Shashi Tharoor on Kashmir

My wife sent me this link, exultant in how her fellow countryman triumphed in this particular Indo-Pak exchange. I know better than to disagree with her though I’m quite ambivalent on the K-issue.

The whole Indo-Pak issue seems interminable especially when the future of the world has shifted over to the technocratic West Coast.

Off-topic words that start with C tends to be quite powerful (it prefigured heavily in Vidhi’s life) but that’s just my bias after seeing Shashi rhapsodise about how India forged a national consensus out of different castes, creeds, colours, costumes, customs & cuisines (he could have added communities but who’s counting).

Other c-words that have a descriptive/identitarian nature; countries, counties, creatures, cretins..

85 thoughts on “Shashi Tharoor on Kashmir”

  1. I disagree with Sashi on a great many things, including related to secularism, spirituality and religion. But this answer is excellent. Sadly, it is too short an answer to be helpful.

    In general, little public discussion is solution oriented.

    Jihadi Islamists have committed great violence and damage to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir. The solution to this is:
    1) freedom of speech for muslims (protecting muslims who engage in freedom of speech)
    2) encouraging dialogue with extremists
    3) protecting those who engage in dialogue with extremists

    This is how extremism gradually ends. This is how peace comes. This dialogue currently is only taking place to some degree among Bharatiya muslims, and to a much lesser degree North American muslims. European muslims lack the freedom of speech to participate for the most part. The freedom of speech of North American muslims is under assault; I hope it lasts.

    Is it inappropriate to say that many of the Jihadis who have attacked Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir are linked to GHQ Deep State and the Gulf establishment? Maybe, because this young female seems sweet and isn’t the problem. If Pakistan had more sweet young females like her . . . it would substantially help.

  2. As long as Pakistan was under military rule, it was easy for the army to corner a substantial proportion of societal surplus, and also not be held accountable in how it was distributing it. This allowed it to devote substantial resources towards training and arming a proxy army to wage war against India in the valley.

    This is going to get a bit trickier as Pakistan democratizes. More groups will enter the political arena with their own demands on revenues, and accountability, one way or another will increase.

    But the Pakistani army seems to have preempted this, with its deep involvement in the Pakistan economy, as shown brilliantly by Ayesha Siddiqa.

    1. There is a consensus in Pakistan that Kashmir must be freed from India. This is not a Pakistan Army issue. The entire nation believes that our Muslim brothers and sisters are suffering under India’s rule and we must help them to achieve the self-determination that was promised to them by Pandit Nehru and enshrined under various UN Security Council Resolutions. So Pakistan “democratizing” is not going to help your case in this matter.

      The only way the Kashmir issue is ever going to get solved is by genuine India-Pakistan dialogue, which moves past each side’s stated positions. India cannot claim there is no issue (or the only issue is “terrorism”). There is a real issue. Even if Pakistan were to wash its hands of the issue today (give up territorial revisionism as Indians see it), Kashmiri Muslims will not stop fighting for Azaadi. They will just feel betrayed by Pakistan. You have a real problem in Kashmir and that must be solved with dialogue between the “Centre” and the people of Kashmir. You don’t need Pakistan to solve that, just political will in India.

      No one is going to give up any territory. AJK and G-B are and always will be Pakistan. The only workable solution is something like the Musharraf-Manmohan Plan. The sooner all parties realize that, the better for all concerned.

      1. Kabir, what are your thoughts on Husain Haqqani? I heard Husain Haqqani predict that if real Indian per capita GDP becomes more than twice Pakistani per capita GDP (only approximately 34% higher now); that India will hold a plebiscite in Kashmir and win:

        Kashmir currently receives massive transfers of tax revenues from the center, which Kashmiris are intent on keeping. Kashmir’s economy is also deeply dependent on trade, investment and product development with India. Kashmir is in the midst of a massive property price bubble, and don’t want to risk the property bubble bursting.

        Kashmir is home to many twelvers, Ishmaelis, Sufis, Ahmedis who are deeply afraid of India leaving. Kashmiri muslim minorities and liberal muslims are deeply sad that most Kashmiri Pundits (Kashmiri Shaivites) and Kashmiri Buddhists have fled; because the Jihadis now focus on attacking them.

        At the same time there is deep frustration with India. Kashmir is complex.

        Kabir, do you think Kashmir’s elected leaders represent Kashmir? The Chief Minister loves to sing Kabir and Sufi songs.

        1. What is a “liberal Muslim”? Please clarify what you mean by this term. Do you mean a non-practicing Muslim?

          The elected leaders represent one slice of the society, but there is a whole section missing. In order to run for elections in India-held Kashmir, candidates must swear loyalty to the Constitution of India, which claims that Kashmir is an “integral part” of India. Both the “mainstream” parties–the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party–do this. The Hurriyet Conference, which represents those who want Azaadi or to join Muslim Pakistan, is not represented electorally because its members do not believe that India’s Constitution should apply in Kashmir, which they feel is an Occupied country. What percentage of Kashmiri Muslims identify with the Hurriyet? I’m sure some work has been done on this. Those who do identify with the “azaadi” movement see NC and PDP as a collaborator class which is with Delhi not with their fellow Kashmiris.

          To be fair, candidates for elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir must swear that Kashmir is part of Pakistan. So those who want an independent country are not represented in AJK either.

          I believe that most Kashmiris if asked would say that they want a free Kashmir, one which is part of neither India or Pakistan. As Mercutio says in “Romeo and Juliet”: “A plague on both your houses”.

          1. Kabir, I am glad you mentioned the Hurriyat Conference. There appears to be a lot of interplay and mutual respect between them and the Kashmiri political class. The Hurriyat conference have been frequently attacked by Jihadis; which is why one of their principle demands of India is to better protect them and their families from Islamists; while simultaneously vociferously complaining about the Indian Army. And demanding that the Indian center increase the already large transfers to the Kashmiri state government.

            The last state wide Kashmiri election had 65% turnout:

            My guess is that many elected Kashmiri representatives have views similar to their friends and family in the Hurriyat.

            Kabir, you can take advantage of your current residence in America to interact with the large American Kashmiri community. Many own property and business interests in Kashmir and are closely integrated into Kashmiri society. You can ask them and your social media Kashmiri friends for introductions to elected Kashmiri representatives and Hurriyat. After interviewing many of them, I would be very curious to hear your perspective in a lengthy detailed article.

            One principle demand many Kashmiris make is security . . . which would greatly economically benefit Kashmir, gentrify Kashmir and cause Kashmiri property prices to soar. Although maybe there is a difference between property owners and renters 🙂

            Yes, I have heard many Kashmiri Pandits complain about how Jihadis slaughtered them. To which I mention that their property in Kashmir has skyrocketed in value; and how the Sufis, twelver, Ahmedi, Buddhist and Sikh Kashmiris miss them . . . since the Jihadis now focus on mass murdering them instead. To which they can’t disagree.

            It appears to me that like the Kashmiri Pandits, Buddhists and Sikhs before them; most of the twelvers, Ishmaelis, Sufis, Ahmedis are also fleeing Kashmir. What can be done to stop this exodus Kabir?

            What happened at Gawkadal is a terrible tragedy. From the wikipedia link, it was committed by local Kashmiri police and the Kashmiri government covered it up. Yes the Kashmiri police should have been prosecuted and I am deeply saddened they weren’t.

            You are right that the protests and stone throwing is local; but locals take pains to distinguish themselves from Jihadis . . . who are opposed by most locals. This is not a violent insurgency but closer to local freedom to assembly and exercising freedom of speech. Does Hurriyat publicly support Jihadi attacks?

            I condemn any Kashmiri police or Indian Army soldiers who rape Kashmiri boys. men or woman and hope they are all prosecuted. Suspect most rape victims are boys. Why do so many Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis and Indians rape boys? I don’t understand it. How wide spread do you think this is in Kashmir?

            I think you would find your Kashmiri ancestry (and name to be honest) a great help to you in interviewing Kashmiris and the Hurriyat Conference members.

            One of challenges with Kashmir is how much has been heavily manipulated. For example many Shia claim that the Pakistani Army and Osama Bin Laden killed thousands in Gilgit Kashmir 1988. Yet wikipedia now lists only a tiny death toll:


            I think many liberal muslims are deeply observant. I dare say that the founder of Islam, Fatimah, Ali, Hassan and Hussein–all beloved by Ahmedis, Sufis, fivers, sixers and twelvers and many Sunnis–might have been liberal muslims. I deeply respect muslims who disagree with me on this. Sadly the Hadiths have been manipulated by extremists for their own purposes. This process began the day the prophet, may peace be upon him, died . . . when his body was left baking under the open sun for a long time as his companions began to fighting for power and control. And this civil war continues to this day.

