Unfinished business of Partition

Think of an India without Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, animists, whoever, in our composite culture, in our everyday lives — it is inconceivable, it is unthinkable. Minority communities are part of the warp and woof of what India is. This India was not lost at Partition. In this country it has flourished, even prospered.

That India is, however, lost to Pakistan. At the parting, West Pakistan had as many Hindus as India had Muslims, roughly 13% of the population. Systematic, officially-condoned, pogroms led to Hindus and Sikhs being terrorized, evicted, and reduced to less than 2%, with this figure zeroing out with every new atrocity. Pakistan is diminished as it loses social equanimity and democratic ballast that minorities provide a country. That wonderful patchwork of communities living, at times fist by jowl, unravels, a handful of threads at a time. The next outflow may well be of Ahmediyyas as, even the  luminaries among them, such as the late physics Nobelist, Abdus Salam, are hounded, finding no peace even in death – their graves desecrated because the headstones carry Quranic verses.

Who is next in line? Probably the shias because, according to a Pew public opinion poll fully half of the majority sunnis surveyed in Pakistan thought shias were not Muslim. Little wonder sunni lumpen these days roam the streets of Pakistani towns shouting “shia kafir”. In recent days, shias returning to their homes in Gilgit, Hunza and the Northern Territories – part of the erstwhile “princely state” of Kashmir under Pakistani occupation – were pulled out of buses, lined up, and shot. Islamabad has since arranged for C-130 transport aircraft to ferry shias to their homes.

The kidnapping and forced marriage and conversion of Hindu girls, the open season on the god-forsaken Ahmediyyas, whose persecution is legalized in Pakistan, and now the increased killings of shias is the result of the spread of the Wahabbi values of desert Islam conflated with the even less tolerant Salafi strain nurtured in Saudi Arabia and propelled outwards by the Saud ruling family eager to divert this fanaticism to other climes. In South Asia, the Saudi and Gulf “charitable” funds have incubated the Hafeez Saeeds of a disordered world, the various Lashkars, and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — outfits the Pakistan Army thinks are ideal weapons of asymmetric warfare, and tools of asymmetric diplomacy to be deployed against India. Except, 49% of the Pakistani people in a recent poll, reported by Raza Rumi of the Jinnah Institute in the Express Tribune (Aug 20), identified America as the enemy, and only 26% India. Then again, these weapons have long since been turned on the Pakistani state, or haven’t the Generals noticed?

They apparently did when the jihadis, following upon the attack in May 2011 on the naval base, Mehran, in Karachi, last week struck the Minhas Air Force base in Kamra – home to the country’s main aeronautical complex, two fighter squadrons, the Saab 2000 AWACs complement, and a lot of de-mated nuclear weapons. A shaken General Parvez Kayani, Pakistan army chief, promised a “war against extremism and terrorism”. Let’s see if he delivers.

Surely, the fact that Pakistan has come to this pass is no surprise. A state built on religion invariably fractures along the lines of strict and stricter belief. Fundamentalists pushing their interpretation as the only true path confront society with peril, because the slightest deviation is apostasy punishable in their medievalist minds by death. But, which is the true Islam in a context where the argument should long ago have been settled on the basis of the natural inclination of the people of the subcontinent towards the easy going and joyful sufi variant, replete with song, dance, and music? Pakistan will likely be consumed by the antics of extremist Islamists. The trouble is India will have to pick up the pieces.

What India did not reckon with at Partition was the incapacity of the Pakistani state and people to firm up their nationhood and a national identity, even after 65 years of desperately trying. This either means that Islam as defining characteristic of a country in a polyglot, multiethnic, multi-cultural setting was a mistake because there are as many Islams centred around the Quran, as there are varieties of Hindu beliefs, and no one brand of Islam can claim supremacy and, hence, religion is not the glue many people had thought it would be in cementing a nation from a collection of disparate peoples. Worse, the infirmity of the state has compounded the problem with a visionless political leadership –  Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan gone early in the game — that never rose above the opportunistic.

India is stuck with having to tackle the infection of certain Indian Muslims by the Wahabbi-Salafi thought at the ideological end and, at the physical end, a large and growing Muslim fraction of its population with the unending seepage of Bangladeshi Muslims into lower Assam – that KPS Gill, the saviour of Punjab and former Director-General Police, Assam, had warned some two decades back would result in the colonization of a belt around Bangladesh.

