India is a diverse nation with its widespread geography and many languages and dialects, tons of religions and cultures, races, castes, and lifestyles. This basket filled with tons of heterogeneous fruits has limited common grounds, arguably one of the main points being a sense of nationalism. The Indian civilization has a rich history that dates back to one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Despite being an amalgamation of many diverse factors, all these communities have time and again continued to co-exist in harmony. We take pride in this Hybrid Indian society.
The division of communities based on religion was not as prevalent in Indian society before the nineteenth century. The peak of this divisive tendency was felt in the mid of the twentieth-century and ultimately realized in the form of the Partition of India. However, the question of the hour is, ‘Did these divisive tendencies ended with the Partition of India?’ We often speak about brotherhood and tolerance, but do we implement it? Do the communal riots, hostility between Hindus and Muslims, disputes between them and other such elements of communal tension due to different religious beliefs justify the principles of partition?
A PEW research report on Religions in India in 2021 made eye-opening revelations about religious segregation and communalism in India. While 43% of Hindus felt that partition was a good thing for Hindu-Muslim relations in India, only 30% of Muslims shared the same sentiments on the subject. The Sikhs had even more negative views about the occurrence. Has the partition managed to safeguard the well-being and peace of the society? Has it further polarized the Hindu and Muslim communities? The answer to these questions is not simple. Hence, it makes the study of partition and the struggle for Independence all the more relevant. Studying the factors leading up to partition will help us understand the existing tension between the two communities and the origin of partition.
The partition was no doubt the most gruesome and barbaric expression of religious hatred in Indian history. Millions of people were slaughtered, thousands lost their families, homes, sense of identity and many others were injured or became victims of atrocities resulting from this communal savagery. The partition is not only responsible for erasing a huge part of minorities from India and Pakistan, but it also sowed the seeds for indefinite international tension and sentiments between the two nations. It resulted in several wars between India and Pakistan and feelings of constant tension between the two nations. The sad part about this situation is even though both the countries share a common border, hold a common history, a common struggle for Independence, many common beliefs and values, they both are constantly on edge with one another.
The partition pitted India and Pakistan against each other, as well as the future generations of the Hindu and Muslim communities in both countries, as opposing forces. Despite the resolute preaching of our freedom fighters and leaders responsible for the creation of our nations, the reality is that this religious conflict is deeply rooted in our society because of the partition. The communal division once incited is only growing and further widening the gap between the two communities.
We are 73 years through Independence, yet the Indian community is not ready to tolerate the intermingling of Hindus and Muslims and let go of the historical grudges. If anything, it is foreseeable that the future is full of communal riots and unrest between the communities. Approaching this deep crack within the minds of the people is not possible without objectively studying the struggle for Independence and partition. Therefore, the subject of partition plays an important role even in the present times.
Indians still reflect anti-Pakistani sentiments, and the other side reciprocates similar bitterness. The Indian Premier League doesn’t allow Pakistani cricket players to participate. There is prejudice against Pakistani artists such as Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Fawad Khan, among many right-wing adherents. The Pakistani public consumes a lot of Bollywood content, and the Indians consume a lot of Pakistani music, TV shows, but in the public arena, nationalism is often considered synonymous with celebrating Pakistan’s defeat and using slurs against the country.
Even if we put Pakistan aside for a moment, the tension in Hindu-Muslim relations is not restricted only at the borders, the PEW revealed that despite inhabiting in the same country together for so many years, we are still alien to each other’s religion. Less than 20 per cent of people in both the communities felt that they know about each other’s religion. Surprisingly, people of both the communities felt that the diversity in the Indian society was an asset, but at the same time when asked whether they celebrate the other’s festivals, whether they would accept a person from the other community as their neighbors, they were not open in the same manner.
We have secularism enshrined in our preamble since the Emergency period, but it is evident that the adoption of secularism has barely helped us in countering religious fanaticism, fundamentalism, communalism. Politicians still abide by “selective secularism” in meeting their political ends, and a good chunk of the common public can only tolerate their co-habitants superficially. We are taught in school that every citizen is our brother and sister, but why is it so that we only intermingle with the adherents of our religion? Nearly 50% of people from Hindu and Muslim communities have friends only within their community.
The question in contention has multiple layers. But it is a question worth contemplating over. I invite my readers to observe their surroundings and raise a question in their minds: Is India still reaping the seeds of partition?
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