Is India headed for another Partition or Civil War?
When the BJP, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, won a decisive national election in 2014, it was the first time in 30 years that the people had given a clear mandate for a political party to rule at the centre. Not since Rajiv Gandhi’s sympathy-driven victory in 1984 had the people of India vested their faith in a single political party and its leader. During the intervening 25 years after Gandhi lost the general elections in 1989, the centre was ruled by coalitions – mostly opportunistic and unprincipled.
The election results of 2014 had gone largely contrary to the predictions of most pollsters and psephologists. The Congress and its coalition partners were confident of stitching together another combination – the main thread being mutual self-interest while using the needle of political blackmail.
The election results took all of them by complete surprise, and the Congress was decimated to its worst performance in history. A similar situation had arisen for the BJP in 1984 when it won all of 2 seats in the Lok Sabha. That kind of bullet between the eyes should have finished any body politic, but it is to the credit of the BJP that it did not throw in the towel, but instead reinvented itself. Fortunately for the BJP it had a leader of the stature of Vajpayee to drag it out of the quagmire, with able lieutenants like Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha among others to help him. There was also the support of the RSS from which the party could draw the cadre needed to sustain a political movement. Within 15 years the party was able to lead a stable coalition at the centre with Vajpayee as the Prime Minister.
The people, however, gave another chance to the Congress in 2004 to stitch yet another coalition (UPA-1) under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The global economic recovery helped the government in maintaining its hold on power when Manmohan Singh returned in 2009 as the PM of UPA-2.
Singh squandered whatever goodwill he had gathered as the Finance Minister under PVA Narasimha Rao and later as the PM of UPA-1, by his complete disregard for the humungous corruption and daylight robbery that was going on under his very nose. UPA-2 was, perhaps, the most corrupt dispensation in the history of independent India, and Manmohan Singh became the object symbol of this corruption. It is not my intention here to list all the acts of commission and omission that happened during this period. The facts are all in public domain and it serves no point in repeating them here.
However, what concerns me now is the effect that this complete breakdown in moral order is having on the future of this country. The period between 2009-14 was practically a free-for-all where anybody with any political or administrative influence was able to tweak government policy with an aim to line personal pockets and create untold amounts of cash-driven wealth. Greed was the Supreme God who presided over the country, banishing the traditional gods to preside over smaller things.
Drunk with power and blinded by the glitter of the gold they had accumulated, the constituents of UPA-2 were not able to see the oncoming tsunami. The media had also discovered that its bread got buttered if it stayed on the right side of the party in power. It started creating narratives where none existed, feeding false news to their masters. TV hosts and hostesses became celebrities of the cocktail circuit, strutting around with hoi polloi, making and destroying reputations and careers. It was a self-sustaining illusion that fed more and more on the false narrative it created. No wonder, none of them was able to feel the accumulated anger that was waiting for an honest leader to come on the scene and sweep them away. The moment the BJP decided to make Narendra Modi its Prime Ministerial candidate, this anger found a person on whom the people could pin their hopes and slay the evil dragon.
Narendra Modi’s rise has seen the most vitriolic reaction by the Congress and its supporters. Parasitical parties like the RJD, BSP, SP, and AITC – to name a few – who had attached their tentacles to the Congress ship, eagerly joined in this vitriolic outpouring, poisoning political waters unlike any time in our history. The margin of defeat was so huge that the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi reacted like a cobra that had been trod upon. Not finding Modi’s ankle it thought nothing of plunging its fangs into the body of the nation itself. In order to destroy Modi the Congress and its parasites have embarked upon the mission of destroying the country!
Sardar Patwant Singh, in his 2007 book “The Second Partition” had lamented upon the failures of the Indian state despite India being ranked as the second fastest growing economy in the world. Reflecting upon poverty and unemployment, homelessness, the oppression of women and other issues, he cast a relentless eye upon the grave problems that were threatening India then. Identifying misgovernment, power politics, corruption and obsessive militarization as the main causes, he also reacted to the rising communalism as the leading factors that had split India into two: “First India, which comprises the powerful politicians and bureaucrats, as well as the affluent upper and middle classes, and the Second India, which makes up the rest of the population – hungry, sick, homeless.”
But in 2007 the fear was that the second partition was essentially a partition between haves and have-nots, and that the violence that had struck various parts of India was mainly a struggle for a fairer share of the economic pie.
