Book Review: India, Bharat and Pakistan – a Not so Gentle Reminder

Lawyer and author J Sai Deepak is back with the book of his India that is Bharat Quadrology. I had reviewed his first book India that is Bharat almost a year back – you can find my review here.

The Summary: 

J Sai Deepak’s second book dissects the time from the fall of the Mughal empire to the Khilafat movement relying heavily on the tools developed in the first book and a vast number of primary sources. The author also investigates the trail of the Islamic doctrine consolidated during the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri (compiled on orders of Aurangzeb) back to the 13th century Islamic scholar Taymiyyah and Syed Ahmad Sirhindi (a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar).

The two figures covered in detail among the post Mughal Ulema are Shah Wahiullah Dehlawi and Syed Ahmad Baraelvi – the two giants who have shaped the Islamic revivalism in the 18th century. The establishment of Wahhabi power center in Northwest of Punjab, establishment of the various schools of Islam in North India – Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-i-Hadith, Ali-garh and the British crackdown of Wahhabism are all discussed in sufficient detail before jumping off to Syed Ahmad Khan and the modern genesis of the two-nation theory. The author then covers all the important events from the Partition of Bengal to the Khilafat movement – relying heavily on primary sources. The book ends with a summary of the Khilafat riots – especially the Mopla massacre.

My 2 Annas:

It took me 3 weeks to complete the first section of the book. I completed the rest of the book in 2 days. I think this statement itself is a review in a nutshell. If I had to give a one phrase review for book 1 it would be “Overstated yet immensely Consequential“, if I have to do the same for book 2 it would be “About time or Oh My Gods“. This is not to say I don’t have disagreements with the book – especially some of author’s conclusions, but the overwhelming thrust of the book is something I strongly agree with.

Firstly, the book busts all the popular notions of two-nation theory and it being solely a creation of the British. The author effectively traces the modern origins of the two-nation theory to Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh movement at the very least. The book also covers some of the lesser-known events from the 19th century – the Wahhabi movement and the conflict in the Northwestern frontier province. The book makes it abundantly clear that Islamic revivalism was less a reaction to Colonialism and more a reaction to Hindu and Sikh resurgence. The fact that both the British and Muslims saw each other as closer religiously and hence more acceptable/worthy instead of the “Hindu” is driven through via a vast number of primary sources. 

The common trope among the secular (even Hindutva discourse) about the Syncretic nature of Sufis is addressed (though I felt the author didn’t fully go into this question).

Location 528

Pan-Islamism and its proponents – especially Al-Afghani are also covered in the book.

Secondly, the book also goes into origins and progress of “Moderate Nationalism” under Indian National Congress right up to the ascendency of the “Mahatma”. I had expected the author to be slightly unfair to the Indian National congress and especially the role of Gandhiji but to my surprise he hasn’t. Though some conclusions may seem a tad unfair at times but because the author relies heavily on primary references the “judgement” is moderated. Most importantly the support of Khilafat which is put firmly on the shoulders of Gandhiji in Hindutva circles, is clearly shown to be a mainstream view of Indian National Congress years before ascendency of Gandhiji, absolving Gandhiji of some of the blame.

The inability of the “Indian nationalism led by Hindus” in dealing the Islamic exceptionalism both before and during the period of “Hindu-Muslim” harmony is on display in the book. The author compares “Coloniality” of the Hindus to the “Rootedness” and “Intransigence” of Muslims for these defeats. Whereas there can be no doubt that Muslim “Intransigence” was important, I find the blame laid on “Coloniality” not watertight.

Take example of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kemal Pasha “Attaturk”. Both were modernizers who tried to jettison the past of their respective countries. What separated them both wasn’t any rootedness or lack of deracination – but a personal attribute, namely political ruthlessness, incidentally something Mohammad Ali Jinnah shared. Kemal Pasha not only broke the tradition of the Khalifa but also forced the Roman alphabet overnight on the Turks. Similarly, in India the two heads who had the most clear-eyed vision of the thread of Islamic exceptionalism were Dr Ambedkar and Veer Savarkar (both “Modernists”). I would instead put the blame on Hindu naivete which is an unfortunate byproduct of Hindu Pluralism – we simply never understood the other. Most of our ReConquistadors (with notable exceptions) did not pursue Reconversions.

Another thing I found mildly irritating in the book (continued from book one) – is the use of the term Middle eastern coloniality/consciousness. Ironically the term “Middle Eastern” itself reeks of its Western Colonial origins. I would have used the term Islamic or Arabic instead, but this is sematic disagreement which doesn’t matter much.

a Not so Gentle Reminder:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results“.

