Monday, June 26, 2017

Coming to terms with the Partition

Was the Partition of India avoidable?

Of course it was!

One simple course of action to avoid Partition would have been for all the non-Muslims of India to voluntarily, peacefully and immediately convert to Islam.  There would have been no Partition.

Of course, that is not what most people mean when they talk about this question.   The correct question is - "Was the Partition of India avoidable at a cost that was acceptable to the Indian nationalists?"   (The Indian nationalists included the Indian National Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha, and a multitude of other parties, all of whom favored a united  India.  The main separatists were the All India Muslim League, and they had some minor company  like the Communist Party of India, and some long-forgotten Dravidianists.)

"Was the Partition of India avoidable at a cost that was acceptable to the Indian nationalists?"

With the 20/20 vision of being able to look back at history, the answer to that question is - No. The nuanced answer is - most likely No.

Of course, no leader in 1946 could have known that answer with the certainty that we have today.  And the nationalists did try very hard to avoid Partition. 

So, e.g., when Tapan Ghosh‏ @hstapanghosh tweets
For Partition Nehru alone was not responsible. It was the defeat/failure of our the then collective leadership & elite class Hindus society.
what was the defeat/failure of the collective leadership and elite-class Hindu society?

In my opinion,  most of the leadership has still not grasped their failure.  The failure was not in avoiding Partition; but in not anticipating and planning for the contingency that Partition might be unavoidable.  B.R. Ambedkar is about the only leader who put some serious thought into that, and C. Rajagopalachari comes in a distant second in this arena.   Everyone else, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel, were in deep denial.   Many Indians today are still caught in the "those leaders could have avoided Partition, if only....".   E.g., if only Jawaharlal Nehru hadn't had his press conference on July 10, 1946.

Once you accept the possibility that Partition might be unavoidable, you start thinking about how to get the best possible result for the Indian union that remains.  We don't see much evidence of that happening except whatever little was possible in the very last couple of months of British rule.

Now, the British had their fingers on the scales, and it is not clear that any contingency planning to deal with an inevitable Partition would have been in any way fruitful.  But there was no such thinking or planning, and even today, far too many Indians are still in the deep denial that I've mentioned above. 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Nehru's press conference, July 10, 1946

From the Annual Register, 1946, and The Transfer of Power 1942-7, Volume VIII, #16.  {The changes to the Annual Register account derived from T.O.P. are in blue}

Congress and the Cabinet Plan
Pt. Nehru Explains Issues

The Congress President, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in a 75-minute Press Conference at Congress House Bombay, on the 10th July discussed a number of important questions such as the position of Indians in Ceylon, the Constituent Assembly, the grouping of provinces as contained in the Cabinet Mission's statement of May 16, the subjects that will come within the purview of the Union Centre, what the Congress proposes to do in the Constituent Assembly, how the Kashmir Government's ban against his entry into that State has become an all-India issue between the Indian National Congress and the States' People's Conference on the one side and the Political Department of the Government of India and the Kashmir State on the other.  This last subject, he said, was likely to affect other matters including the whole question of the States in the Constituent Assembly.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


"Rashtrapita" or "Rashtra pita" translates to "Father of the Nation".  Somewhere along his career, Mahatma Gandhi acquired that appellation.

Per a 2012 article in the Hindustan Times, a ten-year old girl, under RTI (Right to Information) asked the government when Gandhi acquired "Father of the Nation" status,  and the government archivists were flummoxed.
Who named Mahatma Gandhi 'father of nation'? Govt foxed
April 4, 2012

A Lucknow girl's simple query to know if Mahatma Gandhi was ever conferred the title of 'The Father of The Nation' has come a cropper.

From the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) no one seems to really know the answer to the 10-year-old's question.

They coolly forwarded the RTI plea of class VI student Aishwarya Parashar to the National Archives of India (NAI), the body that claims to be the repository of the non-current records of the Government of India. Surprisingly, the NAI, after a hectic search in their records, was unable to find the desired information and requested Aishwarya to come and search for it in NAI's public records and library material herself.

Jayaprabha Ravindran, assistant director of archives and chief public information officer (CPIO) wrote back in a letter dated March 26: "As per search among public records in the National Archives of India, there are no specific documents on the information sought by you."
The maintainers of Gandhiana credit Subhas Chandra Bose: was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who first addressed him as such in his condolence message to the Mahatma on the demise of Kasturba.

Ba and Bapu had been interned at Aga Khan Palace, Pune in the wake of the Quit India Movement. It was while serving the prison term Kasturba passed away on 22 February, 1944.

Concerned about Gandhiji, Netaji sent the following message to the Mahatma on Azad Hind Radio, Rangoon on 4th June, 1944.
"...........Nobody would be more happy than ourselves if by any chance our countrymen at home should succeed in liberating themselves through their own efforts or by any chance, the British Government accepts your `Quit India' resolution and gives effect to it. We are, however proceeding on the assumption that neither of the above is possible and that a struggle is inevitable.

Father of our Nation in this holy war for India's liberation, we ask for your blessings and good wishes".
Note that this is after the death of Kasturba Gandhi.  But Women in the Indian National Movement: Unseen Faces and Unheard Voices, 1930-42, by Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert (2006), mentions an article in the Hindi magazine Saraswati: Devidutt Shukla, Rashtra Mata Kasturba, Saraswati, September 1938.  "Rashtra Mata" translates to "Mother of the Nation".

This suggests that Mahatma Gandhi got this appellation earlier than 1944.

Note also that people called Gandhi "Bapu" or "Bapuji" - "father" - an honorific for an elderly man; and it might be an easy observation someone made that a nation calls him "father".

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Confronting each other in every village

The Indian nationalists would not participate in World War II merely to perpetuate British rule over India.  Edward John Thompson (1886-1946) wrote "Enlist India for Freedom!"(1940) to argue for something different.  But:
In my talk with Mr. Jinnah last October, there was this exchange: there is no harm in quoting it, since it is what he has said so often and so often.

"Two nations, Mr. Jinnah!  Confronting each other in every province? every town? every village?"

"Two nations.  Confronting each other in every province.  Every town.  Every village.  That is the only solution."

"That is a very terrible solution, Mr. Jinnah!"

"It is a terrible solution.  But it is the only one".

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jinnah: "I don't regard myself as an Indian"

(Originally blogged about here.)

In an interview of Jinnah by Norman Cliff, published in the News Chronicle(London) of March 30, 1946, Jinnah declared "I don't regard myself as an Indian".  This was just after the Cabinet Mission arrived in India, and just before they arrived at Delhi to start conferring with Indian leaders.  This interview was mentioned in the Times of India a couple of days later, and so was known in India.

With respect to Ayesha Jalal's thesis that Jinnah never intended the existence of an independent Pakistan, I suppose Jinnah's regarding himself not as an Indian was also merely a negotiating ploy.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Islamic Roots of Pakistan

A Nation Insufficiently Imagined? Debating Pakistan in Late Colonial North India
by Venkat Dhulipala
Indian Economic Social History Review July/September 2011 vol. 48 no. 3 377-405

This paper is a must-read.   But here is an excerpt, emphasis and {} added.  This is about how Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani put the idea of Pakistan in a Quranic/historic context, that helped the Muslim League win the 1945-46 elections

I'm told by a respected BRFer that

Jinnah & ML were able to 'recruit' such key conspirators as Usmani or the Pir of Manki Sharif (who won NWFP for the ML and also sent jihadists into J&K in October 1947) for their pet Pakistan project. Jinnah conceded space to these Islamists in order to win their support. In the previous page we saw how Jinnah promised allegorically to Mawdudi that the land he was acquiring can be used to build a mosque. But, with the Pir of Manki Sharif, who was more rustic and not sophisticated like Mawdudi, Jinnah was forced to spell out the exact details. The letter that Jinnah wrote to the Pir of Manki Sharif, in Naushera of NWFP, in which he said that Shariah will be imposed in Pakistan to manage the affairs of the Muslim Community, was produced in the Constituent Assembly in 1949 to support the Objectives Resolution.

In fact, the two Usmani brothers (Zafar Ahmed Usmani & Shabbir Ahmed Usmani) became the lynchpin during the critical phase before and after Independence. They became very close to Jinnah. Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani had already apostatized Shi'a (and Jinnah was a Shi'a !). This Usmani was asked by Jinnah himself to raise the Pakistani flag in Karachi, the then capital, on August 14, 1947. It was this same Usmani who later drafted the Objectives Resolution. He also led the janazaa prayers of Jinnah (in the Sunni way) in public after Ms. Fatima Jinnah had secretly conducted the same in a Shi'a way.  Maulana Usmani famously demanded ‘jiziya’ from non-Muslims in the Constituent Assembly and told Pakistan’s first Minister for Law and Labour, Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, that non-Muslims should not hold such key posts in an Islamic state, an advice that a disgusted Mondal took to heart and resigned.