Tuesday, August 11, 2015

India-Pakistan Independence: Midnight's Furies of 1947

India's Congress Party leaders expected Pakistan to fold soon after partition, says Nisid Hajari, the author of recently published "Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of Indian Partition". "The indian leaders hoped Pakistan wouldn't survive at first. They hoped in a few years it would decide it wanted to be a part of india again in a friendly way", Hajari told TV talk show host Charlie Rose in a PBS interview. India's actions since 1947, such as the  1971 invasion of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, have shown their inability to peacefully reconcile with the existence of Pakistan as an independent state. This has contributed to Pakistan becoming a nuclear-armed national security state, and ensuing India-Pakistan proxy wars in the region.

Muslim Refugees trying to flee New Delhi in 1947 Source: AP

Delhi and Punjab Massacres:

Hajari has documented in detail the partition horrors that my parents and relatives saw and reported to me and my generation that was born after 1947. Here are some excerpts from his book:

"For several days running, according to some eyewitness reports, small groups of Sikh and Hindu militants had been roving the broad, manicured avenues of New Delhi, defying the curfew. Some appear to have been marking out the rooms in government dormitories occupied by Muslim clerks and peons, as well as the houses and bungalows where Muslims lived or worked as servants. A British diplomat later reported seeing a lorry full of Sikhs pull up outside the home of the local chairman of British airline BOAC, which had agreed to transport Muslim officials to Pakistan by air until the trains resumed. “That’s the place,” one of the Sikhs confirmed, carefully noting down the address."

"On the night of Sept. 6, sword-wielding gangs began working their way from target to target, dragging out and killing Muslims. The next morning mobs took to the streets all over the city. One descended on the military airfield at Palam, from where the BOAC charters were taking off; another blocked the runways at the civilian Willingdon Airfield as airline employees fled in terror. Muslims caught out in the open were stabbed and gutted, including five who were killed in front of New Delhi’s cathedral while worshippers celebrated Sunday Mass. Looters broke into Muslim shops in Connaught Place, the colonnaded arcade at the heart of the city. By 10 that night, Delhi hospitals were reporting three times as many Muslim as non-Muslim casualties."

"The Indian leaders seemed incapable of transferring Pakistan government servants to the new capital Karachi, or of protecting them in their Delhi homes. Cargo trains full of equipment and supplies meant for Pakistan were being derailed and torched in the Punjab. At least some members of the Indian Cabinet appeared to be winking at the Sikhs’ murderous activities."

Pakistan a Nissen Hut:

Lord Mountbatten, the British Viceroy of India who oversaw the partition agreed with the assessment of Pakistan made by India's leaders when he described Pakistan as a "Nissen hut" or a "temporary tent" in a conversation with Jawarhar Lal Nehru. Here's the exact quote from Mountbatten: "administratively it [wa]s the difference between putting up a permanent building, a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more." The Brits and the Hindu leadership of India both fully expected Pakistan to fold soon after partition.

India-Pakistan Ties:

Nisid Hajari traces the origins of the enduring India-Pakistan hostility to the events leading up to the partition in August 1947. Here are a few excepts of what Hajari told Terry Gross, the host of NPR's "Fresh Air":

"This rivalry between India and Pakistan has been going on now for nearly 70 years and it seems like a feature of the landscape ... as if it has always existed, and once you created two countries out of one that it was inevitable....I don't think it was inevitable and a closer look at what happened in 1947 teaches you how the seeds of this rivalry were planted. It was obviously worsened over the years by various actors, but this is where it all started."

"They (Hindu majority elected in 1937 and later elections held by the British Raj) controlled the schools, they controlled the educational curriculum, they oversaw the police and they gave out jobs and patronage to their own followers. And Muslims could see, particularly professional Muslims, Muslims who would otherwise have perhaps won these jobs, could see that they would have very little power in a democratic system, a parliamentary system after independence."

Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision:

Hajari argues that Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted a state where Muslims would be in a democratic majority and so would be in control of their fate, but anytime anyone asked him whether it would be a Muslim theocracy he would laugh them off. He'd say, "That's absurd," that's not at all what he was intending.


Many scholars, and even Indian leaders like Jaswant Singh, believe that the Quaid-e-Azam was a great Indian and he would have agreed to live within a united India had his demand for autonomy of Muslim majority provinces within a federal structure been accepted by Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. After the bitter experience of Muslims living under Hindu majority during a period self-rule under British Raj, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah sought Pakistan as a democratic country where Muslim majority could control its own fate.  The sad plight of Muslims in India today only serves to confirm the worst fears of Pakistan's founder at the time of the partition.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Maulana Azad's Grandniece on Indian Muslims

Looking Back at 1940 Pakistan Resolution

Modi's Pakistan Policy

Indian Muslims Worse Off Than Dalits

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politcians

Are Muslims Better Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs 


rjs said...

what are the chances of an eventual reunification? not necessarily now, but starting to move in that direction, spearheaded by the young who have no recollection of past offenses...you share a common culture, if not a religion, and together you would easily become the next global superpower...

Riaz Haq said...

rjs: " what are the chances of an eventual reunification? "

The chances are "ZERO" given the high level of bitterness and hostility that has only grown with time, not diminished.

rjs said...

there was once such hostility between east and west germany, with tanks lined up on each side of the border aimed at the other...

as an American born right after WW2, i was taught to hate the Japanese, but now we are allies, and i have Japanese friends...

so time has a way of healinng such hostilities...

Ajay said...

Any thoughts on 100s of years of Muslim invasions into India? Or how your ancestors converted in the first place?

Riaz Haq said...

