Mahesh's Thoughts on India's Independence

Verity wrote:
Last night I saw part of a show about the troubles in India - the Mulsim vs Hindu battles showed that the secular wars seem to stem from ...

Firstly, India is a big country. And these Hindu versus Muslim battles aren't as widespread as the media here portrays them to be. For instance, the part of India I come from (South West...a state called Kerala) has a sizeable Muslim population (about 20%). But their history is different from that of Muslims in other parts of India. Over the 18 years I spent in my hometown, there wasn't a single religious incident.

In any case, the violence is very politically motivated. When India became free in 1947 after centuries of British ravages, there were two strong contenders for the job of Prime Minister (PM): Nehru & Jinnah. Both were power hungry. Neither was truly a grass roots level politician: Nehru was very Westernized and Jinnah wasn't a devout Muslim at all...he rarely prayed for instance. Jinnah was the de-facto leader of the Muslim League & Nehru of the Indian National Congress.

Each party periodically backstabbed the other through the latter stages of the freedom movement in British held elections. The British of course continued their divide-and-rule policy till the very end and beyond. The Mahatma held everything together.

Then, when the time came to choose a leader, there was disagreement. The Mahatma requested Nehru to make room for Jinnah to become PM (and for Nehru to still occupy some powerful post such as vice PM or Home Minister), but Nehru refused claiming that the Hindus in India wouldn't accept it.

Jinnah said that as the leader of the Muslims, he was apprehensive that Muslims would be overrun in all aspects of life by the Hindu majority, which was probably true, going by how the African Americans here in the US are struggling to carve a niche out for themselves having been "assimilated" into the mainstream. He either wanted to be PM or wanted a separate state for the Muslims.

Mahatma Gandhi saw no way out. He "granted" the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He was assassinated for this: Hindus blamed him for the creation of two states, when the real fault was with the politicians, Nehru & Jinnah.

It is sad that the night that India became free, Mahatma Gandhi was not rejoicing. He was on a fast in an attempt to stop the Hindu-Muslim riots that had broken out over the creation of two countries. It is also interesting that he didn't choose to take on the top political job himself...that would surely have kept everyone together.

Some parts of India remain affected by this animosity which has no real reason behind it, though some would like to make up reasons such as "historically, Islamic invaders have pillaged India," which really has no validity, since the empire that ruled India for 200 years (I think) so well just before the British landed up was an Islamic one: the Moghul empire (remember Babar, Akbar etc.?)

Also, India has a soft corner for the Islamic states in the Middle East when it comes to their issues with Israel. Only towards Pakistan and Muslims in their own country do Indians show animosity. Today, political leaders attempt to trump up support by playing Hindus against Muslims...its an age-old story.

I watched a Hindu woman tell a story about how when her husband and ...

Indeed, I'm sure several touching stories can be told. But they're only as touching as the stories we hear from all parts of the World, including such "developed" countries as the US. I think for a nation that's only 50 years old, India has done extremely well. When I watch shows like you seem to have, I think I have a different understanding...just like my American wife seems to have a different understanding when she hears of yet another gang killing in Los Angeles.

© copyright, 1997, Mahesh Tripunitara
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