@FrankBullit67 is a well-read Rajput from India, and an active presence on Twitter. He composed a thread on partition and his view of why India and Pakistan have diverged in many ways since independence. I tweeted it with the comment that it was interesting, but I may not agree with all of it. Which led to several people asking me “what do you disagree with?”. I had not really thought it through, but here is what I came up with; Frank’s tweets are combined into paragraphs and any comment I may have is under the tweet in red. (1. that India and Pakistan have not diverged as advertised here is another possible argument, I skipped that for now, and 2. everybody forgets Bangladesh, which fact was nicely summarized by @shivamsethi01 and i have attached a screenshot at the end of this post).
Frank: I was going to do a thread on Partition in the form of a historical chronology – I think that can wait. I’ve decided to do a thread which is more “philosophical” and on “principles” about Partition. So here goes. As we know, “partition” carved two countries out of one in 1947. One with a Hindu majority (~85% Hindu in 1947 but now 79%). The other with a Muslim majority (over 90% Muslim in 1947 – even more skewed now).
The process was extremely bloody resulting in over a million deaths (some think the figure could be two million).
For those who are unfamiliar with the scale of the carnage, it is worth Googling Margaret Burke-White’s pictures of partition for LIFE Magazine (see here).
Indians, Pakistanis and Brits can keep arguing for centuries about who was responsible for what but that’s another subject. The purpose of this thread is to concentrate on what I think is the key philosophical divergence between Hinduism and Islam which made violent conflict or a “partition” unavoidable. Although one can write an encyclopaedia on the theological differences between the two Faiths, the key difference to me is on the question of “Blasphemy”. Broadly, Hinduism has had atheists in the mix for millennia (or those with a weak adherence to faith or those who have created new sects). This was never punished. As a result, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and later Sikhism lived next to each other for millennia or centuries despite enormous theological differences.
(I do not disagree with this, but I do think it “essentializes” Islam. Classical Islam is indeed hegemonic and built firmly on the “Mosaic distinction”, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. Things change. Even Muslims do. SOME Muslims already rely on vague “sufi” narratives (Rumi saying “I am a Hindu, Christian, Jew..” that sort of thing) to develop a personal religion that is very different from Classical Islam. Until now they have very little theological support in mainstream ulema, but this too will change in some places. In short, I am claiming that Muslims are also humans. Most of them will adjust their religion to circumstances more than they adjust circumstances to their religion. )
Frank: Islam’s approach to Blasphemy is radically different. Basically, Blasphemy = Death. Once Islam entered the lands of the Dharmic faiths, its insistence was on imposing Islamic blasphemy rules on everyone else. Some will vehemently disagree but this problem became impossible to hide with the “Rangeela Rasool” case. It started with Muslims slandering Bhagwan Ram and Sita. Hindus responded by “slandering” the Prophet – words v words. A Muslim responded by stabbing the alleged “Blasphemer” to death. As this was in British India, the murderer was tried under Colonial era laws and was hanged. Iqbal and Jinnah both tried to stop the execution but it didn’t work. Muslims pressured the British to introduce a “Blasphemy law” – the British, concerned about violent feuds between Hindus and Muslims, caved in and introduced Section 295A, IPC. As I had mentioned before, 600,000 Muslims turned up for the killer Ilm ud Din’s funeral in Lahore. He was and is a hero to Muslims even today.
(I am the last person to disagree with any of this. My only comment is that even this famous and prominent aspect of Islam can be changed, but it will take a long time in Muslim majority countries. In other countries like Sweden (or even India) it will change sooner, but at the price of increasing support for Right wing parties. Anyway, I don’t see it as an impossible task at all).
Frank: What partition eventually did was create two states with divergent views on Blasphemy. In India, the Colonial era law survives but it isn’t used often (though Muslims have managed to impose a Blasphemy code on the rest of the population through violent reprisals – same as Europe). Pakistan of course went much further and passed a law which punishes Blasphemy with death. This was introduced in the regime of the Islamist dictator Zia ul Haq. The law is an absolute terror and all kinds of people (including, ironically, Muslims) must live in terror of this law. It is my contention that no society with blasphemy laws has ever achieved scientific or technological advancement. The spirit of “free enquiry” is fundamental in the pursuit of science. I also believe this is one of the factors which explains the divergence between Britain and Spain. Although the Spanish conquered most of South America and pillaged their gold, they weren’t able to turn this vast hoard of new capital into scientific and technological advancement. The British, however, in due time, relaxed their laws on Blasphemy gradually resulting in a scientific and technological explosion in Britain and later in the most successful British colony: America. Spain became a backwater and only achieved first world status more recently.
(I am a huge supporter of free enquiry and free speech and I think it does have practical benefits (for what it is worth, I would support it even if the material benefits are not impressive) but I do think the great divergence is a complicated topic and I am sure there are many factors that played a role even if relative freedom of inquiry had something to do with it)
Frank: Now comparing India and Pakistan, the same divergence appears. The overall scientific output of India after independence, though modest by western standards, is still phenomenal when compared with Pakistan. Even the Pakistani excuse that India is 6X bigger doesn’t hold. Israel is 1/30th the size of Pakistan but has produced more science than the entire Islamic World combined.
