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Narendra Modi uses Partition as fodder for hate, says Congress

Modern-day Savarkars and Jinnahs are continuing their efforts to divide the nation: Jairam Ramesh
Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi.
File picture

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 15.08.22, 03:07 AM

The Congress on Sunday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of looking to use the traumatic experience of Partition as “fodder” for his current political battles that are sustained by fuelling “hate and prejudice”.

Modi had all of a sudden decided in 2021 that August 14 would be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.

The BJP has now taken care to remind the nation of the occasion by releasing a video blaming the Congress for the division of the country.

While the RSS played no role in the negotiations with the British, the BJP has interpreted the events and politics of that time to conclude that Congress leaders led by Jawaharlal Nehru, who were supposed to deal with the challenge posed by the Muslim League, let India down.

Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh responded on Sunday by saying: “The real intent of the Prime Minister to mark August 14 as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day is to use the most traumatic historical events as fodder for his current political battles.”

The Congress had last year accused Modi of trying to polarise voters on religious lines ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, looking to divert attention from his government’s disastrous mismanagement of Covid.

Ramesh said about the Partition: “Lakhs upon lakhs were dislocated and lost their lives. Their sacrifices must not be forgotten or disrespected. The tragedy of Partition cannot be misused to fuel hate and prejudice. The truth is, V.D. Savarkar originated the two-nation theory and Muhammad Ali Jinnah perfected it.”

Ramesh quoted Vallabhbhai Patel as having written: “I felt that if we did not accept Partition, India would be split into many bits and would be completely ruined.”

Historians and political scientists too have written that the Partition was the climax of a long-drawn process, during which dealing with Jinnah’s obduracy and communal violence had become almost impossible.

Nehru also feared a Balkanisation of India if violence spread, with the interim governments having lost the ability to intervene meaningfully. Even Mahatma Gandhi said the Partition happened not because the Congress demanded it but because the people wanted it.

Congress stalwarts may have committed the error of underestimating the power of Jinnah’s communal appeal. The British, which encouraged the Muslim League, ultimately created a situation in which Partition became inevitable.

Objecting to the BJP’s simplistic analysis of the historical events, Ramesh said: “Will the Prime Minister also recall today Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jana Sangh, who championed the Partition of Bengal against the wishes of Sarat Chandra Bose, and who sat in free India’s first cabinet while the tragic consequences of Partition were becoming evident?”

Ramesh added: “The modern-day Savarkars and Jinnahs are continuing their efforts to divide the nation. The Indian National Congress will uphold the legacy of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and many others who were untiring in their efforts to unite the nation. The politics of hate will be defeated.”

Historians and political observers had last year expressed shock at Modi’s decision to recall the horrors of Partition, wondering what the purpose could be.

Ironically, Modi has been greeting Pakistan on August 14 – its Independence Day -- since becoming Prime Minister in 2014. Further, he is the first Indian Prime Minister to congratulate Pakistan also on March 22, its National Day.

Modi had written to then Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 22 last year, saying: “Excellency, on the occasion of the National Day of Pakistan, I extend greetings to the people of Pakistan. As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan.”

While this letter surprised political observers as no other Indian Prime Minister had chosen March 22 to greet Pakistan, Modi’s use of the word “Excellency” three times in a brief letter amused both politicians and diplomats.

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