Facts on the Ground

While turning Bombay’s home for old European sailors into a legislative assembly in January 1928, labourers came across patches of dust. The dust was the disintegrated remains of the city’s first English residents. Now 200 metres inland, workers had dug into a graveyard that once stood on the desolate promontory of Mendham’s Point, looking over the crashing waves and shipwrecks. There, senior English officers had been buried in elaborate tombs, but the bones of clerks and soldiers, the ordinary English functionaries of the empire, were thrown in a shallow grave under a big slab of stone. Corpses were quickly dug out by the jackals burrowing in the ground like rabbits, according to one account. Even the clergy were buried in common graves, with Bombay’s first five priests thrown together in one hole. The cemetery was more terrible to a sick Bombaian than the Inquisition to a heretic, one observer wrote. By 1928, the cemetery had been entirely forgotten.

The English ruled territory in India from the 1650s. Britain was the supreme political force in the subcontinent that stretches from Iran to Thailand, from the Himalayas to the sea, from at least 1800 to 1947. These years of conquest and empire left remains that survived in South Asia’s soil, sometimes until today. Perhaps a quarter of a million Europeans are still buried in more than a thousand cities of the dead, as the British explorer Richard Burton called them in 1847, scattered through the countries that once made up British-ruled India-India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Burma.

These graves trace the geography of British power during those years, marking the processes and places from which imperial authority was asserted. The earliest are in ports and forts like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. There, tiny groups of British merchants, sheltered behind thick stone walls, with white-skinned soldiers and gunners to protect them from people they tried to make money from. The largest numbers are close to British-built courts and tax offices, near blocky churches built quickly by army engineers as Britain’s conquests extended power through every part of India in the early nineteenth century. Some, like the graves every few miles on India’s Grand Trunk Road between Calcutta and Delhi, are by highways, marking the death of Europeans travelling or laying roads. Others, like the hilltop cemetery at Khandala three hours’ train ride from Bombay, cling to slopes above railway tunnels built at the expense of many Indian and a few European lives, as the British asserted their power by cutting lines of steel into Indian soil from the late nineteenth century on. From the early 1800s the largest single group of graves were those of children, little angels, as the tombstones often described them, killed by disease in their first years before they could be shipped back to Britain to boarding school. One hundred and fifty-one of the nearly 400 gravestones in the cantonment town of Bellary marked the death of children under the age of seven. All these graves mark the death of Britons who intended to return home.

There is little sense of imperial celebration in the inscriptions on these gravestones. More often, the words on the tombs convey a sense of distance and failure. Epitaphs describe men and women retreating into small worlds cut off from Indian society who died unhappily distant from their homes. Very few mention any connection to the people they ruled. What mattered was their sense of private virtue and the esteem of British friends and family, close by or thousands of miles back in Britain or Ireland. Shearman Bird, dead in Chittagong at forty-one, was a bright example of duty, affection, strength of principle and unshakeable fidelity, his gravestone says. His converse with this world contaminated not his genuine worth. Richard Becher, dead at Calcutta in 1782, was buried under the pang of disappointment / and the pressure of the climate. Graves like Bird’s and Becher’s were not those of a triumphant race, but the tombstones of a people scattered by their wars and affairs over the face of the whole earth, and homesick to a man, as the American Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the English.

There are 1349 recorded British graveyards in South Asia. Now they are quiet and still, the only signs of life coming from the visits of grass cutters or tourists. But other imperial remains in modern South Asia are full of activity. South Asia’s independent states have moved into the institutions of British rule, many close to the centres of present-day public power. The architecture of old Indian city centres usually conforms roughly to imperial plans, with sites of administration standing aloof from centres of commercial activity, in quiet, green, low-rise compounds, with court buildings and tax offices together with residences for senior officers. Through the Indian subcontinent court cases are decided, taxes collected, and laws made in British-era buildings. Many of the jobs people do now link back to British days. In many districts, the chief local administrator is still called the Collector. Local courts, treasuries, irrigation offices and public works departments have boards listing their officers which stretch back a century or more, suggesting an unbroken continuity between the present and imperial past. The current manual to India’s Public Works administration, published in 2012 begins by noting that the present form of the department was inaugurated in 1854 by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General whose actions instigated the great North Indian rebellion of 1857-58. There is no mention that India became independent in 1947.

Perhaps the most persuasive legacy of empire is the imperial system of record keeping. At every place where there is some kind of official activity, pre-paid taxi booths or airport security scanners, police stations and licensed offices, details are written in pen in big lines ledgers. India exports computer professionals by the thousand and its government has put more data online than any other state. Yet its filing schemes and administrative systems are little changed since the days of the British Empire. The latest edition of the Indian government’s office manual has not altered much since the 1920s, the most recent editions simply adding an extra line in the list of correspondence that can be processed by the state’s departments: email.

It is easy to imagine that these legacies are the remains of a powerful and purposive regime.  Colonial cemeteries, imperial-era courts, grand railway stations and fat, rigid looking law codes seem to indicate a regime that had sense of purpose and power. They allow many, Britons and some Indians to look back on the Raj as a period of authority, a time when Pax Britannica imposed reason and order on Indian society and corruption or violence were less rife than now.

This book shows how those perceptions are wrong. They are, rather, the projections of British imperial administrators with a vested interest in asserting that they ruled a stable and authoritative regime. From Robert Clive to Louis Mountbatten, the Britons who governed in India were desperate to convince themselves and the public that they ruled a regime with a power to shape the course of events. In fact, each of them, scrabbled to project a sense of their authority in the face of circumstances they could not control. Their words were designed to evade their reliance on Indians they rarely felt they could trust. They used rhetoric to give verbal stability to what they and many around them castigated as the chaotic exercise of power. But too many historians and writers assume the anxious protestations of imperial bureaucrats were accurate depictions of a stable structure of authority. The result is a mistaken view of empire. We end up with an image of empire as a sort of machine operated by a crew who know only how to decide but not to doubt, as historian Ramajit Guha describes it.

In practice the British imperial regime in India was ruled by doubt and anxiety from beginning to end. The institutions mistaken as means of effective power were as hoc measures to assuage British fear.  Most of the time, the actions of British imperial administrators were driven by irrational passions rather than calculated plans. Force was rarely efficient. The assertion of violent power usually exceeded the demands of any particular commercial or political interest.

Britain’s interest in India began in the 1600s with the efforts of English merchants to make money by shipping Asian goods to Europe. At the start, traders who did not use force made more money. Isolated, lonely, desperate to prove their worth to compatriots back home, Britons believed that they could only profit with recourse to violence. An empire of commerce quickly became an empire of forts and armies, comfortably capable of engaging in acts of conquest. Even then violence was rarely driven by any clear purpose. Most of the time it was instigated when British profit and authority seemed under challenge. It was driven on paranoia, the desire of men standing with weapons to look powerful in the face of both their Indian interlocutors and the  British public at home. But violence did not create power. Most of the time it only temporarily upheld the illusion of authority.

From the middle of the nineteenth century, as more Britons arrived to rule India, the imperial regime seemed more stable. The fiction of power was sustained by its ability to manipulate the world of things, as much as to commit acts of violence. Authority began to be built in stone, in the construction of ornate imperial follies like Frederick Stevens’ Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home, the elaborate Bombay Gothic construction built on the site of Bombay’s first European cemetery in 1876, or Edwin Lutyens’ massive Viceroy’s Palace in New Delhi. In a more prosaic way, the British tried to assert their power on the surface of the earth, in roads, telegraphs, railway lines, survey boundary markers. In each case they use their capacity to re-engineer the physical fabric of India as a surrogate for their failure to create an ordered imperial society.

The British used paper as a surrogate for authority, too, asserting power in census reports and judicial decisions, regulations and surveys. By 1940 more than 400 different ledgers were being maintained in each district office in the province of Bengal, and that number does not include the register of things like birth, death and company directorships held by other departments. British administrators created a form of government that reduced the lives of people to lines in accounting books as if they were goods to be traded. Once official writing could be reproduced by printing and typewriters, the British Civil Service in India became a massive publishing house.

Asserting power in reams of writing was a way to mitigate the chaos that British policies and interests had created by creating order in a small realm that was closest to hand. It also cut the British off from the messy entanglement with Indians they believed might endanger British rule. In practice, British engagement with the complex reality of Indian life was limited and brief. Judging in court or demarcating agrarian boundaries were cursory acts, involving as little conversation with the subjects of empire as could be managed, before officials retreated back into comfortable European worlds, their home, their club, their minds. Whether using guns or cannons, railway lines or survey sticks, the techniques used to assert British power shared a common effort to rule without engaging with the people being ruled. As long as they could get on with their job (whatever the job was) Britons in India were rarely interested in the people among whom they lived.

Imperial rule in India was not driven by a consistent desire to dominate Indian society. The British were rarely seized by any great effort to change India. There was no civilizing mission. The first, often the only, purpose of British power in India was to defend the fact of Britain’s presence on Indian ground. Through the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, India was a place where good livelihood for individual members of Britain’s middle and upper classes were made. The East is a career, as the British politician Sir Henry Coningsby said in Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Tancred. When he said that he did not mean it was worthwhile. Coningsby’s point was that politics in Britain was the only proper pursuit for a gentleman, and that empire in India was a romantic distraction. In real life India was a career that did not link to any great national or social purpose. The most important thing for those Britons who chose it was the retention of personal dignity (in a world that offered great scope for humiliation) and to return home relatively young with a good pension.

Careers in the British Indian government were often transmitted from father to son. Some British elite families had or five generations holding government office. Take the Stracheys, whose most famous son, the Edwardian writer Lytton, wrote a coruscating attack on the hypocrisy of Victorian values. Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, published in 1918, criticized the previous generations’ combinations of high-mindedness with imperial violence. The Victorians praised God yet built a system by which it sought to settle international disputes by force, Strachey noted. Strachey was writing about his own family. Over four generations, members of the Strachey dynasty traced every turn in the patterns of British power in India. Lytton Strachey’s great-grandfather was Robert Clive’s private secretary. His grandfather and great-uncle were district magistrates in Bengal. He was named after the Earl of Lytton, Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. His uncle was an imperial bureaucrat who wrote the standard reference for the facts of Indian politics and economics, published in 1888. His father was an irrigation engineer, the first secretary of British India’s public works department and a pioneer of cost-benefit accounting. Strachey’s brother ended up as chief engineer on the East Indian Railways. His cousin was the judge in Bombay who tried and convicted the Indian nationalist Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1897, in the process widening the definition of sedition to include any text not actively positive about British rule. For each generation, the greatest concern was to maintain the institutions the family business of empire.

With his family’s life so deeply immersed in talk of empire, Strachey was no anti-imperialist. He spent his early twenties writing a 400-page thesis on Warren Hastings, a work which saw its subject as the one great figure of his time. Strachey’s critique was that empire was banal, lonely, purposeless. There was no grand imperial mission; the British were merely policemen and railway makers. Strachey was filled with pity for his relatives, seized by a sense of the horror of the solicitude and the wretchedness of every single [English] creature out there and the degrading influences of so many years away from civilization. India was a place to try and go away and be a great man, but Warren Hastings would have been more use to the world if he had stayed at home and become a great Greek scholar.

For the centuries of its existence, there was something self-justifying and circular about the reasoning Britons used to justify the family business of imperial rule. The empire’s few grand statements of principle came when the livelihood of British officers seemed under the greatest threat. Then, political leaders responded with exaggerated rhetoric, but that rhetoric often meant little practice. In 1922, David Lloyd George described the elite civil service as India’s steel frame. Lloyd George’s words came in a parliamentary debate in which the MPs complained about the low morale and declining pay of British officers in Asia. After the First World War, the British faced a fiscal crisis and a revival in opposition from Indian nationalists. The government felt it had no choice but to allow Indians to start sharing power with their masters, to least to part justify the claim that the First World War had been fought to defend liberty against autocratic powers. In response to a demand for reassurance that positions in the business of empire would not contract, Lloyd George offered fine words but few promises. His metaphor of the steel frame was part of an anxious tirade asserting the centrality of the civil servant to Britain’s rapidly collapsing empire. Official unease continued to intensify, accelerating the process in which the British handed over positions of power.

We tend to see empires as systems of effective economic and intellectual power, as structures aiming to subordinate as much of the world as they can to their commercial power and values. The context to Lloyd George’s words shows that empire is not what we now often think. In fact, in India, the British Empire was never a project or system. It was something far more anxious and chaotic. From beginning to end, it was ruled by individual self-interest, by a desire for glory and a mood of fear, by deeply ingrained habits of command and rarely any grand public reason. It consisted of fiercely guarded outposts of British sovereign power; it did not possess a machinery able to impose British authority evenly across Indian land. To see the real life of Britain’s strange imperial state at work, we need to look beneath the abstract statements of great imperial officers trying to persuade their peers of their power and virtue. We need to tell the story instead of how British and Indian lives became entangled, often fractiously, sometimes violently, on Asian soil.

