Addressing a public rally last Sunday Congress spokesperson Mr. Shakeel Ahmed described Mr. LK Advani as a Pakistani who came to India to seek power. Mr. Shakeel Ahmed said: “Pakistan born Advani’s intention was not to serve Hindus but he wanted to become Prime Minister of India. Advani was not just born in Pakistan but he also completed his Bachelors degree from Pakistan. He has only completed his Law degree from a Mumbai college. After completing Bachelors degree, a person thinks about his career. Advaniji’s thought was also the same. After taking Bachelors degree, he decided to serve Hindu community. This is ok, but his intention was to grab the power. In Pakistan, the Hindu population is three per cent and their condition is also very poor. If Advaniji really wanted to serve Hindus, he must have stayed in Pakistan and fought for them. But he knew that it was not possible to become even an MP or Prime Minister candidate in Pakistan, so he decided to move back to India for power’s greed.” The BJP condemned Mr. Sahkeel’s statement and demanded immediate apology from the Congress party. An apology is inadequate. Much, much more needs to be done. The time has come for plain speaking.
This is not the first time that such criticism has been leveled against Mr. Advani due to his origins from what is now Pakistan. I hold no brief for Mr. Advani and have often criticised his decisions. But I take this latest jibe against him personally because I too was born in what is now Pakistan. I was born in Karachi and belonged to Lahore and came to Delhi aged twelve after my father was transferred by the government from Karachi to Delhi in 1947. Mr. Shakeel Ahmed and others who consider those who at the time of Partition belonged to what is now Pakistan as being in some manner different from them are right. They were not people who betrayed the nation, their own most solemn assertions, their honour and their principles. They were victims of the betrayers who did all this. By his jibe against people born in Pakistani Mr. Shakeel Ahmed has opened a can of worms. He has provoked a reappraisal of history and the role of the Congress party. Mr. Kuldip Nayar, also born in Pakistan, in a recent article wrote that it is futile to discuss who was responsible for the Partition because it is now only of academic interest. I beg to differ. After Mr. Shakeel Ahmed’s remarks it is necessary to understand the past in order to deal with the present and chart the future.
Mr. Advani some years ago called Jinnah a secularist and praised him. He was reviled for it. His comment indeed betrayed ignorance. Jinnah was of course secular. He was a brown Englishman like Nehru. He deserves for that reason to be doubly criticized. He went against all he believed to be true by allowing himself to be manipulated by the British under direction of Winston Churchill. Sir Martin Gilbert’s biography of Churchill should dispel all doubts on that score. His counterpart Nehru was another brown Englishman manipulated by Lord Mountbatten. Maulana Azad”s book and Nehru’s inexplicably self defeating decisions affirm that. Around the time of Independence I heard as a boy Nehru addressing a rally at India Gate. He justified Partition by saying that when a hand becomes diseased it has to be cut off. Even at that tender age I heard him with utter contempt. Deprived of our ancestral home in Lahore, disrupted from my elite schooling in Karachi, our entire joint family struggling to reclaim an ordered life, I knew that among the refugees we were the lucky ones, with our lives intact, employed for the most part by the government or by universities, compared to the jobless, the bereaved and the homeless thrown into makeshift camps. “What a twit,” I thought. “We of the Punjab lived in a diseased land while you from Allahabad live in a healthy land?” I will not dwell on the betrayal of all that the Congress claimed it stood for by accepting the Partition. Books have been written on the subject. But the recall of a few salient facts would be in order.
The Congress formally accepted Partition on June 3, 1947. There was tension and political divide between the Congress and the Muslim League but entirely insufficient violence to justify the decision. After Jinnah’s call for Direct Action Day in Bengal around 5000 people were killed in Bengal riots, followed by 7000 killed in Bihar riots. In Punjab approximately 3000 were killed in stray stabbings including one major riot in Rawalpindi on March 16 after Mountbatten had become Viceroy.
On the crucial day that the Congress Working Committee (CWC) accepted Partition Mahatma Gandhi observed his day of silence. Mountbatten met him and expressed surprise and the hope that Gandhi would not oppose the CWC resolution. Gandhi assured him that he would not.
India was partitioned first and the provinces, Punjab and Bengal, were partitioned later. The Punjab assembly was divided between Muslim majority West Punjab and the Hindu-Sikh majority East Punjab to ascertain the view about partitioning Punjab from both sides. The Hindus and Sikhs knowing that Pakistan had already been accepted voted for partitioning Punjab in order to remain with India. The Muslims voted against partitioning Punjab.
Punjab’s foremost Muslim leader Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan before his death stated in 1942 that if the creation of Pakistan meant the partition of Punjab, he would not accept Pakistan. The Chief Minister of Punjab Sir Khizar Tiwana in 1947 pleaded with the British not to partition the Punjab even if that meant that the rest of India was granted freedom and the British would remain in the Punjab.
The Punjab Governor Sir Bernard Glancy advised Whitehall to immediately announce the boundary of proposed Pakistan. He said that if the Punjab was partitioned there would be no Pakistan because the Punjabi Muslims would never accept partitioning the province. The preceding Punjab Governor Sir Evan Jenkins wrote to Whitehall that partitioning a wholly integrated province like Punjab would create an unmitigated disaster. Whitehall ignored both British Governors.
In a unique unprecedented example in history two new sovereign nations were granted independence without determining their respective territories! Independence was proclaimed on August 15 while the Radcliff Award to demarcate boundaries was announced on August 17.
While the total number of riot victims across India during the two year period before Independence was approximately 16000, the total killed within four months after Independence in Punjab alone was between 6 lakhs to one million. The total number of displaced refugees was over 10 million, the largest displacement of population in recorded history.
Both Gandhi and Nehru acknowledged their mistakes and tried to undo the Partition. By that time both had been crushed and defeated by events. While Gandhi did not oppose Partition after a few thousand had been killed he tried to settle down in Lahore with 50 refugee families in a camp set up Dr. Sushila Nayar to undo the Partition after a million had been killed. He was assassinated just before he could go to Lahore.
Nehru, who had rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan to create a united India in the form of a federation comprising India and Pakistan, sent Sheikh Abdullah to Pakistan to negotiate an Indo-Pakistan confederation with Kashmir acting as the bridge. Nehru died while the Sheikh was in Pakistan.
Both Gandhi and Nehru deserve praise for at least recognizing their errors and sincerely trying to rectify them although it proved too late. But Congress leaders who strut around today as the winners of India’s freedom have recognized no errors. Gandhi’s very last wish on the day he died was that the Congress party should be dissolved. His wish will come true.
Mr Shakeel Ahmed’s remark criticising Mr Advani was directed against the BJP. Congress leaders are wasting their time by targeting the BJP. The existential threat to the Congress will not come from any current party. It will not come from even Lokpal activists who try to recreate a spurious freedom struggle by wearing Congress style caps, courting arrest and undertaking fasts.
A demographic change has occurred in the subcontinent. A vast new generation of young Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis has access to information technology. They are hungry for truth. They will acquire the truth about our Independence and the Partition. They will restore the cultural unity of the subcontinent to discover their roots and reclaim their identity. They will bury the Congress which was a colonial power’s instrument to partition the subcontinent. This may or may not happen in my lifetime. Happen it will. The remorseless law of nature which determines the course of history will assert itself. It will bury the Congress. It will recreate a united subcontinent in the new avatar of a South Asian Union. Human folly can delay it. Human perversity cannot prevent it.
By Rajinder Puri