The Root of India-Pakistan Conflicts
0 comments | by Mr Malik
Reply to Rajiv Malhotra by Malik
Rajiv Malhotra wrote a detailed article on this subject. His basic argument was that contrary to a common perception that Kashmir is the root cause of Indo –Pakistan conflict had tried to demonstrate that the ‘Kashmir issue’ is itself the result of a deeper root cause, which is a clash of two worldviews: pluralism versus exclusivism.
Mr Malik has negated the central theme of Rajiv Malhotra presented counter arguments. He believes that Islam was intolerant of polytheism and idol worship, and Hinduism was highly intolerant of anyone who was not a Hindu of one of the higher castes. But for the influence and chance presence of the Sufis, this would have resulted in far more bloodshed than actually occurred in the resultant wars and clashes. However that be, the seeds of partition were laid in this mutual intolerance way before the movement for partition was even thought about.
I am in substantial agreement with much that you say in your essay, but I am at variance with you on your foundational argument. I do not believe that beyond pure theory any of the old world religions, or new world secular ideologies, except paganism, was pluralistic. All of them without exception were exclusivist to one degree or the other. To begin with, they may well have been considerably tolerant, but with the onset of orthodoxy and its development, they all developed a distinct adversarial attitude to the Outsider, the Other.
All religions follow a general trend of development which is common to them all. The original founder or sage or prophet in all cases seems to have been moved primarily by socio-economic causes, followed by theological imperatives. But as soon as the founder passes away, three things seem to happen. The original dynamism of the movement progressively gives way to ossification and orthodoxy; the priesthood gives religion a corporate form; and emphasis increasingly starts shifting from humanitarian dictates of the religion to the emphasis on the theological.
This latter shift takes place, because the priest wants to monopolize religious power and he must draw the legitimacy of his position to interpret the commandments of the deity from theology. Secondly it does him little good if he keeps emphasizing the humanitarian aspects or obligations of the belief system. These are so basic and easy to understand that even a lay person needs no scholarship to comprehend them. And if a lay person understands them the priest is not needed. Thus, for the priest to justify his position, he needs to create space where he can deploy his superior knowledge. This he can only do in the world of the arcane and the abstruse. And this space lies in the realm of theology. And the more the emphasis shifts from the humanitarian aspect of religion, to the theological, emphasis also shifts from righteous action to correctness of belief. From the practical to the theoretical. We start propitiating God who needs nothing from us, and ignoring fellow human beings who need everything from us. Eventually religion becomes a tool of power for both the priest and the king, and humanity lies forlorn and forgotten, except in its role as cannon fodder and a play thing of the powerful. And ever thicker walls of orthodoxy are thrown up to make the position of the priest unassailable.
As this happens, religion changes from a blessing for humanity, to a curse. When this point is reached, religion also becomes an alibi for every manner of sin which it specifically prohibits. Its practitioners subconsciously start believing that having performed acts of worship they have done their duty on to God, and that they are thereafter free to deal with humanity as they deem fit. Without this subconscious thinking it is impossible to reconcile worship and prayers with theft plunder cheating and double dealing by the very "pious" in society. I think this is partly the reason the people in the west are different, and at a human plane, more moral. Their theological beliefs are a private matter for them, and are of little concern to their neighbours. Thus a westerner cannot make a career or reputation out of "piety". To be in the good graces of others he must live by a code which lays stress on his civic duties as a member of the community, and it is on this basis that he is judged. He gets no marks for attending church on Sundays.
This shift of emphasis from the humanitarian to the theological with power being progressively accumulated by the priesthood is easily seen in the history of religions. And the shift itself is protected by orthodoxy, so that any challenger of it would have to suffer the charge of heresy with good chances of winding up at the stake.
In Islam you can see it very early on when caliphs became kings. This being totally contrary to the spirit of Islam, the kings needed support of the religious establishment. Thus we see the rise to power of the "court" scholars and the prayer leaders, and they virtually take the place of priesthood, despite the fact that the concept of priesthood is absent in Islam. It is the view of some that the emergence and the initial motivation of the Fuqua, who founded Islamic jurisprudence, was to limit the power of the Caliph/ kings and restrict them within the ambit of the law. However very soon the fruit of their labours itself became a part of the orthodoxy. Various Sufi orders were the next to warn the rulers against their transgressions. And by the time Sufi orders were tamed and hounded out, human welfare went to the bottom of the priorities for the rulers, and all intellectual energy was sucked out of the study of sciences, and diverted to the vapid pursuit of determining how a true Muslim ought to believe. This was quite the opportune time for the Mongols to strike, and but for the injection of new blood in the shape of the Ottomans, the curtain would have fallen on the Islamic civilization much earlier than it eventually did.
Christianity too lived by the humanitarian message of Christ only for the time that this was a persecuted sect. However as soon as Constantine decided that he needed a new religion to unify his empire, and he empowered the priesthood, orthodoxy started to gain strength at the cost of the humanitarian teachings of Christ. And by the time of the Inquisition and the crusades, humanitarian concerns lost out utterly to theological orthodoxy.
You see the same drift in Judaism. Even when the Old Testament was completed, the priesthood was strong enough to declare that the oral law, of which they were the sole custodians, overrode the Torah which was open to the lay persons to read. And as various biblical prophets railed against the many transgressions of the priests, against both God and his people, many of them were run out of their homes or killed. And during the time of the Babylonian captivity we see the emergence of the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism. One of the first edicts of the Rabbis was to declare that there will be no more prophets, those problem creators for the old priesthood. And then the Rabbis declared that a Jew, who was disobedient to the command of a rabbi, could be sentenced to death. This was orthodoxy turned into lethality.
