WORLD
Reflections from Across the Border
- Saba Pervaiz Kiyani
Reflections from Across the Border



Recently, before the visit of American President Donald Trump to India, the Modi government got a seven feet high wall built to hide the slums and Kutcha houses in the city of Ahmedabad where a task of prettification was undertaken to welcome US President Donald Trump.
 
The internet shows the images of dozens of slums behind the great wall of Ahmedabad. Does this deception work for Modi-led government to conceal the reality, hunger, poverty behind the wall? No. 

Pretense, in fact, further deepens the inequality in a society, and adds to the misfortune of the poor. The same poverty that causes hunger leads to stunting the growth of children largely. Hovering at number 100 out of 199 countries, the Global Hunger indexes present a grim picture of some of South Asian countries facing grossly undernourishment of children.The South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have the highest rate of undernourishment.
 
As a matter of fact, India is one of the countries which are thronged with the stunted children, according to the Global Nutrition Report published by UNICEF, India in 2018.The study showed that unfortunately, forty-six million children are stunted in India. So, poverty is the biggest bugbear of this region and the regional governments should seriously cope with it timely before it may become too challenging to deal with. India which has the biggest population in the South Asian region totally ignores the problem and does not want to realize the situation. 

As a distraction, now it appears the Indian government is more interested in its ploy to spread hatred among all minorities in the country. Rather, it makes efforts to reduce the horrors of poverty. If sense prevails, these south Asian nations should formulate a common economic policy to eradicate the miseries of the poor in the region.

Shaheen Bagh, Kejriwal And Crisis of Sikh Leadership

While the existence of the poor is a nightmare, by upholding the flag of "Hindu nationalism”, the BJP government passed a controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) after the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and continued lockdown in the Kashmir valley. Since then, all minorities particularly Muslims in India have felt diminished by the bill and have been protesting in the country not only to pressurize the Modi-led government to withdraw from citizenship amendment act but also to make the secular political scheme available to Indian society. After all, it is this secularism which has been the biggest casualty since 2014 when the Hindutva mindset came to power.

Shaheen Bagh- a largely Muslim neighbourhood in Delhi - has become metaphorically a center ofliberation for Muslims and other level headed people caught in the jaws of bigotry and discrimination. The internet shows many stories outside India about how activists have been contributing to the campaign against the bill. Even Sikhs and progressive Hindus are already part of the protests in India because they want equal rights for all citizens.Progressive students have joined chanting slogans, playing "Daflis” and denouncing BJP’s policies against the minorities, and ironically the students were labeled as "Tukde Tukde Gang” or "Pakistani spies” by the widely infamous and brash "Godi media”.

It is however Muslims in India who started protesting against the bill after remaining silent on the decisions of the abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir and the construction of Ram Mandir. The "Godi media” did not expect them to disapprove NRC and CAA.
 
The resurgence of violence was being predicted by independent news sources because BJP’s spokespersons were worsening the state of affairs. And the day came when US President was visiting Delhi; Hindutva forces attacked Muslims in the city with rods, sticks, bricks, and daggers.
 
Wearing saffron flags with image of Hanuman and chanting slogans "Hinduon Ka Hindustan” (India belongs to Hindus); the brainwashed teenagers set shops, houses and even three Mosques on fire. It will take years to rebuild households and shops. Hired mob from outside Delhi killed many Muslims in a few hours.Some of them were burned alive on the streets.The disturbing scenes jogged Delhiites memories of what had happened on the streets of Delhi in 1984 when Sikhs were killed in series of organised attacks. In total, until now, 69 people have been killed across the country since the citizenship amendment act got passed. 

The poets who had recited anti-CAA poems and persons who had uploaded the recitations on social media were arrested. The other day, a taxi driver took a youngster to a police station only for his casual chat with his friend on cell phone about the anti-CAA protests.
 
Pakistan is always impugned by India for its bigotry towards the minorities at different international forums, but how will India defend itself now when a free hand has been given to Hindutva-minded teenagers and attackers to kill innocents in the country. Intolerance is getting amplified in India and it can be even witnessed on TV shows debates and social media platforms.
 
Similarly, speeches of the leaders from top brass of BJP, no matter how venomous and prejudiced words they utter, superimpose the voices of protesters at Shaheen Bagh. It seems like the philosophy of "Hindu nationalism” will win more forcefully and oppressed voices will go unheard.

In an atmosphere of heated words and protests, elections were held in Delhi and a rather opportunist Arvind Kejriwal has again won the battle with a huge difference. That disgraceful defeat in the capital of India has come as a real political setback for BJP. The 51-year-old Kejriwal’s victory has been credited with his work for reducing poverty in the state or somehow making life of the poor livable and functional.

However, Kejriwal (in pic), as a chief minister of Delhi has been fighting for more autonomy of the state because the state police and land is still controlled by the central government– the BJP.
 
Kejriwal’s struggle is defensible, for Kejriwal has been apparently trying hard to uplift socio-economic status of his voters. On the other hand, as seen in the election campaign, Arvind Kejriwal is an open devotee of Hanuman. He led his party’s victory parade to the Hanuman temple, and said that his party's victory was a blessing from Hanuman and he thanked Hanuman from the bottom of his heart. All religious communities like Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians voted for his party AAP.

Now, he should avoid putting on the skin of "Hindutva” since all his voters rejected the philosophy of "Hindu nationalism” and accepted his party’s socio-economic development programme. However, looking at his stance during the Delhi violence – no condemnation of the violence in the first 48 hours, no peace marches to mitigate the violence, no relief camps provided until now - it is feared that if Kejriwal wins the general election in India, he will substitute the BJP party and run the country on RSS’ agenda.
 
As BJP started promoting communal politics openly in India after Indian National Congress’s brahmanised secular approach to deal with the minorities ended, now, Kejriwal is in the arena to introduce a new idea of inclusivity designed by RSS. Indeed, he will become a refined Modi. Just wait for his turn as a prime minister. 

Sikhs have been living in Delhi since decades. They are thought to be honest and straightforward but at the same time politically aware, no matter how they have been treated so far by the leaders they elect. Most of Sikhs, not finding a right political party with real solutions to their issues, supported AAP and BJP in the 2020 election. Akali Dal Badal failed to play any encouraging role in Delhi election.
 
Badal family 
Badal family ruled more than three decades over Punjab, but it has been simply remained limited to its vested interests and political gains. Punjab is a homeland of Sikhs, but they (Punjabi youngsters) have been frequently leaving the state for their better future for last many years.On the contrary,Sikh diaspora in the world is successfully achieving its goals. Their recent accomplishments in the political systems of US, Canada and UK are worth praising.

Why Kartarpur Corridor Is Talked Down

Unluckily, Kartarpur Corridor has been once again talked down. Lately, the eastern Punjab’s DGP affronted Sikhs all over the world when he demonized Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur sahib daily, saying "You send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED [improvised explosive device]”. It is very unfortunate that Kartarpur Corridor’s sanctity was hurt by a senior police officer. Later, he claimed his words were misconstrued and deliberately misinterpreted.

However, whatsoever he said in his statement exactly contradicts Sikhs prayer of ‘Khulle darshan-deedaar’ of religious shrines anywhere. A long awaited path has been opened for all those who love and respect the first Sikh Guru Baba Nanak.
 
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib 
Each day when Sikhs arrive at Kartarpur Sahib, the pilgrims’ faces radiate with happiness. It is not only at Kartarpur that Sikhs visit Pakistan and stay for more than six hours in a day. They also enter Pakistan via Wagah to celebrate and observe different anniversaries and events at different sacred places and they stay in the country for a week or more days. 

Since– 1974, when a protocol on visits to religious shrines between India and Pakistan was enacted, how many Sikhs have been so far taken to a firing range and trained to make an explosive device? Though, Pakistan itself suffered terrorist attacks and lost many lives, the country sustaining so many wounds in the past will wholeheartedly strive for peace and stability in the region. 

As actions speak louder than words, last year an Indian pilot Abhinandan who was captured by Pakistan amid tensions between the two countries was returned to India to avert the warlike situation. And even after the human rights violations and lockdown in Kashmir, Pakistan kept its promise and opened the Kartarpur corridor for Sikhs. This was the second step towards peace between the two countries.
 
Shawala Teja Singh Temple, Sialkot
Before this, Pakistan renovated so many Hindu temples in the country and opened for worshippers. More than one thousand years old and an ancient Shawala Teja Singh Temple was reopened after seventy two years in Sialkot, Pakistan for the Hindu community. Now, local Hindu community performs its prayer and rituals at this Shiva temple.The Hindu community is happy with this positive initiative and they celebrated Mahashivratri in the temple.But it seems like Indian government is at the end of its rope and it overstates much and says a lot of damaging things.

Why is Kartarpur Corridor not being seen as a milestone to solve all matters that pose threats to the region and why don’t we fight together against poverty affecting seriously billions of people? Instead, Sikhs are being vilified due to their reverence for Pakistan just after Kartarpur Corridor was inaugurated.

On reflection, it may be said that whatever the government of India plans to deal with anti-CAA protesters or to malign Sikhs for Kartarpur leads to the implementation of "Hindu nationalism” and the making of a Hindu Rashtra eventually. 

Saba Pervaiz Kiyani is a freelance blogger, journalist and broadcaster.
 
 
 
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