An eminent German philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, had defined enlightenment as ‘The emergence of humanity from the self-imposed immaturity.’ The enlightenment is the first step towards emancipation, the highest human virtue, and a promised status that humanity may achieve in the process of being human.
The prerequisite to this very process is to define and interpret human dignity. Human dignity may be defined as mutual respect among human beings to accept, recognize, and tolerate the ‘destined human differences.’ The destined human differences are race, colour, sex, caste, creed, and religion. The growth of human dignity may be gauged by the parameter of its inclusivity and pluralism towards such differences on whose selection humans have no control and authority.
Ironically, the contemporary world is divided between the East and the West. The latter has learned more lessons, relatively, to develop a human society that may create a consensus to address common and shared goals.
These common and shared goals have contributed to peaceful coexistence among the different groups. The dark ages, caste and class violence, religious brutality, and sectarian intolerance were the malign diseases that had seen their culmination in the WW1 and WW2. The horrific events of world wars had compelled the West to shift their focus from the low and self-imposed differences to the dignified way of addressing the shared objectives. The product was ‘The European Union.
The miracle behind the unprecedented success of the EU was to create a ‘value-free’ system beyond social, cultural, religious, and congenital discrimination.
However, the East has been passive and slow in learning lessons that could elevate their societies’ moral and social standards to create a level playing field for peaceful coexistence. In the East, India and Pakistan are exciting and revealing case studies; both states have failed their citizens to provide them with an environment where they could learn to raise their moral standards to get rid of their hatred towards the destined differences and the self-imposed immaturities.
Both countries, India and Pakistan, had liberated themselves from the colonial rule of Great Britain. The Partition of Indo-Pakistan was designed on religious and communal lines- the Hindu majority in India and the Muslim majority in Pakistan. Therefore, both newly created states needed the slogans and the mantras of ‘nationalism’.
The embedded doctrines of religions compelled their establishments to develop the spheres of nationalism based on religious and communal lines. They used religion as a principal instrument to set the future discourse of ‘Would be Indo-Pakistani Nationalism.’ It was the beginning of the menace that would plague both states for generations to come. It had exploited the internal fault lines that were already rupturing their societies.
However, the founders of both states, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Gandhi, had dreamt of establishing societies based on tolerance and inclusivity. Stanley Wolpert has quoted in his book Jinnah of Pakistan, “Now I think we should keep in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
The founder of Pakistan was explicit in his rhetoric to create a Pakistani society where the shared objectives of peace and prosperity would be addressed and implemented rather than address communal hatred and religious differences.
Similarly, Gandhi had expressed his vision of future India “I shall go for an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; [and above all] an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony.”
After anticipating the brutal hatred between the Muslims and Hindus of India, he said, “I am striving to become the best cement between the two communities apart. In nature, there is a fundamental unity running through all the diversity. Religions are no exception to the natural law. They are given to mankind to accelerate the realisation of fundamental unity. The need is not an establishment of universal religion, but a greater need to develop mutual respect towards the different religions.”
The vision of both the founding fathers was clear: mutual respect for and peaceful coexistence.
However, the parallel religious dominated ‘Deep State’ factor had forgotten the lessons of terror leaders and had used communal hatred to promote their nationalist agendas.
At the upper level, the two countries misused the communal differences to intensify the hatred, culminating in the total wars between India and Pakistan. Pakistan and India have fought large-scale wars that have resulted in brutal bloodshed, which catalysed the communal animosity between the two countries.
Furthermore, cross-border infiltrations, border disputes, bombings, and terrorism have remained the order of the day. Both countries, since their creation, have not spared a moment to harm each other’s economic and political interests on the regional and global forums. This inherent hatred towards each other has impacted both countries terribly. They have spent more and more on defense and cutting-edge military equipment even though the people on both sides are impoverished and most citizens have been living in poverty.
It may appear that both states have learned nothing from the world’s experience, particularly from the western world, that you may fight for thousands of years the ultimately, the states have to learn to respect each other’s interests and objectives. However, the state to state hatred and fanaticism have been transformed into the lower levels of societies. The diffusion of hatred and fanaticism to the lower segments of society has become an Achilles heel of both countries.
