The 1947 Partition that never took place

Every so often, I keep hearing about the partition of India. Not true. I also keep hearing about people who say that the partition of India was a wrong thing, and that the Two Nation theory is flawed. I’ll come to that. Pakistan’s partition from India never took place. All the history books in our schools, all the emotionally charged tirades of our elders, all the reinforcement presented in the media about the ‘partition of 1947’, all of these are plainly wrong. The events of August 14th, 1947 may be true, but the context of Partition is all wrong. Pakistan was never partitioned out of India.

So What Happened?

It was British India that was partitioned, that lead to the independence of two nation states, one India (Bharat) and the other, Pakistan. Two countries, one by the name of India, and one by the name of Pakistan, won Independence in that august month of August, 1947. It was partition from the British Empire’s context, but from the context of Pakistanis and Indians, August 1947 was the month of Independence. Partition is when you break something. Independence is when you win freedom. Nothing was broken as far as Indians and Pakistanis are concerned.

British India (see map) was partitioned, to let two nations have their independence. All else is context.

British India - 1947
British India - 1947

The Difference is the Difference

A lot of people ‘complain’ about the partition, saying that Islam does not go into such political conquests of sorts. That much is true, and this is all the more reason to explain the subtle difference between Partition and Independence.

Imagine this: two brothers, with their respective families, are living in the same house. The Father of those two brothers can see that they don’t get along so well, but he lets it be. Finally, the brothers have had it up till here, and they approach the Father, demanding that the Father of the house once and for all, allocate the rooms and separate the kitchens and the whole shebang, so that the brothers and their families can live at peace.

Obviously, history is witness to the fact that the British Raj was no Father figure, but rulers nonetheless they were. And as imperial kingdoms go, their rule was supposedly absolute and clearly based on divide-and-rule. The two largest groups under their rule, the Hindus and the Muslims, had it up till here with each other, and seeing that the haakim was leaving, demanded that they (the British) do this properly: tell us where each of us can live under our own customs and laws.

This demand was made on the basis of the Two Nation Theory. The Two Nation theory was and is not flawed as some so casually say, it just has these finer points that need to be understood. Yes, the two nations of Hindus and Muslims can and have and still do live together in harmony and peace. But as history is a grim reminder of the fact that in and around 1947, this harmony and peace was just not there.

The differences amongst these two Nations were rightly highlighted to prevent the Hindu majority from unfairly dominating the Muslims after the British had left. (Hindus of the time had repeatedly dealt with Muslims unjustly, only to strengthen this argument)

The Partition, if you have to use the word, was not due to the differences in religious customs and duties, but was nonetheless based on it. Remember, it was Jinnah the Quaid, who first attempted to unite the Hindus and Muslims to drive out the British, together. That failed, making it clear that Hindus and Muslims will not be able to live through the departure of British from British India.

So keep this clear: Partition is not the right word, Pakistan gained Independence in 1947, just like India did. The Independence, of course, was not ‘from’ India, but from the British.

Religious Reasons?

Separation from anyone in terms of geography is something you will be hard pressed to find is Islam. As I mentioned in my earlier post (read here), a large number of religious scholars was against the idea of a separate country in the name of Islam. Yes, Pakistan was based on the ideology of a Muslim majority living together, but this is no different from the Sikhs demanding their separate homeland, from Hindus demanding their own (who got it in the form of present-day India) or any other relatively homogeneous group of people demanding a right to live life according to their own customs.

Allama Iqbal got this right when he himself foresaw a separate homeland for the Muslims, while at the same time warning Muslims in clear terms, that giving priority to this ‘nationalism’ over the fraternity of Muslims will be a mistake and a sin. Religion was not the reason Muslims demanded a separate homeland, it was the vast differences between the two prevalent groups that lead to two independent states coming into existence in 1947.

Preference to one’s creed or nationality is not the way of a Muslim. A Muslim’s first priority always is as it should be, for the greater good of all humanity. Just as an American will put ‘America First’, Muslims put the Ummat first – and the conflict between an Ummah’s good and the good of humanity is simply impossible. IF such conflict arises, there is a misunderstanding somewhere.

Pakistan is very much part of that Muslim Ummah. No one ought to forget the reasons why the state of Pakistan was established to begin with i.e. to let Muslims of that time and place live according to their own customs and rules. And as The Quran reminds us all, that our duty as servants of God, is to safeguard interests of all by dealing with everyone (regardless of their religion) with utter justice.

I am a Pakistani first only because of the country’s direct attachment to my religion. In the same breadth, I consider each and every country to be as much mine as Pakistan. I have nothing against America, the UK, Germany, Denmark, whatever, as long as there is no conflict between what my God teaches and what any of the countries proclaim. My differences and my agreements stem from my understanding of Islam. I did try to shed some light on this in my previous post about Pakistanis and Muslims. I must admit I was not as forthcoming as I had hoped. I fear the same lack of clearer communication may be present here, what do you think?

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