By Yasser Latif Hamdani
This was written in response to an Indian poster who suffers particularly from the ailment of which Oscar Wilde spoke unfavorably once upon a time. Since the arguments are the usual : cliched, hackneyed and ill-informed chest thumping on why India is better, why two nation theory was wrong, why Pakistanis suck, why Pakistan is a failed state, I thought I’d put up this response for the general education of this jingoistic Indian type. I’ve always thought that these gungho Indians (not all though- there are so many fine Indians we know who can’t be put in this bracket) act like the newly rich of the world and therefore their attitudes towards Pakistanis and the rest of the world smack of a lack of class, manners, decency or sense of balance and proportion.
Dear Indian poster,
You keep repeating your mantra that India is secular because of the Congress and its one nation idea but the fact is that your constitution itself was authored by a man who opposed Congress’ conception of one nation. Read B R Ambedkar’s writings especially on the issue of separate electorates for the Dalits and Scheduled Castes. In every way B R Ambedkar’s politics was closer to the two nation theory than one nation theory. And yet this fellow gave you the secular Indian constitution… and if you read the ICA debates you would see just how hard B R Ambedkar had to struggle to keep Gandhian and Hindu Majority’s ideas out of the Indian constitution.
B R Ambedkar managed to give India the constitution he did primarily because he was able to scare the Caste Hindu Majority with the prospect of another partition and perpetual communal strife. That said- let me tell you as I have told others- our archaic laws and Islamic constitution is a piece of paper and your secular constitution is a piece of a paper… the reality is that both countries treat their minorities about the same whether you like to admit it or not ( infact Pakistan might actually be marginally better but let us leave that debate aside at this time). But granted on paper you are better than us. I give you that much.
Two Nation Theory was never in conflict with secularism. It never spoke of citizenship being subject to exclusivist principles. It is in no way different from Quebecois’ demands in Canada. Does that mean tht Quebecois would want a state where French speaking citizens would be somehow constitutionally privileged above non-french speaking citizens? No. Now don’t give me your little cop out that two nation theory was based on religion…it was based on much more than religion… it was not Jinnah’s fault (Jinnah who tried to reconcile the Muslims and Indian National Congress for the longest time) or even Iqbal’s … that long before they were born the British had coopted the Hindus, encouraged the Hindu mercantile class, made alliances with the Hindus… fostered a feeling amongst Hindus that Muslim rulers had oppressed them … it was not Jinnah’s fault or Iqbal’s fault that in the 19th century Chatterjee was busy writing “Anand Math” in which Hindus are fighting against foreign rule of Muslims and in which the British are the great liberators… The British made alliances; the first community to benefit from these alliances were the Hindus. For the Hindu mercantile class British rule amounted to a mere change of masters or this is what British told the Hindus. Hindu bought into this theory right or wrong and prospered as a remarkable bourgeoisie community which ultimately led to the Indian independence struggle after 80 odd years of constant evolution.
Faced with this new reality, the British switched partners. Muslims- especially the Aligarh Modernist class- became their favored allies. The result was the separate electorates which was opposed by Jinnah the Congressman mind you. Meanwhile what was Jinnah doing… from 1913 to 1937 Jinnah was making attempts to woo Muslims away from the British and closer to the Congress. He succeeded marvelously in 1913 when the Muslim League endorsed Swaraj and went from being loyalist to a pro-Congress grouping. In 1916 Jinnah managed to bring both Congress and the League together in a magnificent alliance to be called “Lucknow Pact”.
In 1927-1929, Jinnah- whose own faction of the League was dubbed pro-Congress and pro-Nehru report- managed to convince the most loyalist of Muslims from the “Shafi” League to come to an arrangement with Congress… the 14 points of Mr. Jinnah were actually the Conglomerate demands which could have been the basis of Hindu-Muslim settlement (and Jinnah even managed to convince his Muslim co-religionists to consider dropping the separate electorates in place of guaranteed representation for a time period ) but that was spurned by the Nehrus (ironically not because the Congress wanted to block Jinnah but because the Hindu Mahasabha walked out and refused to be part of the settlement if Jinnah’s demands were met). Then through out the roundtable conferences, Jinnah made common cause the Indian Nationalists against Sir Fazli Hussain and Aga Khan. but there too the Congress was unwilling to budge from its point of view.
Then in 1937 Jinnah re-organized the League and re-oriented the manifesto to resemble Congress’ social-democratic platform… was even funded by Hindu Industrialists. All his efforts to make common cause with the Congress were spurned by Nehru who invited him to show the League’s “inherent” strength despite the fact that League had won substantially in UP and Bombay (and lost substantially in Punjab and Sindh primarily because it was pro-Congress) Jinnah’s adoption of Iqbal/Kifayet/Rahmat Ali formula was League’s inherent strength that Nehru had asked for. It was also a demand that was going about for a while. The truth is that Pakistan would have happened anyway but Jinnah took the demand and made it his own. In doing so in 1946 Jinnah once again gave India an opportunity to meet both the Muslim demand of Pakistan and the Congress’ vision of a United India. That chance was lost and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Muslim League’s resolution which became the Lahore Resolution makes no mention of Islam. Jinnah’s 11th August speech which was a speech delivered by the father of the nation to the highest constitution making body in the land makes no reference to Islam. It is clear that Two Nation Theory itself was not applicable to the concept of citizenship in the minds of its most ardent advocates…nor was it in conflict with the idea of the separation of church and state. So why did Pakistan end up with a theocratic constitution despite Jinnah and despite Lahore Resolution? This has more to do with the evolution of Muslim community than with the creation of Pakistan. Despite Kemal Ataturk, Turkey, the only truly secular Muslim majority country, has only managed to remain secular by using force and intervening militarily when things got out of hand. Malaysia is a highly successful model but even there it has been ensured in part by a significant Non-Muslim minority and even then Malaysia is not secular. It has a state religion and archaic laws just like us.
So what is the solution. Well for one thing Indians should stop bothering themselves with Pakistan. Your country has a pathetic record of treating its minorities despite your secular constitution. Why don’t you bother yourself with that. Indians are no one to tell us anything and certainly not boast the way they do when their own closet is full of skeletons despite the secular constitution. So fix your own country for god’s sake. Worry about the hunger, poverty, religious extremism, superstition, casteism, backwardness that is synonymous with India and Indians.
Secondly the march of history will ensure secularization of every society as well as the idea that all citizens are equal regardless of religion, caste, creed, gender, race and sexual orientation, especially Muslim majority ones. Europe took a long time getting there (read their history) and the US Supreme Court even as late as 1858 refused to recognize Black people as citizens let alone equal ones…and in Plessey v. Ferguson was speaking of “separate but equal”. Despite Brown v. Board of Education, Jim Crow laws only lost their sting in the mid 1960s.
The situation in Pakistan is much better and more evolved believe it or not. It has a strong civil society, a committed legal fraternity dedicated human rights and due process. The constitution in principle guarantees equal rights, even if those rights get diluted by the constitution’s commitment to Islam. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, though bad judges have nullified some of this by some pathetic judgements but in due course of time precedents will be overturned. But this is an evolutionary concept and history is on our side. We shall be a modern, secular democracy one day. It might not come in my lifetime, but individuals are not what history is about. We will fight and we shall continue to fight till we get there.
So be on your way. Hands off. This is not your terrain.