Source: India International Centre Quarterly, WINTER 2008 SPRING 2009, Vol. 35, No. 3/4, the Great Divide (WINTER 2008 SPRING 2009), pp. 312-329
Published by: India International Centre, Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23006271
India International Centre is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to India International Centre Quarterly
I would not have been born as the person I am but for the tragic Partition of India. My father's family was based in Lahore and my mother's family lived in the districts of Peshawar and Rawalpindi. If my parent's families had not come to Delhi as refugees after being forced out of their homeland through massacres engineered by those bent upon near-total ethnic cleansing of Hindus living in those areas, it is most unlikely that the two families would have ever met.
I felt blessed to be born in the idealistic atmosphere of post-Independence India, yet I've always felt the pangs of an uprooted identity on account of belonging to a refugee family. Though it did not take too long for my family to settle down in Delhi, the city I was born in, it is a constant source of pain whenever someone asks me, ‘Where are you from?’ — a simple, but important, question that is a key element in defining a person's identity in the subcontinent. In response, I usually offer something like an explanation rather than an answer: ‘My father is from Lahore, my mother from Peshawar and 1 was born in Delhi. Part of my maternal family was based in Kashmir, from where they have been uprooted thrice after Independence.’
My mother's family was in their summer home at Srinagar when Partition took place. They were airlifted to a refugee camp in Delhi when Pakistani raiders invaded Kashmir. Had they been in Peshawar at the time, it is unlikely that they would have made it safely to India. My father narrowly escaped being butchered by Muslims in his neighbourhood. He was separated from his family and reached Delhi with nothing more than the clothes on his back. It took him several days to locate other family members in the refugee camps, and that memory haunted him to the end of his life. As he grew older, he would narrate the story of his escape over and over again not with any bitterness, but with a sense of gratitude that some divine power had come to his rescue in his darkest hour.
I grew up listening to nostalgic stories recounted by my grandparents, aunts, uncles, mother and father regarding their lives in Lahore and Peshawar, and how they had to rebuild everything from scratch. The recurring theme of those stories was how no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined that millions would be forced to suddenly leave their homes and the land of their ancestors, and all because a group of politicians decided they had no claim to live there any more.
My mother put it very aptly: ‘Raja to badalte hi rehte hain itihas mein, par hamne kabhi na socha thaa na suna tha ki raja aapas mein praja ko hi badalne ka faisla kar lein aur use anjaam dene ke liye karodon logon ko beghar kar dein.’ (‘Throughout history, rulers have come and gone. But we had never imagined or ever heard that rulers could decide to change their subjects at will, rendering millions of people homeless in the process.’)
I grew up yearning to see Pakistan, especially the places connected with my extended family. Yet my three brief visits to Pakistan in the 1990s caused immense emotional distress. I was supposedly in a foreign country, but unlike visits to other foreign countries, it was not my Indian identity that asserted itself. I felt I was a Punjabi returned to her homeland, which had been usurped by many who had no right to it. I was seething inside with unexpected rage that had never found an outlet all these years. Though my parents had never inculcated a sense of hatred for Pakistan, I found myself tense about its very existence.
At the Pakistan-India Dialogues that 1 attended in Lahore and Peshawar, my soul rose in revolt when heard several Pakistani delegates tell us self-righteously that they feared India because Indians had not made peace with the idea of Pakistan — that we still harboured secret fantasies of Abhand Bharat (undivided India) and had imperialist designs on their mull (nation). It is indeed hard for many of us to make peace with a Partition that permanently robbed us of our family's homeland, and our regional, cultural and linguistic roots, by driving millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims out through terror, violence, murder, rape, and plunder. However, when others say that Indians don't accept Partition, it is not as if we advocate undoing it through war and conquest, or other means to dismantle the Pakistani state. We accept it with the same spirit as one does the Holocaust in Germany: as something that has happened and can neither be wished away nor undone. Nonetheless, most of us in India do not accept it as the morally or politically correct thing to have happened.
