- Pakistani journalists Tarek Fateh, Tahir Aslam Gora are new spokesmen for the identity crisis of Pakistan.
- Pakistan’s meltdown part of a global process of deIslamization
- SAARC and BIMSTEC to spread soft Indian power.
Are the ex-Hindus returning as ex-Muslims in the Indian subcontinent?
Pakistan facing an identity crisis: Is it a full-blooded Muslim nation or a Hindu country clothed in a Muslim attire?
When, on November 21, noted Pakistani-Canadian journalist Tahir Aslam Gora said in Ahmedabad that he was a Hindu born in Islam, he was echoing what many Muslims across South Asia have felt in recent years. Culturally, they have been part of the greater Indian Civilization for centuries; their different mode of worship has hardly been an issue as even Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists—who all are flowers of different fragrance in the same garden—worship their own gods and the way they want to.
At a programme organized by Bharatiya Vichar Manch (BVM), Gora listed at length the reasons why the cultural heritage of South Asian Muslims like him continue to be the same as that of the Hindus and others who follow different sets of beliefs for fulfilment of their spiritual aspirations.
Gora is not alone. Several Pakistanis, including some government officers, also feel the same way. Veteran Pakistani-Canadian journalist Tarek Fateh has been among the best critics of Islamabad’s flawed narratives and policies; recently he said he could welcome Indian citizenship as well.
On a different note, the Muhajirs, India-born migrants of Pakistan, have also been rethinking whether the 1947 Partition was a ‘mistake’. Even the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain has often spoken along similar lines; he recently sought Indian citizenship as well, saying his ancestors emerged from Agra where his grandparents are buried.
Over the years, Pakistani intellectuals like Gora and Fateh have exposed the fault-lines and weakness of Pakistan founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory, that the Muslims, being a different qaum (nation), deserved a separate nation. They have argued that despite Pakistan following monotheistic Islam since 1947, its eastern wing broke away as Bangladesh in 1971; on the other hand, despite dire warnings, a polytheist and multicultural India has not only remained united but also emerged as a powerful nation with a strong economy.
These enlightened Muslims of South Asia, despite being fewer in numbers, have made a lot of impact on setting the new emerging narrative where certainties are crumbling like nine pins and new horizons are emerging.
So, is Pakistan going to merge back into India, beginning with the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK)? Or, would the majority of Muslims, whose ancestors converted from Hinduism to Islam, return to the Hindu fold?
To answer this, we should have a look at the bigger, global picture.
Pakistan’s slow meltdown has been part of an unfolding global drama the world has been watching with keen interest ever since its inception in 1947.
Nothing moves like the Wheel of Time. Slowly. Comprehensively. It returns to Mile Zero where it had started moving. Eons ago.
While the world is witnessing deChristianization for some five centuries, deIslamization is about a century old. Asian civilizations like India, China and Japan—besides others in East and South East Asia—have been reclaiming their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic heritage. Europe did so at an exponential speed in the 20th century, via the two World Wars and the decolonization drive that followed. Other countries have joined this race in the 21st. The overall picture shows us that many Christians and Muslims are unhappy in their religious straightjackets and want to break out to a New World.
In the West, for instance, ex-Christians and ex-Muslims have emerged in the last few decades. They no longer believe in their inherited strict belief systems and either follow atheism for their inner peace or go back to the cultural moorings of pagans their former religions denounced for centuries.
This reconversion process has been in progress in India as well. The ghar wapsi (returning home) programme, launched by the Arya Samaj in the 19th century, has picked up momentum. Our contemporary Christians and Muslims have also begun to realize that their ancestors were, after all, Hindus/ Buddhists; they are rediscovering their roots and slowly melting back into the vast Hindu Ocean. Many of these converts from Hinduism also rediscovered their respective castes and are consciously turning their own small wheels as part of the Greater Wheel of Hindu Civilization.
In Goa, for example, many Christians have all but merged their identities with the majority Hindus, even demanding caste-based reservation in government jobs and educational institutions; similarly, the Pasmanda Muslims of Bihar, who comprise around 80% of the total Muslim population in that state, have been up against the domination of ‘upper caste’ Muslims (Syeds, Pathans etc) whom they accuse of cornering the benefits of government schemes. In other states also, such categories of social transformers have emerged. Struggling to rediscover their true identity, they are an emerging as blocs of ‘new citizens’.
Even among the Indian Dalits, scholars are now promoting Dalit entrepreneurship, industrialists and the like. Clearly, they are grouping together on the basis of their castes under the overall umbrella of Hinduism. Their icon, Dr B R Ambedkar, did not convert to Islam or Christianity but to Buddhism in 1956, apparently to highlight the need for reforms in Hinduism; he was also against the creation of Pakistan on the basis of religion.
Similar reports from South East Asian countries, as also Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other members of “Greater India” emerge regularly. That South East Asian countries like Indonesia feel proud of their Indian heritage is no longer a surprise.
It goes to India’s credit that New Delhi realized this cultural potential to tap as a soft power. India’s policies of “Look East” is part of this long process.
India’s true potential is expected to be realized through national groupings in this region: the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) encompassing Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.