May 6, 2014 By Auswaf Ahsan

Babasaheb’s Pakistan

BabesahebPakistan can’t be undone. It could have been, we desired as children gloating over the prospect of a well-organized cricket team-‘our’ batsmen and ‘their bowlers’-panning out as an undefeatable and formidable sporting monolith. The concern of Ayesha Jalal, post Partition, was more serious, transcending as it is the verve and glamour of sports towards the bloody irony of politics. In her Jinnah: The Sole Spokesman, she brings home to us the fact that the transference of Pakistan as an idea into Pakistan as a geopolitical reality-with ambiguities, differences and gaps in the interregnum-is so cataclysmic that the minorities on either side of the border bear the brunt of majority nationalism-multi-layered forms of Hindutva-soft, hard, liberal, and cold-blooded-here; the official and officiated Islam there with its weapons of heresy laws, hudud ordinances, and so on and so forth.

One of the organic intellectuals who foresaw the situation and thought Pakistan as a proposition had better be undone, provided the Muslims don’t pose it as a constitutionally valid claim-which in that context can’t be undone without resorting to the unethical and fascistic means of force, was Babesaheb Ambedkar, the Dalit leader, constitutionalist and one of the outstanding socio-political thinkers that India has ever produced.

In his analytical dissertation on the issue titled Pakistan or the Partition of India, he poses the issue from the angle of potential minorities. He says: “The ideal of Pakistan should be not to have a communal problem inside it. This is the least of virtues one can expect from Pakistan. If Pakistan is to be plagued by a communal problem in the same way as India has been, why have Pakistan at all? It can be welcomed only if it provides an escape from the communal problem. The way to avoid it is to arrange the boundaries in such a way that it will be an ethnic State without a minority and a majority pitched against each other.” What about the minorities’ demands and aspirations in Pakistan: ‘It is no use asking the non-Muslim minorities in the Punjab and Bengal to be satisfied with safeguards. If the Musalmans are not prepared to be content with safeguards against the tyranny of Hindu majority, why should the Hindu minorities be asked to be satisfied with the safeguards against the tyranny of the Muslim majority? If the Musalmans can say to the Hindus “Damn your safeguards, we don’t want to be ruled by you,” the same argument can be returned by the Hindus of the Punjab and Bengal against the Muslim offer to be content with safeguards.”

Babasaheb Ambedkar’s book, which Qaed-e-Azam Jinnah reportedly recommended Mahatma Gandhi to read four year after its publishing, is the result of the author’s meticulous research on the issue as befitting a barrister. ‘As befitting a barrister’ means that the intent of Babasaheb for writing the book was to present the case of Pakistan citing political, social, religious, and legal nuances in the issue to the Hindu audiences represented by Hindu Mahasabha. He realizes the ethical and practical relevance when Lahore Resolution of All-India Muslim League put forth the demand for an independent state for the Muslims. The overriding assumption generated by the Resolution in the Hindu camp was best exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi’s statement about ‘moral wrong and ‘sin’ of partition, which Babasaheb answers using political and social categories and the European experience of the issue: ‘There are very few countries in Europe which have not undergone partition during the last 150 years. This shows that the partition of a country is neither moral nor immoral. It is unmoral. It is a social, political or military question. Sin has no place in it.’

Using concepts derived from thinkers like Ernest Renan (on nationalism) and experiences of Turkey and Czechoslovakia, he justifies why there is Pakistan and why there should be an answer to the question posed by the demand. He also, on the other hand, says to Qaed-e-Azam and the League citing examples of South Africa, the French in Canada and arguments by several thinkers about whether there can be better and saner alternatives. Here he suggests the search for organic filaments- the vital forces which work to bind together the parts that are cut asunder-which can bind the two mutually antagonistic bodies together. He says: ‘Nobody can deny that there are many modes, manners, rites and customs which are common to both. Nobody can deny that there are rites, customs and usages based on religion which do divide Hindus and Musalmans. The question is, which of these should be emphasized. If the emphasis is laid on things that are common, there need be no two nations in India. If the emphasis is laid on points of difference, it will no doubt give rise to two nations.’

Though he has posed some arguments in the book in the manner of a legal argument, they are difficult to cotton on in the context of the post Partition India.

One of the reasons, Babasaheb writes, why Pakistan is so feasible that Hindhu Mahasabha can agree to, is the suspicion of loyalty from among the Muslims, should Afghanistan for instance come to attack India. Babasaheb says: ‘The army in India must necessarily be a mixed army composed of Hindus and Muslims. If India is invaded by a foreign power, can the Muslims in the army be trusted to defend India? Suppose invaders are their co-religionists. Will the Muslims side with the invaders, or will they stand against them and save India? This is a very crucial question.’ We are forced to believe that this suspicion of loyalty from the part of Muslims has congealed into nationalist sentiment even after Partition. We hear about the rhetoric of Hindutva nationalists like Narendra Modi about Muslim loyalty to Pakistan, best expressed in the arrest of some youths in Kashmir for exulting over the sixes of Shahid Afridi. If someone is arrested and the police say he possessed documents about Pakistan, we need no further explanations.

Also, according to Babasaheb, Muslims have something in their psyche which prevents them from against unity. “To the Muslim ibi bene ibi patria (my bread is where my country is) is unthinkable. Wherever there is the rule of Islam, there is his own country. In other words, Islam can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland and regard a Hindu as his kith and kin. That is probably the reason why Maulana Mahomed Ali, a great Indian but a true Muslim, preferred to be buried in Jerusalem rather than in India,’ he writes. When one reads this after Babasaheb’s exposition of aggressive invasion of India by the Muslim forces, of what he terms as ‘the blood-curdling atrocities of Mappila Revolt’, of gangsterism in Muslim politics, of stagnation of religion, not being set aright by as genuine and forthcoming reform movements as one can witness among Hindus, one does not feel any doubt about his to-a-great-extent mistaken notion about the Islamic society and imperialism. But this is in no way suggestive of antagonism, if not prejudice, when makes a close look at Babasaheb’s sources to arrive at such a conclusion-William Muir, Murray Titus, Ernest Renan (whose critique of the absence of science and reform in Islamic societies has been disproved by none but Jamaluddin Afghani.

Let’s come back to the point from which we started. Pakistan can’t be undone. But it is rather interesting to see if Pakistan has dealt with, is dealing with and will deal with the social stagnation which Babasaheb mentions as being part of Muslim society. We don’t have anything to much gloat over going by the past performances. Hudud ordinances, heresy laws and activities against heresy and dissimulation right from the treatment of Ahmediyyas and Shiites, treatment against women etc are all evidences to the situations for which Babasaheb took the society for task. But there still many forms of Pakistan in the offing. Like the Pakistan of ghazals and khawalis, of doosras and riverse swing, of pool of scientists and engineers including Dr Abdul Salam and the creator of the first PC virus, there are many figures in Pakistan who are at the forefront of religious and social reform and reawakening- Fazlur Rahman, Akbar S Ahmed, Asma Barlas, Ziauddin Sardar, to cite a few.

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