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Freedom from the future

July 26, 2010

Mahatma Gandhi for Indians and Mohammad Ali Jinnah for Pakistan are revered by their respective nations for having won each their freedom.  They are fathers of their nations and each Country’s history will forever hold them in the highest regard. None to come after can match the glory attributed to these two gentlemen. Fine!

The interesting fact, however, is that while Gandhi’s entire focus (motivated by a thrashing and an eventual eviction from a train in South Africa by a White inspector) from the inception of free India movement culminating in Independence was to rid India of the British. Jinnah, however, seems to have switched course along the way. He joined the “free India Movement” as a voice of “All India Muslim League” representing the Muslim minority of India.  Then, around 1940’s, due to political gerrymandering on part of both the leadership of the “All India Muslim League” and some of the members of the Indian Congress party chiefly Jawaharlal Nehru, the “Free India Movement” for the Muslims changed to a call for separate homeland; Pakistan. Jinnah became the leader and the Muslim voice for an independent Muslim state. Ironically, the two nations celebrate Independence in succession, except India celebrates independence from Britain while Pakistan celebrates independence from India. 

What motivated Jinnah and the Muslim League to raise the call for separation from India and a separate home for the Indian Muslims? Sure, I have heard and even wrote about the so called “dream” of Allama Iqbal and crediting Sir Syed Ahmed Khan for the idea of a separate nation. (See my blog “Whose Idea was it anyways”) Historical accounts preceding partition of India speak of Muslim League’s reservations based on “perceived” inequalities and less than equal treatment and a voice for the Muslim minority under the Hindu rule.

Rational thinking impels one to wonder; what precedence did Jinnah and the leadership of the “Muslim League” had in terms of governance, rule, or Hindu attitude that would then precipitate and even legitimize the concern for inequality and a lack of Muslim representation?  The fact is ever, since the advent of Islam into the Sub-continent the Hindus of India though a majority never really had the opportunity to rule over the country of Hindustan. 

Any casual student of history would know that the subcontinent has been under siege and continually invaded by adventurers, plunderers and conquerors throughout its history.  From Greeks to the Mongols and then of course the Mughals, once they entered the Khyber Pass, considered it their obligation to enter Hindustan.  India has been by and large under foreign occupation for at least the last one thousand years save the period after 1947, the year of independence.   The major portion of this period of occupation was under the rule of the Mughal Empire.  In essence India for all its magnitude and size, except for a few isolated kingdoms, remained under the strict Muslim rule and laws or collectively all Indians were the subjects of the British Empire.

In essence, the Hindus never really got an opportunity to crack the whip on their Muslim subjects, or rendering them a subservient culture or ethnicity forced to live under Hindu rules, rights and system. We simply do not have any prior historical data and evidence of discrimination during a Hindu rule towards the Muslim minority.

To add insult to injury, the minority yet ruling Muslims within the periods of their reign and crossing over to the British raj considered Hindustan as Hizb-Islam, the land of Islam. Someone please tell me how a minority Muslim community living in a land called Hindustan considers that land Hizb-Islam.  As a matter of fact, while and well before the free India movement even got conceived, the Muslims of India were already busy organizing rebellions against the British raj on the pretext of expunging the infidels from the “Land of Islam”, Hindustan.  There is a clue hidden in the name for the discerning shrewd.

Back to the future as it were and for posterity sake and to remind ourselves if the scenario Mr. Jinnah and his cohorts were painting held water. The only data and trends we have available to us is to look at the current Indian model of Governance and the state of minorities especially the Muslims of India. Then, I dare say that India has a better record of minority relations and religious freedom as compared to the present setup in Pakistan. Sure, India has its own set of problems with all minorities and minority relations. But lets give some credit where due. India, under the Hindu rule has faired far better in minority relations than the nation of Pakistan.

If anything it has been the Hindus who have had to suffer the indignity of a foreign rule and discriminatory practices during the Muslim rule. For all the open mindedness of Akbar the fact is that Hindus were subject to Islamic rules and practices to include taxation. None in the Sub-continent know the indignity of discrimination and living under a foreigner rule better than the Hindus.  Oh please don’t misunderstand me in that as if the Hindus themselves are incapable of hashing out discriminatory behavior. These are the people who seem to have written the rules of discrimination and then embedded them into their religion to give it legitimacy and beyond reproach and rebuke.  However, the Hindu discriminatory practices based on cast and creed hurt the Hindus more than the minorities they were ruled by. As a matter of fact historians make the case that it was these “mighty Brahmin” attitudes and discriminatory practices that played into the hands of the Muslims especially in lower Bengal that led to mass conversions by the Muslim preachers and missionaries.

It then seems to me as if the Muslims were building a case for separation from India on the pretext of future discrimination, maltreatment, injustice or violation of Muslim rights? It would be worth noting that for all the fear mongering on part of Jinnah and the Muslim League, there still remain just as many Muslims in India as the entire population of Pakistan.  Majority of whom remain proud and loyal Indian citizens, a clear repudiation of the two nation theory and any perception based on future Hindu inequities towards Indian minorities. These Muslim Indians are certainly rendering the Muslims League’s calls for freedom based on future Inequities baseless. As if Pakistan was created seeking “freedom from the future”!

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