Nawaz Sharif must be sulking in his cell at Kot Lakhpat Jail over the recent handling of tensions with India by Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan. Not that he is against this paradigm shift in the national security policy, but he wanted to collect peace accolades which are now being showered on Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan.If Nawaz had released Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan unconditionally, he would have been labeled a traitor by all newsroom muftis. When Nawaz criticised the intelligence agencies’ support to non-state actors, a vicious campaign was launched against him and his daughter Maryam Safdar as the 58(2)(b) anti-democratic weapon which was used in the 90s was not available. This time, judicial activism was used to boot him out of politics.It seems that Nawaz Sharif was not trusted by the establishment and it wanted their own boy to win the diplomatic world cup. Not only the reconciliatory gesture of releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan, but there also are other signals that the national security policy is shifting. The recent arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar’s brother and son, which may please India, was not expected during Nawaz Sharif’s regime. Similarly, the positive action taken against Jama’at-ud-Da’wah and its subsidiaries was also not expected during Nawaz’s time.No action was taken against Jaish-e-Mohammad, which had turned rogue. It was not only involved in the assassination attempt on Musharraf, but twice sabotaged the peace initiatives of the government of Pakistan. First, they attacked Pathankot just when Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore had created a favourable peace atmosphere. And now when the opening of the Kartarpur border had created Pakistan’s goodwill, they attacked Pulwama. Within India, the secular forces are joining hands and are fighting against the intolerance unleashed by RSS and BJP extremists who want to further the Hindutva values, which are contrary to the secular values needed to take India forward as a 21st century democracyWhat India has to understand is that non-state actors are out to sabotage peace initiatives from both sides. It also provides strength to Indian extremists who are becoming intolerant and helping this jingoist lobby. The common perception in Pakistan and among the peaceniks in India is that Modi builds anti-Pakistan war hysteria to win the election.Intolerance is an outcome of extremism. Whether it is religious extremism, ultra-nationalism, extremist views about an ideology or racial superiority — all encourage intolerance towards others. The rise of intolerance in India these days is not surprising.Modi’s election campaign in 2014 and today has the same tactics to build anti-Pakistan belligerence. It has been evident that the extremist views and communal politics has given space to the BJP Pparivar’s intolerant followers. To whip up support from the religious ultra-nationalist, Modi unnecessarily drags Pakistan into his speeches.I had three opportunities to speak at various forums in India in 2014 where I emphasised that in all post 1970 elections, no major leader in Pakistan tried to create hatred against India. I also stressed that Pakistan blundered by mixing religion with politics from the very beginning and is now paying a heavy price in blood for making this lethal political formulation. India, I observed, should learn from our mistakes. But I have always been optimistic that there is a secular India beyond Modi’s Hindutva, as there is a peace-loving Pakistan beyond Hafiz Saeed’s Jihad.Today, secular forces around the world are worried about the rising tide of intolerance in India. Within India, the secular forces are joining hands and are fighting against the intolerance unleashed by RSS and BJP extremists who want to further the Hindutva values, which are contrary to the secular values needed to take India forward as a 21st century democracy.Leading intellectuals like Romila Thapar, Arundhati Roy and many artists have openly condemned the Indian government for promoting intolerance in society. The success of the secular forces in Bihar and more recently Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnatka and other states also rejected Modi’s Hindutva and ultranationalist speeches during the election.What Modi’s ideologues undermine is that secularism is India’s need, and not a political luxury, as it is not a monolithic society.Let us take a look at India’s religious demographics. According to the census of 2001, out of a 1,028 million population, 80.5 percent belonged to the Hindu religion, 13.4 percent were Muslim, 2.3 percent were Christian, 1.9 percent were Sikh, 0.80 percent were Buddhist and 0.4 percent Jain. In addition, over six million were reported professing other religions and faiths including tribal religions, different from the six main religions. It is true that Hinduism is professed by a majority of the population in India.Although Muslims are over 14 percent of the total population in India, their percentage in many states is higher than the national share. The percentage of Muslims is sizeable in Assam at 30.9 percent, West Bengal at 25.2 percent, Kerala at 24.7 percent, Uttar Pradesh at 18.5 percent, Bihar at 16.5 percent and Jammu and Kashmir at over 64 percent. So, from the tiny Indian Union territory island of Lakshadweep where Muslims are 90 percent to Kashmir, there are large pockets of Muslim presence that cannot be undermined.At the same time, Christianity has emerged as the major religion in three northeastern states namely Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Among other states and union territories such as Manipur, they are at 34 percent, Goa at 26.7 percent, Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 21.7 percent, Kerala at 19.0 percent and Arunachal Pradesh at 18.7 percent have a considerable percentage of Christian population to the total. Similarly, Punjab is the stronghold of Sikhism. The Sikh population of Punjab accounts for more than 75 percent of the total Sikh population in the country.This is not all. Indian Dalits (the name adopted for the scheduled caste by the Dalit leader) are a mixed population consisting of groups who speak different languages and practice different religions. Officially defined as the scheduled caste in India, they are at 16.6 percent and, together with eight percent scheduled tribes, they form 25 percent of India’s population. Though the Dalits or scheduled caste are classified as Hindus in Indian official documents, Dalit intellectuals, from the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr B R Ambekar, to Kancha Ilaiah, the writer of Why I am not a Hindu, have clearly maintained that Dalits are not Hindus and that even the gods they pray to are not those of Brahmanism. “I was not born a Hindu for the single reason that my parents did not know that they were Hindus. This does not mean that I was born as a Muslim, Buddhist, a Sikh or a Parsi. My parents had only one identity that was their caste; they were Kurumass. Their festivals were local, their god and goddesses were local and sometimes they were even specific to one village” (Kancha, 2006)Now, if we segregate 20 percent of the non-Hindu population and 25 percent of the Dalits and others, almost 45 percent of India’s population cannot be subjected to the Brahmanism/ Hindutva. Thus, the RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), BJP and Bajrang Dal ‘legacy’ of Hindu jihad is not a popular narrative. In spite of all the lavish spending the BJP mustered only 31 percent of the votes in the last elections. All BJP voters did not support its anti-secular agenda but voted for its economic programme. Also, the BJP won the elections thanks to the Congress default and poor performance in the five years before.India’s visionary leader Jawahar Lal Nehru travelled to over 300 cities and towns in the country to draw the consensus that India should have a secular constitution. “Nehru: [secularism] means freedom of religion and conscience, including the freedom of those who may have no religion. It means free play of all religious subjects only to their not interfering with each other or with basic conception of our state.” Secular fundamentalist Mani Shankar Aiyar maintained in his book that “Indian secularism cannot be anti-religious or irreligious, for the bulk of our people are deeply religious. Unlike in Christendom, where the word originated, secularism in India is not about pitting the state against the religious authority but about keeping matters of faith in the personal realm and matters of the state in the public realm” (Aiyar 2004: Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist).The writer is the author of What’s wrong with PakistanPublished in Daily Times, March 11th 2019.