Maulana Azad, a critic of the ‘two nation theory’, sagaciously predicted that a Muslim will have more in common with a Hindu neighbor with respect to culture, language and tradition than another Muslim living even a few hundred miles away. By 1971, his words came true and the ‘two nation theory’ lost its ground
In 1947, South Asia was politically partitioned based on the ‘two nation theory’, which states that Indian Muslims could not thrive in a Hindu majority country. This led to the creation of Muslim dominated Pakistan and Hindu dominated India. The citizens of these newly independent nations quickly realized that there were more divisions amongst themselves. Linguistic identities became the basis of statehood and regionalism within the nations. Within each of these regions, there are issues of caste, factional or racial superiority. Hindu states were split between Dalit and Brahmin. Muslim states experiences factional violence between Sunnis, Shias, Bohras, Ismailis and Ahmadiyas. The recent rapid economic growth has presented an opportunity for the economic backward to migrate to the ‘middle class’. This ‘visible’ economic class fluidity is creating an identity based political struggle of its own. The increasingly violent Naxalites movement and the rush for government job or education seat quotas for ones identity are prime examples of the same.
The point that I am driving to is that every time you will include someone in a certain identity, you will leave many more out. And thus, no identity can ever be complete. And even if there can be one global identity, with time flavors of that identity in the form of pacifists, traditionalists, secularists, moderates, extremists and purists rise. What we forget is that on a long enough time line, everything is variable. Even identities, like nature, evolve!
Maulana Azad, a critic of the ‘two nation theory’, sagaciously predicted that a Muslim will have more in common with a Hindu neighbor with respect to culture, language and tradition than another Muslim living even a few hundred miles away. By 1971, his words came true and the ‘two nation theory’ lost its ground. The diverse identities of Muslim West Pakistan and Muslim East Pakistan led to further political partition of the Subcontinent. Today India, Pakistan and Bangladesh each have approximately 150 million Muslims. Which one is the true homeland of Indian Muslims? And if there is one true homeland of the Indian Muslim, why aren’t the rest 300 million in it, with it? Clearly, it is time we question and revisit the basic premise of divisional identity politics in the Indian Subcontinent.
The biggest proponents of such ‘divide and conquer’ are self-righteous men who want to enforce their identity with an ‘all or nothing’ mandate. Then there are politicians who create identities from existing populations, incite violence and then champion themselves as the leaders of that identity to rise to power. Finally invisible spooks and powerful generals, driven by the desire to have their names recorded in history ,run mandates of their own. But then if identity politics is so bad, then why has there such a strong popular support for it? The common man, like everyone, fears the unknown and corresponding uncertainty it creates. He wants to ensure continuity of his way of life.
Great leaders of the past like Asoka and Kanishka faced similar issues. They have attempted to mitigate the common man’s fear of the unknown by organizing conferences, where learned men from across the lands belonging to all known religions were invited to reason the pros and cons of each religion. Note these were not ‘government to government’ composite dialogues but a people to people dialogue organized by the governments. This created an atmosphere of convergent learning, assimilation, tolerance and a sense of shared identity. For centuries now, this ensured over the years harmony between the Buddhists and Hindus even as the official religion of the Subcontinent has swayed between Hinduism and Buddhism and vice versa. Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar and the learned Moghul prince Dariah Shikoh too tried to emulate the above model to integrate Islam and Hinduism. But probably prejudices and dogmas are not changed in a lifetime, let alone a generation.
In an age when the divisions of the Cold War have been replaced by the divisions of the War on Terror, can the international community give the Subcontinent some isolated silence to sort off its own problems? In an age when leaders have been replaced by managerial Prime Ministers, can a courageous visionary leader, with a popular appeal, rise to emulate the successes of the past? In an age of an increasingly Talibanized society, externally imposed war, incessant inflation and joblessness, can the common man muster the courage to resist temptations of factional politics?
In the shadow of the mushroom cloud
Two brothers, both unnecessarily proud
Must no bonhomie be ever allowed
|Ritvvij Parrikh is a Technology Consultant, based out of Saint Louis, US. During his evenings and weekends, he is a blogger, poet, entrepreneur and a geo-politics and philosophy enthusiast|