New Delhi

Last Train to Pakistan

The writing is on the wall that if Narendra Modi wins the elections of 2024, the survival of Indian Muslims and other minorities will be at stake. Also, India’s very own edifice standing on the foundations of a secular democracy housing diversity will perish.

By Muhammad Arslan Qadeer | August 2023

It takes a great deal of temerity to talk about India’s religious impudence because the minorities on our side of the border do not even seem to be any happier. India today has turned into a smouldering cauldron of religious intolerance, hate, outright bitterness and spiteful contempt concerning its minorities, which seems to be gaining momentum with the passing of time. Though all minorities, in general, are facing existential challenges, Muslims, in particular, seem to be the butt of possibly the worst hostilities and virulence.

The country has reached this state of affairs, where the very survival of the minorities poses a looming question mark. The Bharat ‘Tiranga’ bearing white and green representing minorities and Muslims, respectively, are now being swallowed by the saffron. Being a Muslim in India today is a nemesis. These are those Muslims whose ancestors chose India over Pakistan during the partition. The widow and disabled grandmother of this scribe, being herself the descendant as well as the wife of the Indian freedom fighters, who gave their lives in the struggle for Indian freedom, chose to stay back till her nephew, whom she had brought up and who was serving in the army compelled her to migrate to this side with him. She undertook the journey with her two daughters and one teen-aged son (my father). That was the last train to Pakistan.

This step was taken because of the unabated vandalism where even the children were not safe. My father and her sister (renowned writer Altaf Fatima) were made held captives in their Hindu-dominated school under the pressure of blood-lusty RSS warmongers (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—a right-wing Hindu paramilitary volunteer organization founded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who had created the ideology of Hindutva). Coming out alive from their vicious claws was no less than a miracle for them. In the face of such barbarity, a wide majority of Muslims chose to stay in India, making use of their better judgment that normalcy would ultimately return under the patronage and philosophy of Gandhi.

This, however, never turned out to be the case. Mahatma Gandhi, whose ideology of ‘Ahimsa’ precluded not only the act of inflicting a physical injury but also mental states like evil thoughts, hatred, and even unkind behaviour, all of which he saw as manifestations of violence, were brutally bulldozed by the worshippers of hate, smashing under their very feet his vision of people to be the ‘citizens of the world’ rather than religious fanatics. Gandhi was heartbroken when his symbol, the ‘Spinning Wheel’ symbol, was replaced with the ‘Ashoka Chakra,’ thus replacing a symbol representing peace and non-violence with power and authority. This led him, at one time, to move to Pakistan (Noakhali, East Pakistan, which had been a seat of Hindu-Muslim riots) to register his protest in his own way. Gandhi, who had survived five assassination attempts, was not spared for such overtures and was finally disposed of on Jan 30th 1948, at 78, by Nathuram Godse (a member of the political party the Hindu Mahasabha and a member of RSS). With Gandhi finally, out of the way, the genie of Hindu fascism with its entire monstrosity emerged, which, of today, has engulfed India in its vicious stranglehold.

To understand this transmutation, we must go a few steps back in history to understand the genesis that helped shape India to its present form. Nineteenth-century India, except for minor sporadic religious affrays, was still a place where traditions, languages, and cultures cut across religious groupings, and people did not define themselves primarily through their religious faith. This was, however, till 1857, the year of the Mutiny.

What happened next in the course of history, and which remained the hallmark of a deliberate and carefully crafted policy, was to drive a wedge between the two communities and can best be summarized in the report to the Board of Control in London by the then Governor General, later Viceroy, Lord Canning (1856-1862): The men who fought us in Delhi were of both creeds. As we must rule 150 million people by a handful of Englishmen, let us do it in a manner best calculated to leave them divided. (Canning Papers)

