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Shri Kirshna Temple: Time Ripe For Imran Khan To Rein In Extremist Forces

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The fundamental goal of partition was to stop the mayhem and bloodshed, which the British realised that they would leave in their wake if they left the subcontinent as they found it. Muslim League’s Direct-Action day in 1946 was a rejoinder to both friend and foe, a testament to both the British and the Congress that a united India would be tumultuous, and Muslims would revolt. Pakistan was not created as part of a master plan of the British to thwart the Soviets in a replay of the Great Game of the 19th century, and even though Pakistan was made possible by the will of the iron souled MA Jinnah, it would have been made without him in another way, shape or form – probably much later and even more moth-eaten.

Anyhow, I am dithering from the premise of this short piece. The invisible hand of history partitioned the two communities so they could live in peace and practice their individual religions without any fear or worry. At the same time, it was not practically possible for India to be completely devoid of Muslims as it was for Pakistan to be completely devoid of Hindus.

After the establishment of these two sovereign nations, it behooves the religious majority now to show a sparkling of empathy for the religious minority, because now the religious minority can hardly influence the cultural, religious, or political discourse.

Suppression only happens when a political or religious majority thinks and feels rightly or wrongly that a political or religious minority is exercising undue influence or has exercised undue influence in the past. This partly explains the Nazi suppression of the Jews, and in a larger measure, the riots and killings of Muslims after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1993 and the Gujrat massacre. The problem is that the domination of Muslims in the subcontinent for a thousand years before the British entered the fray and the unverified claim of the destruction of 60,000 temples looms large in the collective Hindu conscious.

There is no justification for it but historically and politically, it is understandable if, under the guise of Hindutva, India demonstrates barbarity towards the teeming masses of Muslims who, despite being a minority, still number in the hundreds of millions. But there is no historical and political justification for the state of Pakistan to deny the right to its Hindu minority to build a simple temple, because there is no precedence of Hindus ever being a culturally or religiously coercive minority in modern day Pakistan.

If the Hindu Panchayat has secured rights to the site of the purported Shri Kirshna Mandir and the Prime Minister himself issued directives for Rs 100 million to be allocated for the construction of this Mandir, why is a political furor being created over this and why has the Capital Development Authority (CDA) stopped the construction of the boundary wall?

While Imran portrays himself to be a born-again Muslim, under that pretense of Islam, there is that die-hard liberal who believes in the equality of all men and tolerance for all religions. Imran picked Atif Mian as economic advisor solely based on merit. However, he was asked to resign from the Economic Advisory Council because of political compulsions. In an interview with TRT, our Prime Minister quipped that one has to choose one’s fights, meaning that he cannot take on the politico-religious lobby head on when he has to resolve our multifarious economic and political challenges and, that too, when he is batting on a very sticky wicket – by which I mean the PTI has a very thin parliamentary majority.

Granted that as mere writers or readers, we cannot even imagine the magnitude of problems the erstwhile Kaptaan faces daily. Asking him to also sort out the religious extremism prevalent in our society is asking for the impossible. Great leaders, however, always face stark choices and it is their decisions at times like these that set a precedence. No matter how unpopular his decision was, if Musharraf had not ordered a direct attack on the Lal Masjid, mosques in neighbourhoods across Pakistan would have gained courage from the Abdul Aziz’s exhibit of force and would have similarly begun to exercise their own version of the Shari’a in their localities.

Musharraf’s rare decision aside, Pakistan is not intolerant today because our “awam” is “jahil”, rather it is so because of the temerity of our leaders in front of the religious lobby, who kowtow to their every whim, whether it be Bhutto declaring Ahmedis non-Muslims in 1974 or something as trivial as our present dispensation unable to close down mosques in Ramzan during the coronavirus scare. Our separation from Bangladesh, instead of making us embrace our ethnic differences, made the civil-mil establishment yearn even more for an Islamic ideology and gave room to the otherwise looked down upon Mullah to dictate the political discourse to us.

Musharraf tried but failed. Imran Khan should pick up the baton and put this car in reverse because the more ground he yields to the religious lobby in the name of political meandering, the harder it would be in the future for him to control the onslaught of their interference in other matters of the state’s affairs.

The Prime Minster nowadays gives a lot of historical references. This makes one think that he has seriously begun to think about his political legacy. If he thinks that he would propel Pakistan to new vistas by eradicating the menace of corruption, he should think again. It is not corruption that has shattered the fabric of Pakistani society in the last 30-40 years, rather it is a virulent ideology of hate propagated in the name of Islam. If Imran can demonstrate the courage to confront this issue, he would be doing a service to our future generations. The one act history would remember so far of his prime ministership is the establishment of the Kartarpur corridor. Hence, if Imran takes this mantle even further and presses for the construction of the temple despite stringent opposition, he would be creating a stronger and a more memorable political legacy for himself, while at the same time demonstrating to the world how we enshrine the virtues of religious tolerance and pluralism in our country while our neighboring country still subjugates her Muslims in the name of religion and history.

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