Recently I read a very interesting blog by a friend, in which he was narrating an interesting observation he had heard about the role played by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It said that the founder of Pakistan had actually done great disservice to the Indian Muslims by insisting on and actually achieving the division of India into two nations (later three, after the creation of Bangladesh).
Had India not been divided, he argued, the power and strength of Muslims could have been much bigger compared to the present size and strength they have in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The number of Muslims of three countries put together was almost half the number of Hindus at the time of the partition. The Muslims would have enjoyed greater share and clout in the political and economic development of a united and much bigger India, instead of being divided into two small countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with limited land and resources. Muslims in India are better off and stay in a country of far bigger size, compared to the other two. In an undivided India, the Muslims would have been a much larger religious group with much higher political clout than at present.
The above reference to an undivided India made me think of another scenario. The Sindh region (Karachi) of Pakistan would have been very closely integrated with Gujarat. A large number of people from Gujarat were serving in various positions and also in business in the Karachi region.
The Sindhi community, which was completely dislocated because of the partition, would have been very well integrated in the undivided scenario because of the shared history and similar cultural traits.
Lahore was a great centre of learning and culture in the Punjab region of undivided India. There are such great similarities in socio-cultural traits and customs, apart from the common bond of Punjabi language, in the Punjabi-speaking areas of Pakistan and India. The Lahore province in Pakistan could have been very well integrated with the Punjab region in India, had the unfortunate partition not taken place. Social rituals, culture and customs, food habits and ethnic traits of this entire region are so similar even today that it is difficult to imagine that these people belong to two separate nations.
The then East Pakistan, currently Bangladesh, could have very well integrated with Bengal and a small part of the North East. In fact in the early decades of the 20th century, many great Bengalis were born, brought up and educated in the present Bangladesh towns of Khulna, Chittagong, and Dhaka. In fact, if one reads the creations of great writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Sharat Chandra and Bankim Chandra, one realises how inseparable and well-integrated socially and culturally the people of this undivided region were. One of the reasons the Bangladeshis got alienated from Pakistan and fought for a separate nation was because they shared very little with the people of Pakistan.
The only part of Pakistan that does not fit into this narrative is the part of the country bordering Afghanistan. This is the most problematic area for Pakistan — the epicentre of terrorism, which is controlled by the Taliban and several such terror outfits. The people staying in this area have very little in common with people living anywhere in India. So, in perspective, apart from causing tremendous pain, suffering and dislocation for the sufferers of partition on both sides and creating hostility in the future generations, did the division of India help any community?
The author is municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad