It has been excruciating to watch the pain, blood and anguish in Jammu and Kashmir. The suicidal deadly dance of Pakistan’s ruling elite over the last several decades hasn’t escaped anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to the tensions between India and Pakistan, the twins of the bloody Partition of India by Britain in 1947.
A mere 69 years ago, a short time in the life of a nation, Nehru and others allowed a foreign invader to divide the country based on religion before accepting the reins of the divided parts. My own Nanaji spent many years in the jails locked up by the colonialists for challenging their illegitimate rule. So I intend to take nothing away from the long and hard struggle for Independence when I ask those who accepted the poisoned chalice of Partition: What was the rush? Why couldn’t they say to Britain, “For India’s sake leave us to our own devices?”
Some argue if Partition hadn’t been accepted, there would have been bloodshed. Ask the families of those who were slaughtered in the movement of population across the borders of a truncated India: thousands lay dead and maimed in the massacres that followed the Partition that was meant to avoid violence.
India is now dealing with the consequences of the Partition agreed to by almost all the players of the first government of free India after 1947 including Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar. Mahatma Gandhi had pulled himself away because in the rush to attain Independence and power, others were prepared to accept a bisected or rather trisected India. He hated the idea, but was unable to stop it. In their rush to power in Independence, others accepted the terms offered to them by a fading British Empire; and the future generations of Indians may judge them harshly for it.
Despite any mistakes they may have made — and accepting a divided India was a mistake — Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar created a framework and laid strong foundations for a secular, inclusive, egalitarian and democratic India. Although India has not made as much progress as it has had the potential to, the enduring democracy of India has been no mean feat at all.
But none of that erases the original sin: the sin of consenting to Partition in the first place. Nehru and others could have and should have argued with the British to leave us to our own devices; if some didn’t like the idea of a united and sovereign India including the Pakistan and Bangladesh of today and chose to become marauders and murderers, they would have been our marauders and our murderers. Left undivided and to our own devices, our choice would have been to deal with it or disintegrate, to live together or perish. I have no doubt the idea of a united, progressive and secular India would have prevailed; we would have persevered. If we had failed, it would have been our failure. To be sovereign and wrong is preferable to being dictated to by departing colonial masters.
PM Modi’s remarks on Balochistan are interesting and will have international repercussions. Already, a spokesman of Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry is threatening to take the matter to the UN as PM’s remarks are alleged to be “in violation of the UN Charter” as an interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. The truth is that not only Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir is Indian; the whole of Pakistan and Bangladesh were Indian until illegitimately separated by the imperialists. Even though the governments of Independent India have always treated Pakistan as a sovereign country, at its very core the Partition of India wasn’t just a man-made calamity, it was legally absolutely flawed. The vast majority of Indians alive in 1947 didn’t get asked whether they wanted Partition. India and Indians never elected to be partitioned. Nobody had a referendum to ask my Nanaji, who between 1918 and 1947 spent more years than not in British jails and detention, whether he wanted or agreed to Partition. Nobody asked my adult parents, activists in the freedom movement, whether they agreed to the division of their beloved India. Partition was unjustly and illegally foisted on Indians by a departing imperial power in 1947. A Partition imposed by foreign imperial rulers without ascertaining the will of the populace ought to be regarded as void ab initio.
So India standing up for peace and human rights in Balochistan is not interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. And if Pakistan wants to discuss to whom Jammu and Kashmir belongs, our position should be simple: Pakistan, including the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is our internal affair and we shall not brook any international interference in our dealings with it.
The above argument being the stick, the carrot would be to say to Pakistan: Let us quit arguing and fighting. And even if we do not reunite like East and West Germany and eventually come together as we were before the plundering colonialists and blundering politicians made us two from the one that we were, at least we can live in peace across borders — as kith and kin that we undeniably are.