Sunday, November 4, 2007

'A THOUSAND CUTS' BLEEDING PAKISTAN

At one level, the Ram Janambhoomi movement of the BJP and the Pakistan movement of the Muslim League are two sides of that proverbial coin, with different heads on both sides.

BJP’s movement climaxed in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a mosque constructed at what Hindus believe is the birth place of Lord Ram, allegedly by Babar, an invader who happened to be a Muslim. The Muslim League’s ultimatum to have ‘either a divided India or a destroyed India’ climaxed in the ‘resurrection’ of the ‘Muslim’ rule started by invaders, including Babar, in a new country called Pakistan, torn out of India.

“Your invaders are my inspiration” said one while the other questioned, “How those who invaded this land belonging to both of us be your inspiration just because of religion?” In essence, this was the basic religion-history gap that divided Hindus and Muslims during the freedom movement, leading to the creation of Pakistan. It struck no one then, nor does it now, as to why the Christians of India did not claim similar affinity or belongingness to European invaders on that very logic of religion, and demand a small ‘Stan’ for themselves too!

People can be excited, incited, hypnotized to temporarily forget the reality of their daily lives by the force of religion, particularly by pitching them against those who don’t follow it, the infidels as it were. This mass amnesia cannot be sustained for long. Once the victory, the clear object for which this immense force has been concentrated is achieved, the adrenaline levels drop dramatically after the flush of victory. Emerging from that state of collective hypnosis, the inevitable question that comes up is: how is my life any better now? Or how is the society in my immediate vicinity any happier now?

Soon, hard reality begins to bite. Things seem to be no better than they were earlier for ordinary people; they probably are even worse off along some dimensions, as new societal fissures, artificially hidden behind the uniting veil of religion, begin to show up. Disillusionment quickly begins to set in. To sustain the momentum of the hypnosis and prevent it from wearing off, leaders have to constantly find newer and newer reasons and situations to keep everyone hooked.

After the Ram Janambhoomi issue, which catapulted the BJP to power, the party had either to provide markedly better governance which made a palpably positive impact on the lives of people , or find another emotive and destructive religion based issue to keep them from ‘waking up’. The second option, it quickly realized, was dangerous and fraught with disastrous consequences for the party and the country. In respect of governance, the BJP became indistinguishable from its predecessors and soon lost ground rather dramatically, particularly in places where it had gained the most.

The damage to India was, thankfully, minimal.

After the creation of Pakistan, its rulers had the same alternatives. Jinnah spoke of the first one, envisioning a secular Pakistan with a focus on good governance for bettering the lives of all its citizens irrespective of their religion. That was simply not acceptable to other leaders who thought that Islam was the glue with which they could not only keep Pakistan together, but even beat ‘India’ again to reclaim the lost glory of ‘Muslim’ rule over the whole of India.

The adoption of this view point as the sole basis for defining the state of Pakistan, led to the single minded pursuit of the policy of “bleeding India through a thousand cuts”. Foreign invaders like Ghazni and Ghori were claimed as national heroes of Pakistan only because of what they had done to Hindu rulers and temples. Nadir Shah did not make it to the list because he was 'secular' in his madness with citizens of Delhi irrespective of their religion, and walked away with the peacock throne of the Mughals.

After a string of failures, culminating in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, anger and hatred for India began to blind the country even more. Pakistan’s establishment just could not see Pakistan except through the annoyingly settled and getting-bigger prism of India, forgetting that keeping a country together needed something more substantial than fixated hatred for an external object.

The weapon of Islamic fundamentalism that Pakistan forged for bleeding India has, not surprisingly, mutated beyond its control and turned inwards to Pakistan itself, where it has the maximum say, support and ease of operation. Pakistan is now a dangerous and divided land where the rule of law is being increasingly usurped by gun totting radicals bent on enforcing their totally intolerant version of Islam on Pakistan. Ethnic fissures pasted over by Islam are also beginning to open and widen, and may soon be beyond reconciliation.

Musharraf, a realist, has no illusions about the unprecedented and almost unmanageable situation that Pakistan finds itself in. What can be more ironical than the Army of that country having to fight the Pakistani Muslims they themselves had trained and motivated to fight for them in the name of Islam? Imposition of Emergency may have saved Musharraf's chair for the time being, but can he and the Army stop Pakistan's slide into total anarchy, to which he himself has contributed and which is gathering momentum with each passing day?

It is Pakistan which is now facing a grave danger from terrorists, who are threatening the core of its existence. The program designed to bleed India to death with 'a thousand cuts' is bleeding the very body which created it. The country is no longer governable by normal institutions of state.The mass hypnosis of religion which created Pakistan is beginning to wear off rapidly, but the alternatives being tried to keep the experiment going are worse.

The damage to Pakistan is likely to be, tragically, terminal.