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October - November 2009
I have a dream...
by Yavar Abbas
I better declare an interest at the outset. I love Pakistan, if by Pakistan you mean, not the concept but the land and, more particularly, the people of Pakistan. How can I do otherwise? They are part of my blood, my culture, my heritage. How are they different from you and me? Do they not speak the same language, sing the same songs, and indeed breathe the same air? There is no mountain that divides us, no ocean that separates us. There is only a bizarre two-nation theory which asserted that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. This convenient theory was used by the imperialists to carry out their long laid plans to establish a base on the sub-continent to encounter the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. It should be noted that soon after the end of the Second World War, the erstwhile allies (USSR and Britain and America ) became deadly enemies in a renewed cold war. The great game resumed as before, in which a 'United States of India' could not be allowed to come into being because it would firstly have been too powerful a nation for them to contemplate and secondly, because it might favour the USSR. So the decision was taken to partition the country and partition it fast to cause maximum chaos and to ensure that the two emerging countries remain at loggerheads with each other and to continue to buy arms required to sustain hostilities. Moreover, Britain was financially bankrupt after the war and its economy totally shattered with the armament industry as the only one that could conceivably help revive the economy. So the two-nation theory remains a monumental fraud that was worked on the people of India to advance the above mentioned aims. It had nothing to do with the will of the people of India, who were never consulted anyway.
Even less than five per cent of the people who were asked to give their mandate were presented with the sort of leading question that asks,"Will you stop beating your wife?"The decision to partition the country had already been taken without asking the people who paid the price in millions of innocent lives lost and many more millions made homeless and refugees in their own land. The partition has resolved no problems and created many with which we will have to live for, heaven knows, how many generations. For those who may still cling to the myth, I say this: If the creation of Bangladesh did not effectively explode the two-nation theory then surely the facts on the ground give a lie to it. There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. If they are a different nation, then what are they doing in India? Shouldn't they perhaps go to Pakistan? There is no mountain to climb, no ocean to cross. Just an imaginary line drawn on a make-believe map. Any line drawn on a map can just as easily be erased.
They were doing precisely that in the former Yugoslavia. They were drawing and redrawing lines on a map and killing and driving hundreds of thousands of innocent people out of their homes in the process. As an Indian I could have told them it doesn't work. I could have told them: you can do any amount of ethnic cleansing (what a horrible expression, what a euphemism for genocide, what a cover-up for forcible eviction), you can drive out any number of people, destroy any number of mosques, detonate any number of churches, demolish any number of temples; you will never stop human beings from seeking the company of others of a different variety. An ethnically cleansed society is a morally unclean society. It is a society which is intellectually bankrupt and socially monotonous and boring, a society that is doomed from the start.
It is cross-fertilisation, I humbly submit, that gives any society its strength. It is cross-fertilisation that gives India its strength. Two of India's crowning glories are the result of cross-fertilisation, namely, classical music and Urdu language. What is it that gives classical music of north India its unique character? It is Baiju Bawra trying to outsing Miyan Tansen, it is Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia doing Jugalbandi with Ustad Zakir Hussain, it is Ustad Bismillah Khan playing his shehnai at the Vishvanath temple in Banaras.
And it is cross-fertilisation again that gives its richness to Urdu language--the language of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib and Munshi Hargopal Tufta, of Munshi Premchand and Qurratul Ain Haider, of Saadat Hasan Manto and Rajinder Singh Bedi, of Ismat chughtai and Krishan Chandar, of Allama Iqbal and Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast, of Firaq and Josh Malihabadi, of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Pandit Anand Narain Mulla of Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, of Gopi Chand Narang and Mushirul Hasan, of Chaman Lal Chaman and yours humbly, Yavar Abbas.
We have developed In India a unique culture, part of which is a direct relief of a thousand years of close contact between Hindus and Muslims. I was born in the then princely state of Charkhari in Bundelkhand, the area famous for the legendary heroes Aaleha and Udal. It was a Hindu state with a Muslim dewan or prime minister in the person of my grandfather. My late wife Hamida shared her ancestral home with our then London High Commissioner, the late Dr L.M.Singhvi (amazingly, they both died the same day, Saturday, October 6, 2007). My wife came fom Rajasthan where her father was the chief justice of the premier Hindu state of Udaipur. I was brought up with the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata ringing in my ears and the Ram Lila staged at the annual fair is one of the most vivid and fond memories of my childhood. Equally, during the ten days of mourning in the Muslim month of Moharram, our Hindu Maharaja who had his own beautiful Ta'ziyah walked barefoot with us to be a part of the Ta'ziyah procession.
This healthy exchange was multiplied a thousand times all over India when Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians joined each other in their various festivals of Holi, Baisakhi, Eid and Christmas.
All this natural and spontaneous intercourse suffered a severe setback with events leading up to and after the partition. But it did not alter the fact that we are still the same people. And the mass madness of 1947 cannot destroy the heritage of a thousand years. We made a mistake by accepting partition. We will be making a bigger mistake if we accepted that partition in our own hearts and reacted in kind to a false theory. The sins of our fathers should not be visited upon children.
Those in our country who are trying to poison the atmosphere by targeting innocent people whose only crime is the faith they profess are doing a great disservice to our country and are trying to disfigure the fair and beautiful image of Mother India, whose children we all are. Every Independence Day which commemorates the tryst with destiny which we kept on 15th August 1947, we have to rededicate ourselves to the ideals of our freedom struggle.
The noble and secular Constitution of India has given us inspiration to build our country on the basis of equality for all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed, sex and colour. Let us do just that and wait for the day when the barriers will come down, as I believe, they surely will, for, like Martin Luther King, I too have a dream.
I have a dream that the people of my land will be able to travel its length and breadth without let or hinderance. I have a dream that our own Berlin wall, errected in our minds with the brick and mortar of fear and suspicion, will be taken apart brick-by-brick with the labour of love and mutual trust.
I have a dream that the burden of poverty will be lifted from the back of my people.I have a dream that the curse of casteism and the cancer of corruption wil be removed from our body politic.I have a dream that every child in our country will have the time and the space to enjoy his or her childhood.
I have a dream that the divided and estranged people of our ancient land will come together again and pool their enormous talents for the greater glory of all. I have a dream that love will triumph over hate and that Gandhi's life will not have been lived in vain.