India’s criticism of a Pakistani model’s ignorant decision to do a photo-shoot at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur has drawn a strong reaction from Islamabad. The Foreign Office noted that the police was investigating the incident and that Indian media was giving the incident a “mischievous spin” by portraying it as some sort of grand conspiracy, rather than what it was — a brand shared, and then deleted, unsolicited pictures of a model wearing their clothes at the Sikh holy site.
Notably, the initial complaints about the incident on social media were not about the photo-shoot itself but the fact the model was not covering her head, which is a sign of respect for the holy venue. The brand and the model have both since apologised, while the police are probing if the incident merits further action. Contrast this with the far more offensive attacks, not just on religious places, but the life and liberty of India’s minorities by forces aligned with India’s ruling party. Even elected BJP leaders continue to encourage outright violence against Muslims. And in rare cases where the police act, the offenders are freed within hours and hailed as heroes by BJP politicians and other Hindutva leaders.
Yet, the Indian foreign ministry had the gall to say that “continued incidents of desecration and disrespect of places of religious worship of the minority communities in Pakistan highlight the lack of respect for the faith of these communities.” It is undeniable that vile attacks on minority communities have also taken place in Pakistan, but at least state machinery does eventually mobilise to take action against the perpetrators. While we would prefer that no such incidents occur, at least there is some solace in the fact that the evil people behind them are being punished. Can New Delhi make the same claim? Again, none of this excuses the incident at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The final choice of how the police deal with the incident should be decided with input from the Sikh community, and all Pakistanis should support their decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2021.