Eleven persons have been killed in Karachi in the most recent round of killings over the MQM demand for a separate state that would accommodate ‘Mohajirs’. Sixty-seven years after Partition, the ‘homeland’ for the subcontinent’s Muslims has repeatedly provided evidence that division on the basis of religion was a serious historic blunder. After Bangladesh broke away, India’s ‘role’ and the distance between the two wings has been offered as an excuse in Pakistan’s history text books; but the continuing refusal of ethnic groups even after so many years to accept Mohajirs as part of the national fabric further underlines the hollowness of the ‘two-nation’ theory.
People belong as much to their ethnicity and culture as their religion. Even when people migrate because of less traumatic reasons than conflict, it takes centuries for them to adapt to the new land. Even when they do, it is by evolving a mix of their past with their present that is most conducive to survival and growth. This process cannot be enforced on the basis of an ideology – secular or religious. At a time when even the nation-state is adjusting rapidly to the globalisation of culture, values and economics, the attempt to artificially patch together entities is self-defeating.
Ultimately, it is self-interest that drives people to create nation-states and, as has been seen quite frequently of late, to dissolve them. Many people now believe that the idea of the nation-state itself is passé. The nations of Europe that were involved in bloody battles for centuries that spread to every corner of the globe through World and colonial wars are today united in groups that transcend ‘national’ boundaries. The ability to be pluralistic is the mark, today, of civilisation.
India, too, faces many demands for formation of separate states. Those based on language, which can be learnt and is inclusive, have mostly been conceded. Recently, those based on socio-economic-cultural factors have also been accepted, such as Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, etc. The issue of Telangana, too, might be amicably reconciled in the future. However, India does not look kindly upon those based on ethnic identities, which cannot be inclusive.
Linguistically, even though Urdu is the ‘national’ language of Pakistan, the Mohajirs – who speak the language – are not accepted anywhere as ‘locals’. For a large number of reasons, the Mohajirs are not allowed cultural and political space of their own. This, by and large, has not been the case with those who migrated to India from what now constitutes Pakistan. One can only conclude that the provincial identities do not accept the ‘national’ identity as predominant. There is no nation, only a collection of four provinces, each with deep animus against the other. The harsh truth is that without the bogey of India, the Pakistani identity would disappear. This is why there is a flourishing ‘hate India’ industry focused primarily on ensuring the two countries remains always at loggerheads with each other.
For long, there have been people in Pakistan who have acknowledged the existence of a ‘South Asian’ ethos that distinguishes the people of the sub-continent from others, irrespective of which religion they profess. They have great influence and if there were no guns to counter them, they would have as much of an impact on their country as AAP has had in India. Religious ‘jamaats’ that were once at the forefront of the ‘two-nation’ theory have long moderated their stand. It is only the extremists like the Taliban that cling on to the concept.
Partition cannot be undone for obvious reasons. However, the contradictions can be resolved easily if a larger European Union kind of entity is forged. This shift is likely to come as swiftly as the collapse of Sheila Dixit’s government in Delhi.