South Asian subcontinent’s iconic poet and an ardent communist, Faiz Ahmed Faiz termed the independence of the subcontinent in August 1947 as a ‘blighted dawn’ in his famous poem ‘morrow of independence’. He was revolted with the bloody massacres during the partition on religious lines. It was perhaps one of the biggest genocides in modern human history. But if it began as a blighted dawn this independence has become a harrowing nightmare for the oppressed masses of the subcontinent sixty five years on.
After the Second World War, a revolutionary blizzard lashed across Asia. A red storm had engulfed China which culminated in the revolutionary victory of 1949. In the Indian subcontinent a national liberation struggle had intensified in the 1920’s. One of its most crucial motivations was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia. The British imperialists had analysed the movement in those heady days and their strategy was to preserve the capitalist system even after they left. To avoid a revolutionary outcome of the struggle they improvised ways and means to crush and deprive the proletariat of the region from taking the leadership of the resistance against the Raj.
In its editorial, the London times wrote on 29th January 1928, “There is no connection between these two unrests, labour and congress opposition. Their very existence and coexistence, explains and fully justifies the attention, which Lord Irwin gave to the labour problems.” The serious strategists were not only endorsing the brutal repression of Irwin against the masses but were also planning to drive a wedge in the class unity of the working classes. One of the main tools was to divide and break the movements of resistance on religious lines. The colonialists had introduced a question on religion for the first time in the census of 1872.
In 1932, Sir Theodore Morrison, a former principal of the staunchly loyalist M.A.O. college in Aligarh developed a mystical theme in support of religious separatism. He wrote, “The Hindus and Muslims were two distinct nations, as different from each other as any two European nations; the Muslims should rest assured that they were not alone in their concern for the preservation of their characteristic civilisation.” The concern of the Raj was not the Muslim civilisation but to preserve the system of exploitation and plunder by capitalists and imperialism. Hence, Samuel Huntington’s theory of “clash of civilisation” was not a new creation. The authors of the two nation theory were not really the ones we are made to believe.
At the eve of World War Two there were volcanic eruptions in the subcontinent. The sailors’ revolt of February 1946 sent shock waves across the region. The Naval rebellion began in the H.M.S. Talwar and spread throughout the fleet with a lightning speed. Red flags were hoisted on the battleships and the naval barracks at the centre of the revolt. The strike committee elected signalman M.S. Khan as the chairman and telegraph operator Madan Singh as the general secretary. This revolt that started in Bombay harbour spread to the naval bases in Karachi and other cities. There were revolts in the British Indian army and the Royal air force. Soon the textile, railways, postal and workers of several other industries struck. It became a country wide general strike that rocked the imperialist Raj.
It was not only the British who were in fright but the Hindu and Muslim leaders of the local elite were feeling the ground disappearing under their feet. General Claude Auchenlick the commander in Chief of the British armed forces in India sent a telegram to Whitehall in London warning them that ‘India is like a ship on fire in the middle of the ocean’. The Congress and Muslim league leaders denounced the sailors’ revolt and ultimately carried out the utmost betrayal to defeat this massive upheaval. It was after this defeat that reaction started to dominate. The resultant communal and religious frenzy led to the heinous bloodshed of the partition. It is ironic that the Communist Party (CPI) leadership executed a 180 degrees somersault after the agreements between Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt at Yalta, and came on the side of the British under the slogan of ‘peoples war’ and handed the leadership of the national liberation movement to the Hindu and Muslim bourgeoisies leaders on a platter. Had the CPI taken a revolutionary road, the movement would not have stopped at the stage of national liberation but would have gone the whole hog and achieved social and economic emancipation of the subcontinent.
Today the conditions of the masses in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are atrocious. The celebrations of formal independence by the ruling classes and their toady petty bourgeoisie are an insult upon injury for the millions chained in capitalist slavery. This region contains more than one fifth of the human population yet almost half of the world’s poor resides in this region. Misery, poverty and deprivation have worsened since 1947. Even the physical infrastructure build under the British rule is in tatters. Health and education are luxuries for the few. Gender insensitivity, female foeticide, infant mortality rates, women’s death during pregnancy, stunted growth and other social indicators are some of the worst in the world. If one looks at the state of affairs of the leaders in these countries one is reminded of the words of the arch reactionary stalwart of imperialism, Winston Churchill when he wrote, “Power will go into the hands of rascals, rouges and freebooters. Not a bottle of water, not a loaf of bread shall escape taxation... These are men of straw...” He was the chief architect of the gruesome partition, exercising the policy of divide and rule.
This independence in reality was for the exploitation and plunder of the market, for the elites and imperialism. In these last sixty five years imperialism has looted more wealth than during the two hundred years of its direct colonial rule. The ruling classes have amassed obscene amounts of wealth by plundering the state and exploiting the toilers. Disparity between the rich and poor has reached unprecedented proportions. This venal ruling class has ravaged the subcontinent and devastated the already impoverished millions. The emancipation of the masses requires a class war to be fought and won. And as Faiz had said in his epic poem, “move forward; your destination has not yet been reached.”
[This article was originally published in the Pakistani Daily Times]