“With hindsight, one tends to agree with the late Girilal Jain that the Partition was the best thing that could happen to Hindus in the mid-forties. Without Partition, Hindus could not have produced even a workable constitution, let alone a democratic political order. The alternative to Partition in the form of communal electorates, weak centre with fissiparous provinces and a government hobbled by perpetual bickering would have been much worse.” – Punarvasu Parekh
The BJP lost no time in distancing itself from the remarks made by its general secretary Ram Madhav in a recent interview to TV channel Al Jazeera that as an RSS member he believed that “one day these parts (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) … will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created.” Mr. Madhav also clarified that the Akhand Bharat doctrine is a cultural and people-centric idea and that he was not even remotely suggesting that we should redraw the boundaries of our countries.”
The BJP and Mr. Madhav have struck the right note in their stated position on Akhand Hindustan. But for the wrong reasons. Here is why.
The prospect of reunification of the country has always exercised a powerful pull on the mind of minds of lot of Indians, both inside and outside the Sangh Parivar. The RSS has never reconciled itself to the Partition. Akhand Bharat (united India) has always been at the top of its agenda.
The idea that there should be (and ultimately would be) some sort of political organisation comprising India and Pakistan is as old as the partition. Maharshi Aurobindo had, at the dawn of Independence, predicted eventual unification of the two countries. Sardar Patel’s assessment was that Pakistan would not be a viable and, therefore, a durable state.
How can the enmity between India and Pakistan be ended? Vinoba Bhave, a great Gandhian and Sarvodaya leader, was once asked. In reply, he drew a triangle ABC implying a federation of all south Asian countries including Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Mulayam Singh Yadav, when he was defence minister, had advocated a federation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. His political mentor Ram Manohar Lohia had made the proposal decades ago. L. K. Advani, as home minister, had revived this old idea by suggesting that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka should form a confederation while retaining their separate identities.
To nationalists, such an arrangement would restore the geographical tradition of Indian history. The land of Rigveda, the sacred River Sindhu, illustrious names from Chanakya to Maharaja Ranjit Singh would rejoin India. In secular terms, a de facto if not de jure unification of India would make borders irrelevant and end arms race and enmity between two nuclear neighbours. From the most dangerous place on the globe, South Asia would be transformed into a zone of exemplary peace. The seemingly intractable Kashmir issue will be solved by default. Regional cooperation would get a boost and both the countries could jointly take on their real common enemies of poverty and unemployment, if only we could undo the substance of Partition, we are told.
Now, regional cooperation is one thing, but reunification of the country by undoing the partition is another thing altogether. Before we get carried away by this alluring idea, we need to think through its implications and consequences.
There is no doubt that Partition of India was the worst disaster of the twentieth century after the World War II. It brought untold miseries to millions of families for no fault of their own.
However, history moves in strange ways and yesterday’s disaster could be today’s blessing. With hindsight, one tends to agree with the late Girilal Jain that the Partition was the best thing that could happen to Hindus in the mid-forties. Without Partition, Hindus could not have produced even a workable constitution, let alone a democratic political order. The alternative to Partition in the form of communal electorates, weak centre with fissiparous provinces and a government hobbled by perpetual bickering would have been much worse. How the Hindus landed in such a situation and whether they could have avoided it is a different story altogether.
What is pertinent to our discussion is that the Partition gave Hindus a modern pan-Indian State. After a gap of about eight centuries, Hindu power was no longer open to challenge, which it would have been in the absence of Partition. The Hindu-Muslim problem is rooted in the civilisational conflict and Partition resolved it in favour of Hindus in three-fourths of India.
Indeed, when we consider the manner in which India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh have evolved in the last six decades we agree with Koenraad Elst that Partition has been a blessing in disguise for Hinduism by providing it a last chance to survive.
For all its secularism, the Indian state is at least not aggressively and openly anti-Hindu. It passively allows Hindu culture to flourish on its own strength and Indian police and armed forces are not passive bystanders when Muslims terrorise Hindus, as they are in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Even such an Indian State is difficult for the Hindus to manage. Except the Babri demolition and a few Supreme Court judgments, Hindutva forces have suffered defeat upon defeat in their struggle with the secularists and Islam: For example, cow slaughter, missionary subversion, Article 370, common civil code, Places of Religious Worship Act, Bangladeshi infiltration.