Patwant Singh ignores the acute communal strife in Kashmir that had already been going on since 1990, leading to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. To be fair, 26/11/2008 had not yet happened and the refugee crisis precipitated by the advent of ISIS(L) was still a few years in the future. Many Doomsayers could not have foreseen that in less than a decade the world would be in the grip of extreme terrorism unleashed by a fundamentalist ideology, fuelled by American interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Levant. Singh’s book ends on an optimistic note, putting his faith in ordinary citizens of India who have the talent to overcome such challenges.
It is also fairly certain that when he titled his book he had not thought that a second partition on religious grounds could become a possibility. He could not have believed that the Congress, having been in the forefront of the struggle for independence, would jettison every one of its founding principles, merely for returning to political power. Although it was clear that the Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and her family had morphed into a private fiefdom, yet one had hoped that the atavistic impulse of democratic functioning that had impelled Indira Gandhi to call for elections in 1977 (two years after her imposition of Emergency) would somehow be transmitted to her daughter-in-law. But then Sonia Gandhi does not have the same DNA as Indira, or the genetic make-up of the Nehru family. For her, like for Milton’s Satan, it would always be “better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
Narendra Modi is not the trail-blazing economic reformer as Lee Kwan Yee of Singapore and neither does he have the flamboyant élan of a Rajan who does what he does. But, in his own way, he has managed to bring some relief to a large section of the “hungry, sick, homeless” and reasonably allayed the fears of a second partition based on an inequitable share of the economic pie. Modi is not a Vajpayee and he will not fall into the same trap in which his senior had fallen in 2004. The shining India campaign and the advancement of elections were two glaring examples of political ineptitude displayed by Vajpayee’s advisers that led to the return of the Congress-led coalition at the Centre. The opposition knows that Modi will not repeat such mistakes and by 2019 the benefits of his economic reforms would have percolated to the lowest stratum in the Indian hierarchy. A return to political power looks all the more remote if based only on economic policy. The more frightening is the spectre that Modi could lead his party to a similar landslide in the Lok Sabha as in the UP assembly elections.
The only weapon now left in the armoury of the Congress-led opposition is, of course, communal conflict. They do not care if the country burns in a communal holocaust, for if they cannot rule over living people, they do not mind making the country a crematorium and a graveyard. “If I cannot rule, I will ensure that you do not have a country to rule over.” This appears to be the policy that has been adopted to counter Modi.
Possibility of Civil War
Dr. Ambedkar had foreseen the partition of India on religious lines long before Jinnah voiced the demand for a separate nation for Muslims. Ambedkar’s “Thoughts on Pakistan” that was published in 1941, debunked the theory that partition would be the result of Britain’s divide and rule policy. According to him, such a policy would not succeed unless there were elements, which would make it possible. Moreover, the success of the policy over such a long time meant that the divisive elements were, more or less, permanent and irreconcilable. It is perhaps appropriate to reproduce here what he had written six years before actual partition:
“The real explanation of this failure of Hindu-Muslim unity lies in the failure to realize that what stands between the Hindus and Muslims is not a mere matter of difference. It is an antagonism as distinguished from mere difference and that this antagonism is not to be attributed to material causes. It is spiritual in character. It is formed by causes which take their origin in historical, religious, cultural and social antipathy of which political antipathy is only a reflection. These form one deep river of discontent, which being regularly fed by these sources, keeps on mounting to a head and overflowing its ordinary channels.”
Hindus and Muslims of India, ever since the first invasion by a Muslim army in the 8th century, have met countless times in different battlefields. The military conflicts resulted in their relationship becoming alternately of conquerors and conquered. Even under a third party rule like the British, when both were the conquered, the gulf remained unbridged, and the current of mutual antipathy continued to flow unabated. At their core the two faiths are mutually exclusive. The inherent antagonism has never been reconciled and the efforts of reformers like Akbar have foundered on the rocks of this antagonism. Dr. Ambedkar discusses this antagonism at length and observes how it has come in the way of social assimilation of the two parties. Muslim residential enclaves were becoming as exclusive as Hindu ones. Social norms prevented intermarriage and even inter-dining. Socialisation of ways, modes and outlooks would have led to more assimilation blunting the edges and modulating the age-old angularities.
Ambedkar observes that though Islam is reputed to bind people together, the truth is rather different. “Islam divides as inexorably as it binds.” “The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is a brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only.” Islam is “a system of social self-government and is incompatible with a system of local self-government, because the allegiance of a Muslim does not rest on his domicile in the country which is his but on the faith to which he belongs.” “Islam can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland and regard a Hindu as his kith and kin. That is probably the reason why Maulana Mohammad Ali, a great Indian but a true Muslim, preferred to be buried in Jerusalem rather than in India.”
