Religious Freedom and US double standards
Dr Muhammad Khan
It is quite shocking that the United States has placed Pakistan on a special watch list of countries that violate religious freedom. This discriminatory list was announced by US Secretary of State himself. Pakistan understands that this move is politically motivated and aims at a time once this superpower is seeking Pakistani assistance for bringing peace in Afghanistan. The move bewildered the unbiased analysts who appreciated Pakistani treatment with its religious minorities. Two recent events of Pakistani empathy about religious minorities are worth quoting in this regard. The Government of Pakistan stood by the verdict of Supreme Court of Pakistan on the acquittal of Asia Bibi, despite the protest of some religious elements. More so, the Government of Pakistan is taking strict legal action against all those who were involved in the breaching of law and order situation on the eve of the verdict.
Besides, Pakistan took a historical step by opening the Kartarpur border. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, himself performed the ground-breaking of this 4km-long Corridor. He was accompanied by Pakistani Army Chief at this historical ceremony. This was done for Indian minorities (the Sikh community) and there was hardly a major political figure from Indian side, attending the ceremony. Kartarpur Corridor ‘would connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Narowal with Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district.’ As a great gesture from Pakistan, the Indian Sikh pilgrims will be allowed to visit their religious shrine without visa formalities. On its part, India has been exploiting the minorities ever since and continues doing so.
According to TIME magazine (October 31, 2014), “1984 remains one of the darkest years in modern Indian history. In June of that year, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a military assault on the most significant religious centre for the Sikhs, Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar. Thousands of civilians were killed in the assault”. Later upon assassination of Ms Gandhi on October 31, 1984, there started genocidal killings of the Sikhs all over India, including the capital city, New Delhi. The magazine further reports, “Frenzied mobs of young Hindu thugs, thirsting for revenge, burned Sikh-owned stores to the ground, dragged Sikhs out of their homes, cars and trains, then clubbed them to death or set them aflame before raging off in search of other victims.”
Today, under the BJP rule, RSS is exploiting all religious minorities in India. This is being done as a Government strategy to make India a Hindu State, under the philosophy of Hindutva. Hindutva is an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life in India. The practical manifestation of this ideology is exploiting all religious minorities so that they convert into Hindu religion. The RSS openly demands Indian minorities either to convert into Hindutva or leave India. Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are all target of this Indian campaign.
The religious discrimination in India can be imagined from another national campaign in India through which names of Indian cities and educational institutions are being changed. In this regard, after the name change of Allahabad and Faizabad, the Indian government is reportedly considering to change the names of Azamgarh (as Aryamgarh), Kanpur, Aligarh (as Harigarh) and Agra. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), RSS and the BJP’s associate organizations declare Muslims as foreign invaders and have been accusing that they had forcibly changed old names during their over 1000 years rule in India. In the garb of preserving Indian ancient culture, BJP Government during its rule is continuously steering Hindutva agenda to promote Hindu identity in India and erase Muslim heritage, mainly to appease Hindu voters ahead of general election.
Similarly on 25 November 2018, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) also carried out Dharam Sabha (religious assembly), a two-day gathering of top Hindu saints and representatives of various Hindu groups in Ayodhya to press for their demands from Muslims to hand over the land for the Ram temple in place of the Babri Mosque demolished in 1992. Simmering tension is prevailing in Ayodhya’s Muslim-dominated areas. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has also demanded ordinance to build Ram Mandar to bypass the proceedings in Supreme Court which has deferred its next hearing till January 2019. Other than mustering Hindu votes along religious lines in the upcoming election, BJP intends to divert the attention of unrest in farmers who have been badly affected by loans amid drought and declining productivity.
BJP and RSS sources said gathering by VHP and proposals of changing names of places like Aligarh Muslim University is aimed at wiping out Muslim identity from India with the backing of BJP. This reflects fascist mindset of BJP and its hard line offshoots. Indian Home Ministry has been flooded with such requests, mostly to change names from Muslim character to Hindu one. About 200 names of places are being changed by Indian government on an annual basis, being declared as “saffronisation of public places” by local Muslim scholars.
With all these religious exploitation of India, against the Indian religious minorities, US did not include it in the blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom. This speaks of US double standards at global level. Within US, Muslims are ill-treated despite clear laws, available for their protection. Israel is another US strategic partner, occupying the Palestinian land and killing innocent Palestinians at will in their own soil. On its part, Pakistan rejected the US charge sheet and consider itself as one of the ideal countries where rights of minorities are secure.