The fact that even a BJP-led government under a strong and highly popular leader like Narendra Modi finds it difficult to move on any of these issues underlines the enormous challenges facing the Hindu renaissance.
Before Independence, Muslims constituted less than one-fourth of the population and there were no rich Islamic states to back them. Yet, Congress leaders were brought to their knees by a determined Muslim leadership. With 13 per cent share in population, they make all parties including BJP dance around them. How will the Hindus fare in a united India with one-third Muslims backed by rich and well-armed Islamic states, not to speak of the secularist lobby? Dalits and tribals will be constantly instigated to stand apart from the rest of the Hindu society on all major issues. Bangladeshi infiltration will become lawful and legitimate relocation within the country. If a rootless Sonia Gandhi could become all-powerful in a secular India, it is entirely conceivable that a united India may come to be ruled by a democratically elected sultan.
Muslim intellectuals realize this and many of them openly deplore Partition. They see that Indian Islam lost on Partition: it settled for a part of the country, when it could possibly have aimed at the whole. Partition divided the Muslim community in three roughly equal parts. Of these, Pakistan and Bangladesh are small uninspiring states, while India cannot be captured for a few decades at least.
True, Pakistan is a failing state propped up by doles from its rich patrons. Pakistan’s society is ridden with deep fault lines along ethnic identities. Jihadi terrorism is its chief export, drug trafficking the most lucrative industry and service in the army the best career option. India, with a vibrant democracy and flourishing economy, still has enough problems on hand. It has nothing to gain by taking over headaches of Pakistan.
Maybe, Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pushtoons, and Mohajirs do not feel or act as one. Maybe Indian Islam is too divided and its apparent unity before Partition was the result of artificially fostered hostility towards Hindus. This may be because Islam does not admit of nationalism, nor does it help Muslims overcome local or tribal loyalties (except while acting against kafirs).
That, however, does nothing to change their perception of Hindus and Hinduism. The “irresistible pull” which many Pakistanis feel towards India is confined to the Muslim part of it. Nawaz Sharif wanted to visit Red Fort and Taj Mahal, not Ellora-Ajanta or Jagannath Puri. Benazir Bhutto wanted to see her old family house in Mumbai and pray at the grave of grandparents and aunt, not at the Siddhi Vinayaka Temple. What is in this for the Hindus to rejoice?
The realization among some Pakistani intellectuals that an arms race with India can ruin Pakistan or popularity of Indian cine stars can bring down temperature, but these cannot be the lasting basis of Indo-Pak friendship, let alone unity.
The problem is not Pakistan, the problem is Islam. It is fashionable among secularists to run down Hindu organisations as purveyors of hatred. They do not realise that no Hindu organisation can even remotely match the deep psychological, social and political cleavage driven by Islam in the Indian society.
Secularists are fond of pointing out that Indians and Pakistanis share the same languages, racial features etc. They never tell us what divides them. From Peshawar to Kamrup, from Gilgit to Rameshwaram, we are one people divided by Islam. Over 95 per cent of Muslims in the subcontinent are descendants of Hindu ancestors. When Muslims overcome injunctions of jihad and hark back to this essential unity of Indian people, the communal problem will disappear for ever.
That day does not seem to lie in near future. Pakistani press and history books are saturated with anti-Hindu poison. Pakistan’s support to terrorist and separatist movements and disruptive activities in India are outward symptoms of this poison. Unless it is eradicated, the old animus will continue.
India has been a self-conscious civilization for several thousand years. India’s political unity derives from a pre-existent cultural unity which was strengthened, among other things, by Sanskrit language, Vedas, Upanishads, epics and Puranas, Brahmin caste, pilgrimage cycles and other socio-cultural factors. Indian state has to be an expression and instrument of this civilization.
At the time of Partition, Congress leadership and Indian elite were not trained to think of the Muslim problem in terms of civilisational conflict. They could not preserve Akhand Bharat because they were not prepared to deal with Islam. Even now, the situation has not changed much.
True, India should ultimately be united. But which India? Nothing will be achieved by undoing the partition without undoing the doctrinal conditioning that led to Partition in the first place. A truncated India that allows Hinduism to survive is better than an Islamic Akhand Bharat.
» Punarvasu Parekh is a senior journalist in Mumbai.