It used to be that one of the big distinctions between India and Pakistan was this kind of shit didn’t happen in India:
A university professor held for six years after being arrested for blasphemy over Facebook posts was sentenced to death Saturday by a Pakistani court in a case that has drawn international attention.
Junaid Hafeez was an English literature professor at the government-run Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, a city in the center of Pakistan. He had returned to teach in Pakistan after studying as a Fulbright scholar at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Pakistan has some of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. Hundreds of people are being held in jail in the country, many awaiting trial.
Truthfully, this is still something that doesn’t happen in India, but one can wonder how much longer we’ll really be able to call India the more tolerant and pluralistic of the two. My guess is that a lot of Indians see the ridiculous blasphemy laws in Pakistan as an example of what is wrong with Islam and a justification for wanting India to be a Hindu-centric country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India delivered on Sunday a strident defense of a contentious citizenship law that has fueled deadly protests, accusing opposition politicians of “spreading lies” and demonstrators of trying to destroy the country through vandalism and bloodshed.
During an often combative speech in New Delhi, Mr. Modi signaled that he would not scrap the law, which favors every major South Asian faith other than Islam.
Critics argue that the law is glaring evidence that the government plans to turn India into a Hindu-centric state and marginalize the country’s 200 million minority Muslims. Mr. Modi, in his speech, dismissed the notion that the law was discriminatory.
“Respect the Parliament!” Mr. Modi said to thousands of supporters. “Respect the Constitution! Respect the people elected by the people! I challenge the ones who are spreading lies. If there is a smell of discrimination in anything I have done, then put me in front of the country.”
This is the worst kind of bullshit on Modi’s part. What he’s doing is making India less like India and more like Pakistan.
Over the past two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Indians have taken to the streets in opposition of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which the Indian Parliament approved this month. The protests have drawn people of all faiths, concerned that the law undermines India’s foundation as a secular nation. Around two dozen people have been killed in the increasingly violent protests, and hundreds have been arrested.
The demonstrations are the most significant challenge to Mr. Modi’s leadership since his Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power in 2014. The authorities have been criticized for detaining demonstrators — including children — without legal recourse, shutting down internet and phone services, and firing live ammunition into crowds.
Under the government of Mr. Modi, Muslims and others have been fearful about the rise of Hindu nationalism. Muslims have been lynched by Hindu mobs. The government stripped the country’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, of its autonomy. It instituted a citizenship test in Assam, which it plans to roll out nationally.
The best argument against Pakistan’s religiously constricted extremism has always been India’s officially secular, non-denominational, and communalist counterexample. Unlike Pakistan, India has no state religion. But that’s coming into question now under the leadership of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. And so this is the kind of assholery that is sold as progress:
Indian Muslims, who were relatively quiet as Hindu nationalism reached new heights under Mr. Modi’s government, have finally erupted in anger. They have been joined by Indians concerned about the threat to the secular state, with protests spreading across the country.
Over the weekend, the demonstrations took another deadly turn. Residents across Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and a stronghold of Mr. Modi’s party, said that the police broke into the homes of Muslims, took away hundreds of young men, vandalized property and beat people with sticks in the streets. Curfews and internet blackouts were widespread in the state, and the government instructed universities to track students’ social media posts.
As I’ve said elsewhere, right-wing assholes are the same everywhere, whether they wield power in India, Pakistan or the United States.