Source: Asian Ethnicity, Volume 3, number 1, March 2002,
ISSN 1463-1369

The 1947 Partition of India:
A Paradigm for Pathological Politics in India and Pakistan

Ishtiaq Ahmed
(University of Stockholm, Sweden)

This article seeks to shed light on the role a particular historical
event can play in conferring legitimacy to the politics of communal and
national animosities and hostilities. The Partition of India in 1947
was, on the one hand, a gory consummation of a long process of mutual
demonising and dehumanising by Hindu and Muslim extremists. On the
other, in the post-independence era, it became a model of violent
conflict resolution invoked and emulated by ethnic and religious
extremists and the hawkish establishments of India and Pakistan.
The paper argues that the Partition of India epitomises the politics of
identity in its most negative form: when trust and understanding have
been undermined and instead fear and insecurity reign supreme,
generating angst at various levels of state and society. In the process,
a pathological socio-political system comes into being. I try to show
how such a system functions within the domestic sphere as well as in
India-Pakistan political interaction.


The Partition of British India in 1947, which created the two
independent states of India and Pakistan, was followed by one of the
cruellest and bloodiest migrations and ethnic cleansings in history. The
religious fury and violence that it unleashed caused the deaths of some
2 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. An estimated 12 to 15 million
people were forcibly transferred between the two countries. At least
75,000 women were raped.[1] The trauma incurred in the process has been
profound. Consequently relations between the two states, between them
and some of their people, and between some of their groups have not
normalised even after more than half a century; on the contrary they
have consistently worsened with each passing year. Ethnic conflict
currently pervades the domestic politics of the two states and the hawks
in their defence establishments have been calling the shots for quite
some time. The two states have been on the verge of a nuclear war since
May 1998, when both demonstrated their ability to explode nuclear
devices. Such a war would in all probability seriously jeopardise human
existence and civilisation in this region. Currently, South Asia is
undoubtedly the most dangerous nuclear flash point in the world.
My contention is that this potential for self-destruction derives from a
paradigm for pathologically ethnicised politics that informs the
behaviour of the involved actors. In this paper, I try to shed light on
the way a pathological socio-political system comes into being. Such a
system needs to be distinguished from the normal type of socio-political
system in which ethnic groups, besides voluntary associations such as
class-based or ideology-oriented parties and organised pressure groups,
serve as bases for peaceful competition for power over goods and
services in society. Even in peaceful situations, ethnic groups maintain
their boundaries and both insiders and outsiders are in some sense aware
of them. Some degree of tension may also exist between them, but their
leaders and spokespersons are usually able to resolve such problems
peacefully.[2] By contrast, pathological politics thrive on the logic of
rejection, exclusion, subordination and the threat or use of force and
The significance of ethnicity as a variable in social analysis is far
from satisfactorily theorised, although the current period has seen an
unusual flurry in the literature. This study seeks to advance the
theoretical frontiers of current understanding of ethnicity in a
special, though by no means unusual situation: that in which tension and
conflict, involving organised and recurrent violence, have become
endemic. The main argument set forth in this study is that in the
formation of a pathological socio-political system, a particular
happening or event can sometimes be identified clearly and unambiguously
as the determinant pivot. Its force or intensity is of such proportions
that it sets in motion processes that in due course begin to liken a
paradigm which, in a path-determinant manner, produces and reproduces
pathological, ethnicised behaviour patterns. Rational ideas, policies
and solutions, which may also be present, are set aside, rendered
ineffective or eliminated by force. The pathological paradigm continues
to inform and affect politics till such time that it ceases to be
efficacious and useful for its practitioners, or it is undermined by a
revolutionary new paradigm.
The expression'pathological politics' is used here to indicate that
individuals not only prefer people of their own ethnic stock, culture,
religion, language, nationality and so on, but dislike and despise those
belonging to other groups. This derives not from some natural
propensity, but because a host of negative historical, socio-economic
and cultures facts converge to create a hostile milieu in which
individuals and groups, embedded in thick social webs and networks, get
trapped.[3] Very often such situations give birth to the politics of
reaction. Here, reaction is used in a double sense: as a mechanical
action-reaction relationship as well as an unenlightened mode of
thinking and behaving towards one another by two or more ethnic groups
or states. It may result from conflicts within state boundaries or as
reactions to happenings in another state. Typically minorities˛ethnic,
religious, sectarian or linguistic˛become the main targets of
state-tolerated or state-sanctioned discrimination and violence. In
terms of relations between two or more hostile states, pathological
politics manifests itself in state-sanctioned ultra-nationalism,
promotion of terrorism across borders, and bellicose postures.
The typical causes of ethnic tension and conflict are fear and anxiety,
real or imaginary, that ethnic groups experience when confronted by an
uncertain present and future, and concomitant perceived threats to
survival posed by rival groups. During periods when state authority may
be waning and the future framework for power sharing cannot be worked
out, apprehensive groups become even more suspicious thereby
exacerbating the lack of mutual trust. Consequently, agreements, where
they exist, are broken or ignored and violent conflict erupts.[4] It is
impossible to say whether all members of a group automatically feel such
anxiety, or whether a band of ethnic activists in that group are
particularly prone to such angst and play a pivotal role in expressing
it on the group's behalf, or whether'political entrepreneurs'˛ambitious
leaders and intellectuals who may not share the zeal of the
activist˛excel in articulating such feelings.[5] Suffice it to say that
without effective leadership, neither activists nor ordinary members can
convert such fears and anxieties into activities and movements
purporting to combat the perceived threats. This means that political
entrepreneurs have the advantage of exaggerating and manipulating such
fears in the pursuit of their political ambitions. As a pathological
situation develops and takes shape, politics can be reduced to sheer gut
reactions. The'enemy' becomes a faceless, indiscriminate lump of
individuals, an ethnic mass, a target requiring and justifying punitive
pre-emptive action.
It is argued below that the roots of pathological politics in the
intra-state and interstate politics of India and Pakistan are to be
traced to the bloody division of the British Indian Empire in 1947. On
the one hand, Partition was a gory culmination of more than fifty years
of mutual suspicion and fear harboured by ethnic ideologues and
activists from the three communities of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. In
the past, communal tension and conflict occasionally resulted in violent
confrontations, but such events remained small-scale and marginal.
Mainstream politics remained essentially constitutional and peaceful.
Partition thus supplanted the normal model with an extremist model of
conflict resolution. On the other, it became the inevitable backdrop of
post-independence politics of India and Pakistan. Thus for more than
fifty years now it has served as the implicit or explicit rationale of
anti-minority politics in the two countries and has driven them to
belligerent interaction many times. In this particular sense, Partition
epitomises pathological politics. It has operated as an ideology of
menacing majoritarian nationalism. However, despite the overall growth
of a pathological socio-political system, the trajectories along which
the two states and their societies have travelled in the last
fifty-three years have been quite different. Such difference derives
from the attitudes towards Partition of the erstwhile leaderships in the
two countries, the national self-definition that the two movements were
premised upon, and the constitutional formula adopted by each country
upon which to ground their politics. The present enquiry therefore seeks
answers to the following questions:

* how and why has the Partition of India bequeathed a legacy of
pathological politics?;
* what are the similarities and differences in the profiles of
the Indian and Pakistani ethnicised identities and politics, and how do
we explain them?

