Mr. Modi: Good for Pakistan, Bad for Muslims?

Early on in Ulysses, Joyce has Stpehen Dedalus harking back to Aristotle and thinking the following thoughts:

Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a bedlam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death? They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind.

We are at that momentous point in South Asia where all of a sudden there is a burgeoning of potentialities only one of which will turn into reality – the actuality of the possible as possible in Aristotle’s formulation.

I have no way of knowing which of those possibilities will become the reality we will look back on ten years from now. What I can do is sift through them and palpate the one that, a priori, seems more than likely to oust the rest.

So let me weave and explicate the thesis that Mr. Modi could be good for Pakistan and bad for Muslims.

First, there are the things that Mr. Modi has come to believe about himself: that he is decisive and that he is a manager par excellence. Whether he is or not, whether he has always believed so, or whether he is the victim of his own sustained rhetoric, is now irrelevant. His reputation and his legacy rest on his acting out that role and delivering on his promise of development and economic growth.

This could be good for Pakistan because he will be decisive in bilateral relations but not so decisive that it comes in the way of the economic development of India.

At one level this is obvious enough, at another slightly more nuanced. Why might Mr. Modi’s decisiveness in bilateral relations be good for Pakistan? Look at it from Pakistan where the state is accountable neither to its people nor to anyone else. No amount of carrots, cajoling, or appeals to common sense can make it alter its ways that rest on fooling all the people all the time. It is only the stick that can possibly impose any kind of constraint on its behavior.

Think of the scenario with regard to polio. The Pakistani state has absorbed billions of dollars in aid and advice and yet remains amongst the only sources of the virus in the world. For years it has fudged the figures and laughed its way to the bank. Only when the world has finally imposed restrictions on travel that inconvenience the rulers has there been any acknowledgement of the seriousness of its irresponsibility.

What holds for polio holds just as well for terrorism. No amount of argumentation is likely to come in the way of what has become an integral strategy to prevent a durable peace that would undercut the control of vested interests. Only the threat of a decisive retaliation could force a rethink of this strategy.

This, of course, would call for a very fine balance. Irrationalities in Pakistan have spawned to such an extent and control over violence become so fractured that nothing can be ruled out by way of likely actions. A decisiveness that discourages but does not push over the edge would be good for Pakistan; a misstep could be a disaster for South Asia.

At the same time, the quickest boost to development of at least the western parts of India would come from a quantum increase in trade with Pakistan. Given Mr. Modi’s imperative to deliver development, and that too in short order, this might be one of the pills he would be willing to swallow. And any increase in trade would be disproportionately beneficial for Pakistan by virtue of its much smaller economy and land mass.

But second, and counterweights to the above, are the things about Mr. Modi that are unlikely to change even if he tries to change them. Mr. Modi has a communal and majoritarian perspective and just as the overt promises of development have to be delivered, so have the winks and nods to his core constituency be made good. He would be held equally to both poles of the bargain he has entered into with his supporters.

The concessions to Pakistan that might be necessitated by the imperative of development could well be compensated by the narrowing of space for Indian Muslims, more so because Indian Muslims wield very little countervailing power. Mr. Modi’s party has no representative from the community and the Lok Sabha as a whole the lowest representation ever. Pakistan, of course, would care little for the fate of Indian Muslims; it never has. They will be entirely at the mercy of Mr. Modi and Mr. Modi is not a sympathetic man.

As I said at the outset, I have no way of knowing if it is this particular possibility that would be actualized though it does seem plausible. I can only hope I am right about the first part and wrong about the second.

One might ask what is to be gained by displaying such displeasing weaves and airing such unpalatable thoughts. It is the hope that looking the implications of a possibility square in the face could well lessen the likelihood of its actualization. In the room of infinite possibilities, another, more benign one could take its place. It is up to us to articulate the possibilities and be part of the movement that stands in the way of one and lends a helping hand to the other.

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95 Responses to “Mr. Modi: Good for Pakistan, Bad for Muslims?”

