What If India Were Not Partitioned?

This is the quintessential ‘What If’ question. It is counterfactual because now we can never know what would have happened if India had not been partitioned. But we can speculate about the possibilities and try and construct plausible scenarios for purposes of understanding and discussion.

In this post we argue against the scenario presented by Aakar Patel in his op-ed in The News on September 22, 2008. Aakar Patel’s one-line conclusion is that an unpartitioned India would have been a disaster for both Hindus and Muslims.

Let us first list the points we aim to contend:

  1. Unpartitioned India would be the word’s largest country (1.4 billion people), the world’s largest Muslim country (500 million) and… the world’s poorest country (over 600 million hungry).
  2. In undivided India, religion would have dominated political debate, as it did in the 30s and 40s, and consensus on reform would be hard to build internally. All energy would be sucked into keeping the country together. Undivided India would have separate electorates, the irreducible demand of the Muslim League and the one that Nehru stood against. A democracy with separate electorates is no democracy at all.
  3. Hindus would never have been able to rule Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan or the Frontier.
  4. Without Partition there would have been no Nizam-e-Mustafa.
  5. The fault line of national politics in undivided India would have remained Hindu versus Muslim. Jinnah alone understood that from the start. Nehru and Patel understood it much later, agreeing to Partition. Gandhi never understood it; if he did, he never accepted it.
  6. Three parts of undivided India had a Muslim majority. The west became Pakistan, the east became Bangladesh. Sooner or later, the north will become something else: the Muslims of Kashmir do not want to be India. But Indians do not understand that.

Let us now respond in order and present a different perspective:

  1. Undivided India need not have been the world’s poorest country. The resources, attention and energy that have gone into the continued hostility since Partition could have been channeled into development. (See the cost of conflict estimated by the Strategic Foresight Group, Mumbai). The huge market and the complementarities of arbitrarily divided ecosystems could have yielded great benefits. Huge investments went into making up for the division of the Indus water system, for example.
  2. A democracy need not be a mechanical and rigid system. Malaysia, with three, not two, hostile communities found a way to adjust its system of governance to suit its constraints. South Africa, with its bitter history of apartheid, found a way in its constitution to work around the hostilities. There was no reason India could not have found a similarly workable formula.
  3. There is no reason to think in terms of one community ruling the other. Indeed, that is a framework that is incompatible with democratic governance. The fact is that almost right up to Partition, the Punjab’s Unionist Party had found a mechanism to govern with a coalition of the major communities.
  4. Even after Partition there is no Nizam-e-Mustafa. The fact that a large number of Hindus in India today want the Kingdom of Ram does not mean that their demand needs to lead to a redefinition of India. These kinds of demands need to be resolved in the political arena.
  5. Jinnah did not feel from the start that the fault-line in undivided India would have remained Hindus versus Muslims. In fact, Jinnah was the advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity because he believed it was possible. The management of any fault line is up to the leadership as shown by the examples of Malaysia and South Africa mentioned earlier. Ireland is another example.
  6. Three parts of undivided India had a Muslim majority but the demand for Pakistan did not originate in these areas. In fact the Muslim majority areas of the west were the last to sign on and even then very reluctantly. The Muslims of Kashmir seemed quite satisfied with the situation under the Farooq Abdullah government. Their attitude is more a function of India’s mismanagement (and post-partition Pakistan’s incitements) than of some innate hatred of Hindus. There is no cure for mismanagement. Even the Muslim west and east could not coexist in the face of political folly.

It is quite possible to argue that there were many possible resolutions of the situation that prevailed in India in the 1930s and 1940s. It was a failure of leadership that the worst possible alternative was chosen. India lacked a statesman of the caliber of Mandela who could see beyond the immediate political gains and losses.

The cost of the Partition is hard to imagine – almost a million deaths, ten million homeless, and continued conflicts. Add to this the subsequent costs in Bangladesh and the ongoing ones in Kashmir. If the inability of Hindus and Muslims to live together is given as the sole reason for the Partition, it should be considered that in all the one thousand years that Muslims lived in India, there was never once this scale of conflict or bloodshed.

It was possible to live together. In fact Hindus and Muslims continue to live together in India even though their relations were poisoned and made immensely difficult by the fact of the Partition.

One could just as well argue that the Partition was a disaster for both Hindus and Muslims as also for the Sikhs whose homeland was cut into two. A united India would never have allowed the Saudis or the Americans to set up madrassas and train jihadis within its territories. Dim-witted dictators would never have been able to occupy the positions of power they were in post-Partition Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We can say that Manto in Toba Tek Singh had the right perspective on the partition of India.

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  • Anil Kala
    Posted at 12:36h, 27 September Reply

    I think soon some kind of political stability would have emerged like a Hindu Prime Minister a Muslim Dy. Prime Minister.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 17:59h, 29 September Reply


    Personally, I agree with you. Some formula would have emerged. Even in Lebanon, with its intense differences, a power sharing formula was agreed upon and provided stability for a considerable period of time. The fact that Lebanon was sucked into the Middle East crisis is a different story.

    I feel the main point is that there were a number of possible solutions, some proposed by the British and some by the Unionists, all of which would have yielded less immediate pain and suffering and less longer term instability.

    So the question is: Why did reasonable, highly educated individuals, fail to arrive at a sensible solution?

    If one reads Shameful Flight by Stanley Wolpert (2006), it would seem that a main contributor was Mountbatten’s hurry to get back home to England. But, of course, there was more than that.

  • Zubair Osmani
    Posted at 07:56h, 03 October Reply

    Without partition the subcontinent would have been a war turn region exploited by the world powers pitching one group or one religion against the other for their own specific interests. Unlike the present situation, one ethnic group would have striven to dominate the other, Hindus who had not ruled in a thousand years would have been slaved easily; it would have made no difference if there was a non Hindu ruler.
    It would have been simple and easy to exploit the resources of the sub continent by keeping it in constant turmoil.
    Look at Africa, a demographically homogeneous continent has been turned into battle field of tribes promoted by the ideology and corporate interests.
    Partition was the best solution, even if Muslims were made to sacrifice more than the others.

    • patriot
      Posted at 16:03h, 12 September

      I do not agree with you. Partition did not solve anything it only worsened the situation. A leader who considers his caste, community, or religion ahead of his nation is not a patriot.

      It is not possible to devide nation on basis of religion, every nook and coner of india you have people of different religions, can you drive them out of their houses and promise a new house in a different land will they be happy? Has partition solved any problem?

      People of different religions can coexist provided they dont mix community issues with national issues. Individual rights are important but they must be fought as citizens of the country. Religious rights of an individual is also important, even that can be fought for without harming national interest.

      In conclusion, partition only gave extra power to politicians to rule (more countries, more states more polititians can rule) no benifit to the citizens, just loss of money time and life’s!!!!!

    • sam
      Posted at 22:24h, 23 February

      I agree with you 100 percent. Greed and dishonesty is the root cause of this problem we face today.

    • Ahmed Bihari
      Posted at 08:52h, 16 November

      Here’s democracy unlike Pakistan

  • Observer
    Posted at 14:28h, 03 October Reply

    Your argument is that the presence of more than one group in a country provides the opportunity for outside powers to exploit the situation.

    After partition, India still has more Muslims than Pakistan but outside exploitation is minimal. Pakistan which was almost all Muslim was much more subject to outside exploitation. It seems that the factors that promote exploitation are different.

    Malaysia had three very large and different groups but once they found a formula to co-exist, no one from outside could exploit them.

    If diversity is a problem then it seems that partition is not the answer because it was Pakistan that was partitioned again, not India.

    Diversity can be a source of strength or a weakness. It is a function of the leadership how they deal with diversity. It was for this that Nelson Mandela was awrded the Nobel prize.

  • Rohit
    Posted at 07:44h, 03 December Reply

    One reason why Nehru and Patel agreed to parition was because they saw it as the only way that a strong centralized state could be created which could implement the congress parties agenda be it land reforms, nationalisation of industry, abolition of the caste system, Hindu law reform etc. The alternative model of a loose federation would have made it more difficult.

    On the other hand, it might have been a good thing if the congress had faced credible opposition in the first 30 years of its rule.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 18:19h, 06 December Reply


    Yes, this is a plausible reason for why Nehru and Patel agreed to partition. The alternative model would have made some things more difficult.

    But how difficult? The question is: Was the price the political leaders were willing to pay for subsequent ease of operations worth the gains?

    Would it not have made more sense for each side to have given up a little in order to preserve a peaceful subcontinent in which 10 million people did not have to leave their homes.

    It is in this sense that one feels none of the leading politicians were able to see the larger interest. There was no one with the vision or stature of a Mandela.

    • Esh Bharti
      Posted at 14:12h, 15 December

      Actually there was a leader named Abul Kalam Azad with the vision or stature of a Mandela. But no one listened to him ,unfortunately.

  • suhail
    Posted at 18:20h, 25 January Reply

    I think partitioning India was something the Brits did to vent out their frustration of them losing their “JEWEL IN THE CROWN”.and we indians(pro 1947) fell for it.India is a beautifull mix of hindu and muslim culture.I have grown up in Post Independent India where people live in harmony for most of their days.Politically motivated riots have happened in the past but India has remained true to its values.I think its not too late.Pakistanis and Indians are the best of friends when they are studyin overseas(my friends)which shows that we can live together without the hatred.I think if we unite India again,stress will again come back to its culture,its diverse beautifull people.How could we fall for The Brits after them having slaved us for 200 years.Shows how we INdians/pakistanis are so easily deceived.I think rulers like AKBAR(MUSLIM) truly understood the strenght of united India where the rich muslim and hindu culture would make the country the worlds richest.Lets start with open borders ,think of each other as humans first,pre 1947 Indians and reunite one day.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 01:48h, 27 January Reply

    Suhail, This is an experiment that can be tried any time. Put a some Pakistanis in a group comprising Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Arabs and Iranis and more often than not they will gravitate towards the other South Asians. With the Arabs and Iranis they may share a religion but with South Asians they share much more and that is what determines one’s level of comfort. Your observation about students overseas is quite right. You can also see the interactions of Punjabis abroad where the affinity of language between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs outweighs the differences of religion.

    We should not wait for the subcontinent to be reunited in order to see each other as fellow human beings. Who could have said that Germany and France in 1948 would be part of a united Europe fifty years later. Fifty years is a long time and we have no way of knowing what the politics of South Asia might be in the future. If we do away with the border lines in our minds and hearts the physical borders would lose much of their meaning. The starting point is to reject those who preach hatred.

    • man0jm
      Posted at 12:13h, 14 January

      Well said. To add to this, my personal experiences in US & EU 1. Many Pakistanis introduced themselves as Indians – if they were india haters, why would they do so? 2. I have been recipient of many acts of kindness by Pakistanis, when indians werent.

