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History of Partition broader than family stories, cliches

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New Delhi: British historian Yasmin Khan said that while the Partition of the Subcontinent remains a traumatic experience for its victims and continues to poison relations between India and Pakistan and Hindus and Muslims, its toxicity is also due to several misconceptions that persist and not seen in a wider, contemporary perspective.

The Partition of the Subcontinent remains a traumatic experience for its victims as well as continues to poison relations between India and Pakistan and Hindus and Muslims but its toxicity is also due to several misconceptions that persist and not seeing it in a wider, contemporary perspective, says British historian Yasmin Khan.

“What information we have (about the Partition in 1947) is through family stories, cliches… but when you read the scholarship on it, there is a different view. Among the misconceptions is the conflating of the demand for Pakistan with the violence that was seen,” Khan, an associate professor of history at Oxford University, told reporters in an interview.

“The demand for Pakistan was not a call for a violent carnage… if you take the case of Muslims’ displacement only, it nearly wrecked the Pakistan project.”

“But both these issues have been linked, virtually fused together, thus making the demand offensive and upsetting with consequences that are well known.”

“Disentangling both (the demand for Pakistan and the violence that accompanied Partition) is difficult but important,” maintains Khan, whose debut work “The Great Partition – The Making of India and Pakistan” (2007) makes a compelling case that while there was both wide support – and opposition – to Partition, virtually no one had any understanding of what it would entail or what its results would be.

The author, who was in India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, also notes that the leaders on both sides were shocked by the level of violence and tried to take steps to curb it, but it is also important to remember that they were also human and faced many pressures and compulsions that prevented them from reaching any compromise solution, despite several opportunities. “The Cabinet Mission Plan (of 1945, recommending a loose confederation) was one,” she said.

Khan says it is also important that Partition should be seen in the “broader” international context of the late 1940s, as the Second World War had ended recently, most of the Europe was in ruins, with colonial powers themselves having sustained heavy damage and expenses and there were refugees all over Europe and Asia – as well as a large number of returning, demobilized soldiers.

This was the milieu in which moves towards decolonization were initiated, but colonial powers like Britain in the case of India were themselves weakened and in a hurry to transfer power, she said.

“The focus for the British government was rebuilding the country… setting up the British welfare state, and there was a strong inclination to reduce the Empire’s commitments and bring soldiers home,” said Khan.

The situation in Palestine, also ruled by the British and seeing similar tension between two religious communities, also had many “commonalities” with the situation in the subcontinent, she said.

In this context, she also notes that since there has been extensive literature and advanced scholarship on Partition, South Asian scholarship can lead the way for the understanding of more regions that underwent decolonization – with varying results and outcomes.

Khan, who has also written “The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War” (2015), an extensive account of the effect of the conflict on the Indian “home front” as the country faced a total war and its manifold demands, as well as the political implications – radicalization and growing communal divide including among the armed forces, also argues that war also had a major role in the Partition – as well as the violence.

“Partition would have not happened without the war.. the Congress leaders were in jail (following the Quit India protest in 1942) and the Muslim League made advances.”

“There was the free availability of arms, of the trained returning Indian soldiers, including those of the INA, specially in Punjab, while the British found it difficult to maintain peace because of divided loyalties of Indian troops and pressure to send British soldiers home,” she said. (Vikas Datta, IANS)

 

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Blacklisting Muslim Brotherhood Could Complicate US Diplomacy

Designating Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization could pit the United States against new potential enemies

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FILE - Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood set things aflame to block a street during clashes with Egyptian forces following their protest against the government in Cairo's Matariya district, Egypt, June 30, 2015. VOA
 Designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization could pit the United States against new potential enemies in the Muslim world, experts say.

Analysts argue the designation could hamper U.S. Middle East diplomacy and efforts to promote democratic change in the region.

“For America to write off this important part of politics in the Middle East is really to hobble any kind of intellectual debate and the freedom of American diplomats to operate in this region,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“America is going to throw a major spanner [wrench] into the works of any kind of democratic and political evolution in the Middle East if it does this,” he told VOA.

blacklisting, muslim, US
FILE – President Donald Trump meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the Oval Office of the White House, April 9, 2019. VOA

The reaction came after the White House recently said President Donald Trump is mulling over designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email to reporters.

Egypt’s efforts

The U.S. announcement came nearly three weeks after a visit by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to the White House.

El-Sissi, who toppled former President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and thrown Morsi and many of the group’s leaders in jail.

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Morsi was the first Muslim Brotherhood president who came to power after winning the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt. Morsi had led the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

But since assuming power, el-Sissi has been urging U.S. officials to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two Sunni powers in the Middle East, also have been lobbying Washington to designate the Islamist group.

‘Neo-conservative team’

blacklisting, muslim, US
FILE – Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi chant slogans and raise an image of him after the Muslim Brotherhood called on its supporters to take to the streets on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2016. VOA

During the first weeks of his administration in 2017, Trump had considered the designation but then dropped the idea.

The current U.S. national security team, however, has been in favor of targeting Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, some analysts charge.

“President Trump has got this new national security team with [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and [National Security Adviser John] Bolton. This is a much more neo-conservative crowd than the first year of Trump’s [presidency],” Mideast expert Landis said.

“So it’s possible that they could actually entertain the idea of supporting Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in sanctioning the Muslim Brotherhood and designating them,” he added.

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Fawzi Soufiane, a Tunisia-based expert on Islamist movements, says there are more radical groups in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East that the U.S. should consider targeting.

“For example, there are Salafis in Egypt who are much more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood. So clearly any potential designation of the Muslim Brotherhood won’t be effective in terms of combating terrorism in the Middle East,” he told VOA.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is perhaps the least violent group when it comes to the political spectrum of Islamist parties,” Soufiane said.

Extremist ideology

blacklisting, muslim, US
FILE – Muslim Brotherhood members are seen behind bars during a court session in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 2, 2018. VOA

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt, is a social, religious and political organization that promotes a governance system run by Islamic law.

The Sunni Muslim group has dozens of affiliates across the Muslim world. Although it has used violence to achieve its political objectives in the past, the group currently eschews such actions.

But some experts believe that the Islamist group continues to promote its agendas through violence by aligning itself with more extremist organizations.

The Muslim Brotherhood “has been funding and supporting extremist groups through an extensive network of humanitarian and political organizations in Syria, Libya and elsewhere,” said Majdi al-Daqaq, editor-in-chief of October magazine, a pro-government publication in Cairo.

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“Even if we assumed that Muslim Brotherhood is not involved in armed violence, it is still active in promoting extremist political ideology throughout the region,” he told VOA in a phone interview.

Al-Daqaq added that the Muslim Brotherhood “also has direct ties with the Palestinian militant group Hamas,” which is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Financial networks

Designating Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement a foreign terrorist organization would allow Washington to impose sanctions on any individual or group with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Experts say targeting the group’s financial networks overseas could undermine its activities in the Middle East.

“If the U.S. could target the Muslim Brotherhood leadership by sanctioning powerful individuals who have been working with the organization in Middle East, Europe and North America, then the group would be harmed significantly,” said Shafeeq Mamdouh, a political commentator based in Alexandria, Egypt.

“This is a group that heavily relies on funding and donations from Muslim groups in and outside the Middle East. So their financial transactions abroad need to be disrupted,” he added.

What next

If the White House decides to label the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, it must prove that the group engages in terrorist activity against the U.S. or its interests.

The secretary of state then would have to consult with the attorney general and the treasury secretary before making the designation official.

U.S. Congress would have seven days to review the designation, choosing either to block or allow it. (VOA)