Thursday, 13 October 2016

Is Pakistan a nation-state or a state that aspires to be a nation?

A very interesting proposition to mull about.

India has been a cauldron of various ethnicities, groups and religions over the past five thousand years. She has given the world 3 religions to boast about – The Hinduism, the Jainism and the Buddhism; and has equally accepted those of other faith being persecuted elsewhere like the Zoroastrians or the Jews; and has also welcomed Christianity and Islam with open arms. In her 5000 years of history, there is no known mention of open aggression beyond its border. Infact – India being considered a ‘country’ is a recent phenomenon.

Because of the diverse flora and fauna, the distinct climates as one travels from north to south coupled with vast culture and a plethora of languages, India was and is more aptly called a sub-continent! Such is the diversity of this land.

Before the British rule, India was generally not considered a homogenous nation. There have been numerous kingdoms fighting amongst each other, multi religious-multi ethnic culture too diverse to be considered as a part of a single nation. The notion of a nation-state in India is a fairly new one – primarily an outcome of the British rule – which united Indians from North to South and from East to West like never before. British rule became the single most decisive factor for uniting the Indians together – British industrialization through railways and telegraphs played a very crucial role in this regard.

As one tries to delve deeper into the aspect of nationalism in the Indian context, it would be pretty clear that there was no clear or coherent sense of nationalism before 1857 [Sepoy Mutiny]. The very term ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ is a testament to that fact; while Veer Savarkar calls this as ‘First War of Independence’, various other scholars even depict this as a fight of few disenchanted sections of the society against the mighty British empire. But the subsequent acts of British Parliament, especially Government of India Act, 1858 – which subsequently transferred the power from British EIC to British Crown was an important milestone, that slowly led to unification of Indian masses, especially the elite and educated to structure themselves in manner that united them together. Still it was elitist in nature and the first such organization came up under A.O Hume in 1885 led to the establishment of The Indian National Congress. INC established a platform where those who had the means and ways to express their views and ideologies were able to reach to a larger mass to kindle the spirit of nationalism in them. Various authors like Bankim Chandra’s ‘Vandemataram’ sparked the feeling of nationalism that was a new found feeling – uniting common feeling of hatred against British Imperialism.

So what makes Pakistan today different from India – when it had a day’s head-start since the day it gained independence?

It would be apt to have a look at the history and the chronology of events as it unfolded to arrive at a balanced conclusion as the answer lies in the process of nation-building and the approach taken.

Both Indian National Congress [INC] and Muslim League [ML] initially wanted Swaraj [Self Rule] under British Dominion. It was agreed in the historic Lucknow pact of 1916. Fast Forward to 1927, Simon Commission was formed to evaluate the efficacy of Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919. Simon Commission report created a furore not acceptable to the leaders of INC or ML. In Lahore session of 1929, Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence by INC was declared as the goal of national struggle. This ultimately resulted in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930’s and the Round Table Conferences held in London to discuss India’s future. The outcome of the Round Table Conferences wasn’t so conducive for the Indian Leaders. ML Leaders, especially Mr. Jinnah, who earlier believed that Muslims in India could live together with Hindus – suddenly had his doubts – when the question of complete independence arose. At that time, the idea was quelled through the most infamous MacDonald’s Communal Award where there would be electorates based on religion; the first seeds of communalism and future partition was effectively sown.

Two other individuals played a key role around the same time propagating the seeds of thoughts for 'Pakistan' as an independent homeland for Muslims:

1. Md. Iqbal – Famous writer and poet [who ironically penned down: Saare Jahan se accha, Hindustan humara] aired his views about a separate homeland for Muslims. In his 1930, ML Presidential Address in Allahabad, he says,

“I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of Northwest India.”

2. Rahmat Ali – A Political Science student, studying in Cambridge, came up with a paper in 1933, coining the term “Pakistan” for the new homeland, envisaged for 30 million Muslims in the North-Western areas India consisting of Punjab, Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan.

Thus the concept of Pakistan was born and in essence Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory came into being. In 1940 All India ML Lahore session. Mr. Jinnah says,

"It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, litterateurs… …To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state."

Thus, two factors that played an important role for the birth of Pakistan – Religion and Location.

This was the final nail in the coffin for the ‘Partition’ to happen. Eventually, during Quit India movement [1942] and later talks of Cripps Mission, followed by Rajaji Formula, Wavell Plan and Cabinet Mission, Muslim League had their own say and still some vestiges of hope in keeping India united was retained. Finally, when Direct Action plan was put in motion in Aug 1946 by ML, massacring a large number of Hindus, the INC leaders gave up on the future of Unified India. Mountbatten Plan was eventually introduced on 3rd June 1947 and a bloody partition ensued. India was dissected into two parts – Muslim Dominated West Pakistan and East Pakistan as a single nation [or rather a state?] – separated by 1000 miles, with religion as the only uniting factor and the rest of India, which was Hindu majority became the secular Republic of India. It was a unique experiment in the history of mankind.