Courtesy of:




British Government’s Statement of 3 June 1947

India Wins Freedom

  1. On February 20th, 1947, His Majesty’s Government announced their intention of transferring power in British India to Indian hands by June 1948. His Majesty’s Government hoped that it would be possible for the major parties to co-operate in the working out of the Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16th, 1946 and evolve for India a Constitution acceptable to all concerned. This hope has not been fulfilled.
  2. The majority of the representatives of the Provinces of Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, Orissa and the North-West Frontier Provinces, and the representatives of Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara and Coorg have already made progress in the task of evolving a new Constitution. On the other hand, the Muslim League Party, including in it a majority of the representatives of Bengal, the Punjab and Sind as also the representative of British Baluchistan, has decided not to participate in the Constituent Assembly.
  3. It has always been the desire of His Majesty’s Government that power should be transferred in accordance with the wishes of the Indian people themselves. This task would have been greatly facilitated if there had been an agreement among the Indian political parties. In the absence of such agreement, the task of devising a method by which the wishes of the Indian people can be ascertained has developed upon His Majesty’s Government. After full consultation with political leaders India, His Majesty’s Government have decided to adopt for this purpose the plan set out below. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that they have no intention of attempting to frame any ultimate Constitution for India; this is a matter for the Indians themselves nor is there anything in this plan to preclude negotiations between communities for a united India.
  4. It is not the intention of His Majesty’s Government to interrupt the work of the existing Constituent Assembly. Now that provision is made for certain provinces specified below, His Majesty’s Government trust that, as a consequence of this announcement, the Muslim League representatives of those provinces, a majority of whose representatives are already participating in it, will now take their share in its labour. At the same time, it is clear that any constitution framed by this Assembly cannot apply to those parts of the country which are unwilling to accept it. His Majesty’s Government are satisfied that the procedure outlined below embodies the best method of ascertaining the wishes of the people of such areas on the issue whether their Constitution is to be framed.
  • In the existing Constituent Assembly; or
  • in a new separate Constituent Assembly consisting of the representatives of those areas which decide not to participate in the existing Constituent Assembly.

When this has been done, it will be possible to determine the authority or authorities to whom power should be transferred.

5. The Provincial Legislature of Bengal and the Punjab (excluding European members) will therefore, each be asked to meet in two parts one representing the Muslim majority districts and the other the rest of the province. For the purpose of determining the population of districts the 1941 census figures will be taken as authoritative. The Muslim majority districts in these two provinces are set out in the Appendix to this announcement.

6. The members of the two parts of each Legislative Assembly sitting separately will be empowered to vote whether or not the province should be partitioned. If a simple majority of either part decides in favour of partition, division will take place and arrangement will be made accordingly.

7. Before the question as to the partition is decided, it is desirable that the representatives of each part should know in advance which Constituent Assembly the province as a whole would join in the event the two parts subsequently deciding to remain united. Therefore, if any members of either Legislative Assembly so demands, there shall be held a meeting of all members of the Legislative Assembly (other than European) at which a decision will be taken on the issue as to which Constituent Assembly the provinces as a whole would join if it were decided by the two parts to remain united.

8. In the event of partition being decided upon, each part of the Legislative Assembly will, on behalf of the areas they represent, decide which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt.

9. For the immediate purpose of deciding on the issue of partition, the members of the legislative assemblies of Bengal and the Punjab will sit in two parts according to the Muslim majority districts (as laid down in the Appendix) and non-Muslim majority districts.

This is only a preliminary step of a purely temporary nature as it is evident that for the purposes of final partition of these provinces a detailed investigation of boundary questions will be needed; and as soon as a decision involving partition has been taken for either provinces, a boundary commission will be set up by the Governor-General, the membership and terms of reference of which will be settled in consultation with those concerned. It will be instructed to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also be instructed to take in account other factors. Similar instructions will also be given to the Bengal Boundary Commission. Until the report of a boundary commission has been put into effect, the provisional boundaries indicated in the Appendix will be used.

10. The Legislative Assembly of Sind (excluding the European members) will at a special meeting also take its own decisions on the alternatives in paragraph 4 above.

11. The position of the North-West Frontier Province is exceptional. Two of the three representatives of this province are already participating in the existing Constituent Assembly. But it is clear, in view of its geographical situation and other considerations, that if the whole or any part of the Punjab decided not join the existing Constituent Assembly, it will be necessary to give the North-West Frontier Province an opportunity to reconsider its position. Accordingly, in such an event, a referendum will be made to the electors of the present Legislative Assembly in the North-West Frontier Province to choose which of the alternatives mentioned in paragraph 4 above they wish to adopt. The referendum will be held under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the provincial government.

12. British Baluchistan has elected a member, but he has not taken his seat in the existing Constituent Assembly. In view of its geographical situation, this province will also be given an opportunity to reconsider its position and to choose which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt. His Excellency, the Governor-General is examining how this can most appropriately be done.

13. Though Assam is predominantly a non-Muslim province, the district of Sylhet which is contiguous to Bengal is predominantly Muslim. There has been a demand that, in the event of the partition of Bengal, Sylhet should be amalgamated with the Muslim part of Bengal. Accordingly if it is decided that Bengal should be partitioned, a referendum will be held in Sylhet District under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the Assam Provincial Government to decide whether the district of Sylhet should continue to form part of Assam Province or should be amalgamated with the new province of Eastern Bengal, a boundary commission with terms of reference similar to those for the Punjab and Bengal will be set up to demarcate the Muslim majority areas of Sylhet District and contiguous Muslim majority areas of adjoining districts, which will then be transferred to East Bengal. The rest of Assam Province will in any case continue to participate in the proceedings of the existing Constituent Assembly.

14. If it is decided that Bengal and the Punjab should be partitioned, it will be necessary to hold fresh elections to choose their representatives on the scale of one for every million of population according to the principle contained in the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May 1946. Similar election will also have to be held for Sylhet in the event o it being decided that this district should form part of East Bengal. The number of representatives to which each area would be entitled is as follows:





Sylhet District


2 nil


West Bengal


4 nil


East Bengal               


29 nil


West Punjab.                  


12 2


East Punjab.                   


4 2



15. In accordance with the mandates given to them, the representatives of the various areas will either join the existing Constituent Assembly or form the new Constituent Assembly.

16. Negotiations will have to be initiated as soon as possible on the administrative consequences of any partition that may have been decided upon: —

  • Between the representatives and the respective successor authorities about all subjects now dealt with by the Central Government including defence, finance and communications.
  • Between different successor authorities and His Majesty’s Government for treaties in regard to matters arising out of the transfer of power.
  • In the case of provinces that may be partitioned, as to the administration of all provincial subjects, such as the division of assets and liabilities, the police and other services, the high courts, provincial institutions, etc.

17. Agreements with the tribes of the North-West Frontier of India will have to be negotiated by the appropriate successor authority.

18. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that the decisions announced above relate only to British India and that their policy towards Indian states contained in the Cabinet Mission’s memorandum of 12 May 1946 remains unchanged.

19. In order that the successor authorities may have time to prepare themselves to take over power, it is important that all the above processes should be completed as quickly as possible. To avoid delay, the different provinces or parts of provinces will proceed independently as far as practicable with the conditions of this plan. The existing Constituent Assembly and the new Constituent Assembly (if formed) will proceed to frame constitutions for their respective territories; they will, of course, be free to frame their own rules.

20. The major political parties have repeatedly emphasised their desire that there should be the earliest possible transfer of power in India. With this desire, His Majesty’s Government are in full sympathy and they are willing to anticipate the date of June 1948, for the handing over of power by the setting up of an independent Indian Government or Governments at an even earlier date. Accordingly, as the most expeditious, and indeed the only practicable way of meeting this desire, His Majesty’s Government propose to introduce legislation during the current session for the transfer of power this year on a Dominion Status basis to one or two successor authorities according to the decisions taken as a result of this announcement. This will be without prejudice to the right of Indian Constituent Assemblies to decide in due course whether or not the part of India in respect of which they have authority will remain within the British Commonwealth.

His Excellency the Governor-General will from time to time make such further announcements as may be necessary in regard to procedure or any other matters for carrying out the above arrangements.

The Muslim majority districts of the Punjab and Bengal according to the 1941 (census):

The Punjab Lahore Division Gujranwala, Gurdaspur, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sialkot
Rawalpindi Division Attock, Gujarat, Jhelum, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Shalpur
Multan Division Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan.
Bengal Chittagong Division Chittagong, Noakhali, Tipperah.
Dacca Division Bakerganj, Dacca, Faridpur, Mymensingh.
Presidency Division Jessore, Murshidabad, Nadia.
Rajshahi Division Bogra, Dinajpur, Malda, Pabna, Rajshahi, Rangpur



India Wins Freedom

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Publishers’ Note

When the manuscript of India Wins Freedom was handed over to us for publication by the late Professor Humayun Kabir in September 1958, seven months after Maulana Azad’s sudden death, we were informed that a fuller version containing additional material of about thirty pages would be made available to us for publication on 22 February 1988, the thirtieth death anniversary of Maulana Azad.

On examining the material, it became apparent that the additional matter was not just an extra thirty pages S generally believed but was to be found scattered throughout the text. Also, apart from phrases, sentence sequences and series of passages left out of the published text, the original text has been modified at many places by Professor Kabir’s editorial intervention (see his note in Appendix 1).

The present edition now gives the full text as found in the copies released to us. Major additions to the earlier version are indicated by asterisks at the beginning and at the end, the ‘Prospectus of the First Volume’ as published in the first edition has been retained. The appendixes included in that edition have also been reproduced.

October 1988.

Editor’s Note

When the first draft of Maulana Azad’s autobiography was prepared, he felt that there certain judgements on men and events which were not yet ripe for publication. He therefore prepared a revised version which is being published under th title:

India Wins Freedom

Autobiographical narrative

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Azad felt that he would also like to leave for the future historian a full record of his judgement and opinion on certain controversial issues which have been omitted from the published book. Even in respect of matter that has not been omitted, there are some minor differences from the original text as preserved here. This is due to the fact that the text for publication was revised several times, and with one or two exceptions, shows a toning down of his original judgement in order to spare the feelings of some of his contemporaries and fellow workers.

In the case of passages which have not been included in the published book the original opinion and judgement of Maulana Azad will be found in these papers deposited with the National Archives. The broad differences may be indicated as follows:

  1. Maulana Azad felt that injustice had been done to Dr. Syed Mahmud in not making him the first Congress Chief Minister of Bihar. On the other hand, he was equally clear in his mind that the way in which Dr. Syed Mahmud secured his release from Ahmednagar Fort jail was indefensible. Maulana Azad also disapproved of some of Dr. Syed Mahmud’s actions after he came out of jail. He decided to leave out of the published text the passages with both these matters.
  2. Maulana Azad felt that Sardar Patel had played a role which was not always consistent with the ideals of the Congress. While the published text gives a clear indication of his judgement about Sardar Patel, he left out some of his stronger indictments as he felt that heir publication should be delayed in the national interest.
  3. Maulana Azad not only disliked but had almost contempt for Mr. Krishna Menon. He felt that Mr. Krishna Menon was not trustworthy, and he had intended to discuss more fully in his third volume of his autobiography some of Mr. Menon’s actions as High Commissioner of India. Maulana Azad believed that the charges against Mr. Menon should have been investigated, so that he was either cleared or condemned. He felt so strongly on this point that when in 1954, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to include Mr. Menon in the Cabinet, Maulana Azad sent in his resignation. It was only with difficulty that he could later be persuaded to agree to Mr. Menon’s inclusion in the Cabinet. He openly said that he did so only out of deference to Mr. Nehru’s wishes, and further said that h did not wish to publicise his views as he felt that it would weaken Mr. Nehru.
  4. Maulana Azad had a very warm feeling of mingled affection and admiration for Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. He no doubt disapproved of some of his actions as too impulsive or precipitate and in the published text has left out a few indications of his disagreement with or approval of Mr. Nehru’s actions. He used to, say that Mr. Nehru has so many merits Nd is so genuine a servant of India that his few demerits should not be stressed specially in his lifetime. Anything which weakened Mr. Nehru’s standing was to his mind harmful to the national interest. At th same time, he felt that the future historians should have some information of these failings of Mr. Nehru and left them in this unexpurgated version of the autobiography.

It was Maulana Azad’s wish that these passages should be included in his autobiography after the papers have been released to the publisher.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 2 April 1958

The work in connection with this book has been for me a labour of love and I shall feel happy if it helps in forwarding an object that was very dear to Maulana Azad’s  heart. This is the promotion of greater understanding among the different Indian communities as a first step towards greater understanding among people’s of the world. He also wished that the people of India and Pakistan should look upon one another as friends and neighbours. He regarded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as an instrument for the achievement of this object an in his Presidential Address to the Council–his last prepared and printed speech– he made a fervent appeal for the strengthening of the bonds of understanding and sympathy between the people of these two States which till only a decade ago had been one undivided country. I feel that there can be no better use of any income derived from this book than to make it available to the Council for promoting better understanding among the different communities which live in India and Pakistan.

Before I conclude, i wish to make one thing perfectly clear. There are opinions and judgements in this book with which I do not agree but sin e my function was only to record Maulana Azad’s  findings, it would have highly improper to let my views colour the narrative. When he was alive, I often expressed my differences to him, and with the open-mindedness which was so strong an element in his nature, he has T times modified his views to meet my criticisms. At other times, he s lied in his characteristic way and said, “These are my views and surely I have the right to express them as I will.” now that he is no more, his views must stand in the form in which he left them.

It is difficult for any man to reflect with complete accuracy the views and opinions of another. Even when both use the same language, the change of one word may alter the emphasis and bring about a subtle difference in th shade of meaning. The difference in the genius of Urdu and English makes the task of interpreting Maulana Azad’s thoughts still more difficult. Urdu like all other Indian languages is rich, colourful and vigorous. English, on the other hand,is essentially a language of understatement. And when the speaker is a master of Urdu like Maulana Azad, the plight of the writer who seeks to express his thoughts in English can easily be imagined. In spite of these difficulties, I have tried to reflect as faithfully as I could the views of Maulana Azad, and. I regard myself S richly rewarded. Y the fact that the text had met with his approval.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 15 March 1958

Humayun Kabir (1906-1969): after a distinguished academic career at the Calcutta and Oxford Universities, he served as a lecturer, first at the Andhra University at Waltair and then at Calcutta University, 1933-45. In 1937 he was elected to the Bengal Legislature Council as leader of the Peasants Party. In 1946 Azad selected him to serve as his secretary and he was therefore closely associated with Azad. He served as Educational Adviser to the Government of India until 1956 when he resigned and was elected to Parliament as a  member of the Congress Party in 1957. He was appointed Minister for Civil Aviation (1957-58), for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs (1958-63), and for Petroleum and Chemicals (1963-68). The author of more than twenty books in English and Bangla on philosophy, literature, politics and culture, he also published two novels and three volumes of verse.

