People in general are inclined to pass the blame on to others whatever the fault. For example, we Indians love to blame the British for their alleged ‘divide-and-rule’ policy. Did the British really divide India into Hindus and Muslims or did the Indians do it themselves? Was there any unified entity called India in the first place before the British unified it?
Having raised those questions, I’m going to commit a further sacrilege of quoting a British journalist-cum-historian. In his magnum opus, India: a History, John Keay says that the “stock accusations of a wider Machiavellian intent to ‘divide and rule’ and to ‘stir up Hindu-Muslim animosity’” levelled against the British Raj made little sense when the freedom struggle was going on in India because there really was no unified India until the British unified it politically. Communal divisions existed in India despite the political unification. In fact, they existed even before the British ever set foot on the country’s soil. Keay says, “As Maulana Muhammad Ali would later put it, ‘We (Indians) divide and you (the British) rule.’ Without recognising, exploring and accommodating such division, British dominion in India would have been impossible to establish, let alone sustain. Provoking sectarian conflict, on the other hand, was rarely in the British interest.”
The first reaction I anticipate from hardcore ‘patriots’ of contemporary India is that I have used a British writer’s view. Well, my answer is: forget the nationality of the writer and see whether what he says is right. Put aside emotions and sentiments and make use of plain rationality and objective facts. Did the British actually divide us or did we divide ourselves? It was not only religion that we used for erecting huge walls of separation among ourselves but also the caste system and its subsidiary systems. The British made effective use of those divisions.
Secondly, no government would be foolish to encourage fissiparous tendencies among its people since they would only create more problems than solutions for any ruler. It is interesting that the present government in India, led by the BJP, thinks otherwise. It is encouraging antagonistic confrontations between the various religious communities for gaining certain political mileage. Anyone with any vision beyond the tip of his/her nose would understand the folly as well as the danger that underlies the approach.
Suchitra Vijayan’s article in today’s Hindu, Rewriting the nation state, summarises succinctly the strategies used by the BJP and its allies to foment divisiveness in the country. Let me extract the list from the concluding paragraph of her article:
1. Violence manufactured through riots
2. Destruction of religious sites such as churches
3. Organising religious conversion camps
4. Beef bans
5. Rewriting textbooks
6. Censoring works of history, literature and fiction that challenge the ‘Hindu’ version of history
7. Appropriating political icons
8. Raising monuments
It would be interesting if the ‘patriots’ would sit up and reflect whether the British ever made use of such strategies. What I’m trying to suggest is that we, some citizens of the independent India in the 21st century, are doing much more harm to the integrity of the nation than the British ever did. Is this the India we really want? Who are our real enemies?