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Empires of the Indus

As I said, this book made for more portable reading in my journeys to Boskone. It's now on the back burner -- late fees for interlibrary loan are apparently $2/day -- but I got some stuff out of it.

* India is named for the Indus, which is in Pakistan. I've mentioned that last year, in the History of India sequence, but thought I'd marvel at it again.

* "Pakistan" means land of the pure. The country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, expected the other country would go with the ancient Sanskrit equivalent, Bharat, and was incensed when they went with British "India" instead, making Pakistan seem like the carved off rump it was.
* Not at all clear why Partition erupted so violently. But it did.
* Muslim purity ideas + Hindu caste purity ideas = Pakistani Muslims will not clean toilets or fix sewers. Karachi went from "Asia's cleanest city" with streets washed daily to, uh, not, with rubbish-lined streets and foul streams. Fortunately there's Hindu and Christian[1] untouchables. But they started leaving, for some odd reason. Naturally Pakistan reacted by paying them attractive wages urging them to stay and trying to prevent them from leaving. Today the invaluable people who keep civilization from drowning in its own filth live in nice middle class homes a few hours beyond the last reach of domestic electricity.

[1] As I mentioned before, caste transcends religion; converting doesn't stop people from viewing you as low caste, no matter who does the converting. The one exception seems to be Buddhism.

* AFAICT the only people who benefited from Partition were Pakistani elites and Hindu extremists. Otherwise it was a total clusterfuck.
* Jinnah wasn't all that religious, keeping dogs and smoking cigarettes, not that you'd know it from his national hagiography. He also gave speeches promising religious freedom in the new state; this is also censored.

I note that Pakistan was founded in 1947, a year before Israel. Some parallels, founded at similar times for vaguely similar reasons for religious separation and ethnic 'protection'. OTOH Israel is infinitely more democratic and functional, and if you're thinking of the occupied territories, Pakistan has its genocides in Bangladesh.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/351556.html#comments

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
fpb
Feb. 20th, 2013 08:33 am (UTC)
*Bharat is in fact the official and native name of the Republic of India. India is the translation in Western languages. The name itself comes not exactly from the Indus River, which is in fact called Sindya (hence the Pakistani province of Sindh), but from the Persian pronunciation, which dropped the S, and reached the West through Greece.

*If you are not sure why the Partition was so bloody, you must be the only person ever who was. Everyone - the British, the Indians, everybody - knew that the moment the British left, mutual butchery would begin. Even under the Pax Britannica, Hindus and Muslims killed each other for fun. Read (if you can stand some shameless racism) Kipling's story HIS CHANCE IN LIFE, from PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS, for the kind of thing that was considered normal even at the height of British power.

* Yes. One of my first lessons in Indian anthropology began with these words: "Everyone has caste in India. If anyone tells you their community doesn't, they are lying." That is why Christians are increasingly persecuted: because modern Christianity, influenced from Europe and America and (increasingly) from Africa, the Philipines and South Korea, does not, unlike the older local version, admit caste. The Hindus, who divide even Americans into castes (with white Evangelicals being the lower caste, natch), simply cannot get their brains around the notion, and so make up the comforting fable that the local outcastes are being bribed into becoming converts. They are being offered something, all right - but it's not money, it's self-respect.

* To judge by the condition of the two countries, India benefited enormously from partition. When I put the question to contemporary Indians, they thought of the idea of economically deadbeat and politically vicious Pakistan joining India with genuine fear.

* Bangladesh itself had its own genocides. By way of thanks to India for its invaluable support in the struggle for independence, Hindus are being slaughtered hand over fist. The country was 30% Hindu at Partition, 8% now, and diminishing.
heron61
Feb. 20th, 2013 10:50 am (UTC)
If you are not sure why the Partition was so bloody, you must be the only person ever who was. Everyone - the British, the Indians, everybody - knew that the moment the British left, mutual butchery would begin. Even under the Pax Britannica, Hindus and Muslims killed each other for fun.

I last studied this more than 15 years ago, but I definitely remember pretty clear evidence that British colonial officials both exaggerated the extent of this conflict and at least to some degree helped foster or ignite such incidents (as was fairly typical of colonial overlords all through history, internal conflict between different groups is impressively useful for conquerors).

Yes. One of my first lessons in Indian anthropology began with these words: "Everyone has caste in India. If anyone tells you their community doesn't, they are lying."

I'm doubtful about the rest of the paragraph after this bit, bit from my own (moderately limited) studies, that's definitely correct.

To judge by the condition of the two countries, India benefited enormously from partition. When I put the question to contemporary Indians, they thought of the idea of economically deadbeat and politically vicious Pakistan joining India with genuine fear.

Obviously, Pakistan is a mess now, it's well on its way to being a failed state (and likely already is). OTOH, all of this happened after partition, there's no guarantee that any of this would have happened in that region if had still been part of India. Pakistan is and was ruled by thugs and has a great deal of truly crappy land. Being part of a country with far better land and not ruled by thugs would have caused that region to turn out at least somewhat differently.
mindstalk
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:42 pm (UTC)
Whoops, replied to the wrong comment.

Edited at 2013-02-20 12:44 pm (UTC)
fpb
Feb. 20th, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
I'm doubtful about the rest of the paragraph after this bit...

Don't be.
mindstalk
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC)
Huh, interesting:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_the_Republic_of_India_in_its_official_languages
Bharat indeed, except in Tamil. Which isn't Indo-European, but surely it's not the only non-IE official language?

I was citing the author on bloodiness. There was some anticipation of conflict but still surprise at what actually happened. Jinnah certainly seems to not have expect such a violent divide.

What heron61 said: just because they don't want Pakistan back now, after decades to develop as a failed state, doesn't mean everyone wouldn't have been better off without partition and disruption of institutions in the first place. People killed would still be alive, for one. More Muslim voters might dilute India's slide to Hindu radicalism. Indus government would be Indian, not Pakistani.

Your point about Bangladesh is somewhat misleading. Lots of people were killed or left during and after Partition, when Bangladesh was still East Pakistan. For Bangladesh as an independent country, there's still killing, but it seems more freelance, not state-supported. Still bad conditions though, and the state didn't help with its "Enemy Property Act".

But Pakistan in 1971 gets compared to the *Nazis*.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Bangladesh
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_Bangladesh_atrocities
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_Property_Act
zxhrue
Feb. 20th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)

Bharat indeed, except in Tamil. Which isn't Indo-European, but surely it's not the only non-IE official language?

see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Hindi_agitations_of_Tamil_Nadu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_nationalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dravidistan
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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