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The making of the Kargil disaster

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By Nasim Zehra

On May 17, 1999, the prime minister was given a detailed operational briefing on Operation KohPaima (Op KP). It was held at the Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) Ojhri Camp office, only a few miles away from Islamabad, against the backdrop of Indian press reports claiming that Mujahideen under fire cover provided by Pakistani soldiers had infiltrated along the Line of Control (LoC)…
The Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Tauqir Zia gave the detailed presentation. The entire Kargil clique, including the army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Aziz Khan, Commander 10 Corps Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed, and Commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Brigadier Javed Hassan, was present. Key men from ISI in attendance included the DG ISI Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt, director analysis wing Major Gen Shahid Aziz, and ISI’s point man for Afghanistan and Kashmir Maj Gen JamshedGulzar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by the Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, the Finance Minister, the Minister for Northern Areas and Kashmir Affairs Lt Gen (r) Majeed Malik, the Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, and his principal secretary Saeed Mehdi.
DGMO Zia began the presentation with the words: “Sir, as per your desire we have made a plan to upgrade the freedom movement in Kashmir.” It would be a five-phased operation and the first phase had been completed, he explained. He then proceeded to show, on the map, scores of positions that had already been taken. However, military maps without any text were used for the briefing. Nothing was written and they only had symbols on them. Normally, even military men receiving briefings on such maps, with only symbols, first require orientation to understand what these maps represent. For example, the LoC was not clearly demarcated on the map. Hence, during the presentation, when Pakistani and Indian positions were pointed out to the prime minister, he was unable to fully comprehend the locations of these posts. Instead, for him, the main focus of the briefing were the achievements of the Pakistani troops. There was no mention of Pakistani troops crossing the LoC, nor of the Pakistani troop build-up five to 10 kilometres beyond the LoC. One of the retired generals recalled, “I saw scores of positions across the LoC in the IOK [Indian Occupied Kashmir] area.”
Indian Kashmir is spread over three areas: the Jammu sector, PirPanjal Range to the [Kashmir] valley, and the Leh and Ladakh sector. The entry from Jammu to the valley is through the Manihaal Pass and from Leh and Ladakh the entry is through the Zojila Pass. The DGMO explained that, in phase two, “We will infiltrate freedom fighters into Leh and Ladakh, who will start the insurgency in the area.” In phase three, the general predicted that, when pressure was applied on the Indian forces from the flanking sectors through the operations of these infiltrating groups, the Indians would start bringing their troops to Ladakh and Jammu, leaving the valley virtually drained of troops. In phase four, the DGMO explained, Pakistan would rush in large numbers of freedom fighters into the valley and block the Manihaal and Zojila passes, thereby isolating the valley and occupying the area. The general predicted that in phase five, the final phase, the Indians would be on their knees begging for talks and Pakistan could dictate its own terms.
The DGMO proceeded to share the four assumptions which, according to its planners, guaranteed the success of the five-­phase Op KP. First, each post being held was impregnable. Second, the Indians did not have the will or the determination to take on Pakistan in a fight and would not make any serious effort to regain the heights. Third, as far as the international context was concerned, Pakistan need not worry because there would be no external pressure. Fourth, that the army recognised the economic crunch faced by the country and therefore the government would not be asked for any extra resources for operation; the army would use its own sources to fulfil the financial requirements.
The main thrust of the presentation was to inform the elected leadership of the army’s “achievements” along and across the LoC. The impression given was that the strategic heights lay somewhere in the un-demarcated zones. The DGMO informed the participants that Pakistan’s troops had occupied strategic heights that Indians would now find almost impossible to reoccupy. The army chief emphasised the irreversibility factor and said that, based on the wisdom and experience of his entire professional career, he could “guarantee the success of the operation.”
