Saturday, April 21, 2012

India Pakistan Partition

A brilliant documentary by BBC on India Pakistan partition is the immediate prompt to write this. In my experience itself I have seen India's civility and chivalry giving way to an embarrassing smallness in its attitudes. I wish to trace this transformation at a personal level.

Partition was a tragedy through the times - before, during, and after it took place. Yet, it did serve some crucial purposes.

The idea of creating, and substantially owning, a new nation has its intoxicating romance and greed. This bug has bitten many - the proponents of Pakistan in the 1930s and 1940s were the first. A few rich businessmen thought they could create Khalistan. Others want Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, and so on. The utterly inhuman violence inflicted on innocent common people becomes just a footnote in this thinking. 

The Direct Action Day riots in August 1946 left 4000 dead in Calcutta. It foretold the tragedy that was to follow in the run up to Partition in August 1947. All communities suffered and all excelled in their savagery.

The above documentary shares a story where a small Sikh village chose to behead ALL their own women - own mothers, sisters, daughters, wives - when mobs asked them to pay for peace with one of these women. The Sikh gentleman narrating this chokes. These incidents were repeated across Punjab and elsewhere. Such desperation, such helplessness, such inhumanity!

In hindsight it is clear that the British Viceroy was guilty of trying to hurry it up from June 1948 to August 1947. And our leaders were either ignorant, incapable, or complicit.

Mr M A Jinnah was too secure to fathom the price paid by the innocents for his pursuit of Pakistan. His supposedly brilliant case of why Hindus and Muslims are distinct nations remains a bookish argument that failed all those women and millions upon millions of uprooted and disrupted lives.

Neither Jinnah nor his more recent avatars in the form of promoters of Khalistan, Kashmir, and others realize how dangerous it is to create a nation in a hurry. These nations get hijacked. Pakistan, the 7th largest country in the world, is all but owned by the so-called Establishment. Clinging to invented insecurities, ill-thought hypotheses, and Utopian visions.

Pakistan today is a living proof that those millions of lives got destroyed and disrupted for no worthwhile reason. A nation bestowed with disproportionate share of natural resources and some of the most alive and prosperous parts of India today has the worst social indicators is in the grip of extremism.

Yet, there is one silver lining to this tragic partition. It is said that this could be avoided if Jinnah was made Prime Minister and the demand of dual electorates was accepted. Giving in to the demand of dual electorates would have been a permanent acceptance of an unequal society.  India chose equality for all and it has worked. It would have worked for the undivided India too. But the London-educated barrister speaking Queen's English just did not have the sagacity worthy of the population he set out to lead.

I would like to understand how such violence could erupt. One would have thought that the tragedy of partition would make Indians and Pakistanis wiser. Yet there is tremendous violence all around. I wish to explore these in subsequent posts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reflections on Partition and Beyond

As I grew up in parts of Bihar and Jharkhand my education was, without blemish, free from any bias towards religion, caste, gender, color or whatever. It did make me feel an Indian to the core.

Yet, as I grew up India was changing. I learned about the savagery during partition. There were communal riots a lot of times. Then there were divisions related to caste due to reservations. It became clear to me that there are several social and economic dynamics that our education did not prepare us for.

I have always felt great pride in the rich heritage of India. Its great ideas, spirituality, values, arts, literature, humanism, and scholarship. I take equal pride in the idea of modern India that has been so egalitarian in its design, so inclusive, and so tolerant. I truly believe there is nothing like India on earth.

Yet, there are a whole variety of realities in India where fissures, divisions, biases, and narrow attitudes abound in plain sight.

I propose to record my  experiences and thoughts in the period from pre-partition India to modern days covering the full region including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This story must be recounted by a common man because it includes so much hope and goodness and a huge amount of pain too. I base it on the basis of my personal experiences, readings, and videos/movies. I'll try and add references where I can.

I have often been moved to tears so often just  thinking about it. 

I have come to the conclusion that extreme views and haste in dealing with matters of humans and nations can hurt for centuries. The famous lines by Razmi 

ये जब्र भी देखा है तारीख़ की नज़रों ने 
लम्हों ने ख़ता की थी, सदियों ने सज़ा पाई 

(centuries paid for the mistakes of moments) are so true.

I hope to cover several decades across regions and issues. It's a personally curious exploration and I do look forward to it.