Courtesy of:

Orient Longman Private Ltd., Hyderabad India 1959



The Pakistan Paradox


Pakistan focuses the concern of quite a few chancelleries and international organizations today. Not only is it a nation that possesses nuclear weapons without having a stable political system, the military having held the reins of power on a number of occasions since independence in 1947, but is also wracked by Islamist forces, many of which have links with the Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda and possibly the Islamic State. A serious compounding factor, the civil and especially the military authorities show considerable ambivalence with regard to certain Islamist groups that they view as allies against India in Kashmir, but also in Afghanistan, where NATO, now on its way out, has been mired in war since 2001 against the Taliban and groups based in Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders are suspected of hiding.

Western fears about Pakistan have, however, been a poor advisor for sociological and political analysis, portrayals of the country too often being oversimplified. This is not to say that certain trends are not alarming, but in attempting to explain them, it is important to discard preconceived notions and avoid culturist conflations. The present book sets out to decipher this complexity. It is not a work of field research per se, but an essay based over fifteen years of familiarity with Pakistan.

The new nation was thus born with an image of India as a villain, a Satan, and a monster next door, out to devour the newborn state (Mohammad Waseem, Politics and the State in Pakistan, Islamabad, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, 1994, p.99)

 Since the beginning, Pakistan has been confronted with the monumental task of formulating a national identity distinct from India. Born out of a schism of the old civilization of India, Pakistan has debated over the construction of a culture of its own, a culture which will not only be different from that of India but one that the rest of the world can understand. (M. Ali, “In Search of Identity”, Dawn Magazine, 7 May 2000).

As the two excerpts above indicate, Pakistan was born of a partition that overdetermined its subsequent trajectory not only because of the difficult relations it developed with India, but also because this parting of ways defined the terms of its collective quest for identity. Indeed, the 1947 Partition was the outcome of an intense struggle as well as a trauma. It grew out of a separatist ideology which crystallized at the end of the nineteenth century among the Urdu-speaking Muslim intelligentsia of North India, whose key figure was none other than Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder in 1877 of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in Aligarh, a little town not far from Delhi. The Aligarh movement–as it was to be remembered in history–turned to politics in the early decades of the twentieth century when it became the crucible of the Muslim League. This party, founded in 1906, was then separatist in the sense that it obtained from the British Raj, a separate electorate for the Indian Muslims. The demand for a separate state emerged much later, in the 1940s, under the auspices of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, although in formulating it he did not outline contours of the future Pakistan until the last year of the Raj, nor did he fully grasp the traumatic implications Partition would have.


The 1947 Partition resulted in unprecedented violence. One million people died and about ten million others, crossed borders. The plural is in fact required here because Pakistan was then made up of two wings (and therefore had two borders with India), the two areas of the Raj where Muslims were in majority. East Pakistan (made up of East Bengal) and West Pakistan (made up of West Punjab, Sindh, the North West Frontier Province, the area that was to become Baluchistan, and a few princely states). Violence and migration were of such magnitude that this tragic episode can be regarded as the first example of ethnic cleansing in history (indeed, the word safai, cleaning was used at that time by the local actors). Not only millions of Muslims from East Punjab and Hindus from East Bengal crossed over and settled down in the western part of their now truncated former province, but Muslims and Hindus of both countries took refuge in the country where their community was a majority. The circumstances in which Pakistan was born are thus largely responsible not only for the way it has related to India, but also for its complicated trajectory.

Three Wars, Three Constitutions and Three Coups

The history of Pakistan over the last sixty-five years had been marked by chronic instability due to internal and external factors. In 1947, the British awarded Pakistan the status of a dominion. Under the aegis of M.A. Jinnah, the new Governor General, the 1935 Government of India Act became its interim constitution, minus its initial references to imperial control. It would take nine years for the country to give itself a constitution. In the course of this endeavour, political parties eventually lost the initiative as a result of their own internal divisions and the hunger for power of senior bureaucrats. In 1954, one of them, Ghulam Mohammad, the then Governor General who had taken over from Khwaja Nazimuddin, the successor of Jinnah (who had died in September 1948), dissolved the Constituent Assembly (with the consent of the Supreme Court) and had another one elected. The 1956 Constitution was not particularly democratic, but it could not be fully implemented anyway since another bureaucrat Iskander Mirza, and then the Commander-in-Chief of the army, Ayub Khan, seized power in 1958. Till 1969, the latter established a military regime that claimed to modernize Pakistan in the framework of Martial Law and then, after 1962, of a new constitution. This second constitution was authoritarian, but did not completely disregard political pluralism, especially after 1965 when Ayub Khan further liberalized his regime. But eventually, after months of unrest, he had to resign in favour of another general, the chief of the army, Yahya Khan in 1969.

By the end of 1970, Yahya Khan, having few other options, gave Pakistan its first opportunity to vote. The Bengalis of East Pakistan seized it to win the elections by massively supporting the Awami League, a party whose nationalism had been exacerbated by years of exploitation under the thumb of West Pakistan. Its leader, Mujibur Rahman asked for a confederal system that would give East Pakistan considerable autonomy. But almost all West Pakistanis–including the winner of elections in Punjab and Sindh, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)- rejected this option and supported repression. Civil war ensued and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971-after a military intervention of India, New Delhi arguing that violence and flow of refugees to West Bengal had to stop.

The arrival in power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to whom Yahya Khan handed the reins in 1971, marked the beginning of the first democratic transition. Not only was the army subjected to a civilian government, but a third parliamentarian Constitution was promulgated in 1973. However, Bhutto displayed such authoritarian tendencies that the federal dimension of this text was stillborn and the social reforms (including land reform) that the PPP had promised were not truly implemented. Finally Bhutto rigged the 1977 election, a move that resulted in mass protests from the opposition. These events provided the army with an excuse to seize power once again led by General Ziaul Haq.

The second military coup gave birth to a dictatorial regime and even a police state: in contrast to the Ayub years, scores of politicians were sent to jail, opponents were tortured, and Bhutto was even executed in 1979. Zia also instrumentalised Islam in order to legitimize his rule. His Islamization policy affected all areas of life: education (with development of Quranic schools), law (with the setting of Sharia courts), and the fiscal system (with the transformation of zakat and ushr into compulsory state coordinated contributions). This policy gained momentum in the context of a new kind of war: the anti-Soviet jihad from 1979-88 in Afghanistan, its foot soldiers being mostly the Afghan Mujahideen who had found refuge in Pakistan. While Zia, like Ayub Khan resigned himself to seeking the support of Pakistani citizens through elections, he never gave up his uniform and it was not until his mysterious death in 1988 that Pakistan’s second democratic transition became possible.

This transition was not as substantial as the first one. While the generals returned to their barracks, they continued to be in charge of key policies regarding Afghanistan, Kashmir (India at large) and defense (including the nuclear program. They were also in a position to oust prime ministers one after another between 1988-99. Benazir Bhutto who had won the 1988 elections, benefitting from the PPP political machine and her family’s prestige-partly based on her father’s martyrdom--was the first prime minister to be dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the 1990s. She was replaced by her archenemy, Nawaz Sharif, after army supervised elections in 1990. But Sharif alienated Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army as well. He was dismissed in 1993 and replaced by Benazir again. She herself was eased out in 1996, this time by the President Farooq Leghari, enabling Nawaz Sharif to stage a comeback. The 1997 elections were different from the three previous ones because they gave Sharif’s party, the PML(N), the two-thirds majority that allows the prime minister to reform the Constitution: the thirteenth amendment re-established the parliamentary nature of the Constitution and deprived the president of the power to dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve both the national and provincial assemblies. But Sharif misused power. He did not respect either the independence of the judiciary or freedom of press. Furthermore, he alienated the army-including the chief of the army, Pervez Musharraf–by bowing to American pressures during the Kargil war.

In October 1999, Musharraf’s coup brought the army back into power. He then militarized the state and the economy more than his predecessors. Not only were (ex-) army officers appointed to positions normally reserved for civilians, but their business activities benefited from the patronage of the state more than ever before. While Zia had profited from the anti-Soviet US-sponsored war in Afghanistan, Musharraf exploited the fact that Pakistan had become a frontline state again during the war the US once again sponsored this time against the Taliban and Al Qaeda after the 11 September attacks in 2001. While Musharraf–like Ayub Khan-was ousted from power in 2007-08 in the wake of street demonstrations, those who protested so effectively this time were affiliated with a specific institution, the judiciary-hence the fear of ‘a government of judges” expressed by supporters of parliamentarianism after democracy was restored,

The 2008 elections brought back the same parties-and the same families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, both freshly returned from exile-as in the 1980s-90s. Benazir was assassinated in December 2007, but her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected as President after the PPP won the 2008 elections. The new government, with the support of key opposition parties, restored the parliamentary nature of the 1973 Constitution that Musharraf, like Zia had presidentialised. Not only federalism but also the independence of the judiciary were at last in a position to prevail. However, the civilians failed to reassert their authority over the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military intelligence agency that since the 1980s has become a state within the state, and the army retained the upper hand on key policies such as relations with the Taliban, the Kashmir issue and the nuclear program. The army justified its role by arguing that the country was facing huge challenges ranging from the unleashing of ethno-nationalist violence in Baluchistan and Karachi to the rise of both sectarian and jihadi Islamist movements, some of which were affiliated with Al Qaeda and attacked the Pakistan state because of its association with the US in the global war on terror.

However, the escalation of violence did not prevent Parliament from completing its five year term in March 2013 and citizens from voting in large numbers two months later, mostly in favour of Nawaz Sharif, who in June became the prime minister for the third time.

The alternation of phases of democratization and military rule every ten years or so is not the only the source of instability in Pakistan. The recurrence of armed conflict is another cause. Some of these conflicts come under the category of civil war, such as the 1970-71 in Bengal or during the 1973-77 insurgency in Baluchistan-and the war that started in the mid 2000s in that area, Others have primarily opposed Pakistan and India, overtly or covertly. As early as 1947-48, both countries fought each other in Kashmir. In 1965, Pakistan attacked India, whereas in 1971, the conflict was a sequel to the the movement for Bangladesh. The most recent conflict, the 1999 Kargil war (named after a town in Jammu and Kashmir) was short and circumscribed.

Thus the number of military coups (three-four if one includes Yahya Khan’s martial law episode in 1969-70) is equal to the number of wars with India (three-four if one includes the Kargil war). This is not just by chance. In fact, Pakistan’s political instability is to some degree overdetermined by the regional context, and more especially by the sentiment of vulnerability of Pakistan vis a vis India.

Between India and Afghanistan: Caught in a Pincer Movement?

In the beginning, this sentiment (which would be exploited by the army subsequently) stemmed from the conditions in which Partition took place. Pakistan resented the slow and incomplete manner in which India gave the country its share of the military equipment and the treasury of the defunct British Raj. Pakistan also felt cheated by the way the Kashmir question was settled. On 15 August 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was one of the last princely states that was still undecided about its future. The Maharaja-a Hindu-and the main party-the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference-were not willing to join Pakistan in spite of the fact that the state was comprised of a majority of Muslim subjects. But they did not support accession to India either, fearing Pakistani retaliation.*

*Jammu and Kashmir was largely connected to the rest of India via roads which had now become a part of Pakistan.

On 22 October 1947, 5000 paramilitaries from the Pashtun tribal belt who were not in uniform but were supported by Pakistani officers infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir and established a parallel government ( the government of Azad Kashmir-free Kashmir) while they were approaching Srinagar, the state capital.*

The Pakistan army formally entered the war in April 1948.

The Maharajah turned to India and Nehru sent troops on 27 October. Three days later, the government of Pakistan deployed its own soldiers, but India’s military superiority enabled New Delhi not only to retain the Valley of Srinagar, but also to reconquer key positions such a Baramulla. Certainly, when the matter was brought before the UN Security Council, India was asked to organize a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir to let the local people decide whether they wanted to remain part of the Indian Union or not. But this referendum was supposed to take place after the withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops-which did not occur. In fact the Line of Ceasefire that was officially agreed in the truce signed on 1 January 1949 gave Pakistan control of a fraction of the erstwhile princely state that was divided in two. Azad Kashmir and the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, which were amalgamated to form the Northern Areas. These regions were directly administered by the central government. Most Pakistanis considered that without Kashmir as part of their country, Partition remained unachieved.

Furthermore, some of them feared that India had not resigned itself to the very fact of Partition and that New Delhi would try to reunite with the subcontinent one day or another. Not only did the Hindu nationalists dream of Akhand Bharat (undivided India), but statements made by a few Congress leaders lent themselves to a similar interpretation. Party President, Acharya Kripalani declared in 1947, Neither the Congress nor the nation has given up its claim of a united India. Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel concurred when he said, Sooner than later, we shall again be united in common allegiance to our country.*

*Cited in Muhammad Ayub Khan, Friends not Masters. A Political Autobiography, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1967 p.136. The very fact that Ayub cites them in his autobiography shows that one of Pakistan’s most important leaders believed these words to be true and/or used them to cultivate obsessive fears in his own country. Patel, according to another minister of the Indian government, Abdul Kalam Azad, was “convinced that the new State of Pakistan was not viable and could not last”-even though, “he was the greatest supporter of partition” among Congressmen, “out of irritation and injured vanity” (Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Hyderabad, Orient Longman 1988, p.225). Nehru himself at one point mentioned the possibility of creating a “confederation” between India and Pakistan, something the Pakistanis found utterly unacceptable (cited in Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, London and New York, Routledge, 2011, p.30).