  1. CTMaloney Says:

    Good thoughts. But the biggest issue for India is not Pakistan, but ENVIRONMENT. North Indian population is increasing 1.5% a year so will double in some 60 years, along with very serious depletion of groundwater in most states, increasing temperature which reduces crop yields, more extreme weather, melting Himalayan glaciers which in future will badly effect agriculture in the Ganga plains, and rising seas along with coastal groundwater salinization. Pak has a faster growing population and even more serious environmental concerns. Not to speak of Bangladesh from which 20-30 million people may try to enter India in a couple decades. I haven’t heard Modi say ANYTHING about these greatest of all issues- like many businessmen he ignores them. So let us see.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      CTMaloney: I agree. The speculation was about what Mr. Modi is likely to focus on rather than what he ought to focus on. Environment is of course the big issue of our times, yet no one seems to be giving it the attention it deserves. This is now a truly common property problem at the global scale and the coordination and cooperation needed seem to be beyond the capacity of those in charge. We might have passed the point of no return already in which case it might be rational to make the most of the remaining time.

  2. skynut Says:

    Starts with a deep thought from Ulysses however ‘ascends rapidly into a shallow analysis…

    It will most likely be the reverse!

    Good for Muslims of India, and bad from Pakistan.

    M is now a national leader whose development agenda needs to res on a stable foundations. His popularity is already at rock bottom among the 13 % or 177,000,000 Muslims. It will be stupid to leave this mass of potential voter alienated and thus unproductive.

    On the other hand, the economic development benefits vs. the potential political fallout cost of operating in favor of Pakistan are too skewed against the economics for him to take the necessary decision in favor of Pakistan. Even if the benefit is indirect.

    On the other hand he will use all overt but mostly covert means to undermine PK, to ensure that it does not have an ability to raise the Kashmir or Water issues…yes..cooperate on a envelopment agenda, but on M’s terms.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Skynut: The frame of the post was that at this time many different futures are possible and one was outlined as probable. The objective was for readers to critique it and posit other more likely futures in order to generate a discussion from which all could benefit.

      You have done that for which I am grateful. However, I don’t understand why it was necessary to begin by saying that the analysis in the post was shallow. In what way is the analysis you have presented any more profound?

      The pedagogical aim of this blog focuses not on profundity (for which you can read the views of very learned people on a host of websites) but on discussion among those who wish to learn. It is described in the objectives of the blog as follows:

      “Note: The South Asian Idea is a resource for learning, not a source of expert opinion. The posts on the blog are intended as starting points for classroom discussions and the position at the end of the discussion could be completely at odds with the starting point. Thus the blog simulates a learning process and does not offer a final product. The reader is invited to join the process to help improve our understanding of important contemporary issues.”

      • skynut Says:

        The reason was to provoke and stimulate, SA to deepen an understanding of the future which SA has proposed. I seemed to have provoked..but not stimulate.

  3. Kabir Altaf Says:

    Before the Indian election, I attended several events here in DC where the speakers were asked about the potential of a Modi victory and the impact on Indian foreign policy, particularly as it relates to Pakistan. There were two scenarios that emerged consistently. The first was that a BJP victory would actually be good for Pakistan because a right wing government cannot be accused of being soft on national security and thus has room to make peace (This was the “Nixon goes to China” scenario). Conversely, there were fears that a Modi victory would harden India’s position versus Pakistan, particularly on the Kashmir conflict. The evidence since Modi’s inauguration leads me to believe that he is leaning towards the “Nixon in China” scenario. He, like Nawaz Sharif, is a businessman and recognizes that there are immense advantages to increased India-Pakistan trade. The fact that he invited Sharif to his swearing-in and that Sharif accepted hopefully augers well for India-Pak relations.

    On the other hand, there was some discussion about abrogating Article 370. While I don’t want to get into the details of India’s internal constitutional arrangements, I think this step would be viewed very negatively by a large section of Kashmiris. Kashmir is NOT just any other Indian state– was incorporated into the Indian Union in a very specific manner and under a special arrangement giving Kashmiris more local autonomy. From the BJP’s perspective, I can understand wanting to normalize the Kashmir issue and giving J&K the same status as any other state is one way to do that. However, I think it does not take into account the sensitivities of the local people. Also, it seems to reflect a hardening of India’s position on the dispute. If India abandons the special status for J&K, it seems to be continuing to push its claim on the territory. This is partly why Pakistan has not made Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir provinces of Pakistan–the argument against doing so is that it would prejudice a resolution to the Kashmir issue.

    On the issue of what a Modi government means for Indian Muslims, I think that the Modi of 2014 is not the same as the Modi of 2002. Being PM means moderating your positions so that they are acceptable to the national mainstream. I don’t see a PM Modi being able to stand silently by while there are massive pogroms against Muslims. That said, I think there is justifiable fear among the Muslim minority of what the future holds for them.