Conflicting Nationalisms and Communal Apprehensions in Colonial India

Under the leadership of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Indian National
Congress (1885) embarked from 1915 onwards upon a protracted freedom
movement, combining peaceful civil disobedience and mass action into an
effective strategy of resisting colonial rule. Muslims were to be found
at all levels in the Congress, but it was predominantly upper-caste
Hindus who were its mainstay. Congress leaders and cadres were
incarcerated several times. However, the movement remained confined to
the limited question of self-rule and later independence. The Gandhian
vision of a nation was communitarian-pluralist comprising the various
religious communities of India. The second major leader, Jawaharlal
Nehru, empathised with Fabian socialist ideas. His vision of an
independent India was that of a modern secular nation-state based on
universal citizenship and individual rights, sustained by progressive
economic development and expanding modern education under a planned and
centrally directed system. Many other leading members of Congress were
sympathisers or members of Hindu cultural movements and nationalist
parties. The Congress wanted to keep India united, but for a number of
reasons failed to convince the Muslim League that its brand of
nationalism would not mean the permanent majoritarian rule of Hindus.[6]
Although the Congress Party was Hindu-dominated, the stronghold of Hindu
cultural nationalism was the Hindu revivalist movements and parties. In
1921, Balkrishna Shivram Moonje expressed regret that Hindus were
divided into watertight compartments with hardly any sense of community
between them. On the other hand, the Muslims formed one organic
community, religiously well organised and disciplined.[7] This
observation exaggerated Muslim unity, but the caste divisions among
Hindus were indeed proverbial. Hindu ethno-nationalist leaders, most of
who came from the upper castes of Brahmans or Kshatryias, were deeply
worried that lower-caste Hindus might convert to Islam or Christianity.
One of the leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha movement (founded 1915),
Vinayak Damodar Sarvarkar, presented in 1923 the idea of'Hindutva'. It
was an ethno-cultural category purporting to bring Hindus of all castes
within a'communitarian' fold. Non-Hindus had to assimilate into it by
accepting Hindu culture and India as their object of prime loyalty. They
could, however, retain their religions as personal beliefs.[8] The
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded in 1925 by Keshwar Baliram
Hedgewar adopted semi-military styles of organisation to instil'martial
arts' among Hindus. Both the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS looked upon Muslims
as the main threat to Indian unity. Hi successor Madhav Saashiv Gowalkar
wrote in 1938:

The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and
language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion,
must entertain no ideas but those of the glorification of the Hindu race
and culture, S or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the
Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any
preferential treatment not˛even citizen's rights.[9]

It is interesting to note that the term'race' was used to denote
religious communities; most Hindus and Muslims are otherwise of the same
mixed ethnic stock. In volume 1 of his four-volume study, History of
Partition of India, the Pakistani historian K.K. Aziz argues that the
Hindu revivalists in Punjab had in the 1920s already suggested the
partitioning of India on religious lines.[10] It is, however, important
to point out that before the Partition of India, rightwing Hindu
ethno-nationalism remained a marginal tendency.
The sizeable Muslim minority of India related to the question of Indian
nationalism from a position of disadvantage. It was not only smaller in
numbers as compared to the Hindus, but also economically and
educationally less advanced. The Muslim League founded in 1906, largely
in reaction to the growing power of the Congress, remained a moderate
communal party of the modern, educated gentry until 1936. It confined
its activities to ensuring Muslim representation in the various
consultative and legislative bodies through separate electorates
(granted in 1909 whereby Muslims elected Muslim members of the various
representative bodies) and to pleas for greater employment quotas for
Muslims in the services. In 1930, at the annual session of the Muslim
League at Allahabad, Sir Muhammad Iqbal put forth the idea of a separate
Muslim state to be created in the Muslim-majority zone of north-west
India. He based his argument on a novel'two-nation theory', according
to which India consisted of two separate and distinct nations˛Hindus and
Muslims. In his scheme, complete separation from the rest of India was
not, however, an absolute requirement.[11]
Nonetheless, it is important to note that although the top leaders of
the Muslim League did not propagate the creation of a theocratic state,
such an idea was not entirely foreign to some. For example, Raja Sahib
Mahmudabad, one of the most trusted lieutenants of the Muslim League's
leader, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, wrote a letter in 1939 to the historian
Mohibul Hassan in which he said:

When we speak of democracy in Islam it is not democracy in the
government but in the cultural and social aspects of life. Islam is
totalitarian˛there is no denying about it. It is the Koran that we
should turn to. It is the dictatorship of the Koranic laws that we
want˛and that we will have˛but not through non-violence and Gandhian

Jinnah, acclaimed by his followers as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great World
Leader), excelled as a political strategist rather than as an ideologue.
It is therefore problematic to attribute a consistent position to him on
the type of Muslim state he wanted, although creating a theocratic state
was foreign to his constitutional sensibilities. However, without his
relentless eloquence Muslim nationalism and the demand for Muslim
self-determination could not have been set forth so authoritatively.
The main Muslim ideologue of pathological nationalism was a mysterious
figure, Chowdhary Rahmat Ali. Rahmat Ali enrolled as a student at
Cambridge University in his mid-thirties. In 1933 he wrote a pamphlet
'Now or Never' in which he presented the idea of a separate Muslim
state, Pakistan, to be created in north-western India.[13] He started
lobbying conservative British politicians to support his various
political schemes. The kernel of his litany was that Hindus and Muslims
were two different nations with entirely irreconcilable worldviews,
sense of history and destiny. Under no circumstance could they live
together in peace in one country.[14] Later, he began to advocate the
creation of a pan-Islamic superstate. The greater Pakistan was to
include Punjab, Afghania (consisting not only of the North West Frontier
Province but also Afghanistan), Kashmir, Iran, Sindh (including
Baluchistan), and Turkey (and other Turkish speaking areas of central
Asia, once know as Turkestan).[15] The word'Pak' means pure or chaste
in Urdu. Thus such a state suggested the creation of pure Muslims, pure
Islam and a pure state. He also wanted several smaller Muslim states to
be created in different parts of India, where Muslims, although in a
minority within a larger Hindu-majority region, were nevertheless
concentrated in pockets within them.[16] It is intriguing to note that
Rahmat Ali was despised and rejected by the Muslim League leaders who
found his ideas unsophisticated and drastic. He was never welcomed into
its fold and died a broken man in Cambridge in 1950.[17]
One should bear in mind that the Islamic clerics, the various ulama,
were not major players at that time. The radical Sunni Deobandis
(founded 1867) worked out an equation with Congress and joined the
struggle for a united India.[18] The future ideologue of Islamic
fundamentalism or Islamism in Pakistan, Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79)
rejected both the territorial-secular nationalism of the Congress and
the ethno-cultural nationalism of the Muslim League. For him, an Islamic
polity could only be based on faith.
The Sikh community, rooted essentially in Punjab, was nowhere in a
majority. The main Sikh party, the Akali Dal, and other minor tendencies
allied with the Congress in the latter's opposition to the Muslim
League's demand for a separate Pakistan.
According to the 1941 census, the total population of India (including
that of British India and the Indian princely states and agencies) was
383,643,745. It consisted of 206,117,326 caste Hindus, 48,813,180
scheduled castes (so-called untouchables) and 25,441,489 scheduled
tribes Hindus; 92,058,096 Muslims; 5,691,477 Sikhs (concentrated in
Punjab); and all the rest. As for British India, the total population
was 294,171,961, comprising 150,890,146 caste Hindus; 39,920,807
scheduled castes and 4,165,097 scheduled tribes Hindus; 79,398,503
Muslims; 4,165,097 Sikhs; and other groups.[19] Only about 10 per cent
of the population of British India was enfranchised.

