Lt Gen Ashok Joshi (Retd)





What befell those men, women, and children as they faced their fiery end in Gujarat cannot be contained in a few anti-septic phrases. Their shrieks and struggle, as they tried to get away from flames, hoping that there would be some way out, not believing the worst, still caring for the near ones, must have slowly died down. The excruciating pain and fear must have finally released them from their misery. Very gruesome descriptions of utter misery and humiliation of the victims, and brutal and unspeakable behaviour of the perpetrators, have appeared in the print media. A vast majority of those who suffered and perished, as also those who indulged in these horrid acts were none other than common people--people like you and [1]I--who ordinarily would be of help even to total strangers, and not do much worse than shouting an insult in a fit of road-rage. No, the intention is not to equate the victim with the perpetrators, but to make ourselves aware that many of us could be victims next, or unless we take special care, we may be swept off our feet and become part of a rampaging mob. When sufficiently provoked, or impelled forward by the wave of hate, even ordinary people commit acts of which they might not even have dreamt. This reminds one of the happenings after the Partition[2].


From all accounts, it would appear, that some people had planned to set the train on fire at Godhra[3]. It seems that they executed their bloody plan with diabolical ruthlessness. What followed thereafter was even worse. The initial reaction should ordinarily have abated in a few days. The fact that arson and mayhem continued for something like forty days suggests that bigger forces beyond immediate anger were at work Media reports point to many things, amongst them, inaction and apathy of the ministers and officials of the state government, incitement by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists, and exploitation of the situation by various interest groups to settle old scores. The criminal element of course was not to be left behind.


Hopefully, the guilty would be brought to book. Those who actually set fire, those who fired or raised their weapons in anger and hate and did the killing and maiming, those who failed to do their duty and did not live up to their oaths of office, and those who gathered mobs and incited them to violence need to be punished. But assuming that this is eventually brought about, would that be enough?


What about the causes that led to these catastrophic events and happenings, and the consequences that will follow? Only immediate and proximate causes have attracted attention at present. Similarly, the physical aftermath and the immediate need to treat the injured, and to rehabilitate the displaced, have occupied attention. Appropriate in themselves, the immediate measures may not prove to be adequate in the long run. There is a need to locate the deeper malaise and deal with it in the hope of mitigating some of the future consequences of the Gujarat disturbances.





The Indian media have given us their views and versions twice over--first time in the guise of distorted news. Now, after apportioning blame, they are waiting for the applause in the ‘preen’ mode. The media are supposed to hold up the mirror to the people at large, but who will do it for them? The Americans were very surprised after ‘nine-eleven’ that the whole world did not love them quite as much as they had thought. Now they are blaming their media for keeping them in ignorance. Indian media may attract similar criticism later for having failed to realize the extent of pent up anger and hate in Gujarat, or for that matter, elsewhere in the country.


The mobs in Gujarat that indulged in arson and violence did not belong to this or that caste, or class group. They also included Dalits, Adivasis, and migrant labourers, and the affluent[4]. The mobs might have been incited by the activists of the Bajarang Dal or the VHP, as claimed in news reports. But that still does not explain as to why such disparate groups, who do not seem to combine in electioneering, allowed themselves to be led astray to commit such barbarities over such a prolonged period. Similarly, it is hard to imagine that the burning of the bogies at Godhra could have been undertaken without mass support from residents of Signal Falia. Obviously, there must have been considerable preparation, not all of it well concealed, and yet it failed to attract the attention of the intelligence community. We will revert to this later. Undoubtedly, there were those who plotted and organized, but they could not have created the ground swell of suspicion, hatred, and raw anger in such a short period, no matter how ‘efficient’ was their organization. The suspicion, the hate, and the anger must have been there in Gujarat in a latent state. The Hindu-Muslim-divide was filled with this incendiary mixture. It took very little by way of effort or ingenuity to ignite it. The ferocity of those on the opposite sides of the divide need not be judged from the damage they managed to inflict. The greater numbers seem to have inflicted more damage.


