The Prime Minister of India has declared that 14 August will be commemorated as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. It is a dedicated effort to remember the losses India has suffered in the violence followed by the declaration of the Partition of India in 1947. While it is important to remember the loss of lives, more imperative is to analyse the reasons behind the Partition. We, as a nation, need to introspect the foundations of divisive politics which had once partitioned our motherland and still threatens our national security.
75 Years of Freedom
Europe since the conclusion of the Second World War (WWII) has tried to create cooperation among its member states at different levels of understanding. This cooperation is what we know as ‘European Union’. It must be remembered that the member states of the EU were the nations which colonised almost the whole globe during the 18th, 19th & 20th century. These very nations led by England created empires where ‘The Blood Never Dried’ for almost three centuries. After WWII, it became difficult to directly control these colonies in Asia, Africa and elsewhere and thus we witnessed, after 1946, gradual decolonisation of the former colonies. Most of the former colonies were able to win their freedoms in the next two decades.
Colonisers left the colonies but they never wanted to shun their control over these areas. They knew that even if they did not control these regions directly, they could dominate their economies and politics by keeping them weak. This is where colonial powers used the time tested ‘Divide et impera’ (Divide and Rule) policy. The colonisers before leaving Asia divided into small unnatural nations, which would remain at perpetual war with each other.
Was it surprising? No. In fact, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose prophesied this development at least a decade before in 1938. At Haripura, Netaji said,
“It is a well-known truism that every empire is based on the policy of divide and rule. But I doubt if any empire in the world has practised this policy so skilfully, systematically and ruthlessly as Great Britain. In accordance with this policy, before power was handed over to the Irish people, Ulster was separated from the rest of Ireland. Similarly, before any power is handed over to the Palestinians, the Jews will be separated from the Arabs. An internal partition is necessary in order to neutralise the transference of power. The same principle of partition appears in a different form in the new Indian Constitution. Here we find an attempt to separate the different communities and put them into water-tight compartments. And in the Federal scheme there is juxtaposition of autocratic Princes and democratically elected representatives from British India. If the new Constitution is finally rejected, whether owing to the opposition of British India or owing to the refusal of the Princes to joining it, I have no doubt that British ingenuity will seek some other constitutional device for partitioning India and thereby neutralising the transference of power to the Indian people.”
The fact that the English were controlling India by dividing its people into religious groups, castes, races and linguistic groups was well understood by the Indian revolutionaries. When General Friedrich Von Bernhardi wrote Germany and the Next War in 1911, it became a compulsory reading among Indian revolutionaries. The book went through seven reprints within three years of its first edition and inspired Ghadar Revolutionaries, People’s Movements, Socialists and Pan-Islamists alike.
Bernhardi argued that England was reigning over Asia by dividing Turkish people and Indian people into small groups. He wrote, “in India, where some seventy millions of Moslems live under the English rule. England, so far, in accordance with the principle of divide et impera, has attempted to play off the Mohammedan against the Hindu population. But now that a pronounced revolutionary and nationalist tendency shows itself among these latter, the danger is imminent that Pan-Islamism, thoroughly roused, should unite with the revolutionary elements of Bengal. The co-operation of these elements might create a very grave danger, capable of shaking the foundations of England's high position in the world.”
It doesn’t take a rocket science to understand that why Ghadar Party, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Ubaidullah Sindhi, Barkatullah, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Raja Mahendra Paratap and other revolutionaries exposed to European writings stressed on Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity more than any other aspect.
‘Divide et impera’ was a well defined foundation of European politics. In the 18th century, famous philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the policy as - “if there are certain privileged persons, holding authority among the people, who have merely chosen you for their sovereign as primus inter pares, bring about a quarrel among them, and make mischief between them and the people. Now back up the people with a dazzling promise of greater freedom; everything will now depend unconditionally on your will.” The idea was simple. Make people fight among themselves and then act as a juror. All the warring groups will fight among themselves and the juror will be held in high esteem.
Dr. Ilia Xypolia of University of Aberdeen, UK, in her influential paper, Divide et Impera: Vertical and horizontal dimensions of British imperialism, argues that “the British Empire deliberately introduced a ‘divide and rule’ structure in order to gain an advantage in existing or emerging hostilities between the local communities”. She argues that first the British Empire created divisions among Indians and then within these divisions created an elite class to control the masses.
Xypolia writes, “British rulers adopted the ‘divide and rule’ policy allied to territorial separation through segregation and partition. The imperial governments divided populations into distinct groups on the basis of linguistics, religion, ethnicity and race.” She further points out, “The British government deliberately set up a ‘divide and rule’ structure in order to take advantage of the existing and emerging hostilities between the communities of the native population. The collaboration of the local native elites gave another dimension to the ‘divide and rule’ policies – a horizontal one. Therefore, the ‘divide and rule’ policy can be applied in two different ways. The first is where the foreign ruler divides the local population vertically, separating it into distinct communities, usually along religious, racial or linguistic lines. The second has a horizontal dimension because it occurs when the foreign rule divides the whole population or one community along class lines, thus separating the elites from the masses. The foreign ruler often divides a community or the whole population into a collaborating ruling elite and a resisting mass. The two different methods usually operate in a complementary manner.”
What Xypolia studied was a well known fact to the Indian Revolutionaries like Netaji, Ubaidullah Sindhi and others. They were telling people that the British in order to weaken us would try to divide our motherland before leaving. Faqir of Ipi, an important ally of Netaji from Waziristan, kept calling Pakistan a part of the British Empire even after 1947.
It was an understanding of European political thinkers that their hegemony over Asian civilizations like India, China, Arab, and Japan could sustain only if they were divided into small warring groups. Netaji understood this that was why he formed a Government of Undivided India in 1943. Today, our motherland has been divided into several pieces. Our land and people are divided. Since 1937, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been taken away from our country and our power has been reduced.
When Europe after WWII could try to build a confederation of cooperation (EU), why we cannot think of bringing our old regions back into a Union of Cooperation. This will again restore the glory of our motherland as ‘Golden Bird’. An Undivided India was the country for which Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose fought, Bhagat Singh laid down his life and thousands embraced martyrdom.