  4. Vinod Says:

    Modi is not a player of the short term game. He is a test player and not a one dayer. My guess is that Modi will actually hide his communal leanings and work in such a manner so that he gains an even bigger majority in Parliament the next time. Only with that kind of support, he may unleash the venom of his communal ideology in the form of laws and amendments to the constitution that prejudice the muslim community. He will then also unleash/un-muzzle his communal friends to wreak havoc on Indian muslims and thus change India for many decades like the way Zia ul Haque damaged Pakistan.

    • Kabir Altaf Says:


      I hope that the future you have outlined doesn’t come to pass. It would be very scary for India.

      It seems to me that it would be difficult for Modi to “unleash the venom of his communal ideology.” As Prime Minister, the exigencies of governing are such that he would be forced to moderate his positions. Even during his election campaign, he distanced himself from the RSS. In addition, given the way that the Gujerat riots have permanently impacted Modi’s reputation, the international community would be alert for any signs of communalism. Presumably, this would keep Modi’s government from taking any steps that are overtly hostile to minorities.

      Finally, I think one important difference between Modi and General Zia ul Haque is that Modi was democratically elected while Zia took power in a military coup. Indian democracy is strong enough that if the citizens are displeased with Modi’s performance over the next five years, they can vote him out of power in 2019. Hopefully Parliament is also strong enough to stop him from implementing the kinds of laws that Zia was able to get passed in Pakistan.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vinod: The comparison of Narendra Modi with Zia ul Haque is a sobering one, if only as a reminder of the lasting damage one person can inflict on the many. That said, I doubt that Modi would have as free a reign as Zia – democracy, moth-eaten as it is, would prevent the worst of the excesses.

      As to your first point, I have two reservations. First, Modi’s margin next time would depend on what he does with the economy and my guess is he won’t be able to do enough to increase his numbers. Second, an ideologically driven person doesn’t really have the patience to wait too long and that too for an uncertain outcome. Whatever Modi is going to do, he will in his first term.

    • Vinod Says:

      Hitler too was democratically elected, wasn’t he? Germany was democratic, when Hitler was elected, correct?

      • Anil Kala Says:

        Vinod you make the assumption that people don’t change. Vajpei was not considered a liberal before he became foreign minister and the liberal tag confirmed only when he became PM. In between he kept repeating I am a RSS swayamsevak( volunteer). Besides Indians love their freedom they will not lie still if it is trampled. In any case Modi did not get votes for his hard stance on Hindutva, he was voted to power due to miserable congress rule even so their vote share is dismal. I think Modi is more ambitious than a loyal RSS votery he will do what he will consider will leave his footprint in history.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Anil: The real question here is deciphering what Mr. Modi thinks “will leave his footprint in history.”

          Let’s consider some examples of what some others thought would leave their footprints in history:

          For Hitler (although I agree with Vikram he is best left out of the discussion), it was the demonstration of Aryan supremacy.
          For Zia, it was the Islamization of Pakistan inclusive of flogging, stoning and amputation.
          For Mao, it was the Great Leap Forward.
          For Pol Pot, it was the recovery of some rural utopia.
          For Bush, it was democratizing the Arabs.

          Whether these people succeeded or failed, they inflicted enormous damage, some of it lasting to this day. That is what concerns me. I really don’t have a clue about Mr. Modi’s dreams.

          • Anil Kala Says:

            SA it is clear to me as day light that Modi wants to be Lee Kuan Yew of India, nothing else. This is what he has been saying for last one year. Often what is obvious is the right inference.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Anil: I really hope you are right. Even then, keep in mind that what Lee Kuan Yew did was in a tiny island where he had few democratic constraints. I doubt the same can be done in the behemoth that is India. What will Mr. Modi do if or when he finds out he cannot Lee Kuan Yew India and gets frustrated?

        • Vinod Says:

          Anil, I am relying on the near impossibility of bringing all, or even a significant majority of Indians, under one ideology as the sole barrier to Modi turning India into a “Pakistan”, if you know what I mean.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Vinod: If the ideology is based on religion, it would be statistically impossible because India has a fairly larger religious minority comprised of more than one faith. Unless, of course, it progressively reduces that minority to negligible proportions as has happened in Pakistan. That would comprise the real danger and the German experience you cited would become relevant. Some feel that is impossible in the 21st century.

      • Vikram Says:

        Vinod, it is true to state that Hitler was elected democratically but incorrect to say that Germany was democratic at that time. This comparison is just way off the mark and prevents a serious discussion of the real problems that might come up.

        I think that is where we really need to start. What is the plausible worst case scenario for the Muslims of India ?

