Let’s build a bridge for peace: Moneeb Ahmad Barlas

Moneeb Ahmad Barlas

The global spotlight is fixed on the coronavirus pandemic. But in the surrounding darkness, another event of catastrophic consequences has taken place.

Modi Sarkar has sneaked an amendment into Kashmir’s domicile law, paving the way for demographic change in the valley and stripping Muslims of their majority. The settlement of non-Kashmiri Hindus in the occupied territory was already in process since long; however, the amendment will now legalize and formalize the arrangement.

This is not surprising in a country where rights and privileges are either reserved for upper-caste Hindus or holy cows. The rest, as you know, are disposables.

From his vantage point, the Indian Prime Minister has played a masterstroke. He has elevated himself in the eyes of the Hindutva brigade, strengthened BJP’s vote bank among Hindu radicals, and sustained his political lifeline.

Yet, despite this maelstrom of Hindu radicalism, there is still a silver lining.

That not all Hindus want a Hindustan where they would be egged on to drink cow urine and where minorities will not be even at par with animals. There are people- the formerly silent or less vocal mass of intellectuals, liberals and thinkers, who do not subscribe to Modi’s myopic worldview and feel disgusted by his unrestrained hatred of non-Hindus. They are beginning to voice their concerns more forcefully.

This group of concerned Indians made itself known in protests against the citizenship amendment act; making it clear that they rejected Modi’s ideology and his outrageous program of making India a living hell for Muslims.

Not that minorities have fared any better under previous governments; because Hindu radicalism is not an anomaly but a norm in Indian society.

However, under Modi, intolerance for minorities has become more pronounced and brutal.

By their unabashed assaults on minorities, Modi and his cohort of Hindutva stalwarts have peeled off the layer of pseudo-secularism under which the former dwellers of South Block had cleverly disguised deep-rooted Hindu fundamentalism; compelling many Indians to bow their heads in shame and raise them only in defiance of their government’s policies.

Islamabad can involve these concerned Indians, including those residing outside India, in back-channel diplomacy, and enlist their help to spread the message of peace and dialogue. Through them, the Indian masses can be alerted about the pitfalls of Modi’s ill-conceived actions and their repercussions for regional stability.

They can be invited for frank and open discussions with our policy-makers, members of civil society, academia and experts. These discussions should ideally take place away from the media gaze so that they can contribute candidly without the fear of being labelled ‘traitor’ or ‘agent of ISI’. Thus, they will be under no pressure to speak from RAW wisdom, but rather out of a genuine commitment to peace.

And since seeking physical presence of all participants under one roof will not always be a feasible option, therefore, online platforms can also be developed for these talks.

In a way, this will also help counter Indian propaganda against Pakistan.

The Indians run vast propaganda networks across the world to curry favor with foreign publics and cast aspersions on Pakistan.

In December, the BBC published a report based on the findings of the EU Disinfo lab that had uncovered a “global network of pro-Indian fake websites and think tanks” which was “aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe”. This included groups “responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe”.

Pakistan must counter Indian lies with facts. It cannot give India a free hand in tarnishing our image in the eyes of the world community. Indian attempts to cast us as a villain have to be opposed. 

But at the same time Islamabad cannot let BJP’s belligerence deter it from seeking an amicable end to hostilities.

By fostering a frank and cordial relationship with those Indians who can visualize the horrors of a conflict between two nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan can build pressure on the Indian government and create an atmosphere much needed for resolution of all disputes.

Pakistan can also boost its credibility internationally by safeguarding the rights of its own minorities. This should, in no way, be misconstrued as linking minority rights in this country to our struggle for rights of Muslims in India.

But only that it gives a strong message to global audiences about our genuine commitment to human rights, and strengthens our narrative on Kashmir- the land once famed for its beauty but now a “vale of tears” yearning for freedom.