Friday, April 15, 2011

On Nehru’s Vision of a united India

The Independent, As I see it Column, April 16th, 2011
M. Serajul islam

A video is making rounds on the internet on YouTube. It is a speech of a well known and well respected retired bureaucrat at a seminar in the city. He wanted people present at the seminar to know that India has not accepted the partition of 1947 and that they have a plan to reunite Bharat Mata.

He spoke of a resolution that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru helped adopt at a meeting of the Central Working Committee of the Congress a month after the 1947 partition. When he was charged for the failure of the Congress to protect Bharat Mata, Pandit Nehru found a way out of a tight spot by adopting a resolution that described the 1947 partition as “temporary” and that India would be united again.

The retired bureaucrat gave a range of examples from his official and personal life on the Indian intent. In one of these examples, he revealed that Bangladesh had given India permission for running the Farakkha Barrage on a trial basis during Bangabandhu’s time for seven days only that India unilaterally extended permanently till the 1997 treaty was signed.

Facts clearly prove that the bureaucrat is correct about India. The way India handled the issue of Teen Bigha is a shame. The way India constructed the Farakkha Barrage and unilaterally withdrew waters of the Ganges was an unfriendly act. India’s failure to be fair to Bangladesh on trade issues is equally unfortunate. Their decision to construct Tippaihmukh and indiscriminate killing of Bangladeshis in the border are unfriendly and insensitive acts.

However, to conclude from these examples that India has a plan to annex Bangladesh to undo the 1947partition is farfetched. Lots of water has gone under the bridge that has thrown many new factors into the equation that has changed the way Pandit Nehru and his colleague’s viewed India’s destiny in 1947. For one, Pakistan has since emerged as a nuclear power and thus has a rock solid insurance against Bharat Mata.

Bangladesh has emerged in blood. People have tasted freedom. It is not just that; Bangladesh now has a population of 150 million highly politically conscious people. The country has done well all around except in politics. Seven million Bangladeshis live abroad. The country’s GDP by 2010 estimates was over US$ 100 billion. Its homogeneity could be the envy of nations that suffer ethnic, religious, regional or rich-poor divides .If only it could set its political in order, Bangladesh could someday become the most successful country in South Asia.

Pandit Nehru’s vision did not take any of these facts into consideration. He could not because these facts have emerged after his death. Nevertheless, these facts have altered the dream of Nehru and many like him who took comfort in the belief that Pakistan would not last and India would again become one. However, there are still many in India who believes in the vision that Nehru left in their psyche. Bharatiya Janata Party’s concept of Hindutva that it espoused while in power is Pandit Nehru’s vision of 1947 in a different name.

However, BJP’ dream of Hindutva was a manifestation of its irrational beliefs that millions of Hindu fundamentalists hold that partition allowed the Muslims to escape the clutches of an independent and united India under Hindu domination that would have allowed the majority Hindus to settle the score of Muslim domination for 800 years. India, looking into the future at this stage of its history, knows too well that such a desire would stand between India and its vision to emerge as a regional leader of world stature with permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council.

One must also think about what India would gain by fulfillment of Panditji’s vision. For one, India would with Bangladesh a part of it; have to accept all of Bangladesh’s demands made to it over the last 4 decades. It will have to take care of 160 million people who can be very troublesome. Indians would also have to consider nearly 300 million Bengalis of Bangladesh and West Bengal uniting under Bengali nationalism which could be the start of India’s disintegration. Equally dangerous to India’s unity would the prospect of 150 million Bangladeshi Muslims uniting with an equal number of Indian Muslims that would make India the largest Muslim nation on earth. If Indian leaders are sensible there is no good reason for India today to believe in Panditji’s vision in the physical sense.

India has already achieved more than it bargained for in 1971. When it entered the Bangladesh war of liberation, it was not sure whether it would be able to break Pakistan. Having done that, India has relieved itself of Pakistan’s pressure from the East. The value of this, given the nature of problems in India-Pakistan relations, is fantasy becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the retired bureaucrat’s apprehensions were right about Bharat Mata. There is a genuine problem for Bangladesh with Pandit Nehru’s vision. This is coming less from India but more from amongst us. All of a sudden, some of us and the number is not small, have woken to the fact that those raising apprehensions about India are wrong; that India is our friend in need.

These Bangladeshi friends of India do not see any harm in Farakkha, or in trade deficit or Tippaihmukh. Nor do they care how generations of Muslims on either side of 1947 partition have suffered from the Zamindari system overwhelmingly dominated by the Hindus or from their Hindu neighbours. Strangely, they say that the problem then and now is with us; that we are fundamentalists and that Islam makes us that way.
The video of the retired bureaucrat is a must watch one for these friends of India. While they watch it, they should spare a moment and think about India that they admire for its history; its democracy and its secularism. Our history is as rich as is India’s and our democracy, conflict ridden as it may be, has made significant strides. India has hundreds of millions of active members of the RSS and the Hindu Mahashaba, both stridently Hindu fundamentalist organizations who support the BJP that has formed government at the centre.BJP has a Chief Minister in Gujarat who has genuine aspirations of becoming an Indian Prime Minister who stands accused by the United States for personally supervising killings of Muslims in Gujarat. In the context of religious fundamentalism, we are still in the minor league because the overwhelming majority of our people have kept the religious fundamentalists parties insignificant. In India, the BJP with hundreds of millions of its supporters is in the super league and espouses Hindu fundamentalism proudly and has no qualms with Hindutva that proposes to make India a land of the Hindus.

Panditji was right about Pakistan being temporary though but not the way he envisioned or the retired bureaucrat concluded. Pakistan was the need of history arising out of the British policy of “divide and rule.” Having taken power from the Muslims without firing a single shot, the British ruled us for 200 years by playing the Muslims against the Hindus. To Hindus, they gave education, job, and commerce. When the Muslims became politically conscious at the turn of the 20th century, they found that the British had given the Hindus a head start and had prepared for them, a second class status in an independent India.

Pakistan allowed the Muslims to escape such a predicament. Everything else about Pakistan was illogical. West Pakistani leadership ended the illogical state by its genocide in 1971, although its destruction was embedded in its creation in 1947. Bharat Mata in the physical sense or the way Panditji visualized is a myth for India was united only under the British in the sense we understand an independent country today. Nevertheless, Bharat Mata is in Indian psyche; the urge to dominate the Muslims of South Asia for reasons of history. That is what India has manifested all these 4 decades with Bangladesh. Our only chance to escape the grasp of Bharat Mata is to unite. The spirit of 1971 demands of us that unity.

The writer is a former Ambassador to Japan and a former Secretary to the Government.

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