        Clearly a Holocaust style extinction, like that in Europe, is not on the cards, it is not even possible.
        A South Africa style apartheid state is also not possible.
        An Idi Amin or Ne Win style expulsion (of Indians, ironically) is also not possible.

        So what is it ? In my opinion, the worst case for Indian Muslims is actually something like the fate of Blacks in the US. If you can get your hands on the book on ‘Muslims in Indian Cities’ by Jaffrelot and Gayer, you will see that this is already happening across India, especially in the North and West. In places like Ahmedabad, this process of Muslim ghettoisation and intense marginalization is in an advanced state, although there is some recent work by Paola Bacchetta which shows that even here the RSS project has eventually failed.

        • Vinod Says:

          Vikram, thanks for your insightful comments. Why do you say Germany was not democratic then?

          • Vikram Says:

            Vinod, as per Bernard Crick’s framework democracy consists of three aspects (which have been discussed on the blog earlier)

            1) Regular, free and fair elections
            2) Independent institutions such as the judiciary, media for checks and balances
            3) Democratic behavior in daily lives of citizens

            Clearly, the first was not present in Weimar Republic. Its election commission was weak and was not able to prevent a Nazi takeover, and ensure free and fair elections at regular intervals. There were other institutional issues as well, see here,

            The Weimar Republic’s Constitution also lacked the popular legitimacy that a Constitution needs to be regarded as the supreme law.

  5. Vikram Says:

    “SA it is clear to me as day light that Modi wants to be Lee Kuan Yew of India, nothing else.”

    Lee Kuan Yew is a scary guy.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: That was my response as well. I don’t feel the Lee Kuan Yew style would be accepted in India. It’s the wrong model for an Indian leader to adopt.

    • Anil Kala Says:

      Vikram whether Lee Kuan Yew is a scary guy or not isn’t the point. The way you quote me gives the impression that I endorse Modi and Yew model of development when in fact I am merely speculating what Modi’s vision is and I believe at the moment it has no focus on Hindutva rather the entire focus is on rapid development of the country, if necessary by trampling on standard norms of democratic behavior. Whether he succeeds or not is also a matter of speculation and only time will tell.

  6. SouthAsian Says:

    Does this op-ed tend to confirm the scenario described in the post:

    “The message he carried was simple: that once elected, the BJP government would pursue talks and push business engagement with Pakistan. He indicated that an invitation would be sent shortly after Mr. Modi took over, to set the ball rolling. There was, however, a rider. If there was a terror attack, said the RSS envoy, one like Mumbai 26/11 that could be traced back to Pakistan, their hands would be tied. A counter-attack on some part of Pakistan-controlled territory would be inevitable.”

    But will Mr. Modi be able to stay with the grand strategy or give in to his instincts?

  7. SouthAsian Says:

    What can one make of this story?

  8. Vikram Says:

    SA, I would like to think of myself as someone who respects free speech. However, I cant think of a rationale through which a member of India’s ‘liberal press’ should not be punished, for openly asking foreign governments and violent terror groups to carry out deadly attacks against Indian citizens for perceived ‘anti Muslim policies’.

    “Vigilante violence also tests the bonds of transnational Muslim solidarity. Ordinarily, Pakistan and Pakistan-based terror groups would use violence or the threat of violence as leverage over the Indian government to bargain on Kashmir or relax anti-Muslim policies elsewhere. (The 1993 Mumbai blasts were a reaction to the riots that targeted Muslims in December 1992 and January 1993.) But Congress and BJP governments react very differently to terror attacks. The Congress is weakened by them while Hindu nationalists are bolstered by them. In the current climate attacks can provide the excuse for more bloodletting and subsequent consolidation of Hindu identity. That’s the bind Hindu vigilantes put Islamabad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in.”

    According to Mr. Aaron it seems, terrorist attacks in Mumbai were not cold blooded murders but a ‘reaction’ to ‘build leverage’ and actualize ‘transnational Muslim solidarity’.

  9. Vikram Says:

    SA, what precisely is being debated here ? That lynching is a crime ? That the state should guarantee freedom of cultural/religious expression ?

    I believe that these questions are already answered in Indian law and Constitution. Have the perpetrators of these crimes not been arrested ? Has the government made the practice of a particular religion illegal ?

    Cattle related violence occurs in a specific region of India, which is not even the traditional base of BJP. So is it possible that the reason for this violence is something else ?

    Is there other data that needs to be brought to the table, which will provide a better explanation for recent events ?

    See the links here:

    Western Uttar Pradesh is one of the most criminalized areas in India. There is a sand mining mafia, as well as a cattle mafia active in the area. In the Hindu-Muslim angle, it is the cattle mafia that is more relevant. Due to various reasons, the cattle mafia has a disproportionate number of Muslims involved, and the leaders of that mafia have had a deep relationship with the SP-Congress leaders.

    Needless to say cattle theft is devastating for farmers in the region. So once a government that would seemingly prioritize this issue came into power, some of them have started acting violently themselves.

    So the loss of innocent lives here is rooted in successive dispensations tolerance of criminality for political gain, not in any new policies of the current dispensation.

  10. Vikram Says:

    “But he can’t be accused of being anti-Indian because he is not a DU or JNU alum.”

    No but he, along with many others can be accused of utter hypocrisy. The hyper sensitivity to a particular kind of violence, and the scale of indifference to violence committed by that group against others is astounding.

    Please tell me what Mukherjee, and the other folks from Scroll etc you love to quote said about this violence:

  11. Vikram Says:

    “At least some fake liberals are covering this news on anti-Indian screeds like and their ilk even though the coverage still seems biased.”

    SA, there seems to be a kind of blindness here. Muslims, on the mere suggestion that a boy made a comment about Mohamed, demanded the boy be handed to them and killed. They burnt shops, threatened lives.

    And the story here is wild speculation about how the BJP must be behind all this ?

    You call this ‘slight bias’ ?

  12. Vikram Says:

    Hindu (most likely Dalit) steps out of home to get medicines. Muslim gang harasses and blows cigarette smoke at her. She protests and runs back to house.
    Her family comes and try to protest.
    Entire Muslim neighborhood surrounds the family’s home and starts stoning it, members of family grievously hurt.

    Possible talking point for fake liberals/secularists:
    How BJP conspired with pharma companies to make Indians repeatedly step out to buy medicines.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: Terrible. So glad you are alert and keeping the fake liberals accountable.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: A fake liberal (I label everyone who disagrees with your position a fake liberal) has tried to directly address your accusation of selective outrage. It is not the most lucid articulation of the argument but the gist is quite understandable. Let me know if it responds to your concerns in any way.

      • Vikram Says:

        It seems Mr. Srivastava doesnt like the status quo, i.e. the Constitution of India.

        Perhaps he has found a more liberal governing philosophy than it. Seems he is trying to bring about a revolution by telling us all how the Indian state is our enemy.

        But a bit strange that this revolutionary wants to destroy the insufficiently liberal Indian Constitution, by backing the violence of violent religious fanatics who have ethnically cleansed a minority, violent mobs who demand the head of a 17 year old boy for a facebook post, ‘revolutionaries’ who bomb/derail trains …

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Vikram: No surprise here – the fake liberal has no chance against the true conservative. In fact, by going against the Constitution, the fake liberal is also exposing his anti-Indian leanings. This surely deserves to be punished. What punishment would you propose?

          In defence of the fake liberals one must point out that this hiding behind the cloak of the Constitution is a red herring. It reflects either a deliberate hypocrisy or a woeful lack of analytical ability.

          The Constitution is not a divine document that is sacrilege to challenge. Almost all Constitutions have been amended. So there is no compulsion to blindly defend the status quo just because it is the status quo.

          At one time Blacks were considered less than full citizens in the American Constitution. Would you rather it had remained that way forever because it was the status quo? Wasn’t it better that it was challenged and the stats quo overturned? (By the way, the lynchings of Blacks actually did take place even if the Blacks were not very nice people themselves.) Today, the American Constitution confers the right to bear arms on all citizens. Many Americans are challenging this provision of the Constitution. Would anyone be so presumptuous as to label them Anti-American?

          In any case, defending the abstract shell of the Constitution while ignoring its application is another grave intellectual blindspot. If the application of the Constitution defends the strong against the weak (as was the case re the Blacks in the US), shouldn’t that be a cause for challenge?

          The fact that Mr. Srivastava doesn’t like the status quo is hardly a point worth making – that is his Constitutional right. One has to engage with his arguments that one has to bother to read. Using McCarthyist code words like ‘revolutionary’ is not going to carry your argument very far.

          • Vikram Says:

            SA, the Indian Constitution has been amended many times.

            You are wrong about the Blacks in US analogy. In America, African Americans were not considered completely human, and there were Supreme Court rulings that backed this. It is to the great credit of MLK that despite such inhuman treatment, he channelized the Black Rights Movement towards an expansion of the American Constitution, rather than promote righteous violence.

