India should stop calling itself ‘secular’, int’l experts stress

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ISLAMABAD: Expressing deep concern over the aggravating environment of extremism in India, local and international experts stressed on Thursday the promotion of exclusionism in the garb of nationalism under the present government’s tenure in India.

They were speaking at the international seminar titled Pluralism vs Exclusionism – The Case of Rising Extremism in India which was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad on Thursday at a local hotel.

The event, which had Senate Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, as chief guest, was addressed as keynote speaker by former Pakistani high commissioner to India Abdul Basit, alongside former ambassadors Zamir Akram, Salman Bashir and Jalil Abbas Jilani, Dr Syed Rifaat Hussain, Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Dr Junaid Ahmad, Dr Mujeeb Afzal, prominent journalist and DNA Chief Iftikhar Gilani, journalist Murtaza Shibli and East China Normal University School of Advanced International & Area Studies Regional Security Centre Director Ye Hailin.

International Security Expert Syed Muhammad Ali, Air Commodore (r) Khalid Iqbal, IPS Research Fellow Irfan Shahzad, and IPS Director General Khalid Rahman were also present.

The sessions of the day-long event were attended by a galaxy of representatives from civil society, diplomatic circles, government officials, media and academia.

Calling exclusionism a matter that should be seen in light of human rights, Zafarul Haq criticised the Indian technique of promoting partisanship in the name of nationalism, stating that while many countries were fighting against their own problems of exclusionism, India – which claimed to be the largest democracy and portrayed itself as a secular state – kept on fueling exclusionism by oppressing its minorities which dominantly include Sikhs, Dalits and especially Muslims. Even the Muslims in Indian-Held Kashmir were persistently being repressed for over 70 years, he added.

Haq said that the saddest part of the phenomenon was that all of this was happening under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose tenure had set the exclusionism in full display. The hatred against Muslims has specially escalated in the prevalent Hindutva mindset and the situation was expected to get even worse in coming months in the wake of approaching Indian elections.

Abdul Basit was objective in his approach, stating that the recent cases of extremism in India were not really a new phenomenon; instead the country’s history was full of cases where the minorities had to face violence and bear the brunt of exclusionism in one way or the other.

He said that though India was quick to draft its constitution and strengthen its democracy – which was ideally supposed to give equal rights and equal opportunities to all the segments of population including minorities – the on-ground situation in the country was in stark contrast.

The speaker highlighted three fundamental issues, which in his opinion, were the reasons behind the prevailing socio-economic disbalance in Indian society, which in turn were resulting in creating uncertainties and societal discord.

The Hindu caste system, according to the speaker was at the root of the issue with the Hindutva mindset promoting for sectarianism and discrimination as an ideology.

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