Ajay: "Any thoughts on 100s of years of Muslim invasions into India?"

Why pick only "100s years of Muslim invasions into India"? Why not talk about thousands of years of invasions of non-Muslims? Why not discuss the Aryan invasion of the Indus Valley and the destruction and enslavement of native?


A Harvard genetics study has confirmed that most Indians are not indigenous.


As to religious conversions, most of the world is made up of converts. Christianity did not start in Europe and America but now both are majority Christian. Islam did not start in Indonesia but most Indonesians are now Muslim. Buddhism did not start in East and South East Asia but there are large number of Buddhists.

Please drop your ignorance and bigotry. Get educated and enlightened.

Anshuman said...

[Please drop your ignorance and bigotry. Get educated and enlightened.]

Two points need to be made here. First, alarming atrocities happened on BOTH sides of the border.
Second for the enlightenment process try the following. For our Debate class, First year Political Science at Xavier College, Mumbai, our class was split into two. Group A had to argue the Pakistan view and Group B had to argue the Indian view. The best debaters won a gold meld medal on each side. The usual negative rhetoric did not make it at all. The Gold Medallists were the ones who took the best humanitarian approach covering all the debating principles!

Riaz Sir, please try that and ask others to do that.

paki said...

I cant believe the shallow level of hindus, probably why they are called hindus.
Yes, atrocities happened on both sides, but the pakistan side was a REACTION, not a starting point. Please google up Akali dal and passive hindu patronage of the massacre.Please do look up UN figures on those atrocities, majority happened to muslims. What should a muslim do when he hears that hindu/sikhs kidnapped/raped/ killed his sister,mother or and daughter?
Raping is indoctrinated into hindu/sikh minds, as we call all see from the reporting, nothing on this level happens anywhere in the world. Can you believe women being raped in rural india, just for going to toilet? I again clarify ,Rapes happen in every country including Pak, but not at this level. Please read this HARWARD study,The Big March: Migratory Flows for further insight to who was affected the most.
@anshuman said
>> at Xavier College, Mumbai, our class was split into two. Group A had to argue the Pakistan view and Group B had to argue the Indian view. The best debaters won a gold meld medal on each side. The usual negative rhetoric did not make it at all. The Gold Medallists were the ones who took the best humanitarian approach covering all the debating principles!

I am sure he best hindu won, no doubt. And the best hindu is the one who best practices the art of "bagal mein churii our mounh see Ram Ram". You guys are all like singing Kum ba ya, Lol and any muslim agreeing with you is a Muslah, a common slang of india and most def not a Pakistani.

Riaz Haq said...

View from India: How #Pakistan preserves its culture better than #India. #IndependenceDay http://www.dailyo.in/politics/independence-day-pakistan-buddhism-taxila-mahabharata-jaulian-islam-muslim-sir-john-marshall/story/1/5676.html … via @dailyo_

How Pakistan is preserving its culture better than India
Whether it is the language, or the attire, or the food, our neighbour takes pride in creating its own ethos.

On the eve of Independence Day, having just returned from Pakistan, and marked my presence on the "zero" line, I could not but help wonder what kind of identities our two 69-year-old nations project. And how representative they are in reality.

In India, are we looking at a single dominant identity or will we continue as a collection of myriad religions, communities and cultures? Aren't our multiple religions our heritage, which is to be preserved?

Certainly, Pakistan seems to have sorted the problem by declaring its identity as an Islamic Republic, and so the overwhelming image is very much of a Muslim country. Whether it is the language, or the attire, or the food (barring a very cosmopolitan culture in some cities), Pakistan takes pride in creating its own ethos. Perhaps this was essential, given the short history of its existence.

But what about our collective pre-history? How does one deal with it? That was a looming question, when we visited Taxila, in Pakistan, an ancient site which had witnessed both war and peace, but had also seen knowledge sprout and spread in monastic schools scattered over a vast area. The ruins are compelling. And much of what remains is starkly of Buddhist origin. The museum and the first archeological digs which were pulled together by Sir John Marshall in the early 20th century demonstrated what a large habitation this might have been, definitely dating back more than 2000 years.

In the literature handed out by the museum it seems this area, near the Indus, was even inhabited in 3100 BC. But it is clear that a lot of the religious history of the subcontinent is buried here. While there are some suggestions that the Mahabharata was first recited in this area, there are also the well-preserved Buddhist stupas and shrines, and, from a much later medieval period, evidence of madrasas and a mosque.

We visited one of the most impressive sites, at Jaulian, where a school of learning had been established, around 2000 years ago, on top of a hill. It was obviously a Buddhist school, with intricate remnants still to be found of stupas and the Buddha replicated over and over again. Could the methodical repetition of the images have been a form of meditation? Or of prayer? Why was there this constant replication of his life, often within the same space? Was this done deliberately to assert a religion which was no doubt flourishing in that period?

The school at Jaulian appears, even now, to be well-planned and spread out, and the entire structure is hewn out of the locally available stone. The living quarters are carefully defined, and small, ventilated rooms stand on a square. There is a dry pond in the centre, where, according to our guide, once upon a time, lilies blossomed. All around are shuttered alcoves within which reside more images of the Buddha.

It is undoubtedly an amazing experience to see how well preserved (given the harsh climate, and the attacks by invaders) many of the images still are. And then there are little interesting highlights, such as the lecture hall, and the kitchen area, opening up on all sides to the hills, and the open skies.

One can imagine this as a bustling Buddhist enclave, somewhat distant from present day Pakistan or even India. Is there something of those times still within us? Do we still bear the ancient stamp of those identities, and hear within us the chanting of those monks... Our shared history has so many questions, and conundrums! We should find a common space to both treasure and resolve them.

