India’s hypernationalist religious extremists has become the number one story in Pakistan as the ink attack against Sudheendra Kulkarni has proven to be only the opening act of the Hindu extremists against Muslims and other religious minorities. Social media is now over taken by trends like #ExtremistIndia and #ModiBehindShivSena and #BoycottBCCI among others. Punjab Assembly even tabled a resolution against Shiv Sena’s religious extremism. Based on this reaction, one might believe that India’s shameful behaviour has held a mirror to Pakistan and made us realise that religious intolerance and militancy have no place in a civilised society. One would be wrong.
The image has already been seen countless times around the world. Observer Research Foundation Chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni sitting with his face blackened with ink next to former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri at the latter’s book launch in Mumabai. Kulkarni suffered the attack by hyper-nationalist Shiv Sena thugs who were against the Pakistani book event being held in India. While the world was shocked by the image, there were many here in Pakistan who jumped at the opportunity to advance a hyper-nationalistic narrative of their own.
The image of Sudheendra Kulkarni’s blackened face is a humiliation for India, but it should also be a chilling warning for us in Pakistan also. Have we forgotten about the campaigns to ban Indian media within our borders? What about the fact that not only Indian media, but even Malala’s book launch was also canceled due to security threats. Some books never even see the light of day in this country if they are deemed against the national interest, even when they are written by a former DG-ISI! Most telling, though, our own hyper-nationalists give the exact same message as Shiv Sena to ban Pakistanis from holding book events in India in the first place.
This is the true blackened face of hyper-nationalism. It is not really about promoting or protecting the country you love. It is about gaining power through threats and intimidation. It is about oppressing your own people to build your own illegitimate power over them even more than punishing anyone else. Foreign threats? These are just a convenient bogey for hyper-nationalist keyboard warriors. Shiv Sena in India and groups like Difa-e-Pakistan here are two sides of the same coin. They shout about foreign enemies, but they are really only trying to threaten and intimidate their own people. Why? Because if we stopped hating each other, those hyper-nationalist hate groups would be out of business.
There is no difference between Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and Pakistani mouthpieces like Ahmed Quraishi. They even give the same statements, only wrapped in different flags. We should stop listening to all of them.