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August 12, 2007
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SPECIAL ON 150 YEARS OF 1857
Think It Over
Essay


August 12, 2007




Page: 30/35

Home > 2007 Issues > August 12, 2007

Think It Over

Being wiser after the event

By M.S.N. Menon

We all become wiser after the event. More so, after a great event of history. Such was the case with the Partition of the country.

Yet so little has been written on the matter by the Indian historians! We all want to know why? The usual reply is: India has no tradition in history, that it is averse to tragedy and, wasn?t it all a painful memory, we are asked. But let us not rush into conclusions. It is true India has no detailed knowledge of history like the Jews or the Chinese. But attempts have been made to write history. And India avoids tragedy, because it is a principle with it. Yet India is also the creator of the greatest tragic epic?the Mahabharata. It is not only history but also great literature.

Neglect of history meant loss of memory of the most serious events of history. Thus, India failed to remember the invasion of Alexander and the devastation caused by the early Muslim invasions! We have profited least from historical knowledge.

Prof. Ashish Nandi bemoans: How could Indian historians be so indifferent to the repeated invasion of a huge continent by a few hundred well-armed horsemen? And how can they remain indifferent to the 800 years of Muslim rule over the Hindus? Of course, a study of this kind would have brought swift punishment if the Muslim rulers were around. But what happened under the British rule, when they were free to work and think? Nandi?s questions remain unanswered!

I have also raised some questions. But I have not found replies to them in any of the works of the Indian historians. I want to know why the Congress allowed the Muslims of South India, East India, West India and the Himalayas to join the agitation for Pakistan? Of course, they (Muslims) had every right to do so. But there was a price: They had to leave India for Pakistan.

Gandhiji should have told them that they would be deported on Indian independence if they continued to support Pakistan. And he should have set up a watch-dog committee to monitor the Muslims. If Gandhiji had issued such a statement, the Pak movement would have probably collapsed for want of popular backup. I am intrigued why this was not done. But one can guess: Gandhiji?s opposition to Partition! Gandhiji assumed that Partition would never take place.

I say this from my childhood experience in Kerala. (I was born in the early twenties of the last century). The Gandhians were already at work?for example on Hindi prachar. My uncle was not only one of the principal Hindi teachers of the region, but also a functionary of the Hindi Prachar Sabha. Though I hardly understood anything, I watched with interest, more so when the Muslims began to take out processions. They shouted: ?Pakistan Zindabad!?

At that time all this meant nothing to me. But as I grew up, I asked may uncle whether the Muslims of Kerala would go to Pakistan? Of course, not, he said. ?Then why are they lending their help to divide their country?? He made some reference to Gandhiji?s policies. I was never happy with it.

Dear reader, are you among the feet touching people? I am not. I do recognise that there are great men and men of eminence like Vivekananda, the Mahatam and Aurobindo. They were worthy of reverence. The rest of the Gandhians were all, like all of us, made of clay. By bending before them, by touching their feet, we made them into demigods?men of great wisdom and knowledge. That is where we made the most serious mistake. We thought that they could handle the question of Partition. I am now convinced that neither the Hindu leaders nor the Muslim Leaguers knew how to handle Partition. And since Gandhiji ruled out Partition, many attractive schemes based on Partition where not even thought of. Once Partition became the only option before the country, Gandhiji was the most confused man in India. He had never allowed people to think of working out the best Partition scenario. No wonder, he ran away. If the Congress had been a rational organisation, it would have had with it a dozen sophisticated plans for the Partition of the country.




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