The thrust of the briefing was to inform the civilian participants that, because of the operation, the tempo of “jihad” would increase, that only the Mujahideen were conducting the operations and Pakistan was only providing logistical support, and that militarily the peaks taken by the Mujahideen were impregnable. The architects of KohPaima were confident that India would first “create noise, then respond militarily, but the fighting to follow would be restricted to the operation’s area. Finally, India would be quiet, the participants were told, and tell its public that it had retaken the peaks. This flawed assumption by the KohPaima architects was, in fact, a wishful extrapolation from what had mostly been Pakistan’s own response pattern to major Indian incursions across the LoC. Especially after India launched a major operation in 1984 to occupy the Siachen glacier, Pakistan under the military ruler Gen ZiaulHaq had remained mum. No response from India, the architects concluded, would provide Pakistan with bargaining chips over Kashmir.
Flattery was in abundance. The CGS piled on more, “Sir, you will go down in the history of Pakistan as the PM in whose tenure Kashmir was resolved.”
Clearly, the masterminds of Kargil were not seeking permission for the operation they had already launched. The prime minister was presented with a fait accompli. With the cover of Op KP having been nearly blown and diplomatic pressure imminent, the Kargil clique was seeking political and diplomatic cover for the operation. The prime minister was pointedly asked if he and his team could politically and diplomatically leverage their ‘unassailable’ military achievements to promote and project the Kashmir cause.
Following the DGMO, the CGS Lt. Gen. Aziz Khan rose to flatter the prime minister. “Sir, Pakistan was created with the efforts of the Quaid and the Muslim League and they will always be remembered for creating Pakistan and now Allah has given you the opportunity and the chance to get India-held Kashmir and your name will be written in golden letters,” he declared. CGS Aziz also invoked the PM’s Kashmiri descent and lured him with the possibility that “after Quaid, it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the FatahiKashmir.”
The ISI’s point man for Afghanistan and Kashmir, Lt. Gen Gulzar, also gave a presentation on the Mujahideen. Gulzar recounted the limitations of the Mujahideen, their inability to inflict heavy damage on the Indian Army, capable only of ‘softening’ the environment for the Pakistan Army to move in, but also pointed out that the Mujahideen were not present in the area of the operation. However, the only route available for the movement of Indian weapons, troops and supplies in the Srinagar and Leh area was where the Mujahideen could lay ambushes, attack isolated military posts, blow up bridges and culverts.
Steadfast in their dedication to their institutional ethos, all the men in uniform raised no questions at the presentation. As would later transpire, the top commanders in the ISI were all sceptical of, if not totally opposed to, Op KP. Lt. Gen. Gulzar would subsequently criticise the operation as a “blunder of Himalayan proportions,” born of a temptation that every Commander 10 Corps would face upon finding an “open space.” Emphasising the point, the general would later recall, “When I took over the command of 10 Corps, I had to put my troops on a leash because they would say we can move forward since we are on a height.”
Similarly, years later, the then head of the ISI’s analysis wing Maj Gen Shahid Aziz would write, “An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparation and in total disregard to the regional and international environment, was bound to fail. That may well have been the reason for its secrecy. It was a total disaster.”
There was a divided response from the civilian participants. The DGMO pointedly asked Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad if the Kargil situation could be utilised to “feed into our effort to project Kashmir.” The general was keen to know if diplomatic advantage could be derived from this military operation. Noncommittally, the Foreign Secretary indicated that it might be possible. Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, however, expressed his reservations on two counts: one, that it was incongruent with the spirit of the Lahore summit [held in February the same year] and, two, that the US would not support the operation.
Sartaj Aziz pointedly asked his PM whether the plan the army had made was not contrary to the undertaking in the Lahore Declaration. “Sartaj Aziz Sahib, can we ever take Kashmir through paperwork? We have here an opportunity to take Kashmir,” was a relaxed Nawaz Sharif’s response. By contrast, his foreign minister was perturbed. He was clear that this operation would not help Pakistan get international support for Kashmir.
