Of course Pakistan is not an ideal place to be a minority. This piece is no defense of Pakistan’s record on minority rights. Pakistan can and should do much better. Now that we have cleared this bit, let us compare the situation of minorities in India with the situation of minorities in Pakistan. I write this piece as rebuttal to an essay written by one Sadanand Dhume.
In his piece Dhume has expressed concern over the direction in which India is going with respect to minority rights. However his argument still revolves around the notion that India may have its shortcomings but it makes no sense to compare an inherently pluralistic society like India to an inherently intolerant and monolithic society like Pakistan.
Dhume refers to Pakistan’s Shia population as a minority and I accept that categorization. Shias make up to 15% of the Pakistani population. 2% are Hindus and 1% are others. The population makeup of minority and majority populations in India and Pakistan is very similar.
Now let us examine some of the claims made by Dhume:
Among many other absurd theories peddled by Hindutva ideologues there is a popular myth that Hindu population of West Pakistan at the time of Partition was around 22% which came down to 2% due to slow ethnic cleansing carried out by the State of Pakistan over 70 years.
In undivided British India, in 1941, the areas that constitute today’s Pakistan were about 78% Muslim; the rest of the people were Hindu, Sikh and Christian. Today Pakistan is 97% Muslim…By contrast, in India the Hindu majority has declined gently from 85% of the population in 1951 to a shade under 80% today. In short, religious minorities have shrunk dramatically in one country while growing over time in the other.
There were in fact 17% non Muslims in West Pakistan and 83% Muslims. At the time of Partition most of them moved to India and less than 2% were left in Pakistan. So Pakistan started with a 2% Hindu population. Indian Punjab had over 30% Muslims and after the Partition only 2% Muslims remained on the Indian side of Punjab. This was a population exchange. Not ethnic cleansing as is often argued by Hindu extremists. Today the Hindu population share of Pakistan is slightly higher than what they started with just after the partition. For a detailed research on the subject please refer to this blog.
Dhume is however right about the increase in the population share of Muslims in India. He is wrong when he puts this fact as evidence of Muslims’ well-being in India. There are three reasons due to which Muslim population has grown faster than Hindu population in India.
- Most Muslims are poor. People in the lower income bracket have more children. In Dhume’s own country, USA, a third of all families (33%) are classified as low income families. 44% of all children in US come from these families.
- Muslims have a lower rate of female foeticide as compared to Hindus.
- Due to certain unhygienic practices, Hindus have higher infant mortality rate. Muslim children in India are 17 percent more likely to survive infancy than Hindus
Even Pakistan’s Hindu population has grown at a faster rate as compared to their national average because most Hindus in Pakistan belong to lower income groups.
Dhume went on to make a rather bizarre claim. He reckons that minorities in India are treated better than minorities in Pakistan because Indian cricket team wears a “neutral blue” outfit rather than wearing a Saffron colored Hindu outfit. Sometimes appearances can be deceptive, still Dhume does not come across as a person who would believe North Korea is more democratic than USA just because North Korea calls itself ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.
Beyond this point I write on Muslims are really treated in India. It is a long and harrowing read.
A recent study published by PEW ranked India fourth after Syria, Iraq and Nigeria in a list of countries where social hostilities involving religion is very high. Here I list a number of issues faced by Muslims in India that are not faced by Hindus in Pakistan being a minority.
Hindus in Pakistan do not face massacres and mass rapes like Muslims face in India on a regular basis. Nellie, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Gujarat, Muzzafarnagar are just few of the many examples that can be found in recent history. To constantly live with the feeling that one day, due to some event not connected to you, a mob will attack your house, rape and kill you and your family is a miserable way to live.
Hindus in Pakistan are not constantly held responsible for the crimes done by Hindus in other parts of the world. Muslims in India are answerable for any crime committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world.
India exerts constant pressure on its Muslim minority to prove loyalty to the Nation via majoritarian themes. Allegiance to the national anthem or the national flag is not good enough. A Muslim has to deify the nation into Bharat Mata and Sing hymns for the deity. Vande Mataram or else…
In India Hindutva extremists openly call for the rape of Muslim women, even ask people to dig out dead Muslim women from their graves and rape them, such people are rewarded by the masses during elections.
There is no pressure from the Pakistani society to take away the rights granted to Hindus under the Hindu Personal Law. In India there is massive pressure from the Hindu society to bring in Uniform Civil Code that will dissolve the Muslim Personal Law and ask Muslims to abide by the customs that Hindus deem correct for them.
Pakistan does not put restrictions on the dietary habit of Hindus and other Non Muslim citizens of Pakistan. A Non Muslim citizen of Pakistan is free to consume alcohol and eat pork. In India beef is banned in many states because beef is consumed mainly by Muslims and Dalits.
The politics of Pakistan is not focused on Hindus. You will hardly find any talk shows on Pakistani channels discussing Hindu matters. The Hindu society of Pakistan is not constantly under pressure from the media or the politicians. In India almost every issue can be linked to the Muslim minority. Hindu majority of India is obsessed with Muslim issues. Even the population explosion of India is blamed on 14% Muslims and not on 80% Hindus of India.
Muslims in India are regularly jailed for years (sometimes for decades) on terrorism charges fabricated by the police. Eventually they are released by the courts due to lack of evidence but are never compensated for the decades lost in prison.
There are hundreds and thousands of internally displaced Muslims in India who have lost everything during majoritarian mob violence, these people settle in slums. The Govt provides no assistance in their resettlement.
Every few days a new video emerges in India where a Hindu mob is seen lynching a Muslim man, where a Hindu mob appears to unleash brutal violence against Muslim families including women, children, elderly and the disabled.
There are hundreds and thousands of Hindu extremists on Indian social media who threaten and abuse Indian Muslims in the most vile and vulgar ways.
As Aakar Patel puts it:
That is the main thing that would have disturbed me as a Muslim, I think. Having lived through the reality and understood it, one would then be confronted with this relentless, middle-class Hindu focus on Muslims as the problem. See any story in The Times Of India and go through the comments written by readers. I have been writing in Pakistan’s papers longer continuously than any other Indian and I assure you that either they are editing their nastiness out of reader comments, or we Indians have some truly vile people in our midst and they are not a small minority.
In Pakistan those who attack minorities are seen as terrorist. In India the media uses terms like ‘activist’ or ‘vigilante’ or in one case ‘animal rights group’ to describe people who brutally lynch innocents on the streets of India, record their act on camera and proudly post it on social media for everyone to see.
On the creation of Pakistan Dhume writes:
Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 for an explicitly communal reason: as a separate homeland for Muslims based on the belief that Indian Muslims constituted a distinct nation, and that Hindus and Muslims could not live together in peace as compatriots.
Savarkar and Golwalkar are considered to be the most eminent ideologues of the Hindutva ideology that rules over India today. Both Savarkar and Golwalkar through their extensive writings supported the Nazi action against Jews. Golwalkwar wanted to carry out a holocaust against Indian Muslims. He even prepared a district-wise plan for the extermination of Muslims.
The two nation theory and the idea of a homogeneous Hindu Rashtra was first peddled by Hindus. The Muslim leadership remained divided over the idea of Pakistan. In fact most Muslims rejected the idea of Pakistan and chose to live in an India which they believed would remain pluralistic and secular.
Finally I would like to agree with Dhume that it is borderline ludicrous to compare India with Pakistan on minority rights. In fact it is ludicrous to compare India with any other country on minority rights.