Partition and Preceding Events

After World War II the British were in a hurry to leave India. The
elections of winter 1945-46 were thus in point of fact about the future
political shape of an independent subcontinent. Congress sought a
mandate to keep India united while the Muslim League stood for a
separate Pakistan. Emotive and sensationalist slogans such as'Pakistan
Ka Naara Kaya? La Illaha Il Lillah (What is the Slogan of Pakistan? It
is that there is no God but Allah)' and'Muslim Hai to League Mein Aa'
(if you are a Muslim then join the Muslim League) were raised. Hindus
and Sikhs were demonised as infidels and exploiters. Muslims who opposed
the Muslim League were portrayed as renegades to Islam. In some cases
fatwas (religious rulings) were issued to the effect that such persons
should be denied a proper Islamic burial.[20] On the other hand, support
was solicited from Sunnis, Shias, the Ahmadis, Muslim Communists and
anyone who was registered in the census records as a Muslim. The
election results vindicated the contradictory claims of both parties.
Congress secured 905 general seats out of a total of 1,585 while the
gains of the Muslim League were even more impressive. It won 440 seats
out of a total of 495 reserved for Muslims. It is to be noted that
Muslims in the Hindu-majority provinces also voted massively in favour
of the Muslim League.[21]
The Cabinet Mission of 1946 sent by the post-war Labour Government of
Clement Atlee failed to convince the two rival parties to agree upon a
formula of power sharing within a united India. The factor that sealed
the fate of unity was the eruption of large-scale communal violence
following Jawaharlal Nehru's ill-considered press statement of 10 July
1946 in Bombay declaring that Congress would enter the Constituent
Assembly'completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all
situations as they arise'.[22]
On 29 July 1946, Jinnah gave the call to direct action to Muslims to
protest the alleged anti-minority attitude of Nehru. 0n 16 August 1946,
communal massacres, initiated by hotheads despatched by the Muslim
League chief minister of Bengal, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, took place
in Calcutta, which left thousands of people, mostly Hindus, dead and
homeless. The Hindus retaliated with great ferocity. More Muslims died
in the counter-attack.[23] The Calcutta killings proved a contagion, and
communal riots broke out in many parts of India. The real explosion,
however, originated a few months later in the key Punjab province, where
the Muslim (57.1 per cent), Hindu (27.8 per cent) and Sikh (13.2 per
cent) groups maintained an uneasy peace until the beginning of 1947.[24]
In the third week of January 1947, the Muslim League started its'direct
action' in Punjab against the non-Muslim League government of Khizr
Hayat Tiwana.
On 3 March, the Sikh Akali Dal leader, Master Tara Singh, gave what in
effect was a call for an all-out confrontation with Muslims.[25] It
resulted in immediate clashes between Hindu-Sikh and Muslim
demonstrators. The first large-scale, organised communal clashes took
place in the Rawalpindi area. On the night of 6-7 March, Muslim gangs
attacked a number of Sikh and Hindu villages, the campaign continuing
until 13 March.[26] It left more than 2000 mainly Sikh and Hindu men,
women and children dead. Muslim League cadres were identified as the
culprits behind it.
At that point, the Sikh leaders demanded that Punjab be also divided on
communal lines if Pakistan was granted to the Muslims. On 6-8 March, the
All-India National Congress Committee passed a resolution demanding the
division of Punjab into two provinces so that'the predominantly Muslim
part may be separated from the predominantly non-Muslim part'.[27]
Congress also demanded the partition of Bengal. The British Government
announced the partitions of India, Bengal and Punjab on 3 June 1947.
Congress, the Muslim League, representatives of the Sikhs and the
various other minor religious and caste groups negotiated the actual
demarcation of the Pakistan-India border before the Bengal and Punjab
Boundary Commissions. These deliberations served as the basis for the
Radcliffe Award of 17 August 1947 (Pakistan and India had already become
independent on 14 and 15 August, respectively). The Radcliffe Award did
not satisfy any of the major contestants, and has subsequently been
criticised and even condemned by various disgruntled actors.[28]
The riots and pogroms, which accompanied Partition, were most harrowing
in the Punjab and effectively led to the first successful post-war
experiment in massive ethnic cleansing in the world. At that critical
moment Muslim League, the Sikh Akali Dal, RSS and Congress cadres became
vicious killers.[29] However, some 30-35 million Muslims stayed on in
other parts of India while in East Pakistan some 23 per cent of the
population continued to be Hindu. Some half million Hindus stayed behind
in Sindh in West Pakistan (since December 1971 the only part which
constitutes Pakistan).


The failure to keep India united left the Congress ideal of a composite
Indian nation in shambles. Millions of Hindu and Sikh refugees were
devastated by that traumatic experience. Many objected to the Muslim
presence and wanted Muslims driven away to Pakistan. At that critical
movement, Gandhi, Nehru and many other stalwarts of the freedom struggle
became a bulwark against the forces of reaction and revenge, and
although attacks on Muslims continued for some time in many parts of
India, they were small-scale occurrences.
When discussion began on the constitution, the notion of a modern
individual-rights-oriented civic and composite nation prevailed. The
Hindu ethno-nationalist lobby argued in favour of a Hindu cultural
hegemony in terms of national identity, but was overruled. It can be
asserted, however, that the trauma of Partition made everybody in the
Congress High Command overly sensitive to the question of unity.[30]

The Constitution and Education System

The high point of the Nehruvian model was the enshrinement of universal
values and norms in the Indian Constitution, which came into force on 26
January 1950. Its declarations on human rights and freedoms were quite
radical. Universal citizenship was granted. Public office was open to
all citizens. Some 23 percent of jobs (i.e. the ratio of those groups in
the Hindu population) were later reserved by law for the so-called
untouchable castes and tribes. In 1955 the Untouchability (Offences)
Act, was passed. It criminalised the practice of untouchability. The
constitution therefore clearly sanctioned a secular-democratic model of
the polity.[31] Although various amendments were subsequently made, the
basic structure has remained unchanged.
The rational-modernising elite chose the educational system to gradually
foster a democratic national identity. Liberal and Marxist scholars
(many of Muslim origin) dominated until recently prestigious Indian
social science and humanities university faculties and institutes. Their
interpretation of the freedom movement was largely imbued with the
emancipatory ethos of the European Enlightenment. Not surprisingly, the
Hindu communal organisations and parties were very critical of such a
foundation of Indian nationalism. The current BJP-led government seems
to have decided to promote an educational agenda that will project a
pro-Hindu bias in the production of knowledge and education. At the
provincial level, such changes have already been introduced, typically
identifying former Muslim rulers as responsible for all the ills of

