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Reality Check

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It is unlikely that lyricist and script-writer Javed Akhtar will be high on the list for future invites to Pakistan. It is not just that he gave the Pakistanis a reality check on their support to terrorism at a literary meet in Lahore, he also undermined the unspoken belief that his presence there was as a ‘sympathiser’ from India. This narrative exists not just in Pakistan, but also among certain sections in his home country.

It is true that the present BJP government in India does not enjoy much support from the Muslim community, at least overtly. This encourages many in Pakistan to believe that this sentiment provides them a fifth column to be used when the time comes for a final reckoning, otherwise known as ‘Ghajwa-e-Hind’. They are not the only ones – there are senior politicians in India, and not necessarily from the community, who are open to obtaining Pakistan’s support in bringing down the present government. Present day social media has exaggerated and aggravated this storyline. This naturally makes things more difficult for Indian Muslims. Akhtar is no supporter of PM Modi or the BJP, to say the least, but his statement has established a baseline that will comfort members of his community.

The Establishment in Pakistan has cultivated the communal divide to keep citizens obsessed with India, particularly Kashmir. School textbooks are filled with hatred for the ‘kafirs’ and their nation. It is because of this that radical terror groups have acquired the clout they have, to the extent that the nation has become almost entirely dysfunctional. There is a small but significant section of civil society that understands this and has striven to restore some sanity. That, however, requires normalising relations with India, which can only be done by acknowledging the common civilisational heritage. A role can be played in this by India’s Muslims by demonstrating how it can be done in practice. There are many ways to do this – understanding the spirit of the Constitution, revelling in the cultural diversity, contributing to economic and social development, empowering women, asserting community rights while acknowledging those of others, etc. It behooves what are today known as ‘influencers’ – persons of eminence like Javed Akhtar – to set examples for others to follow. It must not be forgotten that the basic unit of the Indian Constitution is not caste, community or regional identity – it is the individual. And, ultimately, it is as individuals that Indians must serve their nation and the world.