Thoughts on Pakistan by Dr Ambedkar

A Nation        

The name of this chapter is A Nation Calling for a Home. That there are factors administrative, cultural, which are the predisposing causes behind these demands for separatism, is a fact, which is admitted and understood by all. But the Hindus say why they are asking for partition, for an annulment of the tie by asking that PAK be legally divorced from Hindustan. The answer is to be found in the declaration made by the Muslim League in its Resolution that the Muslims of India are a separate nation.

The Hindu resentment is quite natural. Whether India is a nation or not has been the subject matter of controversy between the Anglo-Indians and the Indian National Congress for quite sometime. The Anglo-Indians were never tired of proclaiming that India was not a nation while the Hindus persisted in saying that India is a nation. Tagore agreed with the Anglo-Indians but the Hindus never yielded this point to Tagore for 2 reasons. One the Hindu felt ashamed to admit that India was not a nation. Two he had realized that nationality had a most intimate connection with the claim for self-government.‘Friends to my mind concept of nationhood developed 5-6 centuries ago with the French/Italian revolutions. It never existed in the West prior to that. The problem with us we seek to define ourselves in terms of the West for e.g. nation & religion are two Western concepts for which there is no Indian equivalent. However, cultural unit and Dharma are the closest that we have. We were taught in school that Yagna means sacrifice when it actually means something different. British rule has made us see most things through the Western prism. As a modern day nation we will find our right place under the Sun when we Indianize our thinking.’

The assertion that India was a nation was not contradicted by any Indian. Anyone who did so was called a tool of British bureaucracy. The Hindu politician was able to propagate his view for a long time. His propaganda had almost succeeded. When it was almost about to succeed comes this declaration of the Muslim League. If Muslims in India are a separate nation then of course India is not a nation. It destroys the work done by the Hindu politician for centuries. The moot point is, can Muslims be said to constitute a nation?

What is a nation? Tons have been written on the subject but it is enough to know the core and that can be set down in a very few words. Nationality is a subjective psychological feeling. It is a feeling of a corporate sentiment of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel that they are kith and kin. It is a feeling of consciousness of kind which on the one hand binds together those, who have it so strongly that it overrides all differences arising out of economic conflicts or social gradations and on the other, severs them from those who are not of their kind. It is a longing to belong to one’s own group and a longing not to belong to any other group. This is the essence of what is called Nationality and national feeling.

Now apply this test to the Muslim claim. Is it or is it not a fact that the Muslims of India are an exclusive group? Is it not a fact that they a consciousness of kind? Is not a fact that each Muslim is possessed by a longing to belong to this own group and not any non-Muslim group? If the answer to these questions is yes the Muslims claim that they are a separate nation must be accepted without cavail.

What the Hindus must show is that notwithstanding some differences there are enough affinities between Hindus and Muslims to constitute them into one nation or in plain language, which them long to belong together. ‘Friends the problem is deeper. Separatist tendency comes naturally to Muslims where they are in a minority. Hindus refuse to realize and accept this because of which they have taken upon themselves the mantle of saying we are one nation, one of the reasons why Hindus are perpetually on the defensive on such matters. BRA has said the same thing later, read on’.

Some Hindus rely upon certain social features of Indian social life and which seem to form the bonds of integration between Muslim & Hindu societies. In the first place it is said that there is no difference of race between Hindus and Muslims i.e. the Punjabi Muslim and Punjabi Hindu, Bengali Muslim and Bengali Hindu so on. Secondly reliance is placed on the linguistic unity between Hindus and Muslims. It is said that Muslims have no common language of their own which can mark them off as a linguistic group separate from Hindus. In Punjab Hindus and Muslims speak Punjabi so is the case in Gujarat. It is only in towns that Muslims speak Urdu and Hindus speak the language of the province. Three it pointed out that India is the land, which Hindus and Muslims have now occupied for centuries. It is not exclusively the land of either.

Not only reliance is placed on racial unity but reliance is also placed upon certain features in the social and cultural life of the two communities. It is pointed out that the social life of many Muslim groups is honeycombed with Hindu customs. For instance the Avans of Punjab, though they are Muslims, retain Hindu names. Hindu surnames are also found among Muslims. Examples are many.

Now all this true, belonging to one race, all Muslims do not speak a common tongue, common social customs. But the question is: can all this support the conclusion that Hindus and Muslims are one nation? Such a conclusion would be nothing short of an utter delusion.

There are many flaws in the Hindu argument. One what are pointed out as common social customs are not the result of a conscious attempt to adopt or adapt each other’s ways but they are due to incomplete conversions? As to the argument based on race, unity of language and occupation of a common county the matter stands on a different footing. If these considerations were decisive in making or unmaking a nation the Hindus would be right in saying that by reasons of race, community of language Hindus and Muslims form one nation. As a matter of historical experience neither race, language, country has sufficed to mould a people into one nation.

Speaking about language Renan says ‘Language invites re-union, it does not force it. The U.S.& England, Spanish America & Spain speak the same language and do not form single nations. On the contrary Switzerland owes her stability to the fact that she was founded by the assent of her several parts, counts three or four languages. In man there is something superior to language – will. As to common country Renan argued that – ‘it is no more the land than the race that makes a nation. The land provides a substratum, the field of battle and work, man provides the soul, man is everything in the formation of that sacred thing which is called a people’.

