INSAANIYAT DUR AST (Humanity far off)

Vinod Mubayi


[The famous Farsi saying Dilli dur ast or Hanooz Dilli dur ast (Delhi is far off) often ascribed to the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin represented that the voyager or seeker had still far to go before he could reach his goal].


When the news of the horrifying massacre of small children at a school in Peshawar surfaced those contemplating Pakistan may be forgiven if they thought of it as a place where “insaaniyat dur ast” (humanity is far off) is the norm. There was an especially macabre quality to this gruesome incident where children were forced to recite the shahada before being shot by the brainwashed robotic salafis of the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP).


From press reports it appears that this incident may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, i.e. it finally may galvanize the Pakistan state and government to save itself from destruction.  The newspaper Dawn reported in its 20th December issue: “In his recent televised speech, the prime minister said the terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar has changed Pakistan.   “The Peshawar atrocity has changed Pakistan, we need to eradicate the mindset of terrorism to defeat extremism and sectarianism,” he said. “This horrendous attack has shaken the nation…the terrorists struck the future of this country when they murdered those children,” the PM said, adding, “A strong action is needed to root out the menace of extremism from society.” One hopes that what the political leadership is saying is true although a touch of skepticism would be well justified.


As our colleague Pervez Hoodbhoy indicates in his article below, the list of recent atrocities in Pakistan is long and there is nothing yet to indicate that any basic change in attitude will occur.  Pious lamentations and exhortations are necessary and continue to be made but they are hardly sufficient. The basic change needed is one of mindset among the people and the forces that exercise power in various centers in the country.  This mindset, however, is the product of certain long-standing educational, social, and cultural practices and as long as these endure it is difficult to believe that the mindset can change. There is the so-called “deep state” in Pakistan led by shadowy intelligence and political organizations and populated by equally shadowy operatives who try to foment trouble in neighboring countries to allegedly fulfill political objectives. There is the PTI led by the egomaniac Imran Khan who believes that captaincy of the Pakistan cricket team gives him the right to captain the whole country politically. Imran has been playing games with TTP sympathizers for some time now and voicing a kind of simple-minded anti-imperialist propaganda that benefits the fundamentalists.


But, while these ugly warts on Pakistan’s visage are known to all and sundry, what is the situation in its neighbor India? Its new leader, Modi, promised the Indian public “acchhe din aane wale hain” (good times are coming). Good times have certainly come to the Adanis and the Ambanis. Crony capitalism is flourishing more than it ever did even under the previous regime.  Public sector banks are being mobilized to make huge loans to all kinds of dodgy businesses with good political connections like the airline SpiceJet. In the meantime, the public is fed a steady diet of Modi cheerleading by a fawning mainstream media.


Meanwhile the country is being forced to endure the machinations of extremist Hindutva organizations that are India’s version of the Taliban. A thuggish blend of intimidation and brutality is being applied to terrorize religious minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians as these are castigated as “non-Indian” faiths, and force them to convert to Hinduism under a program ironically called “ghar wapsi” (returning home).  Churches have been burnt in Delhi and pastors have been threatened with all kinds of consequences if they dare to convert anyone to Christianity. The social, political and cultural inspiration for all these groups is provided by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), which is also at the same time the real force behind the current Indian government. Modi, for much of his life, was an RSS “pracharak” (preacher, popularizer) and so were several of his current colleagues in government. This combination of crony capitalism with religious extremist politics is not unique to India but it threatens to exert a malign influence on the Indian body politic.


While terrorism in Pakistan is highlighted, and it certainly deserves to be, and the Pakistani state is excoriated for failing to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre in 2008 to book, what has happened to the terrorist acts in India? The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings were terrorist attacks that occurred around midnight on 18 February 2007 on the Samjhauta express a twice-weekly train service connecting Delhi and Lahore. 68 people were killed and many hundreds injured, mostly Pakistani tourists visiting families in India.  Then there were the bomb blasts in Jaipur and in Hyderabad and Malegaon and Pune, Maharashtra, killing and injuring many. Various Hindutva organizations like the shadowy Abhinav Bharat have been accused and numerous individuals including even military personnel like Lt. Col. Purohit with access to advanced explosives have been cited as perpetrators. But have they been successfully prosecuted? Swami Aseemanand confessed in the media to his role as an organizer of many of these terror acts.  But he was granted bail and has since recanted his earlier testimony.


Much anger was voiced in the Indian media and the Indian parliament even passed a resolution denouncing a Pakistani court’s grant of bail to Zaki ur Rahman Lakhvi, one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai massacre, which was subsequently rejected by a higher court. But bail was recently granted by an Indian court in Gujarat to some of the worst figures of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom like Maya Kodnani who were tried and convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Prominent political operators like the BJP President Amit Shah, Modi’s closest chamcha, are not only free on bail having been accused of the most serious charges like murder, they are running the country.


Clearly, what needs to change before anything else is the prevailing mindset. In Pakistan, the long reign of the deep state and the military, especially in the period of Gen. Zia ul Haq, left behind a wreck of civil society and administration that was filled in by jihadist elements. Various figures at different levels thought they could successfully play the good Taliban bad Taliban game to their own advantage. Reality seems to have intervened or at least dawned on those in power; whether it will lead to any lasting change is uncertain. In India, the Hindutva groups that are mirror images of the Taliban are now ascendant and seem to be bent on flexing their muscles and throwing their weight around.  It is difficult to perceive anything other than “bure din” (bad times) on the horizon at this time.

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