Hindu Nationalism and the Growth of Hostility to Minorities

Congress had completely sidelined rightwing Hindu ethno-nationalists
during the freedom struggle and alienated them from the state in the
early years. Consequently they had to devise strategies to advance the
project of Hindutva from outside the state. The loss of life and
property and expulsion from their ancestral homes left in Pakistan were
blamed on the Congress's willingness to concede Partition. Muslims as a
whole were held responsible for the vivisection of the motherland. Such
propaganda did boost the fortunes of the rightwing parties somewhat. For
example, in 1943 the total membership of the RSS was only 76,000. In
1948 it had soared to 600,000.[33] In electoral terms, however, such
gains did not mean that a major challenge to Congress could be mounted.
Rather, initially a major set back resulted from the involvement of the
RSS in the assassination of Gandhi. The Hindu ethno-nationalists were
infuriated over Gandhi's insistence that the Indian government pay 550
million rupees to Pakistan as compensation for losses incurred during
Partition.[34] Accordingly, he began a fast unto death to put pressure
on the government. On 31 January Nathu Ram Godse, a member of the RSS,
murdered Gandhi. Nehru decided to deal firmly with the Hindu
ethno-nationalists. The RSS was banned, although it reappeared in 1952
in the form of Jana Sangha.
In the 1960s some other avenues for a Hindu political revival were
tried. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was founded in 1964 ostensibly as
a cultural movement purporting to inculcate pride among Hindus in their
great culture and civilisation. Initially the VHP identified the
proselytising activities of Christian missionaries as a major threat. It
is intriguing to note that the VHP movement was sustained with
considerable assistance from the Hindu diaspora, especially the large
Indian/Hindu population of North America consisting of successful
professionals and other upwardly mobile groups. Support from the UK has
also been significant.[35] The VHP and its various student and labour
affiliates have been able to acquire political clout and infiltrate the
state machinery and important cultural and media institutions.
However, the most significant boost to Hindu great nation chauvinism
came initially from another quarter: the Congress government led by Mrs
Indira Gandhi. In December 1971 India defeated Pakistan in the latter's
eastern wing, where a rebellion had been going on since March of that
year. In 1974 India exploded a nuclear device. Mrs Gandhi began to be
hailed as a great stateswoman. Sycophants began to raise slogans such as
'India is Indira and Indira is India'. However, in 1974 popular strikes,
demonstrations and agitations broke out in protest against price rises,
unemployment and bad government. The government retaliated by suspending
many of the normal parliamentary practices and civil liberties. The
Hindu ethno-nationalists made capital out of the situation by joining
the democratic opposition. On 5 April 1980, some of them came together
and founded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).[36]
A shift in the Congress electoral strategy could also be noticed.
Instead of relying upon its traditional supporters, the so-called
vote-banks comprising the various social and religious minorities such
as the Dalits and Muslims, Mrs Gandhi began to cultivate the more
traditional upper caste voters. In the 1980s, the BJP, RSS, and the
rabidly anti-Muslim Shiv Sena in Mahrashtra and several other such
parties and organisations began to evolve a martial discourse based on
the mythical Mahabharta Epic and other heroic tales with a view to
instilling militancy and a sense of collective nationalism. The idea of
Hindutva or Hindu nation, first propounded by Sarvarkar in the 1920s,
was revived. It asserted that only Hindus were trustworthy and loyal
citizens of India; and further, that Nehruvian secularism had been
harmful to Hindus, while it pampered the minorities.[37] In particular,
hostility was directed against the Muslims, who constitute some 13 per
cent of the total Indian population.
It is important to note that the vast majority of Indian Muslims are
converts from the poorest sections of Hindu society. They have been the
main sufferers of the Partition Syndrome. They are grossly
underrepresented in education and employment. Discrimination is
therefore institutionalised in practice if not in theory. It is,
however, their portrayal as a fifth column and therefore a security
threat that makes them most vulnerable to hostile propaganda. Thus, even
the liberal mass media gave sensational coverage to a report that some
Dalits had converted to Islam in Tamil Nadu in 1981. Exaggerated reports
of Arab money donated to Islamic organisations and the alleged rapid
growth rate of the Muslim population also figured prominently in media
The galloping Hindu cultural revival struck terror among the minorities.
Anti-Muslim attacks became larger, more frequent, and more gruesome. The
xenophobia and paranoia, which typifies such a pathological frame of
mind, proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, Muslims did not
mount the first challenge. It was the Sikhs of Punjab who were attracted
to the idea of a separate Sikh state, Khalistan. The Khalistanis argued
that Partition gave India to the Hindus and Pakistan to the Muslims
therefore Sikhs should be given Khalistan. The Khalistan conflict came
to a head in June 1984 when Mrs Gandhi ordered the Indian army to flush
out the Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his militants
who had been occupying the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple at
Amritsar since 1982. The military action was successful but it cost a
great deal in human lives. On 31 October 1984, Mrs Gandhi was
assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Immediately Hindu gangs
began to hunt down Sikhs all over India. In the capital Delhi alone at
least 3,000 Sikhs were butchered.[39]
The Sikhs had barely been crushed when another major separatist movement
emerged in the predominantly Muslim-majority Indian-administered
Kashmir. India and Pakistan had inherited the Kashmir dispute at the
time of Partition. Its resurgence proved even more difficult for India
to bring under control. The Kashmir conflict continues to claim lives
almost every day and India has not been able to bring the situation
under control despite extreme repression and the deployment of hundreds
of thousands of soldiers and security forces.[40] India's worries have
been compounded further by the re-emergence of separatist insurgency
among a number of different Christian tribal peoples in the smaller
north-eastern border states (provinces of India). The Indian government
and mass media have been alleging that the Pakistani secret services,
especially the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) help the Sikh, Kashmiri
and other separatist movements in India with training, arms and other
facilities.[41] From time to time some Indian Muslim is arrested on
charges of working for the ISI. This undoubtedly helps portray all
Muslims as pro-Pakistan and a subversive factor in Indian society.
While the anti-minority polices of the Hindu right have been steadily
growing, a major worry for the BJP, which seeks power through the
electoral process, has been the alienation of a significant number of
Dalits and the so-called Other Backward Castes (OBCs), a rather large
segment of peasant and other castes, which occupy a position between the
upper castes and Dalits. The BJP had been seeking ways and means of
enveloping such social strata into its fold of Hindu cultural
nationalism. An emotive cause or symbol was found in the long, drawn-out
dispute between Hindus and Muslims over the site of the Babri mosque in
Ayodhya. It was alleged that the god Rama had been born there and a
temple existed on that spot before the mosque was built in 1528.
Consequently in the 1980s the BJP, VHP and other communal entities
launched a campaign to dismantle the mosque. The Bajrang Dal
(established in 1984), a youth wing of the VHP, employed mainly for
agitation purposes and demonstrations, played the leading role in
mobilising mass action and other activities in favour of the
campaign.[42] In early December 1992, the BJP and its supporters the
VHP, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and other fanatical groups finally arrived
in Ayodhya after a long countrywide march in which thousands of people
joined, including OBCs and other traditionally alienated sections of
Hindu society. The mob easily overpowered the rather small police force,
climbed onto the top of the mosque and demolished it in a few hours.
The Congress government under Narashima Rao seemed to have let the event
take place mainly for opportunistic electoral reasons. The demolition of
the mosque was accompanied by mob attacks on Muslims all over India and
several thousand were killed. Suddenly India was in the midst of perhaps
the most serious communal conflict since the partition. There was a
fierce reaction in Pakistan and the old temples in Punjab were razed and
some Hindus were also killed. The Hindu ethno-nationalists have plans to
destroy some 3000 other mosques built allegedly on Hindu temples and
holy places.[43] Building the Ram Mandir is part of the BJP's election
manifesto. The BJP has subsequently been increasing its electoral
support and is currently the biggest party in a coalition government of
25 parties. Thus far it lacks parliamentary support for realising such a
project. In fact moderate sections of the BJP have been trying to woo
the Muslim vote bank and have made some gains. However, the Shiv Sena
leader, Bal Thackerey, has recently demanded that Muslims should be
The 20 million-strong Christian community had most of the time escaped
the type of animosity faced by Muslims since they had played no role in
bringing about the division of India. Some conversions to Christianity
had continued to take place, mainly among the aborigines. Attacks upon
churches and mission-run schools had been taking place, but after Sonia
Gandhi (Italian-Catholic by birth) became the leader of the Congress
Party in the late 1990s, the Hindu Right has been peddling a Christian
conspiracy to annexe India. The last couple of years have witnessed a
dramatic increase in church burning, killing of Christians and a
countrywide campaign against missionaries. Thus on the night of 22 and
23 January 1999, the Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his
two sons were burnt alive in Monouharpur in Orrissa.[45] Finally, the
most enduring cleavages in Hindu society remain as deep as before: those
between the twice-born upper castes, the assertive OBC groups and the
Dalits. Attacks against Dalits continue to take place frequently all
over India.


A notorious ambiguity about the purposes for which Pakistan was
created˛was it to be simply a national state of Muslims or a theocratic
Islamic state based on Sharia (dogmatic Islamic law)?˛characterises its
travails with national identity. Jinnah had never provided any clear
answer to this question. Pakistan can therefore be described as an
unimagined nation. The elite that came to power in Pakistan lacked
political vision and preparedness. It did not allow democracy to be
institutionalised. Recurrent military-bureaucratic take-overs and a host
of bizarre decisions contributed to the fostering of a pathological
political culture at all levels of state and society. Such a tendency
was aggravated by the traumatic loss of East Pakistan in late 1971
through a popular local rebellion backed by an Indian military

The Constitutional and Legal Structure

However, the first authoritative statement made on 11 August 1947, that
is only three days before independence, in the Pakistan Constituent
Assembly by Jinnah deviated from the main thrust of the Muslim League's
propaganda in favour of cultural nationalism. To the utter surprise of
many, he made the following observation in a long address:

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to
your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.
You may belong to any religion or caste or creed˛that has nothing to do
with the business of the StateS. We are starting with this fundamental
principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one StateS I
think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find
that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would
cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the
personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as
citizens of the State.[46]

