This is not that Dawn

While In­dia’s claim to fame is its eco­nomic rise in this ‘Asian Cen­tury’, her peo­ple suf­fer from ab­ject poverty. And so is the case with most South Asian na­tions.

Southasia - - Cover story - By S. M. Hali

Pre-par­ti­tion In­dia was a pros­per­ous place but for the Bri­tish only and they would have con­tin­ued the Raj for an­other cou­ple of cen­turies, if the Sec­ond World War had not weak­ened the Em­pire, pro­vid­ing the pro-in­de­pen­dence move­ments in the Sub-Con­ti­nent the de­sired im­pe­tus to be re­ju­ve­nated.

Hin­dus and Mus­lims, the two main com­mu­ni­ties re­sid­ing in In­dia, had sep­a­rate agen­das. The Hin­dus were the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of the Sub-Con­ti­nent while the Mus­lims, came as in­vaders and be­came rulers till the Bri­tish dom­i­nated them. The Hin­dus wanted the Bri­tish to de­part but han­dover the reigns to them so that they could not only be­come the rulers again but also sup­press the Mus­lims to avenge nearly three hun­dred years of sub­ju­ga­tion. The Mus­lims knew that de­par­ture of the Bri­tish would only mean a change of rulers while the Hin­dus would be more bru­tal than the Bri­tish. Thus the Mus­lim lead­ers like Jin­nah, Li­aquat Ali Khan, Iqbal and oth­ers pro­posed a sep­a­rate home­land for the Mus­lims, which the Hin­dus op­posed tooth and nail.

The Brah­mins con­sid­ered Bharat (In­dia) to be their sa­cred moth­er­land, and its divi­sion was tan­ta­mount to sac­ri­lege. Hindu lead­ers like Pun­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru aligned them­selves with the Bri­tish, while at­tempt­ing to stop the cre­ation of Pak­istan or in the worst case sce­nario, ac­cede to a trun­cated Pak­istan, which would not sur­vive long and could be gob­bled up by In­dia. The Rad­cliff Com­mis­sion, charged with the duty of de­ter­min­ing the Boundary, was suf­fi­ciently co­erced by the last Bri­tish Viceroy to In­dia at the be­hest of Pun­dit Jawaha-

rlal Nehru, who had de­vel­oped very close re­la­tions with Lord and Lady Mount­bat­ten. This fact has been cor­rob­o­rated by Christo­pher Beau­mont, the pri­vate sec­re­tary of Sir Cyril Rad­cliff in his memoirs pub­lished by his grand­nephew af­ter his demise.

The par­ti­tion was pro­mul­gated in the In­dian In­de­pen­dence Act 1947 and re­sulted in the dis­so­lu­tion of the Bri­tish Em­pire. The par­ti­tion re­sulted in a mass ex­o­dus of hu­man­ity, dis­plac­ing up to 12.5 mil­lion peo­ple in the for­mer Bri­tish In­dian Em­pire, with es­ti­mates of loss of life up to a mil­lion, since ma­raud­ing bands of Hindu and Sikh fa­nat­ics set upon the refugees with equally de­praved Mus­lims re­tal­i­at­ing this side. The vi­o­lent na­ture of the par­ti­tion cre­ated an at­mos­phere of mu­tual hos­til­ity and sus­pi­cion be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan that plagues their re­la­tion­ship till this day.

The par­ti­tion of In­dia in­cluded the ge­o­graph­i­cal divi­sion of the Ben­gal prov­ince of Bri­tish In­dia into East Pak­istan and West Ben­gal (In­dia), and the sim­i­lar par­ti­tion of the Pun­jab prov­ince into West Pun­jab (Pak­istan) and East Pun­jab (In­dia). The Rad­cliff Com­mis­sion also amended the ap­proved plan to award Gurdaspur to In­dia, pro­vid­ing it with a land link to the Val­ley of Kashmir, which en­abled In­dia to phys­i­cally oc­cupy the Val­ley, re­sult­ing in the First Kashmir War of 1947-48, cre­at­ing the core is­sue of Kashmir, which has be­come a fes­ter­ing sore and flash­point be­tween the two nu­clear weapons equipped states. The par­ti­tion deal also in­cluded the divi­sion of state as­sets, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish In­dian Army, the In­dian Civil Ser­vice and other ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices, the In­dian Rail­ways, and the cen­tral trea­sury.