      I really think the way forward to peace and growth is not encouraging stereotyping and biases, but both sides taking CBM’s by controlling the hawks within them.

      If Sudan & South Sudan can talk to each other, why cant India and Pakistan?

    • Kabir Altaf
      Posted at 13:12h, 14 January

      Sometimes Pakistanis introduce ourselves as “Indians” because we don’t want to get into pointless discussions with well-meaning people about whether we support the Taliban or our mothers are covered in head to toe burka.

      Unfortunately, our nation has a bad reputation these days (some of it well-deserved and some of it a result of highlighting certain aspects to suit various agendas)

  • Aakar
    Posted at 03:13h, 28 January Reply

    The Daily Times has published an opinion piece on a new book about Jinnah. Very roughly put, it argues that the trajectory of Pakistan was not ‘negative’ (inspired by Jinnah’s charisma, which gathered Muslims under a two-nation banner), but ‘positive’ (meaning to say that India’s Muslims were — are — looking for something that they saw their faith promising them).
    That Jinnah followed the Muslims into Pakistan rather than the other way around.


  • Vikram
    Posted at 18:19h, 06 February Reply

    Well, Dr. Ambedkar;s perspective on this issue is very valuable, since he was one guy who was neutral towards both Hindus and Muslims.

    The movement for Pakistan was a mass movement, and it was backed up by the League’s success in the provincial elections held in the areas that comprise Pakistan today.

    I think one problem is that most Pakistanis tend to view India as essentially homogenous and Hindu, while Indians have very different (and contesting) views on the nature of their country. National identity is a very problematic idea in an India of Punjabi Sikhs and Christian Tamils. India is an idea that is still evolving, and it is an idea that might not succeed.

    And it is difficult for me to see why the areas that comprise Pakistan today would have chosen to remain in the Union once these divisions started surfacing. I think you are under estimating the power of religious nationalism.

    • SIranjeev
      Posted at 12:33h, 03 December

      Exactly my thoughts. Today, people consider Pakistan and the conflict in Kashmir as a major problem. But the truth is, if the partition had been denied, the subcontinent would have disintegrated into a full scale civil war. If we look around us, at each and every instance of a country where a minority felt alienated, demanded a separate state, and was denied it, we would see disasters. Be it Sri Lanka, be Syria, be it Ukraine. Ghandi and the leaders of the Congress of that day saved us from this fate. It’s hard to see so many people today, especially since the BJP came to power, criticise Ghandi. To me personally, the partition is what distinguishes India from every other nation. It’s a mark of the greatness of our land and its values. For where every other nation tried to take, we were willing to give. Jai Hind.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 14:32h, 03 December

      Siranjeev: I am not questioning your conclusion since there is no way of knowing that “if the partition had been denied, the subcontinent would have disintegrated into a full scale civil war.” You can’t claim something is “the truth” simply by declaring it so.

      However, I am questioning your logic because in the very next sentence you affirm your belief that “each and every instance of a country where a minority felt alienated, demanded a separate state, and was denied it, we would see disasters.” If that is indeed the case, one could ask why India is not “willing to give” (your words) the areas in which minorities have felt alienated for over 60 years?

      I am not stating India should do that. I am only asking why you don’t recommend it doing so given the logic of your argument.

    • Indian
      Posted at 19:17h, 07 January

      Hi South Asian, Indian congress did not have the power to split India, it was British who split because Jinnah and Muslim League asked for it. Muslim League and Jinnah wanted to separate electorate based on religion, this could have permanently divided the country and could have been a source of conflict between politicians and us people. Off course this is a guess because we cannot know what would be, only what is.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 14:34h, 08 January

      Indian: The way I look at this is different. Take your claim that “it was British who split because Jinnah and Muslim League asked for it.” Did the British do everything that was asked of them? If not, why did they agree to this particular demand? And why did Jinnah and the Muslim League ask for a split of India? Did Congress actions have anything to trigger that demand?

      Take the other claim that “Muslim League and Jinnah wanted to separate electorate based on religion.” Dr. Ambedkar also wanted separate a separate electorate for Dalits. The Congress accepted the first but rejected the second. Why? The effect of both would have been the same if your claim is right – that separate electorates divide and are a source of conflict. Did these contradictory actions have any bearing on what happened?

      You are quite right that we will never know for sure but these sorts of questions can point us in the direction of useful research.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 19:50h, 07 February Reply

    Vikram, It is difficult to underestimate the power of nationalism and religion after the conflicts of the 20th century.

    On this blog we are trying to answer a few issues that preceded the conflict in India. As you mention, the idea of national identity is complex: the differences between Punjabi, Bengali and Keralite Muslims were just as profound as the ones you have mentioned – the subsequent contempt of West Pakistani Muslims for East Pakistani Muslims is just one example by way of evidence. So why did identity in British India get defined around religion and not around ethnicity or langauage? This was not an accident and we have referred a lot to the excellent book by Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik (In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia) to explore this question.

    Those who are interested in these issues know that there is no homogeneity in India just as there is none in Pakistan. The Muslim League tried to create a Muslim identity just as the BJP is trying to create a Hindu one. These attempts can have temporary political payoffs but ultimately do more harm than good.

    The movement for Pakistan was not a mass movement to begin with. The League did very poorly in the 1937 elections but much better in the 1946 ones. What happened in the interim to change the opinions of Muslims? Even so, in interpreting the movement one should keep in mind that these elections were contested on the basis of separate electorates and a limited franchise. The majority of Muslims did not have the vote and most who migrated had no choice because of the scale of the riots in 1947.

    The areas that comprise Pakistan today were the last to sign on to the Pakistan movement, if it can be called a movement. That is not where the movement began or was the strongest. There is no reason why they would not have remained in the Union given alternative representational arrangements. And even if they had wanted to separate they could have done so without so much loss of life and perpetual hostility – as for example in the case of the Czechs and the Slovaks. We have spent considerable effort on the blog establishing the crucial importance of electoral rules in political outcomes – see the posts on Malaysia and Japan.

    The discussion on Dr. Ambedkar is a separate one. In brief, he was amongst the most highly trained, analytical and forthright personalities of that time. He was unusual because he did not start with a preferred position for which he then sought convincing arguments. On the contrary, he led with an objective analysis and put his weight behind whatever position was supported by logic.

    It was in this sense that he was neutral. Otherwise he was bitterly opposed to the caste discriminations in Hinduism and ultimately converted to Buddhism with his followers. As for the Muslim League, irrespective of the merit of the case for Pakistan, he maintained that it was not negotiating in good faith by continuing to ask for more when earlier demands were conceded.

    Dr. Ambedkar was a huge intellect and an immense resource. It goes to the credit of Gandhi and Nehru, that despite his criticisms of Hinduism, they included him in the first cabinet and entrusted him with the leadership of the constitution committee. That his views were not popular with the general voters is obvious from the fact that he failed to be elected to the Lok Sabha. His contribution to the political stability of India was invaluable. There was no one of his calibre in Jinnah’s team.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 22:18h, 08 February Reply

    Very good reply.

    My impression was that the Muslim League’s movement was a mass movement, but I guess it was not that clear cut. I still dont see how some kind of ‘united’ South Asia would have survived, when almost all the countries here have serious internal conflicts.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 19:07h, 11 February Reply

    Vikram, If you read Ramachandra Guha’s book India after Gandhi, you might find at least one answer to your question. The book is an expression of surprise that India has stayed together as one country when few expected it to do so.

    There were serious internal conflicts in India (think of the separation sentiment in the South) and there still are. India has stayed together because of a proactive policy of conflict management and prevention – the creation of states based on langauge was an important element of this policy.

    In essence this was strengthening a linguistic identity to tide over the time it would take to build an Indian identity. An identity built around language rather than religion is much more stable simply because there are many more languages than there are religions. A major Us versus Them polarity is much less likely to emerge.

    So we are back to our question: Why was identity in the frst half of the 20th century in British India allowed (or encouraged) to emerge around religion rather than around language or ethinicity?

    There are few conflicts that cannot be managed with intelligent policy. South Asia could have survived just as India has survived. At least there was a very good chance. After all, it had survived for a very long time before it broke apart.

    • Arun Gupta
      Posted at 02:40h, 13 July

      None of the movements in (divided) India has asked for parity of a numerically smaller community with a larger community. Separate electorates and complete parity at the Center were the All India Muslim League demands and there was no possible compromise that the Indian National Congress could make with that.

      If there was a formula that could have worked, those people would have found it – they were in general smarter and more honest and sincere than the politicians we have today.

      In any case, we’ve had 60 years to bring about a European Union-like situation, and that hasn’t happened. SAARC is a joke. I don’t need to invoke counterfactual history to prove this. If we could not get that to work, how would a united India work?

      We still see most of Pakistan and some of Bangladesh and India still fighting the religious fights of the twentieth century. In Bangladesh the Supreme Court and in India the electorate seems to have rejected religion-based politics. The fight continues in Pakistan.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 10:14h, 13 July

      Arun: People have managed to find workable solutions in even more complex situations – Malaya, Lebanon, South Africa to take just a few examples. Mandela and the ANC could have done to the Whites in South Africa what Idi Amin did to Indians in Uganda but sometimes the larger welfare calls for accommodations, even major accommodations. The historical accounts that are being written after the release of the Transfer of Power papers (Khilnani, Seervai, Wolpert, Jaswant Singh, etc.) are not agreed that the situation was one without a possible solution.

      I agree that SAARC is a joke but your inference is not valid. SAARC is a post-conflict organization, United India would have been a pre-conflict one. The fact that SAARC does not work does not imply that a United India would not have worked. It might have or it might not have for other reasons.

      You are right that religion-based politics continues in Pakistan but the counterfactual that is relevant to this discussion is whether the area that now constitutes Pakistan would have seen the same conflict had Pakistan not been created?

    • Arun Gupta
      Posted at 18:50h, 13 July

      Well, sometime between March 1940 and August 1947 was the point of no return regarding conflict/pre-conflict; and I place it closer to 1940 than to 1947.

      Once the rhetoric started that “without Pakistan, Islam and Muslims will perish from India” (e.g., here is Jinnah, March 1941, Aligarh : Pakistan is not only a practicable goal but the only goal if you want to save Islam from complete annihilation in this country.), IMO, there was no going back.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 07:21h, 14 July

      Arun: I agree. I would also locate the point-of-no-return close to 1940. There is a post on the blog (The Road to Partition) that offers one chronology. It is open for discussion.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 20:40h, 11 February Reply

    True, in fact my very first ever blog post was about the creation of linguistic states in India,

    One note, please dont refer to the states of India as ‘provinces’, it is something that most Indians would detest. The very first line of the Consti is that ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’.

    Changed. Thanks for pointing out the slip.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 06:03h, 14 July

      Vikram, SA – can one of you educate me on why referring to the states of India as provinces would cause Indians to squirm? Thanks.

