*This is a rebuttal to Ramchandra Guha’s article “Letting Azad win” which in my view was a terrible distortion of history and facts. -YLH
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Ramchandra Guha- the so called Indian Historian- is incapable of telling the truth. It never ceases to amaze me how he continues to distort the facts regarding partition. Now however he has taken desperate tactics using frivolous allegations.
Consider: he thinks Lahore is Kandahar where every woman is in a burqah. Anyone who has been to Lahore knows that this is an incredible lie even by the standards of Ramchandra Guha. Perhaps had he actually bothered to visit Lahore, he would have changed his mind but facts are not what Guha is interested in. He is more interested in weaving an India-shining myth and in the process he will go to any lengths to lie about the facts. For almost similar populations in terms of size – Pakistani Muslims are about 170 million and Indian Muslims number a few million less- there are three times as many Muslim women in Pakistan than in India who are doctors, engineers, pilots, businesswomen, fighter-pilots, artists and indeed fashion and media. I would also venture to take a guess and say that more Muslim women in Pakistan are out of Burqah than in India. So much for Ramchandra Guha’s bigoted lies.
Even otherwise Lahore is hardly a communal ghetto that Guha imagines it to be. To this end it is instructive to quote Aakar Patel’s impressions on his visit to Pakistan during the famous 2004 series between Pakistan and India which is closer to the truth:
Punjabi, Gujarati, Pushtun and Urdu spoken on one side; Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Haryanvi on the other. There was a Christian and a Hindu doing battle for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, one crossing himself as he crossed 50; the other touching dirt to his forehead as he began a new spell.
The newspaper Nawa-e-Waqt is the keeper of the Pakistan ideology, the guardian of the Two-Nation theory. Its Sunday edition during the Multan test had a full page feature on the one player in the contest that the editor picked as a good Muslim. The man said his prayers all five times and spoke of the peace and calm that came over him when he entered the ground after kneeling to God.
“Who are they? They look like Indians,” said my host in Lahore before the commentator identified Irfan’s maulvi father and hijab-clad mother, on camera sitting in the VIP stand with hennaed beard, Jinnah topi and full burqa. And they did look foreign, amid the suits and the jeans of the rich Pakistanis; stoic, expressionless as their son was out for 49 in Lahore.
When India won a test and almost took the series against Australia, we celebrated our standing up to the greatest team in the world, perhaps the greatest team ever. Indiawas shining in the world then. But this was much more. This was the victory of Indiaover Pakistan, not one team over another.
So in Pakistan we celebrate the triumph of our nationalism. But how do we separate ourselves from Pakistan? The colours of moderate Islam got thumped by seculardemocracy in the cricket match, yes that is true.
In the murky skies over Islamabad on Day 4, however, this clarity was missing. Who was the ‘we’ that beat ‘them’?
For me, Pakistan was a foreign country.
Lahore is paradise. It has huge gardens splashed through the middle of its roads. An enormous canal glides through the middle of a thoroughfare.
Indians will also be amazed with how much at ease the Lahauri is with his culture and how little this culture has to do with religion.
To me that culture is alien because it is Punjabi, not because it is Muslim.
To me, the groups of Sardars walking again in the streets of Lahore’s old city with the kirpans by their side and the shopkeepers at their elbow, seemed to belong there. They were Lahauris.
But for all of Pakistan’s foreign-ness, it had everything that we pride India for. It was pluralist, it was joyous, it was tolerant. In the colourful Indian crowds, clapping, shouting, shopping, Pakistans also discovered something perhaps foreign to themselves and perhaps something of themselves.
Ramchandra mian’s overactive imagination about the ground realities of Pakistan and India aside, his simplistic and counterfactual presentation of history is much more problematic. The divide between Azad and Jinnah and indeed Congress and Jinnah dates back to the Khilafat Movement. Gandhiji- for all his many qualities- made a terrible error when he decided to promote Mullahs in the Khilafat Movement to deliberately sideline Jinnah and the secular Muslims. At that time Maulana Azad was encouraging Muslims to leave India because it had become “Darul-Harb”. Maulana Azad represented- whether Guha likes to admit it or not – a section of conservative religious Muslims who were not interested in the material progress of their community. Contrary to Guha’s deliberate misrepresentation of history, this is what one famous Congressite Achyuth Patwardhan had to say.
