Ram Madhav is being pilloried by the Congress and BJP alike, including the his own party spokesperson MJ Akbar, for simply expressing a wish to see India, Pakistan and Bangladesh peacefully reunited one day based on “popular consent”.
He didn’t say Pakistan or Bangladesh were less sovereign nations. He didn’t propose for an attack on Pakistan or Bangladesh to forcibly reintegrate them into India. But the ruling class of India went berserk. They reacted as if Madhav was the second coming of Hitler who was going to invade Pakistan and Bangladesh, annex parts of those countries, if not devour them whole.
Admittedly the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has an unsavoury history. Its link to Maharma Gandhi’s assassination through a former RSS man, Nathuram Godse, is a prominent and despicable part of Indian history. And I understand the fury with which Madhav was attacked. It probably grew out of that history of the RSS and its obsession with all things Hindutva.
I know it is hard to do but if we dissociate his wish from the RSS, Madhav is much like millions of non-RSS Indians who also believe the miracle of German reunification is something that could happen in the Indian subcontinent. I have spoken to many Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Not all but some of them – the secular types in particular – do support the notion that one day such reunification could happen. Even if it never happens one doesn’t kill a dreamer for sharing his dream with the world.
The post-war division of Germany happened in the aftermath of the downfall of the Third Reich. As the grip of the Soviet Union weakened, German people broke down the Berlin Wall. Before, during and after that war Mahatma fought the good fight for a free, united and secular India. The Congress and the Muslim League, each for its own reasons, snatched division — a defeat of Mahatma’s idea of one India — from the jaws of victory and freedom for one India from the British rule. Just as the post Second World War allies did to Germany, the British Imperialists divided India. It was a division foisted by the British and accepted by the ruling elite of the day — the leadership of the freedom movement sans the Mahatma.
No one had asked the Indians or the Pakistanis to be whether they wanted India split into two; nobody asked my grandfather who had spent over 8 years in the British Indian jails as part of the Freedom Movement; nobody asked my then adult father and mother. They were given a fait accompli. Hence one may regard the division of India as legitimate or illegitimate despite conceding that Pakistan and Bangladesh, once carved, are sovereign entities. But one can still ask the question: why can’t Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis express a wish that might never come true. A wish for one India, provided it came together peacefully through popular will?
That is how I arrive at this question. As someone who has for over three decades fought the Khalistani elements of the diaspora I believe if the wannabe splitters of India are free to express themselves, why can’t the prospective unifiers do the same? This matter is not about the sensibilities of our kith and kin in Pakistan or Bangladesh. It is not even about the bruised sensibilities of the Nehru/ Gandhi family (not the Gandhis of Mahatma) upon hearing the alternative narrative of how India came to be divided with Nehru’s consent but against the wishes of the Mahatma.
Mahatma was no RSSer. He was the antithesis of everything RSS. Were he alive today he would stand against everything the RSS stands for. He would wish Pakistan and Bangladesh a bright future. He would also dream of the day when democratically they could choose to come together with India in a more perfect union than India was under the British imperialists. That was the kind of extra ordinary Indian he was — unlike the dwarves populating the Indian ruling and chattering classes today.
The author is a former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health.
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