The other obviously perturbed man in the room was Sharif’s minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas, Majeed Malik. A retired general, Malik grilled the Commander 10 Corps about the logistics for the forward troops. He interrogated how the supplies would reach the troops under “adverse weather conditions and in a hostile environment.” He recalled the hazardous terrain he had personally visited. Lt Gen Mahmud’s curt response was that times had changed, that “our troops are fully covered.” The retired general also asked the DGMO, “What if the Indians do not remove their troops from the valley and instead induct air power in the conflict theatre?” Meanwhile, the silent worrier in the room, Sharif’s defence secretary, also a retired general, opted to not raise any questions. At the conclusion of the formal meeting, he merely whispered to other military officers, “The foreign office will never be able to handle this.”
The prime minister only sought his cabinet members’ opinion regarding the operation; he asked no tough questions himself. Based on whatever he understood regarding the operation, and factoring in the reservations expressed by his ministers, the elected prime minister opted to go along with the fait accompli presented to him by the military. He wanted a resolution of the Kashmir issue and appeared convinced that Op KP would advance that objective. He was perhaps also swayed by the upbeat tone of the DGMO’s ‘victoryalltheway’ presentation and partly by the notion that he was well on his way to becoming the man “whose name will go down in history in golden words as the man who liberated Kashmir.” The prime minister took well to the words of the CGS that for the PM “after the Quaid it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the FatahiKashmir.”
Flattery was in abundance. The CGS piled on more, “Sir, you will go down in the history of Pakistan as the PM in whose tenure Kashmir was resolved.” In response to this, Nawaz responded, “But then you didn’t tell me when you will fly the flag of Pakistan in Srinagar.” Civilians present registered this as a comment made in jest. Meanwhile, flattery plus the army chief’s claim that, based on the wisdom and experience of his entire professional life, he could “guarantee the success of the operation,” had won Nawaz Sharif’s support for Op KP.
The prime minister had not factored in the clearly stated reservations of his foreign minister and minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas. He was assured of no military reverses, and he chose to believe his military commanders. Interestingly, at no point during the meeting was there any exchange between the PM and the military men signalling Sharif’s prior knowledge of the operation. There was only a passing reference made in the DGMO’s opening comments to the PM’s March approval given at the ISI-convened meeting to “upgrade the freedom movement in Kashmir.”
The most vocal critic, however, was the secretary of defence. The retired general spoke for about 20 minutes, warning that Op KP would either end in all-out war or a total military disaster for Pakistan. … Implying that the army command had launched Op KP without clearance from the government, the defence secretary emphasised that the army was not an independent body and had to take orders from the government.
As the meeting drew to a close, the CGS proposed a joint prayer for the success of Op KP. The prime minister asked him to lead the joint prayer. With this, the meeting concluded. Most present at the meeting, including those who subsequently became the harshest critics of the operation, believed it would be a success.
Immediately after the meeting, the defense secretary, Lt. Gen (r) Iftikhar Ali Khan, followed the prime minister in his car. It was about 9pm and Sharif was entering the lift in the Prime Minister’s House when Iftikhar, hurriedly following him, said, “Sir, can I talk to you? It is important.” The nation’s chief executive asked him if he could wait till the next morning. The defence secretary persisted. He said he wanted to ask two questions. One: Did the military leadership get his permission to cross the LoC? The prime minister asked him whether the army had actually crossed the LoC. “Didn’t you note all that about ‘hundreds of posts’ and that NLI troops, not freedom fighters, have crossed the LoC?”
Gen Iftikhar continued asking his second question: “Crossing the LoC, Mian Sahib, you know has implications for war?” Late at night, the rather surprised prime minister said, “Why a war? And who has crossed the LoC?” He was told that about five to six hundred square kilometres of Indian territory and hundreds of posts had been occupied. The prime minister instructed the defence secretary to explain the situation to his minister the next morning.
(Excerpts from well known Pakistan writer and columinist, NasimZehra’s book, ‘From KargilTo The Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan’. Courtesy: The Dawn)
(To Be Concluded)

