The million dollar question is, have we learned our lessons?
Are we heading towards another partition? Who is going to throttle Hindu India this time, first? Is it going to be Islam, with its attacks from inside and outside, overt and covert, or is it going to be Christianity, aided by the deceptive attraction of westernization, modernizationin or globalization. Or should we be worried of a combined assault? Should we allow our civilization and our land to keep on shrinking as a result of recurrent aggressions of our invaders? Should we continue to compromise and pretend to be happy, accepting it as our destiny?
Will Hindu India and its people be able to unite against the disintegrating forces who work with the subtle endorsement of at least factions of the ruling governments? Can we trust our politicians, leaders and our media?
Only time will tell.
Partition saved India
The India-Pakistan civilisation divide was too elemental to bridge. Over the years, India has defied the prognostications of doomsayers, who proclaimed famine, war, and dissolution to a world unconvinced of India’s permanence. Would India be where it is without partition?
How best to make sense of the Indian paradox requires rigorous logic and transcendent intuition. A nation state and a civilisation, it encapsulates contrasting time scales: Medievalist mindsets and modernity exist cheek by jowl, as do feudalism, nascent and advanced industrialisation, underpinned by sophisticated science and technology. This, in sum, is a society of diverse tongues and ethnicities in transition on a grand scale held together by a political system seemingly born before its time, if one is to use the yardstick of the Western and Japanese experiences, where epochal material and social advances preceded the arrival of universal adult franchise and its concomitant. English journalist Ian Jack relates an encounter with an Indian railway official in Dhanbad, a colliery town in Jharkhand, overseeing freight traffic to all corners of the country. The man asked: Could he, the foreign traveller, think of “any country, at any time in its history, which had achieved these three things simultaneously: One, a dynamic economy; two, a redistribution of wealth and justice; three, a fair and law-abiding democracy?” The jury is still out.
I was drawn to the subject by a radio discussion on the present state on the Arab world. The United Nations had requested a panel of distinguished Arabs to draw up an assessment. Their report was damning: The region was hobbled by the highest unemployment rate of any in the world; its education system was the poorest and its gender inequalities the widest. Asked for his comments, Mr Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, blamed the Israeli occupation, before the impatient BBC interlocutor cut him short, his vacuity impossible to digest.
‘Hindu India’ commenced its long journey to recovery from its historic wounds in the early years of the 19th century: Social reform, cultural renewal and the denouement of political emancipation led to an invigorated search for liberation in its truest sense, one that is far from over, yet provides hope for the future even amid the travails of the present. So democracy was tried in the first hours of India’s bloodstained birth, and who would deny that it hasn’t worked well, warts and all. The foundations of a modern industrialised economy were laid through trial and error; and the establishment of science and technology became a visionary exercise that has repaid the initial investment many times over. Much of politics and the media are vaudeville, admittedly, but more to the point, India has defied the prognostications of the doomsayers, who seeing through their glass, darkly, proclaimed famine, war, and dissolution to a world unconvinced of India’s permanence.
India’s leaders at independence laid down the navigational chart for the cross-currents and myriad obstructions of international politics. Non-Alignment was simply code for the national interest: Ends have justified the means, as India surmounts the challenges that face it. Reviewing former US diplomat Teresita Schaffer’s book, India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership, the Financial Times correspondent in America, Edward Luce, writes: “With a hint of admiration, of the the advantages accruing to India in the Indo-US civilian nuclear accord, of President Obama’s inability or unwillingness to roll-back those of its provisions out of sync with his NPT instincts”. As an unnamed White House adviser put it: “On almost every global challenge you look at, whether it is climate change, combating terrorism, managing the rise of China, building the G20, or reforming international finance, India is one of our five most important interlocutors.”
Despite deepening Indo-US ties, “India is no budding UK, and any US policymaker who believes New Delhi will act as a lieutenant for US interests has been smoking something herbal,” comments Mr Luce wryly.
The sixty-four thousand dollar question is, would India be where it is without partition? Highly unlikely, I would say. The Indo-Pakistan civilisation divide was too elemental to bridge. Consider Lebanon’s Constitution drawn up in 1943: The confessional paradigm vested the office of President in the Maronite Christian community, the Prime Minister with the Sunni Muslims, and the speaker of Parliament with the Shias. The country has been reduced today to competing confessional anarchies. A similar fate surely would have befallen undivided India.
The Pakistan-inspired Pathan tribal invasion of Kashmir in 1947 was a foretaste of the future that awaited the country. “(They) entering our church desecrated it, destroying all the sacred images, the tabernacle, vestments and candles… They carried all sorts of implements — guns, swords, knives and axes and bayonets, and the tips of their spears and bayonets dripped with blood…” (Frank Moraes, Times of India, April 14, 1957, recounting a nun’s tale).
A quarter century later, followed the Pakistani genocide in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and the war with India, hailed at the time (December 1971) as a jihad. An aide in the presidential secretariat, in Islamabad, informing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the principal of that conflict, that he would soon be Prime Minister “to our great delight” went on to advise that “once the back of Indian forces has been broken in the East, Pakistan should occupy the whole of eastern India and make it a permanent part of East Pakistan… This will also provide a link with China… Sikh Punjab should be turned into Khalistan.”
The deluded Bhutto ranted: “Great and terrible scourges have come to India from this side… every invasion from this side has defeated India… Thus the terror, fear and habit of defeat cannot be wiped out of their national memory overnight… And we have ruled them for eight centuries… the Indian masses are just now struggling against the legacy of superstition, religious intolerance, caste system, racial animosities… poverty, backwardness… ignorance, deceit and the unconquerable habit of servility and submission.” (From the Bhutto archive quoted in Stanley Wolpert’s biography)
VP Menon, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel’s senior-most aide, warned the Indian Government in 1947 in the aftermath of the Kashmir invasion: “The raiders are a grave threat to the integrity of India. Ever since the time of Mahmud of Ghazni… Srinagar today, Delhi tomorrow! A nation that forgets its history and its geography does so at its peril.”
Partition, not its bloodbath, saved India. Charles Martel defeated the invading Saracens at Tours in 732 and rescued France for Europe and civilisation; the Polish king Jan Sobieski, rendered a similar service in 1683 on the outskirts of Vienna, where he turned the Turkish Ottoman tide with his rout of Kara Mustapha’s marauding horde. It signalled the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s terminal decline. India’s victory over Pakistan at the gates was also a nemesis for barbarism.