  • sameer
    Posted at 22:22h, 14 February Reply

    i think that if there had not been a partition atleast what pakistan is right now would not have been this way Muslims wanted to be indipendent but they never were as dictatores in pakistan ruled the way they wanted if there had been one united india we surely would have become a superpower by now

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 09:43h, 15 February Reply

    Sameer, Your comment raises a number of important points that need to be discussed further:

    1. Did Muslims want independence? What is the evidence for this assertion? Some answers to this question are provided in the post On the Emergence of Pakistan (http://thesouthasianidea.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/on-the-emergence-of-pakistan/). More Muslims stayed behind in India than moved to Pakistan. How is this fact reconciled with the claim?

    2. What made it easier for military dictators to take over power in Pakistan compared to India?

    3. What is the basis for the claim that an undivided India would have been a superpower by now? What are the essential requirements for achieving the status of a superpower?

  • Bloody Civilian
    Posted at 19:56h, 11 May Reply

    an involved discussion about the possibilities of a non-partitioned india, and not even once does it mention the Cabint Mission’s Plan! how amazing!

    not a single commentor, nor even the author has challenged the false assertion about separate electorates. it was swallowed line, hook and sinker.

    the CMP was based on a single, joint electorate for all indians. there were no separate electorates. jinnah had long been making clear his disdain for separate electorates, and disuading his electorate from espousing them.

    all indian leaders envisaged india to have universal adult franchise.

    the CMP did not envisage a partition of any province. group B = united punjab, nwfp, sindh, baluchistan. group C = united bengal + assam. group A = the rest of british india.

    the following is the picture after the success of the league in the 1946 elections (on a separate electorate, limited frnachise basis):

    1. in the punjab, the ministry was formed by a congress + unionists + akalis coalition, not the league and their partners the communists.

    2. nwfp had a congress ministry.

    3. in group C, league had a lead of merely 3 seats, i.e 35:32.

    so this was hardly a communal grouping. rather it was staunchly anti-majoritarian in case of groups B and C.

    the CMP required the absolute minimum of the three subjects – defence, extrenal affairs and communications – to be central subjects.

    group A, with its overwhelming congress majority could make the centre as powerful as it wished by giving it all conceivable government subjects, and the centre would still have controlled the defence and comms over the other two groups and held external affairs. that is, a unified military institution and command.

    there was no parity at the centre, neither between the groups nor the two communities. each group had the power of veto, which is not the same as power to vote.. which was 201 to 73 in the INC’s favour.

    grouping was compulsory only till the first general elections. that is, it was for the sole purpose of constitution making, as was the group veto. after that, provinces were free to abandon groups, or change from one to another.

    under the CMP, no province was allowed to secede from india (notwithstanding INC’s long held stance that they would never deny a province’s democratic right to do so).

    the league accepted the CMP. the congress claimed it accepted it without accepting the ‘compulsory grouping’ explained in the above paragraph.

  • Bloody Civilian
    Posted at 20:12h, 11 May Reply

    dr ambedkar’s book: it was written in december 1940. it could not have forseen 1946, let alone answer the question: “why did the league accept the CMP?”

  • harsh vardhan
    Posted at 14:00h, 03 July Reply

    partition is right.

    Editor’s comment: Perhaps, but opinions differ. This is what Sunil Khilnani writes in The Idea of India: “Partition is the unspeakable sadness at the heart of the idea of India: a memento mori that what made India possible also profoundly diminished the integral value of the idea. It conceded something essential in the nationalist vision, the conviction that what defined India was its extraordinary capacity to accumulate and live with differences.” (pp. 201-202)

    Whether it was right or wrong, it was clearly a failure of the human imagination and of human skills since no one started out wanting an outcome that cost a million lives, ten million displaced, and endless strife.

    On this blog we are not trying to reverse history, only to understand why it turned out in a particular manner and what other possibilities were foregone. Is there something to be learnt from that history?

  • Vinod
    Posted at 12:37h, 04 July Reply

    Harsh Vardhan, are you THE Harsh Vardhan? – The IAS officer who resigned to do a tremendous job at providing relief for the victims of the Gujarat pogrom?

  • Jainulabideen_Proud 2 B an Indain Muslim
    Posted at 17:21h, 17 August Reply

    i’m not able to gues wat wud’ve hapend in unpartitioned India…. coz xcept Bangladesh, der r separatist movements all over india n pak wo want der own countries n regions.. but if india emerges sucessful in controlling it, it wud surely b 1 of d powerful C’tries in wrld 2day..coz 2 of us obtained N-power independently…

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 18:58h, 17 August

      Jainul: What do you think are the chances of India controlling the separatist movements? What does India need to do to control them?

      Jaswant Singh’s new book, “Jinnah – India, Partition, Independence,” was released on August 17, 2009. The following is a quote from the book:

      The cruel truth is that this partitioning of India has actually resulted in achieving the very reverse of the originally intended purpose; partition, instead of settling contention between communities has left us a legacy of markedly enhanced Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or other such denominational identities, hence differences…

  • Raza
    Posted at 09:21h, 06 September Reply


    ‘South Asia could have survived just as India has survived. At least there was a very good chance. After all, it had survived for a very long time before it broke apart.’

    Could you please explain that when and how long it [South Asia] had survived before it broke apart.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 13:37h, 06 September

      Raza: I have been thinking how best to illustrate this. Let us see if this would work: Let us move back from 1947, year by year, and identify another time when one million people died and ten million became homeless because two communities wanted to live in separate countries of their own. Of course, if we move forward from 1947, we would arrive at another such date in 1971. We would also come to the unfulfilled demands of Khalistan, Nagaland, Mizoram, Pakhtunistan, Balochistan, Tamil Eelam, etc. that have been the cause of violence and deaths. Does this characterization seem reasonable?

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 12:13h, 15 September Reply

    The real paradox of Partition is that Hindus produce so many characters who spend their days fantasising about an impossible dream of undoing Partition, taking it for granted in their brain-free skulls that Hindus, Muslims and the rest will then live as one happy family…..

    Whereas the whole history of India since the Muslim invasions has shown graphically and conclusively that Muslims hate the guts of Hindus, have always done so and always will. They follow a tough, extremely intolerant Mosaic religion, and are the last to accomodate mere idolators.

    If Hindu India with 150 mllion Muslims lives on the edge of catastrophic explosion, tense with fear of Muslim eruptions, the solution of the INCREDIBLY stupid sick Hindu “intellectuals” like the donkey’s clown Puri is to introduce another 300 million Muslims into the explosive brew by undoing Partition……!!!!

    I ask you !!!!!

    Partition, by getting rid of two-thirds of a endlessly demanding and violent Muslim population to Pakistan, actually allowed Hindus the possibility of breathing in a free country.

    No sane person wants to go back to Hell. That is what India would be if Partition were undone.

    The paradox is that Hindus, who were SAVED by Partition, kept nearly all the good land in India, were given the chance for the first time in a thousand years to unite in one big state where they had a hige majority, often produce donkeys who want top undo the basis of this salvation.

    Without Partition, in a couple of generations Muslims would be a MAJORITY in the Sub-continent. A camel brain like Puri doesn’t realise this.

    Muslim Pakistanis almost NEVER, paradoxically, want Partition undone. They are PROUD of Pakistan and want to keep away from Hindus if they possibly can.

    ANWAAR has pointed out that no less than two million of three million Bengalis pitilessly slaughtered by the butcherous Paki armies were Hindus ! This is a country in which Hindus were a helpless minority of hardly 10 per cent……They were put to wholesale Nazi-style genocide for no other reason than that they were Hindus.

    Such are the Muslim “brothers” of Hindus. No people on earth hates Hindus even one-millionth as much.

  • kabir
    Posted at 17:24h, 15 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram,

    I’m a “Muslim Pakistani” and I want Partition undone. That disproves your thesis all together.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 07:22h, 16 September Reply


    You are the exception that proves my rule.

    No wonder you want Partition undone, though. As I pointed out, if India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were united, in two or three generations Muslims would ge a MAJORITY. Foolish Hindus don’t realise this.

    No, we sensible Hindus know Partition was our community’s salvation and DO NOT WANT YOU BACK, THANKS.

    Away to Arabia !!!!!

  • kabir
    Posted at 12:24h, 16 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram Bhai,

    “Away to Arabia!” I am not an Arabian. I am an Indian. My family is Indian. My culture is Indian. The languages I speak–Urdu and Punjabi– are Indian langauges. The classical music I sing is Hindustani classical. The food I eat is Indian. I have no interest at all in Arabs or Arabia.


    Kabir Mohan

  • kabir
    Posted at 12:27h, 16 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram Bhai:

    In the the words of Bhagat Kabir– a great Indian: “koee bolay ram ram koee khudai”. This is the true essence of Indian secularism, and what allowed Hindus and Muslims to live together for centuries with minimal issues. It was only when the British introduced seperate electorates and the competition for political resources became intense that communalism became an issue.

    The motto of India is “Unity in Diversity”. Why do you want to turn Bharat into the Hindu equivalent of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”?

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 14:21h, 16 September Reply


    You are harping on an old tune, and it does not convince.

    Muslims with few exceptions feel far more for Arabia than for India, and certainly loathe Hinduism.

    I don’t blame them. It is their religion and choice. Only, don’t try to fool Hindus.

    Bhagat Singh was a brave but foolish man.

    In a united India, Muslims will rule as they will in as few decades be the majority.

    Under Muslim power Hinduism will be finished. It led a slave existence in previous Muslim regimes. WE DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK TO THAT.

    Arabia is the place for you.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 14:36h, 16 September

      Ganpat: This is not a fruitful line of argumentation. You cannot decide what would be the right place for anyone else – it is their choice. You could just as easily be asked to move to Nepal where there would be no danger of your being ruled by anyone else in a few generations. Nor would you have to live with people you don’t like. That would be equally pointless. You have to decide where you want to live and what you want to make of that place. You seem to have given up on the secular and democratic vision of India that Jawaharlal Nehru had espoused. I am intrigued what your vision of an ideal India looks like and if you were in the driver’s seat what would be the first half dozen policy measures you would put in place to get there?

  • Hayyer
    Posted at 15:14h, 16 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram:
    If over 700 years of Muslim rule could not reduce Hindu majority in India it is unlikely that a few decades would have done so.
    Hindus don’t live tense in fear of Muslim eruptions. If anything it is Muslims who have reason to live in tension.
    The three countries are separate now; what is done is done. The best that they can do is to try and get along.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 15:29h, 16 September Reply


    It seems you will not accept that Hindus and Muslims do differ profoundly in their loyalties and allegiances and that is the fundamental reason why they formed separate nations once the British decided to quit.

    Blaming the British is very callow.

