Worlds Apart

De­fined by two rad­i­cally op­posed ideas and di­vided by a line of mis­trust, the dis­tance be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan con­tin­ues to grow

India Today - - INSIDE - M. J. Ak­bar The au­thor is the Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor of IN­DIA TO­DAY

Af­ter 65 years of free­dom, In­dia and Pak­istan have be­come dis­tant neigh­bours

What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween In­di­ans and Pak­ista­nis? The an­swer is un­com­pli­cated: There is no dif­fer­ence. We are the same peo­ple, with sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity strengths, and par­al­lel col­lec­tive weak­nesses. Why then have the two nations moved along such dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent arcs in the six decades of their ex­is­tence?

In­dia and Pak­istan are not sep­a­rated by a mere bound­ary. They are de­fined by rad­i­cally op­posed ideas. In­dia be­lieves in a sec­u­lar state where all faiths are equal; Pak­istan in the no­tion that a state can be founded on the ba­sis of re­li­gion.

The two- na­tion the­ory, which was the ba­sis of Pak­istan, did not sep­a­rate all Mus­lims of the sub­con­ti­nent from Hin­dus; nearly as many Mus­lims live in In­dia at this mo­ment, with­out any hin­drance to the ex­er­cise of their faith, as live in Pak­istan. Pak­istan was cre­ated on an as­sump­tion, which had no ba­sis in ei­ther the po­lit­i­cal or so­cial his­tory of In­dian Mus­lims, that they could not live as equals in a united, Hin­du­ma­jor­ity In­dia. It was a con­cept that flour­ished in the waste­land of an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex.

In­dian Mus­lims who re­jected this view, like Maulana Azad and most of the learned Deoband ulema, ar­gued that Is­lam was a brother­hood, not a na­tion­hood; they pointed out that faith be­longed to God, and nations to men. They of­fered em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence: If faith was suf­fi­cient glue, why would there be so many Arab coun­tries? Mus­lims who fought for In­dian unity were swamped by the high pas­sion of a sep­a­ra­tion dream that ac­quired, in the imag­i­na­tion of its ad­vo­cates, the at­tributes of an earthly paradise. It took three decades for that cold judge, time, to de­liver its first ver­dict. The two- na­tion the­ory col­lapsed in 1971, when a ma­jor­ity of Pak­ista­nis broke away to form Bangladesh, an eth­nic en­tity.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom in the 1950s, par­tic­u­larly of the kind which pre­sumed that ‘ na­tives’ were in­suf­fi­ciently evolved for the higher reaches of po­lit­i­cal thought, was cer­tain that In­dia’s ide­al­is­tic one- na­tion the­ory was the bub­ble that would im­plode, and Pak­istan would sta­bilise and pros­per. Al­though its polity col­lapsed within 10 years of free­dom, Pak­istan seemed to of­fer, ini­tially, a more pos­i­tive so­cial and eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment. But as its rai­son d’être be­gan to un­ravel in the mid- 1960s, Pak­istan’s lead­ers learnt the wrong les­son from ex­pe­ri­ence. In­stead of mov­ing away from theoc­racy, they clung to it as the abid­ing ra­tio­nale for sur­vival.

Iron­i­cally, Muham­mad Ali Jin­nah, the suave and bril­liant bar­ris­ter who had turned a whis­per of the 1930s into the storm of the 1940s, and cre­ated Pak­istan on the slo­gan that Is­lam would be in dan­ger from Hin­dus once the British left, was the first Pak­istani to recog­nise the per­ils of the idea he had in­cu­bated. In his pri­vate thoughts and at least in one ma­jor pub­lic speech, his first be­fore the Pak­istan Con­stituent Assem­bly in the sec­ond week of March 1947, Jin­nah en­vis­aged Pak­istan as a sec­u­lar state with a Mus­lim ma­jor­ity. He never deigned to ac­knowl­edge Gandhi, of course, but it would have been a mir­ror im­age of In­dia: Gandhi wanted a united, sec­u­lar state with a Hindu ma­jor­ity. There was a crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence, how­ever. Jin­nah’s state was ex­clu­sive; Gandhi’s In­dia was in­clu­sive. The point of de­par­ture came in the mid- 1930s: Gandhi and Congress fought the British for the free­dom of In­dia; Jin­nah and Mus­lim League fought the Congress for the free­dom of Pak­istan. The British acted as bro­kers, and they did not leave with­out tak­ing their bro­ker­age.

The idea of In­dia as a plu­ral­ist democ­racy was en­shrined very quickly into the doc­u­ment that is the spine of In­dian na­tion­al­ism: In­dia’s Con­sti­tu­tion. The de­bate over whether Pak­istan should be an ‘ Is­lamic state’ be­gan to sim­mer and cart­wheel as it came to the dif­fi­cult part: What pre­cisely did an Is­lamic state mean? The Jus­tice Mu­nir Com­mis­sion, set up in the 1950s af­ter the Lahore ri­ots against the Ah­madiyya sect, of­fered some ad­vice: An Is­lamic state was a mi­rage; in any case, it was no busi­ness of the state to de­fine who a Mus­lim was. But wis­dom has rarely de­flected ide­o­logues from their re­lent­less march to­wards the ex­treme. The fa­ther of Pak­istan, Jin­nah, was soon am­bushed and over­taken by the god­fa­ther of Pak­istan, Maulana Mau­doodi, cre­ator of

the Ja­maat- e- Is­lami, who did lit­tle for the Pak­istan move­ment, but once it had been founded turned it into fer­tile ground for his dia­lec­tics as well as his foot sol­diers. The Ja­maat is a tail­piece in elec­toral bat­tles since the voter does not trust the mul­lah with gov­er­nance, but its influence on the ide­ol­ogy of the state is in con­sis­tent as­cent.

Mau­doodi’s ex­trem­ism, and the in­abil­ity of Is­lam­abad to do any­thing about his heirs like ter­ror­ist Hafiz Muham­mad Saeed, has not only un­der­mined Indo- Pak re­la­tions but also in­fected the so­cial rubric of Pak­istan. Text­books, which once merely as­serted Mus­lim su­pe­ri­or­ity over Hin­dus and other non- Mus­lims, now de­monise them in the most ma­li­cious lan­guage. Fam­ily and mi­nor­ity law are caught in a cor­ro­sive down­ward spi­ral that has lit­tle prospect of re­ver­sal; and many tribal ar­eas have sim­ply slipped into bar­barism. Pak­istan has turned into what I have called a “jelly state” in Tin­der­box: The Past and Fu­ture of Pak­istan: Jelly quiv­ers con­stantly, and un­like but­ter will never melt away. Since it has an un­der­lay of a ter­ror­ist sub- struc­ture and an over­lay of nu­clear weapons, it has be­come a toxic jelly state. In­dia is a prime vic­tim.

The idea of In­dia, con­versely, has saved In­dia from its own calami­ties. The heal­ing power of democ­racy has eased the trauma of both the north- west and the north­east; the se­ces­sion­ist move­ment built around fear that Sikhism was un­der threat in sec­u­lar In­dia lost ground quickly af­ter a brief and vi­o­lent up­surge. In­dia emerged from the flames of 1980s re­born and re­sus­ci­tated, held to­gether by the prom­ise of moder­nity: Po­lit­i­cal rights, gen­der equal­ity, free­dom of faith and eco­nomic eq­uity. The idea of In­dia has proved stronger than the In­dian; the idea of Pak­istan is weaker than the Pak­istani.

The sun­der is per­ma­nent. Both par­ti­tions— Pak­istan’s from In­dia, and Bangladesh’s from Pak­istan— are ir­re­versible. Pak­istan’s an­swers lie in the man it re­mem­bers only in se­lec­tive pho­to­graphs, and whose per­sonal val­ues and ide­ol­ogy it chooses to ig­nore, Jin­nah. There is some ev­i­dence to sug­gest that Jin­nah did not fully re­alise the per­ma­nence of the sep­a­ra­tion; af­ter all, he re­fused to sell his home in Mum­bai, al­though the Nizam of Hy­der­abad of­fered Rs 10 lakh for it, a princely sum in 1947. Per­haps Jin­nah thought that Pak­istan would be akin to a princely state of the British Raj, in­de­pen­dent, but with open bor­ders. In any case, Jin­nah would have been re­pelled by the fun­da­men­tal­ism that is poi­son­ing the life of Pak­istan.

The ‘ ifs’ of his­tory are lit­tle con­so­la­tion for the cer­tainty of re­al­ity. In 1947, Amer­ica was seven seas away from In­dia; to­day an In­dian prob­a­bly feels closer psy­cho­log­i­cally to Amer­ica than to Pak­istan. In­dia and Pak­istan are di­vided by a great wall of si­lence, which lib­er­als are anx­ious to breach, which ide­o­logues are de­ter­mined to strengthen, and which peo­ple are con­demned to suf­fer.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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