Congress' Unhelpful Silence on Partition
By Saeed Naqvi
Any Indian, Hindu or Muslim, familiar with the political events from 1937 to 1947, when Indian (and Pakistani) freedom arrived with Partition, has learnt to accept that Congress leaders like Nehru and Sardar Patel were complicit in the partition plan.
But with the passage of time the complicity was forgotten, most notably by the Muslim minority. Indeed, until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru remained the undisputed leader of Indian Muslims.
The Congress Party benefited greatly from this initial faith reposed on Nehru by the Indian Muslim. But the continuous Hindutva incantation about “Muslim appeasement” created a degree of anxiety among Congress leaders nervous about the party’s decline on other counts.
I remember long discussions with Vithal Gadgil one of the most secular Congressmen one has known. In the mid 80s he was worried about “a growing feeling among the Hindus that Muslims were being appeased”.
“But can you give examples of Muslim appeasement?” I asked.
That was not important, he said. The uncomfortable truth was the growing “perception” among Hindus that Muslims were being “appeased”.
The “perception” was hugely amplified by systematic propaganda employing methods that would have done Goebbels proud. Ofcouse, the Congress itself was not free of its own closet communalists who facilitated the “perception”. Indeed, an unsuspecting Rajiv Gandhi was prevailed upon to gift Shah Bano to the Muslims and an unlocked Ram Mandir to the Hindus.
This step created conditions for the inevitable Mandir-Masjid clash climaxing with the demolition of the Babari Masjid on December 6, 1992. That was the darkest phase in the annals of Communalism, possibly improved upon only by Narendra Modi’s Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
Pick out the slogans of VHP and Bajrang Dal mobs on both occasion and you will have a clear idea why the ground is so fertile for communal eruptions.
In 1992 there were no news channels other than the official Doordarshan. An enterprising addition to the media fare was a Video magazine launched by the India Today group called Newstrack. The Newstrack magazine assembled after the demolition of Babari Masjid is an eye opener:
The first scene after the demolition, shows a group of women in a circle, clapping and singing the following song:
“Ab yehg jhanda lahrayega
Saarey Pakistan pe”
(Now our flag will flutter over all of Pakistan.)
The next scene focuses on young men, wearing saffron bands, jabbing the air with lances and trishuls.
“Bomb girega Pakistan pe” (Bombs will fall on Pakistan).
A swamiji is then slowly brought into focus. In a booming voice, the swami announces his itinerary. “Abhi hamein Lahore jaana hai, Rawalpindi jaana hai.” (Now our destinations are Lahore and Rawalpindi)
Inevitably, the camera then focuses on Bal Thackeray who, pleased as punch, says with finality.
“Let the Muslims go to Pakistan.” No mention of Rama or Babar in all of this. Those were just excuses for the saffron movement which had played on the subconscious prejudice linking Muslims with Pakistan. You hate one and you hate both.
History is one thing, popular perceptions shaped by political interests, quite another.
History of those frenetic last days leading to partition is not straightforward. Guilt for partition can be placed at the door of the British, Jinnah and Congress leaders. Nehru too. After all he moved the resolution accepting partition at the crucial Congress Working Committee meeting.
The communalists know the Congress vulnerability. They know that under no circumstance will the congress leadership ever publicly own up to the fact that their tallest leaders accepted partition. This helplessness of the Congress is exploited by the Communal formations. They proceed to blame Muslims for the partition of India. Congress silence on the one hand and Goebbels like propaganda on the other has therefore prepared the ground for repeated Communal harvests.
What can be done? Well, if someone of stature in the Congress were to find an occasion to make the following statement:
“It is a travesty to blame Muslims for India’s partition. For a set of compelling reasons, a host of interests which included the Congress, had to acquiesce in partition at that momentous period in Indian history.” This line must go down to the mofussil Congress worker. The turf of communalism will not be so fertile then.
Pending some such clarification from the Congress, Jaswant Singh is looking good.
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