Aftab Afzal Ranjha
The world historians often discuss the events which propelled mass migration in the sub-continent and across the board genocide in the region during the closing days of the British raj. A trail of conspiracies by the Indian National Congress started when it was confirmed that division of the subcontinent was inevitable and imminent.
In a state of controversies, conspiracies and political hassle, some other communities such as Sikhs and Jains chose to align with Hindus and supported the political agenda of the Indian National Congress directly opposing the All India Muslim League which was the torch-bearer of Pakistan. The seeds of conspiracies planted in 1947 have now turned into full-blown trees.
The Congress leadership started burning midnight oil to grab maximum land and resources in the new setup to cripple Pakistan from every aspect. On one hand they persuaded Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who was mandated to carve the line of division, to merge three Muslim majority districts of the eastern Punjab, Pathankot, Ferozepur and Gurdaspur into India. This went in great benefits to India as it got direct access to Kashmir, occupied vital water resources and deprived Pakistan of its due share of land. The great conspiracy also provoked great human disaster in east Punjab where Muslims were sitting conformably on the notion that the land was part of Pakistan by default. At the end of the day, the congress leadership managed to get short term successes, but tailed long term troubles behind it.
The two main stakeholders or communities, Muslims and Hindus, lived together for centuries before and after the conquest of India by the East India Company, but decided to divide the land when the British colonial power began to fall. Muslims and Hindus were the major stakeholders in the new setups but Sikhs were never a majority in any of the regions and had a few leaders at the time of independence. They played in the hands of Jawaharlal Nehru and his coteries. Hence, the first shock to Pakistan was the division of Punjab after Sikh leader Master Tara Singh refused to accept the offer of Muhammad Ali Jinnah for an autonomous region within the constitution of Pakistan. Jinnah had also promised the permanent post of deputy prime minister and a senior military post to Tara Singh but he refused to accept any of the offers.
The struggle of the Muslim League was not only to obtain a piece of land for Muslims to live in peace, but also a country of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious people living together as one nation.
The second part of the conspiracy was to decide the fate of over 500 princely states in India that had so far been protected under the British crown. There were states likes Kashmir with Muslim majority that were ruled by Hindus. Whereas Hyderabad, Junagarh and Bhopal had Muslim rulers but Hindu subjects. However, the Congress managed to usurp all the princely states attached to it by land.
Kashmir came as the unfinished agenda of the division of sub-continent and a burden of history on the shoulders of the people living in this region. The conflict has been lingering on for the last 70 years and sufferings of Kashmris multiplied with every passing year. The most common view is that Britishers advertently created the bone of contention between the two nations, and Hindu chauvinism played a part in it.
The struggle of the Muslim League was not only to obtain a piece of land for Muslims to live in peace, but also a country of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious people living together as one nation. The Muslim League was also not against the presence of Hindu population in Pakistan and Jinnah had expressed his views about the status of non-Muslims in Pakistan with equal rights and responsibilities. But soon after the confirmation that the two countries were coming into being, panic griped the land and Muslims and Hindus started migrating to the lands of their choice.
The British government had no interest in saving the lives of innocent population as they were destined to leave and were looking at the events like a silent spectator. A chaos gripped the entire region and it is still needed to investigate who pushed the people to leave their homes. It is equally the failure of the two countries to launch joint or separate investigations to find out and expose the elements and their conspiracies which pushed the two communities to leave their birth places and start their lives afresh in places alien to them.
The migration not only produced harrowing stories of genocides of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, but also changed demography of the places where they settled. The new settlements also created political and social troubles as most of them were incompatible with local norms and traditions despite sharing the same religion.
Muslims and Hindus, one way or the other, were absorbed in the new lands, but Sikhs appeared as the ultimate losers in the whole scheme of things. During my visit to India, a Sikh writer and poet, who had migrated from Nankana Sahib to Lucknow, said: “We were uprooted twice. Once in 1947 and then in 1984 when Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.”
Sikh independence era leader, Master Tara Singh, later accepted the blunder committed by Sikhs while deciding to align with Hindus. According to official and unofficial reports, Tara Singh reminded Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru of his promises to Sikh community that they would be given an autonomous state, but he replied that the circumstances have now changed. The rest of the events are the history as India adopted a defiance posture to usurp the whole Kashmir against the wishes of Kashmiris and never fulfilled the promises made to Sikhs in Punjab.
Had the Sikh leaders joined Pakistan, Punjab would have not been divided and the border of Pakistan would have been up to Delhi. This would have not only posed a constant danger to the India capital, but Kashmir would have had no choice but to merge into Pakistan. In this situation, Pakistan and India would have almost the same size of land.
Pakistan, as a multi-religious and multi-culture country, would have a better shape with soft image and secular outlook. The conspiracies started before the independence struggle have matured now and are haunting the Indian establishment.