Indians & Pakistanis: Are they different? -- By K.R. Malkani Back   Home  

GENERAL PERVEZ Musharraf of Pakistan is visiting India in the next few days. He is welcome. Khush-Aamdeed.

Some people say that India had taken the position that there will be no talks until the cross-border violence is stopped. Obviously, the government is satisfied that this violence has abated.

Others wonder why we should negotiate with a man who toppled a duly elected Prime Minister and who has now removed the President also and made himself President. These are internal matters of Pakistan. That is the way Pakistan is. And in any case he was the boss as Chief Executive and he is still the boss as President. It makes no difference to India.

Musharraf has said and done some commendable things. Perhaps he is the first top Pakistani leader to pull up the mullahs and tell them that they are corrupt and irresponsible. Also, he has cut Pakistan’s defence budget. Some people argue that he has done so because he is short of money and the World Bank led him to it. Whatever the reason, he has done the right thing.

The talks will be held in Agra and Musharraf will be paying a visit to Ajmer also. And that will make the talks something more than official business. It will give depth and ambience to this Indo-Pakistan interface. Next only to Mecca, Ajmer is the most sacred place for Muslims of the Indian peninsula.

How will the talks fare? Pakistan has said that Kashmir is the core issue. And India has made it clear that the only thing to discuss about Kashmir is the end of aggression in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Shorn of verbiage, the position is that India cannot give up Kashmir, and Pakistan cannot give up the Kashmir issue. The only solution to this problem is acceptance of the LoC as international border.

We can take steps to facilitate trade and travel. Both countries can also put books and newspapers on the interaction list. Let people across the Radcliffe Line know what people on the other side are saying and doing.

Indians and Pakistanis are the same racial stock amalgam; they have the same languages, historical and political experience. And yet their responses tend to be quite different. Why? How is it that democracy is as safe in India as it is unsafe in Pakistan, although both the armies were trained under the British?

During the freedom movement, the Congress took the position that all Indians are one nation. Later, the Muslim League took the position that Hindus and Muslims are two nations. (Our communist friends saw a dozen nations). The word ‘nation’ or quam is imprecise. As Nehru once rightly put it, if you feel one, you are one; if you don’t, then you aren’t.

From the Himalayas to the sea, civilisationally, we are ‘One People’; you may call it ‘One Nation’ or you may not. Hindus and Muslims may or may not be one nation; but they are two societies. And these societies consist of many sub-societies. No Constitution can possibly take separate note of all these societies and sub-societies. But a full-blooded democracy, with adult franchise and free elections, can take care of all these societies in proportion to their strength.

The Muslim League made the mistake of thinking that Pakistan will take care of the ‘Muslim nation’. Now they know that ‘Indian Muslims’ are something more than a ‘nation’. Apart from Bangladeshis, they are also Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis and Pathans — and Mohajirs. Also, Shias, Sunnis, Qadianis, Syeds, Khans, Arains and Jats, etc.

Although etymologically Islam means ‘peace’, it spread mostly by the sword. The sword is no doubt important in life. But the Hindu does not concede any role to the sword in matters of religion. As Al Biruni, the great medieval historian, noted a thousand years ago, “At the utmost, Hindus fight with words, but they will never stake their soul or body or property on religious controversy.”

Sufism did tend to soften the militancy of Islam; but the dominant militant character of Islam remained. And so Muslims think in terms of the amir, imam, khalifa, quaids, kafir, fatwa — the jehad and the ghazi. The emphasis was on leadership — preferably of the militant variety — and not on the people.

And so Iqbal regretted that democracy was a system in which “men are counted and not weighed”. Maulana Mohammed Ali once said that “the little learned of the land” were too much of a nuisance; it was much better, he said, in the middle ages, when inconvenient heads were just cut off. Zia said that he had been made chief by Allah and he was answerable only to Allah. He added that Allah had told him in a dream that elections were “un-Islamic”. And that was that.

Jinnah was a big barrister. But he also believed in his own — and only his own — leadership. He not only continued as Muslim League president year after year, after Partition he combined in himself the offices of governor general, commander-in-chief, and president, not only of the Muslim League but also of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. The only Muslim leaders close to the masses, like Fazl-ul-Haq of Bengal and G.M. Syed of Sindh, had to leave the Muslim League in disgust.

We should remember that the Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf take-overs were not the only military interventions in Pakistan. There were nine infructuous attempts at military coups, the first one coming under Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan as early as 1951. The amusing thing is that every time the military overthrows a civilian government, all opposition parties welcome the change.

An important aspect of militant leadership is the premium on successful leadership, on success in life. Badshah Khan said that if a Hindu renounced wealth or office, he commanded greater respect. But if a Muslim did the same, he was viewed as something of a freak.

Once Shaukat Hayat Khan, son of Sir Sikander, Prime Minister of Punjab, called on Jinnah. Jinnah’s advice to him was: “Go and make money. Muslims don’t follow poor leaders like Hasrat Mohani or Zafar Ali. Muslims followed me only when I had collected 50-60 lakh of rupees.”

And since Muslim politics revolves round the rich, the militant and the successful, the people as such do not count for much.

In Hindu society, the people’s urge lies in reform and advancement. Apart from the Congress, the liberals and the revolutionaries, we had the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, Theosophical Society, RSS. In the Muslim society all you had was Deobandis, Barelvis, and Tableeghis. You can’t get any Muslim leader to come out even against such evil practices as polygamy, instant talaq and burqa.

Why is this so? After all, for centuries Islam carried not only the sword but also spread agriculture and industry, science and art, culture and commerce. What has paralysed Muslims the world over, so that not even two out of the 40-odd Muslim countries have a proper democracy? It would seem that the world has changed but Muslims do not know how to respond to the new ideas and institutions of democracy and human rights, capitalism and socialism, secularism and liberalism, science and spirituality.

However, there are some stirrings of ideas in Pakistan. Recently, Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP leader in the erstwhile Pakistan senate, counselled in his book The Indus Saga, that Pakistan is based on the Indus basin; it cannot disown the Vedas written on the banks of the Indus; and Pakistan does not have to disown either Krishna or Indra, as if they will “pollute the Islamic faith”.

And now we have Pakistan’s top Mohajir leader Altaf Hussain saying on TV that every Pakistani should sing Iqbal’s Saare jahan se achha, Hindustan hamara as the ideal.

Even Mao echoed the same feeling. In August 1968, Arshad Hussain, then foreign minister of Pakistan, met Mao in Beijing. Sultan M. Khan, then the Pakistani ambassador in China, reports in his Memories and Reflections that the very first remark of the Chinese leader was: “Tell me what is the difference between you and Indians? You look the same to me. Aren’t you only temporarily separated from the Indians.”

This is not a plea for annulment of Partition. Scrambled eggs cannot be unscrambled. But Indians and Pakistanis are brothers. And brothers can also quarrel and separate. However, they don’t have to keep quarrelling even after separating. It is about time we relaxed, admired the Taj, saluted Ajmer and went back home, happy and content.

This article was published in HindustanTimes with the name 'Wish you were here' Sometimes, I too get the same doubt.. are we soo different from Pakistanis??