The fear of India was reinforced by an encirclement complex due to the attitude demonstrated by Afghanistan. In the early 1940s, the Kabul Government had asked the British upon their departure to allow the Pashtun tribes of the Raj to choose between claiming independence and becoming part of Afghanistan. Pakistan was not an option. At the same time, the Muslim League was disturbed by Kabul’s unwillingness to recognize the Durand Line as an international border. In 1947, this attitude prevented the Pakistanis from having distinct borders, its territory not being clearly defined (or stabilized)on the eastern side either. These difficulties harked back to the pervasiveness of Pashtun nationalism on both sides of the Durand Line. Certainly, this nationalism remained fuzzy. It was not clear whether its supporters were in favour of a separate country made up of Pashtun tribes or whether they were willing to incorporate Pakistan’s Pashtuns into Afghanistan. Whatever their agenda, it was bound to undermine the project of Pakistan’s founders. The latter felt especially threatened because Pashtun nationalists developed excellent relations with India. The main architect of Pashtun nationalism under the Raj in the North West Frontier Province, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was a staunch supporter of the Congress and was known as “Frontier Gandhi” because of his close relationship to the Mahatma.

In June 1947, Afghan Prime Minister Muhammad Hashim Khan declared, if an independent Pukhtoonistan cannot be established, then the Frontier Province should join Afghanistan. Neither of these options came about and so in September 1947, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistan’s admission to the UN. The Afghan representative to the UN declared then declared that his country could not recognize the North West Frontier as part of Pakistan so long as the people of the North West Frontier have not been given the opportunity free from any kind of influence-I repeat, free from any kind of influence–to determine for themselves whether they wish to be independent or to become a part of Pakistan.*

*cited in the Aparna Pande, Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.

One month later, Afghanistan softened its stance but made three demands in exchange: that the Pashtuns of Pakistan should be granted a proper province, that Pakistan should give Afghanistan access to the sea, and that both countries should sign a treaty according to which they agreed to remain neutral if one of them fought a war against a third country. None of these demands were met.

The leaders of Pakistan were convinced that Kabul and New Delhi tried to take their country in a pincer movement, as Ayub Khan confided in his autobiography. Indeed, in 1949, at a time when Afghanistan formally rejected the Durand Line, many Indian cities celebrated Pashtunistan Day, which Kabul had decided to celebrate every year on 31 August.

The Paradox

The fear of encirclement, and more especially of India, partly explains the role of the Pakistani army in the public sphere. Indeed, the military could project themselves as the saviours of a vulnerable country, and this argument was likely to appear even more convincing in the post-jinnah context when the political personnel looked weak, factionalized and corrupt. But there are other factors to the democratic deficit affecting Pakistan since the 1950s. To make sense of it, one needs to understand the way civilians related to power. Pakistani politicians not only occasionally collaborated with military rulers, compromising their reputation, but when they were in charge of the government they also tended to display authoritarian tendencies. Bhutto rigged the 1977 elections and many of his successors as prime ministers showed little respect for the independence of the judiciary and sometimes even for freedom of the press.

Pakistan’s democratic deficit can also be measured by the centralization of the state. Even when a federal constitution was (re-) introduced, the provinces were never given the autonomy they demanded, whereas almost all of them-East Bengal, West Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP—had experienced form of self-administration under the Raj and coincided by and large with an ethnic-linguistic group.

Centralization, once again may be explained by the need for a strong unified state to face India. However, on that front too, one should not focus mainly on this external factor. Certainly, the 1940 Lahore resolution through which the Muslim League officially spelled out its separatist agenda, recognized a prominent role for the provinces of the country envisioned, but their autonomy was drastically reduced as early as 1946 in the last pre-Partition blueprint of Pakistan as Jinnah imagined it. And in 1947, the citizens of the new country were required to identify not only with one religion-Islam-but also with one language-Urdu, an idiom that became the country’s official tongue even though it was spoken only by a small minority.

These developments reflected sociological dynamics. The idea of Pakistan was primarily conceived by an Urdu-speaking upper caste elite group fearing social decline. Made up of aristocratic literati, this group embodied the legacy (and the nostalgia) of the Mughal Empire. Their ancestors had prospered thanks to land and administrative status the emperors had given them between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. But in the nineteenth century, colonization called the privileges into question, not only because the British took over power from some of the Muslim rulers, but also because they did not trust the Muslims (who were seen as the former dominant group) as much as they did the Hindus.

Furthermore, the Hindus asserted themselves at the expense of Muslims because of their growing role in the economy (through trade and then industrial activities), because of their adhesion to the university system, which resulted in their increasingly important role in the administration, and because of their political influence that developed parallel to the democratization of the Raj almost in proportion to their numbers. The separatism of the Urdu-speaking elite crystallized in this context in the nineteenth century and was subsequently exacerbated (especially in the (1930s-1940s) in reaction to the fear of losing their traditional status-eventually prompting them to work towards obtaining a state to govern. The Muslim League leaders argued that they demanded Pakistan to protect Islam from Hinduism, but they also(and more importantly) did it to protect their interests from the growing influence of the Hindus,

The following pages will elaborate on this sociological interpretation of the Pakistan project, which is not new. Hamza’s Alavi developed a similar analysis In the 1970s-1980s at a time when Paul Brass argues in a similar vein that the League’s claim that Islam was in danger in the 1939s-40s was a political ploy used by elite groups to mobilize Muslim masses in support of their idea of Pakistan. But the present book’s approach is less Marxist than Alavi’s reading and less instrumentalist than Brass’s interpretation for the simple reason that it emphasizes the weight of the cultural and societal parameters that defined the mentality of the Muslim elite during the Raj.* More importantly, this book offers a reading of the Pakistan trajectory that focuses on the implications of these sociological factors for the country since its creation.

*Regarding Alavi’s approach, it may be sufficient to say that his definition of the “salariat”-the key actor behind the Pakistan project in Alavi’s view-is too restrictive. As will be shown, the idea of Pakistan was crafted by an intelligentsia that was not only motivated by vested interests, but by a specific upper caste Islamic culture. This is why an interpretation of Muslim separatism in terms of class needs to be supplemented by an analysis taking societal dimensions into account.

The history of Pakistan has been overdetermined by three sets of tensions all rooted in contradictions that were already apparent in the 1940s. The first one can be summarized by the equation Pakistan = Islam + Urdu. While all the ethnic groups of Pakistan could identify with one variant or another of Islam, they could not easily give up their linguistic identity, all the more because it often epitomized full-fledged national sentiments (or movements). Hence a first contradiction between the central (ising) government and centrifugal forces (which sometimes have given rise to separatist movements).

The second tension pertains to another form of concentration of power that the army officers and the politicians have developed over the course of time. Indeed, from the 1950s onwards, Pakistani society has been in the clutches of a civil-military establishment which has cultivated the legacy of the pre-Partition Muslim League in the sense that it was primarily interested in protecting its interests and dominant status. The elitist rationale of the Pakistan idea therefore resulted in social conservatism and the persistence of huge inequalities. Certainly, some politicians have fought for democracy, but they have never managed to dislodge from power a very well entrenched civil-military establishment and promote progressive reforms in a decisive manner-either because they were co-opted or because they eventually turned out to be autocrats themselves. In fact, some of the main opposition forces to the system that have emerged have been the judiciary (when the Supreme Court had the courage to rise to the occasion), civil society movements (including the media) and the islamists. In the absence of a credible political alternative within the institutional framework, the tensions that have developed have been especially radical. What has been at stake in most crisis that Pakistan has experienced has been the regime itself, not only in political terms, but also, sometimes in social terms.

The role of Islam in the public sphere is the root cause of the third contradiction. Jinnah looked at it as a culture and considered the Muslims of the Raj as a community that needed to be protected. They were supposed to be on a par with the members of the religious minorities in the Republic to be built. His rhetoric, therefore, had a multicultural overtone. On the contrary, clerics and fundamentalist groups wanted to create an Islamic state where the members of the minorities would be second-class citizens. Until the 1970s, the first approach tended to prevail. But in the 1970s the Islamist lobby (whose political parties never won more than one-tenth of the votes) exerted increasingly strong pressure. It could assert itself at that time partly because of circumstances. First, the trauma of the1971 war led the country to look for a return to its ethno-religious roots.second, the use of religion was part of Z.A. Bhutto’s populist ideology, which associated socialism with Islam. Third, Zia also used religion to legitimize his power and to find allies among the islamists.

The promotion of Islam by Bhutto and Zia was partly due to external factors as well. The former supported Afghan Islamists who were likely-so he thought-to destabilize the Pashtun nationalist government of Kabul. The latter backed the same Afghan leaders and other mujahideen (including Arab groups like Al Qaeda) against the Soviets in order to make the Pakistan army’s presence felt in Afghanistan and thereby gain strategic depth vis a vis India. Zia’s Islamization policy also (re) activated the conflict between Sunnis and Shias, an opposition that was exacerbated by another external factor: the proxy war that Iran and Saudi Arabia fought in Pakistan from the 1980s onwards.

The critical implications of the legacy of Zia’s Islamization—which also resulted in the massive infiltration of jihadis in Kashmir in the 1990s—became clear after 9/11 when the US forced the Pakistan state to fight not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban and the Islamist groups that the ISI had used so far in Indian Kashmir and elsewhere. In response, these groups turned their guns towards the Pakistani army, its former patron, and intensified their fight against their traditional targets, the Shias and non-Muslim communities, creating an atmosphere of civil war.

The three contradictions just reviewed provide a three part structure to this book, which is therefore not organized chronologically. This thematic framework is intended to enhance our understanding of the Pakistan paradox. Indeed, so far, none of the consubstantial contradictions of Pakistan mentioned above has had the power to destroy the country. In spite of the chronic instability that they have created. Pakistan continues to show remarkable resilience. This can only be understood if one makes the effort to grasp the complexity of a country that is often caricatured. This is the reason why all sides of three tensions, around which this book is organized, must be considered together: the centrifugal forces at work in Pakistan and those resisting on behalf of Pakistan nationalism and provincial autonomy; the culture of authoritarianism and the resources of democracy; the Islamist agenda, and those who are fighting it on behalf of secularism or “Muslimhood” a la Jinnah. The final picture may result in a set, not of contradictions, but of paradoxes in which virtually antagonistic elements cohabit. But whether that is sufficient to contain instability remains to be seen.

Courtesy of: 

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Nationalism without a Nation and even without a People?

After sixty-one years of its existence, Pakistan has gone from a ‘nation’ searching for a country to a country searching for a nation (Lal Khan, Pakistan’s Other Story, Lahore, The Struggle Publications, 2008 p.298).

Nationalism is a modern ideology that was yet unknown in mid-nineteenth century British India when the first signs of separatist trends that would give birth to a Pakistan crystallized. The Muslims were even less an exception to the rule as, despite their relatively small numbers—they made up one-fifth of the population of the Raj— they were wracked by both religious and social divisions.

Which Islam (s)?
Regarding religion, diversity among Muslims tended to be underestimated in British India as elsewhere due to a dominant analysis of Islam in purely scriptural terms. Differences are easily levelled when the fundamental theological and philosophical principles that can be said to constitute the core of Islamic faith are enshrined in a single scriptural source and are supposed to be universally adhered to by all those who call themselves Muslims. From such a standpoint, it is easy to define a Muslim based on the pillars of Islam:

1. Shahada (professing faith in Prophet Muhammad as enshrined in the Quran)
2. Daily prayers
3. Fasting for Ramadan
4. Zakat (almsgiving)
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca.

But this interpretation reflects a classic bias consisting of understanding a culture or civilization through what Robert Redfield called the great tradition.

In British India more than anywhere else perhaps, the little Muslim tradition, that of the people and not of the clerics, was highly complex and partly syncretic. More so it readily made room for seemingly heterodox elements such as the cult of saints or possession rites, in which certain trances had a curative purpose akin to exorcism.

This heterogeneity owed much to India’s distance from the Islamic crucible in the Middle East, both from a geographic and cultural standpoint. Not only was Islam transformed on arriving in India through contact with Turkish and Iranian influences, but Indic civilization was extremely foreign to it. Since it was unable to take over entirely, its followers and promoters were obliged to adapt—as elsewhere, like in Indonesia for instance. This adjustment resulted in various types of synthesis, the Sufi phenomenon being one of the more striking of them.

Sufism took on considerable importance in India due to its affinities with the Hindu ideal of asceticism. Its main figures attracted a number of followers, mostly from the lower strata of Indian society, and allowed a particular form of Islam to assert itself. This popular congregation-based Islam established the cult of saints and institutionalized dargahs—places of retreat of the holy men and later their tombs and shrines—which became places of pilgrimage. In the sixteenth century, under Akbar’s reign, the ulema declared that the pilgrimage to Mecca was no longer an obligation, while pilgrimage to shrines of Sufi saints was spreading.

Among the congregations, the Chishtis became one of the most popular. Established in India in the late twelfth century by Khwaja Muinud-din Chishti, a native of Sajistan (at the crosswords of contemporary Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan), its epicentre soon became the Dargah of Ajmer (Rajasthan) where the founder of the Chishti order had moved and was buried. This Sufi order owed its influence—including among Hindus devotees—to the ascetic nature of the Chishti line that has come down through time. Other congregations on the contrary would become associated with the government, such as the Suhrawardis who would obtain benefits in kind (land in particular). Still others, such as the Naqshabandis, originating from Central Asia, would not only develop close relations with the authorities, but also show a sense of orthodoxy that resulted in hostile reactions to the Hindus—and the Shias.

Aside from the Sufi orders, other sects constantly developed within Indian Islam. The Muslims of the subcontinent first brought with them one of the structuring divisions of Middle Eastern Islam, the opposition between Sunnis and Shias. This schism for a long time remained latent, probably due to a strong demographic imbalance, the latter being only a small minority. But the political and social influence of this group should not be underestimated. Among them were many landowners as well as major dynasties such as the one that ruled over the Awadh kingdom in Lucknow until the mid-nineteenth century.