This is a damned difficult task for India, a country barely able to keep its head above water, to manage. Official rhetoric requires it to live up to its secular pretensions and, as a matter of practical politics, the system is wedded to vote-banks. Can the Congress party, for instance, win in Assam without the votes of an ever-growing bloc of illegal Muslim immigrants beholden to it for legalizing their presence?  If the Congress party cannot politically afford other than to encourage such covert Muslim infiltration in the northeast, it cannot come down hard for the same reasons on the growing number of Wahabbi-Salafists in the country either, who are responsible for terrorism, communalization, and for fanning the recent panic among northeasterners living in the southern states, once considered oases of social harmony.

The unfinished business of Partition is not Kashmir, as Pakistan claims, but the fact that Pakistan cannot find social peace and Bangladesh cannot keep its people within its borders.

[Published as “Partition woes continue’ in the ‘New Indian Express’ on August 24, 2012, available at http://newindianexpress.com/opinion/article594721.ece ]

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, India's Pakistan Policy, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Unfinished business of Partition

  1. shamanth says:

    How much time do you give for Pakistan before it falls back into the dark ages? 30 years? 40? Is there any hope that the current blind run to increasing religious intolerance can be reversed?

  2. No reversal, if the social attitudes in Pakistan to a composite, multi-cultural, state and the country’s internal and external policies don’t change. Yea, 30-40 years should decide Pakistan’s fate.

  3. Kfir says:

    “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last”
    -Winston Churchill

  4. Jagdish says:

    BK Ji: Good start. Please take it to its logical conclusion.

    1. What are India’s realistic goals and objectives on TSP?
    2. Why is conciliation our best bet? What does conciliation with TSP mean?
    3. What does conciliation look like, across military, social, political, economic and geo-political spectrums?
    4. Who and what are the impediments on both sides?
    5. What risks and rewards are in play to manage the success/failure of conciliation?

    There are views and then there are views on TSP. Every Indian has one. What is lacking is a coherent, actionable realistic set of strategies, goals and objectives, which are achievable in say a time frame of a generation.

    There are many who are simply waiting for the fall of TSP based on its own contradictions and issues, where India does not have to do much. I reject his approach as foolish and cowardly and likely to result in failures, where there are only losses for India and gains for other powers, who will come in and benefit. Thoughts…a book maybe?

  5. Anjan says:

    Partition of the sub-continent, and the rise of Islamic Pakistan is a part of a well thought out conspiracy hatched in Britain prior to partition. The aim was to weaken and eventually destroy the Hindus. The British plan shows signs of success, 66 years after partition. Not only has Pakistan systematically decimated its Hindu population in the past 66years, it now eyes to destroy the Hindus in India. The 26/11 attack in Mumbai would not be possible without help of the insiders. It clearly points to the fact that Pakistan has its sympathizers and agents in every corner in India.
    Thanks to spineless and visionless leadership, India is being eaten by the termites of muslim encroachment slowly but surely.
    Indian leadership has failed to address the rationale of partition, and provide constitutional protection of the Hindus, post partition. No wonder, the Hindus will pay for their mistakes of not learning from history, and India will fall apart again in the years ahead, only a matter of time…….!

  6. arun says:

    The problem with India is that its secular pretensions are thanks to a cabal that was educated firmly in the British era delusions of all of India’s ills being traced to its hindu civilization and hence its elite have sought various ways to either change it, remove it, mollycoddle more “egalitarian” minorities, and constantly sought to appease the west. This sort of muddled thinking is what leads to continued pogroms against Hindus in so called secular India, like against the Pandits in Kashmir…and even retaliatory communal violence such as that occurred in Gujarat is blamed only on one side. Apparently to the liberal elites running our country, the massacre of hindu women and children in a train was ok. Teesta Setalvad even justified it in an article stating that after all, these people were activists and not innocent! With such bigotry deemed secular, and any anger from the other side deemed communal, its no wonder Indian bureaucrats act like whipped curs when facing Pakistan. A confused sorry thought process that cannot take pride in ALL its heritage (only the Mughals or Ashoka/Buddha matter) and constantly tries to portray how “nice” it is to a nation that loathes India for not being fully Muslim.

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