At the same time, the affection and warmth we experienced when interacting with ordinary Pakistanis, as well as political activists, was emotionally uplifting. At an inter-personal level Indians and Pakistanis take to each other like fish to water. Pakistani hospitality is incredibly lavish towards Indians, even though we are supposed to be enemy nations. To provide a typical example: When a senior Pakistani bureaucrat who I recently met at a UNDP Conference in Bangkok got to know that I was heading for Islamabad, his immediate reaction was: ‘You must come and spend at least a week with my family in Lahore.’ He went on to say with all sincerity: ‘Since you will be reaching Lahore a day before me, just call my wife Saba and tell her I am your nanad (husband's sister) come to visit you. She will happily come and receive you at the airport and take you around wherever you wish to go.’
This kind of spontaneous forging of close familial relationships between Indians and Pakistanis happens routinely even when the two nations are at war with each other. The manner in which Pakistanis open the doors of their hearts and homes to Indians, even while they continue justifying their national hostility towards India, is baffling to people outside the subcontinent. There is hardly a shopkeeper, or a bus or taxi driver, I talked to in Pakistan who did not express a keen desire to see India, especially Bombay. People often refused to accept money for the tea and snacks we ordered in their restaurants.
My father and mother were both very keen that I visit their old neighbourhoods to see if their houses still existed and whether some of their neighbours were still alive. Both experiences turned out to be revealing. When I went searching for my father's house on the outskirts of Lahore, I was suddenly surrounded by a group of very angry-looking women who asked me: ‘Where are you from and why you here?’ When I explained the purpose of my visit, one of them asked me very aggressively: ‘You look well-off. It doesn't seem like you lack anything where you live.’ I replied: ‘Yes, we have a comfortable life in Delhi.’ Pat came the advice: ‘Then why are you here, eyeing what is our property now? Jao jao, ghar jao (Go back home), there is nothing for you here now.’ I was not really prepared for such a hostile reception.
However, the shock of that negative encounter was more than offset by my experience in Peshawar. My mother had asked me to try and look up one of her former schoolmates from one of the most illustrious families of Peshawar. Her father was a general in the army and her husband is a retired ICS officer. One day, I summoned up the courage to go and knock at the doors of the aristocratic home of my mother's schoolmate. The family received me very warmly and invited me to spend a few extra days with them after the end of the conference I was attending, an invitation I gladly accepted. They treated me like a long-lost friend of the family, took me out shopping, introduced me to their family and friends and made me feel perfectly at home, even though at the time India-Pakistan relations were at a very low ebb.
Although the home and personal lifestyle of upper-class Peshawari women is not very different from their counterparts in India, one experienced the difference in the status of women in every aspect of public life. I visited Pakistan in pre-Taliban days, but there were signs of things to come. While taking my morning walk in a public park in Peshawar one day, I was asked by several women as to why
I was not wearing a dupatta — though I was wearing a full-slewed, high-collared shirt and hip-length jacket with a proper Punjabi salwar. Even in fashionable Lahore — once known as the ‘Paris of the East’ in pre-Partition India — I created quite a stir by borrowing the chowkidar’s bicycle for a sightseeing tour of the suburbs.
Looking for my mother's house, I wandered around that neighbourhood for hours all by myself, evoking a great deal of curiosity. Even in the 1990s, unescorted women were not expected to walk around bazaars. Today, the Pakistani Embassy does not even grant me a visa for Peshawar because it has become absolutely unsafe for women to be even seen out on the streets at all. It was a very poignant moment for me when, in one of the antique shops of the neighbourhood, 1 saw a small idol of goddess Durga and some other deities — reminders of the time when the family whose shrine they adorned had to flee in panic, leaving the gods and goddesses to fend for themselves.
