Sixty long years have passed and nothing seems to have changed in Indo Pakistan relations. Nothing, really? Is the Muslim in Pakistan a confirmed India?or Hindu?hater? And is the Hindu in India a confirmed Pakistani?or Muslim?hater? Does the Hindus in India still continue to look at his Muslim compatriot with suspicion, if not hatred? What did happen in pre-Partition India to rouse Hindu sentiments against Muslims? Were all Muslims in India by nature and temperament pro-Partition? Questions, questions.
Muslims in India were in a dilemma. The point has been raised that a majority of Muslims were with M A Jinnah in seeking a Muslim state. If they were not, how come, it is asked, that the Muslim League won with such a thumping majority in the last general elections held in India before Partition? The truth is that a majority of Muslims were enamoured of the idea of separate Muslim state where, they felt, they would not be ruled by a Hindu majority. It did not occur to them what damage they were doing to themselves. And when Pakistan became a reality almost overnight, they were in for a shock. A good percentage of Muslims were determined to move from India to a mythical Pakistan, hoping to live in better economic surroundings. Another percentage hoped that there would be no need for an exchange of population and that Muslims in India could remain happily in their country of birth while Hindus living in a newly established ?Pakistan? would continue happily to live in their portion of land that once was part of undivided India.
There was talk of exchange of population but few understood the consequence of such exchange. Hindus and Sikhs living in areas that became the foothold of Pakistan came to be massacred in large numbers. Hindus living in Sindh too came to realise that they had no place there any longer.
A pro-Congress and nationalist Urdu paper in Delhi Al-Jamiat tried to convince its (Muslim) readers that they should not be afraid to live in India. Unfortunately they had to reckon with the fact that Hindus and Sikhs had been driven out of the newly-established Pakistan, their home looted and burnt down, their women raped, their children killed. Their arrival in Delhi as refugees understandably roused passions. Muslims in Delhi felt threatened and they had to be told to vacate their homes and live in camps for their security. Confusion prevailed.
To understand what happened to Hindus from Pakistan who had come to India as refugees, one must read Yasmin Khan'sThe Great Partition. He recalls an incident when Jawaharlal Nehru visited a Hindu refugee camp near Hardwar. Some young people whose parents had been butchered and whose sisters and daughters had been forced to stay back, surrounded Nehru. One young man lost his temper and gave Panditji a resounding slap on his face, shouting: ?Give my mother back to me; Bring my sisters back to me!?. Nehru said nothing. Tears rolled down his face. The fact is that utter chaos reigned in both India and Pakistan. The newly established administration in Pakistan did not want Muslim refugees from India. Muslims in Delhi became quick to realise that they were not wanted either in Pakistan or?thanks to the communal politics of Jinnah?in India.
Vazira does not admit that the fault lay with Jinnah'smade politics. Vazira Fazila writes mostly of what happened in India. She gives little space to the cruelties perpetrated on Hindus and Sikhs in the just established Pakistan, where murder and mayhem was common. In many ways she is very unfair. Her case study is unbalanced. She does not recall how Jinnah betrayed Muslims in Delhi. He had met their leaders on September 5,1947 and told them that they had two options, one to demand from the Indian Government a ?fair deal? and the other, to start ?a civil war?! Astounding! But that was Jinnah.
Writes Vazira Fazila: ?The possibility of migrating to Pakistan, of seeking refuge or home there, was not even considered as an option.? She also recounts how Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan'sfirst Prime Minister, argued that Pakistan ?does not want Muslims from regions other than East Punjab leave their watans and property and come to Pakistan? and how ?Partition of the country was done on the principle that minorities would remain in their regions and the government would provide protection to all its citizens and give them equal rights?. That was the joke of the year because Pakistan did not adhere to its own theory.
Says Vazira Fazila: ?It was difficult position to straddle for the Pakistan state, to argue that it was a refuge for all Muslim and discourage Muslim displacement at the same time.? Pakistan was?and remains?an utterly ruthless and unprincipled state. As the author puts it: ?How were Muslim refugees from the Punjab to be differentiated from Muslims refugees from elsewhere? Which Muslim refugees were to be rehabilitated by the Indian state and which Muslim refugees were to be regarded as subjects of the Pakistan state?? That was never satisfactorily resolved. Much of this book is all about the confusion that arose and how it affected Muslims of different states of mind. If one has tears to shed, one must read this book.
There were a few nationalist Muslims who wanted Pakistan to get back Sindhi Hindus who had left Sindh in thousands, and even cancel the agreement on the transfer of populations in divided Punjab. But they were too late and in any event their voices went unheard.
The author has no solution to offer. Perhaps in her heart of hearts she realises that Pakistan is the biggest single hoax ever perpetrated in history.
(Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)