The sad gang rape of a college student on a public bus in the Indian capital might end up having ramifications. And although events inside India rarely create interest in India’s western neighbor Pakistan, this particular incident concerns Pakistanis in important ways. It should also concern India’s other neighbors like Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh and Nepal.
India is a country beset by virulent hatreds of all types: political, historical, religious and social. These hatreds are so potent they led to 21st century’s first genocide. More than 2,000 Indians were butchered and burned across Gujarat, a major trading state in western India near the Pakistani border.
The murder of 2,000 Indians spread over just three days was no small matter, happening as it did in 21st century, and not in 20th or 19th centuries. The fact that almost all of the killed were Indian Muslims; men, women, elderly and children, eliminated on the streets by the country’s Hindu majority, meant that this was a ghastly incident of ethnic cleansing and religious extermination.
One way to gauge the amount of hate that motivated the Indian mobs is to look at one type of criminal act that was repeatedly committed during the 2002 Gujarat ethnic cleansing. In case after case, Indian mobs cut open the stomachs of pregnant Indian Muslim women and killed the unborn babies. In other cases, breasts of Indian Muslim women were mutilated before killing them.
In less than seventy years since the creation of India by Britain in 1947, New Delhi managed to provoke a war and several border clashes with China, four wars with Pakistan, invade Bangladesh, fight a proxy war in Sri Lanka and indirectly interfere in Nepal.
The Indian military invasion in 1971 of what is now Bangladesh is the perfect example of how the combustible mix of Indian hatreds poisoned its foreign policy.
In 1971, there was no armed freedom movement in Kashmir blamed by India on Pakistan. There were no pro-Kashmir groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) accused of involvement in attacks on India. In that year, Pakistanis were busy in messy and chaotic elections. Less than 40,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in East Pakistan, and all of them in their barracks.
Despite this peaceful Pakistani posture, Indian army crossed international borders in December of that year in an unprovoked war. Assisting the Indian army was a terror militia that went on a killing spree of Pakistani civilians, selecting targets based on their language. India’s ally, the Soviet Union, provided indirect help.
Several indisputable evidences that emerged in the following years show how India meticulously planned the invasion at least two years in advance, if not more, recruiting agents and saboteurs and deploying a psy-ops strategy.
Why would India go to such lengths?
Until 1971, Kashmir was the only dispute between Pakistan and India and was contested in a largely peaceful manner inside the UN Security Council. But India created a permanent blood feud with Pakistan by planning and executing the one-sided, unprovoked invasion of 1971.
India did this in the hope that breaking up Pakistan and helping proxies transform East Pakistan into Bangladesh would deal a fatal blow to the Pakistani state. The Indian ruling elites have directly and indirectly perpetuated a myth that Pakistani territories constitute a historical Indian land. But this territorial claim is a mask for religious hatred. Muslim empires that preceded Pakistan have invaded and ruled India for ten centuries. This historical baggage bears heavily on the minds of the minority Hindi-speaking rulers of India who dominate New Delhi.
The multifaceted social and political hatreds in India are linked to the Hindi-speaking minority that rules India and is responsible for wars with neighbors, for prolonging the Kashmir conflict, and for feeding hate against India’s Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Dalit and Assamese minorities.
THE GANG RAPE
This background gives context to the gang rape of a 23-year-old college student on a public bus in New Delhi.
The incident has sparked riots in the Indian capital because of the increasing incidents of gang rapes that have given New Delhi its unflattering designation as the Rape Capital of India.
But the gang rape hides an uglier fact, that India has the worst world record in treating women.
The largest number of cases of murder of female babies for social and religious reasons occur in India, according to UN figures. The country has the world’s largest cases of underage girl forced marriages. And a probe by American television network ABC earlier this year concluded that over 40 million Indian women of all ages disappeared or were killed in India since 1980.
Several amateur videos on YouTube show how Indian men molested women on Indian streets with impunity. Passersby appear in those videos cheering the offenders and making cell phone videos without any attempt to save the molested women. In most cases, the violated girls belong to minorities.
This is what makes the New Delhi gang rape dangerous. Unconfirmed reports suggest the college student was Muslim. If this is true, it would partially explain the apathy of other commuters on the bus. The injuries of the young woman were so severe she died at a Singapore hospital where the Indian government had flown her for treatment.
The riots by Indian civil society show there is hope that India will be able to defeat the multifaceted hatreds that pollute Indian society and politics.
There is something deeply wrong in India. Leaders of opinion need to raise it and end the state of denial. There have been many recent warnings and they have nothing to do with rape. The 2002 Gujarat ethnic cleansing is one. The riots against poor Assamese migrant workers is another. The Indian interior ministry blamed those riots on alleged Facebook posts originating in Pakistan. The ridiculous accusation caused embarrassment to India as television footage showed ordinary Indians beat and humiliate the Assamese workers on the streets prompting a mass exodus by the Assamese from Indian cities back to Assam. No wonder then that the entire northeastern belt of India is up in arms demanding independence.
We in Pakistan continue to be at the receiving end of Indian hate. In 2007, a group of Pakistani families heeded Indian government’s call for peace and boarded a ‘Friendship Train’ from Lahore to the Indian capital, which is located in the heart of the minority Hindi-speaking belt of India. The train was blown up and more than 50 Pakistanis were killed. The perpetrators turned out to be Indian military officers working with Hindu extremist groups. The incident was motivated by hate toward Pakistanis and possibly toward Muslims.
Recently, the captain of blind Pakistani sports team was served a form of acid in breakfast at an Indian hotel. Pakistani artists who visit India are routinely threatened by extremist Indians.
On Twitter, Pakistanis increasingly complain about Indian trolls who dedicate time and human resource to spam Pakistani timelines. This Indian effort is often motivated by hate, seeking to demonize Pakistan and incite linguistic or religious controversies among Pakistanis. What amazes most Pakistanis is to see a large number of Indians dedicate themselves to obsessing online about a neighboring nation. Very few Pakistanis show a similar interest in India.
The new Indian Spring against policies of hate practiced by the minority Hindi-speaking elite of New Delhi is a good omen. But it’s only a start and there is a long way ahead. This effort should expand to force the Indian elite to listen to the voice of a majority of Indians who are a peaceful people.
Ending New Delhi’s culture of hate is essential to see an India at peace with its own people and with neighbors.