India can never become Pakistan. The Hindutva brigade may try hard, but our DNA is different. We are too large, too varied, too messy to be herded. This line may sound tired, but it’s the only truth. India will never be under army rule. Our defence force is patriotic and holds its head high but has never been power-hungry. We don’t have thriving terror camps on our soil. There cannot be a militant outfit like Laskhar-e-Toiba operating freely in India. Our courts will not let a Hafiz Saeed roam free for lack of evidence despite repeated dossiers on his terror links. Yes, Hindutva terror raises its head now and then but we don’t have non-state actors who bomb and maim their own and attack their neighbours. No terror group in India can shoot dead 141 innocent children, like the Pakistan Taliban did in Peshawar. Delhi and Bombay are not like Lahore and Karachi, where the family worries if you are not indoors after sunset. We are not on American dole. We don’t have rogue nuclear scientists selling atomic bomb designs secretly. There is no ISI here. Our elections are fair and deep, not like in Pakistan, where your heart goes out to the common voter. Our youths want to soar high, to live and love, to sing and dance, to be Sundar Pichais or Satya Nadellas, not end up as suicide bombers. (I’m sure, neither do Pakistani youths, if they had a chance).
“My bet is that Indians won’t let the core identity of the country—general tolerance—evaporate.”
It is true that in our living memory, many countries have become different from what they started out as independent nations. Iran changed after the Shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution; Turkey has metamorphosed into another country after Kemal Ataturk’s modernisation; Egypt is not the same it was when Gamal Abdel Nasser was its president. They were all ancient, evolved civilisations. There is a view here that India will continue to be a democracy in the future but that it will be a lesser one, that it would have lost many values it has held since independence. I disagree. My bet is the majority Hindus, the 160-million Muslims, the Sikhs, the Christians, the Buddhists, the Jains, the Bahais, will not let the core identity of our country—of general tolerance, of a liberal attitude, of pluralism—to evaporate. It is not some lofty ideal, it’s the simple truth. One man or one party will not be able to shake India’s founding principles, like say, a Zia-ul-Haq managed to do in Pakistan.
Yes, these days are scary, there is despair in the air, but the spirit of India will prevail. That is why there is anger against growing intolerance. That is why writers and intellectuals are protesting. Shahrukh Khan has put it very succinctly; most Indians will agree with him. The BJP may paint everyone who is pained by the present noxious air as a Congressi or Leftist, but that’s its shortsightedness. We are just common folk who have known a certain way of life in our country. And that way is the reason why we can still protest. The proof that Pakistanification of India is impossible is our cover story this week—the fact that we can print it and yet hope to come to work the next day.
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