Pak­istan did not re­ceive even an iota of the as­sets as­signed to it which led to ma­jor prob­lems for the fledg­ling state. In the af­ter­math of Par­ti­tion, the princely states of In­dia, which had been left by the In­dian In­de­pen­dence Act 1947 to choose whether to ac­cede to In­dia or Pak­istan or to re­main out­side them? The choice for states with a Mus­lim or Hindu ma­jor­ity but the ruler be­ing of a dif­fer­ent re­li­gion was to be de­cided through a plebiscite. In­dia did not wait for the plebiscite, but force­fully oc­cu­pied Kashmir, Ju­na­gadh, Manawadar and Hy­der­abad com­pound­ing the prob­lems for Pak­istan. In 1971, due to Pak­istan’s own fol­lies and In­dian machi­na­tions, East Pak­istan was sev­ered and af­ter a bloody war, be­came Bangladesh.

Sixty four years since par­ti­tion, if one were to take a prag­matic look, one can see that In­dia set the pace for democ­racy. Bangladesh, af­ter an ini­tial pe­riod of tur­moil, strife and bloody coups, has set­tled down on the path of democ­racy. Pak­istan was un­for­tu­nate that it lost both Quaid-e-Azam Mo­ham­mad Ali Jin­nah, the founder and Quaid-e-Mil­lat, Li­aquat Ali Khan, his able suc­ces­sor in the ini­tial years. Their re­place­ments were vir­tual pyg­mies, lack­ing both vi­sion and states­man­ship, re­sult­ing in con­stant mil­i­tary takeovers, which fur­ther sti­fled the process of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. Pak­istan thus has be­come a client state of the U.S., which has used and abused Pak­istan de­pend­ing on its own agenda.

Bri­tain, the mother coun­try, which should have taken an in­ter­est in the un­re­solved prob­lems it had left be­hind at the time of par­ti­tion, has re­mained obliv­i­ous to them and has been toe­ing the U.S. line in the re­gion. In a nut­shell, the plight of the peo­ple in In­dia, Pak­istan as well as Bangladesh has not vastly im­proved. In In­dia, de­spite its claims of democ­racy and “shin­ing In­dia”, the com­mon man is suf­fer­ing, barely sur­viv­ing be­low the poverty line. The rea­son is that In­dia is spend­ing bil­lions on amass­ing weapons in its pur­suit of be­com­ing a re­gional power, to­tally ig­nor­ing its im­pov­er­ished masses. In Bangladesh, prag­matic schemes by econ­o­mists like Muham­mad Yunus of Grameen Bank fame and oth­ers has man­aged to raise the stan­dard of liv­ing of its peo­ple to some ex­tent but a lot re­mains to be done. In Pak­istan, the com­mon man has been to­tally ig­nored by sub­se­quent mil­i­tary rulers, who were more in­tent in ex­tend­ing their own rule or cor­rupt civil­ian lead­er­ship, which has been bent upon lin­ing its own nest and leav­ing the mil­i­tary to dic­tate both the de­fense as well as the for­eign poli­cies of Pak­istan leav­ing the masses tot­ter­ing and starv­ing.

It was per­haps in this sce­nario that Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in his mem­o­rable poem “Yeh who se­her to nahin”, com­ment­ing on the par­ti­tion stated: This blighted dawn, this dark­ened sun. This is not the dawn we had waited for… The night’s bur­den has not di­min­ished, The hour of de­liv­er­ance for the eye and the heart has not yet ar­rived. Face for­ward! For our des­ti­na­tion is not yet in sight. Group Cap­tain (R) Sul­tan M. Hali, now a prac­tic­ing jour­nal­ist, has con­trib­uted over 2000 ar­ti­cles, pro­duced 125 doc­u­men­taries and hosts a TV talk show. He is cur­rently based in Islamabad.

De­spite tall claims of democ­racy, the com­mon man in South Asia

con­tin­ues to seek his iden­tity.

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