Independence and subcontinental divide

…reviewing 14th/15th August 1947

The events that unfolded on 14th/15th August 1947 cannot be put in different perspectives, as they are inter-related. What happened in the sub-continent on these momentous days, whatever the manner of unfolding of events, it has to be studied in totality of occurrences. A new republic was carved out an ancient land, and named Pakistan (the land of the pure). Pakistan chose to celebrate the dawn of independence a day earlier than India, that is August, the 14th. The game of one-upmanship across the divide continues, seven decades ahead of its occurrence in 1947.  The ancient Indian land was reborn or re-discovered, as Pandit Nehru liked to call it. It retained its Latinised name–India with an interesting addition– India that is Bharat. This was an attempt to reclaim its ancient past. It is said that orthodox Hindu lobby led by the first president of the republic–Rajinder Prasad insisted on it and the reluctant Nehru accepted. Thus with the dawn of the divisive independence and the subcontinental divide, even in naming the two dominions,  one-upmanship was evident, with each striving to steal a march over another. It continues.

Pundit Nehru, a historian of some repute has his own take on what shaped the divide. He implies that British Raj initially used Hindu sentiment to checkmate  Muslim resurgence. The attempted resurgence could be traced to Tipu Sultan and mutiny. Later, as per Nehru’s take, Muslims were mobilized, as Hindus started agitating for rights.  Nehru might be right, however there is much more to it than meets the eye. It is much more deep rooted and dates back to a millennium, as and when central Asian ruling cliques started pouring into India, in an exercise of territorial expansion. They had their eyes on India’s vast resources. Thus Gouris’ Aibucs’ Khiljis’ and the Moguls came one after other; conquered, settled and made India their home. All these incursions had nothing to do with religion. Islam did win converts, overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims are converts of original Indian hue, yet the intruder label is assigned, historically a fallacious argument. That brings to fore the question…who in fact is the original Indian?  Majority of Indians are of Aryan descent, Central Asian migrants, who settled in India, a few millennium years earlier than the later migrants. History is held hostage, as the earlier migrant calling the later, a foreigner. 

Cultural nationalism, where patriotism was weighed in the scale of common religious and cultural dispensation divided communities. The significant Muslim minority did not fit in the emerging classification of nationalism, as 19th century strode into 20th. And, Muslim had lagged behind in the vital field of education. Hence, emancipation was the primary goal. Muslims had seen upper class Hindus reaping the benefits of English education, they wanted their share. By this time, British Raj had concluded that educated Indians of majority community were on the path of betraying their trust. Or, the Raj might have been investing politically in future. Whatever the way it happened, Muslim demands was conceded. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who led the drive to Muslim emancipation, got the permission to start his educational institution in Aligarh. This is not to suggest, some sort of an understanding or conspiracy of sorts. Sir Syed was too honourable a person, even to contemplate, anything fishy. Later Allama Iqbal’s poetic message put new life into frozen hearts. Iqbal assumed an active political garb. In 1930 session of Muslim league organisation in Allahabad, he advocated a separate Muslim state in predominantly Muslim provinces of North West India. Iqbal could not sustain his leading role in Muslim league. His literary work hardly left him time to do that, though he continued to guide the league in Punjab. Mohammad Ali Jinnah filled the void.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was not a politician in Gandhian mould. A Congressman in his earlier political innings, he moved away as Mahatma Gandhi started his Satyagraha. Quaid-e-Azam’s politics fitted the legislative halls, the constitutional chambers. Political movement for him was about constitutional rights, obtainable in law courts and fresh legislation in assemblies. Quaid-e-Azam had secular outlook. He had been branded as ‘ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity’ by nightingale of India–Sarojni Naidu.  Mahatma Gandhi believed in a different brand of politics, involving masses albeit in a non-violent way. Non-violence might have been his creed, though it didn’t always work. Mahatma changed Congress culture of deliberation in cozy chambers and took it to pandals in ancient Indian traditions. Exasperated with the changed Congress culture, Quaid-e-Azam left India for London. Apart from practising law, he would interact with conservative political circles, to keep alive his interest with public affairs. He was disinclined to return, until he relented to repeated requests of Muslim leadership. He did that, only after he was convinced that Muslims had a case. He never looked back, until independence dawned with subcontinental divide.

On August, the 14th Quaid-e-Azam talked of peaceful interaction between all communities; a speech, branded years later by LK Advani, BJP leader, as the one loaded with secular intent. On August, the 15th Pandit Nehru talked of ‘’Trust with destiny’’ and ‘’redeeming of pledge’’. He also talked of India waking up, while the world was sleeping. While Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah and Pandit Nehru were earning kudos; the divide was deepening with communal conflict of unimaginable proportions. Seven decades from 14th/15th August 1947, the conflict continues in one form or another. The countries borne of the conflict are nuclear powers; the pall of uncertainty hangs over subcontinental panorama.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]