History / 13.09.2016

By Ahmed Kamran Chapter One: The Roots of Revolution (Continued) II. International Revolutionaries While a steady migration of Indian peasants and working classes as indentured labour was slowly taking place towards the British colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, a new and more comprehensive political and administrative order as crafted by Lord Macaulay was put in place in India by the colonial rulers. With it gradual reforms in education and political life of India were introduced. Schools and colleges with instruction in English language were set up by the Missionary churches and the secular government in major Indian towns. In these schools, modern education was imparted to Indian children to produce a new breed of loyal and educated gentlemen, imbibed with western ideas and colonial outlook. This brought a slow but significant social change, particularly, in the middle classes. They were getting engaged in commerce or in services...

History / 28.08.2016

By Ahmed Kamran Introduction The communist movement in Pakistan is all but dead. Today, there are few to mourn its death and its unceremonious exit from the national politics. It seems a forgotten chapter, completely erased from the collective memory of the youth. A handful of those who still cling to the ideal of a communists-led revolution to bring about a ‘proletarian dictatorship’ have absolutely no role in, and more sadly, no clue of, the dynamics of country’s politics. And all this is after a long and checkered history of a fairly old and vibrant communist movement, firstly in undivided India and later in post-independence Pakistan. For roughly about sixty odd years, from 1920’s till the end of 1980’s, countless political activists, many remaining nameless, worked selflessly in their own ways for the ideal of building a society free from exploitation, misery and want. For a long time,...

History / 24.08.2016

By Ahmed Kamran Subtitle: What Went Wrong with Pakistan's Communists? [With this post we begin serializing a book under preparation by Ahmed Kamran on the history of the Left movement in Pakistan. This post includes the Table of Contents and the Prologue.]   Contents Prologue Introduction Part – I Chapter 1: Roots of Revolution Chapter 2: Communist Party of India – Its Genesis (1920 – 1932) Chapter 3: Rise and Fall of Indian Communism (1933 – 1951) Chapter 4: Road to Pakistan Part – II Chapter 5: A Himalayan Blunder Chapter 6: The Great Divide Chapter 7: A Last Minute Freeze Chapter 8: The Great Slide into Oblivion Part – III Chapter 9: Has Marxism any Future in Pakistan? Chapter 10: Conclusions   Prologue How many of today’s youth in Pakistan know that there had been a communist party in the country? Sadly, very few. Only those who had been, or still are, in some way connected with a fast receding generation of radical political activists of...

History / 14.01.2016

By Anjum Altaf Some readers of this blog are aware of my admiration for the late Dr. G.M. Mehkri (1908-1995) reflected in the 2009 tribute to him on this blog. In brief, I was impressed by Dr. Mehkri’s objectivity and the intriguing social hypotheses he explored with evidence, logic, and neutrality. I had mentioned in the tribute that Dr. Mehkri had submitted a PhD thesis (The Social Background of Hindu Muslim Relationship) to the Department of Sociology at the University of Bombay in 1947. The subject, timing, and Dr. Mehkri’s credentials suggested this might be a manuscript worth reading and a search was launched to obtain a copy. The most likely source was the National Social Science Documentation Centre (NASSDOC) in Delhi, the archive for all doctoral dissertations completed in India. Unfortunately, the copy of Dr. Mehkri’s thesis was reported missing. With the help of friends in India...

History / 29.11.2015

By Anjum Altaf I was reading an interview about philosophy when I came across some tangential remarks I felt would be useful to reproduce on this blog in this time of rising fundamentalism in the Indian subcontinent. The interview is between 3:AM Magazine and the  philosopher Jonardon Ganeri (one of whose latest books is Identity as Reasoned Choice: A South Asian Perspective on the Reach and Resources of Public and Practical Reason in Shaping Individual Identities). The tangential remarks pertain to the evolution of intellectual history in India. The bottom line for JG emerging from his detailed research in the history of Indian philosophy is the following: “In India what Navadvīpa demonstrates is how wrong-headed are Hindu fundamentalist histories of Indian Islam.” This fundamentalist history is very familiar and repeated in countless comments on innumerable blogs: Muslim invaders imposed Persian, oppressed Hindus, destroyed temples, decimated Indian scholarship, etc., etc. Instead, what...