            And where is the application of the Indian Constitution failing ? The perpetrators in almost every incident of anti Muslim violence have been arrested and are in jail. How would you or Mr. Srivastava propose amending it to better protect Muslims ?

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Vikram: I also know that Indian Constitution has been amended many times. Therefore, it is not sacrosanct. Therefore, it is not a crime to challenge the Constitution. Therefore, your argument that Mr. Srivastava does not like the Indian Constitution does not carry any weight.

            You now seem to be swerving to the argument that while the US Constitution could be challenged because it was imperfect (treating blacks as less than human), it is not alright to challenge the Indian Constitution because the latter is perfect. This too is a fallacious argument because it is not for you to decree whether the Indian Constitution is perfect or not. Every individual has the constitutional right to decide for himself or herself. Do you not think many whites considered the US constitution to be perfect and felt it was anti-American to challenge the status quo?

            In any case, Mr. Srivastava’s argument is not about what is written in the Constitution but of its implementation. There are many people in India who feel the state is selective in protecting the civil rights of all its citizens as directed by the Constitution. The Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International can weigh in on that topic except for the fact that they are staffed by fake anti-Indian liberals.

  13. SouthAsian Says:

    These three thoughtful articles provide the opportunity for a meaningful extension of our discussion.

    The first asks if violence is the only thing that unites India today:

    The second deals with the tit-for-tat logic that prevents both an understanding of the causes of the violence and the search for a solution.

    The third, written in 1991, offers a partial explanation for the violence we see today:

    • Vikram Says:

      Yes, record low levels of violence seem to be uniting India today:

      • SouthAsian Says:

        Vikram: Heartiest Congratulations – Rest in Peace.

        More seriously: The broad category of murder is not used as an indicator of unity or division in society. More relevant indicators are needed for that purpose. For example, trends in inter-racial violence in the US would be used rather than in total number of murders. It is quite possible for the two to move in opposite directions – hence the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

        The article was concerned with communal and caste violence in India both of which were alleged to be rising. You can look up the statistics to confirm or dispute.

  14. SouthAsian Says:

    Vikram: Look Sadanand Dhume is making fun of India:

    “India is the only place in the world where someone who writes for The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and works at the American Enterprise Institute, is regularly accused of being a leftist.”–A-conservatives-take-on-India.html

  15. SouthAsian Says:

    These things are really happening in India in the 21st Century?

  16. Vikram Says:

    “The second tragedy is that there has never been a robust movement of liberalism within the Muslim community.”

    1) Do you agree ?

    2) If not, details on such a movement, and its consequences.

    3) If yes, why did a movement for liberalism not occur in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which are Muslim majority ?

    Perhaps, some clues in this conversation I had with a Muslim person from India who now lives in the West ?

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: Complex questions must be framed with care if they are not to elicit silly statements like the one Guha makes when he concludes that socialists love India but communists do not.

      This sort of sloppiness arises from lazy and sweeping generalities about communities and Guha is headed for the same trap when he speaks of the Muslim community.

      This could be a more useful conversation if you first defined the critical terms – community, movement, robust, and liberalism and then illustrated the argument about something you know well, say, a robust movement of liberalism in any community. Based on that your question could be addressed with greater rigor.

  17. SouthAsian Says:

    The writer provides a narrative (comparing the BJP of today to the Muslim League of the 1930s) that can give rise to an interesting discussion.

    • Vikram Says:

      Intriguing. But there are a few gaps.

      An independent (or semi-sovereign) Pakistan was in the interests of many of the groups that pushed for its creation. Once these interests had become clear, a cultural agenda was not hard to develop and propagate.

      The primary interest axis in India today remains caste groups aligned with political parties to grab power, and secure government jobs and influence. It is not clear how the BJP represents a better vehicle for articulating and achieving these interests, than the already effective regional parties like SP, INLD etc.

      For example, the BJP already has had a tough time keeping Jats within its fold. What helped it in UP 2017 was that UP’s Jat population lives in Muslim heavy West UP. Here, the Hindu security plank of the BJP managed to overcome caste ambitions. The Yadavs of Bihar voted heavily against it in 2015.

      The BJP’s ascent to power is based on its strong presence in Gujarat, MP and Rajasthan. These are 90%+ Hindu majority states. Their situation is not comparable with Muslim minority UP of the 1930s.

