance, like life, can’t be still. One has to think on one’s feet. Modi has dealt with the first phase of Operation Kashmir to the last detail. The second phase is fraught with dangers for now guns would have to be replaced with roses.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India and Pakistan have started whipping up support in their corners as the Ring that is Jammu and Kashmir gets ready for a trade of punches.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan wants his people on the streets in solidarity against the rearranged status of Jammu and Kashmir while Narendra Modi is reserving the month of September for his ministers’ outreach to people in 35 state capitals and 370 cities.
The momentum is with India where Modi has secured a cheque of gratitude from a billion people and possibly from history too on the once intractable issue of Kashmir. He has second guessed almost everyone including the global powers, jihadi nuts in the Valley and secessionists forces within India. It’s nearly a month and India hasn’t fired a single bullet in anger.
Imran Khan is relying on propaganda and the good offices of China without realizing that slaves could only stare at the feet, and not go at the throat of the masters. It has a good ranch of guerillas, terrorists and Talibans but to take on world’s second largest army, bigger than United States, you need stallion and not jackass. Mooting closure of airspace could only evoke yawn. His dream of becoming prime minister is now a raging nightmare.
India’s enemies are investing much in the hope that Muftis and Abdullahs would be free soon and hold court; Valley would be put to flame and Lutyens Media would manufacture sob stories. For the moment, they have nothing but the sham cry of violations of human rights and India’s federal-structure-in-danger to keep stoking the dying embers.
When would Muftis and Abdullahs be set free? My guess is not in next four weeks. Modi government prefers embarrassment to harm. Half measures would come back to bite. You don’t do PR exercise with enemies. If the world can turn one eye away on Xinjiang in China; it could as well the other on Kashmir.
There is incremental easing up in Kashmir Valley. Landlines have been restored. Independence Day and Eid were celebrated. Journalists, despite the brouhaha, are getting passes to move around at will. Schools and Colleges have been reopened. It’s not to say Valley would be quiet. Muftis and Abdullahs could pay a heavy cost if flutes and music alone is the noise in their backyards.
There are a few things which the Modi government must follow as gospel. One, learn to ignore the barking dogs. Valley and Lutyens Media would be shooting from both sides of mouth. They must not be allowed to set the agenda. Give them a damn. Two, this outreach to people in September can’t be one-off thing. People need constant repeats on facts. Lose no opportunity, be it face-to-face, social media, spokespersons or editorials in newspapers. This is the only war your adversary would be engaging you in; so treat it as one. Three, name and shame the enemies within who run contrary to India’s interests. Three generations of this lobby has fattened itself on Kashmir. The cat is too fat now; it must be made to shed some weight.
I suspect Centre has hit upon an ace in raking up some high profile cases. So mournful is media on P. Chidambaram’s custody that Kashmir has been put on the backburner. The cases against Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel’s son too would shrink space on Kashmir. Heat has been turned on against Trinamool Congress (TMC). Three state elections in three months would further pull the rug under Kashmir’s feet. Why, when was the last you heard on “Jai Shri Ram” crimes and “lynchings”?
But this is just the first phase of preparedness. Kashmir is serious. Heads could roll in Pakistan’s establishment. Imran Khan could invite a fate similar to Nawaz Sharif. General Qamar Javed Bajwa has to justify his extension. United States could change tack in case it can’t summon India against China, Iran and Russia. So don’t take your eyes off. India has to handle Kashmir in real time. It could take months, years and even generations. But a start, a good one at that, has been made. And the nation can’t be thankful enough.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If I am reading it right, defence minister Rajnath Singh’s claim on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a sign that India wants to fix Pakistan once for all.
India needs be bellicose if it has measured the headwind right that Kashmir would become as big an issue as Palestine is in coming days, weeks, months and years.
Once the relaxation in Kashmir Valley comes, attacks and violence would be a common occurrence—at least in our newspapers even if the ground reality is different.
Already BBC and Reuters are on their old tricks of faking news and videos on Kashmir and our shameless columnists are losing no chance of equating Kashmir of today with Palestine and even Hong Kong protests as people’s revolt against a reactionary, despotic government.
China of course treats the Hong Kong matter with a heavy hand and gives a damn to what international press and human rights group write about Xinjiang region and the million Muslims it has kept in detention camps.
India similarly need not be ruffled by the outrage in media, demonstrations on streets or protests in our University campuses for they would be motivated, paid and planted by the break-India forces.
Isn’t it some wonder that India’s J & K move which was passed by an overwhelming majority by its lawmakers and acquiesced by its Supreme Court hasn’t found a line of support in our paid Left-Liberal media even though if the billion-strong citizens were to be asked at this very moment, Modi virtually would be worth 400-seats plus in the Parliament.