Perhaps, the Gujarat riots could have been brought under control by strict and impartial action by the law enforcement machinery including the police. But when the whole of the state is in flames, to what avail would be a few firings here and there? Have we forgotten what happened at Jallianwala in April of 1919? Brigadier General Dyer fired till he ran out of ammunition, and Mr. Michael O’ Dwyer used even more force: aircrafts were used near Gujranwala to quell the mobs, people were whipped and made to crawl, but the fires in the Punjab could not be put down. The ruthless use of force started a vicious cycle of action and reaction in the Punjab, people got inured to violence and rose again to kill and maim each other in 1947. The idea that the force used by the state against its own citizens, no matter how righteous the cause, is without consequences is essentially flawed. This is not an argument in support of inaction by the state, which must act judiciously, and fulfill its constitutional obligations. Here, it is intended only to draw attention to the limitations on the use of force, particularly when it is used against own citizens.


The idea that a high level of animosity can be allowed to remain simmering under the surface, without it overflowing sometime or the other is absurd. It is to hope for the impossible. And even more, to think that the fires, once started, can be put out may also be misleading. The hate and animus have to be dissipated before they erupt.


It is instructive to explore the causes of the divide that separates the Muslims from the rest, but more particularly from the Hindus, in India.


Interpretation of the historical past


Many Muslims in India, if not a sizeable majority amongst them, look upon Arabs, Turks, Persians, and Afghan invaders of the Indian sub-continent as their principal source of inspiration and rejoice in the defeat of the then ruling Indians at the hands of the foreign invaders[5]. They also look upon their numerous acts of religious bigotry and desecration of the Hindu and other temples and shrines as especially commendable. They look upon the times before the Muslim invasions of the sub-continent as a dark period whereas most Hindus take great pride in the Vedanta and the Bhakti movement. There is a deliberate renunciation, if not denunciation, by the Muslims in India of everything in the sub-continent except for the creations and concepts sanctified by Islam. Admittedly, Muslims in the sub-continent cannot be held responsible for action of Muslim invaders, not unless they choose to look upon themselves as their descendants. On their part, many Hindus have no compunction in denying to the Muslims of India the credit that is due for the raising of many beautiful and imposing structures in India, or for making substantial contributions to the emergence of the North Indian classical music, or Indian cuisine, or social mores and graces. Most Indian languages have drawn substantially on the Arabic and Persian vocabulary and enriched themselves. A genuinely composite culture does exist in the sub-continent and it should indeed be a matter of pride for all the peoples of the sub-continent. But all bigots deny the very existence of the composite culture.


The interpretation of the past and contemporary events by the Muslims and the Hindus in India is at great variance. For the nonce, even a balanced and nationalistic individual like Mr. Saeed Naqvi, sounds parochial. Perhaps, anger and grief have overcome his judgement. He has criticized[6] Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee for having failed to mention at Panaji, Goa, on 12 April 2002, that there was historical evidence that pointed to looting of temples at the behest of the Hindu kings in Kashmir, and destruction of Jain temples by a Hindu king of Malwa. In Mr. Naqvi’s view, it was incumbent on the Prime Minister’s part to have done so since he had castigated the militant Islam. Let us presume that Mr. Naqvi is right. But he has missed the point on two counts: Hinduism does not sanction breaking of idols or desecration of temples, and the perpetrators could not have had religious or popular sanction for satisfying their greed. And even more important, most Hindus in our times, if they were to become aware of these thefts and desecrations, will look upon them with revulsion; nor are they likely to trace their ancestry to those kings either with satisfaction or pride.


The Muslims in the sub-continent are fully aware that virtually every part of the sub-continent had been under their direct rule or domination at one time or the other. They lost power to the [7]British, and this simple logic leads them to believe that on the departure of the British, the power to rule should have reverted to them[8]. They feel that they were cheated out of this power by the machinations of the crafty British and the wily Hindu. Many Hindus, on the other hand, interpreted the Muslim rule as an oppressive rule by foreigners.


The Partition


For the Muslims in West and East Pakistan, emergence of the new Muslim nation was the realization of a fond dream. Even to a fair number of Muslims in India, Pakistan appears to be an expression of the Muslim resurgence in the sub-continent, and a matter of pride and honour. Many believe that their security is enhanced by Pakistan. If Pakistan can speak up for Muslims in Kashmir, so would it for the Muslims in India, seems to be their tacit assumption.