            Tarek Fatah says he has evidence that Ali had a different version of the Koran–which the extremists tried to destroy all trace of. I would very much like to have read what was in it. Would you?

            Minority muslims and liberal muslims de-emphasize the six Sunni Hadiths (the most important of which is the Sahih Bukhari). Very conservative Sunni muslims emphasize the Hadiths. Would you agree with this?

            Granted most of the muslims I have interacted with are liberal, Sufi, twelver or sixer and perhaps this biases my understanding of Islam.

          2. 1) “The last election had 65% turnout”: Even Omar Abdullah of the “mainstream” National Conference acknowledges that Kashmiris vote in India’s elections for things like jobs, infrastructure, etc. These votes do not have anything to do with their views on Azaadi. The referendum on whether to be with India or Pakistan has yet to be held. Voting in Lok Sabha or Assembly elections is simply a pragmatic choice to improve living conditions while India is there.

            2) Gawkadal was committed by Indian paramilitary not by Kashmiris.

            3) Imam Ali would probably have been shocked to be called a “liberal Muslim”. “Liberal” is a modern political science term and makes zero sense next to the term Muslim. A Muslim is someone who submits to the commands of Allah and his Prophet (peace be upon him). The Hadiths are one of the only ways we know about the commands of the Prophet (peace be upon him). There are many Shia in Pakistan and many of them are deeply conservative.

            “Liberal Muslim” to me sounds more like “cultural Muslim” (Muslim in name only). These are people who celebrate Eid, but don’t fast during Ramadan. People who don’t pray. Who are “Muslim” only because they happened to be born in Muslim families. Which is their right, but they would not be considered Orthodox by anyone and would be considered non-practicing by most.

            Bhagat Kabir was a Sufi/Bhakti Saint. There is debate about whether he was even Muslim. His Hindu followers believed he was Hindu. He was certainly not a Muslim in an Orthodox sense. We have no evidence he was interested in following the rules laid down by the Koran. In one of his bhajans, he says that god is not found in the temple or the mosque but in one’s heart. This is certainly a legitimate viewpoint, but not what the Orthodox (Sunni or Shia) would call Islam. He is much more along the lines of Meerabai and Surdas than your normal Muslim.

      2. Ex Chief Minister loves to sing:

        Kashmiris are deeply afraid of being killed by Islamists if India leaves, yet love to complain about why Indians aren’t better. This seems to make them typical Indians.

        While most Kashmiris would rather be in India than Pakistan; they would probably prefer independence to being part of India. Unfortunately, most Kashmiris fear getting slaughtered by Jihadis if India leaves. At the same time Kashmiris have grievances; which Indians usually respond to by sending Kashmiris larger pay checks. One of the largest grievances Kashmiris have with India is the failure of India to protect them from Jihadis. Another large complaint is on corruption. Another is crime. Another large complaint relates to the politicians Kashmiris elect. Another is the failure of Indians to understand Kashmiris and respect Kashmiris.

        Kabir, what do your Kashmiri friends tell you? What do your friends among the Kashmiri Pundits tell you?

        “Kashmiri Muslims will not stop fighting for Azaadi” . . . what does this mean? There is no indigenous insurgency in Kashmir. Maybe there might have been one under other circumstances . . . . for better or for worse most Kashmiris have been focused on resisting international Jihadis since the late 1980s. Many foreign fighters have killed Kashmiris since the late 1980s. Kashmir has its own local and state police. Do your Kashmiri friends support violent attacks against Kashmiri police?

        This isn’t to say that Kashmiris don’t advocate for change and have large social media campaigns and protests regarding what they want India to do differently. But this happens mostly nonviolently. And yes there appears to be great frustration with India.

        Kabir, in your estimation what percentage of Kashmiris are Sufi?
        At one time my belief is that a majority of Kashmiri Sunnis were Sufi; but I don’t know the current percentage.

        1. The biggest grievance Kashmiris have with India is the 700,000 Indian troops currently in Kashmir. These troops have raped Kashmiri women and killed Kashmiri boys and men. The Gawkadal Massacre is only one example (out of many I could cite).

          Even Indian Army officials have been forced to admit that the “insurgency” (or as I call it, the freedom struggle) is indigenous. Most of the “militants” are now local Kashmiri boys from the Valley and not Pakistanis. The uprising after the murder of Burhan Wani in 2016 is purely local. Even if Pakistan today were to say “we don’t care about Kashmir. It belongs to India”, Kashmiri Muslims are not going to accept that for one minute.
          My Kashmiri friends (on Facebook only) hate India. They want nothing to do with your country. They either want to join Pakistan or they want an independent Kashmir. They believe India is a country run by Hindus and thus they are not interested at all in it. They see the Abdullahs and the Muftis as a collaborator class only out for themselves. I’m not saying that I endorse this view 100%, just telling you how they feel.

          I do not personally know any Kashmiri Pandits. I’ve heard some on Indian TV channels spewing filth against Kashmiri Muslims. The animosity was obvious from 10,000 miles away. Kashmir needs a truth and reconciliation commission between Pandits and Muslims. At the same time, it is undeniable that Pandits were a favored class under the Dogra regime and Muslims were oppressed. It is understandable that the Muslims would want to rule in a democratic system as opposed to Hindu rule under the Dogra (not ethnically Kashmiri) Maharaja. Not saying this is right, but the desire is understandable. There is a book by Mridu Rai called “Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects” which discusses this in great depth.

          Yes Kashmir is complex, but it is undeniable that many (if not most) Kashmiri Muslims want out from India. I only speak as an observer, because though I am of Kashmiri ancestry, my ancestors moved to mainland India and then Pakistan long ago.

  3. My question is how the Pakistani army will continue to find resources, both financial and human, to sustain the violence in Kashmir. Given the army’s substantial presence in the economy, the financial part might not be difficult. But the human part will become harder. Most of the Pakistanis killed in the valley by security forces have been Punjabis, with an overwhelming majority from the poor South Punjab region. I dont think I have heard of a single Sindhi or Muhajir being involved.

    There is a growing resistance in the canon fodder basket of Pakistan, South Punjab, to send their sons to certain death:
    “In my interviews with the families of young men who joined LET or Jaish-i-Muhammad, most complained that their sons are victimised because they are poor and have no connection with the powerful to be able to rescue their sons out of the clutches of the jihadis. My findings are confirmed by the 1995 Crisis Group report: “There is a strong silent backlash against the LET for recruting teenagers for training”, says a local politician, who negotiated with Lashkar leaders for the recovery of his younger brother from a LET-run jihadi camp in Chilas, in the northern areas. An expert adds, “most parents are angry. They question why the jihadi leaders themselves do not go for battles and why they send their own children to universities in Pakistan and abroad and not to jihad”. This was a sentiment echoed over and over again in my conversations with the families: “If Jihad is so full of blessings why do not they send their own sons ?” Indeed, the few cases of successful rescue that I recorded in my interviews were by middle class families with enough resources and connections to travel to the Pakistan-administered Kashmir to convince their sons to return.” – Mothers of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Farhat Haq, Economic and Political Weekly, 2009

  4. One of the tragedies of the Kashmir conflict, and why it perpetuates so long, is that it doesn’t NEED to be solved. The 7 million people there are a tiny sliver of India’s population and their suffering can be ignored. A visitor to the valley may even be surprised with the sense of normalcy one can experience, and measured against quite a few human development factors, Kashmir does quite well by regional standards. I don’t intend to be an apologist for the Indian central government and spiritual/psychological suffering can be profound, but rather would like to add context regarding J&K’s interaction with broader national population. They are not as sequestered as some may imagine. And Kashmiri activists, intellectuals and strident critics of the central Indian government, peaceful ones as far as I know, are people you can meet in a cafe a thousand miles to the south and have a lively, frank discussion on events back home. And just like people from other regions they go home for holidays and weddings and friends tag along. Mainland indians go there for ski trips and trekking or to follow a cultural/food trail. Sometimes discussion here make it sound as improbable as a jaunt to Raqqa.

    1. It’s amazing to read someone saying Kashmir “doesn’t need to be solved”. There are 700,000 Indian paramilitary troops in Kashmir. These people are not Kashmiris but rather mainland Indians who have been sent to Kashmir to control the local people. Surely there is a better use for them than to deal with an unending “insurgency” (or freedom struggle)?

      Not a day goes by in Kashmir without some form of shutdown, some leader of the Azaadi camp under house arrest, or some young Kashmiri boy being killed by Indian forces. It may not be Raqqa (I don’t think anyone argued that it is), but it is definitely a war zone. No amount of “mainland Indians” going skiing there changes the fact that many Kashmiris see Delhi as Occupying their country and that they are struggling for their self-determination.

      Additionally, Kashmir is the biggest stumbling block to normal relations between India and Pakistan. The issue is not just about Kashmir itself but about the entire subcontinent.

      1. My point was that all of the suffering there, tragically, makes hardly a difference to the 1.2 billion non-Kashmiris in India. Its a huge country and there are other conflicts and insurgencies, other theatres of violence. I do not personally hope for this unfortunate stasis, but it isn’t shaking the foundations of the nation in an existential way.
        An inordinate number of soldiers are posted in J&K for sure, although the figure of 700k has been disputed, and if police and border security forces are subtracted you get a substantially smaller figure for central forces involved directly in law and order and fighting militants. By the way, a substantial fraction of those personnel are not “mainland” indians. So many are from Nepal, Assam and the northeast, and the far southern regions. They are culturally more distant from hindustanis than kashmiris are perhaps. Kashmiris are distinct, but not especially so in the Indian scheme of things, they blend into the Delhi streets more naturally than anyone from my region. Perhaps greater sympathy for a peoples’ right to self-determination is lacking because other regions hardly had that option either, the decision was made for them by their titular representatives as unaccountably as it was done by Hari Singh.
        Regarding relations with Pakistan, they have been so bad for so long that its beyond anyone’s expectation that it ever normalizes. I realize this may sound so hopeless, but its a matter of not ascribing to malice what can be attributed to monumental inertia and indifference, nostalgic Punjabi uncles notwithstanding.

        1. girimit, I agree with your comment. Many Kashmiris now live outside of Kashmir and Kashmiris value their right to travel, invest, work and conduct business anywhere in India. Kashmiris also value scheduled seats in IITs, IIMs, other Indian colleges, Indian civil services, and in the distribution of business contracts (what are the latest statistics on this?). Affluent Kashmiris value their ability to own businesses and financial accounts in India.

          Of course Kashmiris would love to negotiate far greater benefits, financial transfers from the center, and much greater autonomy for their elected state government too. As India becomes more successful and affluent, I think India will keep bribing Kashmiris more and more. India can paper over but not solve Kashmir for a long time.

          Though it would be nice if India would bother to do a better job protecting Kashmiri Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, twelvers, sixers, Ahmedis, Sufis and liberal muslims; most Indians don’t seem to care enough to do it.

        2. Relations with Pakistan are bad primarily because both countries claim that the same territory belongs to them. You claim that Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”. We are sure that “J&K” is India-held Kashmir. Your maps show Muzaffarabad as part of India (which I am sure the people of Muzaffarabad think is hilarious). Pakistani maps show all of Kashmir (but always make clear that the Valley is disputed). Asides from the 1971 War, which was fought over East Pakistan/Bangladesh, all wars between India and Pakistan have had to do with Kashmir. Resolving this issue in some way (like the Musharraf-Manmohan Plan) even with no changes to the international border would go a long way towards normalization. I realize there are those who say “Islamic” Pakistan will never normalize with “Hindu” India, but I think that if the territorial dispute is removed, there would be no reason to carry on as permanent enemies, instead of like normal neighboring states.

          As far as other regions not having the right to self-determination, Kashmir was a unique case since it borders both India and Pakistan. It really could have gone either way. Also, it is the only Muslim-majority state in India. Based on the logic of Partition, a Muslim state should have gone with a Muslim country. The only thing that stood in the way of that happening was that the ruler was a Dogra (NOT a Kashmiri) Hindu. If Hari Singh had had any sense for what his people wanted, it was beyond doubt that as Muslims, they had greater affinity with Pakistan than with Hindu-majority India. Sheikh Abdullah also thought that India would be “secular” and Kashmiris would be better off with it than with Pakistan (How’s that working out now that Muslims get murdered for eating beef?).

          The Nawab of Junagadh chose Pakistan even though there are no land borders between Pakistan and Junagadh. India very quickly had a referendum held and the Hindu majority chose India. The Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to be independent. India quickly had him deposed and the Hindu majority became Indian. India’s hypocrisy in the Kashmir case is beyond obvious. In any case, they were the only group promised a plebiscite by Pandit Nehru in front of the entire world. Kashmiri Muslims aren’t going to let you forget that promise.

          1. India is secular. Hinduism is by definition secular or it wouldn’t be Hindu. I wish you could go to India and see the amazing mosques and centers of Islamic learning in India; Sunni, twelver, Ishmaeli, Ahmedi and Sufi. India is a great country to be a muslim in. Now you might say that Pakistan is also a great country to be a muslim and that is awesome too! This isn’t a competition. It is incredibly rare in India for muslims to be discriminated against for eating beef. Beef is widely and freely available everywhere, including at all major Jain/Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh religious places and religious events–such as the Kumbh Mela. Beef eating is a nonissue for almost everyone in India. Beef eating is very common among Indian Hindus.

            You can see this for yourself when you meet muslim Indian Americans. Notice how incredibly similar Pakistanis are to Indians–whether Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, atheist, twelver, sixer, Ahmedi, Sufi or Sunni. The tensions between Pakistanis and Indians are manufactured, partly by post modernists. Don’t fall for it. The post modernists would destroy every country and people if they had their way.

            You appear to believe that Kashmiris would be better off as part of Pakistan (correct me if I am wrong.) You might be right and that is great. Your words demonstrate a deep love and affection for the Kashmiri people and I honor that.

            Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris are united by a deep love and respect for the Kashmiri people and what we all share should be celebrated.


            submit = love or bhakti or devotion. In this Islam is no different from any other religion. Submitting to Allah is the definition of mysticism. This deserves an article by itself.

            “You have to follow the rules laid down by Allah and by his Prophet (peace be upon him). If you are not following those rules, you cannot really call yourself a “Muslim”, though of course everyone has the right to self-identify as they wish. These people are better thought of as non-practicing Muslims.”

            Yes. But for non Sunni muslims, except maybe some of the Zaidi fivers (who themselves only respect some of the Sunni Hadiths), this has little or nothing to do with the Sahih Bukhari (most important of the six Sunni Hadiths), Sahih muslim (second most important Sunni Hadith), or the other four less important Sunni Hadiths. Twelvers, sixers (Ishmaelis), Ahmedis categorically and doctrinally reject all six Sunni Hadiths. They have their own texts that they sometimes call “Hadiths” but these are extremely different from the Sahih Bukhari. When I hear minority muslims, including their greatest leaders, talk about the Sahih Bukhari or Sahih Muslim . . . it hurts my ears. At least the Sufis don’t categorically condemn all six Sunni Hadiths . . . rather finding a way publicly honor them without requiring Sufis to comply with them.

            Complying with the will of Allah and the prophet means something completely different for minority muslims. Many liberal Sunni muslims tell me they are Koranists (meaning they reject all the Hadiths) . . . and they seem very open to discuss religious subjects.

            “Orthodox Muslims would tell you that “mysticism” is NOT Islam. Islam is what is laid down in the Quran and the Hadiths. That is the fundamental bottom line.” I don’t know enough to comment about Sunnis. But Sufis, twelvers, sixers and Ahmedis are deeply mystical traditions. Twelvers have about 30 living Marjas who lead their faith–of which Sistani is by far the most important. Many of the Marjas, including in Najaf and Qom, greatly value mysticism. Ishmaelis value mysticism. Zaidi fivers are closer to Sunnis and I am not positive regarding their views regarding mysticism. I don’t need to tell you about Sufis and mysticism.

            You are free to endorse the Sunni view and don’t need to e-mail Shia clerics since your own spiritual path is divine and excellent in its own right. This said, some Shia clerics are responsive to e-mails should you ever get curious.

