Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moving on from Partition

I was in Delhi in December 2007, attending a seminar at one of the leading academies of Urdu literature in India. The chief guest was a Muslim socialist leader who found it utterly necessary to look in the direction of Pakistani delegates and proclaim, “We the Muslims of India think that partition was a mistake. South Asia would have been better off without it and therefore Pakistan should not have come into being.”

Of course the right answer to that is, “Go get a life.” Unfortunately getting a life is not always easy, and the book of Jaswant Singh has given cue to the same hypocritical chest-thumping again: “Events of 1947 haunt everyone in South Asia…” In that case I must be an exceptionally lucky guy since they don’t haunt me. Maybe I should give a helping hand to others in moving on too!

In the previous post I presented excerpt from a speech delivered by Nawab Ismail Khan at Aligarh University soon after partition. It may never have been published anywhere before (except possibly in some newspapers in 1947). I got it from Mr. Asad Ismail, the grandson of Nawab Ismail Khan.

The speech is important because it shows us that according to the vision of the creators of Pakistan (one of whom was Nawab Ismail), there was going to be continuity in the history of Muslims in India: Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had shown how they could be loyal to alien rulers and still develop their national identity to the extent where it gave birth to a sovereign state. The same loyalty could be transferred to the independent state of India once it came into being.

This also shows that when Muslims of the Sub-Continent demanded Pakistan they fully realized that many of them would stay behind in India as minority. Since Pakistan was a democratic demand affirmed through fair and free election, they had the right to expect that it shouldn’t be held against them.


  1. I read the piece about Nawab Ismail Khan's speech.
    Just one question - about the Muslim population's loyalty to the Indian State / Government.
    Being loyal as they should be (according to Nawab Ismail - and I don't disagree in general), what should the loyal Indian Muslim's stance towards Pakistan be ? specially in the scenario where there are hostilities such as war?

  2. Vegabond, thanks. From the speech of Nawab Ismail Khan it seems that in such case the first concern should be India. If the internal stability of their country allows divergence of opinion then they should decide according to who is right or wrong in that particular case (just as so many citizens in America are sympathizing with Iraq and Afghanistan these days and far from endangering their country they are giving it some prestige).

  3. Oh what a shock that there are still few Muslims who consider Pakistan's creation a mistake.I agree if they are Indian by birth they might have sort of attachment with India and it would make them feel more proud to see Pakistan as a part of India,but at least as a Muslim they shouldn't forget the ideology behind the creation of Pakistan..they should realize Pakistan was the need of the Muslims of sub-continent.
    Had it been any Hindu, the intensity of the shock I got would be much more less..

  4. Personally speaking, the partition has always been a bit confusing for me especially when friends used to ask me where my village was. All I had to offer were names of alien places which I had only seen via narratives from my dad and my granddad. It was confusing when my Nana used to make us parade on Pakistan day, used to tell stories about the migration, when my father used to tell his tales, and despite the fact that some of our acquaintances joined the armed forces of Pakistan and even laid down their lives for Pakistan, despite the tales of efforts for Pakistan's defence during the 1965 war, when Sachin Tendulkar comes to bat against Pakistan there is a part in my Nana's soul which sees a lad from his area at the international stage. Whenever Wasim or Waqar used to bold Tendulkar, Nana used to look a bit torn between jubilation for Pakistan and a bit of remorse for his town's lad's dismissal.

    No doubt it was tough on people who left their childhood and youth surroundings, belongings and above all memories behind.
    Notwithstanding their ideologies and their commitment towards Pakistan, it has always been tough and it will always be so.

  5. ReeBz and Vegabond, thanks. ReeBz, More than a matter of being Muslim or Hindu, I see it as an issue of somebody forgetting all requirements of civilized behavior and common courtesy.

    Vegabond Ventures, my father also migrated from a town which I have never seen :). Even the deepest human emotions are liable to be interpreted in any number of ways. How we choose to interpret is very often a result of where we want to go in life rather than anything else.

  6. well said Khurram ali shafique i agree with you 100%