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Why partition may have been the best thing that happend to South Asia July 30, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, ideas, india.
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Aswin, commenting on one of my previous posts here, said :

I loved the article about the pain of the Partition. It was very well written. But I do believe that the Partition was the best thing to happen.

There might be a couple of stray incidents once in every year when 200 people get killed. But one needs only to look at Iraq now to see how many people can get killed with sectarian violence.

Even with the Hindus and Muslims separated out into two separate countries, we have Ayodhyas and Godhras arising every now and then. I can only imagine what would’ve happened if the entire population of pakistan and bangladesh were also part of Hindusthan.

Every war in this world has been a war of religion or ideology. If there were majority christian states or majority muslim states in india, believe me, there would be wars in India.

The only reason 25-30 states in india are co-existing peacefully is because the majority is Hinduism everywhere.

My response to Aswin’s comments to my own post here went thus :

i agree aswin.

there was a time I thought otherwise. Now I think the partition was a surgical failure or rather surgically incomplete.

Natasha in reply to my comment says :

yea “surgically incomplete” ..maybe Kashmir should have been part of the majority muslim nation .. it would have been a lot better if partition hadn’t happened in the first place..we are all the same underneath it all, you know some time in the not too distant future we will reach a point when Hindus may not be the majority in India, then what ???do we split up again??

I respond to Natasha in this post.

yea “surgically incomplete” ..maybe Kashmir should have been part of the majority muslim nation ..

On the surface of it, yes. I do not confess to knowing all the many details of those times. Historical evidence is conflicting on what really happened. But going by other examples of those times – for eg: Nizam of Hyderabad (Muslim) insisting on remaining independent inspite of Hindu majority population, India simply moved troops into Hyderabad and forced accession to India. Another example is of Junagadh – which you may read in detail here where a plebiscite was held which determined accession to India ( muslim king fled to Karachi with most of the kingdom’s assets).

But how Kashmir might be solved after the events of 50 years is quite another question I wont go into here.

Natasha then says :

it would have been a lot better if partition hadn’t happened in the first place.

I disagree, as strongly as I possibly could. What could have happened had there not been a partition would be very very hard to argue and impossible to ever verify. Here is a hypothesis.

Assuming a unified India, with 1.5 billion people, one-third of which would be islamic concentrated in east and the west. A likely situation then would have been that over time, muslims from the muslim-majority regions of the present Indian states (Bihar, UP, AndraPradesh, Gujrat ) may have moved to areas comprising what is now Bangladesh and Pakistan.

I am suggesting this from my brief readings of the models of segragation that happened ( and continue to happen ) in the United States among whites and blacks. Thomas Schelling won the Nobel prize for this contribution. Quoting Marginal revolution from here.

Tom showed how communities can end up segregated even when no single individual cares to live in a segregated neighborhood. Under the right conditions, it only need be the case that the person does not want to live as a minority in the neighborhood, and will move to a neighborhood where the family can be in the majority. Try playing this game with white and black chess pieces, I bet you will get to segregation pretty quickly. Here is a demo model for playing the game.

Ofcourse, Schelling is talking about migrations within cities, one that is largely over a smaller area. But a large scale migration of similar nature is not entirely ruled out. I would love to see the demographics for countries with such a significant minority ( over 30% ), especially if Islamic.

One might argue why this is not happening now in Kashmir – why dont Indian muslims migrate to Kashmir, the only significant muslim majority region in today’s India ? Well, we know why – its not legal – outsiders cannot buy property in J&K. I am sure one of the reasons for this is to disallow changes in the region’s demographics – skewing them further in favor of the majority religion or diluting the muslim majority. Both of these scenarios would encourage secession – former by fuelling islamic nationalism and latter due to insecurity among muslims of being swamped by millions of Hindus from the rest of the Indian state.

Therefore, unless the hypothetical unified state granted such special status to the vast muslim majority regions as we have granted Kashmir ( hard to enforce) , there would have been a migrations that would further skew demographics – make what is India more Hindu and make what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh more muslim, this migration would likely have happened. Even if 10% of who are now Indian muslims moving over across the ‘border’ would significantly change the situation because such movements cause polarization and change compositions on both sides ! Even if we assume that no such movements ever happened, a combined population of nearly 450 million muslims ( 162 (pak) + 144 ( Bdesh ) + 140 (India) ) would have weilded considerable power to enforce different judicial systems, Islamic law and the like. The polarisation would have been immense. We know of no other region in the history of the world that would have faced a polarisation of this nature ( religious ) and scale ( hundreds of millions ).

We are already seeing a problem here. What then would have happened ?

1. Best case scenario – Czechoslovakia style peaceful separation

I will not elaborate on this one – you may read the details here.

2. Worst case scenario – Civil War

This is everybody’s guess – Iraq, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the list goes on – nothing less than a civil war would ensue. Infact, we almost had one in 1947 itself.

When I think or rather read of the 1947 partitiion riots which ironically killed more than the entire tally during 200 odd years of struggle ( organised and otherwise ) against Colonial rule, I think we got away pretty cheap. A full-scale civil war in the 1950s in the hypothetical unified India would have been far worse – more people would have died than in the current low intensity and somewhat localized conflict over Kashmir. Simply thinking about the number of people involved, I think the partition of 1947 ( and a relatively peaceful one at that, atleast relative to what it might have turned out to be ) was one of the best things to have happened to the region.

And if the argument is that before the British came we were one nation, well, no, we werent really a nation at all. Even if Asoka and Akbar’s empires extended over a region as large as that of the hypothetical unified India, the argument doesnt hold because :

– they lasted only a few years.
– they were different periods in history – smaller populations, no concepts of nation-states and no nationalism
– they were held together not as democracies
– empires were too centralized and got weaker as we moved away from the capital.

Natasha then says,

we are all the same underneath it all,

Oh, I wont comment on this one. Barring rare exceptions, geopolitics and international diplomacy doesnt ever work on the basis of anything but national interests – that demands cold logic. Its not because there is something wrong with emotions and superior about cold logic, its just that when you are handling aggregate phenomenon involving millions of people and handle conflicts of interests and clash of objectives on such large scale, cold calculations work better. At any time, the current global order is a strategic equilibrium and we are at the margin ( because some wars always going on ! ). I believe that as of 1947, Pakistan had a stronger moral case on Kashmir than India did – but that doesnt matter here.

The two countries are more different than we think and over the past 50 years have only grown wider apart. There is peace whereever there is because the costs of war are higher and cooperation – trade and cultural – is more beneficial. No country is out here doing a favor to anyone else. We are better off not applying our skills at handling personal and familial relationships to those governing such macroentities as nation-states.

Besides, try telling this to the terrorists !

And finally, Natasha’s comment :

you know some time in the not too distant future we will reach a point when Hindus may not be the majority in India, then what ???do we split up again??

Even at the current rate of population growth, muslim population wont not surpass Hindu population for another 700 years ( I read this in IE editorial about 6 years ago – I hope to find a quote, if you do, please leave a comment ). Now even if India had a 5% total minority population ( as would have happened had 95% of the muslims migrated to Pakistan and Bangladesh), it would have taken over a couple of thousand years I guess – assuming nothing else changed – i.e. assuming Hindus wouldnt be alarmed – which itself would be an unjustifiable assumption.

Besides, its completely futile to even look that far. I hate analogies to put across my point, but okay, one last time 🙂 . Its like saying how can we afford to use petrol and deisel when it will be exhausted in 150 years – a much smaller time-frame. So these words dont contribute meaningfully to the argument at all.

Natasha, my feeling is that you feel the way you do because of all the baggage associated with the word ‘partition’ and how much we have heard and read and watched works ( books, movies etc. ) based on the Indian experience. Two things though : (a) it neednt have been that bloody ! (b) there is nothing wrong in living as two (or three) separate nations if that promotes the common good – as it happened in Czechoslovakia.

That brings me to the other question – how then would be explain that India itself hasnt split up into a few pieces since afterall each of the states have different cultures etc. ? I guess I should keep my thoughts ( not answers ) on that question for a different post.

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Comments»

1. aquarianalien - July 30, 2006

Thank you Sharath, that really was an informative and well written post, and you have backed up your arguments really well.

From what I gather we have to thank the British for getting India into the unified political entity it is now. Good ending point as well. Cold Politics wins in the end , it’s just that the idea of one homogenous Hindu rashtra ,sans the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parsis and other denominations is a bit sad.

But if as stated in the post like does prefer like ( based on the American city and other examples), do people feel a closer kinship to those of their own religion from culturally different parts of the country than people from their own city or village belonging to other faiths , whom they have been given a chance to meet and interact with ( unlike what we see in the white/black divide in America) whom?? OK, maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that……….

2. Aswin Cletus D'Souza - July 31, 2006

wow! quite an analysis there … agree with the polarization theory completely. What’s more .. can you even imagine the state of our already chaotic parliament sessions ? Every session would be a battle between the Hindu and Muslim representations .

About your concluding thought, I think language comes no where as close to religious sentiments. It is perhaps because religions promote the fact that ‘There cannot be any other religion / god’ .

I do not know if this is true of hinduism but I am sure it is true of Islam and Christianity. Each religion promotes Singularity of belief with no scope for secular thought.

Language and state traditions hardly promote mutual exclusion… hence it is hardly a passionate thing to die for.

3. Sharath Rao - July 31, 2006

Natasha, I didnt mention a pure Hindu rashtra at all. And it is not about hinduism so to say – its about homoegeneity…and again not an extreme 99.99% hindu issue. but 13% minority islamic population in a nation of over a billion is a recipe for trouble.