            The twelver view of prophets is a little nuanced. Twelvers believe that the twelve Imams, Fatimah and Mohammed (pbuh) are all perfect and infallible and therefore higher than all the prophets other than perhaps Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Some twelvers might put Jesus alone into the category of the twelve Imams, Fatima and Mohammed (pbuh). Many twelvers believe that Jesus and the twelfth hidden Imam (currently in deeper occultation) will return soon and are actively looking for them.

            It is a terrible tragedy that some don’t consider Sufis to be Sunni. Sufis most definitely consider themselves to be Sunni and not that long ago were the largest current within Islam. Most of the world’s muslims have historically lived near South Asia and South East Asia where Sufism has long been deeply popular. Understand that you Kabir are not saying the Sufis are not Sunni but rather stating that many Sunnis believe this.

            Khamenei deserves his own article. He is deeply opposed by the vast majority of the world’s 150 million twelvers. Khamenei is one Marja out of thirty . . . many Marjas quietly don’t think he deserves to be called a “Marja”. All the Marja in the world oppose him except for maybe one to four others who try to keep a low profile. No other Marja publicly supports Khamenei to my knowledge. The vast majority of Iranians detest Khamenei. His rule is coming to an end and not one day too soon. After Khamenei falls just watch how liberal Iranians and twelvers become.

            Yes twelvers are conservative by American standards. There is nothing wrong with being conservative or wearing modest clothes. It is freedom of thought, freedom of creativity, freedom of poetry, dance, song, art and religion that I value. Most twelver Marjas are far more liberal in this respect than the muslim brotherhood, Salafis or the Saudis.

            My understanding is that the rule of Shia covering their hair comes from the Koran itself rather than from Hadiths–as is the case for Sunnis. Some Marjas believe that woman should wear a covering but don’t believe it has to cover all their hair as long as the intent is to be be modest. Khomeini’s and Khamenei’s interpretation of the Koran and modesty are their own and a product of their own fevered deranged mental perversion.

  5. “1) “The last election had 65% turnout”: Even Omar Abdullah of the “mainstream” National Conference acknowledges that Kashmiris vote in India’s elections for things like jobs, infrastructure, etc. These votes do not have anything to do with their views on Azaadi. The referendum on whether to be with India or Pakistan has yet to be held. Voting in Lok Sabha or Assembly elections is simply a pragmatic choice to improve living conditions while India is there.” We agree.

    “2) Gawkadal was committed by Indian paramilitary not by Kashmiris.” Please elaborate. I thought paramilitaries were Kashmiri militias allied with India and not the Indian Army.

    I would like to post a couple articles about Imam Ali, twelvers, sixers, liberal muslims, Ahmedis and Sufis. Granted most of my interactions have been with Sufis and Twelver scholars and spiritualists (for some reason most sixers I meet are not experts of their own faith). And get all of your feedback.

    I have heard stories that Imam Ali, Hassan and Hussein use to go into Bhava Samadhi (ecstatic dancing, singing and devotion). I have also heard stories that their breath, pulse, heart beat would stop for hours, and they would externally appear as dead. The Sufis and many trends within the twelvers (including the Irfan and Aaref but not limited to them) are full of mystical sayings . . . . the mere listening of which causes goose bumps throughout the body. The hidden upper corridors and doors to the transcendent, the drops of bliss pouring down, the sounds within the sound of silence, the pause in the throat, the breath inside the breath, the melting of the heart through a thousand tears, the fire in the belly. I think that in code they refer to various parts of the nervous system, conscious brain, subconscious brain and unconscious brain that keen meditative observers watch and experience. Religion is about witnessing all of this and going deeper.

    It is these mystical devotional songs, sounds, poetry, tears and feelings that I am calling “liberal”, imperfect though the word is. I think a hint of this inspired Voltaire, Kant and other enlightenment Europeans when they read Sanathana Dharma texts, including the translation of the wise Dara Shikoh–one of the great sons of Bharat.

    3) “A Muslim is someone who submits to the commands of Allah and his Prophet (peace be upon him).” Isn’t this what all religious people do? Isn’t this what mysticism is? What did John Muir see in nature and silence? Didn’t he see Allah and the prophet manifest through nature? Isn’t nature a prophet? Doesn’t the Koran say there are many prophets?

    “The Hadiths are one of the only ways we know about the commands of the Prophet (peace be upon him).” All the minority muslims and liberal muslims de-emphasize the hadiths (the Sufis do so more softly; giving Sunnis the linguistic gymnastics to simultaneously respect the hadiths and de-emphasize them). This is the heart of the Islamic civil war.

    “There are many Shia in Pakistan and many of them are deeply conservative.” Twelvers, sixers, Ahmedis, Sufis in Pakistan don’t have freedom and can’t openly share what they believe. They pretend to be very “muslim” and “conservative” in the hope that this will reduce the likelihood of them being killed. And yes some are actually very conservative. This said, almost all Shia appear to follow the more mystical less islamist Marjas, especially Sistani. Is this true inside Pakistan too? Sistani is quietest and wants clerics and religious Shia to stay out of politics and temporal affairs, focusing on God and spirituality. Sistani was unhappy when a friend of mine told him he was studying poly sci in college. Apparently Sistani says this to many students. Sistani continually warns people to avoid politics like the plague. And while this might seem contradictory; when pressed to share his opinion; Sistani supports secular institutions and interfaith dialogue as much as possible . . . although it pains Sistani to comment on temporal issues period.

    1. “Muslim” means to submit. You have to follow the rules laid down by Allah and by his Prophet (peace be upon him). If you are not following those rules, you cannot really call yourself a “Muslim”, though of course everyone has the right to self-identify as they wish. These people are better thought of as non-practicing Muslims. Orthodox Muslims would tell you that “mysticism” is NOT Islam. Islam is what is laid down in the Quran and the Hadiths. That is the fundamental bottom line.

      Yes, there are many prophets mentioned in the Quran. But Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet. The message he brought cleared up all the misunderstandings of the Jews and the Christians, who had stopped listening to those prophets whom Allah had sent them (Moses and Jesus) and gone astray. Islam is the perfect message, unchanging for all times. There will be no prophet ever again. That is fundamental to Islamic belief. The whole issue with the Ahmadis is that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad supposedly called himself a Prophet, which goes completely against the consensus among Shia and Sunni, that prophethood as an institution ended with Muhmmad (pbuh).

      Sufism is in a category by itself. According to many Orthodox Muslims, Sufism is not real Islam (to be clear, I like Sufis). Orthodox Muslims are not in favor of Qawaali and ecstatic feeling.

      I’m not an Islamic scholar by any means, but I do know that there is a consensus among Shia and Sunni that the Hadiths are important. You are right that the Sunni seem to take them more seriously than anyone else. I don’t think that Shias are in general inherently liberal. The Islamic Republic of Iran is run by Shias and they require women to cover their heads at all times, which is not something that happens in Pakistan. Not sure where this idea comes from that Shia are inherently liberal and Sunnis are inherently conservative. There are super-conservative Shia and super-liberal Sunnis.

  6. Anan,

    I have been to India. I visited Delhi and Agra with my parents. We even got to stay in my grandmother’s ancestral home in Agra (in Hing Ki Mandi) where some of her relatives still live–they didn’t leave Agra because that is where their factory is. Of course, this was in the early 2000s before Hindutva had taken power. I have zero interest in going to India now when Muslim-haters are running the show (not that they would give me a visa in any case because I am a person of Pak-origin). I say this as someone with a deep love for India. I sing Hindustani classical music. My mother wears saris routinely. We are not “Pak-Nationalist” at all. I do wish to someday go to India again, but it will have to wait for a saner political dispensation to return to power.

    “The tensions between Indians and Pakistanis are manufactured”–to some extent yes, but the reality is that the countries have fought 4 wars. India helped East Pakistan to secede (with help from the colonial attitude of West Pakistan). Pakistanis are not going to forget the loss of half of our landmass any time soon. Kashmir is also a huge issue. I don’t think two countries that claim the same territory are ever going to be fans of each other. The issue must be resolved in some way.

    I don’t believe that Kashmiris would be better off as part of Pakistan–unless that is what they choose for themselves in a referendum. I would like to see a free Kashmir (Azad Kashmir, G-B and J-K) as a separate nation of its own. I believe this is what the majority of Kashmiris want (Again, see Mercutio’s “a plague on both your houses”).