This patently secular and territorial idea of nation contradicted the
rationale for the creation of Pakistan as a state for a cultural nation.
The controversy that it caused has been generating ever more confusion
as time goes by. While the fundamentalists usually dismiss it as
irrelevant and an aberration, mainstream Muslim modernists argue that he
was actually operating within an ideal Islamic framework of tolerance
and justice for non-Muslims within an Islamic state.[47] Marginalised
secularists, leftists and oppressed minorities, however, raise it to the
level of a sacred covenant that his successors have allegedly broken.
It seems that Jinnah's wording reflected his usual political sagacity
rather than a firm ideological position. Communal violence was at its
worst at that time. The Radcliffe Award was about to be announced and
one could guess that it would result in population movement on a
gigantic scale. The speech probably purported to discourage mass
migration, uprooting and further communal violence. However, it is
doubtful whether in the wake of the communal riots such a prescription
enjoyed any real credibility in Muslim-Pakistani society, Jinnah's
prestige and authority notwithstanding. In this regard, it is
significant to bear in mind that Jinnah never again reiterated such a
commitment although he lived for another year. After his death on 11
September 1948, the idea of a secular state never again received much
attention in mainstream Pakistani politics. Rather, Islamic idiom became
a central feature of official rhetoric.
One can even argue that once the initial euphoria was over and a
framework for national identity and nation building had to be found, the
Pakistani leadership felt constrained to distinguish itself from India.
There were undoubtedly other issues to be dealt with by the government
of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan (d. 1951) but maintaining
distinctiveness from Congress and secular India must have been an
important consideration. Thus the Objectives Resolution moved in the
Pakistan Constituent Assembly by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan on 7
March 1949 proclaimed the novel idea that sovereignty over the entire
universe belonged to God. Democracy was to be practised, but within
'Islamic limits'. The minorities were assured that their legitimate
interests would be safeguarded, and that provisions would be made for
them in accordance with Islam freely to profess and practise their
religions and cultures.[48] Although such proclamations sounded like
innocuous'boasts', in the longer run they proved to be constraints that
facilitated the politics of exclusion of different religious minorities
and deviant sects from the category of nation.
Thus the first constitution of Pakistan adopted in 1956 contained a
commitment to bringing all laws into conformity with Islam. In 1973 the
third constitution was adopted. Unlike the first two constitutions that
only required the president of the republic to be a Muslim, the third
also required the prime minister to be a Muslim. It further obliged them
to take an oath testifying their belief in the finality of Prophet
Muhammad's mission.[49]

The Educational System

The invention of a distinct historical past for the so-called Muslim
nation of India justifying its separate existence within the boundaries
of Pakistan has been felt to be necessary for conferring legitimacy and
authenticity on it. Attempts to imagine such a nation have
unsurprisingly resulted in distortion and exaggeration of facts on a
massive scale, resulting in mythogenesis.
The main concern has been to foster a Pakistani-Islamic identity defined
negatively, as a contrast to India. In his book The Murder of History a
leading Pakistani educationalist and historian Prof. K.K. Aziz has
scrutinised 66 textbooks used for teaching history, Pakistan studies and
social studies in Pakistani schools, colleges and universities. Pakistan
studies deal largely with the Muslim nationalist/separatist movement. It
is a compulsory subject from 1st grade up to university and not only all
students of humanities and social sciences but also scientists, doctors
and engineers must gain a pass.
The author alleges that Islamisation by the government of General
Zia-ul-Haq vitiated the general academic environment in Pakistan. He
cites extensively factual errors, logical fallacies, inconsistencies,
falsifications, mythologisations and crass propaganda from books used
both in the Urdu and English-medium schools and colleges. The military
and the long military rules are presented in positive terms while
hostility towards India, Hinduism and Hindus is their hallmark. For
example, Congress is described as a Hindu party. That there were many
Muslims among its members and that some held leading positions is not
reported. India is described as the state of Hindus, although there are
as many Muslims or more living in India as in Pakistan.[50]
Furthermore, a grossly exaggerated role is assigned to Muslims in the
anti-colonial struggle. The Muslim League is declared as the party of
the Muslim masses that successfully resisted both British colonialism
and Hindu domination. Only Muslims are mentioned as victims of the
partition riots and massacres, which are alleged to have been begun by
Hindus and Sikhs. Any comment on the loss of lives among Hindus and
Sikhs during that period is conspicuous by its absence. He sums up this
approach in the following words:

It is declared that the Muslims of India made'tremendous' sacrifices to
win their freedom. The fact is that, apart from the brief years of
1858-60 and 1920-22, Muslims suffered little hardship between 1857-1947.
It is forgotten by everyone that the Muslim League's search for
protection and safeguards (in the early years) and its struggle for an
independent state (in the later years) were strictly constitutional
efforts, peaceful campaigns and political fights, conducted through
parliamentary debates and negotiationsS No Muslim League leaders
languished in prisons. No Muslim masses faced British bullets. The many
people who died or suffered horribly in 1947 were running away from
their homes because their life was in danger, not because they were
fighting for the creation of Pakistan. They were casualties of communal
riots, not of anti-British warfare.[51]

He comments further,'A sane educational system does not train students
in hate. Whatever the justification for it or the compulsions of
patriotism, hatred corrupts the mind, more so if it is still tender, and
retards its healthy growth'.[52]

Islamisation , Confessionalism and Hostility to Minorities

States founded on religious and ethnic nationalism invariably
discriminate against atypical minorities. Ethnocracies can be a more apt
description of such states, even when they practice democracy. Israel is
a case in point. However, Pakistan has the rather unenviable distinction
of extending the logic of confessionalism to its ultimate limits. In
Pakistan, not only non-Muslims but also deviant sects within the broader
category of Muslims who were mobilised in support of the 1945-46
elections have been alienated over time. Also, women as a whole have
been victims of the so-called Islamisation process.
In 1953, violent anti-Ahmadiyya riots took place in Punjab in which
several hundred lives were lost and considerable Ahmadiyya property was
destroyed. The masterminds behind those riots were politicians from the
ruling Muslim League seeking to challenge the ruling faction within the
party.[53] In 1974, the Islamic socialist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto played the
anti-Ahmadiyya card again in the hope of extending his populist
constituency into the stronghold of the doctrinal-minded Islamic parties
of Pakistan. Consequently, when General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq seized the
reigns of power in July 1977 by toppling Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a
bloodless coup, a long tradition of relying on Islam to define national
identity and the rights of citizens was already in place.
Upon coming to power in 1977, General Zia announced an ambitious
programme to Islamise Pakistan. He expressed his political philosophy in
a succinct manner:'I have a mission, given by God, to bring Islamic
order to Pakistan'.[54] His main source of inspiration for an Islamic
order was the ideas of the arch fundamentalist Abul Ala Maududi. The
latter had set up headquarters in Lahore after Partition, from where he
had been propagating his idea of a totalitarian Islamic state. The
pre-Partition tradition of exploiting Islamic slogans to rouse Muslim
fears against Hindus had been converted into a Machiavellian art by
Pakistani politicians that involved damning their opponents as renegades
to Islam and enemies of Pakistan. The various governments used it to
slur the opposition's call for democracy and elections, while the
various fundamentalist parties and factions pushed all governments into
a corner with allegations of insincerity in their commitment to Islam.
An Islamist political discourse evolved incrementally, each addition
supplanting modernistic vagaries with puritan certainty. It bore the
hallmarks of Maududism.
Thus in 1979, the government announced the imposition of the Hudud
Ordinance, i.e. traditional Islamic punishments for the offences of
adultery, false accusation of adultery, drinking alcohol, theft, and
highway robbery. In 1984, a new Law of Evidence was adopted which
reduced the worth of the evidence give by a female witness in a court of
law to half the value of that given by a male witness. It was also a
period when Islamic scholars notorious for their misogynist views
appeared on television to advocate strict segregation between men and
women and the confinement of the latter to the private sphere. In
subsequent years the incidence of'honour killings' has increased
sharply. The victims are wives and daughters killed by their own
families for allegedly defiling the family honour by demanding divorce
or refusing to marry a man chosen for them by their elders. The courts
have generally been very lenient to the culprits.[55]
Also in 1984, many new restrictions were imposed on the Ahmadiyya group.
They were prohibited from using Islamic nomenclature in their religious
and social activities and may no longer call their places of worship
mosques. In 1985, separate electorates were reintroduced (they were
abolished in 1956), whereby non-Muslims were to constitute a separate
body of voters, being thus entitled only to elect non-Muslim legislators
to the various assemblies. Consequently their right to take part in
normal law-making is severely restricted. It was followed by the
adoption of the Blasphemy Law in 1986. It reads as follows:

Use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whether
by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by
any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles
the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace by upon him) shall be
punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to

General Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988. The elected
governments of Benazir Bhutto (1988-90, 1994-96) and Nawaz Sharif
(1990-93; 1997-99) did not dare question the validity of the laws passed
during the time of General Zia. It seems that once a law has been
adopted in the name of Islam no politician is willing to attempt to
rescind it. In October 1997 retired Lahore High Court judge Arif Iqbal
Bhatti was shot down by unidentified members of extremist religious
groups. His death was believed to be linked to his role in the acquittal
in 1995 of two Christians, Salamat Masih and Rehman Masih, charged with
blasphemy.[57] The Pakistan Human Rights Commission has been providing
details of the increasing terrorisation of minorities. Charges of
blasphemy have been framed against many Ahmadis and Christians. Forced
conversions of Hindus have also been reported.[58] The military
government of General Pervez Musharraf, which came to power through a
coup d'Útat on 12 October 1999, initially presented a progressive
position on Islam, but it had quickly to withdraw from such a position
under pressure from the extremists.

