On a brisk day, I was carpooling with my manager. Amidst the roaring traffic, was the familiar melodious voice on the radio. We have grown accustomed to the RJ who played songs that was music to our ears. As my manager revved up the engine, with the occasional drip in audio of the AM, often we broke into conversation.
Amartya Sen in his book, The Argumentative Indian, has argued the Indians are inherently loquacious. True to the argumentative traditions, our conversation percolated through the porous soil of sports into the sedimentary rocks of politics while amassing lump of Bollywood, music, economics, etc along the way. While an old classic Bollywood song played on the radio and I hummed along, dragging our conversation to halt. I gazed out of the window, many sign posts passed by, most of them visibly crestfallen like me.
Recently I stumble upon news of lynching of twenty-three year old student in Pakistan by a vigilante mob for allegedly “publishing blasphemous content online”. In other news, Pakistans’s Punjab Food Authority (PFA) had seized a large amount of suspected pig meat (pork) during a raid conducted near Lahore Railway Station. Pork is considered “haram” in Islam & thus is forbidden in Pakistan which has predominantly Muslim population.
Lately I am quite perturbed by the surge in cow vigilantism in India. Recently sixty-year old Sabir Ali & his nomadic family, was attacked by a frenzied mob on allegation of cow smuggling. Also in another incident, Indian police in Haryana has been inspecting biryanis for forbidden beef. Cow is consider holy for majority of Hindus & beef is illegal in many Indian states.
|Image courtesy ~ Global Look Press|
It is easy to draw parallel between India & Pakistan. Indian movies like Lipstick Under My Burkha was refused certification by Indian censor board bcause it was too “lady oriented” and contained sexual scenes and abusive language. Similarly movie like Aligarh faced the wrath of censor board because of depiction of homosexuality. Recently Pakistan banned Indian movie Raaes because the crime thriller “depicts Muslims as criminals and terrorists”. I came across a joke on social media on how Pahlaj Nihalani, Chairman of India’s Central Board of Film, could easily find a comparable job in Pakistan’s censor board.
“A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear." ― Ellen Hopkins
Replace “beef” with “pork”, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws with 295 A of Indian Penal code & a common disdain for LGBT community, India exudes many similarities with Pakistan. However some would argue against drawing parallel between India & Pakistan.
On the midnight of August 15, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, last viceroy of British India, with his soldier’s knife cut India subcontinent into three. Despite similar colonial baggage, paths of two independent nations, India & Pakistan, diverged. Pakistan opted for a convenient way of becoming an Islamic Republic thus pandering to the majority population, while India chose to tread an arduous path of a secular democratic country.
Often I entertain myself with the news of crazy dictator of North Korea, Kim Kong Un. His ludicrous diktat restricting North Koreans to 15 sanctioned hairdo makes me chuckle. It has made me appreciate the legacy of Indian founding fathers who had left behind a parliamentary democracy. Championing to be world’s largest democracy, India must resist temptation to embrace censorship of books, movie, or idea under the garb of nationalism.
Frenzy mob running amok reeks of lawlessness in a Banana Republic. India could learn from her adversary, Pakistan, of the consequences of not separating religion and state. Though Pakistan is more vulnerable to radicalization thanks to Pakistan’s former dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization, India walks a tightrope with her feet on rope of a liberal secular democracy while holding pole of religious fundamentalism.