Written By: Nadeem F. Paracha
In India the theory which became the basis of partition of India in 1947 (the Two-Nation Theory), is repeatedly castigated for being communal. The theory explained that the Muslims and Hindus of India were distinct communities who needed their own geographical and political dwellings where they could lead their lives according to their divergent cultural mores.
In India, it were the many Congress governments which, between 1947 and 1990, molded the Indian nationalist narrative. In this long-held narrative, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his All India Muslim League (AIML), were lambasted for proliferating ‘communal sentiments’. According to the narrative, this, in turn, unsettled the ‘historic Hindu-Muslim unity in India.’
This narrative continues to exist in India. However, with the electoral rise of Hindu nationalism in India, and, consequently, the exhibition of a more assertive stance towards Pakistan, some new academic undertakings have started to occur. These are trying to supplement the old Indian nationalist narrative with an added aspect that is in line with how Hindu nationalism comprehends the historical raison d’etre of Pakistan.
Take for instance the book Creating a New Medina by U.S.-based professor of history, Venkat Dhulipala. In it, Dhulipala, in a somewhat unintentional display of irony actually embraces the Pakistani nationalist narrative molded by Pakistan’s various conservative and ‘Islamist’ historians and political-religious parties to supposedly ‘prove’ that the creation of Pakistan was inherently a religious project fueled by the Two-Nation Theory.
This way Dhulipala is intellectually enshrining an inclination that has begun to take shape within some influential sectors of India’s historical scholarship which sees Pakistan’s so-called theological nature as the reason (and justification) behind the upsurge of Hindu nationalism in India. Basically this explanation by scholars such as Dhulipala is used to rationalize the existence and rise of radical Hindu nationalism in India.
What is being purposely overlooked and maybe even curbed by such Indian historians and scholars is the fact that the Muslim League’s Two-Nation Theory wasn’t some impulsive communal brainstorm emitting from Muslim leaders such as Jinnah. Instead, it had actually been formulated and then imposed upon them by Hindu nationalists!
As strange as this may sound, take the following quote by Jinnah as an example. In an address that he delivered on April 24, 1943, he reminded his audience: ‘I think you will bear me out that when we passed the Lahore Resolution (in 1940) we had not used the word, Pakistan. Who gave us this word? The Hindus fathered this word upon us.’
As opposed to many historians of a later age, Quaid-i-Azam knew exactly how the Two-Nation Theory evolved over a period of time. Quaid was right to suggest that it was initially fashioned by Hindu nationalists to justify and assert their own theological-nationalist agenda. Jinnah eventually adopted the theory for the Muslims but only after observing the emergence of some Hindu nationalist propensities from within influential segments of the otherwise ‘secular’ Indian National Congress. The imagined acuity and concoction of a communal Muslim League auto-rationalized the existentialist justifications of the Hindu nationalist forces.
Nabagopal Mitra, the 19th century Hindu nationalist, penned a long essay in which he defined the Hindus of India as a nation. In same essay he insisted that the Hindus of India held better intellects and customs than the Muslims and the Christians of the regions. He wrote: ‘The basis of national unity in India was the Hindu religion… and Hindus should strive to form an Aryan nation.’ (sic).
In a paper on Hindu nationalism (published in the 1920s), Bhai Parmanand, a foremost activist of the Hindu reformist outfit Arya Samaj, insisted that the Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations who were ‘irreconcilable.’ In his autobiography, ‘My Life’, Parmanand mentions that in 1908 he had called for an exchange and settling of Hindu and Muslim populations in different geographical areas.
The December 14, 1924 edition of The Tribune (a daily which was published from Bombay) Congress member Lajpat Rai was quoted to have asked for a ‘clear partition of the region into a Hindu India and non-Hindu India…’
It was a poet, V.D. Savarkar, who in 1924 invented the word, ‘Hindutva’ in a book which was also called Hindutva. He coined the word to mean ‘Hinduness’. He asserted that the Muslims and other non-Hindu peoples of India ‘were outside of Hindu nationhood.’ In 1937 Savarkar, while delivering a speech at a conference organized by the Hindu Mahasabha, said: ‘There are two nations in India: Hindus and the Muslims.’
In 1939, a leading light of the radical Hindu outfit the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), M.S. Golwalkar published a book called ‘We Or Our Nationhood Defined’. In it he proclaimed that the non-Hindu groups of India ‘should merge with the Hindu nation or perish’. He wrote that non-Hindus in India could not be considered Indian unless they were ‘purified’ (and/or converted to Hinduism).
Golwalkar added that the Hindus were India’s ‘national race’. He gave the example of Nazi Germany’s purge of the Jews as an ideal way to deal with minorities who refused to acclimatize to the culture of the national race.
During the recent increase in the assault on Muslims in India, the country’s Hindu nationalist PM Narendra Modi, recommended that his country’s Muslims should not be reprimanded. However, he added that the Muslims did need ‘purification’ (parishkar). Modi was referring to the use of this word in this context by BJP’s prime ideologue, Pandit Upadhyaya. Upadhyaya had first used the word decades ago as an extension of the Sanskrit word Shuddhi used by Hindu nationalist Dr. P.S. Moonje in 1923. Shuddhi also means ‘purification’ and Moonje had used it to mean the conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
Muslim Indian historian Dr. Shamsul Islam has lengthily quoted speeches, articles and pamphlets of Hindu nationalists in his book Revisiting the Legacy of Allah Bakhsh. He did this to establish the fact that, indeed, the communal impulse and justification of India’s partition (into two separate nations) was originally formed by Hindu nationalists and was adopted much later by the likes of Jinnah. And as mentioned earlier, Jinnah adopted it in 1940 for the Muslims after fearing that Indian nationalism had now come to mean Hindu nationalism.
Even more ironic is the manner in which the historical narrative about the creation of Pakistan being formulated by Indian historians sympathetic to the BJP and Hindu nationalism, is being cheerfully received by certain leading religious groups of Pakistan. Their narrative too had explained Pakistan as a theological project. For example, the owner of a large chain of bookstores in Lahore recently informed me that there is a rising demand for an Urdu translation of Dhulipala’s book. He added that certain ‘Islamic’ organizations have in fact offered to translate it themselves.
But this narrative was badly battered by various Pakistani historians, especially from the mid-1980s onwards.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist, cultural, critic and satirist. He is the author of a detailed book on Pakistan’s ideological, political & social history, called ‘End of the Past.’