The language of Pakistan

“Our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris,”  Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a Bharatiya Janata Party rally at Tonk in Rajasthan on February 23, which it now turns out was setting the scene for the military strike inside Pakistan three days later. The Indian strikes followed a suicide terrorist attack that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel on February 14 in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. The Jaish-e-Mohammad, a jihadi group that operates from Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr. Modi spoke in some detail to explain how violence against Kashmiris that erupted in other parts of India could strengthen divisive forces, but the same speech had another statement that showed where the edge of his politics is. “I regret how some people who live in India continue to speak the language of Pakistan,” he said. It is this pronouncement of the Prime Minister that has caught on following the Indian air strikes. On Sunday in Patna, he accused all Opposition parties and professionals who have raised questions regarding India’s Pakistan and Kashmir policy of helping Pakistan.

A fifth column?

‘People who live in India but are loyal to Pakistan’, a fifth column that threatens the nation, has been a recurring allusion in Sangh Parivar politics. Mr. Modi has, like he has done with several components of Hindutva politics, raised this to a higher pitch. In October 2017, Congress leader P. Chidambaram said in response to the appointment of a new Government of India interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma: “The demand in Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370. And that means that they want greater autonomy… Therefore, I think we should seriously examine that question and consider on what areas we can give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.” Mr. Modi responded: “Why are Congress leaders lending their voice to those who want azaadi in Kashmir? Congress is shamelessly using the language that is used by separatists in Kashmir and is spoken in Pakistan.” Mr. Modi’s statement ended Mr. Sharma’s mission as soon as it was announced and the former chief of the Intelligence Bureau is now cooling his heels.


“If the BJP loses in Bihar by mistake, then victory-defeat will be in Bihar but crackers will be burst in Pakistan,” BJP president Amit Shah had said during the 2015 Assembly election campaign in the State. If that insinuation is not self-explanatory, Mr. Modi went a step ahead in the 2017 Gujarat campaign: “Pakistan’s former army director general Arshad Rafiq said that in Gujarat, Ahmed Patel [political secretary to then-Congress president Sonia Gandhi] should be made the Chief Minister.” He went on to accuse his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, and the Opposition Congress party of being in collusion with Pakistan to make an Indian Muslim the State’s Chief Minister.

According to the notion of citizenship and territory in what may be called the Hindutva Strategic Doctrine, Indian Muslims are often understood as an appendage of Pakistan. This is not a thought that comes out only in campaign rhetoric. Jaswant Singh writes of the India-Pakistan rivalry that Partition “compartmentalised and then tightly sealed the Hindu-Muslim animosities; cementing festering grudges into near permanent hostilities; what was domestic (Hindu-Muslim) became international (India-Pakistan).”


The Congress’s Pakistan policy “in effect was only an extension of Congress’s Muslim appeasement policy,” wrote A.B. Vajpayee in 1973, only two years after the Bangladesh war. When India’s Pakistan policy is understood only as “appeasement” of Indian Muslims, one Hindutva leader thought the best way to reach out to Indian Muslims was to appease Pakistan. That led to L.K. Advani travelling all the way to Karachi and praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 2005. That move, however, boomeranged, set him on the downslide and paved the way for the launch of his loyalist, Mr. Modi, who would displace him as the more authentic bearer of the Hindutva mantle.

Mr. Modi made Pakistan a leitmotif for Hindutva mobilisation in which the idea of an external enemy and an internal alien fuses into a convenient ensemble. He perfected this tool in the 2002 Gujarat campaign, which was almost entirely on ‘Mian Musharraf,’ a reference to the then military dictator of Pakistan. “Speak to Pakistan in the language Pakistan understands,” Mr. Modi said in 2013, when asked what he would have done if he were the Prime Minister during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Post-Pulwama air strikes

Last week’s military strike inside Pakistan has been characterised by many as a clean break from the past. The real break from the past came in 2014 itself when Mr. Modi called off a scheduled bilateral meeting with Pakistan citing its High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists, a routine affair. Mr. Modi overturned Vajpayee’s Kashmir policy which had three components: empower regional mainstream parties, engage the separatists, and involve Pakistan. Mr. Modi shut Pakistan out of the equation; disengaged with the separatist groups; and has constantly undermined the mainstream parties in the State, namely the Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference, in the last five years. A principle that the current government has followed in faith and the practice is that there is nothing to be negotiated with anyone in Kashmir or about Kashmir with anyone, least of all Pakistan. Anyone suggesting anything out of line with this is accused of talking the language of Pakistan.


If Pakistan is projected as representing the internal and external threats to the nation, Kashmir becomes the location of Hindu victimhood, an essential component of Hindutva mobilisation. The massive violence and dispossession faced by the Hindus in the Valley at the hands of jihadis validates the Hindutva notion that the community is a victim of appeasement of Muslims, which is otherwise impossible to establish. Conversely, Kashmir also becomes the site for the demonstration of the resolve of the ‘New India’ where ‘appeasement’ is replaced with brute show of strength.

‘Internal enemies’

The cries for revenge against ‘internal enemies’ is getting louder and shriller, pushing the entire country to the edge. “India’s biggest threat comes from its own invisible internal enemies,” a Hindi film director posted on Twitter along with a video clip of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, in which he makes the case that India never lost to a foreign power unless betrayed by internal enemies. A Delhi lawmaker, formerly of the Aam Aadmi Party and now a Modi supporter, circulated a video last week, in which he asks Mr. Modi to deal with the enemies across the border while offering that people would meanwhile deal with the traitors inside. YouTube has since removed the video, but the lawmaker has found support on social media. “Deal with them right now, the mood in the country is suitable,” a ‘spiritual guru’ told a prime time anchor who helpfully asked what is to be done with those who are against India.

This level of intolerance and call for mindless violence, fuelled by religious majoritarianism, and calls to cleanse the nation of internal enemies are indeed the language that first shaped but continues to ruin Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi is right — it is a matter of grave concern; a lynch mob might just succeed where the suicide bomber has repeatedly failed. To turn India into a cauldron of strife like Pakistan.


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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 3:55:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-language-of-pakistan/article26432514.ece

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