Thursday, August 23, 2012

India's Independence Celebration 2012



Sachi G. Dastidar, Ph.D.
(From the Journal of 1st India Day Parade of Long Island, New York, Long Island India Association and the Federation of India Associations, U.S.A., pp 104-105; August 11)
On August 15, 1947, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation in Delhi, “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

“At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.” While Delhi and most of India rejoiced the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was in mourning in Calcutta trying to stop Muslim non-Muslim killing. Before 1947 Gandhiji said that “India will only be partitioned over my dead body” in opposition to Muslim League’s demand. While he lost his dream of United India Mahatma succeeded in stopping the carnage in India to the relief of all Indians, but not in East Bengal which became Muslim-majority East Pakistan or in West Punjab which became West Pakistan. Muslim League Party’s demand for partition of India came to fruition with full support and machination of the Colonial British Administration. In 1947 British policy could have further weakened India but for the foresights of Sardar Ballav Bhai Patel – the Builder of Modern India. The 1947 division led Pakistan to become a nation where Hindu-Sikh-Jain-Buddhist-Christian-Parsee minority population came down from 28% in 1947 to a mere 2% today. In Pakistani Kashmir non-Muslims have come down from 20% to 0%.[1] In Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan, Hindu population came down from one-third to less than 10% in 2001 with a loss of over 49 million Hindus from Bangladesh Census.[2] Today most Pakistani, Pakistani-Kashmiri, Bangladeshi, and even Afghan, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Buddhists live in India. It may be worthwhile to remember the mindset of cleansing that began in 1905 with carefully planned Colonial British action.

On October 16, 1905 the British Administration mandated a Muslim-Hindu (non-Muslim) partition of mixed, tolerant Bengal Province in eastern India when there was no such demand from either community. In Indian history this date is possibly more profound than 9/11 for America, but very few in the Subcontinent remember that. From the mid-1800s Calcutta, the capital of British-India (and Bengal), lead an intense struggle for Indian independence joined by India’s diverse religious and linguistic groups. Bengal was then divided between Muslim and non-Muslim, just as U.P., Punjab and Sind. Colonial ruler Lord Curzon devised a divide-and-rule policy to create a cleavage among Indians, starting first with Bengal. He created a majority-Muslim East Bengal Province with extra privileges for “backward Muslims” and a Hindu-majority (West) Bengal. The British Raj gave huge sums of money to a non-native Urdu-speaking Muslim landlord, Nawab Salimullah,[3] of Dhaka of East Bengal, now Bangladesh, to promote an anti-independence Muslim League Party.  After an intense effort by mostly-non-Muslim Indians of the entire Subcontinent the province was reunited in 1912 but that communal impetus gave rise to intolerant, separatist Islamism. Muslim-non-Muslim killings became ‘a part of life’ in the Indian Subcontinent. Success of the first ever use of divide-and-rule policy would make Britain use that tool later in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The Islamism that the British Raj nurtured in India eventually partitioned India and India’s Bengal, Punjab, Assam provinces, and Kashmir in 1948, giving rise to Islamist Pakistan and Bangladesh. It dispossessed Hindu Sindhis, Pathans and Balochs.

Effects of India’s independence continues to this day as we watched on July 23, 2012 “Human Boundaries” a film by Rahul Raji Nair of Kerala of 151 Pakistani Hindus seeking shelter in India while India Government’s effort to deport them to Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Similarly most of us are oblivious of another chapter of that independence struggle that is unfolding right now in the U.S. In 1971 the Army of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Islamist Bengali allies killed 3 million Bengalis – 90% to 95% Hindus, and rest pro-secular, pro-independence Muslims. Now some of the mass murderers are being tried in Bangladesh which is being opposed by pro-Islamists, including many of our congressmen. In the midst of our celebration, let us extend our hand to those Pakistani Hindus as well as to the victims of anti-India extremists of 1971 so that they can also join our celebration. Let us celebrate the ideals of Gandhiji and Subhas Chancra Bose who sought to create a tolerant, pluralistic, democratic, prosperous India. Jai Hind.

[1] This is an estimate of the Princely State of Kashmir based on mountainous Valley region.
[2] See Sachi G. Dastidar, Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities, Firma KLM Publishers, Calcutta, India; 2008. In spite of this huge migration of non-Muslims to India Muslim population of India has risen to 13% in 2011 from 12% in 1947.
[3] British conferred him “Nawab” to elevate his status among the Muslims.

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