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Colonialism in disguise
By Zeyaul Haque

Internal colonialism oppresses and dehumanises as relentlessly as its predecessor. To top it all, it blames the victims for their plight.

A major problem of the post-colonial world is what is called ‘internal colonialism’, the relentless oppression and exploitation of the masses at the hands of the elite that replaced colonial administration. The result is that large chunks of population in the former colonies hardly feel the distinction between the white masters and the new upper class (and upper caste) masters that replaced them. To them ‘freedom’ is only notional, enslaved as they are by the new brown sahibs in the wake of national ‘independence’ from white rulers.

There are, worldwide, old-timers in these societies who feel that the white colonisers were more fair-minded, impartial and just than the new masters. If there was a conflict between the weak and the strong the colonial state did not automatically back the strong as today, but took a more just position. It is this gnawing sense of injustice and unfairness of the power elite that creates disaffection among large masses of people. It is this sense of lack of fair play by the erstwhile West Pakistani rulers that created resentment in East Pakistan and ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh.

This is the background against which we have to consider some recent developments as reported in the press. The Outlook (Sep.18, 2000) has published a US study of possible scenarios in South Asia involving India, China and Pakistan over the next few years. In none of these Pakistan seems to fare well. In one of these, the country loses its final war with India over Kashmir, its nuclear weapons destroyed by America (‘to prevent their falling in wrong hands’), it ascedes to India edged on by Baluchis, Sindhis and Pakhtoons who are fed up to the gill with Punjabi hegemony. To me, personally, this seems to be the most credible of the three scenarios. The beauty of these American studies is that they are not merely academic: America sees to it that they are duly implemented as well.

There are some people who wonder as to how could America do it to ‘friendly’ Pakistan. The point to remember here is that even Iraq was a ‘friendly’ country for America for quite a few years, and the former Soviet Union which was America's foe before World War II became an ally during the war, only to became a deadly foe after the war was over. Japan and Germany, foes of America in the war became its staunch allies after that.

Italy underwent an even more colourful course correction during the period. We have already seen how helpful the US 7th fleet turned out to be for Pakistan in the 1971 war. 

The Indian Express (September 22) carries an article on the edit page by Saeed Naqvi that graphically describes a meeting of top Sindhi, Baluchi and Pakhtoon leaders in London's Action Hall recently demanding azadi from Pakistan. And they are not ordinary hirelings of RAW as the Pakistani administration would claim, but the most high-profile leaders like MQM's Altaf Hussain, Ataullah Mengal of Baluchistan, Mahmood Khan Achakzai of Pakhtoonistan and Syed Imdad Mohammed Shah of Sindh.

Naqvi says it (the meeting) was the ‘second burial of the two-nation theory’, the first being the creation of Bangladesh. Here one would like to disagree with Naqvi. First, the ‘second burial’ of two-nation theory is a little too overwrought a metaphor. For Naqvi the telecaster, it seems to have a great appeal as a sound-bite, but beyond that the two-nation theory does not signify anything as it has been worn out with overuse. Disemboweled of substance, it only serves as a handy tool to be used by men like L K Advani.

What the London meeting signifies is not the second burial of two-nation theory, but the simple fact that if a power elite goes on ignoring large sections of people, the very legitimacy of power is destroyed. By ignoring Bengalis the Pak establishment destroyed its legitimacy and contributed to the creation of Bangladesh. Today the Pak establishment is committing the same mistake by excluding the Mohajirs, Sindhis and Pakhtoons from access to seats of power and authority. 

The victims of internal colonialism are often accused by the ruling elite of lack of patriotism. This is not fair because it is basically the oppressors who are to blame for the rift, not the victims. In all this, the discredited tow-nation theory does not explain much and is besides the point. 

In any case, the so-called tow-nation theory was declared stillborn by revered ulema way back in the early 40s. One of our most revered ulema, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, had predicted that Pakistan would break up within 25 years of its birth. Bangladesh was born in the 24th year. A single burial of the stillborn baby (in 1971) should be enough. If we go on burying it endlessly, we would provide a cover of legitimacy to the excesses of today's elite in the sub-continent by distracting from their present misdeeds.

Another event that helps to explain my position further came during Vajpayee's much-touted visit to the U S. During the visit Indian Christians demonstrated in New York against continuing persecution of Christians in India. The U S Religious Freedom Commission too noted that the oppressors of Christians in India got away with their crimes because the BJP, which is the leading partner in the government at Centre, is allied to the organizations that have been perpetrating atrocities against Christians.

The Religious Freedom Commission invites victims of religious persecution in other countries to testify before it. A news report in India Today says that Dr Mumtaz from Bangalore and John Dayal from New Delhi had gone to the U S to testify (coinciding with the PM's visit). India Today has only mentioned Dr Mumtaz but concentrated entirely on Dayal. It quotes several Christian MPs who disapprove of Dayal's decision to testify on the ground that the atrocities are an ‘internal matter’. This is quite understandable, because what politicians bother about is vote, not human rights.
On the other hand, Dayal said he would tell the world that ‘we have been raped and murdered’. This is perfectly all right as the victims of state-sponsored terror have a right to let the world know. Again, this is like the case of the Sindhis, Mohajirs and Pakhtoons or any other oppressed, internally colonized people.

Our politicians know very well (but do not admit publicly) that violation of human rights is not an ‘internal matter’ any longer. The world did not recognize it as an internal matter in Kosovo, East-Timor, northern Iraq or Rwanda. The time is past when you could murder your wife and claim that it is your personal affair. You can't do that even if she is an adulteress.

Some of the MPs foolishly (or cunningly) hint at Dayal's stand as unpatriotic. To them, genocidal attacks on a community are patriotic, but talking about it is unpatriotic, which reminds one of the wisdom that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels’. Kill, rape and burn people. And if they complain, label them unpatriotic.

As I said at the beginning, all this has nothing to do with two-nation theory or lack of patriotism. All this is about is the viciousness of power elite and the exclusion and oppression of large masses of poor, politically and economically weak people, including women, minorities, Dalits and tribals. The power elite has to stop its vicious games, learn to be fair and stop blaming the victims.

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