History / 16.10.2015

By Anjum Altaf I am reading Christophe Jaffrelot’s new (2015) book The Pakistan Paradox and in Chapter 2 (An Elite in Search of a State – and a Nation (1906-1947)) came across the following table on page 91. Table 2.6: Main party scores within the Muslim electorate in the 1946 elections Party Muslim League Congress Muslim nationalists Unionists Other Total Muslims 74.7 4.6 6.4 4.6 9.7 Urban Muslims 78.7 2.3 5.0 - 14.0 Rural Muslims 74.3 4.8 6.6 6.1 9.2 Muslim Women 51.7 - 27.9 - 20.4 Jaffrelot’s reference to the table is the following: “Despite the League’s relative setback in the NWFP, after the 1946 elections the party eventually managed to appear representative of Indian Muslims (see Table 2.6)." The table has been adapted from The Sole Spokesman by Ayesha Jalal (page 172). I looked up the citation and the table is the same except that Jalal has also mentioned the total number of votes cast and their distribution across the various parties. Jalal’s reference to the table is as follows: “More importantly, the League secured nearly seventy-five percent...

History / 12.07.2015

By Anjum Altaf The member-secretary of the Indian Council of Historical Research resigned from his post last month without completing his term. Amongst his major concerns was the ‘changing of textbooks’: “The simplification and dumbing down of history in order to support many of the unfortunate stereotypes that circulate in society is something to be worried about.” This controversy raises its head in India from time to time but at least meets vociferous opposition from many professional historians. In Pakistan, the manipulation of textbooks has long been completed and accepted without much protest perhaps because by now the country is bereft of historians. K.K. Aziz wrote The Murder of History: A Critique of History Textbooks Used in Pakistan in 1993 and nothing much has changed since. Later examinations such as The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan released in 2003 confirm the perpetuation of...

History / 15.07.2014

By Kabir Altaf In 1026, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided the Hindu temple of Somnath (located in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat).  In retrospect, this event has had tremendous repercussions for contemporary South Asian history and is traditionally regarded as marking Hindu-Muslim animosity in the region from the outset. To this day, perceptions of Mahmud continue to be polarizing. While many Indians regard him as an iconoclastic invader bent upon loot and plunder, their counterparts in Pakistan view him as a conqueror who “established the standard of Islam on heathen land.” The Pakistani attitude is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that the country’s military has named the Ghaznavi missile in honor of Mahmud.  However, despite this conventional understanding, modern historians are attempting to question the received wisdom surrounding Somnath. One of the modern scholars attempting to arrive at a new understanding of Somnath is Romila...

History / 24.09.2013

By Ahmed Kamran With the departure of Raja Mahindra Partap and Maulvi Barkatullah and others from Kabul, the Provisional Government of India was now almost solely entrusted to Obaidullah Sindhi and some of the Lahore students, including Zafar Hasan Aibak, Allah Nawaz Khan, and Mohammad Ali who tried to infuse a new life in it. However, under severe pressure from Britain, the Provisional Government was made totally restricted after conclusion of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in August 1919. Eventually, under the instructions of the Afghan Government, it was formally disbanded in 1922. Obaidullah Sindhi and his colleagues quietly left for Tashkent. They reached Termiz in Soviet Union in Oct 1922. The Hijrat Begins Ironically, at this time when, on the one hand, Indian nationalist revolutionaries in Kabul were being expelled or leaving it in disgust, and on the other hand, the Turks now led by Mustafa Kamal were...

History / 11.09.2013

The International Revolutionaries By Ahmed Kamran (Editor’s Note: Owing to an editorial error, this post is appearing out of sequence. It should follow the two posts on the Ghadar Party and precede the post on the Jihad Movement. The error is regretted.) Tewar a’atey hain haqeeqat main bhi afsanon kay Kuch haqeeqat bhi hua karti hay afsanon ki While a steady migration of Indian peasants and working classes was taking place towards other British colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas (as discussed in the previous posts on Ghadar Party), a new and more comprehensive political and administrative order as crafted by Lord Macaulay was put in place by the colonial rulers in India. With it came gradual reforms in education. Many schools and colleges were set up in most of the major cities. Here modern education was imparted to the Indian youth to produce a new breed of loyal and...