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Not Islamists But Past Traumas Haunt Hindu Temple’s Construction

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The government of Pakistan recently announced the construction of a Hindu temple in the country’s federal capital, Islamabad. Originally, the land was allotted for the cause by the previous government in 2018, but the current government resumed the project that has seen outrage in the past as well.

As soon as the government announced the resumption of the project, the social media became rife with threats against the construction. Videos were circulated on all social media platforms and tweets were published. And with the help of electronic media and one TV channel, in particular, the government was pressurised to bring the construction to a halt.

After the government succumbed to the pressure, the “progressive” segment of Pakistan’s citizens protested through Twitter and other social media platforms. The international media also picked up the issue. Both the groups placed blame on Islamist ideology while ignoring any other reason that might have been a cause. For this matter, I want to point out in this article how blaming solely the Islamist ideology is rather a superficial understanding of the matter and the reasons might be more than just religious fundamentalism. For this reason, to have a better understanding of the situation at hand, we need to look at history for the answers and specifically the impact that it has on the present existence of our being.

History is a complicated subject to ponder at, the objectivity within the subject can be questioned and is always questionable. Yet, we can agree that there are multiple narratives that seem to exist.

In this article, I would like to draw attention to the narrative of the history that Pakistanis are being taught from their childhood until their graduation. And within these narratives, we need to understand the answer that was given to the question as to why Pakistan was created in the first place?  

It is a common knowledge within Pakistan that the young nation-state was formulated and was separated from India, by the efforts of the Muslim league and founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah because in a united India, Muslims were being persecuted, marginalised and oppressed by the Hindus. And the creation of Pakistani was an escape from such atrocities.

Here the Hindu becomes the image of oppression and holds the position at the very center of the trauma around which the nation of Pakistan is built. This trauma includes the memory of not only persecution, marginalization but also genocides and massacres. 

Coming back to the issue of retaliation against the construction of the Mandir in Islamabad, simply considering it as an outcome of religious fanaticism is sadly a poor understanding of the situation and is a simpleton explanation. It cannot be denied that there are multiple factions that might have acted out because of religiosity, but that is not the only reason. A Mandir in Islamabad triggers the trauma that is indoctrinated in the populous through the state narrative to justify the existence of Pakistan as a state, a trauma the nation relives every day. And, now more so because of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s  Hindutva policies and increasing atrocities against Muslims in India.

To draw an analogy, imagine the reaction of an Israeli youth if it is announced by the government that they are allowing the Nazi party to open a center in Tel Aviv.

The whole argument given above is not a justification for the backlash against the construction of the Hindu temple. Rather, it is to ask ourselves to rethink the idea of nationalism that we hold so dear to us and how a nation is being constructed. Within the nationalism of post-colonial states of the Indian subcontinent, the narrative revolves around a large extent around trauma that is constructing a sense of ‘us’ and the ‘them’ (oppressors), whether that be Hindus for Pakistan, Muslim for BJP in India or west Pakistanis for Bangladeshis. Simply blaming something on a religious idea and ignoring the narratives that are being used to construct nation-states is dangerous and is leading to intolerance towards the ‘other’. 

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Naya Daur