Should Hindus also have demanded a separate Hindu country back in 1947?

My answer to Should Hindus also have demanded a separate Hindu country back in 1947?

Answer by Vijayendra Mohanty:

No. And there are very good reasons for it in history.

The year was 1947. Jinnah, the soon-to-be father of Pakistan was routinely attending meetings with the then heads of the Congress regarding the distribution of resources that was about to happen in the days to come.

But Jinnah was under the impression that these meetings were about the creation of two new nations. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel corrected him in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru. He told Jinnah that what was about to happen was not the creation of two new nations. It was the creation of one new nation — Pakistan — which was separating itself from an already-existing nation, India.

Jinnah had been imagining a Hindustan-Pakistan dichotomy, which would have given a seal of credibility to the two-nation theory on the basis of which he had demanded the Partition. But the Indian leadership of the time decided to stick to the old name.

Why?

First, there was no need for a renaming of the country. After all, nobody had wanted a brand new nation (except Jinnah’s Muslim League) when freedom from the British had been sought. They had only wanted the ability to govern themselves. Second, India had been India for a long time before the British ever appeared on the scene. Their departure would not fundamentally alter the nature of India.

Third — and this is really the bit that answers this question — the Indian identity has cultural capital. The word India means something, and that meaning has more value in the international market than the word Hindustan. Let us not even talk about the cultural value of Pakistan.

Brand-building is not easy, especially when it comes to a nation as large and as prone to cultural storms as India. This was as true of Pakistan as the newly freed India. But while Pakistan had to start from scratch (and consequently made a mess of things), India chose to build its future reputation on top of the already-existing story.

So the road this country took then, and is largely still on today, came from an ancient culture, a history of scholarship and spiritual wisdom, good relations with lands near and far, and most importantly, a reasonably good rapport with the leaving Britishers themselves. No small part of the impression India has today internationally comes from that decision long ago to retain the name India.

When the world looks upon India today, they do not see something that was born in 1947. They see a much older geopolitical unit. The value of this may not seem apparent at first look, but when you think about it, it is obvious.

But would things have been different if India had become a full and proper Hindu state?

Becoming a Hindu state, first and foremost, would have meant letting Jinnah’s two-nation-theory win. It would have been a capitulation of everything that India had been until that point in time. By becoming a Hindu state, we would have thrown out pluralism, diversity, and our entire history of acceptance and accommodation that had defined this country.

You might argue that Hindu culture is inclusive by nature and that it would not have mattered. I would respond (while doubting your premise), that given the political climate of the time, nobody would have given a damn about Hinduism’s credentials. We would still have been seen as Pakistan’s sulky elder brother.

Besides, the father of modern India’s Constitution was Dr Ambedkar, who had very serious reservations (to put it mildly) about Hinduism, having grown up in the dark shadow of rampant casteism. In fact, it was he who led large number of Dalits into Buddhism in those years. He rejected Hinduism yes, but he didn’t have a high opinion of Islam either.

At the end of the day, ask yourself this: In the modern world we live in, which side of the fence would you rather be on? The side on which secular democracies are on — America, European nations, Japan etc? Or the side where our only friends would be Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc?

Playing “what if” with history is never easy. It is of course possible that we might have done way better than we have by becoming a separate Hindu country back in 1947, but if everything that has happened since then is any indication, I think we did the right thing by not travelling down that road.

Should Hindus also have demanded a separate Hindu country back in 1947?