Our newspapers are full of constitutional “invalidity” of the move and vile hacks like Karan Thapar and Rajmohan Gandhi – I am not even coming to the rogues gallery of Ramchandra Guha, Sagarika Ghose, Rajdeep Sardesai, Shekhar Gupta, Barkha Dutt etc—are full-throated on “human rights violations” which of course didn’t matter to them when Kashmiri Pandits were being driven out of the Valley.
There have been some remarkable interventions by the likes of Dr. Jitender Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad in print which is virtually a spanking of such journalists and their propaganda yet a deluge awaits India-First forces and they better be prepared.
Pakistan would create global nuisance everyday from now on. They won’t be alone too for Khalistani separatists won’t let go such a god-send opportunity to be in the limelight. Already we have reports of such gadflies in places as distant as Seoul is from London (And please follow the template of bravehearts Shazia Ilmi and Poonam Joshi how to confront them). Why, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has officially created a Kashmir desk in its global embassies to drum up the propaganda.
Pakistan would also lose no opportunity to show UN Security Council has taken up the Kashmir matter even though neither India nor Pakistan was invited to the closed door discussions. No resolution was passed, no official statement issued. France, Germany, Russia have balked. Donald Trump wants Pakistan to settle the matter bilaterally and even China has made a similar sound. But try telling this to Pakistan.
The road ahead is not easy for Modi government. If it laxes Valley, Pakistan would plant violence. If India keeps a close surveillance, pictures would flash across our newspapers and TV screens of how even an Under-6 cricket match is shadowed by heavy boots and rifled soldiers. International media is a consort to this Deep State. They would play the ball. Then Abdullahs and Muftis are already ready with the script they would chant once set free.
It needs a strategy from India-First forces.
- Modi government must ask its public faces to counter the propaganda in real time. Chances are it would be a cry in wilderness but at least its main audience—the citizens of this country–would know. It would keep India combative;
- Modi government must remain dismissive of global outcry. They must borrow the template from Israel, and even China;
- They shouldn’t be shy of pitching in with nuclear-first and PoK talks all too often;
- It could safely ignore UNSC where China, on its own, doesn’t have traction.
At ground level, every India-loving entity—be it individuals, social media, websites, news outlets etc – need to take up the burden. Smash the propaganda by whatever means you could as your duty towards the nation. As your obligation towards the future of your kids. Such voices do assume a mass below the surface even though on exterior, it’s the propaganda which would have a field day. Don’t be discouraged and learn from Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping—all are hated by the Left-Liberal media but they continue to hold sway. Swachh Kashmir should be a mission in which all of us have a duty towards the nation.
(Post Script: Again, do read these erudite explanations from Dr. Jitendra Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad to bust the propaganda which would confront you every living moment from now on).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It would be a hectic two days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 13-14). The flight detour through Oman and Iran too wouldn’t have helped. Then there is this little matter of bilateral talks with at least five heads of states: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) and Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan) besides the actual SCO Summit.
Modi’s diplomacy in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) isn’t just about his time. It’s also about the long shadow of United States which would follow his every move and not just with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran—all in US crosshair for one reason or the other. Modi has the image of a tough leader, engaging the world but never aligned to any particular bloc. Much of it would be tested by Friday.
Modi, of course, can’t overlook the probing audience of a billion and a half people in India and Pakistan. There would be photo-ops with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Every nuance of arched eyebrows, warm or cold smile, firm or limp handshake, would be dissected in reams of papers. A hug though is as good as ruled out.
In many ways SCO would be about optics. Its’ stated goal is to fight against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. But Pakistan would be spared this embarrassment. Our troublesome neighbour is making its debut in SCO since its formal induction in 2017—as is the case with India. This powerful Group of the East has had always China behind the wheels. Modi can enjoy the ride but can’t change the course. China is friends with Pakistan for nothing.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have chosen to embarrass each other on the eve of the 19th SCO Summit. India first sought a free airspace for Modi’s passage to Bishkek. However once it was granted, wisdom prevailed and Modi opted to decline the offer. Pakistan, or its propped-up separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, then killed 5 CRPF jawans in Anantnag on Wednesday. Be ready for some tough pictures from Bishkek.
It isn’t to say that SCO is without merit for India. US needs India for its Asia strategy and by appearing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Xi, Modi would keep Donald Trump sober when the two meet in a fortnight’s time in Osaka for G20 Summit (June 28-29). Modi’s bilateral with Rouhani in Bishkek would further force Trump’s hands. That the host in Osaka would be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is outreaching to Iran later this week, is no little matter.
India also needs to have the right thermostat to keep matters with China from running too hot or too cold. Modi’s recent visit to Maldives must have prodded the wounds of China. Bishkek would be a good place to straighten out the ruffled feathers since the two leaders, Modi and XI, are slated for a summit in October, a la Wuhan style.
