Sexual violence makes India a global frontline in the battle to save women and girls. But the problem extends to hatreds spawned by history and religion.
[This article is based on a column published in The News International, Pakistan's largest English daily].
The sad gang rape of a college student on a public bus in the Indian capital might end up having an impact beyond the country’s borders. Although an internal matter, this particular incident concerns Pakistanis in important ways. It should also concern India's other neighbors like Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh and Nepal.
India is a country beset by virulent hatreds of all types: political, historical, religious and social. These hatreds are so potent they led to 21st century's first genocide. More than 2,000 Indians were butchered and burned across Gujarat, a major trading state in western India near the Pakistani border.
The murder of 2,000 Indians spread over just three days was no small matter, happening as it did in 21st century, and not in 20th or 19th centuries. The fact that almost all of the killed were Indian Muslims; men, women, elderly and children, eliminated on the streets by mobs representing the majority religious group, meant that this was a ghastly incident of ethnic cleansing and religious extermination.
One way to gauge the amount of hate that motivated the Indian mobs is to look at one type of criminal act that was repeatedly committed during the 2002 Gujarat ethnic cleansing. In case after case, Indian mobs cut open the stomachs of pregnant Indian Muslim women and killed the unborn babies. In other cases, genitals of Indian Muslim women were mutilated before killing them.
Independent Sikh groups report similar gang-rapes of Sikh women in public places across northern India in 1984.
The New Delhi bus gang rape and similar atrocities against women and minorities are not isolated incidents. Some foreign policies pursued by Indian governments were also driven by religious or social hatreds preexisting in Indian society.
In less than seventy years since the creation of India by Britain in 1947, New Delhi managed to provoke a war and several border clashes with China, four wars with Pakistan, invade Bangladesh, fight a proxy war in Sri Lanka and indirectly interfere in Nepal.
The Indian military invasion in 1971 of what is now Bangladesh is the perfect example of how the combustible mix of Indian hatreds poisoned its foreign policy. [See India Invaded Pakistan In 1971: Know The Facts at http://j.mp/qw8dXC ]
In 1971, there was no armed freedom movement in Kashmir. There were no pro-Kashmir groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT). In that year, Pakistanis were busy in messy and chaotic elections. Less than 40,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in East Pakistan, and all of them in their barracks.
Despite this peaceful Pakistani posture, Indian army crossed international borders in December of that year in an unprovoked war. Assisting the Indian army was a terror militia that went on a killing spree of Pakistani civilians, selecting targets based on their language. India's ally, the Soviet Union, provided indirect help.
Several indisputable evidences that emerged in the following years show how India meticulously planned the invasion at least two years in advance, if not more, recruiting agents and saboteurs and deploying a psy-ops strategy.
Until 1971, Kashmir was the only dispute between Pakistan and India and was contested in a largely peaceful manner inside the UN Security Council. But India created a permanent blood feud with Pakistan by planning and executing the one-sided, unprovoked invasion and war of 1971.
WHO TO BLAME?
It would be unfair to associate all Indians with this sordid record. In fact, evidence points to one group of Indians: the Hindi-speakers of northern India.
The multifaceted social and political hatreds in India are linked to the Hindi-speaking minority, about a third of the Indian population.
The Hindi-speakers are a powerful, rich and arrogant minority, for a reason. Most upper caste Hindus belong to this language group.
Other Indians often hold Hindi-speakers responsible for India’s social and governance problems and for wars with neighbors, for prolonging the Kashmir conflict, and for feeding hate against India's Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Dalit and Assamese minorities. [See http://j.mp/ZgBWKJ and http://j.mp/Tz9JLt as examples.]
The Delhi bus gang rape occurred in the heart of the Hindi-speaking belt. The February 2007 bombing of a ‘friendship train’ carrying Pakistani families on a goodwill visit to India occurred near Panipat, an old Hindi-speaking center.
