Griraj Singh Personifies The Bigotry That Led To Creation Of Pakistan
It is incredible sometimes what kind of people are elected and become members of cabinet in both India and Pakistan. One such specimen is Griraj Singh who holds the office of the Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Indian government. I am not sure what this office entails but I am sure that it does not include within its ambit making exceptionally naïve statements on the history and politics that this gentleman often makes.
A few weeks ago he had put his foot in his mouth when he compared the Shaheen Bagh protests to the Khilafat Movement which he claimed was started by Jinnah. The only problem, Jinnah was the only politician who had opposed and warned against Khilafat agitation. Khilafat Movement was actually started by Ali brothers and Mahatma Gandhi despite Jinnah’s warnings against it.
Now Griraj Singh has declared that Muslims should have been sent to Pakistan in 1947. He does not understand that the basic premise of the partition of India was that there would be no mandatory exchange of populations between the two new countries. Both Pakistan and India based their citizenship laws not on religion but on birth. India actually changed the jus soli citizenship in the 1980s but Pakistan has remained wedded to the idea that anyone born in Pakistan to any faith is a Pakistani. The Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan are Pakistanis and we have no desire to dispatch them to India. Nor can Pakistan absorb or could have absorbed at any time the entire Muslim population of India.
Jinnah had famously said that minorities on either side remain citizens of their respective countries and had promised equal rights to Pakistan’s religious minorities. While Pakistan has not always lived up to that promise and there are certainly major lapses in giving them the equality of citizenship, there have been no pogroms against the Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan of the kind that India has routinely experienced vis a vis Muslims. The one community that has faced hate and bigotry in Pakistan is the Ahmadi community on whom in any event the CAA does not apply because Ahmadis are considered Muslims and as such not welcome in India. Knowing Ahmadis, who despite facing the worst kind of persecution in Pakistan remain immensely patriotic, they are unlikely to apply for Indian citizenship in any event.
The point I am attempting to make here is that Muslims of India are and will remain Indian citizens. Even in 1947 a large number of Muslim religious organisations had sided with the Congress including Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind and had opposed the creation of Pakistan. There were others still like Hasrat Mohani and Nawab Ismail who despite being the frontline of the Pakistan Movement have chosen to remain in India as Indian citizens because the principle on which Pakistan was asked was not necessarily division of India but the division of power between the two major communities.
From Jinnah downwards, the stalwarts of the Pakistan Movement, especially those that hailed from UP and Bombay interpreted Pakistan as an autonomous part of India, with Hindustan being the other autonomous part. Their conception was of an India above Pakistan and Hindustan and to Jinnah there was no India without Pakistan. They did not envisage hardened borders that emerged out of the acrimony of 1947. Indeed the Cabinet Mission Plan was ultimately torpedoed by the Congress at the insistence of Hindu majority of India. Creation of Pakistan did not necessarily mean the partition of India. That was an option exercised by the party representing overwhelmingly the majority of Hindus.
Historians, far removed from the Indian Pakistani tangle and acrimony, will ultimately deliver their verdict that the partition of India was the decision not of those who asked for Pakistan but those who claimed to have stood against it. Already H M Seervai’s excellent legal and constitutional analysis of the events “Partition of India Legend and Reality” concluded as much.
So what should we do now as Pakistanis and Indians?
We should stop stoking the fires of 1947 and instead settle down as good neighbours. This subcontinent has never in history, apart from brief periods such as British rule, been one polity. It has always had multiple states and kingdoms. Today it has three. Why cannot these three states live in peace side by side in this great subcontinent? Why does this subcontinent not have space for many mansions?
Standing in the way of this is the expansionist Hindutvist ideology that Griraj Singh represents. It holds, as it did 100 years ago, the idea that Muslims had no place in the subcontinent because their religious places were located elsewhere. This mindset was the prime instigator for the Muslim minority to seek safeguards and eventually hardened their identity as a separate entity. Even 73 years after independence it stands in the way of a compromise between Hindus and Muslims in India. The mask that Indian constitution put on this mindset has now been ripped off.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.