Distorting history

Published August 12, 2022

WHEN history is co-opted by ideologically overzealous elements, expect the facts to die a quick death, and objectivity to be sacrificed at the altar of politics. In this regard, the decision by India’s ruling BJP to mark Aug 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day, as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’ is highly provocative, and entirely unnecessary. India’s prime minister had announced that the day would be observed last year. But rather than genuinely contemplating on the bloodshed that marked the painful partition of undivided India, the BJP is using the events of 1947 and their remembrance as a political gimmick to please its rabid vote bank, which willingly laps up all anti-Pakistan/anti-Muslim moves. The Foreign Office has termed India’s decision “mischievous” and asked Delhi to “desist from politicising the events of Independence”.

By all means 1947 witnessed one of the greatest mass migrations of human history, and atrocities were committed by all sides as communal frenzy enveloped the subcontinent. Questions can genuinely be asked about the way partition was carried out, and, for example, what role the British rulers could have played to ensure a more orderly division of India into two independent dominions. But it is safe to assume the peculiarities of history are not the primary motive for the BJP to mark ‘Partition Horrors Day’. It is simply about making Muslims look bad, as the ultimate ‘villains’ in the story of partition. After all, the Sangh Parivar views partition as a great tragedy in which Muslims broke ‘Mother India’. Moreover, the Sangh seeks to rebuild the mythological construct of Akhand Bharat, a massive, questionable entity that supposedly stretched from Myanmar to Afghanistan. Such fantasies aside, the BJP’s move to mark ‘Partition Horrors Day’ will further shrink the space for Indian Muslims, especially if the event becomes a major annual feature in India. After all, especially under Narendra Modi’s watch, Indian Muslims are increasingly coming under pressure to prove their patriotism, even though their forefathers have been living in the subcontinent for centuries. It is common for hard-line Hindus to taunt Indian Muslims to ‘go to Pakistan’, and the observance of such days of dubious nature will only increase communal hatred in India. Partition should definitely be discussed, but by unbiased scholars of repute from both countries, not by semi-literate fire-breathing ideologues that seek to use history as a tool to forward their divisive agendas, and capture a few votes.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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