Historian Alex Von Tunzelman observes in her book “Indian Summer” (widely considered as a rejoinder to Freedom at Midnight), “The British started to define ‘communities’ based on religious identity and attach political representation to them, many Indians stopped accepting the diversity of their own thoughts and began to ask themselves in which of the boxes they belonged.” British scholar Yasmin Khan, in her acclaimed history “The Great Partition,” judges that Partition “stands testament to the follies of empire, which ruptures community evolution, distorts historical trajectories and forces violent state formation from societies that would otherwise have taken different—and unknowable—paths.” Prominent Hindu historians RC Mujamdar and AK Mujamdar confirm “…one factor was responsible to a very large extent for the emergence of the idea of Partition of India on communal lines; this was the Hindu Mahasabha….” (Struggle for Freedom 1969, Page 611)

The Congress masquerading as the champion of secularism too, to start with, had a few giants from the very beginning prominent people like Vallabhbhai Patel, Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai, who spoke of India exclusively as a Hindu Nation. Though the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS were not mainstream then, however, owing to the Hitlerian Model (with regards to dealing with minorities) so openly professed by them, the imminent threat posed by these fringe groups against Muslims, as well as the visible swelling number of their followers, could not be ignored. Consequently, the Muslim League, set up originally only to safeguard Muslim representation, finally pushed for a separate state. In fact, V.D Savarkar, in his writings, coined ‘The Two Nation Theory’, stating Hindus and Muslims of India were two incompatible ‘nations’ Eventually, being a minority, the Muslim League had no choice but to adopt the theory too.

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2 thoughts on “Last Train to Pakistan

  • August 10, 2023 at 11:56 pm

    In “Last Train to Pakistan,” authored by Muhammad Arslan Qadeer, a thought-provoking examination of India’s religious and sociopolitical landscape is meticulously presented. Through a historical lens, Qadeer unveils the evolution of India’s religious dynamics, focusing on the emergence of Hindutva ideology and its impact on minority communities, particularly Muslims.

    The article delves into the intricate interplay between religion, politics, and societal shifts, highlighting the challenges faced by India’s minorities, especially Muslims, in an environment increasingly dominated by religious intolerance, fanaticism, and political maneuvers. Qadeer artfully traces the trajectory from India’s multicultural past to its current state, characterized by a growing divide fueled by the rise of Hindutva.

    The author aptly emphasizes how India’s transformation has led to the erosion of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of nonviolence and communal harmony, as Hindutva asserts itself more assertively. Qadeer also underscores the historical context, examining the genesis of the divide between communities, fostered through British colonial policies that aimed to create fragmentation among Indians.

    The narrative is skillfully woven through key historical events, such as the Babri Masjid demolition and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi’s leadership. The author compellingly highlights the transition from the pluralistic ethos of yesteryears to the current scenario, where religious fanaticism poses a threat to the very essence of India’s secular democracy.

    Qadeer’s analysis of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) provides readers with insights into how these policies have the potential to further marginalize and disenfranchise minority communities, primarily Muslims. This systematic review of recent political developments underscores the looming dangers that such policies pose for India’s diverse fabric.

    Furthermore, Qadeer draws attention to the dire consequences if Hindutva ideology continues to gain ground, and how the foundational principles of India’s secular democracy could be jeopardized. His warning serves as a call for awareness and action, urging the majority of Indians who seek harmony and unity to counteract the growing extremist tendencies.

    In conclusion, “Last Train to Pakistan” offers a comprehensive analysis of India’s religious and political transformation, examining how the rise of Hindutva ideology impacts minority communities, particularly Muslims. Muhammad Arslan Qadeer’s scholarly approach, combined with a captivating narrative style, provides readers with a thought-provoking exploration of India’s journey from a pluralistic past to the challenges of a fragmented present. This article serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative to safeguard the values of secularism, tolerance, and unity that were integral to India’s identity for decades.

  • August 14, 2023 at 5:04 am

    True perspective of Indian history & its deterioration to current level of hate & discrimination has been well presented.

    Challenging experiences of writer’s ancestors were indeed inspiring .Salute to their courage & foresight for Freedom. We are here because of that generation 🇵🇰👍