    I am not that interested in the nitty-gritty of Islam. I do think you underestimate the importance of Hadiths even for non-Sunnis. Calling Ahmadis Muslim is controversial (as I said, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad supposedly said he was a prophet–something totally not allowed in Shia or Sunni Islam). According to the laws of Pakistan, Ahmadis are a non-Muslim minority. Of course, they should have the right to self-identify as they wish, but that is not how Pakistani law works. As an “Islamic” state, I guess it was inevitable that groups which are not Muslim enough would be declared heretics. Some people would like to declare Shia heretic as well but they are 20% of Pakistani Muslims so that is not going to happen any time soon.

    Sufis are an interesting case. I was reading an article on Qawaali last night for the course I am teaching and the author made it very clear that the Sufi use of music and “sama” was frowned on by most Orthodox Muslims and even by some of the more conservative Sufi orders. It was really only the Chistiyas who were really into music. The Sufi relationship with God is quite influenced by Hinduism and the Bhakti movement. That is why most Orthodox Muslims have no dealings with Sufis. Going to shrines (mazaars) is also not part of Orthodox Islam.

      1. Who said it was? The clue is right there in the name: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. (Note that this name was given under a military dictatorship, the country was not born an Islamic Republic–it was born the Dominion of Pakistan just as India was born the Dominion of India).

        Pakistanis like me used to really admire India for its tradition of secularism. But the party currently in power would like nothing better than to name India a Hindu Rashtra. I don’t know who you think you’re scoring points against. If your only aim for India is that it be better than Pakistan in the domain of protecting minorities, it’s a fairly low bar to clear.

        1. This is the result of faulty secular laws of India. Even after so many changes favouring women, Indian women are at a disadvantage to men. Forget Muslim women, even non-muslim women are at a disadvantage, because of Islamic personal law. A non-Muslim man can become a Muslim and legally have a second wife. An Indian woman cannot resort to it. The so-called “Secular” administration, that preceded the present dispensation paid no attention to such anomalies. Even the present so-called the present Hindu power ruling India cannot do anything about it.

          So, the communal backlash from the majority was long overdue.

          I live in a district where the Muslim population is just about 8%. We all have to suffer Aazan at the ungodly hour of 5, 5.30 in the morning. No one can complain. I shudder at the thought of living in a locality with a significantly higher Muslim population, forget any place with majority Muslim population.

          1. Nehruvian secularism is different from the Western understanding of secularism–freedom for all religions rather than freedom from religion. But of course it has its problems.

            I’m sorry the Azaan bothers you (it’s ironic that you think the Fajr namaaz is at an “ungodly” hour. The pious Muslims think that is the most “godly” hour). But do your temples not have loudspeakers? Noise pollution is noise pollution, no matter which house of worship it is coming from.

          2. I think the key is in the words “badly recited”. But yes, you can’t complain about the Azaan in Pakistan since it is an Islamic country.

            Sonu Nigam complained about the Azaan in India but honestly he just came across as being churlish. Noise pollution is noise pollution. I’m sure people find the noise from temples during Ganesh Chaturthi equally annoying but because it is the faith of the majority it gets a pass. Singling out the Muslim minority honestly is just a reflection of one’s own bigotry.

          3. But to be fair; Muslim minorities do like to be super-visible rather than “blend in.” Agreed that we should all be super-tolerant but also minorities should try and integrate whenever possible

          4. Seriously, when it comes to noise pollution and disturbing the peace, various Hindu communities take the cake. I stay in an area that has more demographic parity between religious groups, the azaan volume doesn’t get that bad as you experience, but the litter and chaos from Ganesh chaturthi and the all around vulgarity of how it is celebrated these days with throngs grinding to trashy Bollywood dj mixes and road blocking. I don’t get how we can pick on others for noise when they put up with this.

          5. That’s an interesting comment and it goes to what I was saying. Noise pollution is an issue and it should be controlled, but to make it selective by focusing on the Islamic call to prayer reveals a majoritarianism and a kind of soft bigotry that says more about the person making the complaint than about anything else.

    1. ” I visited Delhi and Agra with my parents. We even got to stay in my grandmother’s ancestral home in Agra (in Hing Ki Mandi) where some of her relatives still live–they didn’t leave Agra because that is where their factory is. Of course, this was in the early 2000s before Hindutva had taken power.”
      Hindu Tatvva (by which I think you mean the BJP) ruled India 1998-2004. They were the first pro muslim government in Indian history, but not nearly pro muslim enough from my point of view. Before 1998 Indians often betrayed Indian muslims by supporting Islamists against them. Gandhi de facto supported Wahhabi Islamists against Indian muslims (such as Jinnah) in the 1920s. This might have been the worst mistake of Gandhi’s life. India to her eternal shame supported Islamists against Salman Rushdie (and other good muslims) in 1988.

      Modi, who came to power in 2014, is far more pro muslim than Vajpayee or any other Indian PM. Modi is the first PM who has bothered to try to protect India’s great muslim leaders from Islamists. After Modi came to power I visited several muslim places (including Ajmer and Nizamuddin Auliya
      in Delhi) and found better security there than ever before. Very sharp intelligent Indian security officials now stand guard before the houses and places of worship of India’s jivath (living) Pirs and Aulias. Modi has met many of India’s great muslim heroes and asked what he can do to help them. Sufi, twelver and liberal Sunni alike (I assume Modi has done to same for Ishmaeli, Ahmedi, mainstream Sunnis but I haven’t asked) know that Modi has their back. Modi has also gone out of his way to try to help Tarek Fatah, and some other Indian muslims I know. Modi, in my opinion understands the suffering the twelvers have gone through over the last 14 centuries better than any previous Indian PM; and has opened his heart to them. Uttar Pradesh safe for twelvers again 🙂

      As an aside, I can’t explain in words how happy I was to visit these muslim spiritual powerhouses. Tears melting the heart. Deep emotion. Magic and sweetness and beautiful fragrance all around. The music of heaven. And great lovers of God. They still live in Bharat still.

      ” I have zero interest in going to India now when Muslim-haters are running the show (not that they would give me a visa in any case because I am a person of Pak-origin).”
      I am very sad to confirm that it is far too difficult for Pakistani origin people to visit India right now 🙁 Many muslim leaders have expressed this to Modi and my hope is that Modi address this.

      But Kabir, there is no place safer for twelvers, Ishmaelis, Ahmedis, Sufis than India. This has been more true of India than any other large part of the world for 14 centuries. I have never met a Sufi or twelver who disagreed with me on this (or the incredible freedom of thought and speech they enjoyed in India); although some expressed great sadness that most Indians don’t understand the horrendous oppression they have endured for 14 centuries. I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. Any Bharatiya without the heart to empathize with the suffering of the Sufi and Shia is a disgrace to Bharat. And any Indian who conflates minority or liberal muslims (who I think are within the mainstream of the world’s 1.5 billion muslims) with Islamists needs to institutionalized at a psychological clinic. BTW, now that Iraq has less violence than any time since the 1970s India finally has some real competition. Great! 🙂

      Maybe you feel that Modi is siding with liberal muslims and minority muslims against Sunnis. And to be fair many Indian Sunnis express this fear. But I think this is a misunderstanding of Modi.

      “I say this as someone with a deep love for India. I sing Hindustani classical music. My mother wears saris routinely. We are not “Pak-Nationalist” at all. [Kabir, you don’t have to say this; the sentiments behind your words demonstrate this.] I do wish to someday go to India again, but it will have to wait for a saner political dispensation to return to power.”

      Very, very good. Can you share some of your favorite songs in a post? My family loves Hindustani music too. I have many Sufi and Shia songs that I like. And oh the Dohas of Kabir . . .emotion beyond emotion . . . love on all sides, love only.

      Here is one song I like:

      “I am not that interested in the nitty-gritty of Islam. I do think you underestimate the importance of Hadiths even for non-Sunnis.” Which groups of non Sunnis? Sufis are Sunnis of course.

      “Calling Ahmadis Muslim is controversial (as I said, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad supposedly said he was a prophet–something totally not allowed in Shia or Sunni Islam). According to the laws of Pakistan, Ahmadis are a non-Muslim minority. Of course, they should have the right to self-identify as they wish, but that is not how Pakistani law works.” Ahmadis consider themselves to be muslims, Indians consider them Ahmadis to be muslims, and I think Ahmadis are muslims. I couldn’t disagree with this Pakistani government policy more. [Note I am not blaming you for it or saying that you agree with it.]

