Lessons We Never Learnt From A Million We Killed

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“The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped. By the summer of 1947… ten million people – Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – were in flight. Almost a million of them were dead.”

A million dead. The Partition was the world’s largest migration and the worst massacre of innocents in the world. August 15, 1947 marked the divisive moment when Pakistan in the Northwest and Pakistan in the far East, which later became Bangladesh, were separated from India. It was a botched-up surgical operation. India’s arms were chopped off without any anaesthetic, and streams of blood swamped the land of the five rivers known as the Punjab.

A cold war broke out between Muslims on one side and Hindus and Sikhs on the other. It was not like other wars in which armed men battle each other, but one in which one side armed with swords, knives and staves slew the other side, unarmed and unresisting. Women were abducted, raped and forced into wedlock against their will. Over ten million were uprooted from their homes to tread across the plains on foot, or were crammed into bullock carts and trains set upon by marauders and killers till they crossed the new frontiers to safety. The aftermath was beastlier than anything beasts could have done to each other.

It should have taught us — India and Pakistan — many lessons. If that was the end, if it had stopped at one million, one would have said, okay. But it continues.

India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures.

Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, have been carefully removed.

Wounds inflicted by Partition took a long time to heal. Families were divided and close friends parted forever. You will hear many heart-rending tales from the survivors.

1947-2006. The new generation doesn’t even believe something that horrific happened. But it continues to happen even today. It happened in Gujarat recently. In my village in Hadali (now in Pakistan), Sikhs were beheaded and put on spears. We did much the same. When it came to savagery, there was no choice. Gujarat reminded me of the Partition. So many innocents who could not hit back were just killed, butchered, wombs knifed.

In 1947, spears and swords were used. Today, bombs and rifles are commonplace. Violence has become so indiscriminate. You could be in a temple, a market, even in your own house. There are too many people with too many grievances. So many savages. So much savagery.

So many people who nurture hate. You have the Advanis who still have poison inside them; who believe in ‘they need to be taught a lesson.’ And you have the Vajpayees who like to think they are a little more sophisticated than the Narendra Modis and the Togadias. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid — another event that partitioned Indian Hindus and Muslims — Vajpayee read me a poem he had written, as if in justification for the demolition. Its first line was, Kya main buddha ho gaya hoon.

Wounds, wounds and more wounds…

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