Aswin, cudnt agree more with Language and state traditions hardly promote mutual exclusion… hence it is hardly a passionate thing to die for.

a simple ( and simplistic ) eg: u can know >1 languages – and judicial systems dont need to vary….

but EU is strugglin with what seems so easy to us – our federal structure…maybe as natasha says, the brits did it for us 🙂

4. Anonymous - November 6, 2006

HYDERABAD MP ASADUDDIN OWAISI IN LEBANON AND SYRIA

HYDERABAD LOK SABHA MP ASADUDDIN OWAISI IS THE FIRST INDIAN DIPLOMAT TO VISIT LEBANON AFTER THE WAR ACCORDING TO THE ETEMAAD URDU DAILY MR ASADUDDIN IS ON A PRIVATE VISIT TO LEBANON AND SYRIA AND NOT REPRESENTING THE UPA GOVERNMENT OVER THERE IT IS SAID TO BE A GOODWILL VISIT AND TO SHOW SUPPORT OF INDIAN MUSLIMS IN THE WAKE OF DEATH AND MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OVER THERE ACCORDING TO THE REPORTS MR OWAISI FLEW FROM DELHI TO DAMASCUAS CAPITAL OF SYRIA AND WAS WELCOMED ON HIS ARRIVAL THERE BY INDIAN EMBASSY STAFF AND WHILE HIS STAY IN DAMASACUS FOR 3 DAYS HE VISITED HISTORIC AND ISLAMIC HOLY SHRINES AND EVEN VISITED THE GRAND UMMAYD MOSQUE AND AFTER THAT HE WENT TO BEIRUT BY ROAD AND WHILE HIS STAY HE ALONG WITH HEZBOLLAH MPS VISITED THE SOUTHEREN PART OF BEIRUT CITY WHICH WAS THE MOST BOMBED AREA IN BEIRUT WHICH WAS REPETADELY STUCK BY ISRAELI WARPLANES AND FROM THERE HE ALONG WITH VARIOUS OTHER SOCIAL AND AID ACTVISTS HE WENT TO QANA AND VISITED THE PLACE WHERE A BUILDING WAS COLLAPSED AFTER A ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE IN WHICH 57 CIVILLANNS WERE KILLED AND MR OWAISI HAS EVEN VISITED THE PORT CITY OF TYRE AN MET ITS MAYOR MR ALI MUSHARRAF .THE CITY WHICH WAS DESERTED AT THE TIME OF WAR AND BINT JEBIL AN AREA IN SOUTHERN LEBANON WHICH WAS THE MAIN BATTLEFRONT BETWEEN HEZBOLLAH FIGHTERS AND ISRAELI ARMY AND IS SAID THAT THE WHOLE VILLAGES IN THAT AREA HAVE BEEN DEVASTED BY THE FIGHTING WHICH LASTED FOR 34 DAYS AND ON HIS VISIT TO BEIRUT THE HYDERABAD MP GAVE AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW TO THE HEZBOLLAH RUN TV AL MANAR AND IS SAID THAT HE HAS CAME TO LEBANON TO SHOW HIS SOLADIRTY WITH THE LEBANESE PEOPLE AND HE SAID HOW TH INDIAN GOVT HAS CONDMENNED THE WAR IN LEBANON AND THE GOVT OF INDIA HAS ANNOUNCED HUMANITARIAN AID WORTH 10 MILLION DOLLARS TO THE LEBANESE PEOPLE HE MET WITH MANY CIVILLANS AND OLD AGE WOMEN WHOSE SONS WERE KILLED WHILE FIGHTING THE ISRAELI ARMY MR OWAISI WILL STAY IN LEBANON AND MEET LEBABNESE MPS AND EVEN WILL VISIT INDIAN EMBASSY IN BEIRUT AND MEET INDIAN EMBASSY STAFF AND AMBASSADOR . REPORTS SUGGEST THAT HE EVEN MET HEZBOLLAH LEADERS WHILE HIS STAY IN BEIRUT.HE MET HEZBOLLAH SOUTHERN COMMANDER HASAN HUBULLAH AND HEZBOLLAH CHAIRMAN FOR ECONOMIC AND RESARCH DEVELOPMENT DR ALI FAYYAD AND WHILE COMING OUT OF LEBANESE PARLIAMENT AFTER MEETING LEBANESE PARLIAMENT SPEAKER NABIL BERRI THE HYDERABAD MP SPEAKING TO REPORTERS SAID THAT PEACE CANNOT BE ACHIEVED IN THE REGION UNLESS ISRAEL WITHDRAWS FROM ALL OCCUPIED LANDS HE CRITCIZED THE ISRAELI AGGRESSION AND SAID WHAT ISRAEL HAS DONE BY KILLING INNOCENT CIVILLANS AND DAMAGING LEBANONS INFRASTRUCTURE IS A ACT OF STATE TERRORISM. AND THIS WILL NOT DESTROY THE WILL OF THE LEBANESE PEOPLE FIGHTING AGAINST OCCUPATION OF THERE LAND .HE SAID THE WEST WHICH PREACHES DEMOCRACY IN THE REGION IS ITSELF AGAINST THE DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVT OF HAMAS IN PALESTINE AND HE SAID IT IS NOT ONLY LEBANON WHICH HAS BEEN AFFECTED BY TERRORISM INDIA IS ALSO A VICTIM OF TERRORISM.


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