Pulwama: Continuing costs of an unfinished agenda of Partition and other follies
Partisan politics has come back to life again after a few days of restraint and show of unity over Pulwama. Netas are back to doing what they are best at, that is, pointing fingers at one another. Even TV channels have returned to normal, with one of the oldest English language channels wearing its obsessive anti-BJPism on its sleeve. And the one equally partisan in the opposite direction is back to scoring `exclusives’ nightly with its daily feed from the ruling party circles. Partisanship being the staple of the democratic politics everywhere I intend to be honest to the binder of this column.
So here it goes. Partisan politics allows one to unsee the plank in one’s eye while criticizing the mote in rivals. The Congress Party has begun to talk of intelligence failure, lack of effective response, an attempt to exploit Pulwama for partisan ends, etc., etc. Whatever the truth in these charges, there is no denying that the Grand Old Party is the biggest culprit on this score. Indeed, it is unlikely that any party would be capable of matching its perfidious record during its heyday.
Only the squeamish will hesitate to hold the maternal great-grandfather of the current head of the family firm for the humongous blunders committed, the price of which has been paid and is still being paid by successive generations of Indians. Because Nehru’s critics have said this before, it does not lose its relevance. Since he and his progeny have ruled India for decades, the project to idolize him as a demigod, while being totally oblivious to his Himalayan follies, is unending.
But anyone with a modicum of concern for cold facts can see whether it is the costs of a bloody and half-baked Partition, or a half-finished task in Kashmir within weeks of that cataclysmic transfer of population on the basis of religion, largely from one part to the other, leaving millions dead and maimed, while rendering many more refugees in their own land, Nehru played the blunderbuss to the hilt. His motivation was two-fold: one, personal antipathy towards Jinnah, far better educated and successful ---- while as Firaq Gorakhpuri said of him ‘ Vakalat na chaley to kaum ka neta banja’-- and, therefore, not to work with him on any terms; and two, to occupy the prime ministerial ‘gaddi’ after spending years in gilded prisons even as ordinary Congress workers suffered all manner of hardships in real jails and outside.
I have no hesitation in asserting that the partition was a huge tragedy for people on both sides of the Radcliffe line but once decided on religious lines, its logic ought to have been followed by both the moth-eaten India and the newly-created Pakistan. Speaking the plain truth might sound jarring on the secularist-liberal ears, brought up on Family-inspired propaganda and patronage, but the fact is leaving the logic of the division has meant a huge fifth column amidst us whereas they barely have one Hindu or Sikh left in Pakistan. Besides, Hindus do not accord primacy to religion over persona interest.
I remember how in Karachi every time there was a communal trouble in India the few Hindus brave enough to stay back would shutter their shops and quiver under their beds fearing violent reprisals. Indeed, the Soni Halwai in one of the narrow bazaars changed his name to the odd-sounding Sony. A hundred percent Hindu Punjabi, he did not have a remote connection to the famous Japanese electronic brand.
I know I will be told that I am toeing a communal agenda. If it is, so be it. Calling a spade a spade has never bothered me. I invite the professional secularists to go and prove their faith in a syncretic culture by living in Kashmir for a few months. It is easy to pontificate from a distance but facing the reality and then mouthing those homilies will be difficult. Feel the pain of the Pandits which the secular State threw them at the mercy of the jihadi wolves. Think of the extremely dangerous terrain the security forces have to brave every living moment in the Valley of death and destruction. Go and experience their life-on-the-edge.
It is pointless that we could not have annulled Article 370 when Jinnah made tatters of the promise to treat people of all religions equally. Tens of thousands taken in by his assurance stayed back only to hurry back to India once the hostile Muslims bared their fangs. Pragmatism had won over hope and, dare I say, secularism. If Nehru and Co. were really secularist, why did they rely on religion as the only marker for the Partition? That surrender was the biggest display of communalism. Because of which we are still paying a huge price -- in precious lives and resources lost daily in Kashmir and elsewhere.
Let us leave Partition, Kashmir and Pakistan alone. Come to China. A woolly-headed Nehru totally uninformed by a sense of reality, despite warnings by the likes of Sardar Patel, Acharya Kriplani, Dr Lohia, Vajpayee and others about the trouble brewing at our north-eastern border contemptuously ignore them. He trusted a highly doctrinaire Krishna Menon than widely respected opposition leaders. No, not even in his own Home Minister.
And once the Chinese shook him up from deep slumbers, he most unthinkingly, not unlike the Red Queen, ordered the Army `off with his head’. Within days, the barefoot army without proper winter clothing commanded by the sycophantic generals, the Thapars and the Kauls, et al., was beaten to pulp. Nehru got a shock of his life, going on the radio to supposedly be commiserating with the people of Assam but actually leaving them at their own mercy. The great man’s memorable words, his own version of Churchillian resoluteness to rouse the nation: ` My heart goes out to the people of Assam.’ A defeated Nehru’s AIR broadcast came to shame him so much he had those words excised from the official record!
The short point is: Nehru’s heirs should be the last persons to throw stones at others. If India is hard put to overcome the internal challenges these are of the making of their great grandfather albeit on the maternal side. Find it hard that they should talk of intelligence failure, a lack of tough approach to the domestic agents of the enemy. And when any government seeks to deal tough with the quislings they protest because they rely on their votes for winning elections. Like the other day Rahulji told a group of hand-picked Muslims that the Congress was their party and would promote their interests. Only a couple of months earlier, Rahul was sporting the ‘janeu’ over his kurta and the vermillion mark on his forehead while proclaiming to be a Shiv bhakta. That was when the Assembly elections were on in the Hindi belt. In short, cometh the election, cometh the new mask of the young-old- man of the latest generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
And before you laud Indira Gandhi over the creation of Bangladesh, remember that job was done by the Pak army while we merely acted as a catalyst. Also, it did not take long for a secular Bangladesh to anoint itself an Islamic Republic.
PS: After reading the above, if some busybodies in the Editors’ Guild want me to be ejected out, they are welcome. Hypocrisy is a virtue I have never held dear.