Unification. Cooperation. Integration. Amalgamation. They are synonyms, but not the same. Muslim. Hindu. Jain. Christian. Sikh. They are synonyms, but not the same. Indian. Pakastani. Bengali. We were once synonyms, not the same, but now we exist as antonyms.
I grew up the child of two Indian-Muslim immigrants, a unique combination that never seemed to truly define who and what I exactly was. I often felt like an anomaly. You see, I grew up in America, with a religious background that is unique in Hindu-majority India. When attending mosque, I never felt like I belonged with the Pakistani-majority prayers, despite sharing their religion. When attending weddings, I never felt like I belonged with the Hindu-majority attendees, despite sharing a nationality. The hard truth is, Indians, Pakastanis and Bengalis have been taught to see each other as “other,” despite being from one gloriously-rich subcontinent that used to exist as one.
We argue, fight, and terrorize each other, political tensions running rampant, and societal integration becoming difficult. We judge, vilify, and look down upon each other, forgetting that once, we were united under one nation. The creation of Pakistan was rooted in deliberately weakening the entire original country, a ruse concocted by the British specifically meant to keep people on the subcontinent at odds with one another. After all, the British had learned how powerful unification could be; in 1857, the "Great Mutiny" broke out, where Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. Learning from this, the British adopted the learned concept of “dividing and conquering.” Essentially, by separating the original India based on religion (where Pakistan was designated for Muslims, and the new India was created for Hindus), stressing that this was important for the people, the British ingeniously keep us fighting today. The division of India, and the artificial engineering of making it seem necessary for the survival of the people, was the perfect “f*ck you” the British could ever leave.
After all, a divided nation is a weak nation, no matter how many doctors, engineers, and scientists it births. And dividing nations based on religion is even more disastrous, as the border lines are a perfect breeding ground for religious animosity. Before the Partition of 1947, “there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, but they would help each other like brothers and sisters. Hindus used to participate in Eid celebrations, and Muslims in Holi and Diwali” (1). Yet today, as the far-right BJP party takes control under Prime Minister Modi, being a Muslim has become increasingly dangerous in India.
I understand some anger is hard to let go of; people on the Indian subcontinent have not been kind to each other. Violence, terrorism, and guilt cannot be simply credited to one side. But I truly do not understand why the blame is volleyed back and forth between people that used to be one, when, in fact, it rests squarely on the shoulders of the British Empire. After all, we were synonyms but not the same. And though I know it is highly unlikely, I continue to wish that we could become synonyms but not the same, one day, once again existing as one people, one India.