Independence Day Calls for Introspection
When India became free on August 15, 1947, many Indians and many more foreigners were wondering how long the vast and diverse country will remain independent; they could not be entertaining thoughts of celebrating the diamond Jubilee year in 2022 with pomp and show. Many forebodings like the collapse of India proved wrong. India has sailed along though with some bumps to reach a milestone in its post-Independence history.
But it is the history of events that led to Independence that is forgotten by many and demands their urgent attention. India’s Independence was both a moment of joy and sadness for the citizens of British India; India was divided and a new nation of Muslim majority Pakistan was born amidst unimaginable tragedies that saw up to a million people in either country killed and millions uprooted from their homes of centuries.
Blame anyone you like and whatever else may be said, a fact that cannot be denied is that the Partition of British India was the result of extreme distrust and hatred that had been developed for each other between the two major communities of the subcontinent, Hindus Muslims. It was both a sequel to the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British and the carryover effect of previous rules. Some people would insist that the ambition of an individual, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was no less an important factor in the division of India in 1947. The Sangh Parivar blames Nehru openly for the division of India and implicitly includes Gandhi.
The debate over the factors responsible for the momentous 1947 August event has continued with a lot of acrimony. For the debate over the ‘villain’ is accompanied by systematic attempts to sow seeds of deep division and hatred on religious lines. That is precisely what was being done in the pre-August 1947 time; in fact, it did not die completely after the birth of two severing nations.
How damaging can it be to overplay the religious card became evident in Pakistan designated as the home of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, believing that religion is the strongest glue to keep a nation together. About a quarter of century after its birth, Pakistan was divided, this time on the basis of language, in 1971.
But distrust and hatred had not vanished even in the rump Pakistan because sectarian violence continued unabated in Pakistan; the Ahmedias and Shias became targets of hatred and violence. People in Balochistan have been fighting for freedom from Pakistani rule; the Sindhis resent dominance of Punjab and the people of the areas near Afghan borders feel shortchanged by the Punjabi-dominated ‘establishment’ in Pakistan.
Pakistan also faces many other problems but for India what should be of interest is the failure of the religion card in Pakistan. The myth of Muslim monolith assiduously nursed in some sections in India has shown to be illusory. It also means that a shared religion alone does not bind the people who have many legitimate expectations like assurance of a decent and respectful living and an ambience of peace.
Events in the last eight years in India have heightened the religious divide.
It is astonishing that people in power pretend to be ignorant of the deep religious divide in the country. They have to keep up that pretention because it is part and parcel of their commitment to ultimately establish the rule of the majority community, pushing the ‘others’ to the margins.
The pre-1947 era was marked by frequent communal violence in many parts of the country. Mahatma Gandhi was constantly trying to douse the communal fire. On the Independence Day of India he was fasting to press for religious harmony, following another communal massacre.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a habit of saying things which he knows he cannot or will not enforce on his followers. For instance, ’sab ka vikas aur sab ka vishvas’ is supposed to convey that he believes in winning the trust of all citizens and development programmes are meant to benefit all without any discrimination.
What has the ruling party done to win the trust of ‘all’? The government will, of course, contest this, but anyone who can be trusted by the minority community will discover the wide extent of fear, anger and anxiety in the community.
Modi is fond of talking about his determination to do big things, all for making India a world power. Actually, he and his followers believe that India has already become a ‘Vishwguru’, thanks to the leadership of Modi.
Such illusions may be good for pumping up faux patriotism but do not stand up to any examination. Instead of chasing a mirage, Indians need to introspect about where the country is being led to if disaster in coming days is to be avoided. Jumlas are good only for diverting attention from day-to-day problems. Empty words and rhetoric will not help avert a serious situation developing in the country###
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