Most Pakistanis look upon the Partition as only the first step. They feel that they have a rightful claim on portions of Muslim majority areas in Jammu and Kashmir that they have not been able to secure in justification of the two-nation theory. The virtual certainty, that India would remain a dominant player in the sub-continent, highlights for the leadership in Pakistan the unfinished agenda of the Partition, and particularly so after the secession of the former East Pakistan. Pakistan hopes to ‘correct’ this matter by destabilizing and fragmenting India. The ‘final solution’ that the late Presidents Bhutto and Zia hoped for is a sub-continent broken up into fragments amongst whom Pakistan would be the largest. Pakistan has driven itself into all kinds of difficulties hoping to realize this dream. But in so doing, it has also created major problems for India. Many Indians suspect that some Muslims in India act as willing hosts to ISI agents of Pakistan.


The Muslims in India have no objection to action against those who act for the ISI, but they do resent being clubbed en bloc with the anti-nationals. They feel that the Hindus do not sufficiently appreciate that many Muslims elected to remain in India when they had a choice, and in any case they are as much Indian as the Hindus. They resent being called upon by the majority community to prove their patriotism every now and then.


Matters of faith


Pakistan and Bangladesh are Islamic countries, though for a few years, soon after its emergence, Bangladesh had declared itself a secular country. Both countries have a history of systematically driving out Hindus. This tendency seems to have become ingrained amongst the Muslims of the sub-continent so much so that as soon as the militants gained popular support in the Valley of Kashmir, what they did was to terrorize and drive out the Hindus. It should surprise no one if this causes resentment amongst Hindus. The left of the centre opinion makers and the Muslims in India are quite quick to point out that Islam does not preach such behaviour, but this assurance does not help the victims.


India is an avowedly secular country, but most Pakistanis feel that this is a sham, and look upon India as a Hindu country. Most Pakistanis would feel more comfortable with ‘Hindu India’; it is the secular India, which makes them uncomfortable because it poses a challenge to the two-nation theory.


The nation state concept is not wholly compatible with strict adherence to the Pan-Islamic movement[9]. The conservative opinion in Pakistan denies the existence of any secular space[10]. It would rather square everything with the teaching of Islam—law and order, trade and commerce, and even education. Even ‘secular’ and highly educated Muslims in India find it uncomfortable to justify any argument in purely rational terms[11]. Whereas a vast majority of Hindus look upon movement away from religious orthodoxy as progress, Muslims look upon teachings of Islam as a fixed point of reference, which is beyond interpretation and argument.


And what about the consequences of the initial carnage in Godhra and their follow up in Gujarat? Sullying of India’s image abroad, its political and economic impact at macro-level, and personal destitution and misery of the victims at micro-level are the visible and immediate results. On the other hand, some in India seem to approve of the violent reaction in Gujarat to the burning of the train at Godhra. The approval seems to be muted but nonetheless perceptible. This approval may be shared even by some of the educated. The numbers may not be large, but they may not be insignificant either. Perhaps, they may be larger than the number of those who have come out on streets to protest against the carnage in Gujarat. Perhaps, the logic runs like this: look at what happened in 1984. Although what happened was horrendous, it might have caused serious rethinking amongst victims. Perhaps the incidents went some way in taking away the support from the extremist elements in Punjab. This is a totally wrong interpretation. The so called ‘retribution’—of which the totally innocent were also the victims—might have led to compliant behaviour, or even heart searching, for a length of time. But over a period of time, the memories of suffering will only add to the long list of grouses, which had fuelled the extremism in Punjab in the first place. Going back to the Jallianwala massacre, for a while the population of Amritsar was terrorized, and in fear Dyer was even honoured, and presented with a ‘saropa’. But within five or six years, the agitation by Akalis was at full throttle. It is prudent not to ignore the pent up ill will, and even worse to pretend that it does not exist. To use it as an instrument of power to ‘teach a lesson’ is self-defeating even on practical grounds. Nobody should seriously doubt that it is morally reprehensible and unbecoming of a civilized people to approve of such acts of carnage.


India must chart further passage with care. It is for all Indians to acknowledge that the Muslims in India, since August 1947, have lagged behind the other communities in comparative terms. To that extent, India has failed the acid test of a secular country. The absolute numbers involved are so large—120 million—that it must ultimately hurt India. A waste of potential of this magnitude is regrettable. And this has happened in spite of the Congress, an avowedly secular party, being at the helm of affairs for most of the time since Independence. If the underprivileged Muslims develop the ghetto mentality, it can bode ill for India. They are then likely to fall back for succour on the extremist elements in Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world.