The most painful experience of all was my visit to the Buddhist ruins of Taxila. The very existence of this archaeological site is a political embarrassment for Pakistan's ruling elite because it bears testimony to the grand Buddhist and Hindu civilization that flourished in this region much before Islam was born. This is a heritage Pakistanis are taught to both erase out of their consciousness as well as to despise, as a sin against their faith and national heritage. I did not know whether to cry or laugh when I saw a board at the entry point of the grand site: ‘This is what Allah does to infidels: Reduce them to ruins!’
Despite an officially sanctioned dose of hatred and misinformation about India and Hindu traditions in general, the curiosity about and fascination with India is all-pervasive in Pakistan. One hears the sound of Bollywood songs everywhere, including in police jeeps. The favourite pastime of Pakistani families is watching Indian movies and Indian TV serials. I was amazed to hear that during the time of telecast of the serial Ramayan, the streets of Lahore used to be deserted. Likewise, Pakistani ghazal and Sufi singers are a bigger draw in India than any other ‘foreign’ cultural event. lt is precisely because the cultural and emotional bonds between Indians and Pakistanis are so deep that the ruling elite in Pakistan has to work very hard to widen the divide by carrying on relentless propaganda, subjecting India to repeated acts of war and terrorism, and fomenting jehadi separatist movements in parts of India.
That is why, despite interpersonal warmth, the moment the discussion veers round to political issues the shadow of Partition begins to loom large. Most Pakistanis harbour a deep sense of being wronged by India, a feeling that most Indians find difficult to digest. One of the Pakistanis’ biggest grievances is that Indians have not really ‘accepted’ Partition as a historic necessity. It is hard for most Pakistanis to understand that if we ‘accept and endorse’ the political wisdom and ideology that went into the creation of Pakistan, we will be strengthening the hands of those in India who believe there is no justification for Muslims to continue staying in India after Pakistan's rulers openly effected the near-total ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs, both preceding and after the Partition.
This sentiment is not confined to members of the Sangh Parivar alone. Members of parties claiming to be secular also share it. Although Indian leaders displayed the moral courage to halt the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from India, so that today there are more Muslims living in India than in Pakistan, the decision has left most people befuddled because it defies logic. The idea behind Partition was that Muslims could not live in a Hindu-majority India. But Partition, as devised by Jinnah, left many more million Muslims living in India than in Pakistan, even after the near total ethnic cleansing of Hindus in territories that became Pakistan. How could our leaders accept a bizarre Partition that left millions of divided Muslims families on two sides of the border, a border that put the front side of a home in India, and the rear or the fields of the family in Pakistan?
The three visits that I made to Pakistan during the 1990s cured me of my romance with the land of my ancestors. Partition undoubtedly brought my family great economic hardship in addition to the trauma of being violently uprooted from their homes. But had they stayed in Peshawar, the women in my family would have led very restricted lives. Their fate changed dramatically for the better, after migrating to an India that not only made a constitutional pledge to providing equality to all its citizens, but whose leaders worked
actively to promote a liberal ethos in the country and encouraged women's participation in public life.
Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers were fiercely independent women, the likes of which are rare even among the supposedly liberated women of cosmopolitan Delhi today. Their husbands were gentle souls who rejoiced in the free spirit of their respective spouses. Even though the family atmosphere was very liberal with a great deal of emphasis on education of girls, there was very little space in the Peshawar of those days to experience freedom in public spaces; city gates used to be shut in the evening and even men rarely ventured out after dark. The tonga in which my mother and aunts went to school used to be covered with a thick sheet so that no one could have a glimpse of the girls sitting inside.
