Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reply to One Myth, Many Pakistans

As soon as I opened the NYT this morning, I knew Ali Sethi's op-ed piece would feature on the Pak Tea House.  Sure enough, here it is.

One problem with Ali Sethi's piece is that it erects another myth.
Some years later, in a secluded college library in Massachusetts, I read a very different account of the Two-Nation Theory. Here I learned that it was devised in the 1930s by a group of desperate Muslim politicians who wanted to extract some constitutional concessions from the British before they left India.
The Muslims of India, these politicians were saying in their political way, were a “distinct group” with their own “history and culture.” But really, the book told me, all they wanted was special protection for the poor Muslim minorities in soon-to-be-independent, mostly Hindu India.
But the politicians’ gamble failed; they were taken up on their bluff and were given a separate country, abruptly and violently cut-up, two far-apart chunks of Muslim-majority areas (but what about the poor Muslim minorities that were still stuck in Hindu-majority areas!) that its founders (but it was a mistake!) now had to justify with the subtleties of their theory.
It was like a punishment.
This is the view promoted by Ayesha Jalal,   The problem with this view is that you have to be a mind-reader to infer that "all they wanted was special protection for the poor Muslim minorities" - their public statements and their actions on the record simply do not support it.  A online resource you can look up is The Cabinet Mission Plan.  You can read there what special protection was demanded and what special protection was offered, and whether the demand for Pakistan was a bluff.  Decide for yourself.

But that aside - Pakistan exists, has existed for 60+ years and will continue to exist.  There exists a next-to-zero sentiment in India towards any kind of undoing of Partition.  In fact, Indians would be happy if an ocean separated India from Pakistan.    I note instead this curious phenomenon that liberal Pakistanis need to insist that Partition was forced on them - as though that would somehow change the ground situation.

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