You have become the Prime Minister of India. India accepts that as does the world.
I was born in 1932 well before Partition and the creation of Pakistan. I would like to share some history with you. The leading political party then was the Indian National Congress which was led by men of integrity and worth who had spent years in British jails after being attacked by the lathis of the Indian police. The British ruled India by skilfully using their loyal Indian lackeys. They pampered the hundreds of Indian princes who competed with each other to gain favour with the King Emperor, their Lord and Master.
In 1947 Partition came with all the murders and massacres. As a young lad I witnessed the carnage. Who can we blame? The British? The Muslim League? Or the Congress? The guilt lies everywhere. All three agreed to the Partition of India and Pakistan was born as a homeland for those Indian Muslims who wished to live in an Islamic state. India on the other hand chose to be a secular state and that fact was enshrined in the Constitution. Many Muslims chose to remain in India and many of them died in the wars with Pakistan. Let us not forget Brigadier Usman (the first officer of General rank to lay down his life in independent India) and Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid PVC. In recent times President Abdul Kalam was a shining example to all Indians. He was a man of immense integrity who came from a humble background and worked his way up through sheer hard work.
The ‘Divide and Rule’ policy at which the British excelled worked successfully in their favour. The Raj could never have survived for a single week without Indians collaborating with their White Masters. We have a long and miserable history of disunity and backstabbing. As far back as 326 BC Alexander was able to take over the Punjab because of disunity between neighbouring kingdoms leading to treacherous betrayals.
Historians who are now busy rewriting history harp on religious wars and thus tend to cloud the real issues. Invaders invade, and if they had to do so mowed down their co-religionists. In several battles there were Hindus and Muslims in both the opposing armies. Those who view the history of the subcontinent in terms of Hindu-Muslim conflict are misinformed, blinkered and prejudiced. The Muslim Mughals did not take the throne of Delhi from the Hindus. They wrested it in 1526 from the Lodis who were fellow Muslims.
Much earlier, in 1191, the Rajputs under Prithviraj Chauhan defeated Muhammad Ghuri at Tarain. But the next year the Ghurids returned with a larger army. Prithviraj urgently appealed to the other Rajput kings; but mainly because of the intrigues of Raja Jaichandra of Kanauj, the support was feeble. The heroic Prithviraj, the last Hindu king of Delhi, was put to death and thereafter for well over 650 years Muslims of various nationalities occupied the throne of Delhi.
By the mid-18th century the Mughal empire was disintegrating. The predominant power was the British East India Company (known as the ‘Company Bahadur’), the Rajput states were in decline but the Marathas were ascending. However, the leaders of the Maratha Confederacy were the Brahmin Peshwas of Poona (Pune). The title ‘Peshwa’ is in fact of Persian origin and means prime minister or chief executive.
On June 23, 1757 the historic Battle of Plassey was fought. Robert Clive had bribed Mir Jafar, the relative and general of the Nawab of Bengal (Siraj-ud-Dowlah) to switch sides. The Nawab was killed and Mir Jafar became the Nawab of Bengal. Now started the real rape of Bengal, the richest province of India. Macaulay, much later perhaps in a confessional mood wrote: “Thirty million human beings were reduced to the last extremity of wretchedness. They were accustomed to live under tyranny, but never tyranny like this.”
The Mughal Empire depended on the Marathas who boasted that their power extended from Attock to Cuttack and from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari. They believed that they were invincible but Nadir Shah of Persia took advantage of the chaos. In 1739 he defeated the pleasure-loving emperor Muhammad Shah and proceeded to loot Delhi. After putting 30,000 men, women and children to the sword he carried away vast treasure including Shah Jehan’s Peacock Throne and the Koh-e-Noor diamond.
After Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali made himself king of Afghanistan and is famous for his frequent pillaging of India. A vast army under Sadashiv Rao Bhao, the Peshwa’s cousin, was therefore despatched to north India to destroy Abdali. But the Marathas were on their own. The Hindu rajas of the north, the Sikhs, and the Rajputs who had suffered at the hands of the Marathas, refused to help Bhao as did Shuja-ud-Doulah of Avadh. On January 14, 1761, in an almost suicidal act of desperation, 13,000 Marathas took their ceremonial baths in freezing water, said their prayers, armed themselves, and mounting their horses charged the enemy chanting their battle cry Har, Har, Mahadev! The Afghan cannon crews had a field day and Abdali must have thanked Allah for delivering the enemy to him in neatly packed phalanxes. The Maratha cavalry nearly broke through, but the Afghans held the line and counter attacked furiously.
Most of the Maratha nobility including Bhao and the Peshwa’s son, Vishwas Rao, were slain. The Peshwa’s artillery commander, Ibrahim Khan Gardi, a Muslim, who had displayed conspicuous gallantry, was tortured and killed. Scindia of Gwalior survived only because he fled the field after he was wounded. In Poona the Peshwa died of grief. Abdali had shattered India and left it divided ready for the British to move in.
Ek Bharat — Shresht Bharat (‘One India — Supreme India’) is a fine slogan. But sooner said than done. Impartial observers see disunity, disharmony, the rise of religious and caste intolerance, and an increase in corruption and fascist practices. Even Union Minister M.V. Naidu has accepted that this is so. You, Modi-ji, are the Prime Minister of the entire country. It is up to you to lead all sections and classes of your multi-mosaic country.
You were Chief Minister of Gujarat State. Now you are the Prime Minister of India. You are now in an entirely different mode. Being Chief Minister of Gujarat State was one cup of tea. But being Prime Minister of India, a multi-ethnic, multi- linguistic and multi-belief subcontinent, is quite another cup of tea.
Reginald Massey has been writing a regular Book Page for CONFLUENCE for years. His poetry and prose on a variety of subjects have been widely published. Most of his books are available from Amazon UK.