Pakistan as a state, had all its tools at its disposal, when it gained independence – a political elite, the British state machinery it inherited to run its judiciary and public offices and an army that was crucial to invade and annex Balochistan and parts of Kashmir. So did India.

But, Indian nationalism was already in place in the Indian context at the time of independence and it was one of the uniting factors whereas Pakistan had to create the platform for Pakistani nationalism – one that couldn’t be generated overnight.

There is no doubt Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon played a very important role in integrating 565 princely estates; but the key point to be remembered is that religion was never the lynchpin in uniting these princely estates. Yes, there were differences wrt to language to be adopted or how the state borders are to be drawn – but our founding fathers ensured that India always remains a “Union of States” as stated in Art. 1 of the Indian Constitution. There was enough freedom given to an Indian citizen to pursue her religious freedom or protection of minority languages or culture as part of Fundamental Rights. Directive Principles of State Policy further strengthened and unified India, by adopting Socialist ideals in a democratic framework.

Now, if we compare this with Pakistan, its primary reason for existence was Islam-centric and Hindu-phobic – as per Jinnah’s two nation-theory. Secondly, Pakistan’s founders also primarily believed the West Pakistan to be the cradle and the power-center of both West and East Pakistan. Thirdly, Urdu became the state language – which was primarily spoken in NW Uttar Pradesh and not within the borders of the new country of Pakistan. Fourthly, Pakistan, which is an acronym did not account for East Bengal [East Pakistan] which had accounted for roughly 50% of the landmass and slightly larger population base in the larger political game-plan. The Bengalis are hugely intellectual with an enriched literature and thought process was given no weight in the new country. Urdu was enforced on them. Infact, they were treated as second rate citizens. Same goes for the land of West Pakistan which has a huge rural tribal population of Baloch, Sindhis and Pashtuns who were not radical enough to be completely Islam-centric and embrace the new state of Pakistan. Even, those who emigrated to Pakistan from India after independence were called Mohajirs and were also looked down upon. Only Punjabis of Pakistani Punjab-sindh province had the major say in the country’s future and politics. So there was a lacking of Pakistani Nationalism at all levels to be precise – the magic ingredient for any nation to rise and shine.

India succeeded where Pakistan failed. India granted enough freedom without undermining national security in its constitution – evoking a sense of patriotism and nationalism. Pakistan just did the opposite – though claimed to be a secular nation, but in truth became an Islamic nation that persecuted those whose ideals were not in sync – irony being, only a small percentage of the population belonged to that category who truly believed in the cause and ideals of Pakistan, creating an effective divide. Thus there was no other unifying factor other than religion – Islam.

Hence, the first major blow came in 1971 when East Pakistan had to be liberated by India giving rise to an independent nation of Bangladesh, dividing Pakistan into two halves. One may argue that sub-nationalism played an important role; But would beg to differ, given the chain of events leading to 1971 war, integration of Bengalis of East Pakistan to mainstream Pakistan effectively never happened and hence there was never a chance for sub-nationalism to arise. Rather, it would be preferable to call it 'Bengali Nationalism' that was more coherent and homogenous in nature, in terms of culture, language, mindset and a feeling of persecution by West Pakistan that gave rise to Bengali Nationalism and thereby the Nation of Bangladesh.

Thus, Pakistani Nationalism is an illusion or a mirage based on which the nation was created. Till date there are examples of atrocities being committed on Balochis or Zarb-e-azb being conducted in FATA region which demonstrates that ‘National Integration’ in Pakistan seems to be a distant dream. India has succeeded largely to an extent – even though issues like Maoism persists or discrimination against NE states, but it is nothing compared to the scale and level that is being played out in Pakistan.

So, in light of the above arguments, it might not be wrong to state that Pakistan as a state apparatus is serving only a section of the elite to govern the rest where the feeling of ‘nationalism’ is possibly a mis-placed notion. Pakistan hence, existed as a state to an extent unfortunately, rather than a nation in the truest sense.

I would like to leave you with the following enlightening video why India has succeeded to a larger extent and why it stands where it is today - it is a talk by eminent historian Ramchandra Guha that would be an eye-opener for many and you may land up appreciating the fact, what a difficult situation it was for our founding fathers to remain steadfastly committed to the ideals, creating a rock solid foundation - the bed-rock of Indian Democracy!

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