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A Dangerously Flawed Thesis


B.G. Verghese

GANDHI AND THE PARTITION OF INDIA: A NEW PERSPECTIVE
By Kamran Shahid
Ferozsons, Lahore, 2006, pp. 224, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

It is always useful and insightful to review past events in tranquillity after the dust of fevered controversy has settled. Hindsight helps fill in missing details and information that might have influenced contemporary judgement and could lend perspective to what was until then a confused and unfolding narrative. However, far from shedding any new light, Kamran Shahid’s “new perspective” further clouds the great issues of the day that he seeks to discuss with a perverse thesis.   Shahid upholds the two-nation theory, which Jinnah abandoned as the mere tactical ploy that it was, after it had served its purpose, when he addressed the inaugural session of the Pakistan constituent assembly in Karachi on August 11, 1947. “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you.…is first, second and last a citizen of this state (of Pakistan) with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make …You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state”. How true. That is what Gandhi had sought to preach as well, albeit in different language.   Pakistan’s own history was to prove the tragic flaw in its founding thesis when Bangladesh broke away within the span of a generation, with linguistic nationalism triumphing over religion. And how does the cycle ever stop, when the dominant minority, once separated, emerges as the new “tyrannical” majority that the residual minorities must now fight and so on until state and society are totally atomized. In other words, by fundamentally denying that plural societies can or should even exist, it extols separatism or totalitarianism and justifies sectarianism (Sunnis vs Shias and Ahmediyas beyond the pale). For Shahid, a united (plural) India was doomed to fail. But does he not want Pakistan to succeed?   It is a bizarre thesis that Shahid expounds. Sample this: “… In order to destabilise the Muslim colour of the Muslim League (the Congress) decided to contact the Muslims directly under an ill-fated ‘mass contact’ campaign. The aim of the movement was to convert the Muslims throughout India to the Congress creed with the understanding that there was no religious or ‘communal issues’ (sic) at all between Hindus and Muslims. Congress maintained that the real problem was economic and not communal…”. In short, democracy was the real threat and propagating it undermined the “...


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