Don’t silence significant voices
Asian Affairs manages to present a wide spread of interesting and informative articles which I thoroughly enjoy reading .Your September issue contains two fine articles focusing on the gradual alienation of minority communities of India and the decline of traditional pluralism and secular values due to a significant rise of Hindutva across the country promoted by an extreme right section of the majority Hindu community. Both Kuldip Nayar in Can Secularism Be Saved and Rita Payne in her review of Saeed Naqvi’s book refer to the Indian Muslims’ deep feelings of insecurity and the government more or less ignoring the blatant anti-Muslim activities of RSS and BJP activists under the slogan of ‘cow protection’. Ignoring the discriminatory and unequal treatment of minorities, particularly of Muslims and Sikhs, is incredible and worrying. There is little being done to control the anti-Muslim activities of hard-core Hindu fundaments.
Sikhs don’t seem to have forgotten the betrayals of post-independence Indian political leaders not honouring their promise of providing them with a state where they could accomplish their full aspirations. Nor have they forgotten the state-sponsored atrocities of the 1980s in the name of ‘law and order’ and the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other cities. The voices for Khalistan may have been muted in the Punjab for pragmatic political reasons but a significant section of Sikhs in the diaspora still believes in the RSS’s conspiracy of Sikh annihilation. Both articles link the contemporary situation with the partition of India in 1947. Sadly, the 70th year of partition is primarily being celebrated in the context of emergence of an independent India and Pakistan, marginalising the costs paid largely by Muslims and Sikhs through horrific bloodshed. Interestingly, both authors reach a similar positive conclusion that it is possible to save a plural, secular India if the authorities and senior politicians attempt to reach out to the minorities to discuss and understand their feelings.
Dr Ramindar Singh, MBE DL
Pudsey, West Yorkshire
A doomed democracy?
The report on a seminar conducted by The Democracy Forum in the September issue of Asian Affairs gave thought-provoking perspectives about Pakistan and its shattered democracy. The panel of speakers provided deep insights about the nation’s political affairs.
The term ‘bonsai democracy’, as pointed out by Dr Farzana Shaikh, suits Pakistan’s political reality as the growth of democracy is being restricted. The recent ouster of Nawaz Sharif is unsurprising to many in a country that has not witnessed even one democratically elected Prime Minister serving their full tenure of five years.
I believe that Pakistan has always been a ‘democracy of dictatorships’. From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence to the recent ouster of Nawaz Sharif, most of the country’s democratically elected Prime Ministers have experienced serious conditions (in most cases the army being the reason), which led to their overthrow. The moment the verdict against Nawaz Sharif was announced, many applauded the country’s judiciary. But at the same time, as one of the seminar speakers pointed out, repeated ousters of the country’s leaders could lead to unaccountability. Also, the fact that a huge proportion of youngsters are disengaged from political participation because of disillusioned ideas about democracy is shocking. Worse still, even some educated youngsters tend to think of Islam and democracy as incompatible.
Democracy is not necessarily the ideal system to meet young people’s rights, as concluded by Professor Marie Lall. But the fact that ideals of democracy are being questioned in Pakistan’s educational institutions is alarming. This being the case, it is worth wondering whether Pakistan will cease to identify itself as a democracy.
I would like to applaud TDF for conducting this seminar. May there be many more.
Time to tweet
I recently started reading Asian Affairs and find the articles very informative and thoughtfully chosen. But can this young reader ask that Asian Affairs magazine makes more use of social media?