Thursday, January 28, 2016

Midnight Furies

Author: Nisid Hajari


Lately I’ve been keen on reading and understanding about partition. About why there’s such an enmity between India and Pakistan. About why Kashmir is a disputed land. Why are we in this situation? Could the leaders have done anything differently to avoid it?

In my search for books on this topic, I came across “Midnight Furies” and it seemed to be well recommended. It’s a real account of the partition of India and the author is very factual with references from all over. Looks like he’s done his job well. The books is also very well written – kept me very engrossed. Since partition basically revolves around Jinnah and Nehru, it starts around the time when Jinnah and Nehru entered the political field and how they traversed it.

History is not just one book. However unbiased we may think we are, there’s always some inherent bias in us. So I’m not saying that what is written in this book is the the absolute truth – it probably is – but I don’t know. I wouldn’t know till I read at least a few more books on this subject.

What saddened me was that like every propaganda in a country, an event as big as Partition was pure political motivation. It was not a democratic decision. All riots leading to it, and after it were only because of the selfish interests of the political figures of those times. But I guess history of any country is only about the political figures of that time. Not about the people. Nobody cares about the common man.

Some things I gathered from the book:

  1. Yes our freedom struggle was good and we had great freedom fighters. But looks like that was not why British left India. It appears that Britishers had their own problems – they no longer had money to keep control over India, after the world war. They had already stolen our resources so India was no longer the “golden bird” that would benefit them. So they were looking for an exit.
  2. Almost always the riots were triggered by Muslim league leaders. Although after that an equal (if not more) damage was done by the Hindus.
  3. Nehru was sentimental for Kashmir because it was his homeland and it was hard for him to give it up.
  4. Regarding the negotiation on Kashmir, when the Indian leaders were compromising the Pakistanis weren’t and vice versa. Hence it was always a stalemate. Although more often than not it was Jinnah’s obstinacy to not let go of Kashmir. Even when a proposal was made to split Kashmir and give the part of Kashmir with majority of muslims to Pakistan and the one with Hindus to India, Jinnah did not accept it. Maybe things are not that simple – but that was one moment when I felt that things could have been set right and the two nations could’ve lived in harmony.
  5. Indian leaders were always of the opinion that it is to their benefit that their neighbor Pakistan flourish, but that opinion was not shared by Pakistan,. Pakistan fueled Militia with money pumped from US and Britain, to cause disruptions in Kashmir. Apparently their intent was to only keep the Indian army at bay but soon things got out of control. The militia was getting trained by ISI and no longer slave to the decisions of the Pakistani government.
  6. Nehru (and Gandhi) always wanted an undivided India – where all people irrespective of their religion lived peacefully.
  7. Pakistani leaders wanted to ignite the people of Pakistan against India and the only thing they thought that they could latch on to was religion. And that bred the hindu-muslim enmity in that region. Before partition, they told all muslims that once India is formed they would be in majority and hence nobody would look after their interests (although there was no such evidence). After partition, since they knew that people in Pakistan had the same religion, they could use that to get them together and pitch them against India.

Of course there were lot of sad moments in the book, but Gandhiji’s assassination was at the top. Reading about it really saddened me.

I loved reading the book and would highly recommend it to anybody interested in India’s partition.