Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making of the Mohajir Mindset

REVIEWS: A State Of Mind
Reviewed By Aftab Ahmad Khan, Dawn, November 9, 2008

Partition and the making of the Mohajir Mindset By A.R. Siddiqi
Oxford University Press, Karachi

The book, Making of the Mohajir Mindset, is an authentic story of the yearnings of the people who struggled to create a land where people of the same ilk would live in peace and harmony. It is an analytical study of the collective Mohajir mind.

The author, A.R. Siddiqi, has quite rightly pointed out that the dread of Hindu domination, a romantic vision of past glories and sentimental attachment to Islam were the principal factors in the enthusiasm for the creation of Pakistan amongst Muslims of South Asia. Muslims of preindependence United India desired the preservation of their separate identity which led to the demand for a separate state.

Siddiqi was educated at Anglo-Arabic College and St Stephens College, Delhi. At St Stephens he was greatly impressed by the eminent history professor, Dr I.H. Qureshi who was projecting the romantic picture of a Pakistan wherein perfect harmony would reign among its inhabitants, of which the overwhelming majority would be Muslims.

In October 1947 Siddiqi came to Lahore from Delhi where Muslims were being oppressed and tortured. The Mohajirs who came to Pakistan from India developed a ‘Ganga’ culture and a romantic vision of Islam. They, however, soon found themselves in a whirling melee of cultures, Bengali, Punjabi, Pathan, Sindhi, Balochi and of course their own.

The dream of a promised land did become true but only in nightmarish circumstances of extreme violence, widespread death, destruction and displacement.

For a large number of migrants it was Qayamat-e-Sughra or Minor Doomsday. The migration of Muslim minority of Urdu-speaking UP with no ethnic base in Pakistan can hardly be called a diaspora. It was by and large a disorderly flight, a desperate race for life. The communal madness after independence had been least anticipated in its ferocity and inhumanity.

The Mohajirs from the Ganges-Yamuna belt were ill at ease in Punjab’s ethno-lingual milieu and made a beeline for the country’s capital, Karachi, and other parts of Sindh. They felt, however, unwelcome in Pakistan. Without a territorial base of their own, they were essentially refugees, aliens or guests at best.

Unfortunately the hope of projecting 100 million Indian Muslims as one nation under the spell of the Pakistan movement could not be sustained when it came into conflict with the harsh realities of provincialism.

In Pakistan’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-tribal complex, the Mohajirs soon recognised the absurdity of their self as the only real Pakistanis.

Allergic to the Punjabis initially, the Mohajirs found in them their only natural allies, their only kinsmen in language and culture despite the peculiarities of Punjabi’s accent and idiom. Sindhis, Balochis and Pakhtoons asserted their distinctiveness demanding protection of their cultures and powers.

The Mohajirs were the only community without a territorial base. They could only draw their title to the land and the country in religious rhetorical terms.

Pakistan, according to the author, has been grappling with its own fissiparous challenges instead of being an integrated nation it has been functioning as a territorial grouping of many sub-nationalities

After the break up of Pakistan in 1971, the Punjabi-Mohajir compact of the past was replaced by the Sindhi-Punjabi alliance leaving Mohajirs and Balochis out in the cold.

In the opinion of the author, the Mohajir dilemma remains as complex as ever. To their inherent feeling of ‘otherness’ has been added what Ayesha Jalal calls ‘else(ness)’, a state of mind in the context of their changed relationship with Indian Muslims and Bangladeshis.

A.R. Siddiqi has confessed that after a life spanning over eight decades, he finds himself in a perennial state of refugeehood. He, however, would not like to go back to his old city of Delhi. Nostalgia, according to him, is a pull to the past and stays only at the level of the subconscious. The conscious mind rejects it as an unwanted and unwholesome burden. Over time, memories get blurred and the present drives the past into limbo changing it into a sort of shadowdom. His nostalgia is now only the scar of the wound of forced migration which has long since healed.

Has Pakistan succeeded in achieving national integration as an Islamic state? The author has no answer to this question.

The reviewer, however, is confident that Pakistan will achieve its goal of an integrated, democratic, Islamic state in the not too distant future.

This book provides an insightful social analysis of a community which even after six decades of partition still identifies itself as Mohajirs (migrants).

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