Shia-Sunni Terrorism and the Emergence of the Jihadis

During Gen. Zia's regime Sunni-Shia doctrinal differences erupted into
open conflict. The difficulties were compounded further when in the late
1980s powerful external actors began to cultivate their lobbies in
Pakistan. Thus Saudi Arabia and Iran were believed to be sending large
sums of money, books, leaflets, audio and video cassette-tapes and other
propaganda material to Pakistan. Such propaganda offensives were backed
by the inflow of firearms and other weapons. Sunni and Shia militias
began to menace and terrorise society; the assassinations of several
rival Sunni and Shia ulama and regular gun battles and bomb explosions
have been taking place in Pakistan in recent years.[59]
An international Islamic guerrilla movement comprising Sunni militants,
aptly described as Jihadis (holy warriors), has been establishing its
headquarters in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar in recent years.
The Jihadis have declared war on India and want to liberate Kashmir
through violent means. The United States is another enemy, as are
Israel, secular Turkey and the central Asian republics. In some
pronouncements, all non-Muslims have been declared enemies of Islam.[60]
The coming into power of the arch-fundamentalist Talebans in
neighbouring Afghanistan has once again revived the old pan-Islamic
project of Chowdhary Rahmat Ali. In a recent interview, a leading
American South-Asia expert Selig Harrison claimed that General Zia's
involvement in Afghanistan was meant to promote a pan-Islamic superstate
in the region. He also alleged that such a scheme has powerful backers
in the Pakistani military establishment.[61] It can be assumed that Iran
(because of its deviant Shia Islam), Turkey (secular) and the central
Asian republics (also secular) will have no interest in such a project.
Instead what is more likely is that the totalitarian, obscurantist,
anti-modernist, medieval type of state and society created in
Afghanistan could envelope Pakistan.

Separatist Movements

Although the Muslim League was successful in presenting a broad Muslim
unity against Congress, after Partition it quickly dissipated and the
centre became a stronghold of mainly Punjabi-Urdu-speaking groups.
Recently the equation has been changed and it is a Punjabi-Pukhtun
ruling axis which dominates Pakistan. Separatist movements have emerged
several times. The Pukhtun nationalists seeking to create a separate
Pukhtunistan in the north-western province of Pakistan were contained by
a policy of carrot and stick during the 1950s and 1960s. The people of
the former East Pakistan seceded to form their independent state of
Bangladesh in 1971. It cost, however, between 1.5 and 3 million
lives.[62] The Pakistan army especially targeted the Hindus. A bloody
guerrilla war raged in Baluchistan during the early 1970s, which was
defeated by forceful military action. However, a virulent ethnic
conflict that has claimed several thousand lives has been going on in
the Sindh province, mainly as a confrontation between the native
Sindhi-speakers and the Urdu-speaking refugees (both primarily Sunni
Muslims) who settled in the urban areas of that province after
Partition. Military action has been undertaken several times to restore
law and order. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees
have settled in Karachi, where armed militias run lucrative businesses
in drugs and arms smuggling.[63]

The India-Pakistan Interaction

Everyday at dusk, animosity between India and Pakistan is elaborately,
ostentatiously and with unmistakable pathological overtones manifested
during the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah-Attari Border, situated
between Lahore on the Pakistani side and Amritsar on the Indian side.
Before Partition, some people daily travelled by the early bus or train
from either of these cities, did their job or business in the other, and
returned. The distance between them is some 30 miles. Now, the soldiers
symbolically seal the border by ramming the iron-gates with a fierce
bang to indicate that an impassable barrier exists between the two
countries and their peoples. There are usually large crowds on both
sides who watch this awe-inspiring spectacle. They add zest to the
ceremony by nervous clapping and other gesticulations. Despite being
neighbours who share a thousand miles or more of common border, the same
languages and cultural patterns, the people on both sides hardly ever
meet. Getting permission to visit the other country is almost impossible
for most people. Moreover, trade between India and Pakistan is
Both states have been raising their defence expenditures over time.
Although China should worry the Indian defence planners more than
Pakistan, most of India's actual armed encounters and wars have taken
place with the latter. Pakistan's defence planning has always been based
on the assumption that the main threat to its security comes from India.
During 1948, India and Pakistan fought an undeclared small-scale war in
Kashmir. The United Nations-based cease-fire came into operation in
January 1949. A line of control constitutes an unrecognised border
between them. There is enough evidence to suggest that India did not
give Pakistan its proper share of the common military assets inherited
from the colonial state and generally adopted an unfriendly posture
towards the latter, exacerbating its sense of weakness and vulnerability
vis---vis the bigger and more powerful neighbour.[64]
Pakistan began already in 1948 to seek closer relations with the West,
while India adopted a neutralist foreign policy posture. In the 1950s,
India became an important player in the non-aligned movement while
Pakistan sought membership in the western defence pacts of the Southeast
Asian Treaty Organisation and Central Treaty Organisation. India
cultivated closer ties with the Soviet Union in the 1960s; Pakistan
reached an accommodation with the People's Republic of China during the
same period. In 1962, China inflicted a humiliating defeat on India in a
border conflagration. India requested American military intervention,
but was provided arms instead. Britain and France also rushed arms to
India. The West in general increased its military and economic aid.[65]
During September 1965, India and Pakistan fought a major border war for
17 days over Kashmir. In December 1971 India and Pakistan fought their
third war, when the Indian army intervened in behalf of the East
Pakistani Bengalis fighting the Pakistani army. It resulted in a
crushing military defeat for Pakistan and the loss of East Pakistan,
which became the independent state of Bangladesh. In 1974 India exploded
a nuclear device. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto vowed that
Pakistanis would acquire their own bomb even if it meant eating grass.
During the 1980s and into the 1990s both states spent huge sums of money
to brace their military capabilities. Both sides have provided military
training and bases to secessionists.
On 11 and 13 May 1998 India detonated altogether five nuclear devices.
Pakistan followed suit a few days later with its own series of six test
explosions on 28 and 30 May. The most alarming aspect of this hostility
is that large numbers of people on both sides were jubilant when their
governments conducted the tests. Since then, the governments in the two
countries have vastly expanded their expenditure on armaments,
intensified cross-border terrorism, connived, some would say, patronised
the ultra-nationalist extremists parties and movements in their own
societies. In addition, they have fought a limited war at prohibitive
heights in the Kargil region of Kashmir in May 1999, which many feared
could end in a nuclear confrontation.[66]


