PARTITION AND DIVIDE ET IMPERA
Author: Aman Abbas, I year of MA English from Zakir Husain Delhi College, DU
Just when the national political discourse is replete with the arguments of ‘absolving Jinnah of his crimes’ and the hymns of genocides are being sung in chorus at various religiopolitical gatherings, the time has never been more apt to reconsider our collective history and scrutinize the British doctrine of ‘divide et impera’ that reached its culmination in the tragic partition of India. The fact that Pakistan was created by the will of Jinnah and the willingness of the British and not by the wilfulness of Nehru is an indisputable one. No amount of sugar-coating either by left historians or by modern-day endangered Leaguers (... that Jinnah espoused a positive form of communalism) would undo this. Pakistanwas as MJ Akbar puts it ' a search for Muslim spacein a Hindu dominated India characterized by a longing for Mughal times.' Had the only reason for the sinful demand of a separate state for Muslims been the fear of the majority and the political representation, several other communities particularly the Untouchables, whom the British once tried to recognize as a separate community, would have come forward with similar demands.
That no such demand was ever made by any other minority communities, no matter how different they considered themselves to be from the dominant Hindu culture, reflectsan inherent separatism bias with which many Muslim political leaders of the nationalist era suffered from. Equally important is the fact that the movement for Pakistan was spearheaded by landlords, the Nawabs, and mainly remained restricted within the circles of elites speak much about its lack of popularity among the Muslim masses.
It was not until the elections of 1945 that established the Muslim League as the political heir of Muslims. However, since only a handful of Muslims voted due to limited franchise it would be quite wrong to conclude that the party was now the sole representative of Muslims. Failure of Cripps Mission, the arrival of an impulsive Mountbatten on the stage, and theincessant violence that ensuedafter Jinnah’s call of Direct Action Day made the idea of Pakistan, that has seemed rather impractical so far a reality. Divide et Impera It has been a general tendency to underestimate the British role in the partition of the vast and resourceful land they ruled for nearly two centuries. And with the overwhelming rise in right-wing forces this attitude of overlooking the crimes of Raj or shifting the blame to Muslim rulers anyhow, has only been accentuated further since it is only the vilification of Muslims that serves their agenda. Thus in their view, for all historical wrongs, an Aurangzeb has to be blamed.
For them, Jinnah is essentially an incarnation of Babur or a 20th century Ghazni who looted several territories from Akhand Bharat. On the other hand, cursing England today for the crimes committed in the past would serve no purposewhatsoever. Imagine burningChurchill's effigy for calling Indians ‘ a beastly people with a beastly religion. Or for letting thousands of Indians
perish duringthe Bengal Famine. Though I do not mean that Churchill is somehow a respectable figure in these circles, my only point is that a Churchill can never be as evil as an Aurangzeb or Jinnah. Calling partition‘ the original Brexit’, ShashiTharoor has rightfully pointed out the reckless attitude with which the issue of partition was dealt with by the colonial rulers. Elphinstone advised London to follow the maxim ‘ Divide et impera’ meaning divide andconquer as it was in the interest of their political position in India. In pre-colonial communities, identities were looser and fuzzier. A shared religion didn’t necessarily mean a common culture. Britishefforts of defining,classifying, and labeling the communities ended up making communities self-conscious in a way they had never been before. Since the British also tended to define these communities in mutually exclusionary terms, the possibility of antagonism between these ‘newly formed communities’ also increased. The first practical implementation of this doctrine was witnessed when Lord Curzon decided to divide Bengal in 1905 in order to thwart the nascent nationalist movement. Curzon persuaded the Nawab ofDacca for the proposed partition with a huge bribe. Althoughreversed in 1911, the partition of Bengal is a testimony to the British lack of hesitancy when it comes to dividing the people in order to rule them. It is indeed ironic that the very Muslims who became a center of colonial wrath post the revolt of 1857 was now extended unequivocal British support in their demand for a separate state. From Linlithgow's patronage to the Muslim Leaguein its initial years and Wavell's privatenegotiations to Mountabatten's generosity of giving Jinnah a veto over every proposal he found uncongenial, it was unabashed support in the cause of the creation of Pakistan. For creating divisions in the country the British should be held equally responsible as Muslim League and other minor reactionary forces if not more so because it was not only on the religious lines that the British divided us. Caste rigidities, intracommunity division all became more pronounced during this period of colonial rule to which some colonial apologists like to credit with bestowing political unity upon an otherwise distorted land that was being ruled by oriental despots. In these politically promiscuous times when everyone seems to be against everyone, it is only natural to be reminded of the past and thefew years preceding the partition of the country. What right-wing groups fail to understand is that it is beyond preposterous to hold Indian Muslims of today culprit of the partition. The occurrence of such events in the world's biggest democracy is indeed deplorable. Such hateful gatherings are highly dangerous to the social fabric of our country and only tarnish the global image of India.
The need of the hour is to take strict action against all kinds of anti-secular forces so that the dream of our constitution-makers of constituting India into a secular and democratic country is fulfilled.