Saturday, 30 January 2010

One People

In response to a reader letter to his publication Harijan in 1939, Ghandi wrote this reponse. Readers of this blog will be able to figure the political position posed by the writer of the letter, but here I admire how Gandhi clearly understood the universality of people. His answers take the form of questions and the message - from any perspective - Hindu or Muslim - remains relevant today, over 62 years after Gandhi's death on 30th January 1948.
Why is India not one nation?

Was it not one during, say, the Mughal period? Is India composed of two nations? If it is, why only two? Are not Christians a third, Parsis a fourth, and so on? Are the Muslims of China a nation separate from the other Chinese? Are the Muslims of England a different nation from the other English? How are the Muslims of the Punjab different from the Hindus and the Sikhs? Are they not all Punjabis, drinking the same water, breathing the same air and deriving sustenance from the same soil? ...

... The way suggested by the correspondent is the way of strife. Live and let live or mutual forbearance and toleration is the law of life. That is the lesson I have learnt from the Quran, the Bible, the Zend Avesta and the Gita.


  1. The Mahatma did not want partition and if Mountbatten had listened to him there would not be issues over Kashmir and the Northwest Frontier would probably be better managed.India has survived over millenia and has absorbed the world's faiths.Buddhists,Hindu's,Muslims,Christians,Zoroastrians and many others.Conflict of faith is a relatively new concept in India.
    Indian culture is immensely old and is full of wisdom, the world should listen and learn.

  2. Hello Tor Khan, I read your comment on Vir
    Sanghvi's website. I'm an Indian Muslim and
    happy to meet you. The issue is simply this:

    If India tries at all, as you suggest, to
    help the Pashtun people - to foster cultural
    contact, or to rekindle the great legact of
    Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Pakistan will respond:

    "Indians want to break up Pakistan. They are
    trying to do another Bangladesh on us. Bacha
    Khan was a secessionist traitor like Mujibur
    Rehman and Indians want to create another one"

    You know that's exactly what they'll say. India,
    frankly, is sick and tired of Pakistan at the
    moment; Pakistan's failure to transparently act
    against the India-hating Punjabi militant groups
    and other things; our plate is quite full now.

    In the end, I think it's sad but true; God helps
    those who help themselves - and Insha'Allah the
    Pashtun people will regain their glory one say.

    I have some Pashtun ancestry myself; a maternal
    great-grandmother was a Mandanh (Sarbanri).

    As of now, I think we Indians should do as much
    as we can to make Afghan students and workers
    or refugees as welcome as possible in India.
    Take care in the UAE; and Khuda Hafiz, brother.

  3. Dear Simon - thanks for dropping by with your comment.

    It is true Indian philosophy goes back centuries and gives its people a huge repository of thought and opinion.

    Gandhi was an incredible individual who ultimately radiated a very positive message of peace and hope.

    Ahimsa is always a personal struggle and Gandhi recognised this in himself too. Some things are universal e.g. the need to be unified in our humanity. I only wish we had more of this today.

  4. Dear Sadaf,

    Pa Khairuna ... Thank you for your kind words. Please feel free to consider this space your home.

    An Indian Muslim perspective is always helpful and you are more than likely right in the probable response that Pakistan might make should India try to rekindle Bacha Khan's legacy.

    The reason I posed the thoughts in the first place was actually because Bacha Khan was first and foremost about peace and emancipation - right now, given the near-out-of-control violence situation in the Pashtoon belt, everyone - Pashtoon/non-Pashtoons needs some kind of hope. Politically Bacha Khan was vilified in Pakistan and so a Bacha Khan revival is unlikely to happen in Pakistan so easily. Instead Pashtoons have the Taliban mutation forced upon them.

    I hope and pray, like you, that Pashtoons will pass through this difficult time and will emerge stronger and ready for the challeges of the world that we share together.


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