Independence Day Greetings for India

Posted on August 15, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, History, People, Photo of the Day
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Adil Najam

Today is August 15.
India’s Independence Day

ATP sends all Indians sincere and heartfelt Independence Day greetings and the very best wishes.

On this day I want to share with you some thoughts, and also these two pictures (below) of the Quaid-i-Azam and Gandhi ji together. These are amongst my all-time favorite pictures of two people for each of whom I have the utmost respect. (I know, some of you are surprised. Read on… and, also, the ‘you’ and ‘we’ is all readers – Pakistanis and Indians – but especially Pakistanis because most ATP readers are from Pakistan.)

On the question of partition, I agree wholeheartedly with the stand that one took and disagree with the other. It matters little what I believe on this question, and what I believe today in 2006, 59 years after the fact, matters even less becasue it is now irrelevant to the course that history has taken. But if they were here today to read this, I am very sure that both would understand. And that is exactly what this is about: Understanding.

The reason these pictures are so important to me is that here are two people who disagreed on the India-Pakistan question as much as any two people possibly could, and at the deepest levels. And, yet, here they are; able to stand together and genuinely smile. Disagree, but smile. And ultimately to accept the course that history took; a course, mind you, that neither was particularly happy with. If they could, then why can’t we?

As a Pakistani I am in debt of Mr. Gandhi for the stand he took in trying to halt the horrible carnage that followed partition. Paying the ultimate price for that stand. My understanding is that the very first time ever that the Pakistan flag officially flew at half-mast was at Gandhi ji’s death. All government offices in Paksitan were closed in mourning of Mr. Gandhi’s death.

Mr. Gandhi probably disliked the idea of Pakistan more than any other Indian political leader; because he could not bear seeing his beloved India divided. On that bit, I disagree with him. But, once the deed was done he also recognized that the death and violence which followed was too high a price to pay for that disagreement. So much so that he was willing to put his own life on the line and go on hunger strike to stop the carnage. For that alone, I will always respect and admire him.

As did Mr. Jinnah. Here is the uncharacteristically (for Jinnah) emotional message of condolence he sent:

“I am shocked to learn of the most dastardly attack on the life of Mr. Gandhi, resulting in his death. There can be no controversy in the face of death. Whatever our political differences, he was one of the greatest men produced by the Hindu community, and a leader who commanded their universal confidence and respect. I wish to express my deep sorrow, and sincerely sympathize with the great Hindu community and his family in their bereavement at this momentous, historical and critical juncture so soon after the birth of freedom and freedom for Hindustan and Pakistan. The loss to the Dominion of India is irreparable, and it will be very difficult to fill the vacuum created by the passing away of such a great man at this moment.”

The language he uses is the language of his time, but the grief in unmistakable; as is, I believe, the respect Jinnah had for his long-time adversary. They came to very different conclusions about how to get there, but both wanted a future which did not have constant tension, conflict and distrust. Once Pakistan was created, Mr. Jinnah’s energy and focus was on Pakistan, not India. I have already written recently about Mr. Jinnah’s vision (here) so I will not repeat it. But note that it is Pakistan-centric, not India-focussed. But let me invite you also to revisit the video footage from 1947 that I had posted earlier (here) and also the analysis Bhupinder had done in comparing the first speeches of Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Nehru to their respective countries (here).

I know that I have probably challenged, and violated, the real and constructed sense of histories that the followers of these great men have on either side of the border. If so, I apologize. I could be wrong. I do not wish to rewrite history. They had very real, and very deep, and very profound, and ultimately irreconcilable differences. That we know. But that, exactly, is my point. If, despite those great differences they could come out eventually to accept history as it happened – even when they did not like it (Gandhi, because India was divided; Jinnah, because it was not divided right and gave him a ‘moth-eaten’ Pakistan) … and if they could work towards a vision, each in his own ways, of a future for their people that was stable, secure and without conflict; then why can’t we? If they, who were in the midst of that political moment could actually get past the moment and see larger realities, ever greater priorities of their own people, why can’t we? Of this one thing I am certain, especially on this day, they would have wished us to.

Finally, I know I have probably enflamed the passions of ‘super-patriots’ on both sides of the border. (Even though, for some, these passions seem to be always enraged.) I know that many of you are itching to educate me in all the ways that I am wrong. On how one of these two men was the hero and the other not. I suspect that for some readers (guess which ones!) I am being ‘too Pakistani’; for others (guess again!) ‘not Pakistani enough.’

For all of you, I have only one request. Just for today, please, hold those passions back.

When I was small, my grandmother told me that just as one does not speak ill of the dead at their funeral, one also does not go to someone’s celebrations to rant on them. It is not a South Asian thing to do. That is not our heritage. We are – all of us – a hospitable people, a decent people, a loving people. At least that is what we tell ourselves. So, just for today, let us try to prove it to.

Tomorrow, you can start sending me your hate emails with all those gaalis that I cannot even understand. Today, join me all – Pakistanis and Indians – in wishing India and her people a happy Independence Day and a prosperous future.

42 responses to “Independence Day Greetings for India”

  1. Amit says:

    Happy independence day Pakistan and India..

    Wish you all the prosperity and glory.Thanks.

  2. Hassan says:

    Although, i have been fighting for the independence of my motherland, Kashmir, i must say that Gandhi ji was a great leader and a nice soul in our subcontinent. Also, our peace and ritght to live has been snatched and we are being killed without any discrimination in our homeland, i wish to congratulate to pakistani and Indian people on the occasion of the anniversaries of their indepence day.

    All the best
    Hassan, Srinagar kashmir.

  3. Bijral says:

    Thank you so much for these sincere and heartfelt thoughts. I pray all of us on both sides will think like this.

  4. […] Mohamed Ali Jinnah, it seems, was not a “real freedom fighter” and he did “nothing for Islam.” (On Jinnah, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). So says the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). And by what logic does Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his party come to this conclusion? According to the party spokesman: ““Jinnah was not imprisoned during the independence struggle. That is why he did nothing worth remembering.â€

  5. Dear freinds,

    ATP will close comments on this post now. I am very happy to say that this is not becasue the comments being receieved on this are inappropriate. Far from it, my faith in dialogue has been greatly enhanced by the civility and understadning that is evident in the comments on this post.

    Given the intent and occasion of the original post, it is best to close comments on that positive note before trolls try to wreck the memory of this very positive experience (for me). I just wish to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion, and apologize to those who I might have inadvertently offended. The discussion, of course, continues elsewhere on this blog and on the wider WWW, and I hope that you will all continue visiting and interacting

    Adil Najam

    P.S. By way of disclosure, let me say that three (but, surprisingly, only three) comments were blocked from this discussion. Two becasue the system identified the messages as being from known trolls posting repeated messages under assumed, multiple and contradictory identities; one of these becasue it merely spewed abusive language and nothing else; and a third becasue it was purposefully inflammatory.

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