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What Happens When Religion Is Used To Create Division?

India and Pakistan emerged as two separate sovereign nations in 1947. Different factions of the freedom struggle movement contributed in their own unique way. Ultimately they freed themselves and the people from the clutches of British colonizers that arrived in India during the early 17th century, masquerading as traders with an intent to puncture the domestic economy. Over the course of time, they simultaneously added their own cogs and wheels to carry the weight of unsustainable Industrial development in Britain.

Today India may flaunt its economic prowess in terms of GDP numbers and a giant market, but the reality on the ground is far from comforting. Poverty is the demon that has equally haunted the people of both countries, especially those who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Walls with barbed wire have divided us, but our fate has always been entangled. We reflect on the same past (although our historical heroes are different), share similar culture, tradition, cuisine, and the most significant of all, religious bigotry.

In the initial years after its independence, Pakistan had overtaken India in many crucial fields such as economy and scientific progress. Until the 1960s, Pakistan’s per capita income was narrowly higher than her neighbor. Similarly, Pakistan established its space agency in 1961, which was eight years ahead of India. In June 1962, they had their first rocket, Rehbar-1, launched into space with the help of NASA.

For a country that just a few years back had experienced the horrors of partition and started building itself from wreck and ruins, Pakistan’s immediate success story was pretty phenomenal, but as classical singer Ustad Fateh Ali Khan famously sang in one of his popular qawwali, “Qismat ko manzoor yehi tha, jeeti baazi haar gaye” (Only thing acceptable to destiny was that I lost the game I had already won).

 It was military dictator Zia Ul Haq who mired its broken destiny by attempting a successful coup against the democratically elected government. The military general ousted then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, later arrested him, conducted a sham trial by putting a gun on the Judiciary’s head and effectively murdered Pakistan’s most influential Muslim leader of that era.

He diverted the funding from education and economics to invest in jihadi groups. He introduced controversial policies like forbidding Ahmadiyyas to identify themselves as Muslims, and capital punishment for persons charged with blasphemy to pander radical Sunnis, which proved to be a crippling blow for social harmony in Pakistan. 

Today, Pakistan is the opposite of what its forefathers wanted it to be. In naya (new) Pakistan, the government is signing peace deals with terrorist groups who have blood of innocent school students on its hand, rule of mob has replaced the rule of law, lynching in the name of religion has been normalised to an extent; it ceases to exist as a human rights issue anymore.

In an era of turmoil when the world was divided between two poles, and tensions in the Middle East had just begun after the creation of Israel in 1948, at such a critical juncture India needed someone remarkable to fill in the shoes of India’s First Prime Minister, who could balance its role away from the influence of Super Power rivalry, and work for maximizing India’s potential. 

To break the hegemony of any single power, Jawaharlal Nehru along with the President of Yugoslavia and Egypt  established the foundation of Non Aligned Movement (NAM). India, considering its dependence on crude oil supplies and human right concerns, always supported a two state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Internally, Nehru focussed on constructive development. Under his leadership, Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), All India Institute of Medicine Science (AIIMS) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) were established. The best minds from these eminent institutions are working in different capacities, contributing to the national and global economy.

 The birth of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1966, started a new phase of communal disharmony & religious tensions in Independent India. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) played a pivotal role to shape the extremely religious and political ideology of Hindutva as a propaganda tool to unite radical hindu factions including VHP under one banner with a sole objective to penned down the darkest chapter of India’s democratic history. The Babri Masjid Demolition in 1992 is a big blot on India’s secular credentials.

The BJP’s mammoth victory in two subsequent parliamentary elections is a red flag for India’s demographic diversity. It indicates that “project saffronisation” is peeping deep into the hinterlands and further expanding its ideological base to become a dominant force in uncharted electoral terrain other than the Hindi Heartland. 

Polarization suits the incumbent Modi government, but India is paying the price as intolerance between communities has surged to dramatic levels.

Polarization suits the incumbent Modi government, but India is paying the price as intolerance between communities has surged to dramatic levels. Because of this, religious lynchings is not a copyright of gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) anymore; unfortunately now mob justice secularly transcends across all religions

High values propagated and practiced by the Father of the Nation have long been buried and gradually becoming a thing of the past, It’s never too late to revive Gandhi’s idea of truth and non-violence. The question is…will India do it?

The South Asia region is among the poorest parts of the world. Having no access to clean water, sanitation facilities, free education, healthcare services, and other bare amenities, quality of life in both the countries are utterly deplorable.

Political dispensation in India as well as Pakistan for a long time has sold the bogus dreams of reviving religious glory and promised to bring back the good old times of Riyasat-e-Madina and Ramrajya by arousing intense sectarian passions among the masses. 

An undernourished population, lack of critical awareness, and poor human capital are a recipe for disaster that can trap the country in the prison of poverty for ages to come. Some even wonder how politicians in India as well as Pakistan are so thick-skinned so as not to bother with the country’s challenges, and rather continue to feed “spiritual booze” to masses to keep their eyes shut so they always daydream, instead of confronting the bitter reality.

Government of both states have traded off the plight of its people and instead chose to carelessly spend a big chunk of their annual budget on defense capacity building and military modernization. If this is not absurd enough, fanatics on either side of the border take pride in their nuclear capability to annihilate each other in a fraction of a second. 

Decline of reason in Europe led to two world wars that killed millions of people in battlefields and gas chambers. If we are not able to learn from their experience, and rather continue to follow the same path of blind nationalism that has been further intoxicated by adding the flavor of religiosity, there is no hope for the subcontinent to attain the civilizational greatness which it craves for.

Ajit Singh is an economics student and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in education. His particular interest lies in the intersection of religion, caste, class & politics. He can be reached at