Thursday, November 29, 2007

I recently finished reading "Indian Summer: The Secret End of An Empire." The book documents the end of British rule in India and the scramble to construct new power structures. The focus of the book is on the major political figures during the time.

The primary British figure is Dickie Mountbatten, the heart-centered but aloof quasi-royal viceroy who distracts himself with ceremonial pomp in the face of handing independence to 400 million people of warring tribes. Then there is his wife Edwina, a highly driven woman whose inability to connect deeply with any one man drives her to chase one affair after another in search of satisfaction. She finally finds it in Jawaharlal Nehru, a Kashmiri Pandit intellectual educated in England who just so happens to be the Indian prime minister . The love triangle of Dickie, Edwina, and Jawaharlal are three primary players in bringing stability to an inherently disastrou situation.

Other players include Muhammed Ali Jinnah, a secular Muslim who is one of the first to invoke political Islam as a tool to prevent a Hindu dominated state. And then there is Gandhi, a brilliant and often insensible leader whose satyagraha (nonviolent civil disobedience) played a major factor in convincing England to leave. He was so revered that he could make Muslims and Hindus stop fighting by refusing to eat until violence ended.

The book illuminates the fascinating interpersonal relationships that played a role in the creation of India and Pakistan.

What the book did not explain was the impetus behind the massive violence in the Punjab. The At the time the Punjab was comprised of pockets of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims living amongst each other. These groups lived amongst each other. A cartographer was given pen and paper and told to create a border between India and the Muslim Pakistan. Pakistani Muslims attacked Hindus fleeing for India. Sikhs and Hindus butchered Muslims. Trains full of refugees were set on fire.

What I found especially shocking was the violence perpetrated by the Sikhs. Sikh jethas reportedly rode from village to village using their kirpans, ceremonial daggers that signify cutting through negativity, to butcher entire communities.

The partition and the subsequent violence illustrates the ability of the Piscean man to snap at a moments notice. Communities that have had good relations for years can be whipped up into genocidal frenzies at a moment's notice. The twentieth century saw it happen in Germany, Rwanda, and the Yugoslavian states. It is currently happening in Iraq.

I am left perplexed as to the root of this violence. I can only conclude that it results from holding a space of fear. And I pray that it is a remnant of the Piscean age.

1 comment:

Prabhu Singh said...

A true spiritual warrior (meaning also a true Sikh) "fears none and makes non fear."
It's hard for even myself to imagine if I could resist the urge to commit violence if my family was killed.
In consideration of partition I would think that nobody was following their religion. They were simply humans with human emotions. Instead of honoring the Sikh kirpan, they did the most un-Sikh acts.
After 9/11 the media and the government utilized the frenzy to push wars of aggression on us. People were ready to reflect, but the media sold us a story of "terrorists" in the middle east trying to destroy our way of life. The solution was to start consuming again and start wars against "the terrorists."
Those rioting mobs of "Sikhs" could have used their energy to do exactly what Sikhs had done for centuries, which was protect the weak. Instead they chose aggressive violence. Each person has individual responsibility, but likewise there were a lot of powers manipulating the people and their sentiments and actions.
A side note, I find that the word 'dagger' has really negative conotations and brings to mind the image of aggression and violence. Whereas, the name Kirpan means the bringer of grace and honor. Never before or since 1947 has the kirpan been so dishonored and therefore I feel we should continue to honor it for what it is and never compare it to weapons or use other names for it which do not equal it's status.
Just a thought, otherwise I appreciate your post.