Undivided India was the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. After Partition in 1947, Pakistan had this honour, but not for long. In 1971, when Bangladesh became free, Pakistan slid back to fourth position. Though the west wing of the separated country retained the name Pakistan, its population was less than that of the east wing. Meanwhile, Indonesia became number one in Muslim population. And India, where Muslims thrived unhindered by fratricidal wars, became No. Two in the world. As such, legitimately India, also as a Muslim nation, should have a place of pride in deciding matters regarding the Muslim world.
And the Indian Muslims are eminently qualified for taking the leadership of the Islamic world by all reckoning. They are the inheritors of world'sbest culture, glorious history and modern development. They have evolved into a fine specimen of humanity in an atmosphere of freedom of faith and unrestrained thinking in a fertile environment of Hindu liberalism, spirit of accommodation and above all, recognition of talent.
A comparison between the progress made by Pakistani Muslims (including Bangladeshis) and Indian Muslims will show the widening gap in their development in all fields such as business, education, arts, intellectual pursuit and cultural sphere. In Pakistan, democracy was throttled in its infancy and a series of military dictatorships took over. The country reeled under the jackboots of Generals namely Ayub Khan, Yahaya Khan, Zia-ul-Huq and now Pervez Musharraf. In between, there were short interregnums of civilian rule under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. But the military, that tasted the blood of political power, can'tbe contained in the barracks. It came back with a bang, in one instance hanging the deposed Prime Minister, Z.A. Bhutto. Of course, Nawaz Sharif fled the country fearing the same fate overtaking him.
The country reeled under the jackboots of Generals Ayub Khan, Yahaya Khan, Zia-ul-Huq and now Pervez Musharraf. In between, there were short interregnums of civilian rule under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. But the military, that tasted the blood of political power, can'tbe contained in the barracks. It came back with a bang.
Was the wide gap between the development of Muslims on the two sides of the Indo-Pak border due to the difference in quality of human material and the natural resources of the land? Not at all. In fact, Pakistan inherited the best of lands?the Punjab irrigated by all the west-flowing rivers of the Himalayas and East Bengal perpetually bathed by waterways that had never known drought. Both wings had good harbours opening to the oceans of the world and are strategically situated to be gates to countries across the Himalayas in Central Asia and Mongol territories.
As for human material of the two countries, its quality is not hitched to religion, but region. Drawing lines across Punjab and Bengal respectively to make them separate nations can'tchange the character of the people living on both sides of the line. They are linguistically, culturally and ethnically the same. That religion formed the basis of nationality was a big lie propagated by Mohammed Ali Jinnah who wanted to have a country of his own to rule over. By deceiving the gullible and spreading the canard that Muslims would not be safe under Hindu rule, Jinnah had his life'sambition fulfilled, thanks to the collusion of the British and to some extent, the vulnerability of Indian national leadership who were too tired to wait more to get into power.
The rest is history. What is to be seen is the development of Muslims in India who too generally had a dream about Pakistan to become a promised land of Muslims in the subcontinent. In the early years, many of them cherished Pakistan as a land that they could not reach because of the compulsions of circumstances. That dream turned into a nightmare soon after, the nostalgia became aversion when fellow-Muslims who left for the promised land became refugees in that homeland and they had to fight pitched battles on the streets of Karachi to get their basic rights. The glue of Islam gave way when ethnic separatism surfaced. They were treated as intruders by the Punjabis and Pathans, destined to be Muhajirs forever. At least the Bengalis found salvation after the creation of Bangladesh, but the sophisticated Muslims of the Gangetic plains who had really worked for the realisation of Pakistan became refugees in their promised land.
The world knows that the lot of Indian Muslims is far better than their counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The very fact that there is a steady flow of Bangladeshis to India is proof that life is better in India. If there is no exodus from the west wing, the reason is, it is not easy for them to infiltrate into India.
However, facts remain obscure unless constantly burnished. It is not simply enough that justice is done, but it is necessary that justice seem to have been done. Unfortunately, what happens is the negative image gets enlarged and get into focus. In this vast country of a billion people, the destruction of an old mosque or a local communal riot on flimsy issues gets highlighted especially because the Muslim nations want to divert attention of their own people from their own sufferings. And the west, with its superior civilisational wars, wants to ?prove? that the people of their erstwhile colonies are unfit to rule.
The situation has to change. The Indian Muslims themselves should realise the realities and come forward to tell the world that they are enjoying what Muslims in Islamic countries are missing that is freedom and democracy. First, they should come out of the minority syndrome; a people whose strength is ten crore, more than the population of France or England, cannot be a minority. They can'tbe disregarded by any political force, leftist or rightist. Therefore, instead of concentrating their energies to demand for more concessions posing as underprivileged second class citizens, which they are not, they should come out of their cocoon of isolation and declare to the world how privileged they are to be Indians. They should become proactive in world Islamic forums to assert their leadership and ask for representation in Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) by the strength of their numbers.
(The writer can be contacted at 42-B, Pocket 1, Mayur Vihar -1, Delhi 110091, Email: [email protected])