      “As an “Islamic” state, I guess it was inevitable that groups which are not Muslim enough would be declared heretics. Some people would like to declare Shia heretic as well but they are 20% of Pakistani Muslims so that is not going to happen any time soon.” It is deeply wrong to accuse self declared muslims of being heretics or apostates or Kaffirs. It deeply saddens me that this happens. Shia are massively oppressed. Many muslims describe Pakistan as kill Shia country.

      “Sufis are an interesting case. I was reading an article on Qawaali last night for the course I am teaching and the author made it very clear that the Sufi use of music and “sama” was frowned on by most Orthodox Muslims and even by some of the more conservative Sufi orders.” Sad but true.

      “It was really only the Chistiyas who were really into music.” Some other Sufi orders are also into music. Some twelvers are also into music.

      “The Sufi relationship with God is quite influenced by Hinduism and the Bhakti movement. That is why most Orthodox Muslims have no dealings with Sufis. Going to shrines (mazaars) is also not part of Orthodox Islam.” Now, yes. But I believe that in the past Sufis/Shias/other minority muslims/liberal muslims represented a majority of muslims in South and South East Asia.

      If only Dara Sikoh had won. 🙁


      In the past most of the sound pollution in India use to come from muslims (with Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains being far more quiet). But if some of the other religions have been “inspired” by muslims to make more of a ruckus; that is horrible. The main reason by muslims should try to better at music sound projection is keep the rest from developing their own bad habits.

      Every non muslim temple, ashram, institution I have visited in India seems to have mosques (yes plural) close to them with very load aazans. And yes, while meditating in the morning very load aazans can be heard right. This has never bothered me since I enjoy all religious music from all religions.

      This said, a few points:
      -There needs to be a rule that badly recited Aazans shouldn’t be chanted. All Aazans need to be very high quality, very classy, with excellent speaker quality. No junk allowed. And multiple competing horribly recited Aazans are even more haram.
      -I have never seen a Ganesh chaturthi vulgarly celebrated with throngs grinding to trashy Bollywood dj mixes and road blocking. If this is starting to happen in India . . . disgusting. I generally support freedom of speech and freedom of music. But this is an exception. Needs to stop immediately. And I pray to God that tacky Bollywood DJs are kept away temples, mosques and Gurudwaras, synagogs and churches. 🙂

      1. Let’s agree to disagree about Modi. I read far too many Indian news sites like and The Wire to ever form a positive opinion of him. Also, I don’t think any Muslim will ever forget the pogrom in Gujrat when Modi was Chief Minister (which he famously described as “when a puppy gets under a car, it’s sad for the puppy” or something along those lines).

        I have been trained in Hindustani music since the age of ten. I learned it in the States of all places. We had an ustad come to our house once a week to teach us. What is really beautiful about Hindustani music is that it is very syncretic. Brahmins like Pandit Jasraj compose bandishs like “Mero Allah Meherban” in Raga Bhairav and Muslims sing bandishs like “Jaago Mohan Pyaray” in the same raga. My ustad (A Muslim from Bengal) taught me a bandish in Darbari which goes “Saraswati tum sur dayanee/Tumhee ho vidya maata bhavani”. He wasn’t bothered by it (though he is quite religious in his private life). This is one thing I’m trying to get across to my students here in Lahore (university students taking an elective course on music history). Unfortunately, Hindustani music really suffered in Pakistani after Partition because it was seen to be too associated with Hinduism. An attempt was made to re-brand it as Pakistani music. Under General Zia, the names of Ragas were even changed (You couldn’t say Raga Shankara or Raga Durga on Pakistani TV).

        You can hear my singing on Soundcloud and youtube if you search under my name “kabir altaf”.

        Also, I’d really love your comments on my piece on Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab’s book here on BP. Urdu poetry would make a nice change from discussing Islam 🙂

  7. Azaan is performed daily and Ganesh Chaturthi is once in a year. Is that correct? Commenters here are trying to balance these out.

    1. Azaan is performed five times a day but it only lasts for like five minutes each time (if that). What makes it difficult for others is when there are many mosques within a small radius and they all do the call to prayer at slightly staggered times. This happens quite commonly in Pakistan.

      It is true that Ganesh Chathurthi is once a year but there are many festivals in Hinduism. Diwali, Holi, Durga Puja–those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head.

      Noise pollution is a huge issue but the regulations to deal with it should be framed in a secular manner.

      1. Hindu festivals are colourful, rich & delightful; Muslim observances are very dour and frankly intimidating.

        Thankfully Islam in South Asia has been softened by Hinduism (somewhat). Not enough though..

        It’s ridiculous to compare a beautiful and auspicious festival like Ganesh Chaturthi to the ominous sounds of the Azaan calling (forcing) the faithful to prayer..

        I don’t deny the Azaan can be beautiful but only on Jumaa, beautiful sung and within the right radius.

        It’s shameful Pakistanis & Muslims haven’t regulated the Azaan so that it can be a beautiful thing. The lack of aesthetic is disgraceful.

        In this India is FAR ahead of Pak. India 10 – Pak 0

        1. It is interesting to note that Indian Muslims include:

          1) The world’s best known and richest Muslim entertainers. (The Khans)
          2) The world’s only Muslim tech billionaire. (Premji) Only Muslim billionaires in the field of pharmaceuticals. (Cipla, Wockhardt)
          3) World’s first Grammy and Oscar winner. (AR Rahman)

          Not to mention that Ahmedis, Shias, Khojas, Bohras, Ismailis all thrive in India. Virtually all the best known members of these communities are Indian or of Indian origin.

          Their success has as much to do with Indian culture as their respective faiths.

          1. 3 words: Sachar Committee Report.

            A few Bollywood Khans do not erase the fact that Muslims as a group are worse off than Dalits. This was actually the opinion of the committee (not that of some disgruntled Pakistani). While Muslims constitute 14% of the population, they are only 2.5% of the bureaucracy. What could possibly be the reasons behind this? It’s not that Muslims aren’t capable of being bureaucrats. Otherwise, Pakistan would not be functioning.

            You are trying to paint a pretty picture “India Shining” but Indian Muslims have some real problems. That reality cannot be wished away. The Khans may be having a good time but they are not your typical Muslim.

        2. “Muslim observances are dour”–clearly you haven’t been attending the right Eid parties or Aftaris!

          I don’t know why you would call the Azaan “ominous”. Your bias is showing.

          Agree with you about the lack of aesthetic. A lot of the people giving the call to prayer are quite off-pitch and its jarring.

          1. exactly my point Kabir you are taking about within the 4 walls; I am talking about the public space. The Festivals in Spain, India etc; apart from Chaand Raat (borrowed from the Hindus), there is nothing really like it in Islam..

            People don’t dance on the streets on Eid

  8. One more discussion devolves into Hindu vs Muslim, Hindus vs woke Hindus etc. Every topic ultimately descends into these arguments, reflecting the fundamental fault lines of the South Asian region. And the forum here is not a free for all, so one cant blame the usual internet lunatics.

    In that sense, the reorganization of South Asia into independent Hindu and Muslim majority polities, although marred by partition violence, probably saved millions of lives. If educated, savvy Muslims and Hindus blame each others religions for noise pollution among other things, once can imagine life in a unified polity.

    But Hindus vs woke Hindus remains unresolved, implying Pakistan and Bangladesh probably have more stable futures ahead than India despite the current situation.

    1. @ Vikram Garg: Thanks for a thoughtful comment. A rare thing on the internet forums.

      Who are woke Hindus; learning something every day. I do share your thought, imagine whole British India getting independence as one nation state and novice administrators like Nehru or Jinnah in charge of the country. I heard a sense of relief expressed by well meaning individuals in India that some parts of the nation opted out.

      My what if observation is that newly formed Pakistan fell into the hands of radicals. If some one like Moulana Abul Kalam Azad moved to Pakistan and allowed to form the first government, we will have a whole different things to discuss and celebrate as neighbors.

      1. Congress thought Pakistan would not last ten years. That must explain the “sigh of relief” you heard.

        Jinnah was a radical? Liaqat Ali was a radical? Jinnah was one of the finest lawyers of British India. He was a staunch secularist who was against Gandhi’s Khilafat movement. True, Jinnah died barely a year after Pakistan become independent and Liaqat Ali was assassinated. If Jinnah had ruled Pakistan as long as Nehru ruled India it would be a very different country.

        1. Kabir, scholarship at the intersection of history and government does not support the claim that Jinnah would have made a big difference,

          This isnt about personalities. There were fundamental differences in the organization of the Congress and Muslim League, which Maya Tudor has pointed out in detail in her book.