The disagreements with the author’s conclusions notwithstanding, the book is a not so Gentle Reminder for the India that is Bharat. In retrospect, the compromises Bharatiya nationalism offered, from accepting disproportionate Muslim representation to supporting the fanatical Khilafat movement, may have worked against the Indian civilization itself. While it may be unfair to excessively blame the Bharatiya leaders from the past, it’s imperative to call out those who are flirting with the same approach in the 21st century (incidentally my position a few years ago). Essentially the Hindu leadership made a Faustian bargain and sold their brains. Though Swatyantraveer Savarkar is almost absent from the book, he cast a long shadow in my mind while I read the book.

Another popular trope I felt the author could have busted was the trope that Islamic intransigence in India is largely the legacy of “it having been spread by the sword”. The Mopla carnage was undertaken by descendants of Arab traders who came without any major conflict. Maybe violent intransigence and exclusivity is a feature not a bug.

The book becomes unputdownable after the Lucknow Pact, as the Hindu-Muslim unity discussed here which didn’t even last a decade remains as relevant today as ever. The riots covered in the end of the book – especially the Mopla carnage is almost unbearable to read reminding the reader of Kashmir. The letter by Annie Beasant to Gandhiji stands out. The book also brings into focus some of the lesser-known riots like Kohat. Incidentally the trigger for the Kohat ethnic cleansing was blasphemy, a topic which continues to remain as relevant as ever.

As I write this review a century after Mopla Riots, raids are conducted on Popular Front of India members while the PFI supporters can call for Hartals with partial success in Malabar coast. If the first book was a red pill in a blue jacket (Akshay Alladi (@akshayalladi) / Twitter), this is a केसरी (Saffron) pill in a green jacket.

I have skipped over many topics from the book in this review for brevity, but I would urge the reader of this post to buy and read this book in its entirety and engage with the uncomfortable facts it lays down infront of us.

The book ends with the following quote

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The above line becomes even more relevant especially give the way history is taught in India. I would end this review with a quote (in one of its many forms) most people reading this review would recognize.

अश्वत्थामा हतः इति, नरो वा कुंजरोवा !

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31 thoughts on “Book Review: India, Bharat and Pakistan – a Not so Gentle Reminder”

  1. Looks like you read the book for confirmation of your inherent biases and not finding it was disheartened. Remember everywhere you find conflicting facts and choosing only those which support your views will give you only biases. Sai Deepak being a vakil (advocate) is expert in presenting one sided views. Reading the book and reviewing it requires you to be extra sceptical, which you were not.

  2. I got there with @spatel few years before you. (With a lot of the same/ similar evidence, busting every ganga jamuni tehzeeb myth. ). The problem is about passing it on and bringing awareness.

    As to the guy above talking of confirmation bias. Here is the empirical data after 70 yrs in subcontinent since partition.

    Non muslim girls are kidnapped , raped ,force converted in pakistan. In bangladesh, non muslim lands, property is seized. Hindus are leaving to India. The population of hindus has fallen. In India, muslims have grown from 9% to 14% and growing. Without undergoing any reforms what so ever. What one observes in India is muslims murdering non muslims for criticism/ insult of faith. Such freedoms, while the situation on the other side is much worse. How do you explain the that Indian muslims chose pakistan over gandhi/nehru. How do you explain the remarkable downfall of rights of non muslims in both pakistan/ bangladesh. How do you explain that in ” fascist ” rule of modi/bjp/rss, muslims find the freedom for “sar tan se juda” ?.

    There is no muslim nehru, there is no equivalent of musims ever admitting to ideas in their faith that lead to violence/ harm to others. Ever isolating the people who spread those ideas. There is no introspective literature created by muslims on contrasting their faith to the ideas of secularism, there is no equivalent literature of muslims ever introspecting the harm that comes out of their faith. Truth be told, you are an islamist supremacist and perhaps you dont even recognize that in yourself. But then again, muslims unlike all the other faiths in the world, refuse to ever be intellectually honest.

    1. “Non muslim girls are kidnapped , raped ,force converted in pakistan. In bangladesh, non muslim lands, property is seized. Hindus are leaving to India. The population of hindus has fallen.”

      Yes but I don’t think present-day Indian Muslims should be held responsible for what happens in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

      “In India, muslims have grown from 9% to 14% and growing.”