It is, however, useful to recognise our share of this error of misdirection. To begin with, I am convinced that looking back upon the course of development of the freedom movement, THE ‘HIMALAYAN ERROR’ of Gandhiji’s leadership was the support he extended on behalf of the Congress and the Indian people to the Khilafat Movement at the end of the World War I. This has proved to be a disastrous error which has brought in its wake a series of harmful consequences. On merits, it was a thoroughly reactionary step. The Khilafat was totally unworthy of support of the Progressive Muslims. Kemel Pasha established this solid fact by abolition of the Khilafat. The abolition of the Khilafat was widely welcomed by enlightened Muslim opinion the world over and Kemel was an undoubted hero of all young Muslims straining against Imperialist domination. But apart from the fact that Khilafat was an unworthy reactionary cause, Mahatma Gandhi had to align himself with a sectarian revivalist Muslim Leadership of clerics and maulvis. He was thus unwittingly responsible for jettisoning sane, secular, modernist leadership among the Muslims of India and foisting upon the Indian Muslims a theocratic orthodoxy of the Maulvis. Maulana Mohammed Ali’s speeches read today appear strangely incoherent and out of tune with the spirit of secular political freedom. The Congress Movement which released the forces of religious liberalism and reform among the Hindus, and evoked a rational scientific outlook, placed the Muslims of India under the spell of orthodoxy and religious superstition by their support to the Khilafat leadership. Rationalist leaders like Jinnah were rebuffed by this attitude of Congress and Gandhi. This is the background of the psychological rift between Congress and the Muslim League’
They were willing to go along with the Congress because Congress ensured the Mullahs the “shepherd” status for the Muslim flock of sheep. Unlike Jinnah and the secular Muslim salariat that followed him, these nationalist Muslims were not interested in jobs, shares, political and economic issues. It is for this reason that the most reactionary and bigoted of the Muslim religious elite supported Azad and the Congress Party without exception- leading among them the Mullahs of Deoband including one Mufti Mahmood – the father of Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Other supporters of Maulana Azad included the Majlis-e-Ahrar which included such proudly and openly bigoted fellows as Agha Shorish Kashmiri, Maulana Ataullah Shah Bokhari and Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar – three of the most bigoted anti-Ahmadi, anti-shia, anti-women and anti-minority ideologues.
While Pakistan ensured that there would be an indigenous Muslim bourgeoisie – in terms of constitution and law, the followers of Azad – the Ahraris, Jamaat-e-Islami wallahs, and Deobandis- have managed to defeat the secular liberal forces who were the followers of Jinnah. By creating deliberate confusion about why Pakistan was created the followers of Azad managed to excommunicate the Ahmadis in Pakistan and marginalize the Shias, Ismailis and others who were amongst the founders of Pakistan.
Even in India Azad won when Congress Party –true to Azad ideology – decided to overturn the Shah Bano verdict of the Indian Supreme Court. Perhaps Guha missed it – because he usually misses salient points in history – but the lawyer for Shah Bano in the famous case was none other than Daniyal Latifi – a progressive secular lawyer who also was Jinnah’s associate and who was a Muslim Leaguer and indeed the main draftsman of the League manifesto.
These are undeniable facts of history. Of course Guha and his counterparts in Pakistan would rather bury it. But facts will be facts and my attempt here is to set the record straight.
Filed under: Uncategorized · Tags: Ahrar, Azad, Congress, constitution of India, Deoband, India, Indian Muslims, Indian women, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat, Jinnah, Lahore, Maulanas, Mullahs, Nationalist Muslims, Pakistan, Pakistani Women, Ram Chandra Guha, Ramchandra Guha, secularism