NEW DELHI/ CHANDIGARH: Noted historian Rajmohan Gandhi sees a parallel between the lack of leadership in undivided Punjab that led to the horrific massacres during the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 and the current upheaval in the Indian political system, saying course correction can happen only when different groups make “honourable” compromises and settlements.
“Partition could have arrived with proper settlement and talk. It all arrived with a bit of uncertainty and terrible violence that uprooted millions,” Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson told IANS during a visit here to promote his new book “Punjab: A History From Aurangzeb to Mountbatten” that throws light on the land of the five rivers.
“Some people say Gandhi did this or Jinnah did this, even Punjabis from both the sides tend to blame people from outside, but the real failure was from the Punjab leadership. Punjabi leaders who were Muslims and Sikhs didn’t come together to find a solution,” he added.
These tremors of uncertainty are the core ingredients of Indian polity today, and the 78-year-old feels “understanding” has to come from all fronts to inject stability into the system,
“Course correction can’t only come from the top. They to come from the ground level with equal participation from people who are more responsible towards electoral process,” he explained.
“It is important for representatives of different groups to come together and make some honourable compromises and settlements of give and take on some acceptable grounds,” he noting that once these compromises lead to understandings, the country will benefit.
Apart from throwing light on the history of undivided Punjab and the people who ruled it. There is another important facet this 432-page historical repository, published by Aleph, brings out – the Punjabi Muslims.
“Stories of Punjabi Muslims have been neglected by historians, included by those in Pakistan. They are almost unrecorded” said Gandhi. His work covers almost 250 years of undivided Punjab from Mughal, to Sikh to British rule.
“They were of incredible variety and their Punjabi was of a different dialect. They were very practical and pragmatic and their relationship with the Sikhs and Hindus was quite cordial and satisfactory. There was coexistence of all these people at the ground level,” he pointed out.
Being a research professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern University at the University of Illinois, Gandhi’s love for history and research unarguably puts him into a comfort zone. His last two works: “A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857” and “The American Civil War” further cement this association.
If lines were not drawn in the name of religion, Gandhi feels an undivided Punjab would have been powerful and prosperous.
“Just imagine and look at the area! How large it is,” an enthusiastic Gandhi pointed at the cover of the book that has a map of undivided Punjab.
“It would have been very powerful. Today’s Indian Punjab is one seventh of the undivided Punjab. A united Punjab would have been a dominating province, and would have dominated India culturally, politically and economically,” he mentioned.
It was during the course of researching for the book that he had to travel to Lahore several times. These visits left him with a tinge of sadness.
“At once stage there was a common life between us and cultural exchanges can lead to literature, plays, poetry, and trade. Things can be so similar and yet you feel that they are two different worlds. Isn’t that an irony,” Gandhi questioned.