The 75th anniversary of the partition of India has inspired me to revisit some of the themes in Hausa Blue. I let myself only write a blog when I feel like it, and it turns out that I don’t feel like it all that often. But the story of how India won her independence and India and Pakistan, then Bangladesh became nation-states is a monumental world event and has made me think again about partition.
I think that in some ways, my book is a more realistic ‘what if’ than Zareer Masani’s article in the Spectator, Partition wasn’t inevitable, The chance for a prosperous, united India was thwarted by Clement Attlee, Lord Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/partition-wasn-t-inevitable?utm_medium=email&utm_source=CampaignMonitor_Editorial&utm_campaign=BOCH%20%2020082022%20%20House%20Ads%20%20HT+CID_181b7029d84b38760a197560906aea1f .
In the article he outlines what actually happened as well as what might have happened if India had remained one nation in 1947 and it is well worth a read (if you subscribe, then they will let you read it for nothing).
I think he is right about what Atlee, Mountbattatten and Nehru actually did to cut and stitch-up the subcontinent. And I do love the alternative outcomes he paints.
I also believe that the region's chances would have been better if there had been no partition, particularly for a never partitioned Punjab and Bengal, where some of my story is set.
But the rosy alternative future in Mr Masani’s counterfactual narrative does not pay sufficient attention to the Soviet Union’s or America’s response to a united confederacy of the Indian subcontinent. For him a united India would have meant possible freedom for Tibet, a faded Hindu-Muslim divide and Afghanistan would have remained a benevolent westernising monarchy.
But, if a united India had aligned itself with the West, then the Soviet Union’s interference in Afghanistan is likely to have been more concerted, the Westernisation of Afghanistan was heavily influenced by the Soviet Union from after World War Two after all. The West might not have tolerated the Soviet influence as much as it did prior to the Soviet invasion and started stirring up and funding tensions there even earlier.
India could have attempted to tread the same path as Bangladesh, which aligned itself to neither the Soviet or Western blocs, but we know that Bangladesh paid a heavy price for its freedom, as the Western callousness to the third Bengal famine is testament. Indian trade would have faced the same cold shoulder treatment that Bangladesh received from the West and not have modernised nearly so quickly.
Mainly of course my story is more of a divergence from reality than the learned Mr Masani. In Hausa Blue there is no Soviet Union and independence is won nearly 50 years later when a few leaders of powerful elites are not in a position to argue.
Nor does Mr Masani envisage a part Indian British King Charles III or any robots, called Krito, from the Bengali word for slave.
Whatever the case, the British role in the fate of the Indian sub-continent is something that we forget at our peril and I thoroughly recommend reading Mr Masani's article.
My book is a rollicking good read, and would make the best post-colonial-pan-commonwealth musical ever, click on the title, Hausa Blue, to buy a copy.