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Gandhi and the Partition of India
(Author: Kamran Shahid)
Lahore: Ferozsons (Pvt) Ltd.
Reviewed by Saima Batool
The book Gandhi and the Partition of India has been written by Kamran Shahid, who is presently teaching I.R in G.C. University Lahore. He did his Master of Research in International Relations and Contemporary Political Theory from the University of Westminster London. He also did Master in Modern History from G.C. University Lahore. He has produced six international papers on the important issues. The book under review is one of the phenomenal works done on partition of India with Gandhi’s perspective.
The book under review can be viewed as significant as having been based on a novel perspective of partition of India to some extent. The author skillfully deviates from the traditional view point about partition in the light of empirical research. The main focus of the study is the Gandhi’s political intellect and political activities. The core idea of the book is that how, despite being a phenomenal personality, Gandhi’s political ambitions and his caste ideology created fear, frustration and insecurity among the Indian Muslims about their future political status in free united India, which in turn caused the Muslim demand of separate homeland. The division of the book into three main chapters and further into sub-chapters better serves the motive of supporting the argument of the author.
The author first presents the background of the Hindu-Muslim communal rift in post 1857 British India and comes up with an argument that the communal rift would have never been widened, if leaders like Gandhi had co-operated in terms of the share of power with Muslims and other minorities. The constitutional safeguard of the Muslims through 1909 and 1919 Acts was the result of British analysis of the Indian divided society into many religious groups and was the intense need of time. But Hindu opposition to special political arrangements for Muslims showed the Gandhi’s indifference to Muslim problem which antagonized the Muslim thinking for future unity.
The author tactfully comes up with an argument that Gandhi has been defended as the liberal reformer of India by Indian writers who had immense desire of Hindu-Muslim unity. But according to the author, Gandhi’s introduction of ancient Hindu doctrines and Hindu symbols in freedom movement overshadowed his liberal zeal and exposed him more an orthodox Hindu leader. His caste ideology, believe in the caste oriented free India and his response to the Untouchables (Lower class Hindus) for the separate electorates further disappointed the Muslims. So the author argues that period from 1920-35 was significant on the grounds that had Gandhi displayed his flexibility and realistic approach in terms of sharing the constitutional and political power, the dream of united free India could be achieved through consensus.
The period of Congress ministries (1937-39) can be viewed as the period of shaping Muslim minds about Hindu mentality. It also strengthened the stance of Muslim League to openly propagate the Muslim separatism. Congress ministries and their treatment of Muslims reflected them to be the more harsh rulers in future than the present. So, the author, in the support of his argument very skillfully confirms the fact that demand of Pakistan was the response to Hindu treatment of Muslims. It seems that before this period the demand of Pakistan had no practical base. So, the fact remains clear that under the phenomenal leadership of Gandhi, the partition of India could be averted and the independence could be materialized with mutual understanding, provided the Muslim problem along with other minorities could be sensed at its realist place.
The book is being written in curtailed form which discusses the different dimensions about partition but focusing on the Gandhi’s politics and his strategy of using religion into politics. So, it takes the reader think beyond the established orthodox perspectives about partition. On the whole, it’s a good attempt of Kamran Shahid, conveying his ideas in easy and compact language, yet he can be criticized for being presented Gandhi as an orthodox Hindu, rather Gandhi has been controversial in Hindu society due to his unorthodox attitude. The author also did not succeed to provide ample evidence against Gandhi to prove him fully responsible for the partition of India, as the author claims. Even then the presented facts sufficiently support the arguments of author regarding partition.