          One clear indication of this is land reform, which has been extensive in India, but sparse in Pakistan. This clearly is an issue of purely internal dynamics and has little to do with the conflicts with India, which Jinnah would have surely minimized.

          1. If we are looking at how “radical” Pakistan is, which is what I assume the comment above mine was referring to, Jinnah would have made a difference. He was a staunch secularist who envisioned Pakistan to be a Muslim homeland,yes, but not one run on Islam. The August 11 speech (“You are free to go to your temples… that has nothing to do with the business of the State) is the best example of that. If he had lived longer and been able to set Pakistan on a firmly secular path, it would not have been what it is today.

            The Muslim League was not interested in land reform which makes perfect sense given that its class base was rich landowners. In any case, land reform is not the subject of this discussion.

          2. The Gandhi dynasty had an almost uninterrupted stint at power until Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

            It’s very difficult to contract the two where PAK has had a series of different types of governments.

      2. @hoipolloi, thanks for the acknowledgement.

        Woke Hindus can be identified more by their utterings, a precise definition is not something I have managed to formulate so far. Maybe Omar can help ?

        But typical woke Hindu type statements and activities include:
        1) The whole India is an ‘artificial’ construct jibberish.
        2) Organizing beef ‘festivals’ in universities.
        3) Mahishasura was a great king of the adivasis, tricked by Durga.
        4) Shaktism is actually patriarchal and casteist.
        5) Mahabali is not Mahabali, but ‘Mavali’ who was tricked by ‘Aryan’ Krishna.
        6) Krishna was an eve teaser.
        7) Ambedkar was completely right about Hinduism and completely wrong on Muslims.
        8) Wearing hijab is empowering, but committing suicide rather than being raped and killed is bowing to patriarchy.
        9) All Hindus slaughtered, ethnically cleansed in Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh are somehow responsible for their fates. Also, their murderers and cleansers actually share deep bonds with them because of ‘language and folkways’.

        You get the drift …..

        1. Wow, you are actually defending “jauhar”! Perhaps you should join the Karni Sena.

          In the movie, Padmavati (a fictional character by all indications) literally asks her husband “Can I go off myself? Is that OK for you?” That is the definition of bowing to patriarchy. Even if a woman decides to commit suicide rather than being raped (which Swara Bhaskar has pointed out is really problematic), it should be her decision. Why does she need to ask a man’s permission? Perhaps because in Hinduism, the husband is god–“Pati Deva”. (To be fair, subcontinental Muslims have taken this notion and run with it– “Majazi Khuda”) And we are defending this notion in the 21st century?

          And comparing the act of ritual suicide to wearing a head covering? That’s some messed up shit. If that’s what it takes to be non-woke, I hope that people like you become a minority very soon.

          1. I have neither seen Padmavati, nor do I have any interest in seeing it.

            Regarding Hinduism and women, I had an anecdote to share. When the Indian Constitution was being discussed, H.V. Kamath raised the question of putting God in the preamble, like in the US and other constitutions. But an assembly member from Assam, Rohini Kumar Chaudhry, came up with a brilliant response. He said that any word referencing the divine in the Preamble, should be Goddess, not God.

            I dont think any other religion in the world would enable a retort like that.

          2. Woman as “Devi” ok. But you guys treat your women pretty badly. See all the missing girls in Haryana who have been aborted even before birth. Women in India are malnourished because the men in the family have to eat first (this also happens in Pakistan–must be a desi thing).

            Anyway, it is super bizarre that you think wearing a hijab (not a burqa) is equivalent to committing suicide. Once you’re dead, there’s no coming back. The hijab can always be taken off under the right circumstances.

    2. The Hindu Muslim axis matters in rarefied discussions. Bring it down to the local and Muslim is just a jaat. Language and folkways trump religion. I may not be Muslim but I share more with my neighbors who are than with a Hindu from a far away region. The globalization of religious identity is changing this of course.

      1. The Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese all shared language and folkways, but that didnt stop them from slaughtering each other to the tune of millions in civil wars. German Christians and Jews shared a language. You know how that ended. Needless to point out the cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir, Bengali Hindu exodus from Bangladesh and so on.

        So language and folkways arent any better guarantees of solidarity and cohesion than religion is.

        Of course, one can argue that it was politics that was responsible, but when is it not ? And it is precisely in trying circumstances that these language/folkways/religion style tribal solidarities seem to break down rapidly.

        There is no substitute for the rule of law. And that is what the Indian Constitution establishes without prejudice to any of these tribal afflictions.

  9. Kabir: He was a “staunch secularist” who envisioned Pakistan to be a “Muslim homeland”, yes, but not one run on Islam.

    That is really funny. Don’t you see any contradiction in the above statement?

    1. There is no contradiction. Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory looked at Hindus and Muslims as ethnic groups (which is problematic yes, but go with it for a second). Thus rather than a Muslim minority and a Hindu majority, he framed it as a Muslim nation and a Hindu nation. The Muslim nation and the Hindu nation thus both deserved their own nation-states. Pakistan was to be the homeland of the Muslim nation.

      But it was not supposed to be run on Islam in the sense that it was not a state run on Shariah. That’s what the August 11 speech is about. You can legitimately argue that it was too little too late, but it lays out Jinnah’s vision for the new nation.

        1. Pakistan wasn’t built on top of a people who were the natives of the land. Pakistani Muslims (asides from the small percentage of Muhajirs) are native to Pakistan and their ancestors were living in Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Balochistan for centuries. Partition was agreed upon by the representatives of the Muslims, the representatives of the Hindus and the colonial power.

          The Palestinians refused the Partition plan and the Zionists went to war. The Naqba displaced 700,000 Palestinians. Israel still occupies Palestinian land.

          The two cases are very different asides from the basic fact that both states were supposed to be homelands for a particular religion.

          You may say Pakistan is “occupying” Kashmir but this is disputed territory. Unlike in the West Bank, where the entire rest of the world knows that that is not Israel.

          1. Kabir, you are right about the Naqba. But remember that a huge number of Arab Jews were killed or deported from North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Iran at the same time. The Arab Jews were kicked out of the Gulf countries in the 1920s. And yes, it is unfair to blame Palestinians for this.

          2. Obviously after Israel was created, there was going to be a backlash in the surrounding Arab countries.

            Anyway, the point is that Pakistani Muslims are native to the subcontinent. When we made our country, we didn’t steal anyone’s land. There was a migration of Hindus one way and of Muslims the other.

            European and American Jews are not native to the Middle East. That’s the big difference.

          1. The problem with your comments is that they are too theoretical. Yes Israel & India are technically “rule of law” societies but functionally rely on the ghettoisation of the minorities.

            Minorities in Pakistan don’t have it amazing (see Aasiya Bibi) but that is more a function of class. Minorities in Pakistan do not live in fear of the next pogrom or riot (the poor ones are in fear of the Blasphemy Law).

            You must visit Pakistan before you comment on it to such an extent; this is the problem with Hindutva in general, they neither know what they write nor write what they know when it comes to Pakistan..

  10. “Obviously after Israel was created, there was going to be a backlash in the surrounding Arab countries.”

    It isn’t obvious to me even in retrospect; it certainly wasn’t obvious to their local Jewish population; and what happened was 200% wrong. It is a stain on the Arabs and Iran for all of posterity comparable to the stain on Hitler’s reputation. More Jews lived in Baghdad than any other city in the world, including New York, during WWII. Half of all Israeli Jews are “Arab Jews” versus Jews from other parts of the world.

    Iraqis are still tormented by this past and express deep sadness and guilt over what happened to Iraqi Jews. Maybe the subject of Israel, Arabs, Iranians and anti Jewish hatred deserves its own article.

    By contrast most Indian muslims didn’t get a massive backlash during partition, four Indo-Pak conflicts, and terrorist attacks against India. American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, European muslims, Thai muslims, Chinese muslims, didn’t get a major anti muslim backlash after terrorist attacks. I was going to add Argentina. However after the Islamist 17 March 1992 terrorist attack on Buenos Aires that killed twenty-nine civilians and injured 242 additional civilians; and 18 July 1994 Islamist terrorist attack on Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injuring hundreds; there was a large negative backlash against Jews rather than muslims. Although Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America (230,000) and sixth in the world outside Israel, Argentina has long been and remains one of the most anti Jewish countries on earth.

