Questions that still haunt Hindusthan

It is difficult to say how seriously Dr. B R Ambedkar’s study of the “Pakistan” demand of the Muslim League was taken by the then Congress and Hindu Mahasabha leadership. As it is, there is little evidence that it was considered worth comment and less considered by popular leadership of the time. (‘1940s) It certainly went against most things they believed and wanted to achieve.

There could be a number of reasons for this treatment and I choose not to go into that aspect now except to give you a picture as observed by the good Doctor himself –

“The book appears to have supplied a real want. I have seen how the thoughts, ideas, and arguments contained in it have been pillaged by authors, politicians and editors of newspapers to support their sides. I am sorry they did not observe the decency of acknowledging the source even when they lifted not merely the argument but also the language of the book. But that is a matter I do not mind. I am glad that the book has been of service to Indians who are faced with this knotty problem of Pakistan. The fact that Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah in their recent talks cited the book as an authority on the subject which might be consulted with advantage bespeaks the worth of the book.

    The book by its name might appear to deal only with the X.Y.Z. of Pakistan. It does more than that. It is an analytical presentation of Indian history and Indian politics in their communal aspects. As such, it is intended to explain the A.B.C. of Pakistan also. The book is more than a mere treatise on Pakistan. The material relating to Indian history and Indian politics contained in this book is so large and so varied that it might well be called Indian Political What is What.

    The book has displeased both Hindus as well as Muslims though the reasons for the dislike of the Hindus are different from the reasons for the dislike of the Muslims. I am not sorry for this reception given to my book. That it is disowned by the Hindus and unowned by the Muslims is to me the best evidence that it has the vices of neither, and that from the point of view of independence of thought and fearless presentation of facts the book is not a party production.

    Some people are sore because what I have said has hurt them. I have not, I confess, allowed myself to be influenced by fears of wounding either individuals or classes, or shocking opinions however respectable they may be. I have often felt regret in pursuing this course, but remorse never. Those whom I may have offended must forgive me, in consideration of the honesty and disinterestedness of my aim. I do not claim to have written dispassionately, though I trust I have written without prejudice. It would be hardly possible–1 was going to say decent–for an Indian to be calm when he talks of his country and thinks of the times. In dealing with the question of Pakistan, my object has been to draw a perfectly accurate, and at the same time, a suggestive picture of the situation as I see it. Whatever points of strength and weakness I have discovered on either side, I have brought them boldly forward. I have taken pains to throw light on the mischievous effects that are likely to proceed from an obstinate and impracticable course of action.”(End Quote)

However, what is important for us now is the fact that questions that motivated and moved Dr Ambedkar to study the issue and nature of the demand for Pakistan in such great detail, still haunt us. What is additionally disconcerting is the fact that those questions meet with the same, if not greater, indifference from the suucessors of the Congress and Hindu Mahasabha. Then shall history repeat itself?

I’m listing the questions Dr Ambedkar raises for consideration in the epilogue to his book – Pakistan or the Partition of India along with the link to the book itself –

(1)  Is Hindu-Muslim unity necessary for India’s political advancement? If necessary, is it still possible of realization, notwithstanding the new ideology of the Hindus and the Muslims being two different nations?

(2)  If Hindu-Muslim unity is possible, should it be reached by appeasement or by settlement?

(3)  If it is to be achieved by appeasement, what are the new concessions that can be offered to the Muslims to obtain their willing co-operation, without prejudice to other interests?

(4)  If it is to be achieved by a settlement, what are the terms of that settlement? If there are only two alternatives, (i) Division of India into Pakistan and Hindustan, or (ii) Fifty-fifty share in Legislature, Executive, and the Services, which alternative is preferable?

(5)  Whether India, if she remained [=remains] one integral whole, can rely upon both Hindus and Musalmans to defend her independence, assuming it is won from the British?

(6)  Having regard to the prevailing antagonism between Hindus and Musalmans, and having regard to the new ideology demarcating them as two distinct nations and postulating an opposition in their ultimate destinies, whether a single constitution for these two nations can be built, in the hope that they will show an intention to work it and not to stop it.

(7)  On the assumption that the two-nation theory has come to stay, will not India as one single unit become an incoherent body without organic unity, incapable of developing into a strong united nation bound by a common faith in a common destiny, and therefore likely to remain a feebler and sickly country, easy to be kept in perpetual subjection either of [=to] the British or of [=to] any other foreign power?

(8)  If India cannot be one united country, is it not better that Indians should help India in the peaceful dissolution of this incoherent whole into its natural parts, namely, Pakistan and Hindustan?

(9)  Whether it is not better to provide for the growth of two independent and separate nations, a Muslim nation inhabiting Pakistan and a Hindu nation inhabiting Hindustan, than [to] pursue the vain attempt to keep India as one undivided country in the false hope that Hindus and Muslims will some day be one and occupy it as the members of one nation and sons of one motherland?

– Namaste

–Varta–

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