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.
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.