(I think India’s advantages are more about scale and initial educational and scientific capital than any difference in freedom of speech. I am all for freedom of speech and if India has more of it than Pakistan, good for them, but I really don’t think it played much of a role in the difference in scientific output. It may indeed be a factor, but it is not the main factor, not yet. There are many other factors)
Frank: We have to ask ourselves: what do Indians (especially non-Muslim Indians) want? I think the answers are: peace, prosperity and security. The only way to achieve that is with science and rule of law. What do Pakistanis want? Sharia it seems is priority no. 1.
(I do not agree with this. I think Pakistanis want many of the same things Indian or anyone else wants. Islam is not some sort of magic that makes humans into something else. Modernization (including mass education) has brought textbook Islam into the lives of ordinary people in Pakistan much more so than in most Muslim countries, where education does not have the same heavy Islamic content as it does in Pakistan, Saudi and Iran. That has combined with traditional Islamic teaching to ensure that many people know that the correct answer to “what do you want in life” is “shariah”. But one should also look at what people do, rather than what they say. And what they do has much less to do with Islam and more with survival or even crooked money-making. I am not dismissing this element totally. Obviously, there is extensive support in principle for Islamisation and that has real-life consequences (most of them negative from my POV), but the notion that all or most Pakistanis wake up every day dreaming of shariah rule is still not correct. And will not become correct even if current mass education and media manipulation continues. This is a difficult point to convey, but what I am trying to say is that the negative influence of Islamism is real, but nowhere close to such totality)
Frank: Whatever the arguments for or against Partition, non-Muslims Indians have a state in which Blasphemy laws can either be expunged or watered down in the pursuit of science and economic growth. Indian Muslims may want Sharia by the same percentages as Pakistanis but that’s not likely to be enough to impose it on the entire populace except in pockets like Kashmir with a Muslim majority.
In Pakistan, the Sharia law structure/system is here to stay. Pakistan is now at less than half the per capita income of India and sinking lower. It has no industries.
The “model” depends upon parasitical dependence on superpowers and remittances from the oil rich Gulf by migrant workers. Both are reaching a dead end. American largesse is down to a pittance and the Chinese don’t do free money. Gulf remittances will eventually go to zero. Interestingly, Pakistan’s per capita income was 50% higher than both India and China at the end of the Cold War. It is now a basket case. Partition has given two sides what they wanted more or less. Hindus have no desire to live under Sharia or face relentless attacks to impose totalitarian Sharia. Muslims got a state in which totalitarian Sharia and can be honed and refined ad infinitum on shoe string incomes and shrinking calorific intakes. Whatever the arguments for or against Partition, both sides got what they wanted (though Hindus could do better and crack down very hard on Sharia loving Muslims who are ready to commit murder in the name of Blasphemy). That said, the two states have divergent and very different philiosophies and characters with very divergent results. Here is a good documentary on murder and oppression in the name of Blasphemy in Pakistan:
Hindus have escaped this hell for the most part.
(I agree that blasphemy (and apostasy) memes do terrific damage in Pakistan and will do more in the days to come, but I also think RW non-Muslims overestimate how shariah bound Pakistan is at this time. In actual fact the society and legal system in Pakistan are still very far from what classical shariah imagines as the “ideal state”. And it will remain very distant from it because that state has never existed and does not have enough congruence with modern life to actually exist. Classical Islamic sharia is one of those aspirational dreams that is enforced nowhere in practice at this time. Attempts to live by it in ISIS-land were not exactly a shining success. Pakistan DOES have a serious problem with the fact that most people are educated to desire sharia law but live in a westernized military-ruled state with colonial era British laws and an elite that has mostly modernist aspirations. Tomorrow this elite will be given its marching orders from Beijing and those will not be sharia-compliant either. These contradictons create endless problems, but that is not the same thing as being a shariah ruled disaster zone. Frank also underestimates Pakistani economic development a little bit. He is not entirely wrong (it is not doing great) but one can still imagine better management under XiJinping’s rule. It is true that “strategic rents” will continue to be a major source of income for the elite and remittances will be for ordinary people, but there IS an economy and it is not totally hopeless. Since I am not very economics literate, I have to add that I may be wrong about this and this is Frank’s field so I should be a little humble. Still, my impression is that Frank may overstate how terminal the condition of the Pakistani economy is. That said, novelist Asif Ismael did predict a serious Islamist revolution and subsequent disasters by 2050. Let us hope he is wrong ? (i also dont think Hindus have escaped it AS completely at Frank implies, but that is a different argument )
There is a 3rd state Bangladesh (always gets forgotten?) Muslims of British India got divided into 3 equal parts! BD with Hindus down from 28% in 1947 to 9% now, 95% Ethnic Bengali, 95% of Muslims as Sunni, nominally Secular has become inadvertantly like Europeon nation state
— Shivam Sethi (@ShivamSethi01) September 21, 2020
With no drainage of resources imposed by likes of Pakistani Fauj and Jihadi elements under much more control, the much poorer and much derided half of Pakistan is now doing much better than it on all key parameters; economy, population growth, literacy etc but is not out of woods
— Shivam Sethi (@ShivamSethi01) September 21, 2020