By Gaurav Sharma
We all celebrate Independence Day with much gusto and elan. Draping ourselves with the tricolor while waving the tiranga, bonding with family over warm breakfast while being eager-eared audience to Dada’s epic tale of partition, the Independence Day is the celebration of the unity of people. Unity of all people pledging their allegiance to the idea of nationhood, that is.
Our ancestors are the eyes into that history of nationhood. The gory, murky and inglorious history which is reproduced in front of the youth through the realism of their verbosity. Their herculean memory is living proof of the evils of demarcated boundaries. The perils of nationhood. And yet it is the very same nationhood that we celebrate and glorify on this day. Some swear their lives by it, and so they die for it.
On this Independence Day, NewsGram brings out freedom and splintering into two, in all its eclectic scope through the empirical lens of an Indian refugee GD Taneja.
GS: You were born under the unified India. Do you consider it as a privilege or a bane?
GD: I was born in Karachi in 1926. During that time, Hindus and Muslims used to live peacefully, considerate of each other’s belief systems. It was beyond toleration, it was a recognition of our understanding of brotherhood. Living by that principle made life more enriching. It was indeed fortuitous of me to be born in a unified India.
GS: What was the prevalent behavior of Hindus and Muslims?
GD: At the time the partition was announced, the region around Karachi constituted a meager 5 per cent of Hindus, the vast majority comprised of Muslims. Hindu festivals like Baisakhi and Janmashtami were celebrated with equal zeal by both the communities. We respected Allah, the Muslim idea of God.
GS: How did the camaraderie change so drastically?
GD: We were not persecuted by the immediate Muslims of Karachi. Religious zealots from the mountainous region of Waziristan mercilessly attacked our homes, our places of worship and thus began a sinister chain of violence. They had weapons against which we could not retaliate. Sikhs were attacked relentlessly, and we were taken in as mistaken-identity.
GS: How did you manage to escape the onslaught?
GD: A Hindu SHO (Station house officer) gave us refuge in the police station at the behest of our Muslim brethren. Had it not been for them we would have been slaughtered in the precarious passage to the station.
GS: Keeping in mind the religious massacre during the partition, do you believe that religion splinters humanity?
GD: India was, and is kept united by religion. It gives hope to people, a wanting to move forwards in life. It is only due to some fanatics that religion gets a bad name. Religion gives knowledge, one that is aimed at uniting people rather than segregating them into kafirs and mlecchas. Politicizing religion further exacerbated the problem.
GS: How do you reflect on Independence Day today?
GD: I look at Independence Day with hope and a touch of sadness. That we had to undergo a vicious war in which scores were killed and raped to realize our ‘freedom’ goes to show that religion has to be tolerant of multitudinary interpretations, in order for it to bring out real transformation.
Current situation of Pakistan is a testimony to that fact. We have to be extremely careful in treading the fine line between religion and fanaticism. Secularism is not the solution because it breeds ignorance of other people’s knowledge and faith.