Among the Shias, the Ismailis mainly settled in western India, in Gujarat and the Bombay region. The Bohras formed the largest group among them. They recognize Ali as successor to the Prophet, but-like other–they diverged from the Twelvers after the death of the sixth Imam in AD 765, considering that his elder son, Ismail (and not his second son) should have taken over from him. Paying allegiance to the Cairo-based Fatimid Caliphate, they established their own church. Bohras experienced a schism in the sixteenth century that spawned two groups, the Dawoodi Bohras and the Sulaimani Bohras. While the latter would remain in the Middle East, the former migrated to India in 1539 and adopted a separate leader, the Syedna, to whom they paid full allegiance (and taxes). There, they attracted Hindus—including Brahmins—in relatively large numbers. Bohras have adopted a dress code that makes them easily identifiable. Other Ismailis coming from the Middle East, the Khojas, followed a partly similar trajectory. When they migrated to India in the twelfth century, their leader the Aga Khan-who claims to descend from Ali-remained in Persia till the nineteenth century, when they moved to India as well. Like the Bohras, the Khojas are mostly converts from Hinduism, but they have primarily attracted members of merchant castes such as the Bhatias (whose marriage customs they have retained). Muhammad Ali Jinnah-who married a Parsi-was born in a Khoja, business family.

The creation of new sects has continued into the modern era. In the late nineteenth century for instance, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1915) founded a movement known either by his namesake Ahmadi, or after his place of birth, Qadian, in Gurdaspur district in Punjab. This man claimed to be the new Messiah, contradicting the Muslim belief that Muhammad was the last Prophet. At his death, his disciples numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Although the Ahmadis were recruited among various castes, the Bohras and the Khojas, as mentioned above, came from Brahmin castes and merchant castes-and continued to pursue some of their caste-related activities after having left Hinduism. The coincidence of caste and sect is not rare in Indian Islam. This is the case of Memons. Originating with the conversion of one Hindu merchant caste, the Lohanas, in Gujarat by a Sufi saint in 1400, the Memons finally settled in Bombay in the early seventeenth century, where they prospered in trade and industry while maintaining a separate religious identity. At the other end of the social scale, the Moplas were Muslim peasants from Kerala who descended from the early Arab migrants settled on the Malabar Coast starting in the eight century. Exploited by the Hindu landowners, the Moplas were known for their frequent uprisings–the jacquerie of 1836 being the most famous of a long series of them. An ethnic community speaking its own language, Malayalam-which gave rise to a literature written in Arabic, Mappila Pattu-the Moplas also have their own priests, Musaliyars.

Castes and Tribes
Despite the egalitarian values that Islam professes to promote, at least since the Raj which reified social categories, the Muslims of South Asia form a hierarchical community, be they part of caste-based milieus or of the tribal world-or even a combination of the two. * The fact that the mechanisms of the caste and tribe overlap is not so surprising since caste implies endogamous practices that flow from relations of kinship also characteristic of tribes.

*In his seminal work on the Pashtuns, Barth shows that their predominantly tribal universe allows for caste practices in the Swat Valley. (Frederick Barth, Political Leadership among the Swat Pathans, London, The Athlone Press,1965).

The Pashtun tribal structures are based on a segmentary lineage system, each tribe comprising clans, sub clans and still smaller kin groups claiming that they descend from a common ancestor. Social hierarchies in this milieu have traditionally been fluid since they rely on the observance of (or disregard for) a code of honour, Pashtunwali, based on—among other things—righteousness and courage (for instance in seeking justice—a quest which has resulted in cycles of family-related vendettas). Tribal chiefs were men who best complied with life-style and displayed leadership qualities— hence the notion of individual captaincy emphasized by Frederick Barth. As a result, they received the title of Khan, whereas those who came under them were usually known as Maliks. Yet, Khans, were primus inter pares who could lose their status if their personal qualities eroded—and if rivals joined forces to dislodge them from power. The theoretically impermanent character of these hierarchies reflected the fundamentally egalitarian nature of Pashtun social order that was evident from the modus operandi of the jirgas, the plenary assemblies convened when an important issue had to be sorted out collectively. Certainly, only those who had inherited land were allowed to take part in jirgas, but land was regularly redistributed to prevent the best plots from remaining with the same families forever. This basically egalitarian system known as wesh was spoiled by the British when they recognized property rights of the big Khans. They did so to promote a group of landlords on whom they could rely to establish their authority via indirect rule. This policy, which took shape at the expense of small Khans precipitated the decline of the jirga culture. The big Khans henceforth exerted decisive influence in the assemblies thanks to the protection of the British, to whom they paid allegiance in return. Pashtun society had become (more) hierarchical.

Baloch society was also structured along somewhat similar tribal segmentary lineages during the Raj, but in a rather more inclusive perspective. Indeed, Baloch tribes were the by-products of migrations dating back to the sixteenth century. When the British Raj established authority over the Baloch area, at the confluence of today’s Pakistan and Iran, these tribes had already amalgamated groups coming from Iran as well as Pashtuns, Sindhis and Punjabis. Hence their resilient multilingual character and the fact that language has never been a distinctive cultural feature of the Baloch. Their unity came more from endogamous practices and their solidarity against others when they came under attack. Hierarchies were also more marked than on the Pashtun side right from the beginning because of the authority of Khans and Sardars who dominated the jirgas.

While tribes prevail west of the Indus, caste hierarchies play a dominant role in Punjab and Sindh, two regions more directly connected to Indian civilization. The caste system which originated in the Hindu world is based on three complementary criteria:

• The relation of purity and impurity, Brahmins of the top hierarchy embodying the first pole and Untouchables, at the extreme, representing the epitome of impurity in the social sphere.
• Professional specialization, each caste being traditionally associated with a socio-economic activity linked to its status.
• Caste endogamy, which perpetuates the social structure over time, each caste providing the frame of a closed marriage market.

Indian Islam softened the contours of this system without really questioning it. The most discriminating criterion of the Hindu caste hierarchy, the relation to purity and impurity, has generally not been as preponderant among the Indian Muslims as among the Hindus. As a result, upper caste and lower caste Muslims could generally attend the mosque together. But the Arzals (former Untouchable converts) usually remain excluded from it unless they remain on the steps outside. Similarly, they could read the Quran but not teach it.

Although observance of the relation to purity and impurity is less systematic in Muslim circles than in Hinduism, Indian Islam has established a social stratification based on geographic origin that is nearly as strict. The so-called noble (Ashraf) upper castes are made up of descendants of Muslims who (allegedly) migrated to India from abroad, whereas those who converted to Islam after it spread throughout Indian territory make up the two lower categories, the Ajlafs (lower castes) and the Arzals (formerly Untouchables) *.

*This rule is subject to many exceptions; some upper castes having gone from Hinduism to Islam without a drop-in status. Such is the case of Rajput castes in North India, for instance.

The first are subdivided into three categories in which are found:

1. those of Middle Eastern extraction (the Syeds who claim descent from the Prophet and the Shaikhs who say they have roots in Mecca and Medina),
2. those claiming a Central Asian, and particularly Afghan, lineage, the Pathans (or Pashtuns) and
3. last, the Mughals who claim Turkic or Tartar origins. *

*Few, the Mughals are concentrated in Rohilkhand, a region on the Ganges plain.

The Rajputs (a high Hindu warrior caste) are the only converts who are part of the social elite. The others are part of the Ajlafs when they are of Shudra origin, which is most usually the case. These were lower caste Hindus primarily cultivators and artisans who converted to Islam in the vain hope of escaping an oppressive social system. Most of them are weavers (Julaha or Momins). The Arzals are the descendants of Hindu Dalits who followed the same route with the same result. Among them are mainly sweepers (Bhangis in Sindh and Churas in Punjab) to whom are assigned the most thankless cleaning tasks.

Traditionally, these status groups often matched caste-specific jobs and were more reminiscent of the Hindu hierarchy as many indian Muslims came from this religion. The Syeds and Shaikhs, like the Brahmins, were scholars occupying positions of power in the traditional state apparatus; the Pathans—reminiscent of Hindu Kshatriyas-dominate the military (more so since the British saw them as a martial race and recruited them into the army in great numbers). As for the Memons, Bohras and Khojas, they usually ran business. The Ajlafs have remained cultivators and artisans—a particularly high number of weavers converted by entire caste. As for the Arzals, they formed a populace that can be exploited at will—and still do.

These social divisions go together with a legacy of strong geographic contrasts. A brief comparison between the Muslims of Bengal, those of the Gangetic Plain and those of Punjab suffices to illustrate the point. The first, primarily a result of mass conversion of castes of Hindu peasants, remained traditionally at the bottom of the social pyramid, even when the ruling dynasties were of Islamic faith. Not only were the Muslims of Bengal less numerous in urban centres—such as Calcutta— but in the countryside they were often under the command of Hindu landowners. At the other geographic extreme of India in Punjab—another predominantly Muslim province, like Bengal—the Muslims were also predominantly rural, Hindu merchants and intelligentsia dominating in the cities. But Punjab which warrants attention because of the key role it will play in Pakistan*—in contrast to Bengal, experiences some radical changes under the Raj. The British who were grateful to the Muslims of Punjab for their help during the 1857 Mutiny developed the economy of the region through the creation of a sophisticated irrigation system. The canal colonies would contribute to the formation of a new class of farmers in which Muslims would be over-represented since the Hindus were more over-represented in the cities, among traders and professionals. The British also protected the farmers from moneylenders by passing the Punjab Alienation of Land Act in 1900, which prevented non-agricultural tribes (mostly Hindu traders) from acquiring land.

*At the Quetta Command and Staff College, the soldiers trained to become the officers of the Pakistan Army learn that each country is organized around a vital province, its heartland, whose loss results in disintegration. In case of Pakistan, Punjab is naturally this key province.

Finally, the British recognized pirs (descendants of Sufi saints in charge of their dargah) as part of the cultivating group -making their land inalienable—and other groups (including. Muslim Jats and Rajputs) as a martial race, which gave then new opportunities in the army. The Muslims of Punjab did not for all that constitute an elite as they did in Gangetic India.

The Ganges Plain from Delhi to Bihar, the true crucible of Muslim civilization in India, was the area in which several Muslim political structures were experimented, from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughal Empire—of which the capital was also Delhi for most of the time. After the gradual disintegration of the Mughal Empire, it was also in this region that many successor states ruled by Muslim dynasties, including the Kingdom of Awadh, took shape.The British who took over most of them in the first half of the nineteenth century, baptized the region the North-Western Provinces and Oudh in 1860, later renaming it the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in 1902 without changing its borders—which independent India would moreover keep for many years as the northern province of Uttar Pradesh was not subdivided until 2000.

Muslim society in this area was dominated by Ashraf of four categories, the Syeds, The Shaikhs, the Mughals and the Pathans. This elite—into which Muslim Rajputs readily include themselves without being accepted by the Ashraf as regards marital unions—is clearly distinct from the long list of Ajlafs* and even more so from the Arzals. The Syeds and the Shaikhs have a virtual monopoly on clerical occupations, which are often handed down from father to son. At the bottom of the social pyramid, the Bhangis suffer discrimination that excludes them not only from holy places but also restricts commensality. It is worth noting that in Northern India Muslim society there were practically no large merchants likely to go into industry.

*It includes Julahas (weavers), Darzis (tailors), Qasabs (butchers), Nais or Hajjams (barbers), Kabariyas (green grocers), Mirasis (musicians), Dhuniyas (cotton carders), Fakirs (beggars), Telis (oil pressers), Dhobis (launderers) and Gaddis (herdsmen and milk producers). See Ghaus Ansari, Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh.

From both a social and religious standpoint, Indian Islam across the territory delineated by the British Raj thus formed a mosaic that complicated the ascendancy of communal boundaries. It was a mosaic that not only fragmented the group but also made it more porous to outside, particularly Hindu, influences, as much due to forms of religious synthesis as to social ties. In fact, popular Hinduism and popular Islam have been the crucible of many syncretic practices which developed in particular around places of what thus became joint worship. Yet, even if Islam’s adaptation to Indian soil and its own internal tensions clearly show that this religion does not have the fine sociological unity that a scriptural approach would lead one to believe, the scale of the theological and doctrinal conflicts among Muslims of the Great Tradition should not be exaggerated. After all, Indian Islam has always seen, much more than many others, overwhelmingly dominated by Sunnism and a school of law, the Hanafi school.

This overview also suggests that the Muslims of the United Provinces were in a very peculiar situation, which explains their pioneering role in the movement that was to lead to Pakistan. The Muslims of the Ganges Plain formed a small minority in the province. In the first census, which took place in 1881, there were about 6 million of them, as opposed to 38 million Hindus. But although they were less than 14% of the total, they continued to be most influential, as evident from the fact that they accounted for two-fifth of the urban population. This overrepresentation in towns and cities—in stark contrast with the situation of their co-religionists of Bengal and Punjab—reflected their key position in the bureaucracy but should not conceal their importance as a landed group as well, since the Muslim aristocracy used not to live in villages. This is a legacy of their past domination and sign of their resilience.

Although they made up an eighth of the population, the Muslims owned one-fifth of the farmland, often as large landlords. The Taluqdars in Awadh, whose ancestors under the Mughal Empire were in charge of collecting taxes and meting out justice, continued to dominate the country, as the British recognized their property rights. Numbering fewer than hundred, these men exerted an influence that had as much to do with their prestige as their economic clout—including as moneylenders. The other pole of Muslim power came from the over representation of the Ashraf elite within the administration. Civil servants, whose prominence dated back to the Mughal Empire, retained power in the successor states—particularly the Kingdom of Awadh—that was handed from one generation to the next. In 1882–statistics not being available prior to that—the Muslims still made up 35% of the civil servants in the United Provinces—and even 45% of the Uncovenanted Civil Service.* Although they occupied two poles of power—one more rural and informal, the other more urban and administrative—these two groups, Muslim landlords and civil servants were part of the same world, that of an elite proud of its past and cultivating the refinement of the Ashraf culture. It was within this relatively small circle—there were 2.5. million Ashraf in 1881 in the United Provinces—that Indian Muslim separatism was born in the wake of the 1857 Rebellion when the status and the interests of this elite group were challenged.

