Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jaswant Sigh and the Need for Examining the History of India’s Partition

JASWANT SINGH has paid a price for being an objective observer of the history of Indian sub-continent in its most crucial period. The division of the country has always been a matter of serious and grave disputes, but what has been most critical as far as historical inquiry is concerned is that all facts relating to the division were never made available to the public or even the scholars.

What we had, instead, was one version of history written by the winners in this game played out on the country in the run up to division. In this Nehru, Patel and the entire Indian elite, upper caste Congress leadership came out in flying colours and people like Muhammedali Jinnah and B R Ambedkar were the demons. This official history held good for almost five decades and our children learnt this history in their schools and colleges and we, the first generation Indian after Independence, also imbibed such a history in our younger days.

I was a particularly keen student of history from my school days and I had spent a lot of time for reading history. In fact, I remember reading such huge tomes like the History of the Freedom Movement by Tara Chand (a multi volume project launched by Government of India), and the History of India prepared by a few Soviet scholars, during the days of Emergency and curiously withdrawn from the market in 1978 or 79 when Indira Gandhi returned to power) and many others. What these volumes had in common was that they carried the official line of the freedom movement, the official version of what led to the partition of the country.

But it was definite that such a totally one-sided history would not stand scrutiny of the times, especially as historical inquiry is a continuous process and every generation would seek fresh answers to the questions that keep up popping up, like persistent ghosts from a long buried past.

And in the case of India’s division and what were the circumstances that led to it and who were the people responsible for it, there has always been so many yawning gaps in the narration, which were papered over by our official historians. It suited our ruling classes very well, as both the Congress and the right wing Hindutva forces shared in the benefits of such a demonisation project, painting the Muslims and the Muslim League as responsible and Muhammaedali Jinnah as the wily villain of the peace.

But politics has never been such a neat black-and-white business. There has to be elements of grey in it and there are forces which benefited out of such tragic events in history. The Muslims never benefited anything out of it and in fact hey became second class citizens in their own country. They were reduced to be a non entity in Indian politics despite the fact that they are the second largest Muslim community in the world.

And the Congress and Nehru family benefited with a decades-long grip on power in India. All other streams in our national movement, whether it be the socialist, dalit, minority or communist, remained in the periphery and what we have come to see is the sharing of power alternatively between the congress an the Hindutva rightwing in India’s independent history.

Not that there were no voices which feebly complained about this elaborate hoax that is called India’s contemporary history, and read carefully even Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s autobiography is a cry in the wilderness. If one reads accounts of the activities of people like K M Munshi, the man who launched the Somanatha temple movement, who was a major force in the Nehru-Patel administration in the partition days one cannot but wonder how effective were these schemes of these wily gentlemen who decided the destiny of this nation at its most critical hour.

Now a person like Jaswant Singh, who spent a lifetime in the BJP, has dared to question this sham of history and I am sure it would prove to be a great contribution to understanding modern India and its history in demystified context.

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