After spending some time in a refugee camp, my maternal grandparents were allotted accommodation in the Muslim- dominated Jama Masjid area of old Delhi. In Peshawar, Hindus had to practise a large measure of seclusion for women in public spaces in deference to the dominant Muslim culture. However, in the ultra-conservative Jama Masjid area of Delhi where almost all Muslim families practised purdah and wore a burqa, Hindu refugee families such as mine soon grew new wings and evolved a much freer lifestyle than before. My aunts began going to school and college on bicycles. They would go for shopping sprees to Connaught Place and attend evening film shows without any male escort. The thick chador-like dupatta of Peshawar days gave way to fashionable and lacy chunris. Most of them married in their mid- or late 20s and one of them in her 30s. This came about because leaders like Mahatma Gandhi had worked tirelessly to convince their fellow countrymen that India's freedom would mean very little if it were not accompanied by real freedom for its women as well. But most importantly, Delhi of those days was a much safer city, and the political atmosphere in India was very supportive of women's participation in the endeavour to rebuild India.
As a child it always struck me as odd that there was virtually no interaction between Hindus and Muslims of the area. I would occasionally stand on the balcony of my grandmother's house to start a conversation with women and children of Muslim homes in the neighbourhood. But they seemed very reluctant to engage with us. On the surface, life was cheerful and forward-looking in my
grandparents’ home, betraying little sign of the scars of Partition. Nevertheless, it was clear the whole family was very unhappy living in the Jama Masjid area and wanted to get out as soon as possible: a sign of the depth of estrangement with Muslims and the unheated wounds caused by the violent dispossession of their homes in Pakistan. When my grandfather was allotted a plot in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi my naani forced him to surrender it simply because the colony had a Muslim name, which for her signified danger. This despite the fact that the colony was especially created to settle Hindu refugees, and the name of the area derives from its proximity to the shrine of one of the most revered Sufi saints. But for her, the move from Jama Masjid to Nizamuddin meant jumping straight from the frying pan into the fire.
My father, who reached Delhi with nothing more than the clothes he was wearing, was too proud to accept either refugee accommodation or compensation money given by the government. He insisted on rebuilding his life without government charity even though he had to support not just his parents but his sister's and brothers’ families as well. This heavy burden meant great hardship and struggle.
Despite this, we were taught to be proud that Mahatma Gandhi and his close colleagues refused to held to the ideology that created Pakistan, even while accepting it as an unfortunate fait accompli because they rightly believed that Pakistan was based on a false idea. Even though Gandhi lost to Jinnah, he had both truth and morality on his side when he insisted that Hindus and Muslims are two communities with a lot of shared interests and centuries-old social and cultural bonds, rather than separate and irreconcilable nationalities.
In most parts of the world, the majority's insistence on the ‘otherness’ of the minority and their own ‘superiority’ sours social relations. In India, the situation is the reverse. Hindu intellectuals
— of both liberal as well as the illiberal variety — hold that Muslims are not really different from Hindus, that the term Hindu includes all the people of Hindustan and is not a religious marker. They bolster this argument by pointing out that an overwhelming majority of Muslims are converts from various Hindu sects and that the term Hindu was used to denote people living across the Sindhu River.
Muslim leaders feel particularly threatened by this assimilative tendency of Hinduism. The thrust of twentieth-century Muslim
politics has been to stress the separate identity of the Muslim community and the irreconcilable differences between Islamic and Hindu civilizations. The political demands of Muslim leaders are not simply for equal rights on the basis of common citizenship. A key component is the demand for concessions and special rights based on their essential separateness on account of religion.
In the subcontinent, so long as Hindus and Muslims believed they were two religious-cultural communities living and sharing a common soil, they could easily work out decent traditional norms for co-existence on the basis of other common layers of identity such as language, village, and culture. But once the corrosive power of ethnic nationalism invaded us from Europe in late nineteenth and early twentieth century, religious differences began to be dragged into the realm of politics for mobilizing communal monoliths. Once a group begins to subjugate its multi-layered identities in favour of one single voracious identity, especially if that identity is acquired politically and asserted as a nationality primarily in opposition to some other group, rather than used for self-expression and internal cultural bonding, it becomes a sure recipe for civil strife and inter- group enmity likely to tear any society asunder.