      Not out of some grand conspiracy though. Mainly higher birth rates and some illegal immigration from what was once a very poor Bangladesh. Muslim birth rates are also falling now, and generally match up more with their region’s birth rates.

      “Without undergoing any reforms what so ever.”

      It’s hard to push for reform if you demonize a community. They become defensive and cling on to what you’re trying to reform even more. Reform is necessary in many ways, but there’s gotta be a smarter approach than this which only backs them into a corner without giving a safe off-ramp and letting them save face. Other religious communities need reform too.

      “What one observes in India is muslims murdering non muslims for criticism/ insult of faith. Such freedoms, while the situation on the other side is much worse.”

      Why this obsession with linking the treatment of Indian Muslims to the treatment of Bangladeshi and Pakistani Hindus? I understand and share the deep concerns over the treatment (really cleansing and persecution) of Hindus in those countries, but that concern should not be used to attack Indian Muslims.

      “How do you explain the that Indian muslims chose pakistan over gandhi/nehru.”

      Only the elites had a meaningful say. The masses were just whipped up by the notion of Islam being in danger. The overwhelming majority were illiterate and had no meaningful sense of nation or colonialism. And there were some Muslim elites that wanted a united homeland. There’s no way to really move forward if the Indian Muslim community is expected to forever atone for how the elites divvied up India in the 40s.

      1. Well Pakistan was achieved on the back of same “ illiterate and had no meaningful sense of nation “ Muslims, so similarly they have to carry the cross for their whole life. That’s not one would like , but that’s what it is.

        A bit like Lankan Tamils, no amount of good behavior will ever endear them to the Sinhalese. And in their case they didn’t even get their country.

      2. Hoju – Economical immigration from BD is almost null for a decade or more. However most intelligence experts say there seems to be an concerted infiltration effort from BD. Even the BP guest from BD – Alex Curvan was sure about the infiltration.

        Read Venkat Dhulapia book for whether it was just elite consensus or community consensus.
        One could even argue that Congress was also an elite consensus and Hindu masses preferred the British no ? Doesnt work that way.
        No one should hold Muslim community responsible for what their ancestors did right – I agree but its in contrast with one of the doctrine practised in India.

        But surely muslims today have some responsibility towards the crowds willing to kill and die in 2022 for the honor of the holy prophet or for illegal opposition to CAA which culminated in the Delhi riots ?
        Just imagine if a UCC comes on cards – will it be peaceful ?

        One can try to be as morally uptight and idealistic as they can.
        Iacta alea est !

        1. “ One could even argue that Congress was also an elite consensus and Hindu masses preferred the British no ?“

          One can argue even further and say the constituent assembly which drafted the constitution was also elite consensus which would mean that the Indian constitution itself is not representative of Indian masses.

      3. @Hoju

        I keep hearing takes like this all the time. Nothing against Hoju, its pretty normal for people to talk like this.

        Lets be clear as to what I am talking about.
        I am asking for introspective literature. Introspective conversations, where is it?. (not ex muslims bs, but of community among themselves)

        Where is muslim literature contrasting values embedded in constitution vs in Islam. As to the argument of reforms not being done due to demonisation. Hindus made reforms while under british colonialism. Also, one has to look at islam across the world to get the base rate. They are a minority in danger everywhere in the world?. At some point one has to add 2 and 2 together. The lack of introspection here is not due to demonisation, it is due as same everywhere else. Internal resistance, dogma. There is a muslim activist, sharjeel usmani ,he is now carrying a dp picture of the leader of moplah massacre of hindus. A community capable of intellectual honesty.?

        The real reason why muslims will not inrospect is because, they will take what is on offer. But they seek to preserve fundamentalist impulses for a future opportunity, much like Tuberculosis . Goes into shell to emerge later. You have christians fighting christian fundamentalism, Hindus fighting hindu fundamentalism. Who are the muslims, doing this, in sizable numbers.

        There are many H’s in this country who are introspective about caste and its horrific consequences. Where is the equivalent among muslims regarding islamic bigotry?.

        Again, apply this across the world. There is one cenk uighur , of tyt platform, goes around as atheist, denied armenian genocide for years until he was competing for elections. Javed akhtar on freedom of speech in mf hussain case vs salman rushdie, naseer uddin shah, says people should be arrested for criticism/insult of mohammad, also an atheist. javed akhtar has not taken the challenge by anand ranganathan on criticising 5 verses in quran. Not to mention the many muslim turned historians/communist who are created a history where islamic bigotry has been whitewashed. For forget even about belieiving muslims in this country. Lets first begin with supposed atheists / ex muslims in this country first. Do they have principles, I fear not.