 

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Opinion

Not in the Mahatma’s name

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By Apoorvanand

The recent uproar over the glorification of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, NathuramGodse, by the BharatiyaJanata Party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur has forced her party to tick her off. It should be a solace for us that there is at least one non-negotiable in Indian politics, that the political cost of the celebration of the murder of the Mahatma is formidably high! But now we would be told to let the matter rest as she has been chided even by her mentors.

Let us look at the implication of this approach, that Ms. Thakur, sans this statement, should be acceptable to us as a potential representative in Parliament. She continues to be the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, as she claimed Prime Minister NarendraModi had said of her. Our satisfaction over the condemnation of Ms. Thakur makes us forget that she is being audaciously presented as the most fitting answer to secular politics, which holds that a person accused of attacks on Muslims cannot be a people’s representative in India.

 

The idea that a Hindu can never indulge in a terror act is, in fact, another way of saying that terror acts are always committed by non-Hindus. Or, by Pakistan, which for BJP leaders is a proxy for Muslims. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while talking about the Samjhauta Express blast case acquittals, claimed that it was unimaginable to accept that Hindus could be involved in such acts, and that he believed that in all such crimes there was the hand of Pakistan. A crime has been committed, and since the Hindu suspects cannot (being Hindus) do it, it can only be Muslims even if they are not caught — this is the underlying assumption.

It is this theory which is being thrown at us by the BJP by presenting Ms. Thakur as its choice for the electorate of Bhopal. It has another sinister aspect. She was selected knowing well that she could not be a choice for Muslims. Her selection is therefore a message to Muslims that by not voting for her, they disregard the sentiments of Hindus, thus showing intolerance towards the majority.

By supporting her, the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, they have a chance to endear themselves to the Hindus. If they don’t, they would always be a suspect.

This argument is not new. Many pundits, while accepting that Mr.Modi was a divisive figure, urged Indians to choose him as he was the best bet for the economic development of India. So, can Muslims be so sectarian as to think only about themselves while the greater national interest is at stake?

The swift and determined move by the BJP to reject her statement on Godse is a clever ploy to make this issue irrelevant while judging her. It is as if we are asked to judge Godse, setting aside the act of murder of Gandhi by him. There are ‘respectable’ people who feel that Godse spoilt his case by murdering the Mahatma. They regret this folly as they believe that there was strong merit in his ideological stance. According to them, he rightly opposed the Muslim appeasement of Gandhi, his anger at the dangerous friendliness of Gandhi towards Pakistan is correct, and his impatience with the unwise and impractical pacifism of Gandhi is to be understood if we want to make India strong.

We are asked to understand that there was a reason Godse was forced to kill Gandhi. We are asked to not treat him as a simple criminal. He was driven by high ideas. To make him a man of ideas, he is constantly humanised. We have seen over the years people talking about his childhood, his education, his editorship. Gandhi must have done something really horrible to provoke a thoughtful human being to turn into an assassin. If anything, they imply, he was a just assassin!

So, we are asked to move away from the trivia, that is the act of the murder, to the substantive, the issues raised by Nathuram in his ‘brave defence’ in the court, which had moved people to tears even then.

The RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), unlike the Islamic State and the Maoists, understands it well that an individual and identifiable act of violence makes it abhorrent and repulsive for the masses, whereas anonymous acts of violence are always more palatable. It was therefore important for Savarkar to distance himself from his disciple, Godse, to remain respectable. For the RSS it was necessary to disown Godse to be able to keep working on the majoritarian ideas he shared with or had learnt from Savarkar and the RSS. No known RSS hand soils his hands with blood; yet it is the politics of the RSS, not at all different from Godse’s, which makes blood flow.

Gandhi had said again and again that it would be better for him to die if India were to become inhospitable to Muslims. He was talking to those who were objecting to the recitation from the Koran at his prayer meetings. Death he could accept but not the narrowing of his heart! Neither bowing to threats or force! In the same invocation, he said, if you ask me to recite the Gita at gun point, I would refuse to obey you.

Gandhi told his audience, your heart is also large. Don’t constrict it. It is this challenge which needs to be accepted. It requires immense bravery of intelligence and humanity to be able to hear Gandhi. This intelligence would tell us that the distancing from the murder of the Mahatma by the co-travellers of Godse is in fact a strategy to enlarge the space for majoritarian ideas and draw more and more Hindus towards them, thus making Gandhi irrelevant while keeping his facade decorated.

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Why I want Pragya Thakur to win

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By Saba Naqvi

Regardless of whether NarendraModi remains Prime Minister or not I want terror accused Pragya Thakur to win from Bhopal. The esteemed leadership of India’s pre-eminent political party chose a terror accused as a candidate and they must endure her tenure as MP.

Pragya may be a poisonous vendor of hate and violence but she is not a hypocrite. Ever since she spoke her mind on describing NathuramGodse, the individual who shot MK Gandhi to death, as a patriot, the BJP national leadership has claimed to be disturbed. The Prime Minister spoke up after her statement, saying, he would never forgive her for what she had said and the party stated that it had initiated disciplinary action against her.

