A brilliant documentary by BBC on India Pakistan partition is the immediate prompt to write this. In my experience itself I have seen India's civility and chivalry giving way to an embarrassing smallness in its attitudes. I wish to trace this transformation at a personal level.
Partition was a tragedy through the times - before, during, and after it took place. Yet, it did serve some crucial purposes.
The idea of creating, and substantially owning, a new nation has its intoxicating romance and greed. This bug has bitten many - the proponents of Pakistan in the 1930s and 1940s were the first. A few rich businessmen thought they could create Khalistan. Others want Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, and so on. The utterly inhuman violence inflicted on innocent common people becomes just a footnote in this thinking.
The Direct Action Day riots in August 1946 left 4000 dead in Calcutta. It foretold the tragedy that was to follow in the run up to Partition in August 1947. All communities suffered and all excelled in their savagery.
The above documentary shares a story where a small Sikh village chose to behead ALL their own women - own mothers, sisters, daughters, wives - when mobs asked them to pay for peace with one of these women. The Sikh gentleman narrating this chokes. These incidents were repeated across Punjab and elsewhere. Such desperation, such helplessness, such inhumanity!
In hindsight it is clear that the British Viceroy was guilty of trying to hurry it up from June 1948 to August 1947. And our leaders were either ignorant, incapable, or complicit.
Mr M A Jinnah was too secure to fathom the price paid by the innocents for his pursuit of Pakistan. His supposedly brilliant case of why Hindus and Muslims are distinct nations remains a bookish argument that failed all those women and millions upon millions of uprooted and disrupted lives.
Neither Jinnah nor his more recent avatars in the form of promoters of Khalistan, Kashmir, and others realize how dangerous it is to create a nation in a hurry. These nations get hijacked. Pakistan, the 7th largest country in the world, is all but owned by the so-called Establishment. Clinging to invented insecurities, ill-thought hypotheses, and Utopian visions.
Pakistan today is a living proof that those millions of lives got destroyed and disrupted for no worthwhile reason. A nation bestowed with disproportionate share of natural resources and some of the most alive and prosperous parts of India today has the worst social indicators is in the grip of extremism.
Yet, there is one silver lining to this tragic partition. It is said that this could be avoided if Jinnah was made Prime Minister and the demand of dual electorates was accepted. Giving in to the demand of dual electorates would have been a permanent acceptance of an unequal society. India chose equality for all and it has worked. It would have worked for the undivided India too. But the London-educated barrister speaking Queen's English just did not have the sagacity worthy of the population he set out to lead.
I would like to understand how such violence could erupt. One would have thought that the tragedy of partition would make Indians and Pakistanis wiser. Yet there is tremendous violence all around. I wish to explore these in subsequent posts.