I had no idea that my last column entitled “Celebrating Independence” would evoke a battery of comments. It was not so much the line about Pakistan being wrenched out of the subcontinent, but the bit about Partition splitting the Muslims into three geographical areas that launched the remarks. From the tone and tenor of the statements, it appears that most of the comments came from across the eastern border. This is not at all surprising because Indians apparently surface the net considerably more than Pakistanis do and I have been told on good authority that The Express Tribune is widely read in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi — on the net, of course.
Nevertheless, it is difficult discussing Partition and the subsequent plight of the Muslims in India without mentioning Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and his remarkable book India Wins Freedom — both, the expurgated edition where the deletion of certain pages was allegedly carried out on the orders of Pandit Nehru, and the unexpurgated edition. The thrust of this politician, who served as president of the Indian National Congress, was that before Partition, the Muslims of India were outnumbered by the Hindus by four to one, and after Partition the ratio would change to eight to one. One of the commentators did comment, however, that while Maulana Azad was not particularly popular, he was still a great visionary, whereas while MA Jinnah was hugely popular, he was nevertheless a poor visionary.
I avoided mentioning this remarkable thinker because though there is still a number of persons in this country who believe that Partition was a mistake, the point is Pakistan was created, for better or worse, and has managed to exist for 66 years, in spite of having had a litany of misfortune and thwarted good intentions. Besides, it’s the only country we have and can call home. I don’t want to go into the genesis of the move for Partition, the roles played by Pandit Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, and how they ganged up against Mr Jinnah. Nor do I want to go into the pressure exerted by the Americans on the British to relinquish their hold on India. The theory behind the move was that the Americans had already foreseen the East-West polarisation that was taking place in the world and saw the British Indian Army, which was relatively intact, as some kind of irritant.
However, the general feedback that I get from conversations with Pakistani visitors to various Indian cities, and the perusal of letters in the Indian press, suggest that Indians, by and large, hate Pakistanis much more than the other way around. In fact, whenever this distasteful topic crops up in a gathering in Karachi, both at the academic as well as the frivolous level, where India is exclusively represented by shopping in Jaipur and Jodhpur, I have personally never heard anybody express anything other than admiration for what that country has been able to achieve since independence. We were doing all right until 1969 — and then, we had a string of the worst kind of leadership, all pomp bereft of circumstance, headed first by a megalomaniac who destroyed the industrial structure of the country and his successor, who indulged in a military adventure from which the nation has never recovered. It’s a pity the two subcontinental neighbours are still at loggerheads, even though they share a common history, language, cuisine and culture. At least, a Pakistani visitor to India is not treated like a second class citizen as he is in parts of the Gulf and Europe. One can only hope that relations between the two neighbours are soon normalised.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.