*Francis Robinson points out that Muslims occupied 55% of Tahsildar posts, highly sought after as these local officers wielded great influence over their district.

By courtesy:

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The Sikh Homeland


The Punjab 


The Punjab has a geographical unity distinct from the neighbouring countries and the rest of India. It is shaped like a scalene triangle balanced on its sharpest angle. The shortest side is in the north and is composed of the massive Himalayas, which separate it from the Tibetan Plateau. The western side is bounded by the River Indus from the point it enters the plains to another point 1650 miles downstream, where it meets the confluence of the Punjab’s rivers at a place appropriately named Panjnad, the five streams. Westwards of the Indus runs a chain of rugged mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Sulaiman, pierced by several passes like the Khyber and the Bolan which have served as inlets for the people of the countries which lie beyond Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The eastern boundary of the Punjab’s triangle is not clearly marked, but from a point near Karnal where the Jumna plunges south-eastwards a jagged line can be drawn up to Panjnad, which will demarcate the state from the rest of Hindustan and the Sindh desert.

The Punjab except for the salt range in its centre, is an extensive plain sloping gently down from the mountains in the north and the west towards the desert in the south. Across this monotonously flat land flow six large rivers: the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej. In the intra-fluvial tracts or doabs* between these rivers and the in the western half of the tract between the Sutlej and the Jumna live people who speak the Punjabi language and describe themselves as the people of the Punjab. The homeland of the vast majority of the Sikhs is in the doabs between the Chenab and the Jumna.

*The intra-fluvial tracts or mesopotamias are known in the Punjab as doabs—two waters. Except for the doabs between the Indus and the Jhelum and the Sutlej and the Jumna, they are known by a combination of the names of the two rivers between which they lie. These names were coined in the time of Emperor Akbar, presumably by his minister, Todar Mal.

a) The Sindh Sagar Doab, between the Indus and the Jhelum.
b) The Chaj Doab between the Chenab and the Jhelum. This doab was also known as Dhanni-Gheb, Chinhat-Chenab, and Behat (which is another name for the Jhelum).
c) The Rechna Doab between the Ravi and the Chenab. At one time this area was also known as Dharpi.
d) The Bari Doab between the Beas and the Ravi. The tract on either side of the Ravi south of Lahore was at one time called Nakki.
e) The Bist Doab or the Bist-Jullundur Doab between the Beas and the Sutlej. The area also known as Seeroval because of the many hill torrents (sirs) which intersect it.
f) The Cis-Sutlej Doab between the Sutlej and Jumna. Only the northwestern portion of this Doab is strictly in the Punjab.

Since the River Sutlej runs through the middle of the zone of the main concentration of Sikh population, historians refer to the region west of the river as Trans-Sutlej and that east of the river as the Cis-Sutlej. This division corresponds roughly to the traditional division of the Punjab into Majha and Malwa.

In addition to these divisions, the following Punjabi names for different regions have been (and in some cases still are) used.

a) Potohar or Dhanni Potohar for Rawalpindi district including a part of Jhelum district.
b) Majha or the middle, for the Bari Doab. The people living in Majha are known as Majhails. (Also spoken as Manjha and Manjhail).
c) Doab for the Bari Doab or Jullundur Doab. The inhabitants are known as Doabias.
d) Malwa for the Punjabi-speaking zone between the Sutlej and the Jumna. The people are known as Malwais. (The Malwa of the Punjab should not be confused with the Malwa of Central India, north of the River Narmada). Malwa is sometimes referred as Sirhind,
e) Kurukshetra, between the rivers Sarasvati and Drisadvati (probably the present day Ghaggar). In this region somewhere between Karnal and Jind was fought the famous battle between the Kurus and Pandavas mentioned in the Mahabharata which occasioned the sermon by Krishna and the theme of the Bhagavad Gita. Because of its association with Krishna, this land was reputed to be free of sorrow—nirduhkha. It was also the brahmavarta, the land of the holy singers where many of the great classics of Sanskrit literature were written. Manu refers to it as the land frequented by gods (ii 17). The Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang, who visited Punjab in the 7th century AD, refers to it as the sukhabhumi, the land of contentment.
f) Bhatiana, area in southwestern Punjab extending from Hissar to Bikaner, which was the home of Bhatti Rajputs; hence bhatiana, the land of the Bhattis.
g) Hariana, comprising Hissar, Rohtak and the southern parts of the old states of Jind and Patiala. This tract of desert was at one time irrigated by the Sarasvati and was very green; hence hariana, the green land.

The Name of Punjab
When the Aryans came to India there were seven rivers in the Punjab, so they named it Sapta Sindhva, the land of the seven seas. The Persians took the name from the Aryans and called it Haft Hindva. Sometime later, after the seventh river, the Sarasvati, had dried up, people began to exclude the Indus from the count (since it marked only the western boundary of the province) and renamed it after the remaining five rivers as Pentopotamia or the Panj-ab, the land of the five waters. *

*Two other names by which parts of the Punjab were known in ancient times were:
• Madra Desha, the land of the madras. So, named after Madri, the mother of the Pandavas. Madra Desha extended from the Beas to the Chenab or the Jhelum. Its capital was at Sakala, probably present day Sangla. In the Bicitra Natak, Guru Gobind Singh also speaks of the Punjab as the Madra Desha. (J. Dawson, Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion p.183).
• Uttarapath, or the northern country. The name appears in Buddhist literature.

Climate and Landscape
The climate of the Punjab ranges from bracing cold in the winter to scorching heat in the summer. Extremes of temperature and the two monsoons produce a variety of seasons and a constantly changing landscape.

The spring is traditionally ushered in on Basant Pancami, which falls early in the month of February. It is the Punjab’s blossom time, when, in the words of Guru Nanak, “all is seemly; the woodlands are in flower and loud with the humming of bumble bees” * The countryside is an expanse of mustard yellow, broken by sold squares of green sugarcane with its fluffy pampas plumes. If the winter monsoon has been good, a crop of wheat, barley, gram, oilseeds and tobacco will cover the land with lush abundance. Peasants supplement the rain by canal water, or where there are no canals, by Persian wheels turned by bullocks or camels. Around the wells grow vegetables: carrots, radishes, cabbages and cauliflower. Branches of Jujube trees sag under the weight of their berries. In spring time, the sounds that pervade the countryside are the creaking of Persian wheels, the call of partridges, and the monotonous kooh, kooh, of flour mills

The sugar cane is cut, its juice squeezed out, boiled in large cauldrons, and solidified into dark brown cakes. The canary yellow of the mustard is replaced by newly sown cotton and the golden-brown of ripening wheat—and we know that spring has given way to summer.

Trees shed their leaves and after a short period of barrenness come into blossom. While the Marisa is still strewing the earth with its brittle ochre leaves, the silk cotton, the coral and the flame of the forest burst into flowers of bright crimson, red, and orange. Even the thorny acacia, the commonest tree of the Punjab, is covered with tiny pale pom-poms. Persian wheels and the partridges are silent: instead there is the screaming of the koils in the mango groves and the crying of barbets.

The wheat is cut and winnowed in the warm breeze. In the words of Guru Nanak: “The sun scorches . . . the earth burns like an oven. The waters give up their vapours, yet it burns and scorches relentlessly.” The temperature rises to a fever heat. The parched earth becomes an unending stretch of khaki with dust devils spiralling across the wastes. Even the stolid pipal and the tamarisk are shorn of their leaves and the only green that meets the eye are bushes of camel-thorn, prickly cactus and the ak—calotropis. The succession of hot days and shimmering mirages is occasionally broken by fierce storms which spread layers of dust and sand over everything. All through the torpid afternoons comes the call of the brainfever bird* in a rising crescendo, peeooh peeooh. On moonlit nights one can see the wavering arrowhead formations of geese honking their way northwards to the snowy Himalayas.

*The hawk-cuckoo (hierococcyx varius). Its cry is rendered as “brainfever, brainfever” in English; in Punjabi and Hindustani as peeooh or pikahanwhere is my beloved?”

The blazing inferno lasts from the end of April to the end of June. Then come in rains. The monsoon makes a spectacular entry. It is heralded by the monsoon bird* which fills the dusty plains with its plaintive cries. The colourless grey sky suddenly fills with dense masses black clouds. There are flashes of lightning and the earth shakes with the rumble of thunder. The first big drops of rain are swallowed by the dust and a heavenly fragrance rises from the earth. Then it comes in torrents, sheet upon sheet, and continues for several hours. Thereafter the skies are frequently overcast; clouds and sunshine contend for dominion; rainbows span the rain-washed landscape; and the setting sun fires the bulbous clouds in hues of red and purple. The two months of incessant downpour turn the land into a vast swamp. Rivers fill up and become a mass of swirling muddy waters. Punjabis who have to live through many months of intense heat every year, love the monsoon. It is the time for lovers’ trysts and the reunion of families. Guru Nanak went into raptures over it: “The season of the rains has come, and my heart is full of joy . . . river and land are one expanse of water . . . The nights are dark. Frogs croak in contentment. Peacocks cry with joy. The papiha calls peeooh, peeooh. The fangs of serpents and the stings of mosquitoes are full of venom. The seas have burst their bounds in the ecstasy of fulfillment.” Life begins afresh. There are new leaves on many trees and grass covers the barren ground, Mangoes ripen. The clamour of the koils and the brainfever bird is drowned in the song and laughter of girls on swings in the mango groves.

*The pied-crested cuckoo (clamator jacobinus) takes advantage of the monsoon winds and flies from the East African Coast ahead of the clouds. It usually reaches the coast of India a day or two before the monsoon breaks; hence the name monsoon bird.

By the time the monsoon is over, it is cool again. The dust has settled, and the countryside is green once more. If the summer monsoon has been good—neither too sparse to create a drought nor too heavy to cause floods—all is well. A new crop of rice, millet, maize, indigo and pulses of many kinds is sown. The peasants wind brightly coloured and starched turbans round their heads, put on waist coats covered with mother-of-pearl buttons, tie bells round their ankles and dance the Bhangra to the beat of the drum. From October to the festival of the lamps (Divali) in November there is a succession of fairs and festivals,

There is little rest for the peasant. Cotton is to be picked and the land ploughed again for sowing wheat and gram. Persian wheels begin to turn. The kooh, kooh of the flour mills is heard in every village. Partridges call in the wheat fields. And at night one hears the honking of geese on their way back to the Punjab.

Once more it is winter time. The starlit nights are cold and frosty, the days full of blue skies and sparkling sunshine. The mustard is in flower, the woodlands are loud with the humming of the bumble bees, and all is seemly once again.

The Punjab is essentially a rural state made up of innumerable mud and brick villages built on the ruins of older villages. At one time most of them were fortified. Even today one comes across remains of baronial castles and ancient battlements that rise out of the rubble or the village dung heap. Until the 15th century the Punjab had only two important cities, Lahore, which was the seat of most governments, and Multan in the south, which had a busy market dealing with commerce coming up the rivers from Sindh and caravans from Baluchistan and Persia. There were also several towns like Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Wazirabad, Gujarat, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Saidpur now called Eminabad, Pak Pathan, Kasur, Sialkot, Ludhiana and Sirhind, whose fortunes rose and fell with those of their feudal overlords (or, as in the case of Pak Pathan, with the popularity of the religious order of which it was the centre).

Nothing remains of the extensive forests which once covered large parts of the Punjab. Up to the 16th century there were jungles in the north where rhinoceros (and probably elephants) were found. In Central Punjab there was the notorious lakhi (the forest of a thousand trees), which gave Sikh outlaws refuge from their oppressors. There were equally dense forests in the Jullundur Doab and one long belt of woodland stretching from Ludhiana to Karnal. Up to the middle of the 19 th century these forests teemed with wildlife: lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, bears, wolves, hyenas, wild boars, nilgai and many varieties of deer. The flora and fauna survived the incursions of foreign armies but succumbed to the indiscriminate felling of trees and slaughter of game in the 19th and the present century. The desert with its camels and goats—the only animals which can thrive on cacti and thorny scrub—are a phenomenon of recent times.

Indologists are not agreed on the age of Indian civilization except that it is among the oldest in the world and that its cradle was in the Punjab. Near Rawalpindi, spears and hatchets made of quartzite have been found which date human habitation in the region to between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. Agricultural implements made of copper and bronze have been found in mounds on both sides of the river Indus which prove the existence of fairly organized rural communities between 25,000 to 20,000 BC. Nothing more is known about these communities, nor would it be right to describe to describe them as civilizations. We are, however, on surer ground when we come to the archaeological remains of Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh and Harappa in southern Punjab, both of which were unearthed in the 1920s. From the sculpture, pottery, jewellery, fabrics and other relics (particularly seals bearing extremely beautiful figures of bulls, rhinoceros, and other animals) found among the ruins of baked-brick buildings in these cities (and subsequently in many other places) it can be presumed that the people of the Indus Valley had attained a high degree of civilization. They lived in multi-storied houses with marble baths, their craftsmen made goods which were sold as far away as Mesopotamia; and they had evolved some form of religion around the worship of a mother goddess and her male consort. Neither the hieroglyphics nor the relics found in these cities have yet revealed all their secrets; archaeologists and historians are still disputing the identity of the people who made them. The generally accepted view is that these cities flourished between 2500 BC and 1500 BC and that they were destroyed by a people known as the Aryans who began to infiltrate into Sindh and the Punjab about fifteen centuries before the birth of Christ.