    Islam is an extremely powerful religion. Muslims in the Subcontinent feel the terrific pull of Arabian history and culture and have huge contempt for the Hindu heritage. They identify with their Arab converters not their now remote Hindu ancestors. Jinnah is a good example. He came from a Hindu family a couple of generations back, but totally rejected any Hindu links.

    Fair enough. No one is obliged to love Hindus or Hinduism.

    However, Hindus do have to try and survive. Under Islamic rule, there was no equality or hnour for Hinduism. At best it hung on as a despised slave religion.

    Now, Hindus are concentrated in one big state, and have a big majority. Partition got rid of two-thirds of the endlessly threatening and violent Muslimas, who have their own countries.

    I have read the bitter old arguments prior to Partition, and was chilled by the extent of hatred and contempt for Hindus they show.

    Let us not go back to all that. It was a terrible world.

    Steps to help India?

    Eradicate illiteracy. Make healthcare universal. Carry out serious land reforms. Make hiring people in industry easy. Fence the borders to prevent Muslim illegal immigration. Get a tough army to withstand Pakistan and China. Ensure equality for monorities.

    Such are my thoughts.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 15:49h, 16 September

      Ganpat: All your steps to help India make sense. I am not sure though how you will go about the last one – “ensure equality for minorities”?

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 16:10h, 16 September


      I notice you seem to be avoiding the major part of my message.

      However, so be it.

      By equality for minorities I mean exactly what any civilised state would have. India is certainly Hindu-dominated and ought to be a Hindu state to give Hinduism honour. But that does not mean in the least that Muslims should be discriminated against. They should have equality in law and their religious observances and places should be respected. There should be a single legal code all should be subject to and steps should be taken to help Muslim women escape the particular disabilities they suffer. All this is commonplace.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 16:25h, 16 September

      Ganpat: The specification is ideal and perfect. I am not sure how it can be achieved simultaneously with intense hatred, contempt, bitterness, resentment, and the desire to send all of them to Arabia where their entire loyalties lie? Can one be socially civilized and individually uncivil at the same time?

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 15:44h, 16 September Reply

    The less Hindus have to do with Muslims, the better for them.

    Reading post-Independence Indian history, I am struck by how the frightening pressure and fear of the Thirties and Forties was replaced by a much calmer world in India once the Muslims quit and went off to Pakistan.

    The fifties were in many ways India’s happiest times, because the Muslim population was proprtionately at its lowest.

    A lesson in that for Hindus.

    Muslims are a tough bunch. As they increase in numbers, they become more and more demanding and threatening.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 16:57h, 16 September Reply


    I don’t think reminding Muslims that their heritage is basically Arabian is an insult. It is an honour for them to recall their allegiance to the homeland of Mohammed.

    Nor did I say Indian Muslims should be sent to Arabia. I merely told Kabir that that is where he should look to as his culture was centred on it.

    I have no gripes against Muslims of the Subcontinent. If they destroyed Hindu temples, I blame the Hindus for not having the guts and efficacy to defend them.

    I don’t blame Muslims for their love of Islam. It has a great culture behind it and I am sure it is in many ways better than Hinduism.

    As a Hindu I am loyal to my religion, but I am sure it is far from perfect and I do not claim it is beautiful. It is mine, that is all.

    To each his own.

    The Hindus have their country and Muslims theirs.

    Let us live in peace and see how to develop them.

    As Nehru said, wisely: “If so many people do not want to be in India, hiow can we and why should we compel them?”. That was his final verdict on Partition, and I thnk it stands. Patel remarked, also wisely: “Let the Muslim League develop 20 per cent of India, and we will develop the rest.”


    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 17:16h, 16 September

      Ganpat: Not agreed; rather totally perplexed. “The Hindus have their country and Muslims theirs.” So what is the country of the 150 million Muslims who are citizens of India?

    • kabir
      Posted at 17:39h, 16 September

      Ganpat Ram bhai,

      Nehru and Patel may have agreed to Partition, but Gandhiji was always against it. He told Jinnah in 1944 that he did not believe that Hindus and Muslims were seperate nations. He said “I have never heard of sons of converts claiming to be different from the parent stock”.

      My culture is not in Arabia. I am South Asian and “Hindustani”. I do not speak or read Arabic, I do not eat Arab food, I don’t wear Arab clothing. I have nothing in common with Arabs, except perhaps nominally a religion– which I’m not really that interested in anyway.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 11:38h, 17 September


      If the Hindus don’t even have India, what country have they?

      Of course there are minorities as in every country and I have said they deserve equal rights.

      So what is the problem?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 18:46h, 17 September

      Ganpat: Kabir beat me to the punch on this but I would like to add something. I don’t think it is enough to say that minorities ‘deserve’ equal rights. I feel the correct perspective is to think of all citizens having equal rights that are inalienable. Minorities should not have a status that is at the mercy of someone’s dicretion. One can think of this as the difference between the status of courtiers under a king and bureaucrats governed a civil service code. This difference in status makes all the difference to behavior. When a bureaucrat violates the terms of his service, he or she can be dismissed or put in jail. But even those in jail retain an inalienable right to their status as equal citizens.

      In a sense, the US violated this principle when it interned Japanese-Americans during WW2. It has since apologized for the error. Citizenship should have no relationship to religion, caste, ethnicity, language, color, or sex.

    • kabir
      Posted at 13:09h, 17 September

      Ganpat Ram bhai,

      India belongs to all its citizens– Hindu, Muslim Christian, atheist, whatever.


    • Ahsan Ahmed Pitafi
      Posted at 13:41h, 31 December

      Ganpat Ram you are right at your place but we can not depend over some statements which were given by Nehru because no one is perfect on earth .We are just trying to end all problems which were created between two nations in 20 centuary because I can not watch any more certain deaths of the soldiers .

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 09:24h, 18 September Reply

    SouthAsian, Kabir:

    You are talking about another subject altogether.

    I see no reason why Muslims in a Hindu India cannot have equal rights if Hindus in a Protestant Christian UK can have equal rights.

    Muslims have 60 states or so that are Muslim; there are scores of Christian states, many very liberal like the UK. Why not just ONE Hindu state, if liberal?

    The issue we were actually discussing was the pros and cons of Partition.

    My view remains that the Hindus had a VERY narrow escape thanks to Jinnah. Muslims in the Subcontinent are well on their way to a majority in the Subcontinent in a few decades. 1947 was a chance for Hindus to have a Hindu-dominated country, and they got it through Jinnah.

    Well done, Jinnah. I hope the fierce pride of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in their countries and separation from Hindus will keep us separate. That is best for ALL.

    I have read the bitter attacks on Hindus by Muslims in those decades leading to Partition. They breathe a hate and alienation that Hindus would be EXTREMELY stupid to submit themselves to again by undoing Partition.

    Partition has given Hindus the best chance for a decent life they have had since the Muslim invasions. I devoutly hope they keep it. Above all things, I fear the insinuating voice of Muslims who try to undo Partition, and the folly of Hindus who listen to them.

    Hindus and Muslims are much better off where they are, mostly in separate countries.

    Pakistan is run down by Hindus, but it was a great ideal for Muslims who sought a truly Muslim society that they could develop free of a Hindu environment. It was a great POSITIVE experiment, and that is how Muslims think of it. They can work to sort out its difficulties at present.

    Just keep us poor Hindus out of your way. We have been badly burnt in our association with your fierce Mosaic THRE IS ONLY ONE GOD faith.

    • kabir
      Posted at 12:22h, 18 September

      Ganpat Ram bhai,

      Not all “Muslims” are the way you think. Personally, I think everyone is entitled to worship god in the way they like. My relationship with god is personal and I’m no one to impose a particular view of the divine.

      Prior to Partition Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully together overall. Muslims even sang the Meera bhajan “Shyam piya more rang day chunaria” (a bhajan which I love by the way) only changing “Shyam” to “Khwaja” and addressing the song to Moinuddin Chisti. Indian Islam is not Arab Wahabbi Islam.

      Also, I object to your term ‘Muslim invasions”. The Mughals may have been foreigners but they became Indian. They gave Indians some of the most beautiful aspects of our common culture, such as the Taj and Hindustani Music, even Mughlai cuisine.

      I think trying to separate what is “Hindu” and what is “Muslim” in the Indian context is really foolish.


    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 13:35h, 18 September

      Ganpat: I have already acknowledged your opinion as one in the spectrum that has a very wide range. You are entitled to it. My interest is to figure out what kind of India you want. What do mean by a Hindu state? Is it the kind of state that Tagore, Nehru, Gandhi, and Sarojini Naidu had in mind, or is it different? If so, what is the difference?

      I am also unconvinced that the Hindu state you seem to be articulating can be liberal at the same time. Liberalism cannot have intolerance as a foundation.

      And finally, I don’t see how you can speak on behalf of all Muslims, past and present. You can speak for yourself and let other people present their opinions both in agreement and disagreement. Those are the rules of a debate. You can’t logically say “that is how Muslims think of it.” You can say “that is how I think Muslims think of it.” And then you would have to leave open the possibility that you could be wrong.

      The impression I form is that your position is similar to the one expressed recently by Varun Gandhi. We have talked about it earlier on the blog. It can be accessed here in case you want to pursue that discussion.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 16:44h, 18 September

      SouthAsian, Kabir, Hyvver:

      A Bharat Ratna is (seriously) too little for the truly unsurpassed service Jinnah rendered to the Hindus.

      It was little short of divine mercy that this man, whose grandfather’s family was Hindu, created Pakistan and in this way gave three quarters of the Subcontinent, and almost all the desirable lands, to the Hindus. As he correctly pointed out, it is much more than they have had for a long time.

      Hindus would have been in the pit of sheer hell by now had Pakistan not rid them of two-thirds of the appallingly violent, despotic and blackmailing Muslim population.

      Hindus also need to be devoutly grateful to their other saviour, Nehru. His hot temper saved us in 1947 when he threw out the Cabinet Mission Plan whereby large Hindu and Sikh areas would have remained under Muslim control while large Muslim areas would all be under Muslim control too. The centre would be feeble, and regions would be free to secede if they wanted. The Muslims, a qurater of the population would have parity at the centre. It was a formula to destroy the Hindus. Nehru threw it out and saved them.

      No wonder Islamists are whining about Partition. They knows that all Muslims got under it was a bum’s deal of two widely separated areas, mostly the worst bits of India.

      Saying that inundating the country with Muslims would make it peaceful is like saying that making a small fire in a house far bigger will protect the house.

      We Hindus are wll rid of Muslims, mate. Don’t let’s get mixed up with these dangerous fanatical characters again.

      Muslims also want Pakistan and Bangladesh to survive. They don’t want to get back with Hindus. Good for them.

      Been there, done that, not going back again! Away with foolish delusions.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 17:08h, 18 September

      Ganpat: Your opinion has been registered. Repetition does not make an argument stronger. Personally I am delighted with your stroke of good luck and wish you all the best.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 14:49h, 18 September

      Why one Hindu State? Many Hindus will find it suffocating to have a religious state. The way you are arguing for a liberal Hindu state, India is a de facto Hindu state so what is bothering you?

