75 Years after the Partition
What was it meant to be, what has it become and where is it going?
(Aug 28, 2022)
This event was dedicated to millions who sacrificed their lives,
lost their loved ones, their homes, their everything for a better future.
Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, an eminent Indian scholar and author pointed out that India which was founded on the principles of secularism and democracy has fallen back to the Two Nation Theory. Hindus are considered as one nation, and all others like Muslims, Christians, Dalits and other minorities as the other nation. Dr R. Gandhi, who is the grandson of famous Indian leader M.K Gandhi, was one of the four panellists. Other panellists were Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed and Dr Harsh Mander.
Prof. Gandhi said that the slogans of Hindu supremacy in India raised by the Hindu elite at home were in contradiction to the demands of Indians living abroad for equal rights. He also criticised the suppression of minorities in India.
Referring to an article by Dr Vikram Patel, published in the Indian Daily Express on the 75th anniversary of Independence, he said many people whose parents migrated to India still believe that one part of their identity lies in Pakistan. As the world sees India as a big market and a counter-weight to China, it won’t put pressure on India for suppressing its minorities. In this connection, he stressed the role of media in moulding public opinion both on the national and international levels. He said that the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh living abroad being members of a large family should refresh their links with each other to promote cultural ties. This would help in reducing hatred, anger and prejudice. He also pleaded for the abolition of visas between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Earlier, Prof. Gandhi expressed his deep sympathy for the flood victims in Pakistan.
Addressing the webinar, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a well-known physicist and author, said that after the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971, the Two-Nation theory lost its relevance. Bengalis refused to believe in this theory and now we in Pakistan should also re-think our future course and put the two-nation theory to sleep.
Dr Hoodbhoy said that Pakistan should become a normal state, striving for the welfare of its people and where all the people enjoy equal rights and privileges. He also stressed the need for peace for Pakistan with its neighbours. He regretted that Pakistan doesn’t have good neighbourly relations even with its Muslim neighbours Iran and Afghanistan.
Dr Hoodbhoy said that on the issue of Kashmir, Pakistan and India have fought four wars but to no avail. Now, we should recognise the fact that we cannot solve this issue with wars and accept the status quo.
Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, historian and professor emeritus at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, criticized the oppressive laws of "Hudood" (https://pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/hudood.html) and punishment for denial of two nation theory. It should be noted that criticism of two nation theory in Pakistan can be punished with imprisonment and a fine. He further counted such regulations as, the obligation that the prime minister and the president of Pakistan not only by Muslims but also must testify as believers of “Khatm e Nabuwat“ as absurd.
He said that the two-nations theory was the root cause of this legislation which is based on the narrative that Muslims are a nation with a separate culture religion and belief.
He pointed out that Pakistan is currently facing a deep political and financial crisis. It seems that at present no one is interested or willing to bail Pakistan out of this financial crisis.
In agreement with fellow panellists, he noted that after Bangladesh parted from Pakistan the two-nation theory had no relevance.
Religious sections of Pakistani society – all Muslims - are divided into several sects combating each other verbally and with arms resulting in sectarian killings.
Dr Ishtiaq pointed out that this situation undermines the concept of Muslim “Ummah“.
The „normal states“ are defined by the United Nations as territorial states where all the citizens have equal rights maintaining good neighbourly relations.
The freedom struggle in India against the foreign occupation power was split, as Mr Jinnah demanded freedom not only from the Britsh but also “freedom from Hindus“ and the formation of a separate land, i.e. Pakistan.
Partition of India caused problems for minorities left behind the new borders Constitutionally India as a secular state gave equal rights to all citizens. Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed at this place admired the constitution of India as unique which introduced reservations for historically most oppressed sections of the society and gave equal rights to all religions.
He added that partition could not be peaceful due to the loss of property, businesses and social ties torn up due to the migration. Further, Pakistan after its formation as a new state, needed international partners to obtain economic and military aid which caused not only huge debts but also put it in a position to wage wars.
Dr Harsh Mandar, a famous Indian writer and human rights activist, recalled that the memories of the partition of India and Pakistan were full of agony and bloodshed.
About a million people were killed during the riots and around fifteen million people were displaced and had to migrate from their homes, among them was his own family which migrated from Rawalpindi.
It is a big tragedy that the freedom struggle, which was originally based on the principles of non-violence, turned into violent communal riots.
Looking back 75 years now, there are many wounds to be healed, forgiving each other, and starting a new era of friendship and understanding. The most important lesson is that the partition was a battle between two ideas i.e. One Idea was: How people belonging to different religions, languages and customs, could live together. The other Idea was: That only the people belonging to one religion form one Nation.
We spoke about the two-nation theory but at its core, the idea of Pakistan was the belief that security, safety, development and peace can only be achieved if we live with people of the same faith, a nation of sameness. The basis of this sameness was religious faith.
The ideology of India was that we are not safe and secure by seeking “sameness” but by respecting each other in the practice of faith, culture and languages. The Constitution of India is based on equality, justice, fraternity and freedom for all and this was the battle of these ideas resulting in the partition.
Mentioning the griefs of Pakistan narrated by Pakistani panellists, he added that 75 years after the partition, present-day India is resembling the version of Zia’s Pakistan. The BJP government is trying to prove that Jinnah was right and Gandhi was wrong and that is the tragedy of India today. It looks like the state is at war with its Muslim citizens manifesting in many shapes as a political and electoral part of the battle against Muslims. The BJP has not a single Muslim member of Parliament or State Assemblies belonging t representing 200 million Muslims.
On the social side of the battle, we see lynching and hate violence. On his 30 journeys under his organization “Karwan-e-Mohabbat” meeting the families of persons who had been lynched by mobs. We visit them and assure them of our support telling them that they were not alone and that many people in India care and stand with them. We seek forgiveness for what we have become. We will stand with you in the struggle for justice.
Concluding, he noted that the battle 75 years ago or 100 years ago
and even today was never been a battle between Hindus and Muslims. It is always a battle between those who follow their faith and respect others' faith and those who misuse religion to create hatred against other faiths. He said it is interesting that two people who spoke for a religious state Mr Jinnah and Mr Sarvarkar were not religious. Mr Saverkar was a self-professed atheist and Mr Jinnah was not a practising Muslim.
The two people who fought most for a secular state, Mahatma Gandhi, was a devout Hindu and Maulana Azad, a Muslim scholar. Maulana Azad said that I am Muslim and Indian and both of these identities are intrinsic to me.
A lively discussion followed between the panellists and participants of the Dialogue.
Report by: Moin Ahmen and Masud Mirza lives in Germany and volunteer their time and skills to OPP.