It is as if the Hindus and the Muslims in the sub-continent cannot but take wholly different views of the same objective reality. This happens to be so because their collective consciousness and memory seems to give them totally different signals. To understand and acknowledge this aspect of reality may be a good starting point. To be aware of the pent up adversarial feelings and anger cannot do harm. To ignore them can be harmful, because if and when these negative feelings do erupt like a volcano, it may not be possible to deal with them without considerable use of force. The idea that the government in power can guard minorities in the face of such outbursts is not well founded.


After every major disaster or political embarrassment, the sin in laid at the doorstep of the intelligence community. It happens in all the countries of the world. We do not know if there has been an intelligence failure in Gujarat. In all probability, the intelligence community would be able to defend itself by pointing out some warnings that it had given. The point that is missed out is that if the intelligence tasking is not done as a result of the combined and cooperative effort of all concerned, the warnings are not likely to be taken seriously. If and when the government anticipates that the communal ill will is likely to overflow and cause damage, it will task the agencies, and when the reports are received, it will act with seriousness. Without the anticipation of the executive authority, the intelligence advice may be no more than a prevarication, in which case it is unlikely to be acted upon.



The Hindu-Muslim divide extends through the whole of the sub-continent. It is certainly not restricted to Gujarat, or Kashmir. At this stage, it must be stated in categorical terms that undoing the partition is neither a practical proposition, nor will it address the problem. The Kashmir problem needs to be resolved, but its resolution by itself will not douse the fires in the sub-continent. Concessions to Pakistan may produce a Hindu backlash; and acceptance of the Indian position by Pakistan may cause an upheaval in Pakistan. It is best to put the issue on the backburner till temperatures cool, and an atmosphere is created in which the decisions taken by the governments of both the countries can be implemented without causing further damage.


 The long list of grouses and perceived ills, which, each community has suffered at the hands of the other, needs to be acknowledged and addressed[12]. Here perceptions are as important as the reality. The historical wrongs cannot ever be wholly righted, nor can they be dealt with by taking recourse to the medieval practices. To justify pulling down of places of worship by pointing out that Muslim invaders dismantled countless temples in the past is to take a step in the wrong direction. This behaviour is against the spirit of time—zeitgeist. On the other hand, an expression of remorse for what happened in the past cannot but help in healing. The idea that the Hindus, being a larger community, and India being a larger nation, should come forward with concessions has caused enough harm in the past. It was the credo of the ‘seculars’ in India that communalism of the minorities could be tolerated, but not that of the majority community. This attitude encouraged the Muslims in India to organize politically in terms of Islam, and to resist common civil law. The Muslim vote-bank was not tenable without Muslims voting as Muslims.


The Hindu-Muslim divide has to be seriously addressed. This divide has a long history, and no matter how it has been tackled so far, it has produced a great deal of misery through all these years, extending over several centuries. And since ‘nine-eleven’, the Hindu-Muslim divide seems to invite interpretations in varying terms. We do not yet know how the ‘war against terrorism’ will be viewed in years to come--as a clash between the developed and the under-developed, between the haves and the haves not, or between the Muslims and the rest?  Although a great deal of care is being exercised by the US to distinguish between the terrorists who happen to be Muslims, and other followers of Islam, the suspicion persists that there is a Crusade against the Muslims[13]. Will the Hindu-Muslim divide become a part of the larger picture, and a sub-set of the other divides in which Muslims are one of the parties? This can only be to the disadvantage both of Hindus and Muslims of the sub-continent.


The sub-continent is a natural economic zone and forms a cultural unity. It is likely to benefit more by insulating itself from the global war between civilizations, should it ever come about, than by exploiting the US or the G7 anger against the terrorists. A recent happening illustrates how India may place itself at a disadvantage. The European Union has condemned[14] the state of Gujarat after a fact-finding tour by its representatives, and compared the conditions in India to the apartheid regime, and Nazi Germany. India does not need the EU to advise that the guilty should be punished and the minority should not be discriminated against. Not content with this, the EU is also likely to exhort India to dismiss the government in Gujarat. The EU finds it very appropriate to express its deep concern and sympathy for Muslims in this manner. It cannot afford to look too closely at the child mortality due to mal-nutrition in Iraq, or the victims of bombings in Afghanistan, or happenings on the West Bank for that matter. There the victims just happen to be Muslims, but in India they seem to have been so targeted. In this manner, does the EU hope to assure the Arabs—of bounteous oil wealth—and Muslims in general that it will not be remiss when it comes to looking after the interests of Islam?  Or does the EU feel that a little advice to India can do no harm? It may cause a little resentment in India, but will go a long way in proving its own credentials in the Muslim world.