There is no gain denying India sees a friend in Russia. It was Russia which facilitated the entry of India into SCO which, to begin with, was primarily a Central Asia lobby that needed an axis after Soviet Union exploded in 1991. Modi and Putin aren’t taking any steps back on S400 missiles or their growing defence cooperation and Bishkek would afford the two leaders a moment to align themselves against the evil eye of US.
SCO is as good a moment as any to keep Afghanistan in India’s good books. The mountainous country could be fuming for having been not invited for Modi’s oath ceremony last month. Kabul is insecure for more than one reason—Taliban, fostered by Pakistan, is gaining international currency; and US is vowing a retreat of its armed forces. India has always been an all-weather friend and Bishkek couldn’t have come at a better time.
India also needs access to information and intelligence from the Tashkent-based RATS (Regional Anti Terror Structure). China’s push for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also can’t be allowed a free goal. India also can’t afford to be hemmed in by Pakistan and China on its two flanks. A global economy can’t be known as only a South Asian behemoth. India needs physical access over and above its northern borders into Eurasia and SCO affords an excellent opportunity. A rising India is critical to all big powers and it must keep all its suitors on tenterhooks. A stronger and more empowered Modi by his people would only help.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Mr Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, please don’t be a joke.
You want Pakistan to be a shining light of example for India in its treatment of minorities. It must be the cruelest joke not only on Hindus, Sikhs and Christians of whosoever are left in Pakistan but also on fellow Muslims such as Shias and Ahmadiyyas in the persecution of which you’ve played your hand. And should I remind you of what Pakistan has done even to Sunni Muslims, nearly 2.5 millions now, whom you left to their own fate in Bangladesh after agreeing to repatriate them?
I would not even get into the basic fact of only 2 per-cent of 23 percent of Hindus/Sikhs/Christians at the time of Partition are now left in Pakistan. Or that correspondingly, India’s 8 per cent of Muslims minority in 1947 has now ballooned to nearly 20 per cent. Let me begin by showing you the mirror on your act both as a Prime Minister and as a politician.
Isn’t it a fact that soon after you became the Prime Minister, you removed Dr. Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council only because he is an Ahmadiyya and in protest of which two other economists in the panel, Dr. Imran Rasul and Dr. Asi Ijaz Khwaja resigned? Do you need be reminded that a Punjab minister Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011, being blamed for blasphemy as he advocated a fair trial for Christians even as you were flourishing in your political career? Or that a Sunni Muslim terrorist group called Sipah-e-Sahaba which targets Shias is said to enjoy the state patronage?
Do you need be reminded that since your Constituent Assembly in 1949 declared Pakistan to be an Islamic State, Kafirs include both minorities and even fellow Muslims? Shias may number 20 per cent of the population but violent extremist action against them is routine. Ahmadiyyas have been declared non-Muslim by a writ of the state. There are forced conversions to Islam. Their houses of worships are bombed frequently. Pakistan’s pro-Wahabi/Saudi leaning against anti-Shia/Iranian is known to all but to you. The concept of a minority is alien to Islam and Pakistan. They have no future in Pakistan. The religious cleansing is consistent with the state philosophy. As Justice MC Chagla wrote in Roses in December: “To Pakistan, everything is communal.”
The constitutional amendment in the 1980s included in non-Muslims not only Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Parsi or Buddhist community, but also anyone of the Qadani/Lahori sect, a Bahai or a person belonging to any of the scheduled castes. Ahmadiyyas are already declared non-Muslims. Campaigns are on to condemn Shias to similar fate.
Around a million Muslims from Bihar opted to go to East Pakistan in 1948 because they believed in Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and in the concept of “Islamic Pakistan.” They were the ‘Urdu” speakers to “Bengali-speaking” inhabitants of East Pakistan. They overtly supported West Pakistan during the turbulent year of 1971 when a successful revolt against the repression, death and rape of Pakistan’s army culminated in India’s intervention and creation of Bangladesh.
It unfolded a nightmare for these Bihari Muslim migrants. First Mukti Vahini and then Bangladesh state systematically targeted and killed them. Everything they owned was taken away from them. The glamorous sounding “Geneva Camp” near Dhaka is a living hell for these Bihari Muslims to this day.
Various heads of Pakistan have visited “Geneva Camp” over decades. In the 1980s, Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq assured these “stranded Pakistanis.” Later Nawaz Sharif made similar promises during the 90s. Benazir Bhutto, who belonged to Sindh, earlier had made it clear that there was no space for them in Pakistan. During his 2002 trip to Bangladesh, then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said he couldn’t allow Biharis to emigrate to Pakistan. This is the fate of nearly 2.5 million Urdu-speaking outcasts rotting in Geneva and others camps around Bangladesh.
Their loyalty and belief in the concept of Pakistan has resulted in a terrible fate for nearly three generations of these Bihari Muslims. Only 1.7 lakh have been repatriated so far. The rest have been stalled. Those who have been repatriated are experiencing a living hell.
