15th August was the anniversary of Partition of India which is celebrated as “freedom” by both India and Pakistan to misguide their people. A great tragedy where million were killed and which has sowed the seeds of continuous hatred in both countries. In Pakistan situation demands a re assessment of of the concept of freedom, to challenge the official propaganda and their historical revisionism. The only people who benefited from partition are the ruling elite of both countries , which in order to keep their rule want to continue their politics of hate, segregation and communalism.The dreams of freedom were broken soon after 1947 when people realized that it was just a change of masters.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the famous communist poet of Pakistan echoed these sentiments in his revolutionary poem “14 August , Subeh e azzadi” where he said:
Ye dagh dagh Ujala , Ye Shub guzedda shaher
Intazar tha jis ka , ye wu shaher tu nahi!!
The tragedy of partition has been lamented by all progressive writers, Manto’s Toba Tek Singh” has acquired an epic status in this respect. In this age of confusion and capitalistic right wing media invasion, we must keep our ideology and ideas clear. Dr Mubarak Ali, the eminent Pakistani historian has published a brilliant article which was published in the Daily Dawn on 14th August 2008. He asks a simple question, should we celebrate independence or mourn it?
FOR 61 years, Pakistan has been celebrating its independence. However, with the passage of time the concept of independence has changed for us.
It is no more the same as it was before. For example, under the British Raj, when the people of the Indian subcontinent were fighting against foreign rule, the colonial documents referred to the resistance movements challenging the rulers as “rebellions against the legitimate government”.
The uprising of 1857 was termed by the British as a mutiny and not a war of independence against their rule. By denying the legitimacy of resistance movements, the colonial government sought to justify its harsh and oppressive policies against them. However, after 1857, the emergence of nationalism and the struggle of political parties to win their basic rights changed the political perception of the people. These movements became a national struggle against colonial hegemony.
As democratic methods such as demonstrations, strikes, agitations and picketing were adopted, the British stopped calling them rebellions or insurgencies and accepted them as a political struggle.
The national struggle, which united the people of the subcontinent irrespective of their religion and caste, was an expression of their sentiments to win freedom from colonial bondage. It was a symbol of unity. A joint struggle for freedom. The national struggle, however, came to be divided when the All India Muslim League drifted away from national politics and raised the slogan of two nations and demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims.
After Partition, in Pakistani historiography, the role of the national struggle against colonialism has been downplayed and the ‘Pakistan Movement’ has received more importance. The major achievement of this movement was not only its success in ridding India of British rule but also liberating Muslims from the domination of the Hindu majority. Therefore, the Pakistan Movement became more anti-Hindu than anti-British.
How did the concept of independence change after Partition? This can be traced from the historical developments in Pakistan. The first case was that of East Pakistan. Just after 1947, the Bengalis complained about the arrogant behaviour of the West Pakistani bureaucrats who were posted there and treated the locals as their subject. These grievances accumulated until 1971 when Bangladesh split from Pakistan and declared its independence. In Bangladeshi historiography, the concept of Pakistani independence of 1947 has no place. Instead it contains a historical narration about ‘the war of liberation’ from Pakistan.
On the other hand, the independence of Pakistan soon disillusioned the small provinces which were forced to forget their regional identity and absorb it in a national one. There was strong reaction against this policy, which further strengthened the provinces’ strong resistance to a powerful centre and its institutions. The establishment of One Unit in 1955 was viewed as a step to eliminate regional identity. The result was that they lost faith in democracy and G.M. Syed even went to the extent of declaring that for Sindh it was a useless system because the Sindhis could not come to power in the presence of the Punjabi majority.
It was the same argument which was presented by the Muslim leadership in India — namely, that the Muslims of India, as a minority, could not get their political rights, therefore, democracy was not an appropriate political system. On the basis of this argument, they demanded a separate homeland. So, in Sindh slogans were raised for ‘Sindhudesh’, a separate homeland where the Sindhis could have freedom to handle their own affairs.
The nationalist elements of Sindh are not happy with the present political situation and seek autonomy if not separation for their province. The case of Balochistan is very critical because the Baloch leadership was betrayed again and again by the Pakistani ruling classes. Their resistance movements were crushed brutally and their leaders were imprisoned, tortured and assassinated. Finding no solution within Pakistan, the Baloch have been raising the slogan, ‘Liberation of Balochistan’. To them the concept of independence is no more relevant.
The situation in the tribal areas of the NWFP is also changing rapidly and they are drifting away from the national mainstream.
When the question of independence is raised in any society, we find institutions and groups of people demanding freedom from the clutches of coercive institutional authorities. For example, there is a strong movement for the independence of the judiciary because judges have played a role in legitimising all military dictators. The ruling classes are not in favour of an independent judiciary because it would be a check on their misuse of power. However, the movement has become popular and gained the support of the people. But it appears that there is little hope of the judiciary becoming independent in view of the betrayal by the politicians.
There are other groups and parties that are struggling for their independence. For example, haris or peasants who are languishing in the private jails of the landlords who have set up these jails in blatant violation of the laws. It is their basic right to be free. They are helpless and are at the mercy of their tormentors. The same is the case with women, domestic workers and other subordinate classes. They all want their independence and freedom.
So, the question is: who benefited from independence? The simple answer is that the elite and the privileged classes who are free to exploit the people and squander the resources of the state. To them, the concept of independence is the freedom to do what they like. In the absence of law and order, industrialists, feudal lords, smugglers and the crime mafia are free to fleece people, be involved in all sorts of illegal business and collect money and take it away outside the country.
For them, Pakistan is a paradise. They are happy to celebrate Independence Day. But to the common man who is suffering in poverty and misery, whose children have no access to education, who has no security against lawlessness, or medical facilities in case of illness, or financial support when he loses his job, the question remains: should he celebrate independence or mourn it?