By Yasser Latif Hamdani
I have always had the greatest respect for the superior judiciary of India. This is why it is a painful to write this post especially as it is about a gentleman who was Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and later a Supreme Court Justice. His very accurate view on the tussle between the judiciary and the executive in Pakistan had made me a fan. Unfortunately though I have now realized that even some great men of law have their blind spots and as far blind spots go, this gentlemen has a huge black big blind spot spanning Afghanistan to Burma.
I am speaking of none other than Justice Markandey Katju who I am sorry to say is taken in by a rather sad delusion. He refuses to accept Pakistan as a real country, despite the fact his entire career emanates out of the same law that created Pakistan. Pakistan and India were created as Independence of India Act, 1947. Pakistan became inevitable because Congress Party torpedoed the Cabinet Mission Plan which would have preserved Indian Unity. Mr. Katju believes that it was all a British conspiracy to keep Indians fighting forever. Indeed if that was the case, then one can also name Gandhi and Nehru as sidekicks in this theory but Katju does not agree. However that is not the point of this article.
Assuming that Pakistan is a “fake country”, it stands to reason that India is a natural country. Now what does that mean? Was India naturally created ? How ? Was it divinely revealed? When we look at history, we do not find a complete Indian political unity with the possible exception of Asoka, Aurangzeb and the British. Asoka’s unity did not last much longer than his own lifetime. Neither did Aurangzeb’s and Aurangzeb by the way is considered – despite being 4th generation Indian born- to be a “foreign ruler” by none other than Jawaharlal Nehru the great supporter of Indian unity when he described Shivaji the Hindu ruler as a great patriot. According to Katju British did not want Indian unity but paradoxically they are the only ones who united India without communal domination of any one group.
So then how does one explain this pigheaded belief that India is a natural country and Pakistan is not. Both India and Pakistan are born of the same legal instrument, both are recognized by the UN, both have a sovereign legal status. Since the men of law deal with laws and not abstract wishes and whims, I am surprised that Katju persists with repeating such fallacious lies.
When I confronted Katju on twitter about this, he flew off the handle. When I pointed out to him that his ideas sound eerily similar to RSS’ Akhand Bharat Theory he asked me to read his article on Modi. Well I did read his article on Modi and that has no relevance to the present issue.
Pakistan is an accident of history just like India is an accident of history, the US is an accident of history, and the Anglican nature of the Great Britain is an accident of history and so on and so forth. How? Well it was an accident that the Congress’ centralizing ambitions did not allow a middle ground between the Lahore Resolution – an ambiguous demand at best – and the idea of a strong federation that Nehru and Gandhi wanted. India is an accident of history because it was entirely accidental that British colonized it and then unified it. The US is an accident of history because had the British Parliament paid heed to the legitimate demands of American colonists, it would be a British dominion and part of Canada. Great Britain would still be a Catholic country, had Catherine of Aragon not insisted on remaining married to King Henry who wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. An accident of history gives permanence to an idea. The big bang for example was an accident of history. Nation states are cemented by legal fiction. That legal fiction is good enough for the purposes of day to day life. India therefore is as natural or unnatural as Pakistan.
Now let us consider Katju’s theory of Akhand Bharat. Despite his protestations about being a secularist, the fact is that his belief that Pakistan is a fake country and India must reunite is based on a religious idea – whether Katju admits it or not- and that religious idea is located in Bharat Mata mythology of the great Hindu faith. India was defined – again by an accident of history- as a great unity by the seers and wise men of that great faith. That belief traveled despite it never being expressed politically except under the British who Katju hates- into the modern age.
I have no doubt that Katju believes it when he says he has nothing to do with RSS and BJP. Yet Katju should know that the mother organization of RSS and BJP, the Hindu Mahasabha had dictated the Congress through out in its negotiations with the League. Had it not been for Mahasabha, an agreement would have been possible.
I have no doubt that Katju well and truly believes that the United India is not the same as RSS’s Akhand Bharat. However RSS has repeatedly endorsed Katju’s ideas:
Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram director P. Parameswaran has hailed Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju for his remarks on the merger of Pakistan with India.
“It remains to be seen how the supporters of Partition, especially the Muslim League, respond to Mr. Katju’s prediction that India and Pakistan will be reunited within 15 to 20 years,” he said in a pressnote issued here on Tuesday.
A leading RSS ideologue today backed Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju’s reported observation that “Pakistan is an artificial nation and a failed state” but said it was difficult to accept his entire views on the subject made during a lecture here.
“Justice Katju’s remark that Pakistan is an artificial nation and a failed state is quite evident from the happenings in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” according to P Parameswaran, author and director of the RSS intellectual and cultural forum Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram.
So there. The RSS endorses Mr. Katju’s view.
Let me state here that for the future of South and Central Asia lies in a treaty Union i.e. like the European Union. It is unavoidable. However this would have to be based on acceptance of existing nation states as legitimate entities. Katju’s push for reunification without recognizing the sovereignty and independence of Pakistan cannot under any circumstances be compared to the idea of an Asian Union. Of course if Katju’s objective is actually to achieve a unity of humanity on the basis of tolerance and peace, it would commend itself to him. But his objective is this boneheaded Indian nationalism with which he has grown up and consequently which he has used to endear himself to the Congress party (he was accused of being partisan to Congress in several capacities). Consequently he has bought wholesale the historical fallacies in Congress’ perspective on history of partition.
Had Katju been honest about it and tried to apply his mind to the work of another great luminary of the Indian Bar, H M Seervai, especially his introduction to the Constitution of India, he would engage himself in such spurious argumentation aimed at ridiculing 180 million people who exist for better or for worse as a separate country. So instead of harboring such outright offensive ideas, perhaps Katju should reinforce the civil society, the democrats and the secularists in Pakistan who want a secular democratic Pakistan which will live in peace with its neighbors.
While Justice Katju may be many things- an accomplished jurist, a writer, the press head honcho in India- his views on Akhand Bharat are an in toto regurgitation of RSS ideology and philosophy. Not even the Congress, whose conduct Katju wishes to whitewash, declares that Pakistan is a “fake” country. They cannot because they are bound by their own decision in 1947.
It is my opinion that so long as people like Katju continue to harp on that exploded idea that India is a natural unity spread from Afghanistan to Burma, it will only strengthen the argument that Indians – even the best of them – have not reconciled themselves with a historical reality. This in turn fuels the national security state which uses this as an argument to thwart democracy in Pakistan.
So give peace a chance. Allow Pakistan to solve its problems through democracy and constitution just as India has done. Stop this pettiness now.