India completed 60 years of its independence day before yesterday. Ironically, I did not feel even a bit patriotic and proud of it. The State of ours today is in shambles; impunity and violence are rampant. Machinery existent to protect and regulate the use of sovereign power seem to be fading away. Kashmir and Nagaland still burn. Hindus and Muslims still fight. The poor are still poor and we still have a distaste for the caste system. I dont feel proud of this Country.
Once in a while, I read the NewYorker online edition to be aware of US sattires and activities. This time however, I saw this article by Pankaj Mishra on the New yorker talking about the legacy of the Indian Partition.
The article starts with an anecdote which is an interesting read;
Sixty years ago, on the evening of August 14, 1947, a few hours before Britain’s Indian Empire was formally divided into the nation-states of India and Pakistan, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina, sat down in the viceregal mansion in New Delhi to watch the latest Bob Hope movie, “My Favorite Brunette.” Large parts of the subcontinent were descending into chaos, as the implications of partitioning the Indian Empire along religious lines became clear to the millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs caught on the wrong side of the border. In the next few months, some twelve million people would be uprooted and as many as a million murdered. But on that night in mid-August the bloodbath—and the fuller consequences of hasty imperial retreat—still lay in the future, and the Mountbattens probably felt they had earned their evening’s entertainment.
Pankaj then proceeds to talk about how we Indians made our tryst with destiny and sought to set India free. But that, he argues, was not for the secular India but for protecting the interests of a 400 million hindus and not caring about the Muslims who stayed back in India. The article also talks about Nehru and Jinnah’s policies and actions during the brief period of finalising the partition. The idea of the article seems to be to give a brief of the partition history of India by citing incidents relevant in this regard.
Below are certain excerpts from the article;
But sectarian riots in Punjab and Bengal dimmed hopes for a quick and dignified British withdrawal, and boded ill for India’s assumption of power. Not surprisingly, there were some notable absences at the Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi on August 15th. Gandhi, denouncing freedom from imperial rule as a “wooden loaf,” had remained in Calcutta, trying, with the force of his moral authority, to stop Hindus and Muslims from killing each other. His great rival Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who had fought bitterly for a separate homeland for Indian Muslims, was in Karachi, trying to hold together the precarious nation-state of Pakistan.
Trains carrying nothing but corpses through a desolate countryside became the totemic image of the savagery of partition. British soldiers confined to their barracks, ordered by Mountbatten to save only British lives, may prove to be the most enduring image of imperial retreat. With this act of moral dereliction, the British Empire finally disowned its noble sense of mission. As Paul Scott put it in “The Raj Quartet,” the epic of imperial exhaustion and disillusion, India in 1947 was where the empire’s high idea of itself collapsed and “the British came to the end of themselves as they were.”
The British Empire passed quickly and with less humiliation than its French and Dutch counterparts, but decades later the vicious politics of partition still seems to define India and Pakistan. The millions of Muslims who chose to stay in India never ceased to be hostages to Hindu extremists. As recently as 2002, Hindu nationalists massacred more than two thousand Muslims in the state of Gujarat. The dispute over Kashmir, the biggest unfinished business of partition, committed countries with mostly poor and illiterate populations to a nuclear arms race and nourished extremists in both countries: Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, Hindu nationalists in India. It also damaged India’s fragile democracy—Indian soldiers and policemen in Kashmir routinely execute and torture Pakistan-backed Muslim insurgents—and helped cement the military’s extra-constitutional influence over Pakistan’s inherently weaker state. Tens of thousands have died in Kashmir in the past decade and a half, and since 1947 sectarian conflicts in India and Pakistan have killed thousands more.
Many ethnic minorities chafed at the postcolonial nationalism of India and Pakistan, and some rebelled. At least one group—Bengali Muslims—succeeded in establishing their own nation-state (Bangladesh), though only after suffering another round of ethnic cleansing, this time by fellow-Muslims. Other minorities demanding political autonomy—Nagas, Sikhs, Kashmiris, Baluchis—were quelled, often with greater brutality than the British had ever used against their subjects.
Meeting Mountbatten a few months after partition, Churchill assailed him for helping Britain’s “enemies,” “Hindustan,” against “Britain’s friends,” the Muslims. Little did Churchill know that his expedient boosting of political Islam would eventually unleash a global jihad engulfing even distant New York and London. The rival nationalisms and politicized religions the British Empire brought into being now clash in an enlarged geopolitical arena; and the human costs of imperial overreaching seem unlikely to attain a final tally for many more decades.
We still suffer from the stains left by the partition of India. Communal clashes and Kashmir and the direct causes of it.