Thursday, October 6, 2022

Wasted resources of South Asia

Pakistan and India, the two South Asian nations and the brainchildren of the igneous two-nation theory leading to the infamous partition of India, will be celebrating their 75th Independence Day anniversary this August 14 and 15 respectively. Bangladesh, the third nation to be born in Modern South Asia under the same socio-political process and turmoil that had started after the partition of India in 1947, had already celebrated its 50th Independence Day anniversary last December. The past 75 years should be glorious years for South Asia and the people of this great region sharing common history and culture and shaping their common destiny together albeit with differences in terms of religious beliefs, not forgetting the fact that the region is blessed with an abundance of natural and human resources and social capital that has the potential of making the region as one of the political and economic powerhouses in the world.
But reading the post-colonial history of South Asia will leave us with a sense of irreparable loss, grief, despair and anger as the mismanagement of history by leaders of the region had permanently spoiled the beautiful socio-political landscape of South Asia. The communal religious politics that had overtaken the politics of South Asia towards the end of the colonial rule had suddenly pitted one religious community against another leading to the creation of the feeling of hatred, fear and suspicions among the different religious communities of the region. The result of this communal-religious politics turned out to be disastrous as people of the region began to see the idea of India through the lens of religion and resulting in the demand for a separate nation for different religious communities.
The atmosphere surrounding the whole of India/South Asia at the time of partition/independence was best described by LK Advani, a Karachi-born India’s leading politician and statesman, who was forced to leave his beloved homeland, Sindh, and seek refuge in Delhi in September 1947: “Instead of the joy of freedom from the British rule, there were shrieks of communal killings and frantic migration of panicked families, hundreds of thousands of them, in both directions… Partition riots resulted in the slaughter of nearly one million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims on both sides of the hurriedly drawn borders” (LK Advani. My Country, My Life. Rupa and Co., New Delhi, 2008).
The fate that befell LK Advani in 1947 was the epitome of the story of millions of Indians in an undivided India who were all tragically uprooted from their native place and had to seek a place in an unknown world as a result of the partition of India. The world’s worst population displacement in history followed along with the outbreak of the worst communal riots and violence in the modern history of South Asia that claimed millions of lives. For millions of innocent and ordinary Indians, the gory incident that had happened in the subcontinent in 1947 which was otherwise should be known in history as the attainment of freedom from foreign rule, was not a cause for joy and celebration, but a moment of fear, tension and uncertainty. As India and Pakistan evolved into two separate nations from the ashes of this partition’s tragedy, this calamity that befell the region in 1947 continued to haunt the life of the two nations, later three with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, to this day.
As a student of history and going through different social and political dynamics confronting Modern South Asia, I am still convinced that the 1947 Partition of India was not something unavoidable. Today Pakistan and Bangladesh may be Muslim-majority countries and India may be a Hindu-majority country. But before 1947 the Muslims and Hindus belonging to these three nations coexisted together in perfect harmony. In the whole of South Asia, there may be some areas where certain religious communities were the majority and some were a minority but there were never such official designated areas meant for either Muslims or Hindus as well as for other religious communities. And there was never a period in the history of the last millennia of South Asia where different religious communities were not in a position to live together. It was only during the period leading to 1947 when a few leaders of different religious communities started defining the nation in terms of religion that the concept of Hindu Rashtra and demand for a separate homeland for Muslims unfortunately emerged that permanently sowed the seed of enmity between different religious communities in the region.
Despite causing turmoil in the region after 1947, however, over the last two centuries South Asia together had achieved a unique distinction of producing some of the finest human beings the world had ever known: humanists, statesmen, economists, scientists, philosophers and social leaders that were produced in the region in the last two centuries were among the finest and most revered from the world around. Unfortunately, these plethoras of human talents found in the region could not be utilized for the common good of South Asia: Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah did not live long enough to see his dream nation and died in 1948, Liaquat Ali Khan, the first premier of Pakistan was assassinated in 1951, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding president of Bangladesh, was assassinated in 1975, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, Indira Gandhi was killed by her own bodyguards in 1984, Gen. Zia ul-Haq was killed in an air crash in 1988, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. These departed South Asian leaders may have their own share of wrongdoings but their act of transgressions was committed while handling the crisis and issues that were not their making. By and large, they were the victims of the tragic South Asian crisis that was caused directly or indirectly by the wounds of the Partition of 1947. Had these leaders worked together in an atmosphere of peaceful South Asia, instead of being entangled themselves within the web of the region’s crisis, how powerful and prosperous region they would have created.
Just imagine that the three South Asian nations – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are one unified country today. It would be the world’s largest country in terms of population (Remember human resource is the best and most valuable resource in the world). And along with the abundance of natural resources in the region blessed by Providence, the brain of billions of talented South Asians would be used to make the region as one of the largest, most powerful, richest and vibrant regions/nations in the world. This entire great South Asian prospect was tragically shattered by the dirty partition’s politics, dividing and ruining the whole region.
Nevertheless, going by the historical trend of the region, South Asia as a whole is still capable of producing many more human talents that can lead the region towards resolving all the past 70 years’ man-made crisis and take the region on the path of peace, progress and prosperity.
The wound of partition may have continued to afflict the region, but if the people and leaders of the region can muster enough courage to put history behind them, unite together and settle their differences then many opportunities too still await the region. Can the people of this great India’s subcontinent put their past bitterness behind and instead embrace the wonderful promises that are offered by the region for reshaping the common glorious South Asian destiny?
Dr. Nsungbemo Ezung, GHS Colony,Wokha Town