There was a fresh round of official condemnation of New Delhi’s decision to mark August 14 as “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day”. Indian PM Narendra Modi announced last year that August 14 would be marked as a day to honour the “memory of the struggles and sacrifices of our people” and “keep reminding us of the need to remove the poison of social divisions, disharmony.” This would mostly be acceptable under normal circumstances. Seen objectively, beyond the Pakistani and Indian perspectives of the partition, the days leading up to the event were spattered with violence and cruelty, and the victims do deserve to have their sacrifices honoured.
But the fact that Modi chose August 14 to “remember the horrors” of the partition was clearly meant to slight the people of Pakistan on their Independence Day. Partition-related violence had begun as early as 1946, with several condemnable events occurring in the weeks and months before and after the partition. Any one of those incidents could have been used to mark such a day — the violence in Lahore and the rest of undivided Punjab on August 12, for instance, which came just as the Punjab Boundary Commission was about to announce how the province would be split.
Modi’s reasoning is also weakened by a review of his own actions during his political career, which is largely based on employing social divisions, and oppression of religious minorities in order to build his resume. He has been the most divisive Indian PM since independence — while some of his predecessors also took advantage of communal tensions, Modi has made it an art form. A violent, inhumanely cruel art form. Indeed, Modi could give some strength to his words simply by governing as the PM of all of India, rather than as the Hindutva premier. He could also start making efforts to improve ties with Pakistan so that both countries can move beyond the horrors of the partition and towards progress, rather than working to further cement the belief that the partition was the only way the Muslims of British India would be guaranteed their rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2022.
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