      There is one point which bothers me though. Why aren’t there several secular countries having Muslim majority? Will someone answer that?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 21:11h, 18 September

      Anil: The question you have asked is an important one. Let me rephrase it:

      Why aren’t there countries with Muslim majorities that are secular?

      While this is not my area of expertise, let me start a discussion. This is a complex question some of whose complexities are obvious and some hidden.

      One of the hidden complexities is the fact that we live today in the age of the nation-state which is a form that is less than 200 years old. One peculiarity of a nation-state is that it has a written constitution (leaving aside the special case of England) and this constitution has to declare the orientation of the state. Given that there is no distinction between Church and State in Islam (the Caliph is simultaneously the religious and secular head) it is an impossibility for a Muslim majority state to declare itself secular in its constitution.

      This is a legal conundrum that Kemal Ataturk tried to resolve by coercion in Turkey. The real question that we need to ask is how countries with Muslim majorities (regardless of whether they call themselves Islamic or secular) deal with the religious beliefs of non-Muslims who live in the same territory?

      Here the record is quite mixed – some do much better than others. So we have to go further and investigate what the local factors might be that determine whether the record is good or bad. This is a task for readers with more knowledge of the comparative record.

      It is interesting, however, to go back prior to the age of the nation-state because there one can judge simply on the basis of the record – the constitutional conundrum not being relevant. We again find a mixed record. For example, in the article by Amartya Sen that I had referred to in the post on Akbar, Sen writes:

      Western detractors of Islam as well as the new champions of Islamic heritage have little to say about Islam’s tradition of tolerance, which has been at least as important historically as its record of intolerance. We are left wondering what could have led Maimonides, as he fled the persecution of Jews in Spain in the twelfth century, to seek shelter in Emperor Saladin’s Egypt. And why did Maimonides, in fact, get support as well as an honored position at the court of the Muslim emperor who fought valiantly for Islam in the Crusades?

      Many non-Muslim historians have commented that in Jerusalem, the most contentious city because of its shared heritage between the three major Semitic religions, the most tolerant periods were those when the city was under Muslim control. A new book by the Templeton Foundation (Religious Tolerance in World Religions, 2008) has useful material on the historical record. Most of the book is available on the Internet and Chapter 12 (starting on page 274) has relevant information about Jerusalem.

      Even in India, although this may be more contentious, the Mughal period is not classified as particularly intolerant and one cannot point to religious persecutions that were any worse than have taken place in a secular India.

      So the question we have to ask (and not just for Muslim majority countries) is how majorities treat those who do not share the majority religion. And why, within the same culture, some periods are much more intolerant than others? If we can get a handle on this we may be able to recommend measures that would eliminate intolerance at the level of the state. It may never be possible to eliminate it at the level of the individual.

    • kabir
      Posted at 01:13h, 19 September

      In his book on Jinnah, Jaswant Singh cites a scholar on Islam, who says that Islam is a “theocentric but not a theocratic” religion. So, all activities revolve around god. the “good” orthodox Muslims cannot concieve of seperation of church (in this case mosque) and state, of religion being something that you practice in the privacy of your home, and not in the public sphere.

      Without being able to conceptualize the seperation of church and state or the public sphere/private sphere distinction, a country cannot be secular.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 02:04h, 19 September

      Apparently this is the crux of clash and not the clash of civilizations. Non Muslims don’t care how Muslims find it difficult to separate church with state therefore depend on their tolerance for equal rights. They expect quid pro quo, if we give constitutional rights for equality we should get the same from Muslims states.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 02:19h, 19 September

      Anil: This is a problematic proposition. Suppose Muslim states don’t guarantee equality; would we (I presume you mean India) also do the same? Is this a point of principle or of tit-for-tat? If the latter, India may go into a deep slide.

      Secondly, the issue is really one of equal rights. Is it possible to guarantee equal rights even if the state is non-secular? I hope someone who knows more can inform us of the status of guaranteed rights in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Morocco, etc.

      Third, if the tit-for-tat logic is to apply to Muslim states, would India guarantee equal rights to Christians because countries with Christian majorities have constitutionally guaranteed equal rights for non-Christians? So, India would have equal rights for some minorities and not for others? What will happen if some Christian countries renege on equal rights? If some Indian Christians originated in those countries, would they lose their equal rights?

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 02:41h, 19 September

      I didn’t say we should reciprocate in the same way. I am merely speculating on reason for rancour.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 03:17h, 19 September

      Anil: Sorry, I misread your comment. I see the point you are making. There is also the other side to that. For all its talk of Muslim brotherhood etc., it is quite obvious that the successive governments in Pakistan have never given any importance to the well-being of Muslims in India. Their narrow self-centered actions have brought untold misery on Indian Muslims because of the rancour that has been generated.

      This also highlights the lack of logic in the demand for Pakistan. Ostensibly, the intention was to provide political protection to the Muslims who were living in provinces like UP with large Hindu majorities. Muslims in Muslim-majority provinces like NWFP had adequate protection any way because of their numbers. Pakistan left behind all the Muslims that were considered vulnerable and constituted a new country in areas that did not need protection. The group that came out worst was of Muslims left behind in India deprived of political leadership. To make things even worse, subsequent actions of Pakistani governments ensured that more rancour was generated in India against Indian Muslims.

      This is the real test for India. Pakistani Muslims will do nothing to make the lives of Indian Muslims tolerable. Indians have to rise the challenge. It is a huge moral test – the kind of test the requires a Gandhian vision.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 12:50h, 19 September

      I can say something about Malaysia. The Indians and the Chinese have constantly resented the Bhoomiputra policies which guarantee reservation to a class of Malays (I am not sure exactly whom the reservations are guaranteed for), who invariably happen to be muslims as well. During lunch chats with my chinese colleagues they tell me that if Singapore was a part of Malaysia, our senior management in the Singapore Co affiliate would all be Malays and not Chinese though the majority in the populaiton is Chinese. Indians, Christians and the Chinese in Malaysia have always dreaded the imposition of Shariah. There are parties that are calling for a Saudi-style Shariah in their political rallies. The minorities in Malaysis continue to live in Malaysia even when they can affort to live in Singapore because Malaysia offers a cheaper and better quality lifestyle and the Shariah threats are only sporadic in nature.

      There have been issues in Malaysia about muslim apostates and the jurisdiction of the Shariah court that have troubled inter-community harmony. Lately, there have been issues with the movement of a temple that is being objected to by the muslims.

      I believe Malaysia survives through all these despite Islamic influence because of its pre-Islamic culture of syncretised growth of culture that has continued to a large extent till the global Islamization wave caught up in Malaysia too.

      I don’t hear much about Indonesia.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 12:55h, 19 September

      SA, muslims make an argument that Chirstian states do not let them practice a key aspect of their religion – polygamy. In that way, they are not giving equal treatment even in civil matters.

    • kabir
      Posted at 02:15h, 19 September

      Anil I agree with you about quid pro quo. But I also think India, as a secular state and as a democracy, should hold it’s self to higher standards than “Islamic Republics” and oil rich middle eastern kingdoms.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 13:03h, 19 September

      SA, I want to add a qualification of the tolerance you speak of in the medieval period. I beieve that kind of tolerance is a rather low standard when speaking of tolerance to minorities in today’s world. Would Saladdin have let one of the Maimonides become his deputy or his stand-in? Never. Letting the maimonides settle down in his empire and go about their daily business is one thing and letting a person from the minority rise up to governing a state is another. I don’t think we could ever have seen a Barrack Obama type leader in the medieval times. There was a limit to the tolerance of the medieval times that one should be aware of and medieval tolerance should not get overrated. .

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 17:22h, 20 September

      Vinod: This is an issue we should address with some care. First, one could argue that the extent and intensity of the intolerance we have seen in the modern era is unprecedented – where in the past would one find the equivalents of the Holocaust, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, the Apartheid in South Africa, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the decimation of native populations in North America and Australia, etc.?

      In some sense this is not the most interesting aspect. I feel the past has to be evaluated in terms of its own norms, not the norms of the modern era. And within the norms of any era it becomes useful to look at variations. Why at a particular time were some parts or some regimes more tolerant than others? That could tell us that we might be missing something important. If people of the same religion or culture could display variations in tolerance, there might be some other variable involved that we might be overlooking. It could be some political aspect that we are not aware of and have not looked for. In such cases most people find it easier instead to make sweeping generalizations for which no research is required.

      As for Maimonides, as Professor Sen has mentioned, Saladin not only supported him but gave him a place of honor at his court. We have already recorded in an earlier post the composition of Emperor Akbar’s cabinet – it ought to be considered a great sign of trust and religious tolerance to assign the control of the finances and the military of the empire to individuals belonging to groups that most people think in terms of hated enemies. If some Muslims were reading this discussion, they would surely point also to the fact that a black slave was the first appointed muezzin of the Islamic faith.

      So, either we are misinformed about the norms of earlier times or we are judging them too harshly.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 12:33h, 21 September


      Partition means Muslims can now peacefully develop their Pakistan with a mainly Muslim personality, and Hindus can develop an India with a mainly Hindu personality. The two can live separately. A very good result. I have many many criticisms of Nehru, but his decision to accept Partition SAVED the Hindus.

      Without it, there would have been an unimaginable bloodletting and Muslims would have seized far more land than they got. Hence their gripe about Partition.

  • Hayyer
    Posted at 14:48h, 18 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram
    You have read the hate mongers among the Muslims prior to partition. Have you read the hate mongers among the Hindus? It is a long list starting with Dayanand Saraswati and Vivekananda (though the latter claimed to be reasonable).

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 09:59h, 19 September Reply


    India has the right to be a Hindu state IF it gives equal rights to minorities.

    I am glad you admit Partition was a piece of enormous luck for Hindus.

    Even Muslims are better off with it. Hindus and Muslims have quarreled so much that without Partition there would have been total chaos and bloodshed.

    Indian Muslims tend to whine rather than use the ample opportunities they have to biuild decent lives. They do not deserve the sympathy you waste on them.

    I am VERY happy Indians, Paks and Bngladeshis will live seprate lives forever. GOOODO!!!!!!

  • Hayyer
    Posted at 13:56h, 19 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram:
    If Hindus wanted a Hindu state they would vote in those political parties that want a Hindu India. Why argue on this site? Address your questions to Indian Hindus and ask them to vote for the Parivar group.
    You have an idea of Muslims; and you insist that it is the only correct idea. There is nothing to be done about that. It is what fanaticism is usually about.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 14:54h, 19 September


      Calling those fanatics who warn about Muslims because of universal experience of Muslim fanaticism is a very cheap polemical device.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 20:06h, 20 September Reply


    You seem to be dead set on whitewashing Islamic imperialism.