That is how politicians succeeded in convincing their bewildered followers that Muslims and Hindus were hostile monolithic communities incapable of peaceful co-existence. Consequently, millions were uprooted from their homes and the land they considered their own, lost friendships, old bonds, historical roots, traditions, neighbourhoods, memories, and much else that is irreplaceable. It is tragic that despite the experience of the Partition, we continue on the same disastrous path of making people refugees in their own country as is evident in Kashmir today.
Muslim politics moved through distinct phases depending on the emphasis the leadership placed on both separateness and commonality. It began with Sir Syed Ahmed describing the Hindus and Muslims as the ‘two eyes of Bharat Mata’. Thereafter, it moved on to dealing with power imbalances within the framework of sibling relationships, with Hindus described as elder brothers who needed to walk the extra step to accommodate the aspirations
of their younger Muslims brothers. It required the genius of Iqbal and Jinnah to convince themselves and their followers that ‘the two eyes of Bharat Mata’ were actually two irreconcilable nationalities necessitating a partition of the country so that each could claim a separate territory as homeland.
lqbal, the leading brain behind the idea of Pakistan, had in his early years composed several beautiful verses in praise of the composite culture of Hindustan. His famous poem, ‘Sare jahan se acchha Hindustan hamara / hum bulbulein hain iski, yeh gulistan hamara, evokes the sentimental image of both Hindus and Muslims singing joyously together as part of the same gulistan (garden). However, he rejected Indian nationalism after returning from Europe in 1908 and became obsessed with forging Muslim solidarity as a distinct ‘nationality’. His demand for Pakistan was based on the head-counting majoritarian principle imbibed from Europe.
Jinnah's idea of Pakistan had inherent contradictions because he was faced with a practical limitation. In the Muslim-majority provinces of the North-West, he found hardly any support for the idea of Pakistan because Muslims wielded power and felt they could hold their own through the democratic process; it was the Hindus who lived under the cultural and political hegemony of the Muslims. However, in the Muslim minority provinces, notably among the educated Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, Jinnah found a responsive chord to his frenzied campaign.
As opposed to the majoritarian vision of Iqbal, Jinnah's was a campaign based on minorities, whereby he was not willing to settle for safeguards for the minority within the framework of democracy. Therefore, he came up with the idea of Pakistan as a homeland for all Muslims. His success in mobilizing the Muslim masses to support Partition was not a triumph of religious appeal over secular politics, as is often believed. Jinnah carried the day because he could convince significant number of Muslims that he alone could safeguard their economic, political and cultural interests and protect the Muslim community from the assimilative tendencies and domination of both the Congress Party as well as Hindu culture.
It is noteworthy and ironic that this insistence on radical separateness and the idea of Partition originated with Iqbal and Jinnah, both of whom were products of Western education. Both their families were recent converts to Islam. Iqbal, in fact, boasted of
his Brahmin ancestry and Kashmiri origin. Jinnah's Gujarati family
had also taken to Islam only a generation ago.
By contrast, Maulana Azad, who stood steadfast in his commitment to India, was born in Mecca where he spent his childhood in a very orthodox Muslim family. He traced his ancestry to Maulana Jamaluddin, who refused to sign Akbar's infallibility decree. He was often hailed as ‘Imam-ul-Hind’. Even after Partition, Azad remained firm in his commitment to Indian nationalism, while remaining an orthodox Muslim to the end of his days. He carried a large number of Muslim ulema with him, whereas the Western-educated elite and non-religious Muslim leadership came to be more enamoured with Jinnah and lqbal. Thus, the theory of Muslim separateness does not owe its inspiration as much to Islamic history and the traditions of the Muslim community, as it does to the idea of national ethnic identity as it developed in Europe, and came to play an important role in shaping the aspirations of many Western-educated Muslims and Hindus in the twentieth century.
