BY MAYA DALAL

Delay the war, it is better

Your yard or mine,

If the lights stay on, it is better

The blood be your own or foreign

It is the blood of Adam, after all

The war, it may be in the west or east

It is the murder of world peace, after all.

Sahir Ludhianvi (about Pakistan and India)

Starting April 11th through May 19th, the Republic of India’s national election for prime minister will begin. Here is everything you need to know about the election, why it matters, and the ramifications if it goes wrong.

There are a couple of pressing issues when it comes to Indian politics currently, one of those being Kashmir. If you don’t know what Kashmir is, Kashmir is the land that sits between the borders of India and Pakistan in the northwest. For decades, ever since Pakistan split from India, it has been a fought-over land where both sides are claiming it as theirs. Recently, things have taken an even more violent turn than in the past.

On February 14th, 2019, a suicide bomber drove into an Indian troop and killed forty soldiers in the Kashmir Valley. Since then, a Pakistani terrorist group has claimed the attack as theirs, India has retaliated by striking a terrorist training base in Balakot, and, for the first time in years, both sides have deployed military planes to fly over Kashmir. Only a week later did India respond by launching an airstrike on a Pakistani base.

Fast forward to now. Indian officials say that an attack on Pakistan could come within the next week (as of April 11th), which is pressing because the Indian elections have just begun. Very clearly the ever-growing violence in Kashmir must be a central part of the elections, but why it is so critical that both the Indian and Pakistani governments handle this correctly is that both these countries are nuclear armed.

Theoretically, if war did break out between India and Pakistan, both sides would be completely devastated by the casualties. South Asia is one of the most densely populated places in the world, and very few people would be able to either seek proper shelter within the country or leave fast enough before war actually affected them. That alone isn’t accounting for the world-wide impact this could have, such as roping in other countries, a mass refugee exodus, trade markets plummeting, etc.

And all of that hasn’t even covered all of the other reasons why this election is so important.

The current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, has failed to live up to any of his campaign promises and has actually made things worse in the country (remind you of anyone?). His actual campaign slogan was “India first.” See, Modi is both an Indian nationalist and a Hindu nationalist, and in his mind and the minds of many others, those are the same thing.

For many years now, groups of Hindu nationalists have been growing in size and have been pushing the government to make India a non-secular country. This also adds fuel to the fire that is Kashmir because, if you know why Pakistan and India split, it was because Pakistan is currently an Islam-dominated country. These current groups of Hindu nationalists have been assaulting and harassing people of the maybe thousands of non-Hindu faiths in the country. (Side note, today (4/11) as I’m writing this, 4 people have already been killed while voting. This news just broke and I thought it was important to put that here.)

Modi has done nothing to stop the growing religious unrest and violence in the country.

Modi also promised to increase infrastructure, employment, and education rates in the country, but during his time in office both of those have gone down.

Instead, he has spent the country’s taxes to build a statue of himself that is now the tallest in the world.

And, to make everything worse, nearly every single political candidate has been accused of murder. MURDER. There is so much corruption in the Indian government that all of these men from hundreds of political parties have been accused of killing another human being, and they still have their money and their jobs. Let that sink in.

India is the world’s biggest democracy, and starting today 1.35 billion people will be watching as Indian decides on its fate and whether it will allow a bloody war with Pakistan to begin as the country crumbles, or if they will try and avoid war at all costs.

There are many more videos and articles that go into much greater detail than I have here, and if you would like to check those out I would highly suggest Hasan Minaj’s episode of Patriot Act on the election , this article here which explains the stats of the election, this article here which goes into greater depth about the importance of the election, and this article here that talks about the current Kashmir status.

I have to admit that I’m scared. I’m really scared. I’ve never understood why so many Indians seemed to unconditionally hate Pakistan with so much fury, and I still don’t understand. It’s only something I’ve noticed after I payed attention last time I was in India, but if you listen and look carefully, you can see the civil unrest and more homeless on the streets. You can hear your uncle casually talking about how he didn’t buy a house because the Muslim neighbors were too loud, and that he was safer away from them. You start to see how bad things could get.

It’s in these times that I’m thankful I live in America, because I’m already terrified from the other side of the planet. I have family back in India, and the thought that both India and Pakistan could be on the verge of nuclear war scares me everyday. I am hoping that these issues will be resolved, but with voting already going so violently I can’t help but fear for the worst.

Even if you don’t have the personal connection to these elections that I do, I implore you to pay attention. Very few (nearly none) major American (not sure about European) news stations are even mentioning these elections OR the situation in Kashmir despite the fact that whatever happens next, whatever at all, WILL affect the U.S.

All we can do is hope and pray that the right person is elected into office. Someone who doesn’t just care about nationalism (looking at you Modi), or money (I’m DEFINITELY looking at you Ambanis), but who actually cares whether or not both Pakistan and India will remain standing after these elections.

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