History’s bitter divide

British-sowed enmity still inflames Indians and Pakistanis, who, ironically, are warm towards the coloniser.

Written by Alizay Jaffer | Updated: October 24, 2016 1:04 pm
india pakistan, british raj, indo pak, india pakistan history, indo pak history, partition, india pakistan partiton It’s been almost 70 years. The lines of these divisions run far too deep.

From where I stand, this looks like an unusual story. Not so long ago, in the mid-18th century, Mir Jafar, commander-in-chief of the nawab of Bengal, conspired with the British to overthrow the nawab. The British were far-sighted thinkers. If there was one group that required their help to change the status quo, there must be more. And there were.

WATCH VIDEO |

 

She didn’t seem selfish, Great Britannia. If she took our raw materials and labour, she gave us much in return. We learnt English, benefited from improved communications and the mighty railways; ultimately, we had systems in place for the elixir the world calls “democracy”. For all the exploitation, there was a reward. After all, we were the star child, the feather in Britain’s colonial cap.

The British weren’t the first empire to rule India. When the British arrived, they were met by an ageing, flailing Mughal empire, crumbling under the weight of its own extravagance. The Mughals had ruled India for almost four centuries. The empire was cruel, as empires often are — but the empire was cruel to Muslims and Hindus alike. The British were quick to notice though that an empire set up by people of a particular faith, Islam, that happened to be in a minority, ruled over a majority, Hindus, for centuries. They were equally quick to point this out.

The seed was sown. Indians, instead of seeing the ruling power as a common enemy, began seeing enemies in each other. Muslims and Hindus, who’d shared the pain of being subjects of insensitive rulers, had never viewed each other with as much disdain as they began doing under the British. We could never get rid of the influence of “Divide and Rule”. Today, it’s been almost 70 years that the British left us — but our hatred is as alive, if not more. Why?

On June 24, 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU), the political and economic entity that about 28 European countries willingly agreed to be part of. Britain had been part of this since 1973 — a mere 43 years between joining and leaving. But Britain must give the EU two years notice, a suitable amount of time to leave without creating havoc in its wake. Only 43 years in. And two years to get out.

In pre-Partition India, power shifted violently from a four century-old empire to the British, who then ruled for almost 200 years. After World War II, when Indian soldiers were reminded of their capabilities to fight, when the schism between Hindus and Muslims had carved itself into the Indian psyche, when “Divide and Rule” had taken tangible shape in the two-nation theory, the British decided it was time to leave. The star child was imploding, imperialism was fast losing its value and the giant’s proverbial belly was, perhaps, finally full.

When the time came for the British to leave India, we weren’t as fortunate as the EU. Our motherland, a plethora of faiths, languages, landscapes, climates and cuisines, bound together under one common identity — India — was given short notice. Our motherland became so distinctly yours and mine.

In early 1947, the British announced they’d be out by 1948. Britain’s economy had suffered major losses and India was becoming a force they couldn’t control. The British didn’t just have to leave though. They had to carve out a separate country first. Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who’d never travelled east of Paris, was assigned the mammoth task. News of Hindu-majority states going to India and Muslim-majority states going to Pakistan began creating so much unrest, the handover was pushed to August, 1947. To exacerbate the situation, British troops started returning home. With fewer troops to manage unrest, the ensuing turmoil only echoed the sentiments of all those devastated at being divided.

Pakistan was born. Neighbours who’d once laughed together over tea, friends who broke common bread, colleagues who shared ideas, children who played together, relationships, love, anger, hope, stories of joy and sorrow, all silenced at the stroke of midnight. The great division wasn’t restricted to provinces and villages. It extended itself to people’s homes, their minds — their hearts.

It’s been almost 70 years. The lines of these divisions run far too deep.

The generations before us who left homes or witnessed the blood of innocents spilled could justify their bitterness. However, the bitterness that’s been passed on from generation to generation translates to blind hate. That kind of hate removes the possibility of analysis, promotes rigid biases, gives birth to radical elements in any society.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as much a victim of this Stockholm Syndrome towards the British as the next person. But I do wonder why we are capable of loving, or tolerating, our former colonisers, while we have no patience for one another. Our lack of patience only allows the establishment to skew our thinking further and shift the focus from issues that genuinely demand attention — clean water, sanitation, security, housing.