Gandhi failed in combating the divisive ideology that created the Partition because he did not adequately comprehend the power of religio-ethnic nationalism to undermine the old civilizational and cultural bonds between Hindus and Muslims. His appeal was always at the level of pious slogans such as ‘Hindu Muslim briar- bear’ — even after the bhaichara of the centuries-old bonds had been effectively destroyed by Partition. Mahatma Gandhi tried to forge Hindu-Muslim unity by several strategies. First, he insisted on the oneness of all religions. His emphasis on the essential oneness of Ram and Rahim was drawn from the Bhakti-Sufi tradition; second, he emphasized the shared common heritage and bonds of co- living; and third, by expecting Hindus to play the role of indulgent, large-hearted elder brothers willing to make unilateral gestures of generosity towards their Muslim ‘younger brothers’.
The ‘Ram-Rahim is one’ or ‘bhai-bhai’ approach historically evolved in the process of resolving theological conflicts between Islam and Hindu faiths in medieval times. It is time we recognized that this emphasis on ‘oneness’ could not be the basis of resolving the Hindu-Muslim conflict in the India of the twentieth and twenty-first
centuries. Even to the extent that Gandhi succeeded in his life-long endeavour to forge emotional and political unity among the Hindus and Muslims, we would do well to remember that the Bhakti-Sufi approach works only if those who preach it are genuinely inspired by the love of humanity emanating from their love of God, rather than by political considerations, as is the case with today's politicians who use this issue to expand their own base among the Muslim ‘vote bank’. Gandhi could inspire millions of Hindus and Muslims to resist divisive politics because his life was his message and he sacrificed everything, including his very life for this cause. For him it was an article of faith, not a political convenience or tactic, as it is for many of today's ‘secularists’.
As the failure of the bhai-bhai approach became obvious, Gandhi and other Congress leaders moved from one pendulum swing to another: from ‘partition over my dead body’ to supinely accepting the Partition as a fait accompli when the Muslim League leadership forced the transfer of population through riots and massacres. It is this image of a hapless Hindu majority meekly accepting the will of the minority, with millions being forcibly uprooted from their homes, which has given many Hindus a deep sense of fear of the supposed power of the Muslims and mistrust of secular Hindu leadership.
After the Partition, the Muslim leadership in India felt so rudderless that it quietly latched on to the Congress Party, expecting it to provide the Muslims protection and security. As long as there were credible leaders like Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and Maulana Azad representing the Muslims in the Congress, it gave the community hope and confidence. These leaders could also act as an effective communication bridge with the Hindu community because the latter respected them both for their leading role in the freedom movement and for standing steadfastly against Partition. The inspiring speech of Maulana Azad at the Delhi Muslim Convention on 4 November 1947, calling upon the Indian Muslims ‘to take the pledge that this country is ours, that we belong to it and that fundamental decisions of its destiny will remain incomplete till we participate in them’ provided a beacon of light not only to the demoralized Muslims, but acted as balm on the hurt Hindu psyche.
However, after the death of these towering figures and the estrangement with Sheikh Abdullah, the Congress Party did not allow any real Muslim leaders to emerge in order to keep them as
a captive vote bank. Nehru, in his lifetime, ensured that there were no serious Hindu-Muslim riots so that memories of Partition could slowly fade away. The Nehruvian approach, at its idealistic best, attempted to solve the problem by de-sacra1izing ethno-religious identities with the assumption that if the State professed neutrality in religious matters, but left a little space for religious and cultural identity assertion by the minorities in the political and public realm, a whole new generation of ‘modern’ citizens would emerge, rising above religious divides and united by secular nationalism. Hindus and Muslims were thus expected to become ‘Indians’ first and foremost, with other identities playing an increasingly small role in public affairs. What we have witnessed is the reverse: aggressive assertions of religious, regional, caste, linguistic and ethnic identities.
The tragic form that Hindu Muslim relations have assumed in recent decades (as the Gujarat massacre in 2002 and similar events in the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate) is largely the result of the gap between the pious platitudes mouthed by the post-Independence Congress leadership and the cynical political games it actually played. This has created a fertile ground for the growth of militant Hindutva, many of whose votaries believe that India should either do to Muslims what Pakistan did to the Hindu minority, or make them live on terms decided by the Hindu majority.
Acolytes of Hindutva fail to see the tragic fate of the Pakistani state whereby its leaders are openly declaring that the country is in danger of being taken over by the Taliban. This is a direct product of its murderous majoritarian politics. The logic of majoritarianism
— of identifying a group by certain objective characteristics, and then claiming the right to drive them out of the area or subjugate them because they are a hated minority — is inherently arbitrary and divisive.
Majoritarianism has an inevitable tendency towards fascism and ethnic cleansing, just as an excessive emphasis on distinctness to the point of erasing commonalities can lead to endless splits and secessions. The same dynamic is responsible for the divide between Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris. In 1948, the Kashmiri identity of Muslims of the Valley was responsible for the rejection of the Pakistani Kabayalis who invaded the state with the backing of the army in order to forcibly annex it to Pakistan. However, thanks to their conflict with the central government over the issue of the state's autonomy, the tussle also assumed a religious dimension with Hindus and Buddhists of the state rallying behind the Centre, while a section of the Muslim leadership, under the sway of Pakistan, began demanding secession. With the politics of terror and jehad becoming the dominant weapon of secessionists, the political estrangement between Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims has led to the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits through forced migration from the state.
The Pakistani claim to Kashmir rests on the assumption that, as a Muslim majority state, J&K should necessarily have become part of Pakistan. They call it the ‘unfinished agenda’ of the Partition. The Pakistani military and intelligence establishment has a deep, vested interest in keeping the Kashmir issue on a permanent boil and destroying India's pluralist democracy by brainwashing Muslims of the subcontinent that Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist peacefully.
The jehadi rhetoric that goes with it allows them to keep their own people in a permanent state of frenzy, overshadowing all important issues related to internal politics and government accountability, thus allowing an excessively prominent role for the Pakistani army in the political, administrative, cultural and even religious life of the country.
Unfortunately, Indian leaders have been fighting a defensive battle in international forums on Kashmir mainly because they go on merely reiterating that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’, making it appear as if we view Kashmir as a mere territory to be kept under Indian jurisdiction. We need to do a better job of explaining to the world community that our claim to Kashmir is based on our principled refusal to accept the logic of Partition: that, within the territory of each arbitrarily carved out nation state, every ethnic majority of its region is entitled to unlimited rights to subjugate, eliminate or push out a minority because that will push us to the inexorable logic of a nation state where tragedy after tragedy of ethnic cleansing, murderous riots, and political chaos overtake its democratic and secular character.
I, for one, would have much less problem with Kashmir's secession if the Muslim separatists could carry the Kashmiri Hindus,
Buddhists, Dogras, Gujjars and others of the region along with them. Otherwise it will lead Hindus to believe that since Muslims cannot co-exist peacefully with Hindus where Muslims are a majority, why should Hindus be forced to live with Muslims in the rest of India?
The Pakistani regime is unlikely to change its policy of bleeding India through various overt and covert means because Pakistan is unsure of the legitimacy of its own identity. It cannot own its history and cultural heritage. A polity and society at war with its ohm past cannot be at peace with its present. Since India represents its past heritage the Pakistani ruling establishment has to work hard to foment conflicts with India as the only available means of defining its identity. Despite a strong sentiment among large sections of citizens in Pakistan for good neighbourly relations between the two countries, I see little chance of enduring peace between India and Pakistan in the foreseeable future. India has only one option in order to keep the nuisance value of Pakistan to manageable levels: Put its own house in order to ensure that Indian Muslims do not gravitate towards jehadi politics. That can happen only when the Indian polity is able to provide genuine security of life and equality of opportunity within a vibrant economy and culture to each and every citizen This includes refraining from jingoistic nationalism and tit for fat responses towards Pakistan. The politics of each country is likely to improve dramatically, if we are liberated from the current siege mentality that comes from our proximity to, and fear of, each other.