 

But by the time the party took this position, many members of the BJP had come up with twisted arguments somehow justifying Pragya’s validation of the assassin of a figure many revere as a Mahatma or Great Soul. Party members exposed their own problematic ideological heritage that included non-participation in the freedom movement led by Gandhi. Some of them could not help but reveal their own natural impulse to drop the veneer of falsehood and come clean on how they do indeed believe that Godse was a patriot despite having killed Gandhi.

The Godse remark in just two days exposed the ideological underbelly of the ruling party that does indeed have members who believe that Gandhi was a villain who loved Muslims and Pakistan. That’s why Godse, by his own account in a famous trial, shot him. A must-read for those who wish to engage with this debate is the book titled “The Men Who Killed Gandhi” by ManoharMalgonkar.

Seventy-one years after that crime on January 30, 1948, we have come to the point where a candidate contesting in an election for Parliament embraces the Godse world view. What’s more, a member of Modi’s council of ministers, AnantkumarHegde, endorsed her position. The MP from Karnataka had earlier kicked up a storm when he had said that “we are here to change the Constitution”. Yes, the same Constitution he took an oath to protect.

Hegde’s also received a show-cause notice to explain his position and on May 17 BJP president Amit Shah said the party’s disciplinary committee would submit a report on the matter in 10 days, after the election verdict, that is. There was more: the BJP media cell chief in Madhya Pradesh, the state from where Pragya is contesting, was brazen enough to say that Gandhi was the father of the nation of Pakistan. The BJP suspended him.

So how do we read the ideological contortions ever since Pragya uttered the “Godse is a patriot” words? One could say that the BJP is trying to occupy the space of both extreme and moderate in a national ideological pendulum that has shifted right-wards. It’s not a bad ploy—the ideological family plays to the more core beliefs, that are to be revealed step by step, and just in case some voters find them unpalatable, there are the “reasonable” elements as well.

And, voila! Modi becomes a moderate who is being stern with the fringe! That is a useful projection at a time when there is the possibility of needing some allies post-23 May. The BJP has made this ideological journey before, of being all things to all men. Earlier, former Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee was offered up as the moderate to LK Advani, the architect of the Ram temple movement, who brought the BJP to national prominence. Today Modi today is the moderate who is speaking up against the hardliners, who are called “fringe” by those who believe it’s all part of a great national purpose.

It’s not. The “fringe” has been mainstream for some years now. Much before Pragya was presented to the nation as a candidate for parliament, the BJP leadership chose an unabashed Muslim-hating monk of a religious order to be the chief minister of India’s most populous state. All these debates about ‘moderate’ and ‘hardliner’ are a farce designed to make the BJP constituency feel better about themselves. It’s part of the good cop/ bad cop tactic.

To conclude, therefore, I want a terror accused to win, just so that we can, as a nation, get a reality check on where we have landed up. And just in case someone wants to ask me about whether I am afraid, here is my reply: I am so certain about the courage of my convictions, that there is no fear, although I do feel some shame for those who have tied themselves into knots over something about which there should have been no ambiguity. Bring on Pragya and let’s see what happens next.

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The ‘unpeople’ of India

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By Abdul Khaliq

Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims.

I fear for our future as a secular, multicultural country that once celebrated a richness of culture and tradition. Till not long ago we affirmed our common humanity even as we celebrated our differences. Our nation represented diversity, kindness, compassion and a revulsion of extremist views. But, over time, our collective souls have been deadened by violence, deepening communal and caste divides and the most perverse thinking. The cosmopolitan spirit has been throttled by hyper nationalism, populism and a deep distrust of the liberal values of tolerance and inclusion. A creeping majoritarianism is spreading across the land.

 

In this overheated, protracted election season, Muslims are up against it, caught between a rock and a hard place. Theirs is an Orwellian world where they are the “unpeople”— a term coined by George Orwell in his scary masterpiece 1984, to define those whose names and existence had been erased because they had incurred “Big Brother’s” ire. Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims. What makes their plight infinitely worse, is the fact that even the major allegedly secular party has consigned Muslims to social invisibility. Can one trust a party that is afraid to even allude to the Muslims’ problems, let alone address them?

