Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Devji, the founder of the Sikh religion is a living symbol of the Sikh faith. It holds tremendous appeal for the Sikh and Hindu communities. Devotees from India and abroad, flock to Nankana Sahib on the historic occasion of his birthday.
Strained relations between India and Pakistan often do create problems as we witnessed on Friday, January 3. A mob, led by a radical Islamist element who had forcibly married a Sikh teen, reportedly threw stones at the Gurudwara and threatened to convert it into a mosque to be called Ghulam-e-Mustafa.
The Pakistan government has, however, dismissed Friday’s incident “as an altercation” between two Muslim groups and said that “attempts to paint this incident as a communal issue are patently motivated”. This is an absurd statement on the part of Islamabad authorities, to say the least.
I agree with Union Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal that the incident “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan, where “persecution of minorities is a reality”.
I am, however, shocked by the statement by another Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who had linked the event with ongoing protests across the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) agitation. It is again, absolutely silly on the part of Minister Puri to link the two issues. This speaks of a confused state of mind of some of the Ministers in the Modi establishment.
Religion is sacred. The Sikhs are passionately devoted to their religious tenets. Islamabad invariably uses religion as an instrument of politics with a view to dividing people in the subcontinent. It has used Islam to divide the Indian polity and tried to grab Kashmir by proxy war. It has also aided and abetted separatist elements in Punjab and other parts of the country. The ISI has, in fact, spread its subversive network in every vital area of this country. New Delhi does not seem to have examined the issue thoroughly, but has provided the right answer to Pakistan’s mischievous game-plan.
Having failed in its earlier moves in Punjab, Pakistan has often made desperate attempts to spread trouble there with the help of jihadi elements. Such attempts are bound to fail. The people of Punjab have suffered enough in the past. Leave aside dissent Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu. The people have learnt their lesson. Navjot Singh Sidhu is still floating in the air amidst Pakistan clouds along with his “friend” Imran Khan.
How shabbily Hindu, Sikh, Christian and even selective Muslim groups are treated in Pakistan is no secret. What is particularly regrettable is that the rulers in Islamabad selectively play politics with the minorities.
Today, Pakistan itself is sitting on a volcano, which has forced several ethnic groups to question the very concept of Partition. Even Jinnah had apprehensions in this regard.
It may be worthwhile to recall what Jinnah had said while addressing the Constituent Assembly in 1947. He told the legislators: “You are free. You are free to go to your temple. You are free to go to your mosque or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan”.
“You may belong to any religion or caste or creed…..this has nothing to do with the business of the state of Pakistan. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens of our state”, Jinnah declared.
Jinnah believed that Partition was the right move. Still, he had some doubts about it even. “Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgment, it would have led to a terrible disaster”, he said. At the same time, he added, “Maybe that view is correct, maybe it is not. That remains to be seen”.
Interestingly, his “disaster” remark on his deathbed acquired some credence in the light of the doubts expressed by him during his earlier days. But by then, he was no more the master of situation. Things were totally out of his control. The very inability of Islamabad to integrate Mohajirs, the people who were at the very helm of the Pakistan movement and who had worked for their integration into the Pakistan mainstream speaks a lot for its shaky ground. It must be a matter of concern to intelligent Pakistanis.
The Pakistani elite believe the hegemony of the Punjabis and the Pathans holds the key to political unity and control over their country and Islam. This fundamental vision, they think, gives it legitimacy. Democracy has no place in such a society.
Jinnah had never envisaged an orthodox Islamic state. He wanted Pakistan to be a liberal state. This approach continued until, much later, General Zia-ul-Haq overturned the Jinnah tradition and brought in orthodox Islam. With it, sectarian violence became the order of the day in Pakistan.
Amidst these varied challenges, what is regrettable is that we lack proper understanding of Pakistan’s changing profile. Even the academic world has neglected the study of our next-door neighbour. These serious gaps have to be bridged, if New Delhi is serious about proper evaluation of the crafty mindset of the rulers in Islamabad. It needs to be realized by the Indian leadership that political management of ours must be made of sterner stuff than has been the case so far.
As for the people of India, it is necessary that the Hindu, Sikh and all other Indian communities stand together and fight unitedly against the communalization of politics.
Guru Nanak Devji taught us precisely this at various fora and in his holy Guru Granth Sahib.
In fact, it needs to be realized that the basic essence of the Indian tradition cannot be inculcated without ensuring religious tolerance. It must not be politicized.
The main challenge before the Indian leadership is how to widen and consolidate the polity’s secular base as well as basic national causes to fight against Pak-sponsored terrorism in J & K and other parts of the country.
The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the writer.