August 14 marks the day Pakistan came into existence. It is the day when we must pay tribute to all those who struggled for the creation of Pakistan, especially those who sacrificed their lives to realise the dream of an independent homeland for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent after the Indian leadership of the 1940s made clear its designs to subjugate the Muslims under the cover of democracy. This reality convinced Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Jinnah to demand Pakistan, no matter what its cost.
That Pakistan was created at a huge human cost must never be forgotten. This fact must be emphasised to the coming generations to build their firm commitment to fulfilling the dreams the martyrs had about Pakistan becoming an exemplary progressive and peaceful state – a land where social justice ranked above all other values, and everyone was a Pakistani first, a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh or Parsi only thereafter, and all communities unreservedly and sincerely joined hands to make Pakistan a socially and economically progressive state. Our leaders must ask themselves whether they are helping materialize this dream.
Historically speaking, although Allama Iqbal foresaw much earlier what was coming, elevation of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru to the presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1946 convinced India’s Muslims that an independent state – Pakistan – was the remedy for their miseries. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad too accepted this reality in his book ‘India wins freedom’, which authentically narrates the events leading to the partition of India; prejudiced narration of thereof by many present-day Indian authors are shameful efforts at distorting history.
This continued biased approach proves that creating Pakistan was imperative. According to eminent scholar and political activist the late Eqbal Ahmad, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is administering India for the second time “is anti-minorities, mainly because it seeks to create out of India (which for thousands of yearshas been a multicultural, multi-religious, and pluralistic society) a kind of unified, uniform Hindutva ie Hindu society…. they are very resentful of that history of India which isn’t specifically “Hindu” from their point of view.”
But Jinnah – the founder of Pakistan – had unflinching faith in secularism and tolerance manifested by the fact that, despite reservations of his supporters, he accepted the Cabinet Mission’s recommendations which denied Indian Muslims the right to form a separate state because his acceptance of the mission’s recommendations was based on firm assurances of theIndian National Congress that the Muslim majority provinces would be fully autonomous; the federation will have only the portfolios of defence, foreign affairs and communications.
Despite these promises, Gandhi’s Ram Raj slogan prompted religious divisions that eventually led to the partition of the sub-continent, but the key role therein was played by Nehru after being elected the president of the Indian National Congress in 1946. This is revealed in that edition of thebook ‘India Wins Freedom;which, as per Maulana Azad’sinstructions, was published after his death.In his view, by refusing to be re-elected un-opposed in 1946 for the seventh time, he committed a blunder because, afterNehruwas elected itspresident, the Congress Party lost the confidence of the Muslims, which led to the creation of Pakistan.
During a press conference in Delhi in late 1946, Nehru’s about-turn on the assurances given to Jinnah about the profile of the future Indian federation embarrassed the Congress Party’s leadership, especially its outgoing President Maulana Azad and Gandhi. This about-turn of the Indian National Congress led Jinnah to conclude that he could no longer trust the Indian National Congress. He therefore told Gandhi that partition of India and creation of Pakistan was imperative and would not be compromised, no matter what its cost.
According to Maulana Azad, in the executive committee meeting of the Indian National Congress, which was called immediately after Nehru’s about-turn on the party’s promises to the Muslim League, Gandhi suggested that the party should take the stand that Nehru’s stance was his personal view, not the party’s. Maulana Azad responded by telling Gandhi firmly that nothing could be more damaging for the party than admitting that it had elected a president who publically expresses a view that contradicted the party policy.
While this dangerous development foretold a deadly confrontation between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, the losses Britain suffered during the WW-II evaporated its imperial ambitions forcing it to adopt a profile that envisaged quick withdrawal from its colonies, though without giving upcontrol of their energy sectors. Even during the WW-II, Britain had doggedly controlled its colonies blessed with energy reserves. But in India, whereeven the nationalists dreaded a hurried British pull out ie without giving the country a governance system that could deliver, Britaindilutedits staying power,which led to itsdisorderly exit.
Advancing the date of the exitmade things worse because, after the WW-II, India’s civil administration deteriorated rapidly, courtesy zero rise in British and Indian civil servants with the right calibre – a disastrous setting that resulted in exiting the largest British colonyin a grosslyirresponsible fashion.That’s why, Britain’s decision to advance the partition date from June 1948, to August 1947 proved disastrous, for which the blame lies squarely on the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, and what we all paid for in blood was the price thereof.
In his book The Great Divide, according to H.W. Hudson(constitutional advisor to Viceroy Lord Linlithgow) whileall overIndia and Pakistanthe Independence Day was celebrated with peaceful rejoicing, in the Punjab it witnessed violence. That afternoon, in an East Punjab town a Sikh mob seized Muslim women, stripped and raped them, and then paraded them naked through the streets before killing and burning them. In response, the same evening a Muslim mob burnt a Gurdwaraacross the border, and killed and burned its occupants.
This was the beginning of the tragedy that then spread all across India. According to Major General T.W. Rees, Commander Punjab Boundary Force, Punjab’s Police force – nearly 80 percent of it consisting of Muslims – was disarmed on the orders of its non-Muslim officials, which induced this huge force to refuse to act, and the intelligence unit too came to a halt. This was hardly the setting wherein thousands of Muslims migrating to Pakistan via the Punjab border could remain secure.
Not surprisingly therefore, attacks on the special trains carrying Muslim migrants from Delhi to Lahore were carried out by Sikhs.Because of these attacks, there were several instances wherein the special trains took as long as three days to reach Lahore, and many of them included passenger compartments that were full of dead bodies. But in the nearby non-Sikh state – Bikaner – a large number of Muslim refugees migrated to Pakistan not just safely but with the active assistance of the Raja of the state. Had this not been the case, the death count, that eventually crossed quarter of a million, would have been far larger.
At the same time, it would be unfair not to admire those Sikhs who protected the Muslims at the cost of their own lives. Besides the inhumanitytheir majorityexhibited, some Sikhsset examples of impartiality, courage, and steadfastness. A Sikh Major, heading the security escort on a train going to Lahore suffered nine wounds and died while he repelled attacks on that train by people of his own community. This is just one of many such stories of the Sikhs manifesting humanity, courage, and professional integrity. How ironic it is that besides Indian Muslims, Sikhs too are now the target of BJP.—Business Recorder
Written by A B Shahid