Riaz Haq said...

Op Ed by Cheryl Braganza:

As August 14 and 15 approach every year, I invariably scour my bookshelf to retrieve the hardcover about the India-Pakistan partition, Freedom at Midnight (Collins & Lapierre). Page 341 cites Braganza Hotel Lahore as the headquarters in 1947 of the Gurkhas and other British officers. One solitary line. A line carrying, for me, the weight of a million memorable moments now embedded deep and dark in history, like lost ships on the ocean floor.

Braganza Hotel, a sprawling collection of whitewashed bungalows and gardens, was also where I grew up with my family and where beautiful childhood memories flourished. Owned by our family since the 1880s, this was home. Directly across from the historic Lahore Junction railway station, it was a haven for weary travellers, including Rudyard Kipling.

As a little girl, my father would introduce me to “foreign passengers” who would overnight in the red-tiled rooms before boarding the Northwestern railway en route to the hill-stations. Lounging on cane chairs on the manicured lawns, they would be served by turbaned “bearers” offering a choice of English or “desi” snacks to accompany the huge tumblers of golden Murree beer that they seemed to down incessantly.

Developed by the British in early 1800, the railways of India became legendary as they spidered across the country. The Lahore station itself was cleverly designed to be a working fortress built in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Braganza’s catered the railway dining cars in those days, in which one could sit down to starched linen, silverware and bone china as the trains sped through a colourful collage of landscapes. My mother, one of 10 siblings, insisted on spending the summer holidays at her family home in Bombay or Goa so we became regulars at the station, getting special salaams from the red-dressed coolies. On the Lahore-Amritsar-Bombay route, my brother and I would fight for a window seat so we could grab the “garam chai” or mouth-watering curries and chapatis being shoved into the open windows as the train slowed down. Happy times.

I have spent many hours trying to excavate the past, to fill in the lines of Freedom at Midnight, wondering which hotel room was used for those secret meetings in 1947, if Jinnah, Mountbatten or Gandhi were present, who made what decisions, if they were served tea or whiskey and soda, if anyone took photos.

While I try to cling to carefree memories of that era, history has dictated otherwise. As trainloads of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus arrived at railway stations in the thousands, marking the greatest migration in history, the scene was drastically different. Freedom at Midnight on the same page has some gory descriptions, “the gutters of Lahore were running red with blood” and “bodies bundled high on luggage carts.” Being opposite the station, Braganza Hotel suddenly housed a different reality — we were ambushed by men, women, children all pleading for shelter. Terror reigned. They hid and huddled together for minutes, hours, days. But it was only a temporary refuge. As they tried to escape on a moonless night, they were brutally slaughtered outside the hotel gates.

I find it difficult now to envision that my parents lived through this upheaval and witnessed close-up “man’s inhumanity to man.” As mid-August arrives again, I think back to one lone story that my mother shared, where she watched a screaming child being thrown down from the minaret across the street. It became a recurring image in her dreams. A nightmare that never went away.

Childhood memories leave powerful, indelible imprints. So many years later, as I reminisce in Montreal on a glorious summer afternoon, a world away, I am conflicted. I know that as those days shaped my life, so too did they shape my art. For that I am grateful.


Anshuman said...

Riaz Sir,

I can't believe you, as the blog author, approve such bigotry on your site:

[I cant believe the shallow level of hindus, probably why they are called hindus...OR Raping is indoctrinated into hindu/sikh minds AND the best hindu is the one who best practices the art of "bagal mein churii our mounh see Ram Ram".]

There is a lot of bigotry and prejudice but why do you promote it by allowing such comments? I understand there is a Hindu Minority in Pakistan after all. I learned that this hatred needs to stop ONE PERSON at a time. I am a Hindu but I will do whatever to protect, if needed, my Muslim neighbor!

paki said...

Anshuman said>>I am a Hindu but I will do whatever to protect, if needed, my Muslim neighbor!

Funny thing, the same thing was said by the hindu neighbours in 1947. it didnt turn out well for the muslims.
First step in rectifying a problem is to identify the problem. How is stating the truth bigotry and not identifying your problems?. Are you saying hindus are not bigots and rape in india is not a huuuge problem as compared to other countries?...
Your bigotry is well displayed in cricket ,hockey and other sports grounds of india, when india is losing to a Guest country, again, this thing happens in other countries as well, but never in a frequency as much as india. Do you deny this?....

nayyer ali said...

Pakistan, despite its tortured history, has overall been a success story. It did what it was meant to do, create a nation in which the Muslims of South Asia would not be second class citizens. That was the fear of Jinnah, and what drove the creation of Pakistan. Bangladesh should have been an independent country of its own from the start, and the forced marriage was doomed to failure.
The analogy of Eas and West Germany does not hold. The Germans had their country forcibly divided by outsiders, and when the Soviets collapsed, so did that division. Pakistanis did not want to be part of India, and the sentiment still holds.
Many countries share language and culture, but that does not mean they want to unify into a single state. There are 22 Arab countries and 20 or so Latin American countries, there is no chance of them unifying. Canada and the US are so similar it is very hard to tell if a person is Canadian or American, unless they speak with a distinct accent. But Canada and the US will never be one country.
There are millions of people in Pakistan that benefit from being part of an independent state, and no one who gains from joining with India, so there will never be any political drive to unite.
Pakistan has several key challenges, it must expand education to decent standard of primary and secondary universal education, and it must expand and upgrade the quality of higher education. It must double its electric capacity, and it must do several reforms to help the economy reach and sustain 7% annual growth for 25 years. It must also eradicate the Taliban.