At present, Pakistan is in a cooperative mode with the G7 and unlikely to attract punishment in the on-going war with terrorism. But if Pak were to come under fundamentalist influence and emerge on the wrong side, it may be hit hard, and become destabilized. If Pakistan were to turn chaotic, it will hurt India in the long run, even more than the pain caused by terrorists and ISI operatives that Pakistan sends into India. Arch-fundamentalists in the Islamic world, not even controlled by Pak government, totally unaccountable and uncontrollable, may continue to send ‘martyrs’ into India. The hard-core element in the Islamic world would find India a soft target, as compared to the G7, or Israel. Equally, the G7 may not show much concern about what happens in the sub-continent, and India will be told often to be patient and tolerant. India would have hardly any other option by then in any case. In this unfortunate scenario, Pak, already inured to violence and misery, may seek satisfaction in venting its anger against India, since it may be incapable of retaliating against any other country. It may be profitable in the long run to deal with Pak inspired terrorism bilaterally, rather than by relying on the help and assistance extended by the G7.



It is for the Muslims in India to realize that they cannot ill use the protection and rights provided to the minorities in the Constitution to cock a snook at the majority, and to provoke it by inane and not so inane acts. There is no cause for the Muslims in India to glorify invaders, claim lineage to them, and bask in the past ‘glory’ by reviving memories of humiliation, death, and destruction of Hindus at the hands of foreign invaders. Cheering Pakistan in its sports encounters with India is not as innocuous as it sounds. It is a deliberate act meant to provoke Hindus and invariably finds its mark. Governmental machinery may not be able to discharge their constitutional obligation to protect life and property of every citizen, in spite of its best effort, if there is a major upsurge of communal ill will.


The Hindus ought to do significantly more to get over the harmful effects of the virtually immutable and fossilized caste system. A lot has been done to put right the more gross inequities of the caste, but it persists as a social evil that creates divides in the society. Having become linked to the vote-bank politics, it now seems to enjoy the ‘democratic’ sanction. It seems to place the Hindus in a ‘double jeopardy’. Even after their conversion to other religions, the inherent disadvantage of the caste system seems to dog those who happened to be at the bottom of the pyramid in the Hindu hierarchy. It is common knowledge that, even in Pakistan, this past baggage has not been jettisoned: those who belonged to ‘higher’ castes—Rajputs, for example—take care that their lineage is not forgotten. Those amongst the converts and their descendants, who had hoped that the essentially fraternal Islam would help them to get over the burden of the caste system, seem to have been disappointed. They seem to turn their anger and frustration against their former co-religionists. This could be one of the possible reasons for the visceral dislike that many of the Pakistanis show towards India.


‘Secularism’ means many things to many people. But the need for a ‘secular domain’—the area in which recourse is not taken to religious beliefs or faith in support of an action, argument, or claim—in national life is not seriously doubted by anybody. Governance, law and order, education, science and technology, human rights, women’s rights, trade and commerce, family planning, and the like must fall in the secular domain. Justification of iniquitous and outdated norms or practices, on the basis of religious texts or belief, cannot be tolerated in this day and age. The political, economic, and social behaviour has to be governed by laws that do not look beyond clear and rational thinking. Those cultural and ethnic preferences that cause harm, or give offence to others, have to be banished from public space. Neither majority nor minority communities must be allowed to make religious inroads into the secular domain. Attitudinal and political compulsions in the past have gone against what is so obvious. What does one make of a secular state not having a common civil law?


The Muslims in India have to decide if they will continue to accept the leadership of the obscurantist elements, who want to take them back a few hundred years, or opt for those who will lead them into the contemporary world. There is no reason whatsoever for Muslim-individuals to choose to remain in the minority stream. Without moving away from their faith, they can join the majority, compete on equal terms, and realize their full potential in the secular realm.