    By your standard Hitler would come across as a trusting and tolerant ruler because he entrusted much of France to Marshal Petain, a French soldier belonging to a group most Nazis would think of as hated enemies.

    There were plenty of Hindu collaborators with Muslim rulers. They stood by as these rulers committed monumental atrocities agaibst their people and destroyed Hindu temples.

    So what?

    • Vinod
      Posted at 00:44h, 21 September

      Ganpat, if you think SA is whitewashing, do you realize you are painting in black and white?

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 14:35h, 21 September


      What would it take to convince you that Muslims had a profound opposition to the Hindus in the times of Muslim rule in India?

      The FACT that rulers like Aurangzeb rpeatedly expressed acute contempt and for Hinduism and the desire to eradicate it is not enough for you.

      The FACT that Muslim rulers destroyed vast numbers of Hindu temples on any number of pretexts is not enough.

      The FACT that Hindus were subject to all manner of disabilities under Muslim rule is not enough.

      Then what is?

      As for Hindus having collaborated with Muslim rulers…..So what? Did not Indians collaborate with British rulers?

      As for the idea that a British census can create the Hindu-Muslim split: what sort of unity was it that could be split so easily?

      Why dream about a unity that is illusory?

      Just accept the division and live with it. India puts up with a separate Lanka and Nepal, which have infinitely more in common with India culturally than Pakistan and Bangladesh….Why can’t it accept a separate Pakistan and Bangladesh?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 18:27h, 21 September

      Ganpat, I dont see how you can claim that Lanka and Nepal have “infinitely more” cultural similarity to India than India does to Pakistan. As far as I am concerned, in cultural terms South Asia is mostly a cultural continuum, apart from communities on the fringes like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Kashmir that are related to the continuum but not part of it.

      What distinguishes India from its neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan is the strong (but often strained) mass and constitutional commitment to pluralism and democracy. They are the foundations of our Republic. To some extent Bangladesh is similar to us in this regard.

      I agree with you that romanticizing about a possibly illusory past will not solve the problem of community relations in India, but neither will blaming all the country’s ills on the perceived malevolence of a particular community.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 09:16h, 22 September Reply


    May I remind you that the great majority of Indians are Hindus, and that Nepal and Sri Lanka share a huge heritage of religion and culture with the Hindu majority in India since they are Hindus or Buddhists – followers of a daughter religion of Hinduism?

    So it is arrant nonsense when you say these countries do not share more cuturally with India than Muslim countries like Bangladesh and the former West Pakistan.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 02:06h, 23 September

      Mr. Ram, I am well aware of the demographics of my country. The point I am trying to make here is that culture does not stem just from religion (although it is an important source) but also from language and history. A Hindu Tamil does have something in common with an Assamese Hindu, but he/she also has something in common with a Tamil Christian.

      If religion was the sole determinant of culture and nations, then ‘East Pakistan’ wouldnt have fought a war of independence and become Bangladesh (i.e. nation of Bengalis).

      India shares culture with all of its neighbours, but their politics and Constitutions are very different.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 07:03h, 23 September


      If language is what counts with you, there is no case for any kind of united India, or united Pakistan.

      We all speak different languages.

      Stop fooling yourself. The idea of a united India is primarily based on the Hindu heritage. Without it there will be just a bunch of independent states.

      You can fool yourself all you like. The Muslims are NEVER coming back to join the Hindus. We have gone our separate ways, and a jolly good thing too. Islam is too intolerant.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 10:24h, 23 September

      Ganpat, you have completely missed the point of this post by SA. It is not about calling for a unity of India and Pakistan. So pls stop belabouring that irrelevant point. The point of this post was about how an analysis is more often than not tainted with the simplifications about others derived from one’s prejudices. It is about deriving lessons from history on arriving at sound judgment in difficult scenarios.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 10:32h, 23 September

      Vikram: I agree with the point you have made (culture does not stem just from religion) but want to push further on two subsequent comments: that religion is an important source of culture; and on the nature of the relationship between conflict and culture.

      We have had this discussion earlier with Mazhur who took a position similar to Ganpat Ram’s that religion is the source of culture. In general, a stronger case can be made that culture is the larger category and culture subsumes religion. Thus religion becomes one element in a culture. For example, we talk about the culture of the Punjab which includes Punjabis of all religions. Similarly, as you mention, there is Tamil culture which also cuts across religions and has some of the same religions as in the Punjab.

      When a community converts to a new religion it’s culture essentially remains the same – only some practices change. This is what explains the existence of syncretic communities that are perplexed at the attempts of purists to force them into one religion or the other. Even those who do not believe in any religion belong to one culture or the other.

      Regarding conflict, there is nothing that prevents conflicts within cultures. There can be inter-cultural as well as intra-cultural conflict. Intra-culture conflict can be driven by differences over some element of that culture like religion (e.g., a conflict between Sikh and Muslim Punjabis) or some dimension within the religion itself (e.g., caste). There are often intense quarrels over property within families that share all elements of a given culture.

      Your conclusion is absolutely correct – there is a shared culture in South Asia but the politics and Constitutions of the countries comprising South Asia are very different.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 02:23h, 24 September

      Mr. Ram, For the majority of Indians, language counts along with religion, caste and nationality. They are part of people’s identity. Trying to form nationalism based on religion does not appeal to the majority.

      It is time for you to open your eyes and your mind.

      ISRO has Hindus, Muslims and Christians speaking different languages, but that does not stop them from being an organization and achieving collective goals, does it ?

    • kabir
      Posted at 10:47h, 23 September

      Judging by some of the comments on this post, Hinduism is just as intolerant as Islam. Rather, intolerant people exist among followers of all religions.

      Now back to the topic of the post.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 09:24h, 27 September Reply

    The mistake many people make is imgining thsat Pakistan was due solely to Jinnah.

    In fact, by 1945 it was a mass movement. Jinnah or no Jinnah,it would have dominated Indian politics.

    However Hindus and Muslims might have co-existed in the past – even setting aide the actual grisly record of communal battles – in modern times, as thy became much more self-conscious about communal identity, they could no longer co-exist. Co-existence was a feature of a pre-modern age. In modern times, Muslims wanted Pakistan.

    You cannot escape the diffuculties of modernity by praising the past, as many are doiung here.

    Hindus and Muslims no longer, if they ever did, trust each other. Each expected the worst. It was time to part.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 13:13h, 27 September

      Ganpat: The following points need attention in your comment:

      1. There is no one on this blog who thinks that Pakistan was due solely to Jinnah. You were the only person who did so. It is good that you have joined the majority.
      2. Assertions are not enough by themselves. They are only starting points and need proof of have credibility. You need to cite evidence of the “grisly record of communal battles” in the past.
      3. Co-existence could not have been a feature of a pre-modern age if the latter was also riddled with grisly communal battles. There is a contradiction in this claim.
      4. You need to support the claim that in modern times as people become more self-conscious about communal identity, they cannot co-exist. How would you apply this to the history of Europe?
      5. Does this imply that as people in India become more self-conscious of their caste identities they would no longer be able to live together?
      6. Your claim that in modern times “Muslims wanted Pakistan” needs elaboration. How would you explain that more Muslims stayed in India than moved to Pakistan?
      7. You misunderstand the debate on this blog by thinking that people are trying to “escape the difficulties of modernity by praising the past.” The objective is to study the past to understand the present; and also to see how the past is re-invented to justify the present. This is the standard task in thousands of history departments in the world; there is nothing odd or fearful about it. Knowledge of the past does often shake one’s certainties about the present. Some are excited by the prospect, others are afraid of it. Often the latter groups try to stop the study of history. That becomes part of politics.
      8. You make a strong claim that “Hindus and Muslims no longer, if they ever did, trust each other.” You need to cite evidence for that without resorting to the label of ‘collaborators’ for all those who did trust each other. Labeling also does not count as proof. In fact, dismissing everything and everyone that does not agree with one’s position and repeating one’s assertions is an indication that one wishes to engage in polemics not debate.
      9. If it turns out that your claim is indeed true, the task for the participants on this blog would be to rebuild that trust.
      10. Nothing is forever. There may be a time to part and there can be a time to get together again. It depends upon the needs of the times. We are in one boat now buffeted by the storms of globalization and climate change. In one boat we need to row together lest we drown. It is not wisdom to practice one’s prejudices on a sinking boat.

      The following is a third century BC inscription from the Twelfth Major Rock Edict of the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka:

      ‘… On each occasion one should honour the sect of the other, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other; while by doing otherwise one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other. Again, whosoever honours his own sect or disparages that of another, wholly out of devotion to his own, with a view to showing it in a favourable light, harms his own sect even more seriously. Therefore, concord is to be commended, so that men may hear one another’s principles and obey them …’

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 15:54h, 27 September

      1. Did more Muslims stay in India than went to Pakistan?
      Not if you know anything about the numbers. Pakistan and Bangladesh constituted two-thirds of the Indian Muslim population. According to me. two-thirds is twice as big as one-third. Correct me if I am wrong.

      It is true actual Muslim migration, though one of the biggest mass movements in history, was of a small portion of the Musloim populaion within the new borders of India. But did that imply these Muslims had no enthuisiasm for Pakistan? Not at all. Thety were the main supporters of Pakistan, in Indian elections. The rest of the Muslims joined in later.

      2. What proof of Hindus and Muslims not trusting each other in modern times, you ask. May I point to the Pakistan movement? Isn’t that evidence enough and more?

      3. As for earlier times, I cannot summarise the vast evidence in an inch. I would advise you to study the history of Muslim temple-destruction in India. There are few large and really old Hindu temples left in areas of India longest under Muslims. You have to go to South India for those. This is enough to show you the Muslims deeply despised Hinduism. It is no more persuasive to pretend Hindus loved Muslim rule than that Arabs were happy under Western rule. Do not prescribe colonialism for Hindus. I see an Islamist imperialist tendency in you.

      4. It is tough luck if the Pakistanis got the worst of the deal under Partition. That boat is over-populated, increasingly waterless and is siunking. Don’t try to take over the Hindu share. That’s all I ask. They decided to go, and they should stay gone.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 17:07h, 27 September


      1. We are obviously talking of different numbers. I am talking about the proportion of the total population of Muslims in the newly created India that migrated to Pakistan. That constitutes a strong test of whether they did not want to live in India. You have to remember that elections before 1947 were not based on universal suffrage.
      2. As I have mentioned times change and people change with the times. One can argue that the British also ruled repressively in India (Plassey, 1857, Jallianwala Bagh) yet all Indians (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs) find it possible to co-exist with them. The Nazis carried out genocide against the Jews and they have learnt to live together. The Americans bombed Vietnam to death and they have learnt to co-exist. You may wish to live in the past but everyone does not have to be bound to your preferences.
      3. If you talk for a mile and cannot spare an inch for evidence all your talk is in vain. What you see in others depends upon the eyes you see with. I have mentioned that labeling does not substitute for evidence.
      4. Your statement “that boat is over-populated, increasingly waterless and is sinking. Don’t try to take over the Hindu share” is disconnected. Please do not be fearful – no one is trying to undo history. I have said before I am delighted you have a secure space.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 09:43h, 28 September


      I see you try to avoid facing up to historical facts with rather feeble subterfuges.