Brad said...

I do not think the Pakistan view of events above is shared by Indians or is corroborated in U.S. college textbooks. In India today, I found out, people are happy with the status quo including making the LOC as the international border. I just do not get the view that most Indians want to take over Pakistan although the Pakistani Army seems to propagate that view. If Pakistan Army is correct then, why did India take over East Pakistan in 1971 or Bangladesh today?

Riaz Haq said...

Brad: "If Pakistan Army is correct then, why did India take over East Pakistan in 1971 or Bangladesh today? "

The material I have quoted is not from a Pakistani source; ir's from Indian and other sources. Hajari is not Pakistani nor does he represent Pakistan's view.

The best source corroborating India's view of wanting to destabilize, divide and waken is India's own RAW as spelled out in great detail by ex Indian spies like RK Yaav ans AS Dulat and speeches of current Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. It has also been spelled by ex US Defense Sec Chuck Hagel who said: "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan."





nayyer ali said...

Of course India would be happy with the LOC, that let's them keep Kashmir. There are 8 million Muslims living in the Vale of Kashmir who deeply despise India, do not consider themselves India, and have been subject to decades of rule from New Delhi and a police state with widespread use of torture and extrajudicial killings. They want out.
I do not think that India wants to absorb Pakistan, it would add 190 million Muslims to its population that would vote their own interests. But Indians did not want Pakistan to be created in the first place. At this point, they want to be seen as an emerging world power/possible superpower, and the first step to that is to have essentially neutralized all of its neighbors in South Asia. Pakistan as a rival is the problem.

Riaz Haq said...

The first recorded communal riot occurred in 1854 in Godhra, Gujrat, followed by Mumbai’s in 1893. These proved to be a wake-up call for the Muslims who had gone deep into mire of despondency and decadence as a consequence of the end of Mughal rule.

At this critical juncture Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had a vision and he ushered in a renaissance for the Muslims of India. Though opposed tooth and nail by the theocrats he pursued the mission of providing Western education to the Muslims who had been rendered into “hewers of wood and drawers of water” outnumbered by a better educated Hindu majority that had geared itself according to the changing needs of the time with the onset of industrial revolution.

Sir Syed was a visionary among Muslims after the debacle of 1857. He could foresee the future course of India under the Indian National Congress. He advised the Muslims not to be part of its game. He perceived the Congress’s demand for a wider role for the Indians in the government as the “thin end of the wedge for monopolising absolute power.”

According to him, Muslims would not get equitable share in jobs and other areas of socio-economic endeavours. Their best of the brains would be outnumbered by the better educated Hindus. This observation was a manifestation of increasing polarisation on grounds of economic disparities between the two nations despite the fact Sir Syed believed that “Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan”.

During the British Raj all the religious communities had equal rights. Where they did not have equitable opportunities were the fields of employment and economic enterprise. And this friction got adequately postulated in Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s 14 points rejected by the Nehrus.

Until 1946 the Quaid had agreed to be part of a confederal India as outlined in the May/June 1946 Plan. It envisaged a united India in line with Congress and Muslim League aspirations. The Jinnah-Nehru consensus ended when Jawaharlal Nehru told a journalist that the Congress would be in majority and as such it would decide the future of India negating the basis of Muslim demands for ‘political safeguards’ built into post-British Indian laws so as to prevent absolute rule of Hindus over Muslims forcing Jinnah to opt for independence as a last resort.

The Quaid spelled out his vision in his speech of August 11, 1947 in the mother legislative assembly — rightly described as his Magna Carta for Pakistan, that:

• Jinnah’s Pakistan — all its citizens will be equal, they will enjoy equal rights — irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender; they will be free to practise their religions, go to their temples, mosques and churches, etc.

• Islamic socialism and secularism — according to the Quaid — were not a contradiction of Islam but its true manifestation.

• That’s why the Quaid separated religion from state management and declared categorically that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state.

However, after his death (Sept 11, 1948), his dream of Pakistan as a modern, democratic, liberal and secular state was waylaid by the power troika comprising the military, civil and judicial bureaucracy backed by the feudal. From a social welfare state Pakistan was converted at gunpoint into a security state (garrison state) supported by religious groups that had opposed all three Muslim greats — Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal and the Quaid.

While observing his death anniversary we must understand the dynamics of history. We have before us the most recent example of the break-up of the Soviet Union. It had the biggest military in the world and none could save it from disintegration and collapse as it could not sustain its population, provide it succour and socio-economic well-being or bear the heavy load of a back-breaking Praetorian establishment.


Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt from Dilip Hiro's "The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan":

A minority among the Muslim nobility adapted to the new reality. Prominent among them was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898). A highly educated, pro-British, richly bearded aristocrat, Sir Syed was a political thinker and an educationist who urged fellow Muslims to learn English. He founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh in 1875. He advised his coreligionists to stay away from the Congress Party and focused on expanding the Muhammadan Educational Conference.

He perceived the Congress Party’s demand for a wider role for Indians in the government as the thin end of the wedge for the departure of the British from the subcontinent. “Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India?” he asked in a speech in March 1888. “Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable… But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.”

Sir Syed’s statement reflected the rising friction between the two communities, which he pointedly called “nations.”

At times these tensions escalated into violence. The first recorded communal riot occurred in the North Gujarat town of Godhra in 1854. Details of the episode are sketchy.

More is known about the communal riot in Bombay (later Mumbai) in August 1893. It erupted against the background of the rise of a militant cow protection movement – Gaorakshak Mandali – that many Muslims regarded as provocative and was launched in Bombay Presidency in late 1892. Muslim worshippers leaving the Juma Masjid, a striking mosque in South Bombay, after Friday prayers attacked a nearby temple on Hanuman Lane. In a predominantly illiterate society in a pre-broadcasting era, wild rumours spread rapidly over the next two days. The army was drafted to restore control. All together seventy-five people lost their lives.

