27 January, 2021

The Forgotten Womb

Just half-a-century later, a collective amnesia reigns over the subcontinent

The Forgotten Womb

SARDAR Patel once suggested that there was only one true nationalist Muslim in India: Jawaharlal Nehru. The nearest thing the Congress had to the genuine article in 1947 was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a learned if aloof figure who was frequently denounced by Jinnah and the Muslim League as the 'showboy' of an essentially Hindu organisation. When the All India Congress Committee voted to accept Lord Mountbatten's plan of June 1947, Azad seconded the resolution while asserting: "The division is only of the map of the country and not in the hearts of the people, and I am sure it is going to be a short-lived partition."

This was a commonly held opinion at the time, and was more than the optimistic dream of one man. It was assumed that the division of the Indian empire was temporary and that even if it was permanent, the border between Hindustan and the two wings of Pakistan would be fluid and permeable. People thought it would be like Canada and the US. They would come and go at leisure: Muslims from the United Provinces would do business in Karachi but keep their homes in...



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