Indian liberals have faced the champions of Hindu Jingoism in documenting their multiple crimes against religious minorities in India and now against the people of Kashmir. As they are real witnesses, their testimonies carry extraordinary weight. And yes, the world is listening. The key US presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have expressed their "deep concern" about Kashmir's mistreatment by India. The United States-based Hindutva brigade is outraged and is calling for its defeat in the 2020 elections.
The Indian liberal is unpopular and will probably become even more unpopular because public opinion is against him / her. Donald Trump successfully deactivated the conscience of most Americans, but Narendra Modi has done even better with the man in the street. Not long ago, most Indians agreed that citizenship grants equality as a constitutional right. However, a unilateral means sells abuses of executive authority and abuses those who insist that India's constitutional obligations must be met.
The Pakistani liberal has faced an even more difficult time and for much longer. For a whole decade, 2004-2014, Pakistan's mainstream was in a state of collective deception. Our soldiers, police and ordinary citizens were killed, schools exploded, female education was banned and polio workers were killed. But the mantra "this is not our war" was popular. Ten years ago, Imran Khan denounced those who advocate action against religious extremists as "liberal scum" in the United States pay. He was applauded greatly.
"Liberal fascists" was then a common term. Popularized by a well-known television presenter who still has his show, he was picked up by columnists from the Urdu newspaper. Intrigued by how "liberal" could marry "fascist," he had asked many at that time what the term meant. Some said liberal fascists want to ban religion, hang mullahs and close mosques and mothers. However, they could not name a single well-known liberal person to say that. When the liberals cried to the victims of the suicide attacks, the right-wing columnists denounced them as "candlelight mafia."
Mr. Prime Minister: welcome to the liberal camp! You are saying now what we liberals have said for 20 years.
Pakistan's liberals tried hard but the country was in a drunken stupor. He continued to snore even after the Pakistani Taliban took control of Swat in 2008 and daily executions at Khooni Chowk in Mingora. The late Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, a regular figure on television, would flatly declare that the suicide bombers were actually Hindu and Jewish because they had not been circumcised. How did he know that he never said during the many animated television sessions I had with him. Unlike today (2019), at that time some contrary opinions were allowed on the screen.
The mass killing of students at the Army Public School in 2014 by furious fans, who insisted that students recite the kalma before being shot dead, changed everything. From then on it was bang-bang! Operation Zarb-i-Azb was followed by Operation Raddul Fasaad specifically directed against religious radicals. Faggot! We soon had peace. No captured Hindu or Jew was presented as a failed suicide bomber. The liberal was right.
Even though some things changed, others did not. Until someone invented the FATF Danda, extra-state actors were a desirable but undeniable means of carrying out a foreign policy. The liberals knew that they would not be heard, but they shouted anyway saying that this will not help free Kashmir, which delegitimizes the fight of cashmere and makes them appear as terrorists.
And now? This liberal position was claimed on September 19, 2019, when Imran Khan, now prime minister, said exactly what the powerless liberals have defended for 20 years. Any attempt to "undertake jihad in Kashmir," he said, would be an act of extreme enmity towards Kashmiris and added that: "Anyone who thinks they will cross the border to join the Kashmir is a great enemy of them and of Pakistan." "
Mr. Prime Minister: we welcome you to the liberal camp! We hope you stay with us even if Mr. Hafiz Saeed is not happy. Please stay the course.
Indian liberals have a hard fight ahead while challenging Hindutva's discrimination against Muslims, Dalits and Christians. But at least they have a constitution that, in principle, guarantees absolute equality to all citizens. Modi has mocked secularism, but until he manages to reverse the constitution, India is still officially a secular country. Pakistan, however, has always renounced secularism. Its Constitution explicitly discriminates between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Every applicant for a Pakistani passport must declare himself Muslim or non-Muslim. Taking the second option is not free because the applicant has reduced citizenship rights. Constitutionally, a Hindu, Christian or Pakistani Ahmadi cannot have all the rights of Muslims. Our prime minister can give great speeches on Islamophobia to the UN General Assembly, but how seriously will the world take a leader who appreciates discrimination in his own country and has attended several conferences of Khatm-i-Nabuwat ?
I am proud of my liberal friends in Pakistan and India, but I feel equally friendly with those in Israel, Europe and the United States. In Israel they fight for the right of the Palestinians to their own state; in Europe against religious or racial prejudices; in the United States for fair treatment of Mexicans and Muslims and much more. Some liberals are financially corrupt and bad people. They need to be treated as such. But liberalism is an ethical project built on the notions of personal freedoms and equity for all. We form a large and frantic family where not everyone knows each other and we often fight. Some are faithfully religious, others indifferent, others atheists. Some drink, others eat beef, some think that socialism is better than capitalism or vice versa. But what makes us a family is respect for diversity, pluralism and the belief in human equality.
And who are the illiberals? White supremacists, Nazis, Islamophobes and religious fundamentalists of all religions: Jews, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and even "peaceful" Buddhists. It is much easier to be retrospective, narrow, prejudiced, parochial, tribal, sectarian and nationalistic than to be complacent, global and universal.
Some say that morality in politics is dead, but I hope it's just a long nap. Monsters like Trump and Modi are strong today, but they won't last forever. So let's keep our faith in the world better to come.
The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
Published on Dawn, October 19, 2019