A strong yet balanced tone of emotional fervor rings in Asif Siddiqi’s plea for the political and economic re-union of India and Pakistan, which gives fresh relevance and urgency to this long -standing theme of postcolonial South Asian politics. Was Pakistan ever the pan-Muslim state it claimed to be, necessary for staving off kafir domination?
This is one of the key questions about the birth of the state that the author asks. He demolishes the very concept of any hard-and-fast Hindu-Muslim divide by highlighting the psychic factors underlying the creation of Bangladesh. These psychic factors, he points out, originate from perceptions and behavior far older than those based on religion. They stem from primitive, racist reactions to chance externals like skin color and body build. To the West Pakistani state and establishments, their coreligionists to the East were kaalay haramis—black bastards first and co-religionists never.
With this kind of primitivism underwriting the birth of the new state, is it any wonder that it never did take off in the direction of freedom and prosperity?
Diverse, mutually confronting groups in any part of the world do not yet entertain ideas of mass migration elsewhere. When they do so, as in 1947, it is solely from the pushes and pulls of political parties. Sentiments of home and hearth are more deep-rooted than political exhortations for cutting cord and feeling. When the latter prevail, bloodletting and killer instincts gain unfettered play. Even after these fade, feelings of homesickness and homelessness, of uprootedness, roost in the migrants inner regions of being. The words and voice of born humanists like Ghalib keep playing in his ears, giving him a sense of completion that other realities do not, but it cannot stop him from reaching for it. Remorse and hope undying coexist.
The Muslims are not separate from the Hindus nor vice versa. Different, yes, but not separate, not two. And they will eventually travel back to their basic oneness from the sheer compulsions of global forces at work today.
These views, however debatable, are worth hearing for they concern almost a quarter of the human race.
- by Raji Narasimhan