Saturday, 5 August 2017

South Asian writers reflecting on Partition

For Pankaj Mishra-
To think about partition on its 70th anniversary is to think, unavoidably, about the extraordinary crisis in India today.
Ethnic cleansing killed or displaced tens of millions during Partition. There is no ethnic cleansing- even of Hindus in the Kashmir valley- today. Yet it is unavoidable for Mishra to link the two together. Why? Because he is stupid and has nothing new to say.

Salman Rushdie, expresses pessimism about India's future because
In the land of the sacred cow, people are being lynched for the “crime” of allegedly possessing or eating beef.
It doesn't occur to him that it would only be in a country where the cow is sacred that a beef eater would be in danger of lynching. I might well be lynched if I am suspected of having stolen and eaten a baby in any country where a baby's life is considered sacred. In order to safely chow down on little children, I would need to move to a country where the national dish is fricasseed toddler.

Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani, writes
There was never a reckoning for the violence of partition; that would have got in the way of the narrative of a glorious independence. Instead it became easier to blame the other side for all the violence, and pretend that at the moment of inception both India and Pakistan didn’t wrap mass murder in a flag and hope no one would notice the blood stains.
The Indian National Congress opposed Partition. Its leadership did not instigate or condone ethnic cleansing. The Muslim League did instigate and condone ethnic cleansing to gain power. They never held elections to legitimise what they had done. All the blame goes to Pakistan which has wrapped mass murder in an Islamic flag. None attaches to India.

Mohsin Hamid, also Pakistani, writes-
 India is descending into an intolerant Hindu nationalism, apparently intent on imitating the religious chauvinism and suppression of dissent that have served Pakistan so poorly. In Pakistan, a moment where it seemed that the press might finally become free and elected civilian rulers might regularly complete their terms has passed.
 Does he really believe anyone can have the intention of imitating Pakistan? It didn't institute legislative checks and balances at inception and its judiciary was initially inclined to endorse a 'doctrine of necessity'. That does seem to have changed- the Pakistani Supreme Court showed extraordinary courage in confronting a Military Dictator. However, the Pakistani Press enjoys little protection from the ISI and its minions. Hamid, as a Muslim, is perfectly within his rights to detest Hindu nationalism. However, he must know he is deluding himself if he thinks anyone wants to emulate Pakistan.

Kiran Desai, too, has something to say. Unfortunately, this is the deeply self aggrandising way in which she commences her piece-
Every Saturday I suffer from a depression I call my Saturday depression. The main symptom of this is that when I look in the mirror I don’t see myself, I see a ghost. The sight of this ghost fills me with fear. I know this spectre is merely the cumulative result of one more week in one more year of many years of self-imposed isolation for the sake of a book I have been working on a long while.
I read no further.

In less precious vein, Siddharta Deb writes

How difficult was it, I thought when hearing my family talk about leaving Baniachang, for them to choose one kind of identity over another, in this case religion over language and culture?
Did his family really give up their Bangla language and culture in Shillong? Are they now fluent in Khasi? Have they converted to Christianity- the majority Religion in that city? No.

Deb tells us his family had a choice. They did- stay and get slaughtered or run away. They chose the wiser course.

Why did Deb's family have to run away from Sylhet? This is his answer-
The British and Indian elites making their new nations – men exemplified by the British viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, the future Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his hardline Hindu nationalist deputy, Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian industrialist and Gandhi patron GD Birla – were all in a hurry to force the process through.
Wow! Land hungry Muslim peasants did not kill Hindus. What happened was Birla bribed Patel and Mountbatten whose wife kept raping Nehru till he said 'enough already! Just Partition everything and leave me alone!'

There was no such thing as Suhraward's 'Direct Action Day' which happened before Mountbatten arrived. There was no Pirzada in Naokhali orchestrating ethnic cleaning. It was all the fault of some Hindu billionaire and some Hindu politicians and, of course, Queen Mountbatten.

Is Deb mad? He writes-
Seventy years after Partition, Toba Tek Singh’s defiant madness evokes freedom better than anything achieved by the supposedly rational nations that came out of that bloody process.
Judging by their pensées on Partition, collected by the Guardian here, South Asian writers in English are genuinely committed to outdoing Toba Tek Singh's Gramscian deconstruction of the nomological contradictions of neoliberal hegemonic practice under conditions of Capitalist catachresis.
To wit- 'Opad di gud gud di moong di dal di laltain'. Can South Asian writers- at least those who write in English- ever utter anything as sensible? No. Not if they want to get published or get quoted by the Guardian. Still, they continue to try. How else end the tyranny of Modi's genocidal regime?

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