By Imtiaz Gul

Nationalism – your appreciation of the land you belong to – is indeed something cherishable. But when conflated with a particular ideology – either religious or political – it turns deadly and morphs into extremist nationalism. Remember what happened in Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini. Is history repeating itself in India under the RSS disciple Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government?

Not only driven by a false sense of empowerment vis a vis India’s neighbours but also projecting this power internally on  hapless non-Hindu citizens, particularly the Muslims.

Just look at the current Indian leadership’s sole obsession i.e. Pakistan. Quite questionable why this obsession despite the COVID19 onslaught?

At a time when the entire world is putting differences aside to effectively combat COVID19, the avowed zealots of RSS continue to ramp up motivated information campaign against Pakistan; a Hindustan Times report (April 26) quoted officials talking of some 14 operational launch pads to be used to “infiltrate 450 terrorists into Indian Kashmir”.

Such disinformation is nothing less than scandalous for the simple reason that the UN Military Observers’ Group (UNMOGIP) is free to visit any Kashmir area it so desires. Pakistani Kashmir is also free to foreign diplomats. The UNMOGIP in particular can at any time verify the veracity of the India claims, Pakistani officials insist.

Can UNMOGIP or foreign diplomats based in New Delhi undertake similar tours to investigate the unprecedented human rights violations, fake encounters with “militants” and continued detention of 100s of Kashmiri opposition leaders and activists in Kashmir, particular since August 2019?

Isn’t it paradoxical that on the one hand the Indian army boasts about the “impregnable” multi-layer security along the 720-km Line of Control (LoC) but on the other speaks of infiltrators being sent in from the other side?

Kashmiri rights defenders – as reported by Kashmir Watch – claim Indian Border Security Force engages opposition youth in fake encounters, kills and eventually buries the dead bodies, without informing the family.

In a recent case, for example, police in a southern Kashmiri district claimed to had killed four militants but the only fatality turned out to be a son of a Srinagar police officer. The young man Aqib Mushtaq Lone had recently completed his engineering degree from a college in Chandigarh.

Only a few days earlier, On April 20, the J&K Police had booked the Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a draconian anti-terrorism law.

For Indian forces, brute application of these anti-terror laws in Kashmir since the August 5 annexation, has become an easy handmaiden to muzzle dissent. And with this “press censorship and repression of the media has taken a starker turn, if the string of events unfolding over the last few days are any indication,” says a report by Shakir Mir in The Wire.

The Hindutva lot in New Delhi apparently seems to be driven by the urge to arraign Pakistan whenever and wherever possible, probably to spoil the latter’s case at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Little do they realise that acts like the National Registration Act, continued harassment and discrimination of Indian Muslims have already caused fissures in their relations with Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and Iran; two Bangladeshi ministers called off their trips in view of the Delhi anti-Muslim attacks. Erdogan and Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei called on India to punish Hindu extremists involved in persecution of Indian Muslims.

Even German chancellor Merkel called the Kashmir situation as “unsustainable” during her November 2019 visit to Delhi.

All these factors, coupled with the extreme displeasure the Middle Eastern rulers have expressed over racist and pejorative remarks by Indians, should serve as a warning to the Indian leaders. Motivated propaganda in international politics can only go this far. Then the real-life hard facts take over – as the aforementioned examples illustrate.

Meanwhile the sheen is certainly off the “shining secular India” mantra. Geopolitical considerations are likely to keep India close to the US, but the diplomatic proximity to a rights-conscious Europe is not sustainable in the long run. More so as COVID batters the globe and is imposing a new world order.