What a highly impractical – and therefore a preposterously inane – question to ask…
…especially when we do know the gory history of Hindus and Muslims bestially tearing at each other right through the 18th and 19th centuries.
Much before the British entered the scene!
The going-at-each-other juggernaut started rolling at an accelerated pace when Aurangazeb brought the curtains down on the long-standing Mughal Empire. It was all stable till then. Just soon after, Rajahs tore into Nawabs. And, Nawabs pulverized them in return. Sultans added to the cacophony.
The Indian subcontinent – the present day Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka – doddered on its feet, losing all its stability. The citizens felt it.
And, they – along with the battered Rajahs, Nawabs and Sultans – desperately turned to the ‘suave and gentlemanly’ British for succor. And, they got it. Big time. In return, they gave the British the ticket to rule them, by the ‘divide-and-rule’ rule. They loved the rule. They loved being divided.
Cut to the year 1945.
The Hindu-Muslim hostility raged. Albeit on a different pitch.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah was fighting a losing battle against Jawaharlal Nehru, the protege of Mahatma Gandhi. The Indian National Congress had started eclipsing the Muslim League.
And, the Muslims on the street felt it. Their feverish sense of insecurity simmered as they knew they were a mere 25% against the Hindus. It was a ticking bomb waiting to explode.
And explode it did, as the independence drew close. The British – who had been cocooning Muslims against Hindus so far – were packing their bags to get back home. Battered by the bankruptcy the World War II had gifted them with, they couldn’t anymore afford to keep the extended empire of the Indian subcontinent in chains.
As an after-effect, the newly appointed viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten advanced the Indian independence to August 1947 from the originally planned June 1948, arbitrarily splitting Pakistan from India on hastily drawn lines on the map.
People didn’t know which ‘country’ they were in. What followed was riotous mayhem that massacred millions, as Muslims in India stampeded their way across the border to get to their new home and Hindus in Pakistan rushed to get to theirs.
The animosity between the ‘children of the same land’ peaked to the point-of-no-return. Pakistanis and Indians turned bitter foes. Forever. And, they continue to be foes. To this day.
And, here was Husain Haqqani – the Pakistani journalist, academic, political activist and former ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka and the United States – chairing the discussion on the question ‘Why can’t India and Pakistan be friends?’ in The Hindu’s Literary Festival, LIT FOR LIFE – 2019, held at Chennai, India.
Quite a preposterous question indeed.
Or, so it appeared.