The Hindi-speaking upper caste culture looks down at other Indians. Women in this culture do not enjoy much respect. There have been numerous cases of public rape and sexual assault in northern Indian where men chose to cheer and make cell phone videos as mobs assaulted and stripped young women. [See http://bit.ly/UIQEWZ and http://bitly.com/VueGTS and http://bitly.com/1349smA and http://j.mp/Vljxai and http://j.mp/10UJVh6 and http://j.mp/YZ3krZ and http://j.mp/136yamj ].
THE GANG RAPE
This background gives context to the gang rape of a 23-year-old college student on a public bus in New Delhi.
The incident sparked riots in the Indian capital because of the increasing cases of gang rapes that have given New Delhi its unflattering designation as the Rape Capital of India.
But the gang rape hides an uglier fact, that India has the worst world record in treating women.
Newly born or unborn female babies are often killed in India for religious and social reasons, according to surveys by the UN and other independent agencies. The country has the world's largest cases of underage forced girl marriages. And a probe by American television network ABC News earlier this year [See India’s Deadly Secret at http://j.mp/tHVRHI ] concluded that over 40 million Indian women of all ages disappeared or were killed in India since 1980.
A spate of articles in the aftermath of the Delhi bus gang rape confirms that social and religious traditions contribute to animosity toward women in India, making the country the world’s frontline battle state in countering anti-woman traditions and customs. [See http://bitly.com/12Z1kEK ]
INDIAN SOLDIERS RAPED
53 WOMEN IN ONE NIGHT
In 1991, in a Kashmiri village called Kunan Poshpora, 53 women were gang-raped by Indian Army soldiers during one night. The use of rape by the Indian Army as a weapon of war against Kashmiris who are demanding accession to Pakistan was documented in detail in the report Rapes In Kashmir released by Human Rights Watch. [See http://bit.ly/X3NDjK ]
There is something deeply wrong in India. Leaders of opinion need to raise it and end the state of denial. There have been many recent warnings and they have nothing to do with rape. The 2002 Gujarat ethnic cleansing is one. The riots against poor Assamese migrant workers are another. The Indian interior ministry blamed those riots on alleged Facebook posts originating in Pakistan. The ridiculous accusation caused embarrassment to India as television footage showed ordinary Indians beat and humiliate the Assamese workers on the streets prompting a mass exodus by the Assamese from Indian cities. No wonder then that the entire northeastern belt of India is up in arms demanding independence.
We in Pakistan continue to be at the receiving end of Indian hate. In 2007, a group of Pakistani families heeded Indian government's call for peace and boarded a 'Friendship Train' from Lahore to the Indian capital, which is located in the heart of the minority Hindi-speaking belt of India. The train was blown up and more than 50 Pakistanis were killed. The perpetrators turned out to be Indian military officers working with Hindu extremist groups.
Recently, the captain of a Pakistani sports team of blind players was served a form of acid at breakfast at an Indian hotel. Pakistani artists who visit India are routinely threatened by extremist Indians. [See posts under #AcidForBreakfastInIndia on Twitter].
On Twitter, Pakistanis increasingly complain about Indian trolls who dedicate time and human resource to spam Pakistani timelines. [See Twitter Is Infested With Indians Spreading Hate Against Pakistan at http://j.mp/IndHate ]
The new Indian Spring against policies of hate practiced by the minority Hindi-speaking elite of New Delhi is a good omen. But it's only a start and there is a long way ahead. This effort should expand to force the Indian elite to listen to the voice of a majority of Indians who are a peaceful people and who deserve to see the billions of dollars generated from the Indian economy spent on their welfare instead of rapid militarization in pursuance of hostile designs against neighbors.
Ending New Delhi's culture of hate is essential to seeing an India at peace with its own people and with neighbors.
The riots by Indian civil society show there is hope that India will be able to defeat the multifaceted hatreds that pollute Indian society and politics.
This article is an extended version of a column by the author that appeared in The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily.