Saturday, July 10, 2010

A clear statement, but is it true?

At PTH, we have argued for the partition as a nuanced set of events that were characterized by extreme mistrust between the two major political forces of that time. These major parties harboured deep distrust against each other. The Muslim League politics increasingly focused on the idea of Pakistan as a bargaining chip to win the rights for the sizeable Muslim majority within the United India. The British hurry to leave the United India, emergence of Muslim League as the sole spokesman for the Muslims, and Congress unwillingness to recognize the Muslim nation demands within the United India resulted in a bloody and messy partition. We still live with the scars of the partition that resulted in one of the largest uprooting and human migration of modern times.... (AZW)

This is a highly disputable version of history.  If you have the patience, absorb the material on The Cabinet Mission Plan website.

If not, just remember that:
a.  Prior to the Lahore Resolution, the condition for unity was absolute parity between Muslim and non-Muslim in India.
b.  The Lahore Resolution called for sovereign, independent states.
c.  Jinnah repeatedly said that he would not accept a apex governmental body with any significant powers over these sovereign independent states.
d.  To the extent that Jinnah was willing to accept an apex body of any kind, it was as long as it was a temporary measure with a clear roadmap leading to Pakistan in the future.
e. Jinnah repeated in public time and again that Pakistan - the one-word summary of the Lahore Resolution - was not a bargaining chip.  In private negotiations he was not as explicit but was just as obdurate.
f. Jinnah kept insisting that the Muslims were a nation apart, by virtue of religion, culture, society, 

On the side, "emergence of Muslim League as the sole spokeman for Muslims" - Jinnah insisted that the Muslims who supported the Congress have no voice at all.  He behaved like a boor with Congress President Maulana Azad; and kept insisting that the Congress not nominate a Muslim for significant posts.

The lineage of PTH's version of history includes Ayesha Jalal's 1985 "The Sole Spokeman", and is also expressed here (Ali Sethi's article in the New York Times, where he describes reading Ayesha Jalal's book):

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.

The question which I'm not able to decide is - why does PTH insist on such a dubious version of  history?

One possibility is as I.A. Rehman wrote in the Dawn: "Pakistanis do not even hesitate to deny their part in their biggest accomplishment, the creation of Pakistan, and blame Congress for this, and this theory gathers more and more supporters as the people see their condition becoming increasingly unbearable."

There there is that this version of history, if widely accepted, will  somehow will resolve the question of Pakistani nationalism:
What is indeed controversial and unresolved is the role of Muslim nationalism that the subsequent rulers seek to convert to an Islamic nationalism in the newly formed state of Pakistan. The concept of Muslim nationalism was then (at the time of partition) and still is rather undefined. The concept is still in an evolutionary stage, and the evolution is playing out particularly quickly in a land no other than the present day Pakistan. Mingling of religion with the state has always resulted in disaster throughout the human history, Pakistan being no exception. But what has been lethal for Pakistan is the religious bogey adopted by the rulers of Pakistan has resulted in suppressing vibrant ethnic, cultural, and the religious identities of Pakistanis that at times ran against the ethos of the state subscribed conservative strain of Islam. This strain gained ground in Pakistan particularly since the 1970s.

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad takes another view of the challenges faced by an inclusive Pakistanis nationalism that never really took off. He invokes the partition and the strategies invoked by the Muslim League before partition to connect it with the confusion that plagues Pakistan throughout its history. We do not necessarily agree with Dr. Ahmad’s point of view. But there have been references to his Nationalism series at the PTH and it is only fair that Dr. Ahmad’s view is published here to hear his view of this debate. We will cross post this series from the Daily Time and encourage all of our readers to put forth their views on one of the most fascinating issues that have been quintessentially relevant to Pakistan throughout its history; the idea of inclusive and humanistic yet a Muslim-majority-nation’s nationalism.

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