The main concern of this study has been the elaboration of a
pathological socio-political system. My thesis has been that in the
formation of such a system the Partition of India has played the primary
or pivotal role. A socio-political system is not something that can
simply be contrived at will by ethnic activists or political
entrepreneurs. Nor is it intrinsic to human nature to exercise ethnic
preference for their own group in the form of aggression against others.
Rather individuals and social groups are embedded in historically
determined circumstances that circumscribe their choices. In
circumstances where uncertainty, anxiety and fear prevail˛as when the
colonial system terminated in India and power had to be handed over to
the indigenous leaders and the various groups could not agree on how to
share it˛upheavals such as Partition aggravate those original fears and
anxieties. However, such situations become endemic if the original
problems persist and no dramatic transformation takes place. In such
circumstances, ethnic activists continue to appeal to the sense of
insecurity of their group and political entrepreneurs make use of such a
constituency in their power games. A vicious circle comes into being and
is produced and re-produced over time.
It is not difficult to conclude that the Ghost of Partition stalks South
Asia, haunting the minds and souls of many of its people. Its
ideological fallout benefited right wing forces in both India and
Pakistan. It bequeathed a negative, aggressive and violent mode of
thinking, behaving and realising a political objective. It also
conferred, in a perverted sense, legitimacy on the ethnic or cultural
model of nationalism, which currently pervades politics in both states.
Driven to the extreme, it would mean the creation of ethnically
'homogeneous' India and Pakistan in some bizarre sense and consequently
a balkanisation of these states and/or genocide of unwanted minorities.
However, at the time of Partition even drastic measures of ethnic
cleansing did not result in the complete elimination of diversity.
Unwanted ethnic individuals and groups survived in both societies.
Especially India inherited large non-Hindu minorities and therefore a
bigger problem of consolidating a cohesive and coherent nation. The
western wing of Pakistan inherited minuscule religious minorities, but
since its foundations were immanently confessional, not only were these
minorities adversely affected but also sects considered deviant from
'true' Islam have also been on the receiving end of doctrinal
fastidiousness. Overall, rejection of pluralism and diversity˛the
leitmotif of the Partition Syndrome˛ has been demonstrating increasingly
pathological tendencies with the passing years. It has become the
implicit or explicit reference for the subsequent anti-minority politics
in the two countries. Ethnic activists were to be found on both sides
before the actual division of India, but previously they were marginal
to politics. After Partition they began to gain influence and support on
the levers of state power˛quite early in Pakistan but in India from the
1990s onwards.
Although one can reasonably argue that the founding fathers of modern
India tried to institutionalise a universal, civic type of citizenship
and a concomitant ideal of a composite nation, Indian secularism has
been under considerable pressure from those forces that see Muslims and
Pakistan as threats to Indian safety and national consolidation. Hindu
fears of a non-Hindu conspiracy to subvert its culture and existence now
include not only Muslims but also Christians and some Sikhs. Thus, not
in constitutional terms but in actual behaviour, the state has been
exploiting the communal card in its politics, especially during
elections. The BJP has actually come to power by exploiting such a
theme. In the long run, constitutional guarantees may not suffice to
protect the secular, democratic character of the state.
In the case of Pakistan, hostility to minorities is no longer confined
to the conventional Muslim/non-Muslim divide. Rather the perennial
concern of Pakistan to distinguish itself from secular India has meant
investing considerable time, energy and prestige in constructing a
Muslim identity for itself. Islamic can easily be substituted for Muslim
since in the Islamic heritage the two have been understood as
inextricable and indeed interchangeable. Consequently the constitution
was based on Islamic principles, and a commitment to Islamise all
existing laws unavoidably involved a search for an answer to the
question: what is true Islam and who is a true Muslim? Given the legacy
of bitter doctrinal and theological disputes present in the Islamic
heritage, the logic of such a line of enquiry ultimately exposed the
divisions amongst the various Muslim sects. Politicians more often than
not found such divisions useful for scoring political points and
governments for legitimating their rule. The exclusion and
marginalisation of groups found holding beliefs contrary to strict
orthodox standards has been the net result of such politics. The
purgatorial thrust of ethnicised (sectarian, to be more correct)
politics has inevitably enveloped women, since traditional Muslim
society was always segregated on a gender basis.
Thus, in contrast to the Indian state, which still offers constitutional
and legal resistance to pathological politics, the Pakistani state has
itself been the initiator of various types of discriminatory and
exclusionary policies. That extremist parties do not secure an electoral
majority should not be surprising because the state bases itself on a
fundamentalist ideology, which is less extreme that the most rabid
Jihadi groups. On the other hand, the Indian state continues to be
grounded on liberal-secular values, but politicians in increasing
measure deviate from such ideals in the interest of realpolitik. The
Hindu ethno-nationalists, however, have begun to question it
One can even assert that the domestic politics of one country have been
affected by the domestic politics of the other. Thus the politics of
action-reaction have been gaining cumulative menacing affect. For
example, Hindu ethno-nationalists have pointed out that Pakistan
maintains discriminatory policies towards non-Muslims, including the
Hindus, so in recent years they have questioned why India should not
follow suit and disenfranchise Muslims. In Pakistan a reaction to the
attack on the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was immediately followed by
attacks on the old Hindu temples. In an ideological sense, the extremism
of the Hindu ethno-nationalists and Chowdhary Rahmat Ali has been
vindicated. The self-fulfilling prophecy of the forces of fear, hate and
aggression has been confirmed at least five times (bloody division in
1947, wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971 and the nuclear blasts of 1998) in
just over fifty years: that those on the Other Side are inveterate
enemies who pose a lethal threat to the identity and survival of those
on This Side and therefore have to be crushed before it is too late. At
the bottom of the hectic and escalating efforts of the two states to
acquire the capacity to hit first and hit hard is the fundamental
problem of security. The security syndrome classically drives enemy
states to spend more on acquiring more and better arms. Each such step
results in a reaction from the other side. As a consequence, instead of
security being enhanced insecurity is accentuated.
How far the ruling elites and the hawks in the two establishments will
pursue confrontational politics is difficult to say. It is possible that
in the long run both sides may be fatigued by the high cost of such an
undertaking, or one of them gives up such a path realising that it
cannot win the competition. A clear and strong message from the Security
Council of the United Nations and major states outside it to India and
Pakistan to abandon the path of conflict may also help. However, the
chances that the paradigm of pathological politics will be abandoned
because both or one side comes to a rational calculation that it is no
longer efficacious seem remote at the moment.
The leadership in both countries seems to believe that they can defy the
major powers of the world, since both states possess nuclear weapons
capability. There is also a belief that because both sides are armed
with such weapons, no major war can take place between them. It has been
noted that small-scale military showdowns along the Line of Control in
Kashmir have increased, maybe as an alternative to major confrontation.
It is quite possible that a nuclear war will break out in the region,
perhaps accidentally. If some people survive the massive devastation it
is likely to inflict perhaps then an atmosphere conducive to building a
lasting peace may finally emerge. Western Europe could extricate itself
from the grip of pathological politics only after two world wars and the
holocaust had demonstrated the utter futility of pursuing
ethno-nationalism, colonialism and racism. Perhaps societies do not
learn to forgo a pathological socio-political paradigm unless they are
forced to pay a heavy price in blood for their lack of foresight.
Alternative paradigms offering a peaceful way out of the current
predicament do not seem to be gaining support of the two establishments,
although a vigorous peace movement has been evolving between Indian and
Pakistani intellectuals in the region and in the diaspora. The world
community seems content with giving conventional calls from time to time
for restraint and dialogue. Perhaps a process of forgiveness for the
crimes committed during Partition initiated by intellectuals from both
sides can miraculously lead to reconciliation and mutual acceptance.


[1] Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the
Partition of India, (Hurst & Company, London, 2000), p. 3.
[2] Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan,'Introduction' in Nathan
Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan (eds.), Ethnicity: Theory and Practice
(Harvard University Press, Cambridge., Massachusetts, 1975), pp. 1-26.
[3] David A. Lake and Donald Rothchild,'Spreading Fear: The
Genesis of Transnational Ethnic Conflict', in David A. Lake and Donald
Rothchild (eds), The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict (Princeton
University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1998), p. 6.
[4] Ibid., pp. 7-18.
[5] Ibid., pp. 18-23.
[6] B.N. Pandey, The Break-up of British India (Macmillan, London,
1969). See also H. M. Seervai, Partition of India: Legend and Reality
(Emmanem Publications, Bombay, 1989). See also Ayesha Jalal, The Sole
Spokesman (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985).
[7] Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Ethno-nationalist Movement in
India (Viking, Penguin Press, New Delhi, 1996), p. 20.
[8] Ibid., pp. 25-45.
[9] Ibid., quoted on p. 56.
[10] K.K. Aziz, History of Partition of India, Vol. 1 (Atlantic
Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 1995), pp. 138-76.
[11] Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan:
All-India Muslim League Documents, 1906-1947, Volume 2 (1924-1947)
(National Publishing House Ltd., Karachi, 1970), p. 159.
[12] Mushirul Hasan, Legacy of a Divided Nation (Hurst & Company,
London, 1997), pp. 57-8.
[13] G. Allana (comp.), Pakistan Movement: Historic Documents
(Islamic Book Service, Lahore, 1977), pp. 115-17.
[14] Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan (Oxford University Press,
Karachi, 1993), pp. 131-2. See also K. K. Aziz, History of Partition of
India, Vol. 2 (Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 1995),
pp. 356-9.
[15] See the original article of Chowdhary Rahmat Ali,'Pakistan or
Pastan - Destiny or Disintegration', published by INFORMATION TIMES
(Internet): <http://www.informationtimes.com/>
http://www.InformationTimes.com, 12 February 2001.
[16] Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, , pp. 233-4.
[17] Ibid., p. 175.
[18] Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, The Deoband School and the Demand for
Pakistan (Progressive Books, Lahore, 1980).
[19] Allana (comp.), Pakistan Movement, p. 259.
[20] Hasan, Legacy of a Divided Nation, pp. 91-99; 103-20. See also
G. D. Khosla, Stern Reckoning: A Survey of Events Leading up to and
Following the Partition of India (first published in 1949, Oxford
University Press, Delhi, 1989), pp. 93-4. See also Khalid bin Sayeed,
Pakistan: The Formative Phase 1857-1948 (Oxford University Press,
Karachi, 1978), pp. 196-206. See also Ian Talbot, Khizr Tiwana, the
Punjab Unionist Party and the Partition of India (Curzon, Richmond,
1996), pp. 133-5.
[21] Ishtiaq Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity in Contemporary
South Asia (Pinter, London and New York, 1998), pp. 90-1.
[22] Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom (Orient Longmans, Bombay,
1959), p. 155.
[23] Sir Francis Tucker, India's Partition and Human Debasement
(Akashdeep Publishing House, Delhi, 1988), Book I, pp. 156-65. See also
Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight (Ayon Books,
New York, 1975), pp. 35-6.
[24] Allana (comp.), Pakistan Movement, p. 261.
[25] Ishtiaq Ahmed,'The 1947 Partition of Punjab: Arguments put
forth before the Punjab Boundary Commission by the Parties Involved', in
Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh (eds.), Region and Partition: Bengal,
Punjab and the Partition of the Subcontinent (Oxford University Press,
Karachi, 1999), p. 142.
[26] Butalia, The Other Side of Silence, pp. 156-71. See also, Ritu
Menon and Kamla Bhasin, Borders and Boundaries: Women in India's
Partition (Kali for Women, New Delhi, 1998). See also Talbot, Khizr
Tiwana, p. 161.
[27] Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and the Freedom Struggle in
the Punjab 1897-1947 (India Council of Historical Research, New Delhi,
1984), p. 326.
[28] Ishtiaq Ahmed,'The 1947 Partition of Punjab', pp. 159-61.
[29] K.L. Tuteja,'Hindu Consciousness, the Congress and Partition',
in Amrik Singh (ed.), The Partition in Retrospect (Anamika Publishers in
association with National Institute of Panjab Studies, New Delhi, 2000),
pp. 23-4.
[30] Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity, p. 102.
[31] Ibid., pp. 102-3; 107-8. See also, D. E. Smith,'India as a
Secular State', in Rajeev Bhargava, Secularism and Its Critics (Oxford
University Press, New Delhi, 1999), pp. 222-30.
[32] Harsh Kapoor, South Asian Citizens' Wire, Dispatch 1, 23
January, email: <mailto:aiindex@mnet.fr> aiindex@mnet.fr; website:
<http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex> http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex.
[33] Jaffrelot, The Hindu Ethno-national Movement in India, p. 75.
[34] Ibid., p. 86-7.
[35] Eva Hellman, Political Hinduism: The Challenge of the Visva
Hindu Parisad (Department of History of Religions, Uppsala, 1993).
[36] R.C. Frykenberg,'Hindu Fundamentalism and the Structural
Stability of India', in M. E. Marty and R.C. Appleby (eds),
Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Politics, Economics and
Militance (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993), pp. 244-5.
[37] D. Gupta,'Communalism and Fundamentalism: Some Notes on the
Nature of Ethnic Politics in India', Economic and Political Weekly, vol.
6, nos 11 and 12, 1991. See also, Asghar Ali Engineer,'Secularism in
India - Theory and Practice', in Asghar Ali Engineer and Uday Mehta
(eds), State Secularism and Religion: Western and Indian Experiences
(Ajanta Books International, Delhi, 1998), p. 197.
[38] Mizan Khan with Ted Robert Gurr,'Muslims in India and the Rise
of Hindu Communalism', in Ted Robert Gurr, Peoples Versus States:
Minorities at Risk in the New Century (United States Institute of Peace
Press, Washington, D.C., 2000), pp. 266-72. See also George Mathew,
'Politicisation of Religion: Conversions to Islam in Tamil Nadu', in
Moin Shakir (ed.), Religion, State and Politics in India (Ajanta Books
International, Delhi, 1989), pp. 271-306.
[39] Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity, pp. 113-62.
[40] Ibid., pp. 137-62. See also, Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in
Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unfinished War (I. B. Tauris, London,
[41] Manoj Joshi, The Lost Rebellion: Kashmir in the Nineties
(Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1999), pp. 163-206.
[42] Jaffrelot, The Hindu Ethno-national Movement in India, pp.
[43] Sarvepalli Gopal (ed.), Anatomy of a Confrontation: The
Babri-Masjid-Ram Janmabhumi Issue (Viking, Penguin Books, New Delhi,
1991), p. viii.
[44] Hindustan Times (Internet Edition), 19 December 2000.
[45] Shamsul (email message), Urgent Press Statement,of 23 January
2001 issued by Dr Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical
Fellowship of India and John Dayal, Secretary General, All India
Christian Council, and, National Vice President of the All India
Catholic Union, shamsul [shamsul@bol.net.in].
[46] Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah, Vol. II (Sh. Muhammad
Ashraf, Lahore, 1976), pp. 403-4.
[47] Dr. Nasim Hasan Shah, 'The Myth of Jinnah's belief in
Secularism', in Dawn (Internet Edition), 14 August, 1998.
[48] Ishtiaq Ahmed, The Concept of an Islamic State: An Analysis of
the Ideological Controversy in Pakistan (Frances Pinter, London, 1987),
pp. 218-9.
[49] Ibid., pp. 219-21.
[50] K.K. Aziz, The Murder of History (Vanguard, Lahore, 1993), pp.
[51] Ibid., p. 197.
[52] Ibid., p. 195.
[53] Report of the Court of Inquiry Constituted under Punjab Act II
of 1954 to Enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 (Government
Printing Press, Lahore, 1954), pp. 261-86.
[54] Omar Noman, The Political Economy of Pakistan (Kegan Paul,
London, 1988), p. 141.
[55] Mannens heder, kvinnans d÷d (The Honour of Man but the Death of
a Woman), Swedish Television channel 2, 21 May 2000. See also, the
Murder of Samia Sarwar: http://saxakali.com/southasia/honor.htm: 3-5).
[56] Ian Talbot, Pakistan. A Modern History (Hurst & Company,
London, 1998), p. 282.
[57] State of Human Rights in 1998 (Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan, Lahore, 1999), pp. 54-5.
[58] Ibid., pp. 7-8.
[59] Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity, pp. 7-8.
[60] Robin Wright, 'The Chilling Goal of Islam's New Warriors
Religion: In Pakistan, Today's Militant Faithful See the Entire World as
the Battlefield for Their Holy War', Los Angeles Times, Thursday, 28
December 2000, in Harsh Kapoor, South Asian Citizens' Wire, Dispatch 2,
2 January, email: sacw@sacw.net ; website:
 http://www.sacw.net. See also Hassan Gardezi, 'The Islamist and Hindutva Politics: Identities of Outlook and
Objectives', in Harsh Kapoor, South Asian Citizens' Wire, 25 December
2000, email: sacw@sacw.net ; website:
[61] Maqbool Aliani sent an email on 8 March, 2001, which included
an interview with Selig Harrison entitled, 'CIA Worked in Tandem with
Pak to Create Taliban', published in Times of India (Internet edition),
[62] Case Study - Genocide in Bangladesh,
[63] Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity, pp. 169-216.
[64] Brian Cloughley, A History of the Pakistan Army: Wars and
Insurrections (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2000), pp. 4-32.
[65] Ibid., pp. 60-1.
[66] Ibid., pp. 375-94.
Return to South Asia Citizens Web