      4. What about ethnic cleansing in Muslim dominated area within India. The Muslim who voted for the formation of Pakistan remained in India after partition. The present day Muslim population is their children and grandchildren. Islam is not a religion,it is a political ideology.

  3. The thing is, you can still be a liberal, but by applying popper. Tolerance of the intolerance leads to end of tolerance. Popperian liberalism is accountable,stable and is entirely possible. The rest is mental delusion .

  4. I often wonder whether the message of such books will have the required impact especially on mentally colonized Hindus, the most logical of whom get extreme cognitive dissonance when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Are we fighting a losing battle? Persia gives me hope, but India doesn’t. When will we as a community have our Arjuna moment? Or are we doomed because of the enemy within? Can such books which are deeply data driven and logical force a change in the most brainwashed masses including I’d say Indic Muslims? Only time will tell I suppose. Thanks for the review and the recommendation.

    1. Lets put it this way, before one knew these facts, I was like that, so was the person reviewing this. It might not convince everyone, but will convince enough of those willing to think for themselves. Or atleast immunize them from the ganga jamuni tehzeeb bs.

  5. Did Sai Deepak have any concrete proposals for resolving the secular/communal polarization in India ? At this point, BJP/Sangh are basically making Muslims a scape goat for the government’s failure to solve our rule of law problems.

    Muslims make up 30% of detenues in India, but 14% of the inmates. So the police is indeed biased against Muslims, but the judiciary is not. One can see why the mainstream Muslim votes for ‘secular’ parties.

    The BJP seems lost right now. The discerning voter can understand that they are just raking up identitarian issues and targeting political opponents with the ED/CBI. Their committed supporters like to pretend that no roads and universities were built in India before 2014 and jump on every real or imagined grievance to justify the government’s incompetence.

    1. All they do is stoke up stupid tensions. It’s a country with 1.4 billion people, more than the entirety of the Western hemisphere. Every day there will surely be some incident somewhere to stoke up tensions, and when those issues aren’t there, they’ll either revisit the highlights or even make up bullshit.

      Meanwhile India’s demographic dividend is being squandered as the most basic needs of hundreds of millions of children, including things like nutrition, are unmet.

    2. There is no resolving ‘the secular/communal polarization’. It is what it is. If that’s not present a different type of polarization (Caste, language, region) will take its place. Since communal polarization suits the BJP and disadvantages its opponents, there is a lot of hue and cry. Haven’t heard ever that we should fix the ‘caste polarization’ since it used to suit the other side.

      The best India can do is maneuver the secular/communal polarization as best it can. Just like US handles the race relations.

  6. The RW alleges that the left has a colonial mentality, but Hindutva seems like a cheap imitation of Islamism.

    1. I keep hearing this argument and different variations of it among centrist and liberal Hs.
      When you are at war, you don’t have the luxury of cherry picking tactics and strategies. If your opponent is successfully using a strategy/tactic then you need to adapt and either counter it or use similar strategy. If you continue on the high horse, your culture/civilization will be utterly destroyed like other pagan civilizations.

  7. @GauravL

    Good review and honest appraisal.

    Does Sai Deepak delve specifically into deeper regional skews which have produced the phenomenon of “Indian secularism” as we know it today?

    The mistake of Independent India was to put influential figures from the civilisationally defeated Gangetic region at the centre of political power for so many decades. Populations from these regions have simply been coping for so many centuries with no attempts at a fightback.

    In the case of Turkey, there is a cultural split between the White Turks and Black Turks – one part is European and the other is Arabized – Beyaz Turkler & Siyah Turkler. This was an already ongoing process that has been happening for centuries within the Turkish society. Neither Kemal Pasha’s or Erdogan’s ascendance are seen as “oddities” within the context of these societal halves.

    In the Indian case, the Ganga-Jamuni mentality has had an unimpeded impact on the Indian administrative class for 70 years now. All sorts of history has been normalized now. The Gangetic populations have become inured to shame and cultural defeat.

    All sorts of outsiders have been using this split to achieve their own political aims. Jinnah used the Muslim far-right in the Gangetic heartland to make Pakistan viable. Gandhi used the Hindu centre in the same region to make Independence possible. The clarity of Savarkar or Ambedkar (incidentally from non-Gangetic regions) has never reached political fruition.

