The people of Indus

The People of Indus

23 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST, Tarun Vijay

Perverz Musharraf came to India and went back with bouquets, but not before he had collected a few inconvenient questions he couldn’t answer, thanks
to a brave Kashmiri Hindu lady. She asked him at a conclave why it had not been possible for her to go back to her home in Srinagar? He fumbled and looked funny.

Now, this question needs an Indian reply too.

There are five lakh of them. Even if there was just one, the Indian state was supposed to be as active as it was to reserve seats for Muslims in educational institutions and earmark Rs 3,780 crore for a multi-sectoral development plan for each of the 90 minority-concentration districts.

Jammu & Kashmir, an Indian state, under the secular dispensation is fast getting Islamized through state apparatus. More than 172 temples have been razed and Hindu properties have been illegally taken over by neighbours. After a gruesome pogrom and forced exodus of Hindus, villages and towns are being given Islamic names. Now, a bill has been introduced in the J&K assembly by the PDP MLA Peerzada Manzoor Hussain proposing to change the name of the historic Anantnag town to Islamabad. Local Muslim leaders are already using it and even in some state government press releases Islamabad is used in place of Anantnag.

There is a conscious attempt to erode Indian presence in Kashmir. Few would know that officers of the Indian Administrative Service and even those belonging to the Indian Police Service are seldom given charge of a district. They are at best kept at the secretariat for file work. The reason is, politicians decided that the local administration must remain under local Kashmiri Muslims.

But none in Delhi is perturbed by it.

Why is the Indian state in no hurry to create an atmosphere that allows a Hindu lady to return to her home?

Why this hatred for Hindus among people who belong to the same race and have a shared ancestry?

If the jihad in Kashmir is the creation of Pakistan, Pakistan is the creation of a precipitated hatred for Hindus.

Sixty-two years ago there was no Pakistan. The people of this part of the world were known as Indians. And one of the Indians said in March 1881, “No Mohammedan can say that the English are not ‘people of the Book’. No Mohammedan can deny this: that God has said that no people of other religions can be friends of Mohammedans except the Christians. He who had read the Koran and believes it can know that our nation cannot expect friendship and affection from any other people. (‘Thou shalt surely find the most violent of all men in enmity against the true believers to be the Jews and the idolaters: and thou shalt surely find those among them to be the most inclinable to entertain friendship for the true believers, who say we are Christians’. Koran, Chap. V.)

“Now God has made them rulers over us. Therefore we should cultivate friendship with them, and should adopt that method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India, and may not pass into the hands of the Bengalis. This is our true friendship with our Christian rulers, and we should not join those people who wish to see us thrown into a ditch. If we join the political movement of the Bengalis our nation will reap loss, for we do not want to become subjects of the Hindus instead of the subjects of the people of the Book.” (Great Speeches of Modern India. Pp 30-31)

The man who spoke these words was Syed Ahmad Khan, whom the British knighted. He is better known as the founder of Aligarh Muslim University. As vote bank politics gains in strength, he may one day get Bharat Ratna.

It’s another matter that his speech didn’t see even a hundred years of British consolidation and while 1947 saw a separate country carved out of Hindustan on religious lines, 1971 witnessed the superiority of culture over religion as the sole binding force with Bangladesh emerging on the map, dissociating with its Islamic other half and getting freedom on cultural lines that reflected more the colours of a Hindu India.

And the Muslim world revolted against the Christendom, whom Sir Syed had so affectionately called the people of the Book, and Osama bin Laden became famous for organizing terror attacks on the United States and Britain. If Sir Syed quoted the Koran to advocate the continuation of the British rule in India, Osama’s people quote the same holy book to bomb the US and India.

Breaking all such divisive barriers a Pakistani scholar-politician Aitzaz Ahsan has come out with his thesis of the “Indus people”. He refuses to accept that Islam is Arabization and says Pakistan can’t have an Arab or central Asian identity. The only identity that befits Pakistan is an Indus identity. So he names the entire region of the present-day Pakistan as Indus.

He says, “The Pakistani may not be an Indian, but neither is he an Arab, a Persian or a Central Asian. The commonality of religion with the Arabs, Persians and Central Asians is obvious, but commonality of religion makes the Pakistani neither Arab nor Persian nor Central Asian. On the reverse side of the same coin his so-called ‘un-Indianness’ cannot make anyone oblivious to the several aspects in which the Indians and Pakistanis share a common history, culture, language and racial stock. As I journeyed into the distant past, it dawned upon me that ‘Pakistan’ had existed for almost five and a half of the last six thousand years. Indus had seldom been a part of India. (Preface)

‘Indus (Pakistan) has a rich and glorious cultural heritage of its own. This is a distinct heritage, of a distinct and separate nation. If the Pakistani were really reassured of this he would be confident that there is no fear of any other country devouring or destroying his state. And he would thus come out of the present-day ‘bunker-mentality’. (Pp- 11)

Does Aitzaz represent the reverse of Sir Syed?

Can he make the people of Pakistan think what makes them so hateful towards India? I just read a review of the book “Stranger to History” by Atish Taseer, and he is quoted as being wounded by reflexive anti-Indianism, which he encounters widely in Pakistan, and particularly among the young. He laments the rejection he finds everywhere of a pluralist subcontinental past, and is dismayed by the growing spread of a narrow version of Islam.

Shouldn’t someone in Pakistan and in parts of India where Islamic jihad against Hindus is getting support be thinking what creates this acid?

Without getting into addressing some of the notions in Aitzaz’s book that are not correct, I must say let’s build bridges on the Indus theory. If a Pakistani feels so great about his heritage and ancestry, it must be taken forward and shouldn’t be wasted. That may make Pakistanis and Indian Kashmiri politicians understand that Hindus and Muslims of this region are both Indus people. Insulting Hindus or driving them out of their territory means insulting the common heritage, ancestry and blood. After all, three generations ago Sheikh Abdullah’s family were Kauls.

An Indus region, comprising the present Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and bound with cultural threads and a commonality of ancestry alone can remove distrust and animosity. This Indus region will be the strongest bulwark against a unipolar world order and will be so self-reliant and powerful that it will work as a great force of peace and harmony. Bloodshed that we see in Talibanism and Kashmiri jihad begins with distrust, alienation and hate. Cultural affinities remove such potholes. Basant celebrations, songs, language, marriage customs, caste affinities, ancestry, geography, history, everything is already there. Remember that Prophet Muhammad converted people in Arabia to Islam but never asked them to change their names or costumes. Parvez, Omar, Rustam, Usman, Ali are all pre-Islamic names drawn from Persia. So why should Islamists insist on Arabic names for the those converted from this region? A Muslim with a Sanskrit name, adhering to the Islamic path must also be allowed to enter heaven as much as one bearing an Arabic name.

Islam has seldom been a uniting force between countries that profess the faith as a state policy. No two Islamic countries are friends or have ever helped each other in times of crises. Pakistan-Afghanistan, Afghanistan-Iran, Iran-Iraq, the list goes on. On the other hand, culture unites across borders.

Let Indus magic prevail.

(Tarun Vijay is director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation)

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