The partition has broken up and fragmented a geographical-economic-cultural continuum, with adverse impact on all the countries of the sub-continent. The matters need to be remedied without undoing the partition. Muslims in the sub-continent need to be assured that they can live in honour and realize their full potential irrespective of whether they are citizens of Islamic states of the sub-continent or not; they must have an equal chance and opportunity. Pakistan has to realize that it has more to gain by developing good relationship with India. The widening gap in the strength and power-potential between the two nations will progressively reduce the bargaining power of Pakistan vis-a-vis that of India. Threatening India with nuclear weapons is going to get Pakistan nowhere. If Pakistan insists on solving Kashmir problem, only on terms and conditions that Pakistan considers appropriate, before normalizing relationship with India, it is unlikely to succeed. On the other hand, India should be under no delusion that if the Hindu-Muslim divide in the sub-continent is not tackled realistically it will not be a gainer. The sub-continent has a place of honour in the twenty-first century provided it gets its act together and does not allow the festering sores to make things any the worse than what they already are.


All the nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, but more particularly India and Pakistan, have to think of a new political structure for the sub-continent—no, not a union or a federation, but something which will address the peculiarities and realities of the sub-continent. This is not an easy task, but nor is it impossible. The European Union has evolved gradually, and the process is continuing. If there is a meeting of hearts and minds, constitutional pundits will be able to evolve a political structure. There is no need to wait for a perfect solution. It is the vision that must fire the imagination of the people. The rest will follow.


What we should look for is a new architecture of collective identities that can accommodate all the nations of the sub-continent. Last time around, in 1947, while facing a comparable situation many thought that the emergence of independent nation states, by it self, would solve the problem[15]. Fragmentation has brought no relief to the sub-continent. We cannot move back, nor can we allow matters to drift anymore than they have drifted already. Indo-Pak geopolitical linkages are real and indisputable. So far, India and Pakistan had mattered to the world community either as pawns in the cold war exchanges, or on account of their potential. Now, both are on their way to the realization of their potential, and in next twenty to thirty years, both will matter—perhaps India more than Pakistan, on account of India’s larger size. Pakistan would not be a pushover either. It straddles many divides in the Islamic fold, its geographic location gives it direct access to China, and the Central Asian oil wealth at just one remove. Indo-Pak confrontation renders Pak ineffective, and India much diminished. Together, they can play a significant role to the advantage of both. The global war on terrorism, which could degenerate into a war of civilizations, must be kept out of the sub-continent, if that is at all possible. The greater Indian civilization comprises peoples of all religions and sects in the sub-continent. It is for Pakistan to decide if it chooses to be a part of it. It should not at all be difficult for the Muslims of the sub-continent to reconcile Islam with the Indian civilization. They can do so without severing their linkages with the Islamic world; many of them are doing so already.


The burden of history and civilizational fatigue need not mire the sub-continent into internecine feuds. There is no need to tackle the problems sequentially. All of them should be dealt with simultaneously. What happened in Gujarat should not be looked at as a stick with which to beat a single political party. The temptation to do so is too strong, but it should not prevent the new generations from looking at the whole problem more realistically.


The change cannot be brought about in a fit of idealistic fervour, but in full knowledge of the Hindu-Muslim divide, which is not a creation of this or that party. Checks and balances have to be thought out carefully. This does sound impossible, but that is no reason for shunning such a venture. Below the molten lava of anger and resentment, somewhere deep down, there are vast reserves of civilizational wisdom. We need to tap into it. This huge and seething mass of deprived humanity in the sub-continent needs a better deal than what it has got so far. Recent writing in Pakistani media shows the signs of a new beginning. The leadership in the sub-continent must take advantage of this development and start a dialogue amongst thinkers and opinion makers so that a beginning can be made towards creating a sub-continent, which is not at war with itself.







[1] “By revealing that the rioters came from every strata of society, they have underlined another grim truth—that this capacity for violence exists in each one of us. That the mobs of Ahmedabad and elsewhere were made up of people like you and I”, Shri R.P.Subramanian, ‘Can’t blame it on the mob’, The Indian Express, Pune, 16 April, 2002.

[2] “There are, going by the Narendra Modi government’s own figures, 97, 998 riot-affected people in that state. Gujarat represents, in fact, nothing less than a reenactment of Partition, 55 years after that monstrous upheaval.” Pamela Philipose, ‘An Act of ill will’, The Indian Express, Pune 1 April 2002. The death toll is placed at around 830. The total loss in financial terms may be of the order of Rs.10, 000 crores.

[3] 58 Women and children were burnt to death when bogie S-6 of Sabarmati Express was set on fire by a mob on 27 February 2002. The victims could not escape because the doors and windows were found to have been  locked.

[4] “The sheer social and geographical spread of the conflagration, cutting across traditional caste and class barriers, is astounding and points to a shocking collapse.”  Rajdeep Sardesai, ‘Beyond ideology’, The Indian Express, Pune, 9 April 2002.

