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Atmosphere of hate

T is as real as it is alarming: India appears to be at war with itself, while India and Pakistan are drifting ever further apart.

Neither of those realities are good for peace or stability in South Asia. A slew of internationally and nationally regarded Indian artists and activists have now returned various awards bestowed on them by Indian academies to protest against the assault on Indian secularism and inter-communal peace by right-wing forces. On Thursday, Arundhati Roy was the latest and most prominent of those adding their voices to the growing protest in India. In typically direct language, Ms Roy condemned what she termed `a kind of ideological viciousness and an assault on our collective IQ that will tear us apart and bury us very deep if we do not stand up to it now`. In an article in The Indian Express announcing the return of her National Award for Best Screenplay that Ms Roy won in 1989, she has also written: `Whole populations millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.

The response to the anguish being felt and now vocalised by India`s right-thinking citizens has been predictable. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who critics point out has refused to condemn religiously inspired violence and has failed to live up to his campaign promise of being the leader of all Indians, has been dismissive of the criticisms. When a report by Moody`s Analytics cautioned the Indian prime minister that he `must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility` this week, the government immediately and unusually lashed out at the author of the report and dismissed it `as the personal opinion of a junior associate economist employed with Moody`s Analytics.

That was immediately contradicted by Moody`s itself, which stood by the comments in the report. While a small incident, it does show the great gulf between practice and promise: the Modi government is more sensitive to criticism than it is to acts of violence against Indians themselves.

Unhappily, the Pakistani response to the assault on Indian secularism and freedoms has also been fairly predictable. Many sections of the political class, media and civil society here have seemingly revelled in the recent tensions in India because it has allegedly exposed the real agenda of the Modi government and its supporters. But if that were true, could the rise of a rabid right-wing politics in India possibly be in any way good for Pakistan or the region? Sadly, myopia appears to reign on both sides of the border.

Perhaps most telling is that a Pakistani criticising the Pakistani state is increasingly considered an anti-patriot at home while an Indian criticising the Indian state is considered a hero and vice versa. The politics of fear and hate appear to be on the march on both sides of the border.