      The middle class Hindus, a section of whom are swayed by gimmicks such as changing textbooks, yoga day etc hardly vote and hardly influence the vote of others. Most of them cant even write a coherent article in an Indian language. Their status in Indian politics today cannot be compared with that of the Ashrafi/landlord elites in the Muslim politics of colonial India.

      • Vikram Says:

        A good piece pointing out how Pakistan animated the dreams of a wide spectrum of groups that would ultimately constitute it,

        Common Muslims -> safe and secure communities

        feudal lords and land owners -> thwarting any attempts for land reform

        Muslim capitalists -> dreams about eliminating competition from non-Muslim capitalists and industrialists

        Muslim civil and military bureaucracy -> no competition from non-Muslim candidates

        Muslim religious leaders -> a country where every aspect of society would be coloured with their own religion and sect

        politicians of the Muslim League -> did not want to compete with secular and liberal political parties

        left-leaning liberal and secular politicians -> an early socialist revolution in Pakistan that would kick start Pakistan’s journey towards communism under the Soviet umbrella

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Vikram: Whoever wrote this article doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. Even from your summary it is so flawed that I won’t waste my time reading it.

          Anyone who believes Muslim religious leaders favored Pakistan has not read history. And the sweeping generalizations remain a problem. All common Muslims, all feudal lords, all Muslim capitalists – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari?

          • Vikram Says:

            “Anyone who believes Muslim religious leaders favored Pakistan has not read history. And the sweeping generalizations remain a problem. All common Muslims, all feudal lords, all Muslim capitalists – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari ?”

            Your comment is ironic. You start with a sweeping generalization about Muslim religious leaders not supporting Pakistan, and then chastize me for an alleged generalization.

            First off, a lot of Muslim Ulema did support the Pakistan movement. See for example, Creating a New Medina, Chapter 5 (Ulema at the Forefront of Politics), by Venkat Dhulipala.

            Not only were there Muslim Ulema who supported the Pakistan movement, even among the ones who opposed it, there were different groups with different reasons for doing so.

            Second, by no means am I claiming that *ALL* members of a certain group supported a particular position. We already have data pointing out that half the Muslim women who could vote did not support the League (

            My point here was to point out that large groups of people did have a political, social and economic interest in achieving Pakistan. And since we were comparing the Pakistan Movement to the BJP’s rise, it is important to point out that:

            1) These interests are simply not what drives Indian politics. There were 300,000 Marathas rallying for reservation in Mumbai a few days ago. An equal number of Jats and Patels have been demonstrating in Haryana and Gujarat. Can you point out a single protest of this magnitude for any other issue, apart from the Jalikattu issue in TN ?

            2) Even if the corresponding interests did become prominent, by no means can the BJP claim to monopolize their representation, as the League did in the build up to independence.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Vikram: This is not a bean-counting exercise in which all ulemas are equal. In that time the major religious icons/leaders, the heavy weights, were Maulana Azad representing independent scholars, Maulana Madani heading Deoband, and Maulana Maudoodi heading the Jamaat-e-Islami. All three were strongly and actively opposed to Pakistan.

            In any case, this (“large groups of people having a political, social and economic interest in achieving Pakistan”) is not a useful way to look at the period. None of these groups supported the League till 1937 which was evident in the results of the elections. Why not, if the scenario you posited had any credibility? Support for the League surged after 1937 mainly because following its 1937 triumph the INC did not come across as offering credible representation for Muslims, particularly in the UP, despite its claim to represent all Indians. The League played on this fear and exacerbated it to build its support.

            The League never had Pakistan as its outstanding demand since its inception – its concern was an acceptable formula for representation in an electoral system – and till the 1920s Jinnah was known as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Unlike the League, the RSS had Hindutva as its aim from its very inception in 1925 as articulated in Essentials of Hindutva by Savarkar published in 1923. In this regard, there is no comparison between the League and the BJP/RSS over their entire histories – the comparison with the League can be drawn only post-1937. Both played negative roles but in different ways and for different reasons.

  18. SouthAsian Says:

    Is this a good idea?

  19. SouthAsian Says:

    Is this a plausible reading of where India might be headed?

  20. Vikram Says:

    “the heavy weights, were Maulana Azad representing independent scholars, Maulana Madani heading Deoband, and Maulana Maudoodi heading the Jamaat-e-Islami. All three were strongly and actively opposed to Pakistan.”

