India and Pakistan: why the mass killings occurred

As a follow-up to the previous discussion about Indian national identity, I asked my Indian correspondent living in the West about the terrible massacres during the India/Pakistan partition. The result was one of the most interesting e-mails I’ve ever received.

LA to correspondent:

Could you help me with this question? I do not understand the mass killings that took place at the time of the partition. I’ve read various articles about it, but they were superficial and none of them really explained it in a way that made sense. Pakistan had voted to split from India. Many Hindus left Pakistan for India, many Muslims left India for Pakistan. But since the two countries had agreed to split, why, and how, were literally millions of people killed in riots and so forth? This is one of the most appalling events in history, perhaps the largest single instance of ethnic conflict ever, yet not much seems to be made of it. Was it simply that, once Pakistan declared independence, the Muslims in Pakistan wanted to force out the Hindus, and began killing them, and then the Indians did likewise?

Correspondent to LA:

Yes, Partition was a unique period. In many ways it was our Holocaust. The difference being that it didn’t completely run one way – Hindus and Sikhs also slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Muslims.

I think the starting point is to understand what “Pakistan” means. “Pak” in Urdu means “Pure”, “Stan” means place. “Pakistan” means “land of the Pure”. Land of the Pure believers of Allah. Now we had a situation where the land of the “pure” believers had a 30 percent population of unbelievers – Hindus and Sikhs. Polytheists to boot. Allah commands the destruction of Polytheism with a particular vengeance through our favourite “holy” book, the Q’uran. So I am surprised that people couldn’t see it coming when they talked about creating Pakistan. It also says something about the delusion of the British and other assorted liberals in not seeing that creating a Muslim state would risk large scale riots.

Once the announcement was made that Pakistan would be created, many Hindus and Sikhs who found themselves on the wrong side of the border tried to talk themselves into believing that life could go on as normal. Although they would be a minority, this wouldn’t matter because they had lived as a minority for centuries- so what was so different? But it was different before because the Brits were ruling India. So politically, the Muslims had little power. Unfortunately, once the Muslims got wind of the coming political windfall, they decided to settle scores with those idol-worshippers that Allah hates with such passion. So the Muslims initiated violence in West Punjab which is now in Pakistan (but was merely part of unified Punjab province earlier).

Once Hindus and Sikhs on the Indian Hindu majority side got wind of Muslim barbarity, they retaliated. In that sense there is nothing unusual about it except scale. The story is almost always the same. Muslims initiate violence, Hindus and Sikhs retaliate. So once mob fury was unleashed, it got out of hand. Pakistan “cleansed” itself of all Hindus and Sikhs (almost all). On the Indian side, anti-Muslim violence was limited to Punjab (where people were not followers of Gandhi). In the rest of the country Muslims were not attacked because Gandhi had issued his “sermon” that Muslims not be harmed.

As a result, Muslims remained in India in large numbers (and India now has the largest Muslim population on earth – can’t be good for us in the long run). While no one can ever condone the killing of innocent Muslims, Gandhi ought to have taken the position that “Sardar” Patel (a senior Congress leader) took at the time which was to say that Muslims had got their separate state and should move to it now that it had been created. There should have been a government sponsored peaceful eviction of Muslims from India in 1947. There wasn’t and now we must live forever in fear of Muslim violence (and Muslims must live in fear of Hindu violence).

I have always wanted to write about this to you. How is it that India has a massive Muslim population and yet manages to get along with relative calm? Many leftists/liberals in the West could misuse that example to say: “Look, Muslims aren’t trouble. India has 150 million Muslims!”. The way peace is maintained in India is by fear of mob fury. Muslims in India are generally peaceful because they know that if they stretch the limits of Hindu tolerance and kill people, Hindu mobs would descend upon them with a fury that would kill many more Muslims. This is fundamentally the way in which peace in a relative sense is maintained in India – by fear of violent retribution. A good example is a Muslim attack on a train of Hindu pilgrims in 2002. They burnt 50 Hindu women and children alive. Inevitably, in retaliation, violent Hindu mobs killed 2000 Muslims.

It is barbaric and it is brutal. The mentality that we witness is from the age of barbarism. But that is how peace is actually maintained. I have a feeling that if Hindus were more “civilized” like Westerners and played everything by the book, the Muslims would probably run riot with no end in sight. They don’t because they know that the majority could turn blood-thirsty at any moment. And so relative peace is maintained.

I wonder how Western liberals would react if they were told that the price of peace in a country with a large Muslim minority is to have a barbaric mindset which vindicates mindless slaughter of innocents – failing which peace would not be possible. They would probably reject it as a “fantasy” of “fascists” and never take it seriously.

LA to correspondent:

I am indebted to you for this excellent account. Your explanation is far more cogent than any published article I’ve read. Mere facts without an organizing perspective is mere journalism. There is no substitute for a perspective by which facts are organized into a coherent whole. Liberalism/secularism avoids such a perspective, because that would lead to “judgmentalism” against Muslims and thus the end of liberal equality; or else it adopts a false perspective in which the Muslims are God’s gift to mankind.

I can’t overstate how interesting and valuable this is. I feel I have an understanding of the issue for the first time, and of Hindu-Muslim relations in India. Your final point about the price of peace in a country with a large Muslim minority is absolutely chilling. Yes, that is what living cheek by jowl with Muslims does to people. They must become cruel and brutal, just to survive.

Islam scholar Andy Bostom adds:

Larry, it is an ancient story: Hindus preserved their culture despite the Muslim onslaught, by FIGHTING. The Muslim rulers of the country NEVER succeeded in Islamizing large swaths of the country despite depredations extending over 1000 years, from Muhammad Bin Qasim in the second decade of the 8th century, through at least the Durrani jihad campaigns of the mid 18th century.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 08, 2005 11:51 AM | Send

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