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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Mr Ravana: Slay The Myth

It's time to rethink our cardboard theories: the creation myths of India and Pakistan. Advani's pilgrimage to the other side has opened up a territory we fear to explore.

Mr Ravana: Slay The Myth
AP
Mr Ravana: Slay The Myth
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Political controversies confuse rather than resolve historical disputes, especially those supported by well-orchestrated national myths. But in recasting history in the light of new political exigencies, they can also provide useful insights into some of the starker contradictions in the foundational ideologies of modern nation-states. The uproar in India provoked by Lal Krishna Advani’s comments about Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s secularism is a case in point. At a time when the two regional adversaries are looking to forge a more amicable relationship, it is not too difficult to fathom why the main Hindutva hardliner in India chose the occasion of a state visit to shower praise on the founder of Pakistan. However, discussions of the motivations and intentions of the BJP president’s seeming ideological volte face have generated emotive debate without shedding much light on history. The political drama surrounding the submission and withdrawal of his resignation should not detract from Advani’s putting his finger on the key historical fault line in the national imaginaries of India and Pakistan.

Secular India and Islamic Pakistan, congenital twins turned bitter, have fashioned their national identities in contradistinction to each other. Indian secularism is the antithesis of Partition and Pakistan. Islam in Pakistan signifies difference from Hindu India. Yet the self-projections of nation-states are more interesting for what they conceal than reveal. An ideological commitment to secularism has not prevented ruling parties in India from taking cynical recourse to religion to offset declining electoral support. If India has not been able to keep religion...

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