G. L. Batra, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana
India has, from the dawn of its civilisation, been a land where people from different religions and communities lived together in peace and harmony. Our history shows us that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis have lived in this country peacefully for several centuries, in a spirit of brotherhood and amity. Even the Mughal emperors, who were Islamic rulers, followed a liberal policy towards the Hindus. Umpteen instances of religious tolerance and broad-mindedness can be cited from the reigns of most of the emperors of that dynasty. They appointed Hindus as their advisers and even gave them significant places in the military. The famous Mughal Emperor Akbar felt the need to issue an edict comprising of certain principles which could be termed as secular, known as Din i Ilahi or Tauhid i Ilahi. The object of Din i Illahi was to establish a national religion which would be acceptable to the Muslims and the Hindus. According to Abul Fazl, Akbar became the spiritual guide of the nation and saw in the performance of that duty, a means of pleasing God. He tried to satisfy the thirst of the people for truth. According to Dr. Ishwari Prasad, the Din I Ilahi “was an eclectic pantheism containing the good points of all religions – a combination of mysticism, philosophy and nature worship. Its basis was rational; it upheld no dogma, recognised no Gods or prophets, and emperor was its chief exponent.” Akbar’s secularism and tolerance is underlined by the fact that he married a Hindu princess, Jodha Bai, to whom he accorded the first place, and she was given due respect.
An ideal, harmonious communal atmosphere prevailed in the land, before the colonial British era. The three major communities, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, lived peacefully according to their respective moral and religious codes and rules of conduct. On all social and religious occasions, they gathered, exchanged greetings and gifts and celebrated their festivals in common, with a spirit of universal brotherhood.
In India, then comprised of a vast majority of rural population, people of different faiths were so deeply and strongly blended and intermingled, that it was difficult to distinguish a person of one faith from one of another. The Muslim peasantry of the then Delhi province almost looked Hindu in their appearance and way of life. The Hindu population in West Punjab lived as good neighbours. Every Muslim village has its mosque, acknowledged the Shariat and solemnized marriages according to their rights of the holy Quran, yet Brahmins were frequently employed for purposes of arranging betrothals. Both the communities were closely knit and drawn towards each other. They lived and enjoyed life in peace except when there was a rare instance of cow killing.
In society, mainly comprising of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, was very peaceful, and relation harmonious. On political side also, as in the social life, a remarkable communal homogeneity and harmony prevailed. Disputes between members of different communities were settled amicably through the institution of the Panchayat in the villages.
The Sikhs, who in the struggle for freedom, had suffered severely at the hands of the Mughals and Afghani invaders, in spite of all this, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler, was above all communal prejudices. He appointed as his foreign minister, Azizuddin, a Muslim and several generals in his army, and provincial governors under him were Muslims.
The seeds of communal strife in India were first sowed by the British as part of the ‘divide and rule’ policy which they adopted to secure a stronghold over the country. It was the British who instigated the Muslim leaders for a demand of a separate state based on religious lines, after independence. Even Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a member of the National Congress who had struggled for India’s independence and was initially a nationalist Muslim leader, fell prey to their instigations and went on to become one of the foremost votaries of Partition. His famous words “Two nations. Confronting each other. In every province. Every town. Every Village. That is the only solution”, signify the extent of the rift which the Britishers had created in the nation.
While the British were busy creating tensions between the Hindus and Muslims, as part of their ‘divide and rule’ policy, leading Muslim poets of the time tried their utmost to forestall the growing communal disharmony and infuse nationalistic spirit among the masses through their poetry. Poets like Mir Taqui Mir (1725-1810) wrote,
“Mir ke deen, wa mazhab ko ab poochtey kya ho? Un ne to kashka kheencha, dair mein baitha, kab ka tark Islam kiya” – “Why do you ask to which religion Mir belongs? He has put a mark on his forehead, sits in a temple as he gave up Islam long ago.”
Mohsin Kakori sang a song of Kashi, Mathura and Ganga, “Simat –E Kashi se chala, Janibe Mathura badal, Bark ke kandhe pe lati hain Saba Gangajal.”
Allama Iqbal said the beautiful and immortal lines,
“Saare Jahan se acchha, Hindostan hamara, Hum bulbulein hain iski, yeh Gulistan hamara……;
Mazhab nahi sikhata apas mein bair rakhna, Hindi hain hum watan hai, Hindostan Hamara” –
“Our Hindustan is the best nation in the world, we are the bulbul birds in the beautiful garden of this nation…..;
Religion does not teach us to foster enmity, we are ‘Hindi’ (Indians) and our nation is Hindustan”.
However, extremist leaders like Abdur Rab Nishtar and Amir-ud-din, made provocative and inflammatory speeches which were against the ethics and code of harmonious relationship between the two communities. In the general election of 1945 wherein only 25% of the adult population was entitled to vote under the Government of India Act 1935, the result was not in favour of creating Pakistan. The Britishers, basing their decision on only seventeen percent of the Muslim population of India, including East Bengal, sanctioned the division of India and in respect of creation of Pakistan, it was a black day for India, even though it is also our independence day. What a fait accompli! – India was partitioned and the British succeeded in creating Pakistan as a permanent enemy for India.
The tragic partitioning of undivided India, into India and Pakistan, in 1947 left permanent wounds and indelible scars on our national psyche, and the violent events that occurred in its aftermath evoke painful memories in our minds and hearts even today. Partition was neither historically nor geographically correct, nor desirable. It was effected solely and simply on the basis of religion. Should it have been so? Partition was a result of the seeds of mistrust which the Britishers had sowed. This partition at the stroke of the pen in a moment was heartbreaking to people on both sides of the artificially created border. The birth of Pakistan took place in a blood bath. Millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in West Pakistan were cut to pieces. When railway trains full of the dead, and covered with blood, reached Amritsar, the Sikhs and Hindus got infuriated. They retaliated on the innocent Muslims of East Punjab. Those responsible for these inhuman acts are certainly guilty and cannot be absolved of it. The partition of the country has left bitter memories of mental pain and physical agonies of the most excruciating type. The horrors on both sides were of unimaginable magnitude and are examples of the most bestial, inhuman behaviour. Innocent men and women were cut to pieces and not only was the modesty of women folk violated, they were deliberately and violently physically and sexually assaulted. Families, to save the modesty of their women folk, were forced to commit desperate acts like throwing their women folk into the wells alive, preferring death to disgrace. Was this the price which we had to pay for our freedom? India paid the price of independence not only in blood but also in mutilation.
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