Muslim rule of India was almost continuous from the 13th century until the British took total control after the failure of the 1857 war of independence. Even during British Imperial rule, local rajahs and nawabs continued to operate as the rulers and the subjects did not feel any major change in their circumstances. But with the possibility of independence and political power passing into the hands of the Congress, alarm bells began to ring among the Muslims. The Congress party was seen as a Hindu outfit, notwithstanding a large number of Muslims who were not only its members but also prominent leaders. There is no gainsaying that at many junctures Hindu prominence in the party did give the impression that the Muslims would not get fair representation in an independent India. Though Jinnah initially contemptuously rejected the notion of a separate country for Muslims, the mere coining of the name “Pakistan” conjured up a new destiny for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was the sheer magnetism of this destiny that became impossible to resist and eventually led to the vivisection of the country.
I do not know how Dr. Ambedkar would have interpreted the signs today. But the Congress and its allies have begun to stoke the fires of separatism that are beginning to spiral out of control. The Muslim population of independent India has substantially grown from about 35 million 1947 to about 174 million today; almost one-half of the total population in 1947. Though a majority of the Muslims still live in exclusive enclaves, they have spread far and wide over the country and are present in every village, town and city. A partition of the nation will therefore result in a million Pakistans and an equal number of Hindustans, not to speak of Sikhistans, Christianistans, and many other possible “tans.”
There is also no external colonial power that is in a hurry to retreat and somehow hand over power to the natives. These are obvious geographic limitations to the further partition of India. So the conditions are being made ripe for the outbreak of civil war. The Congress and its allies are perfectly aware of this situation but their lust for power is so great that they do not care any more. Sonia Gandhi, in league with Mamata Bannerji in Bengal, Lalu Yadav in Bihar, Mayawati and Mulayam in U.P., the CPM in Kerala, the Hurriyat in Kashmir, Kejriwal in Delhi, and Owaisi in Hyderabad, is ready to unleash a gigantic conflagration across the subcontinent, the consequences of which are too frightening to contemplate. One cannot be sure how much, if any, help is being sought from the ISI of Pakistan and the criminal networks of Dawood Ibrahim it controls, but there are enough markers of the involvement of these elements in the destabilization of harmony in India.
The manufactured debate on such issues as Gorakhsha, Dahi Handi, Jalikattu, Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja, as well as “rising intolerance” are all in sync with the agenda of inciting communal violence leading to a civil war. So is the present crisis created by the unnecessary debate on the resettlement of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The media stars and starlets who had become power brokers during UPA-2 are willing collaborators in these debates as they seek renewed relevance after having been eclipsed in the last three years. So are the bureaucracy and the judiciary. The only independent platform available to the common citizens is social media like Twitter and Facebook that has succeeded, to some extent, in countering the evil narrative of the break-India forces. But Twitter is not where the real war for the soul of India will be fought. It will be fought in the polling booths through countless EVMs and it is there that these forces have to be vanquished. Have the Hindus of India realized how weak and vulnerable they have become due to their own sectarian and selfish divisiveness? Do they not see the peril confronting them just like the Pandits of Kashmir had failed to see?
Perhaps Dr. Ambedkar would have given a rousing call to unite. But alas, there is no Ambedkar, as there is no Vivekananda or Aurobindo! Though Narendra Modi has shown superhuman energy to unite this divided land, I am afraid his is a lonely furrow. There is a huge shortage of talent among his deputies and many of them are unfit for the offices they hold. Before he burns himself out like a meteor Modi has to look way beyond his party and co-opt whatever talent he can find from wherever. I fear for his life. How difficult is it to physically eliminate a person who is so openly in public? If India has to survive intact, Modi’s survival and continuance in office become the two foremost imperatives.
It is almost sure that another partition on religious lines is perhaps not going to happen. But what looks fairly possible is a civil war across the entire length and breadth of the country. Conditions are almost rife for such a conflagration. There are too many with lighted matchsticks waiting to start the fire and many more hiding in the shadows. Do the Hindus of India realize that this time in history is perhaps their last chance to escape total annihilation? Will they come together and ward off the danger or will they become like the last inhabitants of Easter Island?
Born in Kashmir. Indic by culture. Occasional writer, avid reader. Love serious cinema, but not TV. Eternal student.