The Aryans who were tall and fair, drove out the darker-skinned inhabitants and occupied most of northern Hindustan. The newcomers were a pastoral people with a religion and language of their own. Both were further developed in the land of their domicile. It was in the Punjab that Vedic Hinduism was evolved, and many of the great works of Sanskrit literature written.

The Aryans were followed by other races. The Persians under Darius (521-485 BC) conquered northern Punjab, and for a hundred years his successors ruled over Peshawar, Taxila and Rawalpindi. In 326 BC, Greek armies under Alexander the Great crossed the Indus and swept as far as the Beas. Although the Greeks left behind by Alexander were deprived of power by the Indian Mauryas, a few years after his death, they left a permanent impress on the face of the Punjab. In Peshawar, Taxila and perhaps in some other towns as well, Greek artists produced some of the greatest works of sculpture found anywhere in the world.

Maurya power was extinguished by Bactrian invaders. Menander is believed to have gone across central Punjab and beyond the Beas. The Bactrians were followed by many Scythian tribes. When the dust raised by the invading armies had settled, the Indian Guptas spread their benevolent rule over the country. For some centuries they were able to block the gaps in the mountains and keep out other invaders. By AD 500, the pressure from Central Asia became too great and once more the sluice gates were forced open to let in the Mongoloid Huns. The Huns were subdued and expelled by Vardhana. His son Harsha was the last great India ruler of the Punjab. After Harsha’s death in AD 647, Vardhana’s empire disintegrated and races living across the Sulaiman and Hindu Kush mountains began to pour into Hindustan. The new conquerors who came, belonged to diverse tribes but had one faith: they were Muslims.

In AD 1001 came Mahmoud of Ghazni. Thereafter the Afghans came like the waves of an incoming tide, each column advancing further inland into Hindustan. The Ghaznis were followed by other Afghan tribes: the Ghoris, Tughlaks, Surs and Lodhis.

Between the succession of Afghan invasions came the terrible visitation in 1398 of the Mongol, Taimur, an invasion from which northern India did not recover for many decades. A hundred years later Babar, who was one of Taimur’s descendants, started dreaming of an empire in India. His opportunity came with the decline of the Lodhi dynasty. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he finally defeated and slew the reigning Afghan Ibrahim Lodhi on the field of Panipat in 1526, and set up the most powerful and long-lived dynasty in the history of India,

People of the Punjab
The ethnic pattern of the Punjab has changed with every new conquest. At the time of the birth of Nanak (AD 1469) it was somewhat as follows:

In the northwest stretching along both sides of the Indus were the Pathans and Baluchis—the former on the upper and the latter on the lower reaches of the river. These people, like their neighbours (Gakkhars, Awans, Janjuas, and others who settled between the Indus and the Jhelum) were divided into innumerable warring tribes, jealously preserving their traditions and way of life but united in their fierce loyalty to the Islamic faith. On the northern fringe of the country in a narrow belt running along the foothills of the Himalayas were the domains of Hindu princes who had fled the plains in front of the Muslim onslaughts. In this sub-montane region intersected by mountain streams and deep ravines, made impassable by entangled bushes of lantana, vasicka and ipomea*they built chains of forts which defended them from further inroads of Muslim invaders. Here they burnt incense to their gods and preserved their inegalitarian society in which the Brahmin and Kshatriya exploited the lesser castes. In the rest of the Punjab, consisting of the vast champaign stretching to the Jumna and beyond, the countryside was inhabited by Jats and Rajput agricultural tribes, the cities by the trading Banias, Mahajans, Suds, and Auroras.

*These three flowering shrubs are found all over India. The adhatoda vasicka is used to make medicinal syrup; the ipomea is grown to reinforce canal banks. Since it blossoms most times of the year it is known in Punjab as sada suhagan (ever-in-marital-bliss).

In all cities towns and villa ages there were the dark and somewhat negroid descendants of the aboriginals who were considered beyond pale of the caste system, forced to do the dirtiest work and then condemned as untouchables. In addition to all these were nomadic tribes of gypsies wandering across the plains in their donkey caravans, with their hunting dogs and herds of sheep and goats,

Birth of Punjabi Nationalism
The Punjab being the main gateway to India, was fated to be the perpetual field of battle and the first home of all the conquerors. Few invaders, if any, brought wives with them, and most of those who settled in their conquered domains acquired local women. Thus, the blood of many conquering races came to mingle, and many alien languages—Arabic, Persian, Pushto and Turkish—came to be spoken in the land. Thus, too, was the animism of the aboriginal subjected to the Vedantic, Jain and Buddhist religion of the Aryans, and to the Islamic faith of the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Persians and Afghans. Out of this mixture of blood and speech were born the Punjabi people and their language. There also grew a sense of expectancy that out of the many faiths of their ancestors would be born a new faith for the people of the Punjab.

By the end of the 15th century, the different races who had come together in the Punjab had lost the nostalgic memories of the lands of their birth and begun to develop an attachment to the land of their adoption. The chief factor in the growth of Punjabi consciousness was the evolution of one common tongue from a Babel of languages. Although the Punjabis were sharply divided into Muslims and Hindus, attempts had been made to bring about a rapprochement between the two faiths and a certain desire to live and let live had grown among the people. It was left to Guru Nanak and his nine successors to harness the spirit of tolerance and give it a positive content in the shape of Punjabi nationalism.

It is significant that the spirit of Punjabi nationalism first manifested itself in Mahja, the heart of the Punjab, and among a people who were deeply rooted in the soil. Although the founders and many of the leaders of the movement were not agriculturists, its backbone was the Jat peasantry of the central plains. There are as many conjectures about the etymology of the word Jat ** as there are of the origin of the race. It is now generally accepted that the Jats who made the northern plains of India their home was of Aryan stock. They brought with them certain institutions, the most important being the panchayat, an elected body of five elders, to which they pledged their allegiance.*

*Panc men Parmesvar. There is God in the five (elected men)

**Cunningham followed Tod and other European scholars in believing that Jats were of Scythian stock. The origin of the Jats has been exhaustively dealt with by K.R. Qanungo, who states emphatically that the Jats are of Aryan stock who migrated from Rajasthan into the Punjab. He estimated the number of Jats to be 9 million in 1925, of whom one-third were Muslims, one-fifth Sikhs and the remaining Hindus, Qanungo’s figures include Jats of Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
According to the Hindu caste system, the Jats, being Vaisyas (workers) are of lower caste status than the Brahmin and Kshatriya.

There are many sub tribes of Sikh Jats, of whom the following are the most prominent:

Sidhu (including Sidhu Brar); Sandhu; Gill; Garewal; Sekhon; Dhillon; Man; Her; Virk; Bhutta; Bal; Punnun; Aulak; Dhaliwal; Sara; Mangat; Chahl; Randhawa; Kang; Shoal; Bains

There are other Sikh agricultural tribes like the Labana; Kamboh; Sansi and Mahtam who are not Jats by race.

Prominent among the “untouchable” village communities converted to Sikhism and living in Jat villages are the Mazhabi, Ranghreta and Ramdasia.

In present day speech, the Sikh Jat is called jat (to rhyme with gut while the Hindu, particularly of Hariana (Gurgaon, Hissar, Rohtak) and Bharatpur remains a jai (to rhyme with the British pronunciation of ‘start’).

According to Ibbetson, the Jats and Rajputs form 28% of the population of the Punjab. In the 1883 census, the Jats numbered 4432750 and the Rajputs 1677569. In the last detailed census of the Punjab prior to partition (census 1931), the figures were: Jats 4855426, Rajputs 1874325.

Every Jat village was a small republic made up of people of kindred blood who were as conscious of absolute equality between themselves as they were of their superiority over men of other castes who earned their livelihood as weavers, potters, cobblers, or scavengers. The relationship of a Jat village with the state was that of a semi autonomous unit paying a fixed sum of revenue. Few governments tried to assert more authority, and those which did, soon discovered that sending out armed militia against fortified villages was not very profitable. The Jat’s spirit of freedom and equality refused to submit to. Brahmanical Hinduism and in its turn drew the censure of the privileged Brahmins of the Gangetic plains who pronounced that “no Aryan should stay in the Punjab for even two days” because the Punjabis refused to obey the priests.* The upper caste Hindu’s denigration of the Jat did not in the least lower the Jat in his own eyes nor elevate the Brahmin or the Kshatriyas in the Jat’s estimation.

*Mahabharata, VIII, verses 2063-8 (Karna Parva)

On the contrary, he assumed a somewhat condescending attitude towards the Brahmin, whom he considered a little better than a soothsayer or a beggar, or the Kshatriyas, who disdained earning an honest living and was proud of being a mercenary. The Jat was born the worker and the warrior. He tilled his land with his sword girded round his waist. He fought more battles for the defence of his homestead than the Kshatriya, for unlike the martial Kshatriya the Jat seldom fled from his village when the invaders came. And if the Jat was maltreated or if his women were molested by the conqueror on his way to Hindustan, he settled his score by looting the invaders’ caravans on their return journey and freeing the women he was taking back. The Punjabi Jat developed an attitude of indifference to worldly possessions and an instinct for gambling with his life against odds. At the same time, he became conscious of his role in the defence of Hindustan. His brand of patriotism was at once hostile towards the foreigner and benign, even contemptuous towards his own countrymen whose fate depended so much on his courage and fortitude.

Courtesy of : A History of the Sikhs Volume 1 (2nd Edition) (1469-1839) by Khushwant Singh, Oxford University Press 2004

Origins of the Colonial Indian Navy

Colonial Indian Navy-Establishment of the Bombay Marine

The English East India Company was established in 1600.

In 1612, Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This encounter, as well as piracy, led the English East India Company to build a port and establish a small navy based at the village of Suvali, near SuratGujarat to protect commerce.

The Company named the force the Honourable East India Company’s Marine, and the first fighting ships arrived on 5 September 1612.

This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers Tapti and Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia.

In 1686, with most of English commerce moving to Bombay, the force was renamed the Bombay Marine. The Bombay Marine was involved in combat against the Marathas and the Sidis and participated in the Anglo-Burmese Wars. The Bombay Marine recruited many Indian lascars but commissioned no Indian officers until 1928.

Expansion of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy


Sailors of the Indian Navy breaching the Delhi gates during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

In 1830, the Bombay Marine became His Majesty’s Indian Navy. The British capture of Aden increased the commitments of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy, leading to the creation of the Indus Flotilla. The Navy then fought in the China War of 1840.

Her Majesty’s Indian Navy resumed the name Bombay Marine from 1863 to 1877, when it became Her Majesty’s Indian Marine. The Marine then had two divisions; the Eastern Division at Calcutta and the Western Division at Bombay.

In recognition of the services rendered during various campaigns, Her Majesty’s Indian Marine was titled the Royal Indian Marine in 1892. By this time, it consisted of over 50 vessels.

The Royal Indian Marine in World War I

The Expeditionary Forces of the Indian Army that travelled to FranceAfrica and Mesopotamia to participate in World War I were transported largely on board ships of the Royal Indian Marine. The convoy transporting the first division of the Indian Cavalry to France sailed within three weeks of the Declaration of War, on 25 August 1914. At the outset of the war, a number of ships were fitted out and armed at the Naval Dockyard in Bombay (now Mumbai) and the Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The Indian Marine also kept the harbours of Bombay and Aden open through intensive minesweeping efforts. Smaller ships of the Indian Marine, designed for operations in inland waters, patrolled the critical waterways of the Tigris, the Euphrates and Shatt-al-Arab, in order to keep the supply lines open for the troops fighting in Mesopotamia. A hospital ship operated by the Indian Marine was deployed to treat wounded soldiers.

By the time the war ended in 1918, the Royal Indian Marine had transported or escorted 1,302,394 men, 172,815 animals and 3,691,836 tonnes of war stores. The Royal Indian Marine suffered 330 casualties and 80 of its personnel were decorated with gallantry awards for service in the war. The Royal Indian Marine played a vital role in supporting and transporting the Indian Army throughout the war.

The first Indian to be granted a commission was Sub Lieutenant D.N Mukherji who joined the Royal Indian Marine as an engineer officer in 1928.

The Royal Indian Navy in World War II

In 1934, the Royal Indian Marine became the Royal Indian Navy (RIN). Ships of the RIN received the prefix HMIS for His Majesty’s Indian Ships. At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was very small and had eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion. Additionally, Indian Sailors served on-board several Royal Navy warships. The large number of Indian merchant seamen and merchant ships were instrumental in keeping the large stream of raw material and supplies from India to the United Kingdom open.

Indian sailors started a rebellion also known as The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny in 1946 on board ships and shore establishments, which spread all over India. A total of 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in the rebellion.

The Royal Indian Navy retained its name when India gained independence in August 1947 as a dominion within the Commonwealth. It was dropped when India became a republic on January 26, 1950.

Partition and Independence of India

In 1947, British India was partitioned and the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Royal Indian Navy was split between India and Pakistan, with senior British officers continuing to serve with both navies, and the vessels were divided between the two nations.

More information: Vessel type, India …

Vessel type



Frigate HMIS Tir

HMIS Kukri

HMPS Shamsher

HMPS Dhanush

Sloop HMIS Sutlej

HMIS Jumna

HMIS Kistna

HMIS Cauvery

HMPS Narbada

HMPS Godavari

Corvettes HMIS Assam
Minesweeper HMIS Orissa

HMIS Deccan

HMIS Bihar

HMIS Kumaon

HMIS Rohilkhand

HMIS Khyber

HMIS Carnatic

HMIS Rajputana

HMIS Konkan

HMIS Bombay

HMIS Bengal

HMIS Madras

HMPS Kathiawar

HMPS Baluchistan


HMPS Malwa

Survey vessel HMIS Investigator
Trawler HMIS Nasik

HMIS Calcutta

HMIS Cochin

HMIS Amritsar

HMPS Rampur

HMPS Baroda

Motor minesweeper(MMS) MMS 130

MMS 132

MMS 151

MMS 154

MMS 129

MMS 131

Motor launch (ML) ML 420
Harbour Defence Motor Launch(HDML) HDML 1110

HDML 1112

HDML 1117

HDML 1118

HDML 1261

HDML 1262

HDML 1263

HDML 1266

Miscellaneous All existing landing craft

When India became a republic on 26 January 1950, the name was changed to the Indian Navy, and the vessels were redesignated as Indian Naval Ships (INS).