    It is quite facetious to put Azad, Madani and Maudoodi in the same ‘opposed to Pakistan’ grouping. Their reasons were poles apart. And most importantly, Maudoodi was not opposed to Muslim supremacism, excluvism per se, he just wanted a particular kind of state, and he wanted Muslim rule over the entire subcontinent at least. His reasons were tactical, not principled.

    There were many heavyweight Maulanas who supported Pakistan:

    Like I have said earlier, please read the relevant chapter in Dhulipala’s book to see how influential these Maulanas were in Muslim UP.

  21. Vikram Says:

    “its concern was an acceptable formula for representation in an electoral system”

    The League’s acceptable formula basically meant that each vote of a Muslim counted far more than that of a non-Muslim.

    See a worked out example here:

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: This is correct but was not the subject under discussion. The subject was a comparison of the ethos of the ML and RSS/BJP from their inception and an understanding of the key differences and similarities.

  22. Arif Says:

    SA and Vikram -there was a lot of debate, I could go though a part of it, Vikram you want to give a few examples of bad apples in muslim community; but there were actually many more good people, Khan Abdul Gaffar khan and many other muslims were against partition, many muslims in NWFP died due to non-violent movement against British.
    And most importantly decision was not taken based on a referendum,
    I expected Modiji who single handedly won this election to plan for a development based agenda, but it doesn’t seem to be so due to series of issues which happened till date. There is a subtle agenda to deny Muslims their legitimate place, which is not an issue because the community will overcome all these hindrances however what is being overlooked by majority community is that in the long run India will become a mirror to Pakistan. in addition it is not to be forgotten that divisive agenda is like sickness which never heals, after Muslims are done with what would keep Hindus united with in built caste based thousand year old cracks?
    Look at Pakistan today, though it is almost Muslim country it has schisms due to which never ending killings occur.
    What you sow, so shall you reap; if you reach out to minorities today it would repay back enormously in many ways, being myopic doesn’t help.
    Also it would be quite foolish to presume that alienating Indian Muslims would not make India weaker and prone to loss of opportunities to the detriment of my own country. India can grow beyond any one’s imagination if we accept each other and learn to live together wholeheratedly.

    • Vikram Says:

      Hello Arif, my intention was not to pick out ‘bad apples’ in any community. The discussion was about which sections of the Muslim community had reasons to support the Pakistan movement, and my contention was that the movement did have a lot of support among Muslim ulema in North India. There is enough scholarly evidence for this claim (Dhulipala’s book, and even the first chapter of the book SA recently linked talk about this extensively).

      After years of engagement and reading, I am mature enough to understand that simply supporting a political movement does not make someone a ‘bad apple’. There were some good reasons for creating Pakistan. More representation/jobs for Muslim elite in government, protection from exposure to Hindu culture (which in many important ways is radically different to Abrahamic traditions), and freedom for a Muslim polity in South Asia to engage with the outside world on its terms.

      In many ways, the geographical regions that comprise today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh have been at the fringes of subcontinental civilization, with the Gangetic region (whether ruled by Hindus or Muslims) playing a hegemonic role. Political independence for Pakistan and Bangladesh meant these regions had an opportunity to figure out their destinies independent of Delhi’s priorities.

      The Pakistani and Bangladeshi polities still represent the chance for a genuine Abrahamic, monotheistic society to be created on the subcontinent for the first time in history. I can see why this can be a strong motivation for many to agitate for it.

      The only issue in this whole process was the population exchange, polytheists/Indics who did not want to live in a monotheistic society, and vice versa should have been allowed to cross over in a peaceful manner. It is the violent manner of this exchange that has led to the continuing conflicts you refer to.

  23. Vikram Says:

    Arif, you say, “There is a subtle agenda to deny Muslims their legitimate place”

    What do you think the legitimate place of Muslims should be in India ? Which specific provisions/rules do you think should be implemented to ensure this legitimate place is secure ?

  24. Vikram Says:

    SA, I saw that you took note of the fake liberal furore around Sangeet Som’s opinions. Yogi Adityanath has come out with a response, and I am mostly in agreement with his opinion.

    The Taj Mahal is not an Indian monument in any sense, just like the Victoria memorial. It is however, part of Indian history, and was built by the sweat and blood of Indians, with surplus generated by Indians.

    Architecturally, the Taj represents one of the highest achievements of Persian (not Indian) architecture. Functionally it is the tomb and memorial of a king, such memorialization (which is of Roman origin) are not at all encouraged in Indic tradition, where even sculptures of kings are rarely found. Historically, the Mughal dynasty showed little interest in advancing local traditions by investing in Indian centred projects, architectural or otherwise.

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