      1. Indian elections under the British had a restricted electorate, true, but no historian I am aware of doubts that the Hindu population by and large supported the Congress and the Muslims by 1945 overwhelmingly supported the Pakistan movement. The electoral restrictions applied right across the India of that time, and it was consistently in the part that became the India of today that the Muslims most strongly supported the Pakistan movement. Jinnah himself was Bombay-based, and other important early leaders came from the UP.

      2. Co-existence is inevitable on Earth, but the Hindus and the Muslims have quarreled so much that it would be the height of folly to bring the two together again in the same country. People like Nehru and Patel were far from fanatical Hindus, yet they took the decision to have Partition once they realised the alternative was a permanent Muslim veto on everything that happened in India, that in effect a minority would be holding the rest to ransom with civil war and massacre a perpetual reality. I respect their decision, which saved most of India.

      3. I don’t blame the Muslims for their devition to the Islamic identity. It is a very proud and magnificent heritage, and they have every right to take pride in it. But Hindus too, respect their heritage, however measly it seems to Muslims. We are glad of a chance tio develop our Hindu identity in India, without the Muslim veto.

      4. Every serious historian accepts that Muslims destroyed Hindu temples on a mass scale. Are you disputing this?

      5. Germans and Frenchmen live in the EU, but they are not divded by Islam, and had to go through two world wars. Hindus and Muslims are profoundly different, and should stay by and large in different lands. Certainy India can trade with Pakistan, just as it does with Peru. Other than that, it should be a strict non-interference, comment or connection other than good neighbourliness as with, say, Burma.

      6. Every serious historian knows Muslims destroyed Hindu temples en masse. Are you seriously disputing that?

  • kabir
    Posted at 05:06h, 28 September Reply

    Ganpat Ram:

    In all sincerity, given your views that Hindus and Muslims are well rid of each other, why are you commenting on a blog called “The South Asian Idea?”. We are not called the “Akhand Bharat Idea”, the “Indian Idea”, or even the “Pakistani Idea”. Our use of the word “South Asia” should let you know of our ideology and our belief in promoting peace and tolerance in the Indian Subcontinent.

    • man0jm
      Posted at 15:11h, 31 December

      Kabir, I dont think that having a contrary view should irk people who promote peace and tolerance. Just saying.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 09:50h, 28 September Reply


    How ironic and telling that people like you make a big thing about your devotion to the Indian cultural heritage, yet try to evade accepting that there was a massive Muslim destruction of Hindu temples.

    Are those Hindu temples not a very important part of the Indian heritage?

    This lack of concern about the destruction of the temples gives the lie to your praise of about South Asia’s cutural unity, etc etc.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 10:19h, 28 September Reply


    I take it you welcome debate, that you don’t just think your views should go unquestioned. That is why I participate in this debate.

    Muslims need people who will argue with them, politely but firmly.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 11:25h, 28 September Reply


    Apologies for the accidental repetition of the question about Hindu temples above.

    I wait for your answer.

    Were the temples destroyed or not?

    Don’t Hindus have aright to be concerned about that?

    Can that concern be dismissed as that of a minority, as Romila Thapar suggests? Does the Thapar principle apply to all historical crmes, like the Holocaust, for example?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 23:55h, 28 September

      Ganpat: Many temples were destroyed. I haven’t come across a count; if you have let us know and cite the source. Everyone has a right to be concerned. The concern cannot be dismissed as that of a minority without evidence. Your concern is very obvious and has been registered. I am not sure if the entire German race or all of Christendom is being held accountable for the Holocaust which is a historical fact.

  • Ganpat Ram
    Posted at 11:09h, 29 September Reply


    I believe people like Romila Thapar have done a measureless amount of harm to Hindu-Muslim relations.

    You recommend her atrociously dishonest argument that the Muslim destruction of Hindu temples like that of Somnath was not motivated by Islamic hatred of a rival faith, Hinduism.

    This is adding insult to the injury Hindus have suffered. If Hindus destroyed mosques on the same scale would you or any honest person buy the claim that this had nothing to do with Hindu intolerance of Islam? Obviously not.

    General Dyer claimed that his massacre of Indians at Jallianwalla Bagh was not motivated by prejudice against them. No serious person accepts this, though as a matter of fact some local Sikh leaders felicitated Dyer.

    Why then attempt similar arguments to whitewash Islamic crimes against Hindus?

    Would you accept the attempt of upper caste Hindus to argue that their maltreatment of Dalits had nothing to do with caste prejudice?

    Muslims would do far better to admit the history of Islamic intolerance, and try to be tolerant.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 02:47h, 30 September

      Ganpat: I fail to understand how Romila Thapar has done a “measureless amount of harm to Hindu-Muslim relations.” Clearly her argument differs from yours but does that necessarily make it “atrociously dishonest”? Is everyone who disagrees with your opinion dishonest, deluded, or a collaborator?

      Your example of General Dyer reiterates the point that there can be more than one interpretation of the same event. The task of the historian is to examine the evidence not to call the other side names. If you have a different opinion you need to point out where you dispute the evidence.

      It is not for me to tell anyone what to do. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but if they wish to participate in a debate they have to defend their opinions with evidence and logic.

    • Ganpat Ram
      Posted at 13:33h, 04 October


      The popint I was making was that Thapar applies to Hindu history standards of evaluation she would not think of applying to other histories. That is why she is deeply dishonest.

      Thapar suggests that the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims need not be held tio mean these happened because of Muslim bias against Hinduism. She would NEVER apply the same principle to Hindu crimes against Muslims such as the Babri Masjid destruction or Gujarat, would she?I clearly pointed out that General Dyer could be absolved of racial bias against Indians, by the Thapar method which you praise.

      So I have clearly indicated what my argument is about.

      Do not pretend not to understand.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 15:37h, 06 October

      Ganpat: I would expect Romila Thapar to apply exactly the same methodology to Babri Masjid as she applied to Somanath. She would look at all the contemporaneous documents and sources and lay them out for review by others. From these she would draw her own conclusions and also enable others to draw theirs. In the case of Babri Masjid the task is much easier because the documents are readily available and in languages that are accessible.

      The Dyer incident would also be examined in the same way and the available evidence would be weighed in the court of history. Taking one position or the other based on ideological or nationalist preferences does not qualify as rigorous analysis.

      Your last sentence suggests that along with Romila Thapar you also consider me deeply dishonest. As I have mentioned before, if your starting position is that anyone who disagrees with you is deeply dishonest there is little prospect of resolving the differences. The only option is for us to retire with grace.

  • ModerateIndianHindu
    Posted at 23:16h, 05 January Reply

    1. Great discussion, enjoyed reading it. The depth of knowledge of you all is amazing. I agree with Ganpat Ram that the Hindu and Muslim nation has gone so wide apart that integration is impossible…. But I do hope that one day India and Pakistan can have open borders, if not integrated population like Germany. Open borders could be an interim step before unification, if that happens in my lifetime!!

    2. Ganpat Ram – Bitterness does not help, educated people like us can bring a change to move forward from prejudice and work together for the betterment of the society.
    Yes, I agree atrocities were committed on Hindus during Muslim rule. But that has nothing to do about religion… this is an innate human nature that unfortunately represses the downtrodden and has shown time and time again all over the world.
    Hindus repressed Dalits for ages… hot molten lead was poured in the ears of dalits who happen to listen to vedas and other hindu religious recitals. Was this religion based prejudice? NO – it was power based… upper caste hindus had a perceived power and they abused it.
    British and also Nadir Shah repressed Indians (Hindus and Muslims alike) ….Colonial powers repressed slaves both Black and White, European settlers in US repressed Native Americans, Australian natives is the same story, Christians repressed non Christians, Sunnis repressed shias…. list goes on and on… so the common thread there is not the religion but raw human instinct of hunger for power and resulting abuse.
    I would equate the abuse listed above to a small token exercise of abusive power by a govt office babu(clerk) in India today – he has a perceived power to delay you a phone connection or delay your customs clearance and by golly he exercises that – I don’t believe he will distinguish between religion in exercising his abusive power.
    The power in modern times has translated to electoral power and hence manipulation by conniving politicians. Illiteracy, poverty and uneducated masses get manipulated by such hate mongers.
    Descendents of American Slaves carried a chip on their shoulder for generations, and some still do live in the past…. But successful African Americans are those who have come to terms with the historical facts and learnt to move forward. We should all do that.
    2. SouthAsian – Great effort in moderating the discussion.. and your knowledge is awesome !!

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:57h, 07 January

      Moderate Indian Hindu: You have summarized the discussion very well and extracted the key point that is relevant. Belonging to a religion and being ideologically motivated by it are two completely different things. This is a distinction that many people overlook. The Mughals who invaded India were Muslims but it was not Islam that motivated their invasion. Had that been the case, Aurangzeb would not have spent half his life fighting the Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan. The Khilafat Movement was supported by Gandhi, opposed by Jinnah, and crushed by Kemal Ataturk. Political considerations almost always override religious ones.

      When one reads the history of India over the last one thousand years one never comes across an instance of a purely Muslim army arrayed against a purely Hindu army – there were always people of both communities on either side. All the battles were driven by control over territory and sources of revenue, never by religion. I was reminded of this again while reading a short story by Prem Chand (Rani Sarindha). It is about Bundelkhand which is in the news these days – readers would find the story of interest for more than one reason.

      The irony is that those who are motivated by religion are particularly prone to violence against their co-religionists whom they consider not sufficiently religious. This is what the Taliban are doing in Pakistan and what the RSS has been doing in India.

      When we oversimplify religion we exacerbate the divisions in society for reasons that have almost no support in reality. Many thanks for your very valuable comments.

  • Siddharth
    Posted at 18:43h, 03 February Reply

    We Indians and Pakistanis come with so much baggage.

    Here are the identities I most identify with: I am a human, a lover of rock and roll, a beer connoisseur, a photographer, a cartoonist, and an atheist.

    My “Indianness” is primarily culinary, linguistic, and related to pop culture. I come from a Pakistan bordering state (Rajasthan), and I can assure you no one ever thinks/talks about Pakistan there. I have lived a good 13 years of my life in South India. No one thinks/talks about Pakistan there either. There are primarily only two places in India where Pakistan is an issue people discuss: in the chatty circles of Mumbai and Delhi (I have lived 5+ years in both cities).

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad, but Indians on an average don’t care about Pak either way.