What is necessary to constitute a nation? Renan says- ‘A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are, but one, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is in the past and the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories; the other is actual consent, the desire to live together, and the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance, which has been handed down. The nation, like the individual, is the outcome of a long past of efforts, and sacrifices and devotion. A heroic past, great men, these form the social capital, upon which a national idea may be founded. To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present, to have done great things together, to will do the like again; such are the essential conditions for the making of a people. We love the house that we have built and will hand down to our descendant.

In the past an inheritance of glory and regrets to be shared, in the future a like ideal to be realized, to have suffered and rejoiced and hoped together, all these things are worth more than custom houses in common, and frontiers in accordance with strategically ideas, all these can be understood inspite of diverstities of race and language. I said just now ‘to have suffered together, for indeed suffering in common is a greater bond of union than joy. As regards national memories, mourning is worth more than triumphs, for they impose duties, they demand common effort’.

Are there any common historical antecedents which the Hindus and Muslims can be said to share together as matters of pride or as matters of sorrow. That is the questions Hindus must answer if they wish to maintain that Hindus & Muslims together form a nation. They have been just two armed battalions warring against each other. There was no common cycle of particpiatation of a common achievement. Their past is a past of mutual destruction – a past of mutual animosities, both in the political and religious fields. As Bhai Parmanand points out in his pamphlet ‘The Hindu national Movement’ – “In history the Hindus revere the memory of Prithviraj, Rana Pratap, Shivaji who fought for the honor & dignity of this land against the Muslims while the Muslims look upon as the invaders of India like M Bin Qasim and Aurangzeb as their national heroes. In the religious filed the Hindus draw their inspiration from the Ramayan, Mahabharat and Geeta while the Muslims draw their inspiration from the Koran and the Hadis.

In depending upon certain common features of Hindu and Muslim social life, common language, race, country the Hindu is mistaking what is accidental and superficial for what is essential and fundamental. The political and religious antagonisms divide the Hindus and Muslims far more deeply than what binds them together. The prospects might have been different if the past of the two communities were forgotten by both. Renan points out the importance of forgetfulness as a factor in building a nation –

“Forgetfulness and I shall even say historical error; form an important factor in the creation of a nation. Historical research, in fact, brings back to light the deeds of violence that have taken place at the commencement of all political formations, even of those the consequences of which have been most beneficial. Unity is ever achieved by brutality. The union of Northern and Southern France was the result of extermination, and of a reign of terror that lasted for nearly a 100 years. The essence of a nation is that all its individual members should have things in common and also that all of them should hold many things in oblivion. No French citizen knows whether he is a Burgundian, and Alan or a Visgoth, every French citizen ought to have forgotten St Bartholomew, the massacres of the South in the 13th century”.

The pity is that the two communities can never forget or obliterate their past. In the absence of common historical antecedents the Hindu view that Hindu and Muslims form one nation falls to the ground. To maintain it is to keep up a hallucination.

It is no use saying that this claim of the Muslims being a nation is an after-thought of their leaders. As an accusation it is true. The Muslims were hitherto quite content to call themselves a community. It is only recently that they have started calling themselves a nation. It is no use contending that there are cases where a sense of nationality exists but there is no desire for a separate national existence. Cases of English in South Africa or French in Canada are examples.

It must be admitted that there exists cases, where people are aware of their nationality, but this awareness does not produce in them the passion, which is called nationalism. Using the same logic it may be urged that the Muslims may hold that are a nation but they need not on that account demand a separate national existence, why can they not be content with the position which the French occupy in Canada. Such a position is quite sound but it must, however, be remembered that such a position can only be taken by way of pleading with the Muslims not to insist on partition. It is no argument against their claim for partition if they insist on it.

‘Friends the situation in Canada and India were different. In the former the French and other Canadians were Christians, both were migrants to Canada and not local population. In India we had followers of two separate religions Hinduism and Islam that shared a bloody past. Both belong to by & large the same race but religion / memories of the past divide them as never before’.

But lest pleading should be mistaken for refutation it is necessary to draw attention to two things. One there is a difference between nationality and nationalism, the former means consciousness of kind, awareness of the existence of that tie of kinship while the latter means the desire for a separate national existence for those who are bound by this tie of kinship. Secondly it is true that there cannot be a feeling of nationalism without the feeling of nationality being in existence but the converse is not always true. Nationality does not in all cases produce nationalism. For nationality to flame into nationalism 2 conditions must exist. One there must arise a will to live as a nation. Two there must be a territory which nationalism could occupy and make it a state as well as a cultural home of the nation. Given that both these conditions exist no wonder the Muslims say they are not content to occupy the position which the French chose to occupy in Canada:  that they shall have a national home which they can call their own.

‘Friends let us take the case of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. There does not seem to be any doubt that the Babri Masjid was constructed by Moghal Muslim invader Babur after demolishing a temple. The demolition was a symbol of victory of the conqueror over the conquered. When the matter was raised in the 1980-1990’s Indian Muslims converts refused to agree to demolition of the Masjid / construction of a Ram Temple. In other words they chose to support the demolition by a fellow Muslim & foreigner Babur and not side with their Hindu brothers with whom they share common language and land! This amply bears out what Bhai Parmanand said above ie “In history the Hindus revere the memory of Prithviraj, Rana Pratap, Shivaji who fought for the honor & dignity of this land against the Muslims while the Muslims look upon as the invaders of India like M Bin Qasim and Aurangzeb as their national heroes”. 

I quote from a book written in 1996s titled The Widening Divide by Rafiq Zakaria, “Unless the Muslim stops drawing pride from the deeds of Muslim invaders and realizes that he is a Hindu convert, the divide between the two communities might never cease”. Can we call ourselves one nation?’

Receive Site Updates