    Only recently have the Gangetic regions lost their power on the apex. This should allow some rebalancing.

    1. “ Only recently have the Gangetic regions lost their power on the apex. “

      I mean the party at the center rules only and only due the votes and seats from the gangetic regions.

      Some defeat huh…

    2. Only recently have the Gangetic regions lost their power on the apex
      Reality is the exact opposite of what you’ve said. There’s going to be a redistribution of LS seats in 2026 based on the latest census, this will drive South to political irrelevancy.

      “Jinnah used the Muslim far-right in the Gangetic heartland”
      As opposed to the Muslim “Moderate Left-Liberals” in the Gangetic heartland? lol

      1. Both of you guys are assuming that Parliament is the one that produces viable policy?

        Indian industrial policy is drafted in Mumbai
        Medical policy is regulated in Chennai
        Services regulation is done in Bangalore
        Finance/Banking out of a small clique in Maharashtra/Gujarat

        The hot ticket areas were successfully liberalised by PVNR, MMS & PC in 1991 (all non-Gangetics). They are all now completely fool-proof to Gangetic shenanigans.

        A real transfer of power happened in 1991. Empire building will not be subject anymore to some illiterate MP from the Muslim-Yadav bloc.

        1. continuing in a similar vein, if non punjabi generals/ admirals/air marshals are in command in the north, pakistan can get a bloody nose, as there is no sentimental ‘my grandfather’s house was/is in sialkot’ types

          1. Both Punjabi and South/east Indians are unwilling to take the fight to Pakistan. The former is sentimentally attached, while the latter is emotionally unattached and no skin in the game.

            Bit in like when North Indians fought the invaders, the southern kingdoms were cooling their heels till the fire came to their own homes during Malik kafur and Deccan sultanates times.

  8. two nation theory is embedded in islam itself. The believer and kafir divide is real two nation theory which has been emphasized again and again. Umpteen times jihad has been waged on hindus all these centuries. There is misconception that Britishers created hindu muslim divide. it is good that these books are coming out. Annie Besant was mmember of theosophical society who wrote many spiritual books on karma, moksha, reincarnation etc. she was also been admired by jiddu krishnamurti a authentic person. i wonder what is solution to this problem of communalism.

  9. The best arrangement is when the party in power in the centre is also the one in power in UP. But the PM is from the south or the west.

    I’d say that even the UP CM should be a Gujarati. The state has a lot of potential but too much infighting. Best to let a neutral outsider run the show.

    Yogi is sort of an outsider being from Uttarakhand with a firm guiding hand from Modi ji.

  10. Vikram, Hoju,

    These discussions are endless. If you have read my writings on this blog for last 2-3 years you know me. So let me put it as bluntly as I can in some other post

  11. The most important aspect of islamic fundamentalism is connected to coloniality in that coloniality in form of our state capacity, administration, courtts stops us from solving the issue. The reason is that west is the biggest ally of islamic fundamentalism. There arent enough muslims in west or muslim majority countries in west. No problem for them. But significant muslim presence is there in countries or around countries of their strategic rivals and potential strategic rivals. Russia,India,china.
    Contrary to the poses of western academia. Wokeism is something west learned in 90’s and early 2000’s through color revolution. That they can openly support color revolutions in other country. There would be no pakistan without british. Pakistan in initial years was supported by usa. Now usa is back again in supporting pak. Saudi arabia was formed by the british. US is allied to saudis. The security help provided gives these regimes to be unrealistic. Not invest in basic sciences or education. Iran that has no such godfather to support it invests a lot . Probably more women there take to science subjects than even men. Science has a habit of creating atheists among believers.
    occams razor is your friend.
    India needs to become a 20 trillion dollar economy and put an end to humanities shilling for american $$$. Which is their only way to make some $$$. If you come from scientific background/ engineering background, you dont have to sell out to make $$$. But in humanities, you only source of $$$ is the gossip . gossip on behalf of america gets you $$. Gossip on behalf of India gets you rupees.

    If pakistan was a neighbor of usa, it would see the world differently, so would its academia. All this confusion comes due to their PR of being moral, rational etc . See what they do, not what they say.

  12. The simple advantage of opposing islamic fundamentalism has given modiji, rss, bjp incredible leeway. The things they have done, if done by others would have been called out. Broke the 50% ceiling on reservations. The consequences of that action are rolling downwards. No one can see the damage he has done in other areas, there are no honest people anymore who can point it correctly. politicisation leads to people satisfying themselves to mediocrity and sub optimal choices.

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