Most of those repatriated are crammed in a slum in Mian Channu in Punjab, Pakistan. During the 1980s Karachi riots, the ethnic Sindhis targeted them with impunity. Their schools are bombed. Then there is Orangi town in Karachi which houses Biharis in a pathetic condition.
This is the price fellow Muslims who believed in the idea of Pakistan have paid over generations. The medal of destitution is all they have got for their loyalty. But look at the gall and cheek of Pakistan’s Prime Minister and his copious tears on minorities.
The smugness on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s face as if Messiah of peace between India and Pakistan, as he made way for Kartarpur across Wagah border, really got my goat up. Surely he knows Imran Khan is just a dummy; that terrorism both for Khalistan and Kashmir (or for Kabul) is our neighbour’s export, that for Vajpayee’s bus initiative we got Kargil. All this is not for India. This is to nurture his own constituency with an eye to be Punjab’s next chief minister. It would all suit Pakistan and Khalistan donors but not India.
But then why blame Sidhu? I read today Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that Mamata, Akhilesh, Mayawati and Left are ok but not Congress. Mamata, for whom Durga Puja is not a priority and who equates BJP with Taliban; Akhilesh who sees BJP as the biggest danger to democracy; Mayawati who terms Modi as anti-poor; Left’s Sitaram Yechury who calls Modi as the looter of India, are all okay now. All this might win Modi elections. But what about India? What about millions of Hindus who see a threat in these forces and view Modi as their saviour?
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are making overt gestures to be seen as essentially Hindus. They support the agitation against Supreme Court verdict on Sabrimala; have desisted in backing Sidhu on Kartarpur; Sonia sports a tilak (how ludicrous can it really get) in election rallies; and Rahul Gandhi shows his janau to everyone when none of his previous four generations ever wore it. All this is for political dividends and certainly not India.
Shiv Sena are now agitated on Ram Mandir. Uddhav Thackeray and his army reached all the way to Ayodhya. Till recently, millions of workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, most of whom are Hindus, were anathema to them. Now they can go thousands of miles to support a long-cherished dream of Hindus. The idea is to cut the plank which could help BJP in 2019 elections. Did you really think it was for Hindus or India?
Once in a while we are suffused with hope. Arvind Kejriwal was once such in 2014. He evoked Gandhi; wore muffler and slippers and took on the high and mighty of this land. Now he cartwheels around Mamata and Mayawati. He has made sure if another Kejriwal emerges he would have no chance of gaining people’s affection.
But then who thinks for India? The ones who bring their garbage in the name of newspapers to our verandahs; the police or judiciary who give a damn to our urgency; the bureaucracy who are nothing better than glorified clerks afraid to put signature to anything meaningful; the NGOs most of whom are forward soldiers of foreign funders or the academia who trade pen for cheques?
Do you think you and I care about India? We would crib about thousands of issues in our air-conditioned rooms but never take that one step towards an agency. What did you last do about the filth in your neighourhood? Or the menace of wild dogs who could mount a concerted attack if you step out in pitched darkness? What do we personally do to reduce pollution or energy-usage? The horror that our schools are for our children? Taught by teachers who equate education with their salary slips? When did we last visit a village where 80 per cent of India still lives?
Politicians, media, judiciary, policy, bureaucracy, civil society and we as individuals are all too many words and too little action. It can’t work; it won’t work. India is stretching itself thin. Almost 18 per cent of world’s humanity is sitting on a volcano of lies and manipulation. The righteous impotence of me right vs.you wrong; your religion vs. my religion; those charlatans who take past quotes out of context and plaster the edit pages; the newspapers who pass on socialites and film actresses as our new Plato and Socrates. Writers have a role if they are impartial and neutral and appeal to reason or logic. Not when it is sold to someone else’s good. As readers we must take the pen out of their hands and give them shovels to dig their own graves.
Indians now need to be real stakeholders if India is to survive. We need to look at issues both personal and impersonal though the line is often blurred. Personal would involve making our politicians, judiciary, police, media, bureaucracy accountable. Impersonal would mean larger issues such as those of farmers, joblessness etc.. We need citizens’ charters who audit our institutions like accounting firms do to their clients. We need to force our way into decisions our politicians take or the decisions our judiciary delays—for all other reasons except to the benefit of a common man. We need to show them our anger is no longer limited to our drawing rooms. Trust me, we the faceless would have the attention of thousands of eyes and cameras if we stop them at their gates and demand an answer. Our inertia is our weakness and the only strength they have.
India can go wrong any moment. It could be an ecological disaster or a hostile nuclear-armed neighbourhood. It could be the lava of a largely young nation which frustrated at lack of jobs or coma of our judiciary could bury us all under a thick carpet of violence and breakdown. We surely can’t leave it to our politicians and professors.