Doctored history, national suicide and the harvest of hate…..

HUSSAIN SAQIB

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. Bible

Those who play with history to sow hatred will reap hatred many times over. This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan, a country whose raison d’etre has been a subject of periodic revisions, each time suiting vested interest or powerful groups of the time. It was a modern democratic state to start with, it was a socialist state for a brief period in early 70s, it was an Islamic state in the 80s, it was an Islamic state divided on sectarian lines in the 90s, a state with moderation and enlightenment in the start of the century and nowadays it is a country for the Muslims alone who can be gracious enough to allow other minorities to co-exist but only as second-class citizens.

The country has reached this pass through calculated but gradual distortion of history. In the process, the nation has disappeared or perished. The easiest way for nations to commit suicide is distort their own history. This distortion becomes even more disgusting when villains start getting presented as heroes and their hypothetical acts of heroism are glorified. The case in point is Pakistan where doctored history has not only painted a fresh coat on anti-Pakistan elements; it has divided the society on religious and sectarian lines.  Clerical heavy-weights, who had opposed creation of Pakistan fearing loss of their relevance in an independent, modern and democratic country, are now being presented as ideologues of Pakistan. To make them relevant in the country they themselves opposed and that too at the cost of country’s founding fathers, the generations born after 1947 are being made to believe that Pakistan was established as a test lab to implement the Sharia and that Pakistan was established in the name of Islam.

Notwithstanding the vision of Father of the Nation given to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 outlining the broad contours of Constitution of the new country, it now sounds blasphemous to suggest that Pakistan was established, not as a religious state but, as a modern democratic country where citizen would not be identified or discriminated on the basis of their faith.  Logic suggests that if Pakistan was to be established in the name of Islam then the movement for Pakistan would have been led by some holy name and not a person like Jinnah. Lahore Resolution of 1940 and Quaid’s speech of August 11 do not mention that Pakistan was to become an Islamic country. However, it was dawned after Jinnah’s death on those succeeding him that Pakistan was an Islamic state, as if they were waiting for his departure to change the history.

What a paradox; Jinnah changed the course of history; his successors changed its contents. Jinnah put Pakistan on a course set according to aspirations and wishes of the Founding Fathers, The Objective Resolution passed in 1949 set a new course for the country in compliance with the wishes of those vested interest groups who had no role in formation of the country.

The best way to glorify Pakistan-bashers and Jinnah-bashers of 1940s was to change the history taught through the textbooks. When you glorify the villains, then you have to foster prejudice and intolerance of some segments of society; in our case the easy targets were Hindus and Christians rather than All India National Congress, nationalist mullahs and the British colonizers. According to a study by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,” the report says.

The findings are based on a review of more than 100 textbooks from grades 1-10, which was followed by visits to 37 public schools and 19 madrassas where some 500 students and teachers were interviewed.

Now let’s look at the vision of Father of the Nation he shared with the Constituent Assembly three days ahead of creation of Pakistan. This vision contains the outline of Pakistan’s Constitution. It goes on like this:

Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

Look at what has happened to a country which has defied the core values governing the creation of a society? Today, no one is safe.  The years of continuing lawlessness and political instability in the country have made everyone vulnerable.  The collapse of institutions and inadequacy of celebrated icons, including the Army, have dangerously disillusioned generations of Pakistanis. Radical groups have smoothly stepped into this leadership vacuum, preying on people’s deepest insecurities and prejudices. But no amount of rabble rousing fanatics and self-serving politicians could match the damage inflicted by toxic textbooks. Lessons and images imprinted on young, impressionable minds do not just stay with us forever, they fashion our whole personality, outlook and approach to life.

This is why there may be something in there in the US claim that textbooks are to blame for the growing intolerance of minorities in Pakistan. The day the US report came out, four Hindu doctors were killed in an attack on a clinic in Sindh, the most serious crime recorded against the community in years.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to ignore growing instances of attacks on minorities.  There have been many incidents where Christians were meted out ‘vigilante justice’ after being accused of blasphemy under the much abused laws inherited from the British.  Sectarian violence isn’t limited to Christians and Hindus though.  The Shia Muslims have suffered the most.

Incidentally, Pakistan doesn’t enjoy a monopoly over toxic textbooks or demonization of minorities. The game has been played on both sides of the border with great dexterity and goes way back—long before the division of the subcontinent.

Driving wedge between various religious groups was a game played by the British who tried every trick in the devil’s book to malign and defame the former rulers and turn the majority Hindus against Muslims with whom they had lived in peace for over a thousand years. According to The News, Muslims were portrayed as invaders who came to India to plunder its riches, destroy every temple and convert every Hindu to Islam at sword point. The paid historians of the Raj tried to wipe off every sign of the Muslim love affair with India, sowing seeds of strife that eventually led to the division of the country before the British departed. That selective reading of history did not stop with the end of the Raj but went on in the secular and democratic India even though the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself was an eminent historian and was known to be secular and liberal in outlook.  The understanding and interpretation of history acquired a totally new meaning during the years the militant BJP was in power with the government undertaking a massive exercise to “rewrite and saffronize” the past.

As a result, children grow up on this staple of history imbibing early how Muslims ravaged India and went about razing temples and building mosques on their ruins, and to cap it all, by dividing the motherland.  Even Muslims studying this history are sure to grow up loathing themselves and their ancestors.

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