Persecution of minorities is a perennial problem in the South Asian region. Muslims in India, Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Tamils in Sri Lanka are under the dark shadow of majoritarianism.

Countries in the region seem to have found new interest in the minority questions of neighbours; and the issue has got new dimension. Nowadays, the heads of the two largest countries in the subcontinent spend a large chunk of their energy for defending the minorities of neighbouring countries.

First, addressing a BJP rally at Tumakuru of Karnataka on Thursday, the Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi thundered, “we have a responsibility to protect the persecuted minorities in Pakistan” and that they can’t be left to their fate. He was defending the stand of his party on CAA and the rising protests against it in different parts of the country.

Second, beyond the border, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is busy in preparing for the special meeting of Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to discuss the concerns of Indian Muslims in the wake of abrogation of article 370 and the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.

Both the countries-India and Pakistan- which have been failing to provide security to the religious minorities, in case of India at least since 2014, defend the minority rights in foreign territory. This represents a new minority love in the subcontinent which is driven from the sheer majoritarianism and ethnic nationalism.

Understanding the background 

In the last month, the Indian parliament enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act in order to give citizenship to the religiously persecuted minorities from the three handpicked Muslim majority countries in the neighbourhood- Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

This act was followed by a statement of the home minister on the adoption of national registry of citizenship (NRC) at the all India level to “weed out the infiltrators” from the land. The CAA coupled with NRC petrified the Muslims in India precisely because all those who fail to produce the required documents will be given the citizenship, presumed as belonging to the persecuted minorities in the neighbourhood, as long as s/he is not a Muslim.

In other words, the new move by the Indian government persecutes the minorities within, in the name of protecting the minorities without. So far, about twenty five Indians belonging to minority community have lost their life in protests against the law, which is meant for protecting the minorities outside the country.

Pakistan is also intrigued with a similar form of minority love. Prime Minister Imran Khan was one step ahead of Prime Minister Narendra modi: he vociferously spoke in the United Nations against the rise of fascist government in India and about the condition of Muslim minorities in the country.

Khan did massive protests in Pakistan against the abrogation of special status given to the Jammu and Kashmir, the sole Muslim majority state in India and also claimed by Pakistan. Against CAA, the PTI of Khan is organising a massive rally of minorities and well wishers to the Indian border from Sind.

When it comes to the atrocities against minorities in Pakistan, not only religious minorities are the target, but the minorities within Islam are also facing the institutionalized persecution. To illustrate, just like the NRC-CAA move by the Indian government, the Islamabad high court in 2018 ordered to declare the religious identity of citizens when applying for any official documents, setting a fatal blow to the Ahmedi community, which has been facing persecutions for long years.

One report by Reuters says 62 Ahmadis were booked under the discriminatory religious laws in 2017 and that 2500 anti-Ahmedi articles appeared in Urdu language news papers. Notably, one of the major reasons for the increased atrocities against the community is electioneering by the political parties, including that of the Prime Minister’s, in which the rabble rousing leaders spew venomous anti-Ahmedi rhetoric and demand for stringent blasphemy laws.

What is the new minority love?

The new minority love has been emerged in a peculiar socio-political atmosphere. Firstly, the religious majoritarianism is the current ruling philosophy of regimes in both countries: Hindutwa in India and ‘Riyasat-e-Medina’ in Pakistan. Both believe in ethnic or racial citizenship that gives primacy to people belonging to one religion over others.

Secondly, both countries are facing serious economic challenges: the growth rate in India is six year low; and the economy of Pakistan is in ventilator. Both regimes badly need a smokescreen that can hide the real economic and governance issues.

The new developments are precisely the new syndrome of majoritarianism in the subcontinent: political ideologies, which do not even believe in the concept of equal citizenship to minority communities, clamour for the protection of minorities abroad, only to appease the majorities within the country.

The newly developed love for minority of the ‘other’ would only worsen the existing condition of minorities in the subcontinent. There is only one option left for these new lovers, if they are serious about the cause: treat own minorities in better ways to set an example to the other.

Shahul Hameed Mattumannil is PhD candidate at Centre for Political Studies, JNU. He is currently working on politics of accommodation in Kerala.


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