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A question of national paternity - The Indian Express

Sultan Shahin ()
30 January 1997

Title : A question of national paternity
Author : Sultan Shahin
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : January 30, 1997

It takes the a audacity of, a Thackeray or a Mayavati to question
the integrity of the father of a nation. But once the lions have
roared even lesser mortals can chip in. I cannot think of the
Mahatma as a fraud or a sexual pervert. I do, however. hesitate to
label him as the father of the nation. The 50th year of our
supposed birth may be the right time for us to settle the question
of our paternity.

How does one determine who is the father of a nation? What is the
criterion? Americans started this whole business after their civil
war. Abraham Lincoln saved their country from disintegration. In
gratitude they called him Father.

Did the Mahatma father a nation? If so, which nation? India was a
subcontinent when he started his political career. She diminished
to the status of one of the South Asian countries even before he
finished with her. Far from being the Mahatma's daughter, it would
appear India was his mother whom he couldn't prevent from being cut
into two. While he kept himself at a discreet distance from the
actual surgery - a very crude operation perpetrated without even
applying anaesthetic agents - his disciples were actively,
willingly, indeed enthusiastically, involved in the caesarean
section through which a new nation, Pakistan, was born.

I refuse to believe that India is Pakistan's twin sister, younger
sister, born soon after her birth on August 14, 1947. If one looks
at the way Pakistan has conducted its affairs, internal as well as
external, it is difficult to escape from the classic image of a
child born out of wedlock, perhaps as a result of its mother's
rape, unsure of its paternity, identity, heritage or purpose.
India. too, has faced problems and made mistakes, grave mistakes,
but no one in his right mind would say that India has behaved like
Pakistan's twin sister. If anything India has appeared to be
conscious of her identity as a hoary nation, her philosophical,
spiritual, cultural and scientific heritage, and destiny of some
day uniting with her lost limbs to once again become a subcontinent
and play her rightful role in the comity of nations. I do not know
of any Indian who does not have in his heart of hearts a dream -
the dream of Akhand Bharat.

But if India is a younger sister of Pakistan, born out of the same
mother's womb at nearly the same time, then she should share
Pakistan's father as well. Or vice versa. Either Jinnah fathered
both India and Pakistan or so did Gandhi. How can twin sisters
have two fathers? With both probable fathers long dead, a genetic
test is out of question. Imran's daughter is luckier than Jinnah's
or Gandhi's. All that we can do is study their characters, for,
twin children are known to be very similar to each other. In many
cases they not only look indistinguishable, they even share the
same experience, the same destiny.

Do India and Pakistan look like twin sisters to you? I very much
doubt even a Pakistani would think so. Indians, of course, know
much better. With a little reflection India surely emerges as ii
mother, a chastened mother of a delinquent child born out of
wedlock, born out of a rape, reminder of a shame. One can't really
blame her if she gets mad occasionally and feels like spanking her
child rather hard.

This settles the question of Pakistan's maternity. But who is its
father? I very much doubt that terminally ill, cancer-ridden
Jinnah, armed with a mere l.4 per cent of Muslim votes had either
the guile or the strength to outwit buxom and wily India with its
mastery of Triya Charitra Shastra. India had put her faith in the
promise of Mahatma Gandhi to never allow his mother to be raped,
her limbs to be broken. In the end the Mahatma did not even
threaten a fast, while his disciples were so excited they even got
the date of her rape advanced by as much as ten months.

Pakistan's paternity thus remains debatable. But one thing has
become clear. Gandhi was not the father of our nation. Nor was
Jinnah. Who else is there then? I have three candidates - Ashok,
Akbar and Warren Hastings. If our destiny is Akhand Bharat, let us
look up to those who sought to unite India rather than those who
caused its disintegration.

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