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Questions of Identity and Nationality

Alpana Kishore

By Jasbir Jain
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2006, pp. 338, Rs. 750.00


Pichhwa the wrestler—a character from Intizar Husain’s classic An Unwritten Epic—a larger than life, fearless, action hero who has fended off a Jat attack on his UP village Qadirpur, receives the news of Pakistan’s formation with an ‘immense chill’. Upset at Qadirpur being left out of its Islamic brotherhood, Pichhwa with his other simple minded friends and shagirds hoist the Islamic flag on the village peepul tree (after being dissuaded by wiser Muslims against hoisting the League flag) and resolve to make their ‘own separate Pakistan’. Meanwhile the more worldly wise, smarter Muslims in the neighbourhood plan their stealthy departure for Pakistan.   This moment in time epitomizes the real ideological tragedy of Pakistan’s formation—the gross dissonance between its so called ‘high’ ideological declarations and its ‘low’ deliverance and reality. While the creamy layer of the political elite lapped up the immediate rewards of Pakistan—a country that brought them back the ruling elite status they so sought, cleansed forever of better educated Hindu competition—the Pichhwas of the world on whose backs the movement to create this elite haven had been carried and whose emotions had been scavenged and managed, to raise the hysteria for the demand for Pakistan to mass levels—found themselves dispensable once the deal was done.   The author highlights the utter destruction of Pichhwa’s world as he sets about credulously following the ‘high’ ideals, moves to Pakistan where his fearless and devil-may-care village existence is ripped away by the pressing need to get a job, a leg up in the new world, a plot of land for an akhara—all of which neither the Muslim state nor his former fellow villagers stretch out a hand for. Bewildered, dazed and disturbed, he returns to the ‘home’ he has burnt his bridges with, only to find he can no longer resume his earlier carefree existence in a village changed beyond imagination by the new dispensation. Not only is the area where the demand for Pakistan arose to be forever in Hindu majority India—a reality that sinks in only now, the internal dynamics between the two communities too, are hereafter permanently altered by the demand itself. Stuck like the Bihari Muslims in Bangladesh that Pakistan refuses to acknowledge, Pichhwa hangs himself from the same village peepul tree on which he had hoisted his ‘Islamic’ flag —in the end just a piece ...

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