There is a plea here, from me and many like me, who are baffled by the disdain that flows so freely in people’s hearts on either side. The plea is not to shift your hate. The plea is simply to question it.

The writer is a Pakistani development professional and blogger.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

First Published on: October 24, 2016 2:33 am
  1. J
    Jai Kumar
    Oct 24, 2016 at 9:28 am
    Majority of Indians hate the stani establishment for meddling in our state 1947,65,71,98 etc.lt;br/gt;No one hates stanis. We do not teach distorted history to our kids. We did not want parion. But we have grown up and moved on.as long as hatred is taught not just in stani madras but in mainstream public schools against Hindu India how can the divide be bridged. Education is the key.You cannot let Jihadis and the Army dictate the way forward.lt;br/gt;Incidentally we do not. Owe anythiing to the British. We were a panchayati democracy way before Europe emerged GoToMeeting its dark ages.lt;br/gt;I live in England and am ashamed of how we could have allowed ourselves to be tuled by so few white men. You may suffer from your Scotkholm syndrome. Some of us can see the truth for what it is.
    Reply
    1. S
      Sirius
      Oct 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm
      Ataturk presided over the genocide of Armenians and Greeks. Ataturk is a worse despot than Hitler ...
      Reply
      1. S
        Sirius
        Oct 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm
        Khilafat movement had nothing to do with India. The Ottomans were anyway a decadent 'empire', and their dismantling was inevitable.
        Reply
        1. S
          Sirius
          Oct 24, 2016 at 12:36 pm
          The Turks are one of the most hated people in Balkans, Levant and Caucasus.
          Reply
          1. S
            Sirius
            Oct 24, 2016 at 6:23 am
            No, Muslims seeking a theocratic state divided and parioned India. Evaluate your theories on why Cyprus could not stay united, or why East Timor became independent from Indonesia.
            Reply
            1. S
              Sirius
              Oct 24, 2016 at 6:15 am
              You said it ! The divide is indeed religious, and it's permanent ! Indic religions, Confucianism, Shintoism follow humanism and democracy is aligned with humanism. I don't know what your Islam is based on, but it's certainly humanism and it's completely incompatible with democracy.
              Reply
              1. M
                Mahesh
                Oct 24, 2016 at 10:58 am
                Your FB post about Indo-Pak relations described situation quite accurate. Another good post here.
                Reply
                1. M
                  MyTake
                  Oct 24, 2016 at 1:32 am
                  Do what Modi says and it will be solved in 5 years.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It is not the people but the Politician who raise the "pion" for fight for political gains. Until Congress came it was OK between Muslim and Hindus and there was no problem. As years gone by under Congress the problem became bigger and bigger. Some paid Journos fell into that Congie trap to bash Hindus for political gains for their masters!
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Ramesh
                    Oct 27, 2016 at 11:37 am
                    The author seems wary @ the aggressiveness these Arab raiders have shown for more than 12 centuries now. They did the same with parts of Kashmir also after independence which leaves the deep crater in the heart of Indians -- even in the younger generations - even though they have not seen the bloodshed during the parion and resultant m scale relocations..
                    Reply
                    1. O
                      Omar S
                      Oct 24, 2016 at 8:51 pm
                      There won't be any reunification. All the peaceniks and Fascists can write whatever they want. stan is a reality and very Kashmir will be too.
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Pmp
                        Oct 24, 2016 at 7:24 am
                        An unemotional but stark reality faces us,as shown by the author,which any sane person will agree.but unfortunately majority feigns ignorance of it,especially the ruling elite,on both sides,who have vested interest in continuing to stoke the fire.but this pathetic hatred is more in stan,as evident from the continuing grip of the army,which does not allow normality between the divide.lt;br/gt;The compelling reason for the Britishers to leave the subcontinent,is also highlighted.This was evident to anyone who,analysed the British records and literature like the trilogy of novels,Jewel in crown of pre independent period but is never given due weightage,as it would have denied the undue credit of Independence to the politicians.
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          Rajat
                          Oct 24, 2016 at 12:36 pm
                          The problem is not solely political but religious. Islam is exclusionary, deeply exclusionary. Zakir Naik is not preaching any wrong version, that is true islam. And as long as those thoughts are held dear, peace is not possible.lt;br/gt;Hinduism has its flaws too. Caste system is so vicious, that it penetrated into Indian islam as well.lt;br/gt;As long as people keep on giving importance to their religious idenies, we will keep on fighting.
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            Amit P
                            Oct 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm
                            While it is true that 70 years ago both countries had started with identical palettes, the sad reality is that stan is now nothing more than a failed experiment in a petridish. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Today the seed of hatred and animosity is sown early into the minds of a stani child, through text books for half of those of who do receive any formal education and through society or state supported organisations for the rest. The government machinery does its part by feeding the country half truths on all such matters. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;As a result, an average stani grows up believing in conspiracy theories, considering Israel, America, all neighbours and not just India to be their mortal enemies and believing that stan is always the ‘victim’ and never the ‘aggressor’. Ministers, state media, ISI. the army all openly refer to India and many others as the enemy (Dushman) in formal and informal channels of communication on TV and in print. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Compare and contrast that with how India functions today and you will know where work needs to be done.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              Abu Fitna
                              Oct 24, 2016 at 1:33 am
                              It is also true that Muslim domination was halted by the British.
                              Reply
                              1. V
                                Vidhu
                                Oct 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm
                                Islam followers could not seggtegate which message coming from their prophet and which coming from their Monarch ???
                                Reply
                                1. V
                                  Vidhu
                                  Oct 24, 2016 at 10:30 am
                                  It was in early 80s that roots of Wahhabism for firmly rooted not only in public even in Government Establishment. Though seed was apparently sown under General Z-ul-Hq. Defeat of army in 1971 changed the British ways of Army.
                                  Reply
                                  1. V
                                    Vidhu
                                    Oct 24, 2016 at 10:35 am
                                    This is a wrong perception ingrained in Indian Psyche. Looters and rapists came just to do that and went back. They were as brutal and cruel to local Hindus as to local Muslims. Ghauri, Ghajni, Taimur, Changhezi, Nadr Shah ......... They were ruthless dacoits and nothing else.
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      Ajay
                                      Oct 24, 2016 at 1:00 am
                                      Who are you? I believe you have no say with your Mullah and Military (MandM). Till that time, there can not be true peace and your MandM will do enough to ensure that we hate each other....stead writing to Indians, do work in your country to contain MandM.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        Akshobh Singh
                                        Oct 24, 2016 at 5:37 am
                                        Alizay Jaffer Saheb, you have expressed your anguish. lt;br/gt;But the roots of the problem lie in the TWO NATION THEORY promoted by the founders of stan. This theory was not acceptable to the leaders of the continuing state of India. lt;br/gt;What does this so called theory say? It says, to paraphrase, that the Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations, which are not compatible with each other, and which "CHALLENGE EACH OTHER AT ALL POINTS OF THE COMP" (emphasis mine.) lt;br/gt;The stan Army considers itself as the custodian of this so called theory. It is the dominant organisation in stan, and the elected government takes a back seat in the face of the stan Army's core interests. lt;br/gt;I don't see the stan Army giving up this primacy or the theory soon. lt;br/gt;As such, unfortunately, the two countries are destined to remain at loggerheads for a long long time to come -maybe for fifty years more or longer. lt;br/gt;Nothing will change unless this poisonous so called theory is abandoned officially. lt;br/gt;This is the reality. No matter how comfortable individual Indians and stanis feel with each other, no matter that we have to labour against a common enemy in hunger, poverty and malnutrition, peace will not come to us for a long long time to come, till stan itself ENDS THE PRIMACY OF ITS ARMY.
                                        Reply
                                        1. I
                                          Ibrahim
                                          Oct 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm
                                          TB suffered M.Jinnah was responsible for parion and that was a ber, Baluchistan is also burning
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Raul
                                            Oct 24, 2016 at 7:29 pm
                                            Parion really had nothing to do with religion.It was due to personal ambitions of two followers of hi.i.e. Nehru and Jinnah..both wanted to be the first Prime Minister of independent India..hi was unable to convince either to give in to another,he tried but neither listened.hi was in favor of Nehru so Jinnah fired the religious sentiments of Muslims to ask for a Muslim nation. The truth is 2 power hungry politicians and a bunch of leaders with Lord Mountbatten planned parion and price was paid by both communities. If these two countries unite ..they will make a power which can beat china and dominate Asia... After the second world war Germany too was divided into two but the reunited but we continue to fight..who's wise !!
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments