Nobody can deny this reality; otherwise there would not have been two states carved out of India in 1947. A deep study of the history of this land proves that the differences between Hindus and Muslims were not confined to the struggle for political supremacy, but were also manifested in the clash of two social orders.
In his typically uninhibited manner, Katju recently called Pakistan a “fake’ country created, according to him, artificially by the Britishers who planted the “bogus two-nation theory” in the subcontinent. He also predicted that ‘in next 15-20 years, India and Pakistan would reunite and a strong, powerful, secular and modern minded government would come to power.’ One could easily ignore this ‘slur’ if it was cast by a Hindu fanatic but if a man of Katju’s non-communal outlook is drawing unpalatable conclusions on our future, there is cause for us not only to understand what he is trying to mean in his uncurbed language but also to look into our souls to find if we are left with any sense of nationhood after what we have done to ourselves in the last sixty-five years.
Justice Katju, who was only few months old at the time of India’s partition, also needs to be realistic in comprehending the circumstances that led to India’s division. Those of us familiar with the history of the subcontinent know why having lived together for centuries, Hindus and Muslims remained poles apart in their attitudes to life with a different worldview altogether. This distinctiveness of the two communities was evident in the ‘encounter’ between Hindu and Muslim cultures that began over a thousand years ago, leaving a profound influence on both. They have met at thousand points, on battlefields and at festivals, around market places and in homes. And yet, they have remained distinct and far apart.
As early as in the beginning of the 11th century, Al-Biruni had observed that Hindus differed from the Muslims in all matters and habits. Since then, despite living together for more than a thousand years, Hindus and Muslims continued to develop different cultures and traditions.
Justice Katju, however, is right that there was no communalism in India before 1857 and it was the English colonial masters who as part of their ‘divide and rule’ policy kept injecting the poison. ‘The policy that emanated from London after the mutiny in 1857 was that there is only one way to control this country, and that is to make Hindus and Muslims fight each other,’ Katju told his audience in Delhi the other day while asking the Indians ‘to understand the whole game and not remain fools.’ In his view, at least 80 percent of Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, were communal. Against this fractious scenario, how can he be so confident of a ‘reunification’ in the subcontinent?
Indeed, to avoid another Hindu-Muslim rebellion on the pattern of the 1857 War of Independence, the British decided to keep the two communities politically apart. In order to achieve this goal, Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British civil servant was chosen to sow the first seed of India’s permanent division. After a series of meetings with Viceroy Lord Dufferin, Hume formed the Indian National Congress in December 1885 as a ‘political association’ to serve as convenient ‘safety valve’ against the rising tensions amongst educated Indians who had begun to grumble about the injustices of their colonial rulers. That the Congress was a predominantly Hindu organisation was evident from the fact that at its inaugural session, out of 72 delegates only two were Muslims.
The Hindu-Muslim chasm was further widened by an extremist, at times violent, Hindu revivalist movement in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seeking forcible return to what they perceived the ‘glorious’ Hindu past. They resented the Muslim cultural inroads in their society and wanted to regain the Hindu ascendancy over their ‘motherland’. The Muslim community already victimized by the British for their share in the 1857 War of Independence and suffering discriminatory negligence on the part of the colonial rulers was only left to realise that they were doomed if they did not organise themselves politically.
To him, the Hindu-Muslim differences were unbridgeable and the only chance open was to allow them to have separate states. The Quaid could not have summed up the ‘two nation’ theory more effectively than by stressing that ‘the problem of India was not of an inter-communal nature, but manifestly an international one and must be treated as such.’ In Stanley Wolpert’s view, this was the moment when Jinnah, one-time ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, totally transformed himself into Pakistan’s great leader.