A Discussion on Ambedkar’s Own Introduction to ‘Pakistan or The Partition of India’

I do not understand why ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ is now marketed as ‘Pakistan or The Partition of India’. Does it have to do with the controversy it generated in the tumultuous decade of its publication? It was first published in the early 1940s after the Muslim League Resolution had called for the creation of Pakistan, and caused quite a storm in the political circles. ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ was a forceful analysis on all aspects related to the burning question, in which Dr. Ambedkar put forth his views as an ‘open mind’, rather an ‘empty one’. This was his way of saying that although he had come around to a particular viewpoint by then, he was open to discussions, and had presented all sides of the argument with painstaking discipline.

The work is leaden with such demonstrative scholarship and brilliance that even the Introduction deserves a separate appreciation blog (hence the effort). Even this brief write-up would clear many false notions of vanity and dispel doubts regarding the Forties.  The good Doctor noted how many people were staggered by the demand of Pakistan itself, sundry others felt rightful indignation, many accused the Muslim mind for being separatist and insecure, some saw British design behind these demands, yet few were logical enough to see the partition as inevitable, and hoped that the process was completed well before the Constitutions for the one, two or multiple nations that were sought to be created.

Ambedkar took potshots at those who treated the demand as a trifle and sought to destroy it by shooting similes and metaphors into it. The good Doctor clearly saw that the demand for Pakistan was not the result of mere political distemper, and would not pass away with the efflux of time. He realized that the Muslim body politic had developed the idea of Pakistan in the same way as an organism developed characteristics, and whether it survived in the process of natural selection would depend upon the forces that might become operative in the struggle of existence between Hindus and Muslims. In other words, the very nature of democracy was such that the minority Muslims were bound to be reluctant to place their destinies in the hands of the Hindu majority, especially given the bloody excesses that the Muslims had perpetrated upon the hapless Hindus in the preceding millennium.

In the Introduction, Ambedkar allows his prose to break the shackles of discipline and lets it flow unabashedly. “Those who believe it (demand of Pakistan) can be smashed by shooting into it similes should remember that nonsense does not cease to  be nonsense because it is put in rhyme, and that a metaphor is no argument though it be sometimes the gunpowder to drive one home and imbed it in memory.” He had no patience for the illogical, the dramatic and the hysterical, but only for the informed statesmanship that awaited the leadership of the then Undivided India.

Babasaheb specifically pointed out that it would neither be wise nor possible to summarily reject a scheme which had behind it the sentiment, if not the passionate support, of 90 p.c. Muslims of India. He had no doubt that Muslims won’t back down from the demand and that the British would insist upon some kind of settlement before devolution actually materialized. The wise Doctor did not see how the British could deprive the Muslims of the benefit of the principle of self-determination. Ambedkar also unequivocally stated his own view-  that the right of nationalism to freedom from foreign imperialism, and the right of a minority to freedom from an aggressive majority’s nationalism were not two different things, and neither was more sacred than the other. Hence the creation of Pakistan was as inevitable, as India’s future independence, as per him.

For this reason Doctor Saheb wanted Hindus and Muslims to decide the matter between themselves, and before the plans for a new Constitution were drawn and its foundations were laid. As per him, the essence of Pakistan was the opposition to the establishment of one Central Government having supremacy over the whole of India. He was certain of the revival of demand at the first opportunity, even if it were forcibly buried for a short time, by hook or by crook. The Muslim fear of the Hindu majority was too great to be mollified in the long run. Ambedkar wanted an early resolution to the question because re-opening the question of Indian Union after the drafting or promulgation of new Constitution might open floodgates. He saw differences in race, tradition and language between the Hindu provinces and their mutual conflicts in the past, as well as high cost of maintaining Central Government (which only bestows peace, and brings no material progress to people) as dangers to future adherence to unity should the question of secession open up in the future. Close the Pandora’s box, now by deciding upon Pakistan, and embark on the Constitutional progress with clarity and finality, was his thrust.

Babasaheb quoted Burke to point towards futility of coercion being applied upon the Muslims to keep the sub-continent united. “ The use of force alone is temporary. It may endure a moment but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered. The next objection to force is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force, and armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed you are without resource; for conciliation failing, force remains; but force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left.”

The author considered this book quite ‘seasonable’ for he felt that general understanding on such a pressing issue was quite low, and there was not much material to fall back upon. He was not overly concerned with the ‘readability’ of the book, although he conceded that it was the first duty of any author to write agreeably, since reading was not a duty and nobody was under any obligation to read any other man’s book. The Doctor declared at the outset that his material for the book was good (well-researched), and that the author had exhibited no partnership. His avowed aim was only to expound upon the scheme of Pakistan in all its aspects, and not to advocate it.  The reader was expected to focus his thoughts on the tremendous question – Which is to be, Pakistan or no Pakistan?

Ambedkar ignored the Congress’ claims of being a representative of both Hindus and Muslims, or for any Muslim inclination towards national unity. He resisted the temptation to lazily blame the British, for it was basically a question of self-determination. Babasaheb’s meticulous scholarship, even-handedness and famed ability to detach himself from any question, while analyzing it legally, is on fine display, which is what makes ‘Pakistan or The Partition of India’ a compulsive reading.


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#Pakistanorthepartitionofindia #Partition #Imperialism #constitution #introduction

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