India as a Hindu Pakistan — I

Incontrovertible facts put Pakistan far ahead of India in terms of religio-political parties as principal determinants of its political destiny

Ramachandra Guha is an Indian historian and public intellectual whose books, India after Gandhi and Gandhi before India, are exceptional pieces of history writing. I thoroughly relished reading those, realising in the process how little I know about post-partition Indian history and politics.

For Pakistani students and general readers interested in the Indian modern history, environmental history (chipku movement, a subject of his PhD dissertation) or informed narration on the Indian cricket, Guha’s books are a must read.

Knowing about Indian history and politics beyond 1947 is as important for Pakistanis as their own history and politics. Guha’s research into the social history of Indian cricket culminated in his work, A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport in 2002.

The most fascinating aspect about him is his accessible style of writing, which flows with ease and flourish. Probably his prolonged association with media as a columnist and broadcaster has lent him this knack of being very lucid and crisp.

The American Historical Association (AHA) conferred on Ramchandra Guha, its Honorary Foreign Member prize for the year 2019. He is the third Indian historian to be recognised by the association. He has thus joined the ranks of such scholarly figures as Romila Thapar and Jadunath Sarkar, who received the honour in 2009 and 1952, respectively.

This introduction of Guha has a purpose. He said something not exceedingly long ago that warrants comment to put in perspective certain things that formed the part of his articulation.

A few days back, I listened to one of his interviews in which he castigated quite trenchantly, the BJP government and vociferously condemned Hindutva ideology that the religious right so vehemently espouse and profess.

In a condemnatory tone, he fulminated, India cannot have a single religion (Hinduism as BJP leaders and their godi-media is not tired of asserting ad nauseum), or a single language and culture. By saying so he tried to emphasize the plurality that Indian academia and liberal intelligentsia has cherished since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru as the hallmark of Indian collective identity.

Then he went on to say, “We can’t be a Hindu Pakistan” a comment that requires a critical gaze. The second allusion was to the Gandhi family and the dynastic politics resulting in the ruination of democratic dispensation in India. He wishes Congress to sustain itself and grow but wishes that the Gandhi family should leave Congress alone.

I think, dynastic politics is not limited to India. Its sweep is Afro-Asia wide and obviously Pakistan is no exception. Therefore, dynastic politics and its ramifications for Pakistan are worth our critical analysis which will form the second point taken up in this column. But first Guha’s aversion for a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ needs some reflective analysis.

He must be cognizant that the BJP leadership has virtually converted India into a polity that, in fact, can only be comparable to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.

Despite being a much bigger economy and polity than Pakistan, Indian intellectuals, politicians, and journalists still nurse an obsession about Pakistan that is quite inexplicable. It begs an important psychological query as to why Pakistan keeps on playing on their minds. Muslims are always enjoined to go to Pakistan because India is for the Hindus only.

These people, completely overtaken by socio-cultural myopia, tend to forget the contribution of the Muslims for India in its post-Independence phase. The sidekicks and spin doctors of Modi and Amit Shah quite conveniently forget people like Abdul Kalam, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Zakir Khan, Barey Ghulam Ali Khan, philanthropist Azimji Premji, Dr Zakir Hussain, Irfan Habib and the long string of Khans in Bollywood industry, who have augmented India’s reputation among the comity of nations in a big way.

Still, they are accused of being the stooges and spies of Pakistan, which is lamentable. In almost every media talk or talk-show, reference to Pakistan is a given as a retrogressive and reactionary state. The voices of reason like Karan Thapar and Ramachandra Guha, too, rue the fact that India is treading a path that would eventually lead it to a fate similar to Pakistan.

My response to Guha’s facile and half-cooked understanding of Pakistani polity may provide him something to reflect on from a more objective standpoint.

In Pakistani politics, throughout 73 years of its history, religious parties have had a marginal presence in the parliament. Pakistani people never reposed much trust in them, ever. Only once under Pervez Musharraf, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) could muster up some support that enabled its leaders to cobble up an alliance to form the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Akram Durrani as its chief minister.

After those five years in power, MMA virtually vanished into thin air. People were so petrified that it was subsequently confined to the margins of Pakistani politics. There is no other instance of any religious groups having secured enough electoral strength to form a government even at the provincial level.

That probably is the reason that religious parties in Pakistan have started exercising extra-parliamentary options, which has dealt a fatal blow to their credibility as a political force. Look at India now, how many stints it has so far had with religious right, winning thumping majorities and forming a government at the Centre. Now the Indian prime minister has been a karsevak of RSS. It is the same as some student from Madrasa Akora Khatak (whose head was Samiul Haq) should become Pakistan’s prime minister.

Despite the ‘Islamisation’ programme vigorously pursued by Ziaul Haq, religious-political parties, like Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and Jamaat-i-Islami failed to capitalise on the conditions. To the contrary, Indian politics is likely to be played out by the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena simply because there is no formidable opposition with any agenda to mount a challenge to the politics of reactionaries.

These incontrovertible facts put Pakistan far ahead of India in terms of religio-political parties as principal determinants of its political destiny. Plurality and diversity have already been confined to books - the books printed and circulated sometime in the past.

The BJP doesn’t allow the books (textbooks too) to be re-printed and circulated. Guha must be knowing the exact number of Indians drinking gau-muter (urine of cow) as an antidote to corona virus. I wish Pakistan could have exported that medicine to the Indians to contain rampant corona virus that has hit Gujarat state the worst.

(To be continued)

India as a Hindu Pakistan — I