The Dispatches Of Hira Singh: Punjab Burning (2)

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Now, for this second part, I am going to go back into history. What you will get is my interpretation of history, insofar as this part of India is concerned. Strangely, most histories of India don’t talk too much of North East India, for instance.

Anyhow, let’s move on.

India, until about 900 AD or so, witnessed an astonishing period of intellectual advancement in sciences, arts and literature. Whether it was the field of maths, astronomy, literature, poetry, medicine or even the nexus between physical fitness and mindfulness, India was ahead. One of the world’s earliest universities, the Nalanda, was established in India.

The Arabs started to come into India from about 600 AD. Indians from South India went to South East Asia. The Arabs, anyhow, were confused by India. Any one East of the Sindh River (modern Indus river) were called Sindhus, which was later corrupted to mean Hindus.

It was in 1192 AD when Maharana Pratap Singh was defeated by Mahmud of Ghazni near the Punjab that Hindu rule in North India ended. The Delhi Sultanate was established, and this consisted of 5 dynasties – The Slave, Tughlaks, Khalji, Sayyid and Lodi. Some of these kinds were very good indeed. Ala-Ud-Din Khalji’s administrative reforms were the basis for those of Sher Shah Suri (another great king), and finally that of Akbar The Great.

In 1526, the Delhi Sultanate ended, and the Mughal Empire was established. The six great Mughals were Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb spent the last half of his long reign battling in the Deccan Plateau. As a result, he ignored administration, and emptied the treasury. Moreover, no real succession planning was done. It was not the habit of the times. Aurangzeb, as per politicians, was a raving Muslim fanatic. As per serious historians, while he did favour Muslims, and was generally austere and simple in living, did not go beyond the tenets of Islamic Law.

After Aurangzeb died in 1707, the long implosion of the Mughal Dynasty started, and was complete in 1858, after the last Mughal King, Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon.

The Sikh faith started during the Mughal rule, and seemed to have gotten along quite well with the Mughal Emperors. The later Sikh Gurus started to take a more martial and temporal manner of teaching/ behaviour, and this caused problems, especially with Aurangzeb. Tales of the beheading of Guru Teg Bahadur and the persecution of the Sikhs started.

However, it did not stop the greatest Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh from having Muslims in his ‘cabinet’. Neither did it stop him from adopting Persian as the court language.

However, the memory of events can be distorted, and during the Mutiny, a large part of the British forces consisted of Sikhs and Afghans.

I am reading a biography of Mirza Ghalib, one of our greatest poets, and during his times, there was great tolerance and acceptance between Hindus and Muslims.

The armies of the various kings were comprised of Hindu and Muslim mercenaries. This practice existed even during the time of the Mughals. Sides were switched on account of money, not religion.

The brutality of the British post 1857 ended an old order. The Mutiny was not a war of Independence as a Nation. There was no concept of a nation. The Mutiny, it is largely agreed, was due to the somewhat insensitive manner of the East India Company.

Post the Mutiny, the British sought to drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims, and in doing so, they not only ended the old order of the Mughal Emperor; but, also the old order of tolerance and friendship between the two communities.  

While the Mutiny was not a war of a Nation, in this were born the seeds of the idea of an Indian Nation, and it was only in the 1890’s that this started to grow with the establishment of the Congress Party, and later the Muslim League.

Jinnah was a Nationalist, but his disputes with Nehru were the foundation of the later idea of Pakistan. Gandhi was opposed to Nehru becoming the head of the Congress, but Motilal Nehru (his father) pushed the case of his son vigorously.

During World War II (1942-45), most Congress leaders were jailed, and this allowed Jinnah and his coterie to push the case of Pakistan.

It suited British needs, during the first half of the 20th century to divide the Muslims and the Hindus.

It was Lord Wavell who tried very hard to bring about a rapprochement between Jinnah and Nehru, with Gandhi not being too effective.

After World War II, England was bankrupt. They owed India money, and wanted out of India.

For some reason, Lord Mountbatten was brought into India. His wife was very fond of Nehru and much has been written about their relationship. He detested Jinnah, and made this obvious.

Against much advice, including that of Churchill, he pushed forward the date of Independence, from 1948n to 1947

He chose the date – 15 August – to celebrate the second anniversary of Japanese surrender in South East Asia. The date had nothing to do with India.

Pakistan was not even a reality in the early part of 1947. In this age, when companies analyse and ponder for a year before buying a company, it amazing that this division of a country, on the basis of religion was finally negotiated in six months.

On the 17th August, the border between the two countries – on the East and West – was decided.

The British left as quickly as they could.

There are some people who believe that the seeds of modern terrorism were sown in the actions of the British in their actions from 1857 onwards.

Pakistan was created out of India, and the idea of Pakistan was born as an antithesis to India.

Jinnah himself was secular. But, he was dying of cancer and this was well known. Possibly, if Nehru had overcome his ego, Jinnah would have been the first Prime Minister, and none of this holy mess would have happened.

Who knows?

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