[5] “Pakistan on the other hand, was created by descendants of people who thundered into the area from Tashkent, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, with a sword in one hand, and the Koran in the other, and an idea in their heads of conquest, expansion or conversion….Indian Muslims have always been susceptible to ideas…At partition Muslims came from India to Pakistan in search of an idea of homeland.”  See ‘Breaking the Curfew, A Political Journey through Pakistan’, by Emma Duncan, Arrow Books, London, 1990. (P.13)

Although this quote is attributed to a Pakistani, does it not also reflect the attitude of a substantial number of Muslims in India?

[6] Saeed Naqvi, ‘What a speech, O citizens!’, The Indian Express, Pune, 19 April 2002.

[7] The Mughal Emperors had ceased to rule, except in a putative sense from circa 1700, but the fiction of their rule had been kept alive, initially by the Marathas and subsequently by the British, till the middle of the nineteenth century. Though the power was wrested by the British mainly from the Marathas and the Sikhs, a large number of Muslims in the sub-continent believe that the power and the right to rule India passed from the Mughals to the British.


[8] Emma Duncan quotes from her conversation with the late President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan: “This minority [the Muslims] had been given this country for a 1000 years, then the British looked after both the communities…Mr. Jinnah saw how parochial how biased the Hindu was.” Op cit, (P.288).

[9] Emma Duncan highlights this point by quoting one Mr. Maudoodi who was a fundamentalist: “Muslim nationalism is as contradictory a term as a chaste prostitute.” This was said a good ten years before the Partition, and the intention was to emphasize the supra national nature of Islam. Op cit, (Pages 219-220)

[10] “Firstly, Islam is not only a religion but a total way of life. Twahid, the principle of unification, is central to Islam, and it would be a heresy to divide life into separate compartments of the secular and the religious.” See “A misunderstood religion’, by Mr. S.S.Gill, The Indian Express, 1 April 2002

[11] Mr. Rafiq Zakaria, having condemned acts of terrorism finds it necessary to add, “Their terrorist acts are in flagrant violation of the Koranic injunctions..”. Quite so, but would it not have sufficed to condemn them only for ‘secular’ reasons?

See his article titled, ‘Anti Muslim Crusade, Liberal Islam is the Best Defence’, which appeared in the Times of India, Pune, 15 March 2002

[12] An exactly opposite view is presented by the noted columnist Kuldip Nayar in his article titled, ‘We need candles at the Borders, not guns—False hostilities’, which appeared in the Indian Express, Pune, 10 April 2002. His view is: “People on both sides bear no ill-will towards one another despite the atmosphere in which they have lived since Partition. Whenever or wherever they meet, they pick up where they left off. But out of fear, they do not raise their voice. Unless they do so, they are condemned to jingoism. I have no doubt that some day they will revolt against the governments for having kept them apart.” Indeed there are occasions when there is much camaraderie and bon homie at old boys meets and the like. But to think that the Hindu-Muslim divide is a creation of the leaders is to live in a make believe world. The leadership reflects the prevailing mood to its own advantage. Occasionally, a gifted leader may also help create a mood by drawing upon the deeper feelings, which are not easily accessible. But leaders cannot create ill will and divides out of thin air. But for the seething ill will in the sub-continent, there would have been no partition. Nobody need justify the ill will as good or desirable, but to say that it does not exist flies in the face of reality. On personal level there are millions of Hindus and Muslims who like and admire each other, but that good will has not sufficed so far to fill the chasm.

[13] Referring to a speech by Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Rafiq Zakaria asks a rhetorical question: “If this not a call for a crusade against Islam, then what is?”   Op. cit.

[14] Vrinda Gopinath, ‘Now, EU draws a parallel with apartheid and Nazi Germany’, The Indian Express, Pune, 22 April 2002.

[15] Mr. M.A.Jinnah, while addressing Pakistan’s Constitutional Assembly at Karachi on 11 August 1947:

See the rest of the footnote at the bottom of the next page.

“A division had to take place…In my opinion, there was no other solution…Any idea of a united India could never have worked…May be this view is correct; may be it is not; that remains to be seen…. In this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities being in one Dominion or the other…Now what shall we do? ”

Stanley Wolpert, ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984, (P.339).

It is time to find answers to the question raised by the late Mr. Jinnah, and follow up on the basic doubt expressed by him.