Yogi’s outburst

Published October 12, 2023

REVANCHIST geography is a central plank of the Sangh Parivar’s ideology, as devotees of Hindutva dream of recreating ‘Akhand Bharat’, a mythical, massive landmass covering all of South Asia and beyond. It is one thing for rabid ideologues to support such irresponsible notions. But quite another when elected high officials in India talk of recreating this imagined geographical entity. India’s neighbours, then, have good reason to be concerned. In this regard, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s recent remarks about “taking back Sindhu” are shocking, coming as they do from the elected leader of India’s most populous state. The Yogi, a rabid Hindu priest, is not known for his tolerance towards Muslims, and has made numerous racist remarks targeted at them. Speaking at a Sindhi convention in Lucknow, he first gloated over the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and then crowed that if Ram Janmabhoomi could be reclaimed after five centuries, “Sindhu can also be brought back”. This attack on Pakistan’s territorial integrity is unacceptable, especially from a politician who could one day become prime minister of India. As the Foreign Office noted, the Yogi’s views “reflect a perverse view of history”.

One may well ask why stop at ‘Sindhu’? After all, in the minds of Hindutva zealots, Akhand Bharat stretches from the snowy peaks of the Pamirs in Afghanistan, to the muddy banks of the Irrawaddy in Myanmar. The proponents of this scheme will have to erase many an international border to achieve their fabled dreamland. But on a more serious note, the Akhand Bharat stunt is not limited to one or two Sangh leaders. In fact, when the new building of the Indian parliament was inaugurated earlier this year, much controversy was raised over a map displayed in the building which showed parts of Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh as Indian territory. All three states sought explanations from New Delhi. The BJP will be looking to shore up its Hindu nationalist credentials by trotting out canards like Akhand Bharat in time for next year’s elections. But questioning the territorial integrity of South Asia’s independent states is a bad election ploy that will only add to toxic regional relations, especially between Pakistan and India. Instead of Akhand Bharat, South Asians deserve a region free from hate, violence and poverty, where prosperity and development are available to all in the spirit of equality.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2023

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