Pitying India as Modi flirts with war

The casualties of Modi’s violence are usually Indian, even as he brays for war with Pakistan

M Bilal Lakhani March 03, 2019
The casualties of Modi’s violence are usually Indian, even as he brays for war with Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE

Forget Pakistan’s rhetoric, Narendra Modi is the only person ever to be denied a US visa based on a little-known law on religious freedom, even though he applied for a diplomatic visa as a sitting chief minister. This led to nearly a decade-long US travel ban imposed over his role in Gujrat’s anti-Muslim riots, which left thousands dead (the UK and several European nations also had slapped a defacto travel ban on Modi). As nuclear-armed Pakistan and India are currently on the brink, the path to peace is buried deep under Modi’s not so ambiguous relationship with mass murder and a history of winning elections over dead bodies.

The casualties of Modi’s violence are usually Indian, even as he brays for war with Pakistan. Let me tell you a little story which has eerie echoes to what’s unfolding today. On February 27, 2002, several compartments of a train carrying a large number of Hindu pilgrims returning from the site of the demolished Babri Masjid was set on fire, killing 60 people. In his public statement after the incident, Modi said this was a terror attack planned by Muslims. This happened during the election year for his second term as Gujarat’s chief minister.

Anti-Muslim riots followed, with thousands dead and 150,000 people driven into refugee camps. Numerous women and children were among the victims, which included mass rapes and mutilations of women. During the riots, Modi said, “What is happening is a chain of action and reaction.” Later that year, Modi went on to win a second term as chief minister of Gujarat by deploying anti-Muslim rhetoric, learning that his strategy can pay off electorally.

To this day, he hasn’t apologised for the deaths of Muslims during the riots. I don’t hate India but I do pity the country under Modi’s leadership. India is a beautiful county and many of our families in Pakistan, including mine, migrated from there. India has a superior economy, makes better films and as much as I hate to accept it, even has a better cricket team, capable of delivering more consistently. Why then, would India elect a leader with a bloody past? Is a booming economy worth a mass murderer as prime minister?

They say people get the leaders they deserve. And Modi brings out India’s worst instincts. Pakistanis do not elect people with extremist mindsets into the prime minister’s seat. Every mainstream political party in Pakistan — the PPP, the PML-N, the PTI — had peace with India in their manifestos for the last two elections. This makes me immensely proud of the Pakistani people and the current maturity we are observing in the conflict with India is a reflection of that.

Even Imran Khan’s jilted ex-wife does not accuse him of using violence to achieve power or of personal corruption. That’s the difference between Pakistan and India today; Pakistan is progressively electing better leaders. The only force that can stop this conflict between India and Pakistan from escalating is the Indian people rising against Modi and saying enough is enough.

One doesn’t need to be a historian to study Modi’s past behaviour and predict where this conflict goes now. A simple Wikipedia search of history shows that the cycle of escalating violence works in Modi’s electoral favour, even at the expense of India’s wellbeing as a country.

Pakistan needs to study the Modi playbook in Gujarat to change the paradigm of war for him. Previous international isolation of Modi would explain his fetish for isolating Pakistan. Perhaps isolating Modi as a mass murderer will help put him back into his place. A billboard in Times Square, with a mockup of Modi’s rejected US visa stamp for mass murder will hurt him more than downing a few of their jets. A front-page ad in The New York Times and The Guardian reminding their governments of a travel ban they imposed on Modi will help too. Simply unveiling Modi’s blood thirsty nature to the world is Pakistan’s most lethal weapon in this unconventional war.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2019.

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