Unfortunately, the parallel religious-cum national machinery had failed miserably to the pluralist vision of their founding fathers. The pseudo sentiments of fake nationalism incorporated into the religious and communal hatred soon infused the lower socio-political and socio-economic levels. The transformations have intensified the divide and segregation in Indian and Pakistani societies.
Both societies have failed miserably to safeguard the rights of minorities and oppressed classes. The dissent voices are prone to treason and blasphemy. It is evident from history that societies and states may gain short-term political goals from the politics of divide and exclusiveness; however, this phenomenon would prove fatal to the growth and development of culture in the long run.
Moreover, societies with more potential to tolerate different ideologies and communities will have more potential to grow. In the middle of the seventeenth century, at the end of the religious wars in Europe, there were efforts to lower the horizon of politics so that politics would not be about one particular religion being imposed on the population.
Instead, it would allow people of diverse faiths to live together under the system of tolerance, which is the universal value of human dignity. Nevertheless, it remains the prime liability of a state to protect its dignity by ensuring the rule of law. Unfortunately, both states have been unable to learn these lessons since their creation.
While speaking at an international literature festival in Berlin on October 5 2022, the eminent political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that Prime Minister Modi of India is transforming a country that was given a liberal constitution and a liberal framework by its founders, Gandhi and Nehru. India under Modi is moving towards a narrow understanding of Hinduism, which is unfortunate because everyone in India is not Hindu. There are billions of Muslims living in India. Therefore, the liberal framework cannot tolerate biased and exclusive cultures.
The meanings of liberal here differ from the conventional definitions of ‘liberal,’ which means a free market economy and less state control. Liberal here means a tolerant and inclusive environment where all the segments of society can live together without discrimination and violence.
An American political philosopher Martha Nussbaum has argued in her book on India, The Clash within Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future, if we want to understand the impact of religious nationalism on democratic values, India provides a profound, troubling example.
The events of genocidal violence against Muslims and other minorities clearly show how far the ideals of respectful pluralism and the rule of law have been threatened by religious ideology. The radical religious nationalism and the upper level have crippled the peace, pluralism, and communal harmony of the lower segments of Indian society. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian national congress, has recently visited the communally polarised state of Karnataka, where he appeared holding the hand of a hijab-clad schoolgirl. Jawed Naqvi, the Dawn correspondent in Delhi, has argued that it was a beaming picture of what Nehruvian and Gandhian India was all about.
Similarly, Pakistan’s society consists of many tribal, linguistic, and sectarian groups. In such diverse social groups, only the politics of tolerance, harmony, and inclusivity could ensure the peace and prosperity of Pakistan society. Contrary to this, Pakistan has been severely dominated by the politics of hate, conflict, and exclusiveness among these socio-political groups.
There are generally three layers of communal violence in Pakistan: religious violence, sectarian violence, and ethnic violence. The religious minorities in Pakistan have faced brutal persecution from the tyranny of the majority. The misuse of blasphemy laws has also catalysed this violence against religious minorities.
Sectarian violence among different sects has doomed Pakistani society with horrific hatred and violence. The marginalisation of religious and sectarian minorities is far from over.
The third layer of hatred and violence is ethnic animosity. For political reasons, the hatred among the different ethnic groups has intensified to killing and separatism. The genocide of the Hazara community and the massacre of the Baloch people have explicitly reflected the ethnic division in Pakistani society. The ethnic violence embedded in the roots of provincial hatred gradually adds to the spiral of communal violence.
A renowned American theologian and a religious reformer, Reinhold Niebuhr, once said, “we misjudge people when they are ethnically and religiously different from us.” Making judgments on religious, ethnic, and sectarian grounds is pretentious and a symptom of a non-healthy society.
Pakistan and India both need to harness state-level religious fanaticism to create a balance and pluralist society that could safeguard the rights of every individual without discrimination. The ordinary people in both countries require peace and harmony. The peace and unity of the common people ensure the collective destiny of any state.
Suppose a nation needs to survive and prosper. In that case, it must adapt the process of enlightenment to recognise the destined differences, which may be the only way toward human dignity and the virtue of emancipation.
I appreciate your thoughts. Sorry to say the first culprit for today’s reality is Mr Jinnah. His concept of religion based nation with weak secularism has already failed. People may not accept but Bangladesh is creation because of fundamentalists in erstwhile Pakistan. India is a practicing secular democracy. It can course correct itself.