India is currently celebrating 75 years of its freedom from British rule, this year also marks 75 years of the partition of the motherland of all Indians. ‘Partitioned Freedom’ by Ram Madhav is a sharp read into events and actors that lead to this partition. The book is a great read to get familiarity into players and incidents that happened since the Bengal partition. A continuous theme throughout the book as well as the hook of this book is the question that when Indians could resist 1905 partition of Bengal and cause its reunification, why did they fail in 1947. It also critically analyzes the role of Jinnah, Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and other important players in the run up to partition.
To put very simplistically, partition comes across as a case in court of law that Jinnah and Gandhi are fighting. Jinnah employs every trick in the book to win the case from ditching his fundamental belief of Hindu-Muslim unity to blaming Hindus for everything wrong with Muslims in India. Gandhi is a romantic believer of the Hindu-Muslim unity because followers of both religion belong to the same nation, nationality of ‘Muslims did not change because they were following a different religion’. Gandhi is too much of a saint, he strongly believes that he will cause a change in heart of all Indians-Muslims and Hindus, to the extent that some of his actions are considered inimical by Hindus. Nehru initially calls partition ‘lofty’ and finally signs the deal to divide India, a pragmatic thing to do given the circumstances. It is fascinating to see how a gamut of political leaders (both Hindu and Muslim) we all look up to, who fought for India’s independence surrender to the haughtiness of Jinnah. No one but Jinnah wants partition and no one could stop it.
‘Partitioned Freedom’ is an important read to understand the current socio-political and cultural challenges before India, the question of ‘Hindu-Muslim’ divide. Even now there are forces that are bent upon claiming that the two religions are different nations and trying to create differences within Indian on the basis of caste and region. It is upon the current political leadership to bridge this gap, create stakeholders and not let one individual or organization become the spokesperson of all. While there is a lot Gandhi could be blamed for, it is his approach that is needed in a diverse country like India. It is important to take right lessons from the partition to avoid such unfateful events from happening again. ‘Partitioned Freedom’ should be read exactly for the same reason, it is concise, identifies the right problems and indicates towards the necessary solutions.