    In general civilized countries don’t slaughter and forcibly deport a large percentage of their native population that has lived inside their countries for millenia over a some distant irrelevant event far away from their country.

    When I express this sentiment then Palestinians demand that the Iraqi pogrom against Palestinian Iraqis 2003-2006 be similarly condemned; as well as President Assad’s anti Palestinian Syrian pogrom 2011-2018. These are fair and legitimate points. This said, I would also like Palestinians to apologize to the Iraqi people for backing Saddam Hussein against the Iraqi people 1990-2003; and backing the Iraqi resistance and Al Qaeda against the Iraqi people 2003-2006. And acknowledge their role in supporting Al Qaeda (Al Nusra) and ISIS in Syria 2011-2018.

    For fair measure while the Lebanese killed and forcibly deported their Jewish Lebanese population (that had lived in Lebanon for millenia); Lebanese have also horribly mistreated and abused their Palestinian Lebanese population since 1948; denying Palestinians basic voting, citizenship and civil rights . . . in addition to committing genocides against Palestinian Lebanese many times since 1948.

  11. Zachary Latif, virtually all Jews were forcibly deported from Arab countries. The few who resisted were kidnapped, beheaded or hung from street lamps. Saddam Hussein rounded up the remaining Iraqi Jews and hung them in 1969. Naturally the Iraqi people cheered and Saddam Hussein established his (and his uncle’s) bono fidas as a great Jew killer.

    Similarly Khomeini killed or deported most remaining Iranian Jews after coming to power.

    1. AnAn whee on Earth are you getting your history. Please evidence links on Khomeini and the Iranian Jews (which is still an extant community).

      The movement of the Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews to Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians is a false equivalence.

      This isn’t to say I don’t have sympathies for Israel (homeland to Bahai World Headquarters) and India (home to our beloved Lotus Temple) but even so one must be balanced..

      1. Zachary, you are right that Iranian Jews are a extant community. My source would be Jews who fled Iran. Do you think they are biased? Maybe they are. Iran and the Jewish people have been close allies for 26 centuries. Iranian Jews in many cases supported Khomeini in the expectation that Khomeini would continue the Israeli/Iranian and Jewish/Iranian alliance; and felt deeply betrayed when Khamenei didn’t deliver.

        “The movement of the Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews to Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians is a false equivalence.”
        The Palestinians are not responsible for the Arab crimes against humanity committed against Arab Jews.

        It is important to remember that in 1948 the Jews were enormously outnumbered, outgunned and out-funded. It was almost universally expected that the Jews would lose the war and be killed. The fact that the Jews didn’t lose and get slaughtered is one of the largest surprises in world history. In fact the expectation that the Jews would lose was so prevalent that the various competing Arab armies focused on fighting each other rather than the Jews.

        Most Palestinians voluntarily temporarily evacuated their homes in the expectation and certainty that the Arab armies would kill all the Jews and they would soon safely return to a their future Jew-less communities. If anything the Jews didn’t want the Palestinians to evacuate their homes, because then advancing Arab armies might show restraint.

        What followed was one of the biggest upsets in world history . . . the impossible happened . . . the Jews won. And then the Palestinians were unsure what to do. In 1948 the Israelis wanted some Palestinian Arabs to return and give the new Israeli state global and Arab legitimacy. But Palestinian Arabs were afraid they would be labelled as Jew lovers, Jewish collaborators and traitors if they returned to their own homes and communities and became patriotic Israeli citizens. Plus Palestinians still believed that the Israeli state wouldn’t survive very long and would soon be overrun by Arab armies. And then the Palestinian Israeli citizens would be punished for betraying the muslim nation and arab nation. Plus the idea of Palestine didn’t exist until 1967. The expectation was that Palestine would be annexed and divided between their neighbor Arab countries.

        I think the Palestinians made a miscalculation and bet on the wrong horse. They should have returned in 1948 waving Israeli flags and becoming patriotic Israeli citizens. They would have been warmly welcomed by Israelis had they done so. After all the Israelis needed all the allies they could get and were far from certain that Israel would be able to survive for long.

        Palestinians initially didn’t demand a right of return to an Israeli state, but right of return to an Arab state. By the time the Palestinians changed their minds (1987), Israelis had also changed their minds. And this is a terrible tragedy. Israelis should allow many Palestinians to move to Israel proper and become patriotic Israeli citizens ASAP.

  12. I don’t disagree with the importance of rule of law. A federal union should be able to accommodate the aspirations of various peoples, but that potential isn’t always realized because of the grandiose ambitions of vested interests. Like the many legitimate examples you gave of ethnically similar or even identical people battling each other, there are numerous examples of war between people who share a religion. There is a reason why Pakistan and Bangladesh are two separate countries, as are Egypt and Turkey, Spain and France ect. Emphasizing language and folkways isn’t ‘woke’, if anything its deeply conservative if wokeness is taken in the context of the US social justice discourse. Ethnic coalition is far and away the standard by which nations are organized. Religion can certainly be considered a factor within ethnic identity I’d concede.

    1. Good point. Religion in itself isn’t enough to hold a country together. Pakistan learned this the hard way in 1971 (of course I think the idea of having two “wings” of a country separated by a hostile neighbor didn’t really make much sense to start with). Language was more important than religion in that particular case. On the other hand, the former East Pakistan didn’t want to join people of their same ethnicity and become part of the state of West Bengal. So clearly their identity as Sunni Muslims still mattered to them.

      Of course post-1971 Pakistan doubled down on Islam to try to hold the Western wing together. We are all told that we must identify as Pakistani first, though most people still say that first they are Punjabi, Sindhi, Pakhtun whatever. Punjabi is not the official language in Pakistani Punjab, which is strange given that it is the native tongue of 50% of the country. India has done much better at giving recognition to the languages of the various states.

      1. Punjabis dominate the country but the trade-off is that they preserve the Urdu High Culture. If they stop participating in that trade-off then Pakistan really is done for..

        1. I’m talking about recognizing each language in its home province. Sindhi is taught in Sindh, the Pakhtuns are very big on Pushto. It is only the Punjabis who are not that into Punjabi. The lower-middle class speaks it and the middle-class maybe speaks it at home, but most upwardly mobile people have switched to Urdu and now to English.

          1. I think the other provinces require that their language be taught in school. Punjabis switched to Urdu long ago.

      2. If West Bengal was an independent nation we could hypothesize it as a possibility. But naturally, with the Pakistan movement itself having some roots in Bengal, there was no desire to rejoin a multinational Hindu dominated India.

        1. Before Partition, there was some discussion about making United Bengal a third dominion. After all, the Lahore Resolution did mention Muslim states in the plural. But this would have required Congress to give up Calcutta, which is why it didn’t happen.

          1. I think Bengal as a Nation would have worked.. they all share the same script; not in the case in the Punjab..

  13. “Ethnic coalition is far and away the standard by which nations are organized.”

    In the subcontinent, ethnicity is defined by caste and religion, much more than language. More than 90% of marriages in India occur between people of the same caste and religion. Language is not a factor. And there is also the issue of dialectical competition, as evidenced by the case of Telangana and Andhra.

    It is difficult to achieve a linguistic coalition in South Asia because the elite across language divisions are firmly committed to English. They are not merely content with their children learning English, but insist on them being educated in English-medium schools.

    Even in Bangladesh, where language based nationalism is more advanced than any other region in the subcontinent, after the initial enthusiasm around Bangla, the elite doubled down on English. It remains the preeminent working language in judiciary, the authoritative text of laws is in English, and the elite wont even consider non-English medium schools for their wards.

  14. “Emphasizing language and folkways isn’t ‘woke’, if anything its deeply conservative if wokeness is taken in the context of the US social justice discourse.”

    In the context of Indian nationalism, emphasizing language and other such tribe-like affiliations over the nation is radical. Civic nationalism around Constitution and rule of law is the conservative position, although it is confusingly challenged by Hindu nationalism.

    India has three and only three national holidays. They commemorate the adoption of rule of law, the culmination of the independence struggle and the birth of the preeminent leader of that struggle.

    There is overwhelming evidence that what binds people together more than anything else are common, intense experiences. This is what the independence movement was for most Indians of the time. Else we would not have had the whole host of freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to the cause.

    No such commitment has ever been manifest for language, where as I pointed out earlier, the elites of every single language continue to send their children to only and only English medium schools. In fact, I have seen far more passion for caste than language, although that is partly motivated by the promise of power and jobs.

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