When the PM evoked the 1984 mass slaughter of Sikhs and quoted Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous justification about the inevitable effect of the falling of a big tree, why did the Congress president not hit back by recalling the 2002 Gujarat riots and Modi’s Newtonian observation justifying the killing of hundreds of Muslims as a reaction to an action? He refrained, not for any ethical reason, but simply for fear of being seen as empathetic to Muslims and their problems and of equating the two tragedies. Caught between the flagrant hostility of the right-wing and the fraudulent concern of the secular front, Muslims are India’s outcasts.

In today’s India, where all issues across the political spectrum are seen through the lens of identity politics, Muslims are vilified for their custom, dress and tradition. They are physically attacked for the food they eat, discriminated against in employment, housing, and even civic amenities, and, they are routinely victimised by law-enforcement authorities simply for being Muslim. Social media is awash with the most hateful, stereotypical portrayal of Muslims as terrorist sympathisers, baby producing factories and worse. Although India has been the home of Islam and its adherents for much more than a millennium, Muslims today are constantly pilloried about their loyalty to the nation.

All assessments about Muslims are universalised, in black and white and deeply problematic. In a conversation with two CRPF sub-inspectors who have recently returned from Kashmir (I did not reveal that I was Muslim), I was told that “these Muslims are a nuisance as even their women throw stones at us.” Please note that the stone-throwing by the disgruntled Kashmiris is perceived as a common trait of Muslims — all 190 million of them. Their other complaints were that Muslims support Pakistan and insist on eating only halal meat. When I asked how the civil unrest in Kashmir could be resolved, I got an answer that stunned me: “Make sure that the police force in Kashmir is recruited only from the Shia community and they will teach these Sunnis a lesson!” How well have the British taught us the art of “divide and rule” and of polarising communities! The conversation filled me with anguish at the gratuitous distrust and hatred for Muslims. The animosity runs deep and is expressed by ordinary citizens in a matter-of-fact tone that is unnerving.

I recall clearly the sense of cautious optimism among Muslims when NarendraModi assumed power in 2014. His swearing-in was a strikingly symbolic moment, epitomised by the presence of the Pakistani PM that signalled hope of rapprochement with Pakistan (Indian Muslims know through experience that their well-being is linked to this crucial relationship). The PM represented a more decisive polity that promised an equitable social order expressed most eloquently in the Socratic slogan, “Sabkasaathsabkavikas”. This slogan encapsulated this nation’s foremost mission of fostering social solidarity based on the principle that every human being matters. Minorities felt reassured by the PM’s emphatic assertion in 2015 that “my government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.” He repeatedly made appeals to preserve our core values of diversity, tolerance and plurality, calling on Hindus and Muslims to work together to fight poverty instead of fighting one another. His stunning embrace of Nawaz Sharif on Christmas Day 2015 filled everyone with hope.

On the ground, however, India began witnessing a deepening cultural mutation as vigilante squads terrorised and lynched Muslims in the name of protecting the cow, launched “gharwapsi” campaigns that have all but ended the freedom to choose one’s faith and used “love jihad” to stifle any kind of solidarity between the two communities. Minorities began to believe that the present dispensation’s aim is to convert India into the Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva where Muslims and Christians would live as second-class citizens. The current election rhetoric has only exacerbated those fears. The BJP LokSabha candidate for Barabanki boasted that “NarendraModi has made attempts to break the morale of Muslims. Vote for Modi if you want to destroy the breed of Muslims.”

We are on the cusp of having a new government at the Centre. Opinion polls and the most reliable — the bookies — predict victory for the NDA, but with a reduced majority. Ironically, the return of Modi as PM is the best hope for peace within the country and the neighbourhood. Imran Khan was right when he said that only Modi could help resolve Kashmir. He is the only leader with the power to rein in the lunatics whose purpose in life is to polarise communities and engage in eternal war with Pakistan. In any case, the new government’s first task would be to combat the overpowering atmosphere of distrust and hate bedevilling society which constitutes the foremost threat to the nation, more so than terrorism. The creation of a truly secular society free of prejudice and discrimination must be the prime mission.

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