In December 1906 the Muhammadan Educational Conference meeting in Dacca (later Dhaka) decided to transform itself into a political party, the All India Muslim League. Dominated by feudal lords with a sprinkling of religious scholars and educationalists, it elected Adamjee Pirbhoy as its president. He was followed by Sir Ali Imam and the twenty-three-year-old Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah – popularly known by his title of Agha Khan (or Aga Khan) – in successive years. The League was headquartered in Lucknow. Its primary goal was to promote loyalty to the British crown while advancing Muslims’ political rights.

It demanded separate electorates for Muslims when the British government decided to introduce the concept of conferring the right to vote on Indians with the enforcement of the 1892 India Councils Act. It turned the hitherto fully nominated central and provincial legislative councils into partly elected chambers. Nominated municipal boards, chambers of commerce, landowner associations, and universities were authorised to submit lists of elected members from which the viceroy and provincial governors made a final selection of council members. These members, forming a minority, had the right to debate the budget but not vote on it. In popular terms it meant franchise for 2 percent of the adult population, about a third of literate Indians.


Riaz Haq said...

The Other Side of Silence
Voices From the Partition of India

I looked at what the large political facts of this history seemed to be saying. If I was reading them right, it would seem that Partition was now over, done with, a thing of the past. Yet, all around us there was a different reality: partitions everywhere, communal tension, religious fundamentalism, continuing divisions on the basis of religion. In Delhi, Sikhs became targets of communal attacks in 1984; in Bhagalpur in Bihar, hundreds of Muslims were killed in one of India's worst communal riots in 1989; a few years later, the Babri Mosque was destroyed in Ayodhya by frenzied Hindu communalists (supported, openly and brazenly, by political parties such as the Bhartiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena), and later, thousands of Muslims were again targeted in Surat, Ahmedabad and Bombay. In each of these instances, Partition stories and memories were used selectively by the aggressors: militant Hindus were mobilized using the one-sided argument that Muslims had killed Hindus at Partition, they had raped Hindu women, and so they must in turn be killed, and their women subjected to rape. And the patterns were there in individual life too: a Muslim and a Hindu in independent India could not easily choose to marry each other without worrying about whether one or the other of them would survive the wrath of their families or communities; if such a marriage broke up, or for some reason ended up in court, you could be sure that it would be accompanied by public announcements, for example on the part of the judiciary, about those who had accepted the two-nation theory and those who had not.


Riaz Haq said...

India’s founding fathers set Pakistan up to fail by Nisid Hajari

....however exaggerated Pakistan’s fears may be now, Indian leaders bear great responsibility for creating them in the first place. Their resistance to the very idea of Pakistan made the 1947 partition of the subcontinent far bitterer than it needed to be. Within hours of independence, huge sectarian massacres had broken out on both sides of the border; anywhere from 200,000 to a million people would ultimately lose their lives in the slaughter. Pakistan reeled under a tidal wave of refugees, its economy and its government paralyzed and half-formed. Out of that crucible emerged a not-unreasonable conviction that larger, more powerful India hoped to strangle the infant Pakistan in its cradle — an anxiety that Pakistan, as the perpetually weaker party, has never entirely been able to shake.

Then as now, Indian leaders swore that they sought only brotherhood and amity between their two nations, and that Muslims in both should live free of fear. They responded to charges of warmongering by invoking their fealty to Mohandas K. Gandhi — the “saint of truth and nonviolence,” in the words of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In fact, Nehru, and Gandhi himself — the sainted “Mahatma,” or “great soul” — helped breed the fears that still haunt Pakistan today.

There’s little question, for instance, that Gandhi’s leadership of the Indian nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s contributed to Muslim alienation and the desire for an independent homeland. He introduced religion into a freedom movement that had until then been the province of secular lawyers and intellectuals, couching his appeals to India’s masses in largely Hindu terms. (“His Hindu nationalism spoils everything,” Russian writer Leo Tolstoy wrote of Gandhi’s early years as a rabble-rouser.) Even as Gandhi’s Indian National Congress party claimed to speak for all citizens, its membership remained more than 90 percent Hindu.

Muslims, who formed a little under a quarter of the 400 million citizens of pre-independence India, could judge from Congress’s electoral victories in the 1930s what life would look like if the party took over from the British: Hindus would control Parliament and the bureaucracy, the courts and the schools; they’d favor their co-religionists with jobs, contracts, and political favors. The louder Gandhi and Nehru derided the idea of creating a separate state for Muslims, the more necessary one seemed.

Ironically, Gandhi may have done the most damage at what is normally considered his moment of triumph — the waning months of British rule. When the first pre-Partition riots between Hindus and Muslims broke out in Calcutta in August 1946, exactly one year before independence, he endorsed the idea that thugs loyal to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, the country’s dominant Muslim party, had deliberately provoked the killings. The truth is hardly so clear-cut: It appears more likely that both sides geared up for violence during scheduled pro-Pakistan demonstrations, and initial clashes quickly spiraled out of control.


Riaz Haq said...

