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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 50 New Delhi December 5, 2015

Aamir Khan Episode: Wounds of Partition Have Not Healed

Sunday 6 December 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

I was present at the function where Aamir Khan, a topmost actor, said that his wife had asked him whether they should move to some other country for healthy upbringing of their child. There was no rancour in his tone, only a bit of sadness. Still, his remark shook me. Indeed, it shook the entire nation.

Never before had I realised that things had come to such a pass that even a person like Aamir Khan would think whether they should move to some other country. Lesser persons from the minority communities must be terror-stricken.

The return of awards by some 500 artists and intellectuals in the country is under-standable. It is their way of expressing agony. Those who have not gone to that extent share the feeling of helplessness.

Aamir Khan’s remarks should make the communalists sit up and ponder over what has driven the minorities to the wall. And even the most talented and sophisticated among them feel unsafe like Aamir Khan.

Instead, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has pounced upon him and literally abused him. That India has made him and he is ungrateful are some of the remarks. He has made himself through hard work. India has appreciated him for his acting.

I concede that nothing new has happened to deserve such a remark. But this is how Aamir Khan feels. I respect his feelings. We should all introspect why a person like Aamir Khan, who is loved and admired throughout the country, should make the remark. He must have thought about the effect it would have. He is a sensitive person. He must have felt that the intolerant mood that is deepening in the country makes even a person like him redundant. His secular credentials are beyond reproach and his whole life is an open book.

Unfortunately, the debate on the remark has not been healthy. Instead of making people sit up and seek the possible reasons for the observation Aamir Khan has made, there has been furore over why he dared to make the remark. Once again, the perennial question of Hindu-Muslim relations has come to the fore. The tendency to sweep everything under the carpet does not help. It has been done in the past. The nation must discuss the question in entirety. The minorities should consider them-selves safe. It is what they say counts, not the majority’s comment.

Unfortunately, the reference-point still remains the division. The partition is a reality. The formula was accepted by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, who were then leading the independence movement. True, both were reluctant to accept the partition. But when they felt that there was no option to end the British rule, they agreed to the vivisection of India.

Mahatma Gandhi walked out of Governor-General Mountbatten’s room when he broached the partition formula. He did not want to have anything to do with it. But when the then British Prime Minister, Attlee, said that they would quit, with or without any settlement between the Congress and the Muslim League, Nehru and Patel faced the facts and agreed to the partition, however with pain and sorrow.

True, the line drawn on the basis of religion has been a disaster because it has left the two communities, Hindus and Muslims, at logger-heads. But this was apparently the price people had to pay to make the British quit.

Sadly, the fallout of the partition has been injurious. The disconcerting part is that the two states after the British rule, India and Pakistan, have become sworn enemies instead of being friends. Politicians on both sides are to blame because they, particularly the ones in Pakistan, have continued the same discourse of divisions and differences.

The Congress, leading the independence movement, should have explained to the people why there was no alternative to the partition after Muslims were generally guided by the two-nation theory. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, argued that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations. He made religion as the basis of nationality. It has had injurious consequences but he was able to organise the support of Muslims at that time.

The transfer of power was peaceful only in name. People on both sides, despite the assurances by leaders of peace and amity, left their homes to seek shelter in a country of their own community. Never before in the history had there been such a bloodbath. Some 10 million of both communities were killed and many times more driven from their homes.

Till today the wounds have not healed. On the contrary, the two countries have fought three inconclusive wars. And there is no prospect of durable peace. Muslims have lost importance in India although they are more than 15 crore. And the Hindus are less than two per cent in Pakistan.

After independence, Pakistan declared it would be an Islamic state and adopted the Constitution accordingly. India chose to be a secular state. Despite being 80 per cent of the population, the Hindus preferred to be ruled by a Constitution which has put secularism in the Preamble itself. There is equality before the law and no Indian is inferior to the other on the basis of religion. However, the Muslims count very little in the affairs of the state.

The fact that there is a joint electorate, unlike before the partition, helps the community. But it is only up to the polls. Once the elections are over, other factors take over and the Muslims are ignored. The hiatus between Hindus and Muslims reappears as it was before the polls. This is the situation India still faces.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com