Relations between Hindus and Muslims in India hit bottom in 1947 when India was partitioned as part of achieving its independence from Great Britain. The result was India and Pakistan, which was divided into east and west versions. The east version eventually became Bangladesh.
As Muslims moved from India to become Pakistanis and Hindus moved from what was becoming Pakistan to stay in India, some estimates suggest that as many as 2 million people died in a stunningly violent genocide, which also included some Sikhs. It was staggering, and the ripple effects continue to this day, although the miracle is that generally Hindus and Muslim neighbors inside of India (not all Muslims left for Pakistan) have gotten along pretty peaceably in the 70 years since partition.
That is background for this news: I have a good Indian friend from when I spent two years of my boyhood in India who thinks the continuing struggles between and among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are a direct result of terrible British policy and, beyond that, he says, it's time to reunite the countries into one. Only that, he writes in this Huffington Post piece, will end the animosity, which several times has almost led to nuclear war.
My friend is Markandey Katju. He and I attended Boys High School together for a time in 1957, became friends and have stayed in touch all these years. As a retired Indian Supreme Court Justice and a former chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey has a large following there and abroad, and he writes frequently on his blog.
Katju is in California at the moment, visiting family (his daughter and her family live in the Bay Area). But in his Huffington Post piece, he says he will be in Atlanta in early April to announce "the creation of the IPBRA—Indo-Pakistan-Bangladesh Reunification (under a secular government) Association."
The crux of his argument: "We are really one nation, and were one since Mughal times. The Partition of India in 1947 on the basis of the bogus two-nation theory was a historical swindle by the British, which must now be undone, and we should reunite if we wish to prosper." And: "We were befooled by the British into thinking that Hindus and Muslims are enemies of each other, and we are still being befooled after 1947 by certain vested interests who regularly spread communal poison. The truth is that 99% Hindus and 99% Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are good people."
Markandey is nothing if not opinionated, and he and I don't always agree about how to view the world. However, I can't help but think that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all would be in better shape if they weren't wasting money battling each other over various issues, including who owns Kashmir. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and people of other faiths in India would do well to put their energies into finding ways to respect one another and to live in religious harmony.
Is the reunification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh the way to accomplish that? I don't know. But what I do know is that the 1947 partition of India has led to deep and useless divisions, including religious strife. So maybe Markandey is on to something.
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IMPROVING CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS
The recently created working relationship between the Vatican and Al Azhar, the central university and mosque of Sunni Islam in Egypt, is going to get a boost at the end of April when Pope Francis visits Cairo. This is an important interfaith connection, and both the pope and the grand imam of Al Azhar (which I visited in 2002) should receive praise for continuing the dialogue.