India’s founding fathers set Pakistan up to fail by Nisid Hajari...contd

Two months later, after lurid reports emerged of a massacre of Hindus in the remote district of Noakhali in far eastern Bengal, Gandhi fueled Hindu hysteria rather than tamping it down. Nearing 80 by then, his political ideas outdated and his instincts dulled by years of adulation, he remained the most influential figure in the country. His evening prayer addresses were quoted and heeded widely. While some Congress figures presented over-hyped casualty counts for the massacre — party chief J.B. Kripalani estimated a death toll in the millions, though the final tally ended up less than 200 — Gandhi focused on wildly exaggerated claims that marauders had raped tens of thousands of Hindu women. Controversially, he advised the latter to “suffocate themselves or … bite their tongues to end their lives” rather than allow themselves to be raped.

Within weeks, local Congress politicians in the nearby state of Bihar were leading ugly rallies calling for Hindus to avenge the women of Noakhali. According to New York Times reporter George Jones, in their foaming outrage “it became rather difficult to differentiate” between the vicious sectarianism of Congress and radical Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose cadres had begun drilling with weapons to prevent the Partition of India. Huge mobs formed in Bihar — where Hindus outnumbered Muslims 7 to 1 — and spread across the monsoon-soaked countryside.Huge mobs formed in Bihar — where Hindus outnumbered Muslims 7 to 1 — and spread across the monsoon-soaked countryside. In a fortnight of killing, they slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslims. The pogroms virtually eliminated any hope of compromise between Congress and the League.

Equally troubling was the moral cover the Mahatma granted his longtime followers Nehru and “Sardar” Vallabhbhai Patel — a Gujarati strongman much admired by Modi, who also hails from Gujarat and who served as the state’s chief minister for over a decade. Echoing Gandhi’s injunction against pushing anyone into Pakistan against their wishes, Nehru and Patel insisted that the huge provinces of Punjab and Bengal be split into Muslim and non-Muslim halves, with the latter areas remaining with India.

Jinnah rightly argued that such a division would cause chaos. Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were inextricably mixed in the Punjab, with the latter in particular spread across both sides of the proposed border. Sikh leaders vowed not to allow their community to be split in half. They helped set off the chain of Partition riots in August 1947 by targeting and trying to drive out Muslims from India’s half of the province, in part to make room for their Sikh brethren relocating from the other side.

Jinnah also correctly predicted that a too-weak Pakistan, stripped of the great port and industrial center of Calcutta, would be deeply insecure. Fixated on building up its own military capabilities and undermining India’s, it would be a source of endless instability in the region. Yet Nehru and Patel wanted it to be even weaker. They contested every last phone and fighter jet in the division of colonial assets and gloated that Jinnah’s rump state would soon beg to reunite with India.


Riaz Haq said...

Gurinder Chadha's "Viceroy’s House" version of #India’s partition brings fake history to screen | Ian Jack #Pakistan


In an angry piece for the Guardian, the Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto accused the film’s British-Indian director, Gurinder Chadha, of seeming “to take pleasure in laying the bloodshed and brutality of 1947 at the feet of two particular villains: Muslims and Jinnah”. It was, she wrote, the product of “a deeply colonised imagination … [a] servile pantomime of partition”.

Chadha denied the charge of anti-Muslim prejudice – persuasively, I think – but to my mind she and her fellow writers on the film, her American husband, Paul Mayeda Berges, and the English screenwriter Moira Buffini, have committed just as great a sin, which is to take a breathtaking liberty with the historical record.

The film’s Mussolini moment occurs when the unfortunate English lawyer who has been commissioned to draw the new boundaries, the sweating, put-upon Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow), returns from the Punjab to Delhi to say it can’t be done in the few weeks he has at his disposal. It’s all too complicated, he tells Mountbatten’s chief of staff, Lord Ismay (Michael Gambon), who then pulls from his drawer a secret map, prepared under Winston Churchill’s aegis, which has the border already drawn. Ismay, who served as Churchill’s wartime chief of staff, suggests Pakistan was at least partly a British invention as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. Hey presto! All Radcliffe needs to do is adopt the Churchill map’s borders.

Imagine a film about the Holocaust where a character pulls open a drawer, pulls out a document and reveals that 6 million deaths aren’t the fault of Hitler but of … Mussolini.

True, this isn’t a documentary. It’s a Hollywood film like James Cameron’s Titanic, in which fictional characters inhabit a crowded landscape of real people and real events, some of the most dreadful in the 20th century’s history. Sure, you have to cut the director a little slack. Reality is always more complicated than any film has the time to allow. But blaming it on Mussolini! A ripple of distaste and incomprehension crosses the audience at the thought that such a hideous chapter in European history should be so irresponsibly treated, as if it were no more than “material” to be bent to the director’s whim.

In south Asia, the partition of 70 years ago has a similar resonance to the Holocaust in the memory of the two (eventually three) nations that came out of it. Between 1 and 2 million people are thought to have died; about 15 million left their homes to cross the new borders – a great migration of Muslims to the new state of Pakistan, and Sikhs and Hindus into truncated India. Mass violence and death, startling cruelty, hunger, disease, homelessness: all these accompanied India’s liberation from British rule.

Apportioning the blame has kept scholars in work for half a century. Was it the intransigence of the Indian National Congress and/or the All-India Muslim League, and their leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Was it the inevitable outcome of the imperial policy identified by its opponents as divide-and-rule? Did it flow from the politicisation of religious identity? How much of it can be put down to British haste, weakness and incompetence? How much did the characters of the last viceroy and his wife, Lord Louis and Edwina, Lady Mountbatten, play a part?

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Nobel Laureate Rabindranath #Tagore became the embodiment of how the west wanted to see the east.


The success turned everyone's heads, including Tagore's. He became the most prominent embodiment of how the west wanted to see the east – sagelike, mystical, descending from some less developed but perhaps more innocent civilisation; above all, exotic. He looked the part, with his white robes and flowing beard and hair, and sometimes overplayed it. Of course, the truth was more complicated. The Tagores were among Kolkata's most influential families. They'd prospered in their role as middle men to the East India Company, whose servants named them Tagore because it was more easily pronounced than the Bengali title, Thakur. The west wasn't strange to them. Rabindranath's grandfather, Dwarkanath, owned steam tug companies and coal mines, became a favourite of Queen Victoria's and died in England (his tombstone is in Kensal Green cemetery). As for the poet himself, this was his third visit to London. On his first, he'd heard the music hall songs and folk tunes that he later incorporated into his distinctive musical genre, rabindra sangeet.

More than anything, what Tagore stood for was a synthesis of east and west. He admired the European intellect and felt betrayed when Britain's conduct in India let down the ideal. His western enthusiasts, however, saw what they wanted to see. First, he was an exotic fashion and then he was not. "Damn Tagore," wrote Yeats in 1935, blaming the "sentimental rubbish" of his later books for ruining his reputation. "An Indian has written to ask what I think of Rabindrum [sic] Tagore," wrote Philip Larkin to his friend Robert Conquest in 1956. "Feel like sending him a telegram: 'Fuck all. Larkin.'"

Is his poetry any good? The answer for anyone who can't read Bengali must be: don't know. No translation (according to Bengalis) lives up to the job, and at their worst, they can read like In Memoriam notices: "Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark" is among the better lines. Translator William Radice thinks that Tagore's willingness to tackle the big questions, heart on sleeve, has made him vulnerable to "philistinism or contempt". That may be so – see Larkin – but perhaps the time has come for us to forget Tagore was ever a poet, and think of his more intelligible achievements. These are many. He was a fine essayist; an educationist who founded a university; an opponent of the terrorism that then plagued Bengal; a secularist amid religious divisions; an agricultural improver and ecologist; a critical nationalist. In his fiction, he showed an understanding of women – their discontents and dilemmas in a patriarchal society – that was ahead of its time. On his 150th anniversary, we shouldn't resist two cheers, at least.

Riaz Haq said...

'No Dogs or Indians': Colonial #Britain still rules at #India's elite private clubs. http://www.smh.com.au/world/no-dogs-or-indians-colonial-britain-still-rules-at-indias-private-clubs-20170630-gx1vtk.html … via @smh

Delhi: "No dogs or Indians" used to be the sign outside British establishments during the Raj and that was the first thought that struck Tailin Lyngdoh when she was removed from a club in the Indian capital last week for looking too much like a native.

Lyngdoh, who works as a nanny, was seated in the dining room enjoying Sunday lunch with her employer, Dr Nivedita Barthakur Sondhi and family friends, when two officials of the elite Delhi Golf Club asked her to leave because, they said, "she was dressed like an Indian maid".

The eviction was insulting on two counts. First that a maid cannot sit and eat with the rich members of the club. Second, that her costume, a traditional outfit called a "jainsem' from Meghalaya in the north east where she comes from, was felt to violate the club's dress code even though it was Indian costume.

"I have travelled to many places – London and Dubai – and walked around and eaten out and no one has ever made me feel uncomfortable. I felt so humiliated I was close to tears," said the 51-year-old, who looks after Dr Sondhi's nine-year-old son Raghav.

Dr Sondhi and Lyngdoh went to the Delhi Golf Club as guests of a member. "I pointed out that she was wearing an Indian costume. I asked why, if other people weren't asked what they did for a living, why should a nanny be asked her occupation? But they refused to listen," Dr Sondhi said.

When the officials pointed to an outside pen-like area where domestic servants could sit and where they suggested Lyngdoh could go, Dr Sondhi and the rest of the group abandoned their lunch and walked out.

Riaz Haq said...

A study in contrasts: Muslims in India vs Pakistan by Dr. Ata ur Rahman ... The per capita income of Muslims in Pakistan is about $1,460 while the per capita income of Muslims in India is only about $400 – less than one-fourth of the country’s national Indian GDP. About 52.3 percent of Muslims in India live below the poverty line, with an average monthly income of $5 or less. Muslims constitute about 14.5 percent of the total Indian population. However, only between two percent and three percent of them pass the civil services examinations.
The literacy level of Muslims in India is also much lower than the national average. Only about four percent (one in 25) of Indians who receive education up to the high school level are Muslims, while only 1.7 percent (one in 60) of college graduates in India are Muslims. When we consider that one in seven people in India is a Muslim, these figures bring out the stark disparities that exist in India between Hindus and Muslims. In his book, ‘India’s Muslim Problem’, V T Rajshekar states that Muslims “are in many ways worse than untouchables and in recent years they are facing dangers of mass annihilation”.

The mass killings of Muslims in Indian towns and cities also add strength to the Two-Nation Theory. About 630 Muslims lost their lives during the 1969 Gujarat riots. This was followed by anti-Muslim violence in the Indian towns of Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad in 1970 when a large number of properties of Muslims were burnt and many Muslims killed. During anti-Muslim violence in Moradabad in 1980, about 2,500 Muslims were killed by extremist Hindu elements. Another 1,800 Muslims were slaughtered in the state of Assam in 1983 in a village called Nellie. The official 600-page Tiwari Commission Report on the Nellie massacre has remained a closely guarded secret since 1984.

The destruction of Babri Masjid in December 1992 by Hindu nationalists led to the Bombay Riots. BBC correspondent Toral Varia concluded that the riots were “a pre-planned pogrom” that had been in the making since 1990. According to many independent scholars, extremist Hindu rioters had been given access to information about the locations of Muslim homes and businesses through confidential government sources. This violence was planned and executed by Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist group led by Bal Thackeray.

