View from the left
R. L. Singal

Partition: Can it be Undone?
by Lal Khan. Aakar Books.
Pages 226. Rs 450.

Partition: Can it be Undone?This book by Lal Khan on the tragedy of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 has been written purely from the Marxist point of view, and therefore doesn’t analyse all the causes responsible for this unnatural division. For example, the author does not refer, much less emphasises the two-nation theory propounded by M. A. Jinnah and his relentless propaganda against the Hindu India and the Hindu Congress both of which were bent upon, as he repeatedly alleged, enslaving the Muslim Nation. Also, there is no mention in this book of Jinnah’s hurt ego (hurt by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru through their statements, writings and actions), which deterred him from any thought of reconciliation or rapprochement.

In the preface to the book, Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmed, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, rightly writes: "Comrade Lal Khan’s work on the Partition is an epic. He has analysed dialectically the history, culture, economy and politics of the subcontinent from a materialist point of view`85. He gives a clear critique of pre-and post-Partition society from a class perspective and a compelling account of historic events, the betrayals by the leaders, providing an erudite Marxist analysis of the movement of National liberation."

The author does not believe that the Congress leaders, including Gandhi and Nehru, ever sincerely fought against the British Government for the emancipation of the masses. According to him, the Congress was the party of the Indian domestic ruling class, and it had close and harmonious relations with the British Viceroys in India.

They were awarded honours by the British Crown. Gandhi, he writes explicitly on page 23 of the book, was given the Kaiser-e-Hind medal by Lord Harding, Viceroy to India (1910-16).

The book is replete with Communist jargon such as "class struggle," "bourgeois rule," "the proletarian struggle against imperialist domination," "a weapon to subjugate the masses," "imperialist plunder," etc. This gives the book a distinct Marxist complexion. The author is of the view that India’s independence was not the result of any mass revolutionary movement of workers and peasants against the British imperialists. They left the subcontinent as a result of peaceful negotiations, resulting in an agreement between the Indian leaders and the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, according to which the parties accepted the partition. This, says the author, would not have been the case if mass revolutionary movement had been the precursor of independence. In fact, he blames the Communist Party of India for not taking upon itself the responsibility of uniting, developing and taking forward the Left currents for the emancipation of the masses. He clearly states, "If the Communist Party of India (CPI) had been a Communist party based on Marxist methods and perspectives, the whole course of history would have been different, and the tragedy of the Partition averted."

The author believes that the reunification of the subcontinent can take place only through a programme based on scientific socialism and through the overthrow of capitalism. That will automatically lead to be establishment of a unified proletarian state based on workers’ democracy. In that state considerations of caste, creed, religion and community shall have no significance. "Such a workers’ democratic state would have enormous authority as there would be maximum participation and involvement of the vast majority of the population. The new proletarian state would end imperialist plunder and confiscate imperialist assets and wealth." The Partition cannot be undone as long as this demon of imperialism is alive. With the end of imperialist plunder, a rapid development of the economy would take place and the evils of religious and caste bigotry, communal hatred and other prejudices of the past would vanish.

The author, however, forgets that in spite of the uninterrupted Communist rule for more than 70 years, the 16 states of the former Soviet Union could not stay together, and the edifice fell like a house of cards following the loosening of the reins by Gorbachev.