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The Dialogue Continues

T.C.A. Rangachari

By Avtar Singh Bhasin
Geetika Publishers, New Delhi, 2012, --, Rs. 2500.00


‘We will either have a divided India or a destroyed India’ were M.A. Jinnah’s words announcing 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day.   The division, described as a ‘parting kick’ of the British by the then Minister of Communications of Pakistan, Abdur Rab Nishtar, took place a year later. Whatever the revisionist historiographers might say about Jinnah’s intent regarding Partition, he ended up presiding over Pakistan—‘maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten’—created as a consequence of the division of India.   The destruction part still seems to remain an objective, at least in the minds and actions of some sections in Pakistan.   The mindless violence of the Direct Action Day was a precursor to the horror that accompanied the Partition a year later. Countless lost their lives, were rendered homeless and brutalized in multiple ways. The polarization and consequent hatred, even enmity that developed between Hindus and Muslims led Sadat Hasan Manto to observe that the Congress had come to resemble a temple and the Muslim League a mosque. The bitterness, rancour, and distrust that flowed in consequence, left a legacy that is still to be overcome six-and-a-half decades later.   It is for this reason that this documentation—voluminous because it is so comprehensive—of the first sixty years of Indo-Pak relations assumes significance. It contains a wealth of material that should help us better understand the dynamics of the thought processes informing mutual perceptions and the actual conduct of the relationship. The initial days, months and years were spent in coming to grips with the new reality of divided territories and sovereignties that had been imposed on an ancient land and peoples. It was not just, as A.S. Bhasin notes in his Introduction, a division of land and rivers, of a single market transformed into two, of barriers springing up overnight to free movement of peoples; it meant also dividing up assets and liabilities down to chairs and tables, pens and pencils!   The biggest fear that Pakistan nurtured was that India had not accepted the reality of the Partition and the creation of Pakistan. It went to the very top. Thus, Mountbatten recorded that Jinnah had said to him on 1 November 1947 that, ‘it was quite clear that the Dominion of India was out to throttle and choke the Dominion of Pakistan at birth and that if they continued with their oppression there would be nothing for it but to ...

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