Published — Tuesday 25 December 2012
Last update 25 December 2012 3:27 pm
IT is not surprising that after 60 years of existence, Pakistan has not been able to develop a sense of common nationhood or even social cohesion. It remains fragmented, as it is, among five or six different ethnic groups.
Sectarian, linguistic and class differences, exploding into violence from time to time, it could not build up a viable system of Islamic laws. Even in the Malakand Division of FATA, including the Swat, the enforcement of Shariah, often praised by the Pakistani orthodoxy, is based on the British concession in the 1930s to the tribals that the civil and criminal laws that operated in the subcontinent did not apply to their region.
Finally, as conceived by Iqbal, Pakistan was to be a political laboratory for experimenting with an Islamic polity in the modern world or the evolution of Muslim jurisprudence to come to terms with modern life. Neither has made any progress. Nor has Pakistan ever achieved an Islamic personality.
In Pakistan most of the laws now in force are the same as those in India. Not only from the legal point of view but even culturally, to the extent that Urdu is the language of the elite in Pakistan, and even religiously Pakistan is much closer to India than to any other part of the Muslim world.
Most important, if 150 million Muslims continue to be equal citizens of India, occasional violence and persistent discrimination notwithstanding, the question is beginning to be asked not only in India but in Pakistan about the rationale for the division of the subcontinent.
The Muslim community of the subcontinent, now divided into three states, would have not only prospered but lived more securely and made greater contribution in the realm of fine arts, science, humanities and sports, had their organic unity not been sacrificed at the altar of politics or, shall we say, the interest of the Muslim elite or the hurt ego of an individual, who at one time was one of the top leaders of the national freedom movement, and who was dropped like a fly in the ointment when he raised his voice against Hindu majoritorianism and asked for democratic safeguards and guarantees for the Muslims as the biggest minority.
Partition resulted from the failure of the freedom movement to evolve a formula acceptable to both communities.
Nor did Pakistanis experience any cultural synthesis among the Bengalis, the Punjabis, the Sindhis, the Saraikis the Pakhtoons, the Balochis and the Biharis. Some of them speak Urdu but most prefer to use their own mother tongue. Some of them even agitate against Urdu being given the official language status. Even the great Urdu poet Faiz, a Left activist, led a precession in Lahore against Urdu becoming the sole language for official communication and the first language in schools. Just about five per cent of the people of Pakistan declare Urdu as their mother tongue.
In 1960s Muslim Indians continued to trickle into East Pakistan on what was called the “Gardania” passport. After the explosion in East Pakistan, which created Bangladesh, the “Bihari” Muslims in substantial numbers crossed the border to take refuge in India, sometimes escorted by the Indian Army. The interesting aspect is that when they reached their original villages, their Hindu neighbors welcomed them, albeit with a touch of sarcasm but no hostility. Indeed it is their own relatives who became apprehensive that the returnees may dispute their possession of the entire family property and reported them to the authorities. Hardly any cases were report by the Hindu neighbors.
In a united subcontinent the Muslims would today number about 450 million out of a total population of about 1800 million. Almost half the national territory would be covered by Muslim concentration states and districts. In a federal Indian polity, these Muslim pockets would enjoy almost complete autonomy but, as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad put it, they neither achieved an Islamic homeland nor equal citizenship in the country of their birth. In the reorganization of states, the Sikhs got the Sikh state; the tribals got many tribal states and some are struggling for more. But the support Muslims extended in the 1940s to the Pakistan Movement has not been forgotten. Hindu communalism has opposed the reorganization of pockets of Muslim concentration as in Purnea or Rohilkhand or Marathwada or Malda or Murshidabad in West Bengal. Even the areas in which the Muslims form 30 to 40 percent of the population continue to face hostility, distrust and underdevelopment.
Perhaps the Muslims of united India would have been better received.
Yes, Muslim Indians continue to be silently dubbed in India as Pakistanis and perceived increasingly as terrorists. They live in fear; their muhallas are under close observation in a state of siege by the state. These are occasionally targeted by majoritarian violence; the last genocide occurred in Gujarat in 2002. But their population continuously grows and today they constitute roughly 15 percent of the national population.
Unfortunately without proportional representation in central or state legislatures or in administration or even in the Panchayti Raj institutions, they do not enjoy real power. And when they speak of discrimination, they are advised to leave India and go to Pakistan if they are not happy.
What Muslims lost in 1947 is incalculable and the possibilities of their development have been stunted by the very existence of Pakistan. Over the last 60 years, Muslim Indians have suffered and survived, they have proved their resilience, a capacity to rise from the ashes to build a community, which, to quote Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, is as proud of being Indian as it is of being Muslim. As India develops, Muslim Indians are also developing though not in the same measure. But an objective look on cities, towns, qasbas or even villages will show, they have made marked progress educationally, economically and socially. There are no doubt pockets of backward-ness and deprivation. The virus of Hindu majoritarianism has entered the bloodstream of the Indian nation. But secular forces would not let it deny constitutional equality and social justice to the Muslim Indians.
Partition was thus ill-conceived and became a bad bargain for the Muslims in the Muslim minority provinces of British India. Indeed it may turn out to be a tragedy. It also continues to cast an ominous shadow over their future because the anti-Muslim forces in India, without any rhyme or reason, continue to consider the present generation of Muslims as responsible for the creation of Pakistan and look upon them as Pakistanis or Pakistani sympathizers and in any situation of conflict between the two states, as political aliens and at least fifth columnists.