    Do excuse me for not contributing anything relevant to this debate/discussion. I just hope we call all just chill out and get along. Wishful thinking, I know.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 14:53h, 10 February

      Siddharth: There could be a bit of natural parochialism involved in this phenomenon – I doubt if people in Rajasthan think or talk much about South India, or vice versa, either. In normal circumstances this lack of involvement would not matter but the circumstances are far from normal – the nature of India-Pakistan relations could cast a huge shadow on the welfare of over a billion people in South Asia. For that reason alone, the Indian government has a very active public policy stance vis a vis Pakistan. Whose views is it representing if the people are not involved in the debate or are indifferent to it? Could it become like the situation in the USA where American citizens are not interested enough in the Middle East thereby allowing neo-cons the opportunity to take liberties in that sphere?

    • Siddharth Singh
      Posted at 15:04h, 10 February


      The problem is that Rajasthanis, or the people living in rural areas of any state in India, Pakistan or any other south Asian country have a lot of problems of their own to worry about anything else. International relations is last on their minds. Hence I wouldn’t be too surprised to see such indifference of people beyond India too (I can only speak about what I have noticed, everything else is speculation).

      I too fear that the international policy will be taken over by jingoistic neo cons in our subcontinent. In fact, haven’t they already? At least, in my eyes, we might be heading in that direction.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 19:04h, 10 February

      Siddharth: In Pakistan the neo-cons have undoubtedly taken control. In India, there have been ups and downs but the general trend is towards a hardening stance. I keep thinking if this represents the preferences of the rural populations which are still the majority in both countries. How does one find out? In the theory of democracy, the will of the people drives the policy of the governments. In our times, the ruling cliques manipulate and manufacture the will of the people with control of information and its abuse backed by money. This was at the back of mind in the two posts about Kashmir (here and here).

  • Arun
    Posted at 22:48h, 17 June Reply

    Just keep Pakistan an uninterrupted parliamentary democracy for a sufficiently long time (two decades at least) and things will improve; some kind of South Asia will emerge.

    Everything else is wishful thinking.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 12:14h, 19 June

      Arun: I agree, although keeping Pakistan ‘civil’ for two decades is a tough order. A lot of smart politics by India would be needed to finesse such an outcome. My fear is that Indian democracy itself might be squeezed over two decades if it does not deliver benefits to the majority of its population.

  • Bharat
    Posted at 07:17h, 13 July Reply

    Very interesting discussion, and an unusually high content to vitriol ratio. My compliments.

    I tend to agree with Ganapat Ram for the most part, though his feisty and robust language seems to have caused a great deal of perplexity. In my experience in discussing with members of the Pakistani intellegentsia (defined as those who write more or less coherently on blogs, op-eds etc.) I have found (with a handful of exceptions) that any Indian (especially if he should come across as a Hindu) that expresses himself vigorously in opposition to the Pakistanis’ received verities is reflexively dismissed as a Hindu fanatic, and put in a box with Thakre, Modi et al. It is to this blog’s credit that this didn’t quite happen to Ganapat Ram, but it came mighty close to happening.

    Being grateful for a Hindu majority state, where for the most part Hindus feel free to be Hindus without feeling that they are on sufferance from the rulers is not the same as being a Hindu fanatic or an intolerant person. India (aspirationally at least) is a country where the question of sufferance does not arise (which fact is what protects the dignity and natural rights of its minorities), whereas Pakistan, in the best of possible worlds, is a country that is modeled on exactly this idea of sufferance and “tolerance” of the despised inferior.(in the less-than-best scenario, the minorities are systematically exterminated and degraded, both in fact and in aspiration). Like Ganapat Ram, I thank the Almighty that this idea, and not Muslims per se, has in effect been quarrantined in Pakistan, and pray that India wises up and keeps its ideological borders secure and well-policed.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 09:27h, 13 July

      Bharat: Thanks for the compliment; it is much appreciated.

      This is not a partisan blog and does not suffer from the self-imposed burden of having to defend specific positions. The response to Ganpat Ram was not undertaken from the position of a “Pakistani” blog. Rather, it was an attempt to engage logically with his arguments. In the end it was a draw as neither side was able to make headway but hopefully other readers were able to benefit from the exchange.

      On your second point, I have mixed feelings. You make an important distinction that it is not Muslims per se but the ideological stance that is quarantined in Pakistan that is problematic. If Pakistan had not been created, India would still have been a Hindu majority state. Therefore, being grateful for Partition does not seem relevant from this perspective. There might be other benefits for India but acquiring a majority is clearly not one of them.

    • Bharat
      Posted at 06:17h, 14 July


      I am having trouble parsing
      “You make an important distinction that it is not Muslims per se but the ideological stance that is quarantined in Pakistan that is problematic. ”

      It is not clear whether you are saying that the distinction (ideology or mindset vs religion) is problematic; if so, how is it problematic?

      The subcontinent was always nominally Hindu-majority, even before British times, so that is irrelevant to discussion about partition. The exact question that divided the country was whether any group should be privileged enough to have a veto power over pubic decision, in law as well as in fact. Pakistan’s Constitution clearly states that Muslims shall have that power, and it has proved so in fact, with everyone else living in terror of the whims of Muslims, and that being perfectly legal. The ideology of India, while accepting some safeguards for various vulnerable elements of society, emphatically does not privilege any group over any other. Hindu numerical majority by itself is meaningless (as it has always existed, yet arguably in many parts of India over many periods of history Hindus lived in terror of Muslims, along with kings, nobles, and so on. India (despite occassonal and sporadic outbursts of Hindu supremacist sentiment along with violence, has by and large never sought to reverse the scales on Muslims; an equal and free status is more than sufficient for Hindus. The opposite of such equality and freedom is what is quarantined in Pakistan.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 10:40h, 14 July

      Bharat: I was reiterating the point you had made in your earlier comment: “I thank the Almighty that this idea [of sufferance], and not Muslims per se, has in effect been quarantined in Pakistan.”

      I felt this was an important and valuable distinction because it identifies the real problem – the idea adopted by the people in Pakistan. This gets us away from the position that the problem resides in the religion itself. Just as an idea can be adopted, it can be un-adopted – this is a normal part of political struggles.

      Constitutions do not explicitly need to privilege groups – the majority is automatically privileged if democracy degenerates into majoritarianism. It is the minorities whose rights have to be protected against the abuses of majoritarianism. Pakistan has failed completely in this endeavor; India has done much better but there is room to do more.

  • Satyajit
    Posted at 07:43h, 14 July Reply

    Nice topic, heated debates.

    Hindus had been under Islamic rule for a over 700 years. Politicians, intellectuals, and other secularists cannot just expect Hindus to forget the past!!! Past is past, but it matters.

    Can the Jews ever forget Holocaust. Never. They should never.

    That secularism is enshrined in the Indian Constitution is itself a miracle considering the history of Hindus. Which other country would have allowed for such a document of rights after being so brutally ruled? None!!! Israel is also a Jewish state.

    Having said this, I believe for the future of India, secularism is important. There is simply no other way to manage a country like ours. Why should Hindus, who form the majority, give equal rights and equal consideration to all minorities? They should because India is now looking to unify all its people under a common banner. In other words if Hindus want a better life, and a greater say in their country they have to make sure that the minorities, feel as Indian as they do!!! However painful and unfair it may sound, this is the best way forward now.

    Those who preach secularism, and I am one of them, should also acknowledge and accept the fact that in India, Hindus had been brutalized in the past by Islamic rule.

    Preaching secularism without accepting the fact that Hindus have for centuries suffered under foreign domination, is absolutely wrong!!! We in this country have quotas for the Dalits, because it is widely understood that they have suffered, and the quotas are a way of addressing historical injustice. The Hindus are merely asking that politicians, minorities and other groups accept the fact that Hindus have suffered.

    Presently, there is no acceptance of that fact. People get angry when they hear a politician make speeches about secularism without even showing remorse for the injustice Hindus have suffered.

    A society gets stronger when, every group condemns and protest, injustice against any community. In our country how many Muslim leaders have come out and accepted the fact that Aurangzeb was a murderer who brutalized Hindus? Why is their silence on that issue? Is it because they see nothing wrong with it? Why is it that the English media is silent about past atrocities committed by Muslims rulers, but makes noise about BJP, Advani and other hindutva parties? Why is it that we do not have a national remembrance day for the Hindus who died during Islamic invasions? These are double standards.

    Let me summarize by saying this- Secularism asks a lot from Hindus, and Hindus have accepted secularism because they kmow it is important for their country, but then they also see that they alone compromise. They see that their pain is not seen heard or felt by politicians, and that is when many of them start doubting secularism.

    Pakistan, is a nice country. It has a different take on the History, but for how long are we going to deny the truth? Pakistan and India can be one country, but let us first agree on our past!! Let us at least understand why Hindus are angry. After all India gave birth to Hinduism, and Hindus are the original residents of this ancient land.

    When Aurangzeb and other Islamic rulers who killed Hindus are celebrated as national heroes, how would Hindus react? I wonder.

    For India and Pakistan to be one, we will have to start with the history, then move forward slowly. Will they ever be one, I do not know, but I want them to. Yes, after all the past I am of the opinion that we are one people divided by religion, but divisions are meant to be sealed, and communities (under appropriate conditions – too many to list here) heal. Hope for the best.

  • arsalan
    Posted at 19:51h, 19 October Reply


    I’m from Pakistan, I just want to say that the Indian Partition was a really great mistake. Over a million people got killed due to violence created by the ill designed partition. Just ask yourself, are the lives of 1 million innocent people of South Asia really less important that the greed of power hungry political entities such as the Muslim League and Congress.

    Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were living peacefully until the British arrived. Its not just Pakistan or India, everywhere you look while withdrawing the British Empire broke up all of its colonies.

    Unfortunately, the bulk of Pakistanis and Indians have been brainwashed due to institutionalized propaganda, and remain in complete denial.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 17:15h, 20 October

      Arsalan: This is a complex issue and it can be easily over simplified. I believe that attributing the one million deaths to the greed of power hungry political entities like the Muslim League and the Congress would be one such over simplification. We have the benefit of hindsight that the key players did not have when they were negotiating. I don’t think any of them wanted one million deaths or indeed believed that such an outcome was possible. We can fault them on poor judgment but not on inhuman intentions.

      There is little doubt that the British were interested in prolonging their rule as long as possible and their strategies were geared to that end. Recall that the major anti-colonial uprising of 1857 was a united movement. It was in the interest of the British to divide and conquer – they gained an extension but at huge cost to the people of India. Part of the blame has to be shared by the Indians who fell for this tactic. I feel the main parties were conscious of this and tried, as evidenced by the many attempts to build united coalitions till late into the 1920s, but they lost control on both sides to the fringe elements that valued ideology over compromise.

      It is ironical that both Indians and Pakistanis have forgiven the British but remain unforgiving of each other.

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