I am surprised at the Indian electorate. How can it justify electing as its prime minister a man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people — irrespective of which religion they belonged to, by inciting hatred against the Muslim community and stopping the state machinery from intervening in a bid to save them. In fact, if nothing else, the police joined in the orgy of violence. How can memories be so short?
The election of Mr Modi as India’s next PM will shake the country’s secular foundations. Possibly the Hindu majority has had enough with the 165 million-strong Muslim community. The Muslims are troublesome, ill-educated, largely poor and usually problematic. But they are also Indians first.
Never since the fall of the Babri Masjid have India’s Muslims felt so insecure. Many are terrified with what’s in store. They fear a crackdown in the same manner that another great democracy, the United States of America, went after Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. Babri Masjid changed India’s politics forever. We are now told that Mr Advani knew of the plan to demolish the mosque in the events of 1992. It was from the ruins of Babri Masjid that the BJP rose to new heights. Unfortunately, Mr Advani was sidelined after he started seeing things in a different perspective.
In the same manner, ten years later in 2002 from the ashes of the riots of Ahmedabad, the political career of Narendra Modi sky-rocketed. One can only wonder at the peace-loving people of Gujarat, the land from where came Mahatma Gandhi, electing and financing him. They have deep pockets. But how can they imagine that Modi will take their country ahead in a manner that other governments did not. Maybe I’m missing something here.
Now let’s come to Pakistan. Unlike the older generation, known for their humility and common sense, new generation Indians have little patience for their neighbours. They accuse us of being extremists and trouble-makers. Many say that the talk of Pakistan and the importance that Pakistan is given in India has to do with the Punjabi nostalgia on both sides. We need to move on, an Indian journalist once told me.
I recall a conversation with Sachin Pilot some years back when he was a budding MP in the Indian parliament. He was describing to us a plan by the government to help generate jobs for unemployed people in rural areas. I asked him how he would prevent misuse and corruption in the scheme and he just rolled his eyes and said “we are not like Pakistan”.
I have seen Indian diplomats snicker at a conference in Delhi and exchange notes about how the only request Pakistanis put forward to them is to get Indian visas. What is worrisome is that the Indian establishment equates Pakistanis in the same category as their Muslim population: troublesome, ill-mannered and poorly educated. A problem. What the Indian electorate now wants is that Mr Modi and his brigade come in and solve this problem.
The one thing that can be said about the Pakistani voter, and maybe because the voter has not been given as many chances to vote as has the Indian counterpart, is that in Pakistan voters tend not to vote for extremists or mass-murderers. Can you imagine Pakistan electing a prime minister who is responsible for the deaths of thousands from a minority community? We would be taken to town over this.
In the build-up to the elections, some myths that need to be shattered. For example, the belief that relations between India and Pakistan are at their best when there is a BJP government in Delhi and a PML-N government in Islamabad. In reality, more progress is made when the Congress is in power. In India, there is also the belief that Muslims are holding back their country. Rubbish.
In the final analysis, the election of Mr Modi may well be a good thing for India. With voters expecting him to change the country from the Third World to the First World in a matter of years, let us see how things move ahead. We wish India well. At the same time, we can caution them. The route they are taking may be one they will regret in years to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.