Vice Admiral R. D. Katari was the first Indian Chief of Naval Staff, appointed on 22 April 1958.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Stalin and the Allies

A Victory Parade in Red Square was scheduled for June 24, 1945. I came to Moscow for the occasion. I wanted to watch our troops marching and to rejoice with all our people in the capital of our Homeland. Eisenhower came to Moscow, too. He stood with us in the Lenin Mausoleum to review the parade. This was the first time I met Eisenhower. Stalin gave a huge banquet. All our military leaders were there. So was Eisenhower. I don’t think Montgomery; the English commander was there. Stalin had formed good relations with Eisenhower and even better ones with Roosevelt. He had bad relations with Churchill that and even worse ones with Montgomery.

After the war, but before my transfer from Ukraine back to Moscow (at the end of 1949), I frequently heard Stalin speak about Eisenhower’s noble characteristics in conversations with his inner circle. Stalin always stressed Eisenhower’s decency, generosity and chivalry in his dealings with his allies. Stalin said that if it hadn’t been for Eisenhower, we wouldn’t have succeeded in capturing Berlin. The Americans could have been there first. The Germans had concentrated their forces against us as they prepared to surrender to the Americans and British. Stalin appealed to Eisenhower in a letter to hold back his armies; Stalin told Eisenhower that according to his agreement with Roosevelt and in view of the amount of blood our people had shed, our troops deserved to enter Berlin before the Western Allies. Eisenhower then held his troops back and halted their offensive, thus allowing our troops to take Berlin. If he hadn’t done this, Berlin would have been occupied by the Americans before we reached it, in which case, as Stalin said, the question of Germany might have been decided differently and our own position might have turned out quite a bit worse. This was the sort of chivalrous generosity Eisenhower demonstrated. He was true to Roosevelt’s word.

However, at this time Truman was president, and Stalin had no respect at all for Truman. He considered Truman worthless. Rightly so. Truman didn’t deserve respect. This is a fact.

At the very end of the war Stalin was very worried that the Americans would cross the line of demarcation in the West. He was doubtful that they would relinquish territory which Roosevelt had previously agreed to give us at Tehran. The Americans could have said that the line their troops reached was the new boundary dividing the zones of occupation. But the Americans pulled their troops back and deployed them along the line which had been set in Tehran. This too says something about Eisenhower’s decency.

The Germans were hard pressed by our troops and couldn’t resist any longer. They were supposed to throw down their arms and surrender to us. However, they refused to do this and moved west instead to surrender to the Americans. Once again, Stalin addressed himself to Eisenhower, saying the Soviet troops had shed their blood to crush the Germans and now the Germans whom they encountered were surrendering to the Americans. Stalin complained that this wasn’t fair. This was on the Austrian front, where Malinovsky was directing our advance. Eisenhower ordered the commander of the German army to surrender to the Russians who had defeated his army.

Stalin once made a similar request to Churchill. The Germans were fleeing from Rokossovsky and surrendering to the English in a region occupied by Montgomery. Stalin asked the English not to take prisoners and to compel the Germans to surrender to our troops. But nothing of the sort! said Stalin angrily. ‘Montgomery took them all, and he took their arms. So, the fruits of victory over the Germans were being enjoyed by Montgomery!’

Both General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery were representatives of the same class, the bourgeoisie. Yet they decided this question differently. They interpreted differently the principles of partnership, agreement and honour. Whenever I had dealings with Eisenhower in later years, I always remembered these actions of his during the war. I kept in mind Stalin’s words about him. Stalin could never be accused of liking someone without reason, particularly a class enemy. He was incorruptible and irreconcilable in class questions. It was one of his strongest qualities, and he was greatly respected for it. *

*it is easy to believe that Stalin was more than surprised by the restraint shown Eisenhower and others in the matter of halting the Allied advance into Germany. Certainly, he was furious with Montgomery for taking prisoner large number of Germans fleeing from the Soviet advance. He was of course perfectly correct in telling Khrushchev that he got on better with Roosevelt than with Churchill. Roosevelt held British imperialism in the deepest suspicion and was convinced that he could come to a personal understanding with Stalin.

What were my impressions of the opinions Stalin expressed about the interrelations of the Allies during the war and specifically about Roosevelt and Churchill? Judging from what he said, I think Stalin was more sympathetic to Roosevelt than Churchill because Roosevelt seemed to have considerable understanding of our problems. Roosevelt and Stalin had a common antipathy for monarchy and its institutions. Once he told me about the following episode. When they were in Tehran sitting over dinner, Roosevelt raised his glass and proposed a toast to the president of the Soviet Union: Mr. Kalinin.

Everyone drank and after a few moments Churchill raised his glass and proposed a toast to the king of Great Britain. Roosevelt said he wouldn’t drink that toast.  Churchill’s back went up, but Roosevelt was firm. No, he said. I won’t drink. I cannot drink to an English king. I can never forget my father’s words. Stalin explained that when Roosevelt’s feather left for America from England or Ireland, he said on the boat to the young Roosevelt, the king is our enemy. Despite all the requirements of etiquette, Roosevelt didn’t raise his glass. *

*it would be interesting to know whether in fact Stalin did tell the story of Roosevelt’s refusal to drink to the king. If he really believed that President Roosevelt’s father had emigrated to the USA from Ireland or England, he must have been badly briefed. It seems likely that Khrushchev is confusing one of Stalin’s anecdotes about the coolness between Roosevelt and Churchill at Tehran with a muddled memory about the immediate ancestry of president Kennedy.

In disputes during the working sessions in Tehran, Stalin often found Roosevelt siding with him against Churchill. Thus, Stalin’s personal sympathies were definitely reserved for Roosevelt, although he still held Churchill in high esteem too.  Churchill was not only a great English statesman; he held one of the leading positions in the conduct of world politics. At the time of the Allies failure in the Ardennes, which threatened their invasion landing, Churchill asked Stalin to divert the forces of the German army onto us. This required that we launch an offensive which wasn’t part of our plans at the time and which shouldn’t have come until considerably later, it it turned out to be most profitable for us. Stalin did well to demonstrate our goodwill towards our ally in a time of need.

Churchill certainly played an important role in the war. He understood the threat hanging over England, and that’s why he did everything he could to direct the Germans against Soviet Union. —in order to pull the Soviet Union into war against Germany. When Hitler attacked us, Churchill immediately declared that England considered it necessary to make a treaty joining forces with us against Germany. Here, too, Stalin’s did the right thing. He accepted Churchill’s proposal and signed a treaty. After a certain time, America entered the war, and a coalition of three Great Powers came into existence.

It’s difficult to judge what the intentions of the Allies were towards the end of the war. I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that they desired to put a still greater burden on the shoulders of the Soviet Union and to bleed us even more. Or perhaps it’s as they explained: they weren’t sufficiently prepared for a landing. Their arms production wasn’t sufficiently developed. They needed more time and so on.  Both explanations were probably true, but I think they were mostly dictated by their desire to bleed us dry so that they could come in at the last stages and determine the fate of the world. They wanted to take advantage of the results of the war and impose their will not only on their enemy, Germany, but on their ally, the USSR, as well. I can easily imagine how this thought played a significant role in their thinking.

To look at it from a class position, it was in the Allies’s interest to rely on the Soviet Union as a wartime ally, despite the fact that our country was founded on Socialist principles. We had to unite our forces against a common enemy. None of us could have won the war single handed. But while exerting our collective efforts against the common enemy, each of us remained on his own class position. The Western Allies were certainly not interested in strengthening us. England and America, from their class positions, knew they had to help us to an extent, but they still wanted the Soviet Union to be considerably weaker after the war so that they could dictate their will to us.

For our part, we knew it would be useful to be considerably stronger at the end of the war in order for our voice to carry more weight in the settlement of international questions.  If we had succeeded, the question of Germany wouldn’t have been decided the way it was at Potsdam. The Potsdam decision was a compromise based on the distribution of power among the Allies at the end of the war. The one sidedness of the agreement was particularly reflected in the clauses concerning Berlin and Vienna. These cities were located in the zone occupied by Soviet troops, and it would have seemed that they should have been part of our zone. However, the Allies didn’t give them to us. Berlin and Vienna were each divided into four sectors. We received one sector, and the Western powers-England, America and France-received the other three. This says something about the distribution of power at the end of the war.

When we began our advance west and were approaching the border of Germany, the Allies were compelled to hurry up, and launch their landing. They were afraid we might push considerably farther than the boundaries defined at Yalta.

Nevertheless, we must still give credit to the Allies for their contribution to the common cause of defeating Hitlerite Germany. In order to avoid excessive haughtiness, the people and the Party of the Soviet Union must be properly informed about the contribution of the Allies to the common cause and to the Soviet Union itself. If the past isn’t analyzed objectively, the building of the future will be based on illusions and primitive patriotism instead of proved facts. Unfortunately, our historical records about WWII have perpetrated the illusion. They have been written out of a false sense of pride and out of a fear to tell the truth about our Allies’ contribution-all because Stalin himself held an incorrect, unrealistic position. He knew the truth, but he admitted it only to himself in the toilet. He considered it too shameful and humiliating for our country to admit publicly.

But, telling the truth needn’t have been humiliation. Recognizing the merits of our partners in the war need not have diminished our own merits; on the contrary, an objective statement would have raised us still higher in the eyes of all peoples and it would not in the least diminished our dignity and the importance of our victories. But in this case truthfulness was unthinkable for Stalin. He tried to cover up our weaknesses. He figured that it would make us stronger than our enemy and that we would be feared more. This was stupid. He should have known that you can’t fool the enemy. The enemy can always see for himself and analyze on his own. It’s also possible that Stalin feared that openness about the history of the war might backfire on him personally. That’s a different matter. But I think we should have openly admitted what happened and not tried to cover up. We would have been helping our country and our cause by not trying to hide our mistakes, by revealing them for people to see, no matter how painful it might have been. The people would have understood and supported us. If necessary, they would have forgiven the mistakes which had been committed. When I did expose the mismanagement of the war, the people were able to say, Here Khrushchev is criticizing Stalin, but he is using Stalin only for purposes of illustration in a constructive analysis. That’s perfectly true. I don’t think it’s ever too late for the new generation which will soon replace the current leadership of our country, to cast objective light on the beginning of the war. We must study the past in order not to permit in our own time those mistakes which were permitted earlier. We must prevent them both in the present and in the future.

To acknowledge the material aid which we received in the past from our adversaries of the present doesn’t have any bearing on the situation today. We shouldn’t boast that we vanquished the Germans all by ourselves and the Allies moved in only for the kill. That’s why I give my own view of the Allies contribution, and I hope that my view will be con by the research historians who investigate objectively the circumstances which developed between 1941 and 1945. The English helped us tenaciously and at great peril to themselves. They shipped cargo to Murmansk and suffered huge losses. German submarines lurked all along the way. Germany had invaded Norway and moved right next door to Murmansk.

As Mikoyan confirmed after his trip to America, we received military equipment, ships and many supplies from the Americans, all of which greatly aided us in waging the war, After Stalin’s death, it seemed that all our artillery was mounted on American equipment. I remember proposing, Let’s turn all the automotive equipment we’re producing over to the military so that the tractor-mounts  in our parade will be Soviet made.

By this time, I wanted to stress how many of our cars and trucks we had received from the Americans. Just imagine how we would have advanced from Stalingrad to Berlin without them! Our losses would have been colossal because we would have had no manoeuvrability. *

*The Soviet tanks were the finest in the world; it until Stalingrad the Soviet army had virtually no mechanized transport. It was with Americans and British trucks that it was able to advance swiftly, complete the encirclement of the German forces around Stalingrad, and sweep out rapidly across the steppe to shatter the German armour at Kursk – and on to Berlin and Vienna.

 In addition, we received steel and aluminium from which we made guns, airplanes and so on. Our own industry was shattered and partly abandoned to the enemy. We also received food products in great quantities. I can’t give you the figures because they’ve never been published. They are all locked away in Mikoyan’s memory. There were many jokes going around in the army, some of them off-colour, about American Spam; it tasted good nonetheless. Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army. We had lost our most fertile lands-the Ukraine and the northern Caucasus.

I repeat, the Allies gave us this help neither out of compassion for our people, nor out of respect for our political system, nor out of hope for the victory of Socialism and the triumph of Marxism-Leninism. The Allies helped us out of a sober assessment of the situation. They were facing a matter of their own life or death. They helped us so that our Soviet army would not fall under the blow of Hitlerite Germany and so that, supplied with modern weapons, we would pulverize the life force of the enemy and weaken ourselves at the same time. They wanted to wait to join the war actively against Germany at a time when the Soviet Union had already spent its might and was no longer able to occupy a decisive position in the solution of world problems.

In this chapter we have the first public acknowledgment by any Soviet politician of the immense part played by Lend-Lease and American and British aid to the Soviet army. It is a pity that Khrushchev felt unable to speak in these terms when he was in power. The Soviet people have never been told what this aid amounted to, and the whole issue has been so clouded with propaganda of one kind and another, that there are all too many people in the West who have never properly understood the magnitude and importance of the Allied contribution.

Courtesy of:  Khrushchev Remembers; translated by Strobe Talbot; Little Brown Company Boston, Toronto, 1970