As far as Hinduism is concerned, its beginnings lie so deep in the past that they cannot be uncovered to even a pretense of accuracy. However it may be true to say that the part its priesthood has played in moulding it into what it is today, is more thorough going than that played by the priesthood of any other religion. This can be seen in how the caste system which once must have been a purely societal construct having nothing to do with the sacred] has been elevated to an inextricable part of Hinduism, so as to totally mangle the religion and to invest it with one of the great crimes against humanity. By justifying it through the agency of Karma, the untouchables, a majority of the population, have been put in a hermetically sealed box, from which they can find no escape except through rebirth [i.e. Karma]. And this ensures that their children cannot escape from it either. This makes inequality a foundation of Hinduism, which is beyond reform, because emancipating these miserable millions would be to deny reincarnation. And this being a central pillar of Hinduism, such denial would be tantamount to brining down Hinduism itself. The aim of the Brahmins, by fixing the position of the untouchables at the very bottom of society and making it immovable, was to make their own position at the very top, impregnable. It is because of this that no rebellion against Brahmanism--not Buddhism, not the Bhagtia movement, not Sikhism, has been able to succeed. And Mahatma Gandhi could not succeed because he just could not allow himself to go the whole hog. Doing so would have needed to dismantle the caste system as a whole, and dismantling it would have required the dismantling of Hinduism. And for going just half way there, he had to be shot! There can be no more eloquent commentary on the viciousness of the caste system, not of its strength, nor of its impregnability.
But this drift seems to be common in all religions-- of the priesthood monopolizing and elevating theology at the expense of emphasizing the humanitarian aspects of religion, thus hollowing out its spirit, and making it a doctrine which will look askance at the one who does not believe "correctly", as well as the outsider. This is how; I believe religions ceased being a blessing for mankind. They removed universal brotherhood and tolerance from their teachings which was the very kernel of this blessing.
The central unspoken assumption of your essay is that Hinduism was pluralistic, that Islam was exclusivist, and therefore partition became inevitable. Because this cannot stand, so the rest of your argument must fall. Any system of belief which makes hermetically sealed partitions within itself cannot be tolerant of the outsider. And Hinduism has always seen the outsider as unclean and to be kept at a distance. This does not allow for accommodation or tolerance. So in this sense Hinduism was little different from other religions.
With your central assumption being negated, an adjustment needs to be made to your central argument. My reading of history is that when Islam came to India, two intolerant forces came face to face. Islam was highly intolerant of polytheism and idol worship, and Hinduism was highly intolerant of anyone who was not a Hindu of one of the higher castes. But for the influence and chance presence of the Sufis, this would have resulted in far more bloodshed than actually occurred in the resultant wars and clashes. However that be, the seeds of partition were laid in this mutual intolerance way before the movement for partition was even thought about.
On the issue of the demand of partition by the majority of the Muslims of India, I believe that there were some genuinely invested in the 2-nation theory. But I think the real motivator for this demand was the fear of post-independence dominance of the Hindus over the Muslims--a dictatorship of a permanent majority over a minority which was weak judged by any index of development. This fear was justified and is borne out by the progressive deterioration of the lot of Muslims left in India. For India to remain united, certain constitutional guarantees were the least that were required to ease the fears of the Muslims. And these were given in the Lucknow Pact. It is my contention that but for the repudiation of this Pact by the Congress, there would have been no movement for the partition of India, and if there was, it would have been inconsequential. But at this point this can only be contra factual argument.
The fact though is that the partition of India did take place and both the Congress and the Muslim League were in agreement with the principles which undergirded it. The Indian stance on the issue of Kashmir violates these principles, and has become an issue for both India and Pakistan that has robbed both our peoples of their days in the sun. And unfortunately these days have not yet ended, and more of the same lies in our future. And the creator of this problem is India, no matter how the leads up of events leading to the partition of India are read.
It is better to teach no history than to teach history for the purposes of propaganda and brain washing. But what is difficult for me to understand is why India should endeavor to miseducate its future generations. The specific instances I am referring to is the Hindutva inspired attempt to reconstruct the Aryan invasion; the propagation of the myth that India was always a united country; and the suggestions that it was the foreign invaders who had a lot to do with relegation of Indian women to a low status in society, and also that it was because of the invaders that the caste system was degraded to its present level of unacceptability.
Similarly, no one in Pakistan can cover up much of what they are doing in the name of religion vis a vis other Muslims or minorities and those who dare to believe differently within the larger pale of majority religion. And though I believe that India's constitution is way more inclusive than Pakistan's, but the prejudice against minorities and frequent communal killings in India suggest that the thinking of majority Hindus is not in accord with the ideals of its constitution, which gives further strength to the 2-nation theory. And where India takes a negative lead over Pakistan is the fact that there has been at least one massacre of Muslims which was inspired and egged on by a provincial government. And now with the extreme right wing in India calling for a re -conversion to Hinduism of all those who were not "foreigners" and who converted from Hinduism to other faiths cannot be justified.
Where India does have one vital advantage over Pakistan, I feel, is in its public intellectuals, who are proportionately in significantly larger numbers in India, and most of these seem to be very mindful of their integrity. If Indian history is not to be recast according to Hindutva dictates, and if Hinduism is to prevented from occupying huge swathes of public space in India, it will be because of Indian public intellectuals who are willing to stand up for what they believe in irrespective of the consequences.
Mr Malik is free lance brilliant analyst based in the United States. He has an outstanding grasp of South Asia.