Jacinda Ardern's New Zealand, Modi's India, We in Punjab
- S Pal
Jacinda Ardern's New Zealand, Modi's India, We in Punjab

THE BRAVE NEW India of Narendra Modi was so pissed off with repeated acts of terror, carried out by elements in Pakistan or those backed by them, that when an Indian youth rammed a car-full of explosives into the CRPF caravan in Pulwama and killed 40 plus of uniformed men, it got the entire country very, very angry.

Such was the extent of this seething rage that some public figures even offered to tie explosives around their girth, turn themselves into border-crossing human bombs and storm into Pakistani cities and explode, if required.

The patriotic fervour saw crowds spilling into the streets, bashing up a Kashmiri here, a Muslim there. At the national level, the government claimed it got its armed forces to carry out air strikes deep into Pakistan and killed terrorists whose numbers were known only to certain people who were at liberty to announce these in rallies while armed forces said they never counted the enemy casualties.  
Within minutes of the murder of 50 Muslims, Ardern appeared before the media, called the shootings a ‘terrorist act’ and announced of the victims that "They are us.” 
Now, Indians were being taught how exactly should governments and leaders react when a terror attack takes place. But when a terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, 13,080 kilometres away from Pulwama, took place, a lot of these Indians must have been very confused with the reaction of the government there. 

A xenophobic young man, armed with multiple guns and a liberal supply of ammunition, stormed into two separate mosques and mowed down 50 people, leaving a peaceful nation shell-shocked.

New Zealand's leadership knew its reaction was being watched around the world. After all, it was an act of mass slaughter by an Islamophobe who had planned it for months, perhaps years; had arrived in the country for this specific purpose; had a worked out theoretical framework in the form of a 73-page manifesto. Also, the victims belonged to a community whose more radical members were being blamed in scores of countries around the world for carrying out acts of terror. 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seemed set not to lose her cool. Within minutes of the murder of 50 Muslims, Ardern appeared before the media, called the shootings a ‘terrorist act’ and announced of the victims that "They are us.” 

"This is one of New Zealand's darkest days," she said. When was the last time a country declared that a day on which several Muslims died in a terror act was a dark day?

She mourned with the victims’ families, declared a ban on the semi-automatic machine guns the killer used, and went far further than what even the victim community could have imagined. She said although the killer came from Australia and imbibed his ideology overseas, his views weren’t alien to New Zealanders.

Here was a prime minister not losing even hours before asking the country that it must start the process of national self-scrutiny.

There is no end to the hate that US President Donald Trump has spewed towards immigrants and/or Muslims, and a number of voices among rightwing Indian political sphere have made fairly hate-laced and often vulgar references to them.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to his Kiwi counterpart, telling Ardern of his "deep shock and sadness" and sticking to the sterile diplomatic verbosity, stressing "India's strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

Modi also reiterated that hatred and violence have no place in diverse and democratic societies, a fact he does not reiterate for days even after incidents of mob lynching when India's liberal sections are clamouring for such a signal.

Narendra Modi then, and till date, has not found the time to mention the names of a single Muslim from India who were killed in the attack. Ansi Alibava, an agro-engineering student who migrated with her husband last year from Kerala; Ramiz Vora and his father Asif, an insurance agent; Mohammed Imran Khan; and Farhaj Ahsan, an electrical engineer from Hyderabad, were the Indians who were killed by the white supremacist killer. 

The idea of a caring, welfare state standing by the aggrieved community no more carries any political weight in India. 
Modi did not mention their names, did not mourn with their families, did not hold a press conference. Sushma Swaraj's mindspace was taken up by the conversion row in Pakistan. 

The job of providing moral leadership to the world was left to Jacinda Ardern. 

She donned a black scarf and embraced the Muslim community members, met the women and was seen consoling them, extending her condolences, her body language telling the world that she felt one with them. The world felt the power of #YouAreUs. 

Ardern, too, is the leader of a country that has a painful history of white settler violence against the indigenous Maori people. It has witnessed voices of racism against immigrants. But she did not keel over in a time of crisis. Instead, she sparked a conversation picked up around the globe.

The Muslims around the world heard her loud and clear: "New Zealand mourns with you."

Hers were not just words. She was taking action. Gun law reforms kicked in almost immediately, unlike in the United States where a string of mass shootings have failed to trigger the leadership into action.

As the New York Times heaped praise and editorially said 'America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern', it was hardly noticed in the surfeit of love and compassion that New Zealanders showed towards their Muslim residents. The mountains of flowers at the gates of mosques were the strong response of a nation determined not to give space to xenophobia.

Compare that to India where Congress leaders have failed to put up any pretence of sharing the pain of the Sikh community in the wake of 1984 mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere. It's true that many in the Sikh circles and political sphere blame top Congress leadership of even an active hand in the massacres, but that was no reason for a key political party of India to stop condoling the deaths of thousands of Sikhs in such a gory manner.

Similarly, the BJP leadership does not condole the deaths of Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots. 

In fact, both parties fish out "the other riot" card when confronted about their duplicity.

The idea of a caring, welfare state standing by the aggrieved community no more carries any political weight in India. Even in a case as soul-tearing as the Kathua girl child rape and murder, we saw vast sections of Indian people and top leadership of the ruling dispensation wanting in words and actions that could send a message of compassion.
In election season, our senses are numbed further. 
Clearly, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and our hearts and minds have become this rotten Denmark. As a people, we have failed to step out and tell the victims that "you are us."

We love a Jacinda Ardern telling the world that the immigrants were welcome. We like Justin Trudeau as he tries bhangra steps, or visits gurdwaras. That's because the children of Punjabis long to go to New Zealand or Canada. But our own attitude towards immigrants is far different.

How compassionate have we really been towards our internal immigrants, the ones we call migrants from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar? What are terms we use for them? What was our reaction to demands that they be stripped of their voting rights in Punjab? 

Eager to become immigrants in an alien country, Punjabis were happy discriminating against migrants from poorer Indian states. 

India's Dalits are still waiting for an indigenous male of female Jacinda Ardern who steps out and announces that "you are us" and that he or she will not tolerate a single of discrimination. Right now, we have liberal sections who are afraid of recalling the suicide of Rohith Vemula lest it angers the caste Hindu voters.

In election season, our senses are numbed further. Akali Dal cheekily thanks the alliance partner BJP's leadership for giving justice to 1984 victims, while not uttering a word about Muslim victims of communal violence in Gujarat. The Congress leaders in Gujarat no more recall the Gujarat riots. 

We have found new solidarity in being blind to the pain of others.

New Zealand has found a sense of solidarity in the pain inflicted on it by xenophobia. 

Something is very seriously rotten in the state of of our minds.

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