The anti-Muslim riots that occurred in Bombay in January 1993 following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, were reported in the following manner by international and Indian newspapers:

“Bombay: Day after day after day, for nine days and nights beginning on January 6, mobs of Hindus rampaged through this city, killing and burning people only because they were Muslims. No Muslim was safe – not in the slums, not in high-rise apartments, not in the city’s bustling offices – in an orgy of violence that left 600 people dead and 2,000 injured...Interviews have suggested, moreover, that the killing, arson and looting were far from random. In fact, they were organized by Hindu gangs, abetted by the Bombay police, and directed at Muslim families and businesses. The extent of police cooperation with the Hindu mobs appears to have spread through the entire police force, excluding only the most senior officers...neither the Maharashtra authorities nor the central government in New Delhi made any effort to stanch the flow of blood.” (The New York Times, February 4, 1993)

“Tragedy has struck Surat (Muslim) women… for them, it was hell let loose... While men were thrown into bonfires, torched alive or had burning tyres put around their necks, women were stripped of all their clothes and ordered to ‘run till they can’t… run”. (The Times of India, December 22, 1992).


Riaz Haq said...

The Malign Incompetence of the #British Ruling Class. "Even a columnist for The Economist, an organ of the British elite, now professes dismay over “Oxford chums” who coast through life on “bluff rather than expertise.” #Brexit #chumocracy #India #England https://nyti.ms/2RWEZsY

by Pankaj Mishra

Mountbatten, derided as “Master of Disaster” in British naval circles, was a representative member of a small group of upper- and middle-class British men from which the imperial masters of Asia and Africa were recruited. Abysmally equipped for their immense responsibilities, they were nevertheless allowed by Britain’s brute imperial power to blunder through the world — a “world of whose richness and subtlety,” as E.M. Forster wrote in “Notes on the English Character,” they could “have no conception.”


Even a columnist for The Economist, an organ of the British elite, now professes dismay over “Oxford chums” who coast through life on “bluff rather than expertise.” “Britain,” the magazine belatedly lamented last month, “is governed by a self-involved clique that rewards group membership above competence and self-confidence above expertise.” In Brexit, the British “chumocracy,” the column declared, “has finally met its Waterloo.”

It is actually more accurate, for those invoking British history, to say that partition — the British Empire’s ruinous exit strategy — has come home. In a grotesque irony, borders imposed in 1921 on Ireland, England’s first colony, have proved to be the biggest stumbling block for the English Brexiteers chasing imperial virility. Moreover, Britain itself faces the prospect of partition if Brexit, a primarily English demand, is achieved and Scottish nationalists renew their call for independence.

It is a measure of English Brexiteers’ political acumen that they were initially oblivious to the volatile Irish question and contemptuous of the Scottish one. Ireland was cynically partitioned to ensure that Protestant settlers outnumber native Catholics in one part of the country. The division provoked decades of violence and consumed thousands of lives. It was partly healed in 1998, when a peace agreement removed the need for security checks along the British-imposed partition line.


The re-imposition of a customs and immigration regime along Britain’s only land border with the European Union was always likely to be resisted with violence. But Brexiteers, awakening late to this ominous possibility, have tried to deny it. A leaked recording revealed Mr. Johnson scorning concerns about the border as “pure millennium bug stuff.”

Politicians and journalists in Ireland are understandably aghast over the aggressive ignorance of English Brexiteers. Business people everywhere are outraged by their cavalier disregard for the economic consequences of new borders. But none of this would surprise anyone who knows of the unconscionable breeziness with which the British ruling class first drew lines through Asia and Africa and then doomed the people living across them to endless suffering.

Riaz Haq said...

#IndiaAt75: #Modi is Proving #Pakistan's Case For #Partition1947. 75 years after #India split apart, the nation’s beleaguered #Muslims increasingly face the marginalization and brutal prejudice that Pakistan’s founder #QuaideAzam predicted. #PakistanAt75 https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-08-14/india-s-75th-anniversary-modi-is-proving-pakistan-s-case-for-partition

Indeed, an Indian state once convinced of its duty to protect minorities now seems unremittingly hostile. Prejudice has seeped into the courts and the police, as well as all levels of government. Laws have accepted at face value ludicrous conspiracy theories such as “love jihad” — the idea that Muslim men are romancing Hindu women in order to convert them. Modi’s decision to strip Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of its constitutionally guaranteed autonomy has made clear that even enshrined protections are vulnerable.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Muslims’ share of political power is dwindling. Though they make up more than 14% of the population, they account for less than 4% of members of the lower house of parliament. Among the BJP’s 395 members of parliament there isn’t a single Muslim.

True, India remains a democracy not an authoritarian state, with powerful regional politicians and some brave and independent activists and journalists. In states where Muslims make up a larger share of the voting population, they have been better able to defend their rights. Nor is India the only country where politicians and media figures are fanning ethno-nationalism for partisan gain.

Yet the trend lines are ominous. India’s political opposition is weak and divided. The mainstream media has caricatured Muslims to a degree that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. The northern Hindi belt is bursting with millions of undereducated, underemployed and angry young men. Politicians there and elsewhere know it is far easier to direct those frustrations at defenseless scapegoats than it is to fix schools and create jobs.

Modi likes to call India the “mother of democracy.” But the central test of a democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens — whether their rights are protected and their views heard. Nehru and India’s other founding fathers saw it as their most basic duty to prove Jinnah wrong, forging a pluralistic India that would thrive because of its diversity not despite it. Three quarters of a century later, Indians should ask themselves whether they, not their former brethren across the border, are the ones now making a mistake.