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 Wednesday, July 30 2014 @ 08:12 PM BST

Partition and the Making of the Mohajir Mindset


M Nauman Khan has read A R Siddiqui's autobiographical memoirs ' Partition and the Making of the Mohajir Mindset' , and offers him these comments...

You vociferously narrate the story of a people of žUrdu-sherwani-pyjama cultureÓ whose history was embedded in žecstatic Sufi-Bhakti loreÓ Ů folk-Islam Ů that žcame only second to the language-and-dress culture.Ó They also had žill-serving flaw in [their] psycheÓ by žtheir propensity to conjure up dreamland in countries as far and distant as Samarkand and Bukhara, which they considered ŽhomeŪ Ó and žforever dreaming of Žfar pavilionsŪ and lofty castles suspended miraculously in thin airÓ.

Later, in a newly created country where they [Indian Muslims] migrated to, their žsherwani-pyjamaÓ culture of sprawling terrain of ŽGanga YamunaŪ looked alien in the land of žkurta-shalwarÓ Ů Pakistan ža promised paradise where people of the same ilk would live together in peace and harmony, free from strife and turmoil.Ó

The mass migration of Indian Muslims to Pakistan žwas a thoroughly chaotic and desperate flight for physical survivalÓ and was apparently planned to be disorderly by the departing colonial power, in indecorous haste. No wonder žmany of them [Indian Muslims] thought they had come temporarily and would return to their homes once the storm blew over: they had no intention of staying on in Pakistan as refugees as a class distinct and apart from the localsÓ.

The colonial power accepted no responsibility for the carnage that was taking place and they refused to allow the British troops still in India to keep order or protect people. The unruly end of British Raj was a shock of epic scale. The accidental viceroy Lord Mountbatten should have been court-martialed when he got back to London, according to the historian Andrew Roberts. Similar point was made, in a rather harsh words, in his book, Our Times, by A N Wilson in his allegation that žby gross mismanagement in India he [Earl Mountbatten] was in effect, if not by intention, a mass murderer.Ó

In his book, Indian Muslims, Rafiq Zakaria noted Maulana žAzad felt apprehensive of the bloody consequences of partitioning the country; he told the Viceroy that he was playing with fire, but Mountbatten told Azad that once there was Partition, he shall see to it that there is žno bloodshed and no riot÷I will order Army and the Air Force to act and I shall use tanks and aeroplanes to suppress anybody who wants to create trouble.Ó Rafiq Zakaria lamented: žThe aftermath shocked everyone, but Mountbatten never regretted the rivers of blood that flew.Ó

The partition of the subcontinent resulted in the death of at least 1 million people and up to 15m more were forced to flee their homes. Thousands of children disappeared and thousands of women were raped. The unseemly haste of the departure plan Ů brought forward by 10 months Ů that created hurricane of violence polarised communities on the sub-continent as never before. The progroms and killing were organised by gangs, vigilantes and militias across northern, western and eastern India. Today the upheaval on both sides of the partition line would be described as ethnic cleansing on a gigantic scale. It left two traumatised, injured nations Ů suspicious and fearful of one another even to this day Ů where once there had been one country of loosely interwoven peoples. Thus the result of the Partition was the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history that still carry and pass down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror and mistrust has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare.

In India, over a period of time, now there is severe disenchantment particularly amongst the north Indian Muslims. Growing poverty, dwindling opportunity of education, lacking employment and business opportunities and surviving in ghettoes, that is what Muslim community in India could now be described as. Now north Indian Muslims are politically marginalised except that they are useful vote-banks and are ceremoniously lured to line-up outside the polling booths during election rituals.

In the backdrop, Pakistan žconfronted by issues of ethnicity and identityÓ you raise a couple of prescient questions towards the end of your book. žHas Pakistan succeeded in achieving national integration as an Islamic state? Are we a pluralistic or a divided polity?Ó You, however, leave your readers bewildered by giving your verdict: žI donŪt have the answers.Ó

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