Kashmir: 2019 and the “coup-d’etat” of 1953


There is a nostalgia among Indian liberals regarding everything today. Even on the question of Kashmir we are witness to their lamentations – about Kashmiriyat, Nehru etc. However, the rights violations which are happening now are not very dissimilar to what has happened many times in the history of post 1953 Kashmir.

It is not to say that nothing new has happened this time. But it is also not illegitimate to say that the BJP has completed the long-drawn out process that Nehru started on August 9 1953, which Sheikh Abdullah called coup-d’etat, when he, the legitimate Prime Minister of J&K, was deposed and incarcerated. The “legacy of 1953” has once again been upheld in 2019.

What happened on August 5 2019, was new not in the manner in which the Modi government dealt with the democratic rights of Kashmiris. The newness was in the ultimate realisation of the Indian state that it was futile to convince the Kashmiris to forget their right to self-determination.

After 1947, the Indian state allowed plebiscites to ask people to merge with India only in those regions where it was sure to win but not in Kashmir, despite promising it. In Kashmir, the public support to the merger was never tested, because the Indian state was always afraid of losing it. India wanted to use the popularity and opportunism of Sheikh Abdullah who was ardently secular and an opponent of the idea of Muslims constituting a nation to manufacture consent among Kashmiris. But Sheikh resisted being reduced to a mere pawn despite suffering years of incarceration. However, ultimately he succumbed to Indira Gandhi’s pressure and for the sake of his opportunist politics, cohorts and progeny, he became a tool of legitimation for the Indian state in Kashmir.

Article 370 was an instrument to show that Indians respected Kashmiri autonomy. But the Indian state could never “manage” the Kashmiris well even with the help of these Kashmiri intermediaries, and the president’s rule was regularly imposed. The abrogation of Article 370 was the end of the pretense of respecting the Kashmiri will.

The Nehru and subsequent Congress regimes tried to reduce Sheikh Abdullah, a hero to a pawn by imprisoning him; the Modi government might elevate the Abdullah progeny – pawns – into heroes, by the same method. The charges against Farooq Abdullah and imprisonment of other Kashmiri leaders might perhaps serve the purpose of making him and other pro-India Kashmiri leaders more respectable and better equipped to dialogue with the defiant Kashmiri population. Governor Satya Pal Malik succinctly puts:

“I have gone to jail 30 times, whoever goes to jail will come out shining as a future leader. They can take political benefit of detentions in future. Don’t you want new political leaders to emerge in Kashmir?…They are not detained too far from their homes. I was lodged in a jail far away from my home. If those detained have brains, they will reap the political benefit of the detention. I am wishing them well….Those who go to jail become political leaders. The longer they stay the more they will brag in elections. So, if you sympathise with their political careers, don’t question the detention.”

1953 and 2019: Uncanny Similarities?

In 1957, Sheikh Abdullah wrote a letter to United Nations Security Council giving a chilling account of what was then happening in Kashmir. At that time he was “completing [his] third year of incarceration in a detention camp in the State where [he has] been whisked off as a result of coup-d’etat of 9th Aug. 1953.”

I reproduce the excerpts of the letter, giving subtitles to different portions that will help in comparing Nehru’s or pre-Modi attitudes towards Kashmir with Modi’s.

The Indo-Pak Dispute over Kashmir

Kashmir, unfortunately, is the root cause which deeply embitters the relations be­tween India and Pakistan and in any conflict this State is bound to be the first casualty. No peaceful progress is possible within the State unless this dispute is finally and amicably settled. These are weighty considerations and no one who has the real good of the State at heart can lose sight of these factors. For some time past I had therefore been pressing for an early settlement of this dispute with Pakistan…. Indian reaction was averse to this approach and her resentment towards me gradually culminated in positive hostility.

Corruption and Coup-d’etat

Disruption and factionalism in our ranks and corrup­tion of our people was therefore resorted to by India for breaking our unity and thus achieving its nefarious end. The plot culminated in the coup-d’etat on 9th Aug. 1953. In the early hours of that night I and my cabinet were dis­missed without a confidence motion of the Assembly by the legally and constitutionally questionable fiat of the Head of the State. I was put under arrest along with another Minister of my cabinet and am now under continued deten­tion nearly for the last three years without trial and with­out even a charge.

“A free license to shoot at sight and commit all other possible atrocities on the defenseless people”

Simultaneously with my arrest thousands of my followers and co-workers, including Deputy Ministers, high-ranking Gazetted Officers, respectable business men, law­yers, Members of the Assembly and public men of high position in life were clapped into prison. All manners of repressive measures were let loose in order to crush the spontaneous uprising of the people throughout the valley. Indian Central Reserve Police and army as well as the militia, and the special police were given a free license to shoot at sight and commit all other possible atrocities on the defenseless people – thousands were beaten or starved in the jails in order to break them into submission-the number of those killed was officially reported to be 36 al­though the public version puts it very much higher. No judicial enquiry was held to investigate into these atrocities which include among their victims even pregnant women and children. More than a score of Assembly members was detained without charge and many others kept under house arrest.

No greater fraud on democracy can be conceived!

It was under these bloodcurdling circumstances that a session of the Assembly was called to record its approval of the coup and a vote of confidence in the new government. From prison I sent telegraphic requests to the President of the Union of India, to its Prime Minister and to the Speaker of the Assembly to allow me to appear before the House and face a motion of no-confidence in a democratic manner but no heed was paid to it. Thus almost with a pistol on the necks of the Assembly Members and with massacre and terrorism all over the Valley, a vote of confidence for the Govt. pitchforked into office with the help of Indian bayonets was secured. No greater fraud on democracy can be conceived! What moral, legal or constitutional value this fraudulent act has need hardly be explained.

Thus India manoeuvered to remove those elements from the Kashmir scene which she thought stood in the way of her anti-Kashmiri designs and subsequently sought rati­fication of accession through the Assembly. To say the least, it is a fraud upon the people, betrayal of their right of self-determination and gross breach of international commitments and promises.

The Reasons of State

In March 1956, the Prime Minister of India made a public declaration ruling out plebiscite in Kashmir. It has shocked the world conscience and stunned the people of Kashmir to whom innumerable assurances had been held out that they will shape their own destiny through a fa and impartial plebiscite.

Reasons advanced for this face volte are that Pakistan has joined SEATO received Arms Aid from America and signed the Baghdad Pact. The absurdity of the argument is patent. Whatever Pakistan may do or might have done, that can be no valid reason for denying the Kashmiris the exercise of their right of self-determination in order to shape their own future. Secondly, India’s Prime Minister has hinted that a vote in favour of Pakistan will rouse communal passions in India and endanger the security of its Muslim minority. This argument is also untenable. Is India’s secularism so skin deep that it will collapse like a pack of cards as soon as Kashmiris exercise their right of self-determination? One may as well ask: Are Kashmiris to be held as hostages for fair treatment of Muslim minority under the so-called Secular Democracy of India? Were India’s oft repeated promises to the people of Kashmir that they alone shall have the right to decide their own future through an impartial and fair plebiscite intended to be implemented only in case a vote in her favour was certain?

Progress – “Nothing can be farther from truth.”

India has repeatedly claimed that Kashmir is fast progressing and that the political uncertainties ended. Nothing can be farther from truth. Kashmir is at present ruled by monstrous laws which have crippled all political and social life in the State and paralysed all progress. A law­less law of Preventive Detention has been promulgated in the State with the sanction of the President of the Republic of India which has stifled all civil liberties. This law author­izes arrests and detention for a period of five years without trial or even without disclosing the grounds of detention. Free and frequent use is made of this law of the jungle. Respectable citizens and political workers have been arrested under this law on the excuse of having publicized the speeches of opposition members delivered in the legislature or even legitimately organising support for the opposition in the House. Members of the Assembly who expressed their intention of crossing the floor in the House were put under arrest. In certain cases resignations were extorted under the pressure of this monstrous law and instances are not wanting where the members were publicly threat­ened of getting them involved in fabricated criminal cases if they failed to support the Govt. party.

“Corrupting public life and thereby purchasing the public conscience”

Indian money is being lavishly used for organising gangsters for looting, insulting and publicly flogging respectable citizens who do not see eye to eye with the ruling party. Colossal amounts borrowed on interest from India are used in corrupting public life and thereby purchasing the public conscience. It is however, gratifying to note that all these dirty methods have so far failed to corrupt the people into submission, and with one voice they demand the fulfilment of the promise made to them by India, Pakistan and United Nations to exercise their right of self-determination in a free and democratic manner.

The Hostility of the Press and “A Virtual Iron Curtain over the Valley”

The Indian press almost without exception, is positively hostile to all tendencies in favour of the plebiscite. Any Indian newspaper writing in favour of the fulfilment of the promise held out by India to the people of Kashmir or criticising the present administration in Kashmir is imme­diately bribed or blacklisted and its entry into the State banned. Foreign correspondents are seldom allowed in and if and when such a journalist finds his way to the Valley every precaution is taken that he does not get a peep into the realities of the situation. There is a virtual Iron Curtain over the Valley. No citizen dare to approach a visitor to acquaint him with the tale of his misery for fear of gestapo and subsequent torture. I challenge anyone to refute it. Under an impartial agency the scathing sea of resentment of Kashmiris will be unleashed and a real picture will come to light in those circumstances alone. Recent civic elections held in Srinagar and in Jammu afford a proof positive of oppressive and fraudulent practices of the ruling party in Kashmir. Muslim organisations and political bodies with overwhelming Muslim membership completely boycotted these elections. Some Hindu op­position organisations however contested these elections against the ruling party. The Hindu press both in and outside the State has published a surprising account of corruption, malpractices, impersonation and fraudulent methods used in these elections by the ruling party. It was through these shady means that the ruling party has secured all the seats in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and majority in the Jammu Corporation.

“A potential powder magazine”

Kashmiris are facing untold miseries during the present phase of their history. No progress-economic or political-is possible under such circumstances. Kashmir has become an oozing sore in the bodypolitic of the sub­continent. It has embittered beyond measure relations be­tween the two countries. The two armies facing each other across the cease-fire line, constitute a potential powder magazine which may flare up any time into a devastating war. Its consequences are too grim to imagine. In such an eventuality Kashmir will be wiped out completely-and far worse may happen. Is the world conscience so dead as not to wake up in time.

A Plea to International Institutions

If a member of the world organisation is so easily to denounce international commitments and trample over without qualms the human rights of millions it will, I am afraid, deal a death blow on the effectiveness of the Security Council, will shock the confidence of small nations in the world organisation and endanger world peace.

On behalf of the millions of Kashmiris and in the name of peace and progress of hundreds of millions of the sub-continent I appeal to your Excellencies to firmly stand by the pledges of the Security Council and execute its deci­sion. I also appeal to the freedom loving countries of the world, to those who have signed the United Nations Charter and pledged themselves to honour it in word and deed as well as to those nations whose leaders have fought and given their lives to establish people’s right of self-deter­mination, to rise above international differences’ and disputes and lend a firm and unanimous support to the right of four million down-trodden Kashmiris and allow them to decide their own future in a free and democratic atmosphere. That alone will end the agony of the people of Kashmir and eliminate a grave danger to peace.

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Makarand Paranjape – A Re-Brahminised Brahmin?


It seems Prof Makarand Paranjape has taken upon himself the task of eliminating the rightist intellectual vacuum of which left-liberal scholars have recently been talking about. He is actively posing himself both as a rightwing liberal and a genuine scholar, especially with his recently published work on Gandhi’s murder, The Death & Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi. Here, he succeeds as a rightwing intellectual, both in his omissions and commissions.

In this book, Paranjape undoubtedly demonstrates a credible scholarship. However, like any right-winger, he unabashedly displays his inability to comprehend the structure of an event, a conjuncture or a catastrophe – conflating facts and fiction (literary facts), reality and virtuality. The conceptual asyndesis that the right wing discourse suffers from flattens the structure of reality. The analytics of the destructed reality are reinforced at the immediate level of discourse, oblivious of the fact that they are differentially located in the composed structure of the event. In his endeavour to come to terms with Gandhi’s murder, Paranjape literally makes everybody responsible for it, even future generations. He absolutises relative responsibilities and makes the regenerated Oedipal guilt of the empowered Hindutva forces a collective absolute of the history of independent India . Ultimately, Godse emerges merely as an executor.

In the epilogue for the Indian edition of the book, Paranjape has clearly indicated his choice against “hypocritical and cynical” “Congress-style secularism” “pandering to and appeasing minorities”. He is not at all dismissive against the “majoritarian political formation. Of course, he wants some actions to see if “Hindutva-Hinduism [is] a better guarantor of religious and cultural pluralism than pseudo-secularism.” He asks, “will the new realism of pragmatic majoritarianism succeed better?” It seems he got his answers very soon.

Similarly, in his video-graphed “lecture” on nationalism in JNU  before an “openminded” left-liberal audience desperately looking for their own variety of Indian nationalism at the time of neoliberal “post(modern) fascism”, Paranjape, like any right-wing street-fighter, goes on poking the left to make their choice among binaries – constitution or revolution, etc, demonstrating once again his ignorance of the complexity of the question of legitimation.

***

Paranjape continues to display the rashness of anti-left tirade in a recent article in Indian Express too, where he blunders on both levels – of arguments and of facts. However, here, he is engaging in manipulations typical of a conservative intellectual and poltician, to defend his recent activism. He starts with some commonsensical utterances to justify adding his name to a petition against one of the best Sanskritists of our times, Sheldon Pollock.

Paranjape jealously questions the exorbitance of the investment by a ‘Swadeshi’ investor in a project to create Murty Classical Library under the editorship of Pollock. As he admits, he doesn’t seem to know more than home economics, and thinks investment in scholarship as similar to buying underpants and vegetables.

In this era of global capitalism, when Indian rulers are busy playing beggar-beggar with other late capitalist economies to make Make-in-India campaign legible to investors, Paranjape and his herd are trying to contribute in it by selling their cheap intellectual labour. But they don’t know that the economic considerations for big industries in modern capitalism are not those of village sahukars – where buying cheap and selling dear are immediately interlinked, immaterial of the nature of products in consideration. Stooping down to the level of Prof Paranjape’s home economic sensibility, we can merely plead that he should have some sense to know that the long term credibility of the investor also matters at least in the field of academic production.

Reasonably, Paranjape tries to win the argument by complementing his home economics with inciting a nationalist inferiority rage. Here he is in a quite good company, as this provoking of bruised nationalist consciousness has always been a hallmark of jingoists and has once again become rampant – Trump, Berlusconi, Le Pen & c, and of course not to forget our own Modi. It effectively generalises, mobilises and instrumentalises anxieties and precarities produced by dispersed Fordism leading to the emergence of post(modern) fascism.

***

Now, coming to what Paranjape calls “the more controversial demand to sack Pollock”, we find him deliberately misinterpreting Pollock for his academic-political ambitions.

Pollock’s essay which Paranjape and his coterie are misquoting to discredit him and to project him as any Orientalist is one of the finest works on traditional Indian intellectual practices, where he displays his knowledge of not just the hegemonic Shastric tradition but also of oppositional scientific and secular voices, who had to regiment themselves by indulging in ritual nodding to the Shastric authority.

To the extent that Pollock demonstrates the intransigent and transcendent nature of the Shastric tradition in prioritising theory, along with its attempt to homogenise and hegemonise practice, his originality is only in the extent of his scholarship, not in his idea. There have been alternative traditions right from the Upanishadic times that have been questioning such ritualisation, many times in shrill voices, and in recent centuries quite openly as by many late Medieval poets and numerous anti-caste fighters like Phule and Ambedkar. 

Moreover, in the very initial paragraphs of the essay, Pollock declares his thesis, “everywhere civilisation as a whole – and this is especially true of art-making – is constrained by rules of varying strictness, and indeed, may be accurately described by an accounting of such rules.” And then he goes on to compare Manusmriti and Amy Vanderbilt’s Everyday Etiquette (definitely, an outrageous comparision from the perspective of a refounded Brahminism of Hindutva), and concludes, “such cultural grammars exist in every society; they are the code defining a given culture as such.” Of course, he credits Shastras for their unique expanse and influence.

Paranjape must remember if he wants to (though it is difficult given his allegiance to particular political projects in recent days), that orientalism happens not simply when whites exorcise brownies, it is also when whites and brownies combine to exoticise and eternalise the orient. Let me remind Paranjape of his own remorse at the “politics of misreading” in 1991 (Economic & Political Weekly), when he was troubled by what he saw the “tendency to indulge in the commonest argumentative fallacy of irrelevance: ad hominem or name-calling,” At that time, he was accused of having represented himself as a “de-brahminised brahmin” by, as he claimed, his student (it is clear that this fact hurt him the most). That “student” today is himself a well-known literary scholar and activist, K Satyanarayana.

However, in recent days Paranjape himself, along with his less-sophisticated ilk, has mastered this politics and is indulging in “the commonest argumentative fallacy” of name calling. He clearly dislikes them with whom he disagrees. Whether he had actually de-brahminised himself earlier or not is debatable, but it is clear, at least for the time being, he has re-brahminised himself, and he feels empowered.

Iqbal’s Aurangzeb: A figure of sectarian reaction or radical internationalism?


“The political genius of Aurangzeb was extremely comprehensive. His one aim of life was, as it were, to subsume the various communities of this country under the notion of one universal empire. But in securing this imperial unity he erroneously listened to the dictates of his indomitable courage which had no sufficient background of political experience behind it. Ignoring the factor of time in the political evolution of his contemplated empire he started an endless struggle in the hope that he would be able to unify the discordant political units of India in his own lifetime. He failed to Islamise (not in the religious sense) India just as Alexander had failed to Hellenise Asia. The Englishman, however, came fully equipped with the political experiences of the nations of antiquity and his patience and tortoise-like perseverance succeeded where the hasty genius of Aurangzeb had failed. Conquest does not necessarily mean unity. Moreover, the history of the preceding Mohammedan dynasties had taught Aurangzeb that the strength of Islam in India did not depend, as his great ancestor Akbar had thought, so much on the goodwill of the people of this land as on the strength of the ruling race. With all his keen political perception, however, he could not undo the doings of his forefathers. Sevajee was not a product of Aurangzeb’s reign; the Maharatta owed his existence to social and political forces called into being by the policy of Akbar. Aurangzeb’s political perception, though true, was too late. Yet considering the significance of this perception he must be looked upon as the founder of Musalman nationality in India. I am sure posterity will one day recognise the truth of what I say. Among the English administrators of India, it was Lord Curzon who first perceived the truth about the power of England in India. Hindu nationalism is wrongly attributed to his policy. Time will, I believe, show that it owes its existence to the policy of Lord Ripon. It is, therefore, clear that in their political purpose and perception both the Mughals and the English agree. I see no reason why the English historian should condemn Aurangzeb whose imperial ideal his countrymen have followed and whose political perception they have corroborated. Aurangzeb’s political method was certainly very rough; but the ethical worth of his method ought to be judged from the standpoint of the age in which he lived and worked.”
–Stray Reflections: The Private Notebooks of Muhammad Iqbal

The figure of Aurangzeb Iqbal constructs here through his inimitable reading of history is, without doubt, the source of Pakistani nationalism. In fact, it will neither be an error nor an exaggeration to suggest that Iqbal’s Aurangzeb can be, and perhaps is, the basis of nationalism among certain sections of subcontinental Muslims as a whole. But before Indian leftists fall for the temptations of Indian nationalism – something almost all of them are quite susceptible to – and see this as a legitimate reason to condemn Iqbal as a sectarian reactionary, they would do well to attend dispassionately and carefully to his conception of nation and nationality. Not only that. They equally need to re-examine Pakistani nationalism itself with as much materialist rigour as they can possibly summon, and thus without too much nationalist prejudice. Of course, to do that they will need, first and foremost, to take off and put aside their syncretism-tinted glasses. Syncretism — from which springs the bankrupt Indian secularist imaginary of Hindu-Muslim amity and which has many Indian leftists in its vise-like grip — is precisely what Iqbal completely shakes up and disrupts. Of course, in doing that he arguably shows us the way for developing an organically-rooted and militant approach to think and envisage non-sectarian politics on foundations that are much more rigorously materialist than the airy culturalist notion – consciously avowed or not – of Hindu-Muslim amity with its basis in the so-called Indic tradition of syncretism.

What is most striking about Iqbal on that count is his conception of nationality. Precisely the thing that has had many leftists and almost all liberal-secularists of India paint him as a sectarian reactionary. Iqbal was constantly at pains to distinguish his conception of Islam as a nation from the blood-and-soil type of racial-territorial European nationalisms, the nationalism of the English included. The book, ‘Stray Reflections: The Private Notebooks of Muhammad Iqbal’, has multiple entries in which this distinction is sought to be elucidated and emphasised in different registers. For now, let me quote from the entry, Fanaticism’, to demonstrate that: “Criticise an Englishman’s religion, he is immovable; but criticise his civilisation, his country or the behaviour of his nation in any sphere of activity and you will bring out his innate fanaticism. The reason is that his nationality does not depend on religion; it has a geographical basis – his country. His fanaticism then is justly roused when you criticise his country. Our position, however, is fundamentally different. With us nationality is a pure idea; it has no material basis. Our only rallying point is a sort of mental agreement in a certain view of the world.”

Here then we have the category of nationality — a categorial term that Iqbal is compelled and constrained to use by his objective threshold of sayability — come across as extremely fraught and openly pregnant with contradictions. One that, therefore, easily lends itself to being read against its own grain, thanks to the manner in which it constitutively operates in Iqbal’s thinking and discourse. For, if nationality is a pure idea with no territorial-racial basis what is at stake is not strictly a conception of nation. Rather, nationality can then be read merely as a word that in its discursive articulation poses, in spite of its terminological denotation, a post-national, if not an out-and-out internationalist, conceptual valency. One could, of course, still argue that such a conception of nationality — nationality as a pure idea – is post-national only in being imperial. Iqbal’s attempt to uphold Aurangzeb’s (failed) imperial vision against the (successful) imperial vision of the English would also seem to point in that direction.

However, if one were to pay heed to Iqbal’s affirmation of Islam as a kind of atheological theology – something that Annemarie Schimmel reveals in ‘Gabriel’s Wing’ through her brilliant and astute explication of how Iqbal construed the Quranic injunction of there being no god but god – one would recognise that Iqbal understood the idea of Islam, and thus Muslimness, not as an a priori metaphysical ideal, and a mystified/reified identity, respectively. Iqbal understood the idea of Islam, instead, as an axiom of demystifying difference (if not nonidentity in a rigorously Marxian sense), and Muslimness as a mobile political horizon of de-identitarianisation and demystification.
That Iqbal grasped the Islamic conception of god in terms of the univocity of being as difference should not surprise us given Iqbal’s well-known Nietzschean philosophical propensities. His reading of the Islamic conception of god in terms of the univocity of being as difference is wholly consistent with Nietzsche’s metaphysics-destroying conception of self-valorisation as will to power. (Here self being minimal self in the sense of being the concrete historical register and index of the ontico-ontological of differing away vis-à-vis the self as a metaphysically valorised presence.) This is revealed with utter clarity when Iqbal in his major theological-philosophical work, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, critically poses his reading of the Quranic conception of “divine life” as the infinite scope of the creative self against medieval theologian Ibn Hazm’s reading of the same in terms of the infinity of serial change progressing from an imperfect state to a relatively more prefect state. Allow me to cite from the relevant section of the book at some length:
“It was the fear of conceiving Divine life after the image of human life that the Spanish Muslim theologian Ibn Hazm hesitated to predicate life of God, and ingeniously suggested that God should be described as living, not because He is living in the sense of our experience of life, but only because He is so described in the Qur’an. Confining himself to the surface of our conscious experience and ignoring its deeper phases, Ibn Hazm must have taken life as a serial change, a succession of attitudes towards an obstructing environment. Serial change is obviously a mark of imperfection; and if we confine ourselves to this view of change, the difficulty of reconciling Divine perfection with Divine life becomes insuperable. Ibn Hazm must have felt that the perfection of God can be retained only at the cost of His life. There is, however, a way out of the difficulty. The Absolute Ego, as we have seen, is the whole of Reality. He is not so situated as to take a perspective view of an alien universe; consequently, the phases of His life are wholly determined from within. Change, therefore, in the sense of a movement from an imperfect to a relatively perfect state, or vice versa, is obviously inapplicable to His life. But change in this sense is not the only possible form of life. A deeper insight into our conscious experience shows that beneath the appearance of serial duration there is true duration. The Ultimate Ego exists in pure duration wherein change ceases to be a succession of varying attitudes, and reveals its true character as continuous creation, ‘untouched by weariness’ and unseizable ‘by slumber or sleep’. To conceive the Ultimate Ego as changeless in this sense of change is to conceive Him as utter inaction, a motiveless, stagnant neutrality, an absolute nothing. To the Creative Self change cannot mean imperfection. The perfection of the Creative Self consists, not in a mechanistically conceived immobility, as Aristotle might have led Ibn Hazm to think. It consists in the vaster basis of His creative activity and the infinite scope of His creative vision. God’s life is self-revelation, not the pursuit of an ideal to be reached. The ‘not-yet’ of man does mean pursuit and may mean failure; the ‘not-yet’ of God means unfailing realization of the infinite creative possibilities of His being which retains its wholeness throughout the entire process.”

Now if one were to read, in this context, Iqbal’s attempt to affirmatively counter-pose Aurangzeb’s imperial vision against that of the English, one would have to acknowledge the fact that he’s not merely posing one imperial vision against another. What he is attempting to accomplish in apparently doing that is, instead, a historicizing of Aurangzeb’s imperial vision in order to refound it, admittedly through provocative rhetorical means, by reading it against its own grain. This opens the way for concretely and historically articulating — precisely through such against-the-grain-reading of that imperial vision — a political horizon of nonidentitarian internationalism. That such is his intention is arguably indicated by what he writes at the end of his entry on Aurangzeeb: “Aurangzeb’s political method was certainly very rough; but the ethical worth of his method ought to be judged from the standpoint of the age in which he lived and worked.”

Now that brings us to the question of contradiction between Iqbal’s demystifying, if not always rigorously nonidentitarian, conceptions of nationality, Islam and the Islamic idea of divine life on one hand, and the ideological self-representation of Pakistani nationalism on the other. A contradiction that is admittedly sought to be resolved with the latter instrumentalising the former, thereby rendering it an identitarian discourse. And to come to terms with this conflict one will have to begin by grasping the objective basis of the emergence of Pakistani nationalism through a process of historicisation.

There can, I guess, be little doubt that both majoritarian and minoritarian communalisms in their multiple local specificities have been, and still are, direct functions of colonial and/or capitalist modernity. They have been, or are, functions of colonial and/or capitalist modernity in the sense of communal (and caste in the case of caste politics) identities being historically-indexed concrete markers of competition for social and economic power in its entirely modern sense. Labour historian Raj Narayan Chandavarkar insightfully demonstrated that.
In that sense, the emergence of Pakistani nationalism – as a political articulation of Muslim communalism in pre-Partition India – ought to be grasped as the coming together of different Muslim communities (divided from one another on the basis of language, regional specificity and even caste hierarchy) waging their locally respective, communally-indexed struggles against equally varied forms of majoritarian domination through cornering of modern social and economic power. That Jinnah’s conception of Pakistan as a Muslim nation arose, as Ayesha Jalal has demonstrated, from a conception of Muslim federalist politics within pre-Partition India, clearly reveals Pakistani nationalism in its inception to be an articulation of sedimented class conflict. One that could very well have been conceptually articulated by Iqbal’s conception of Islam as a mobile political horizon of de-identitarianisation. But precisely because Muslim nation as a pure idea was envisaged in modern territorial (and thus ethno-linguistic) republican-federalist terms, thanks to the concrete social objectivity of varied Hindu-Muslim communal conflicts, Pakistani nationalism emerged as an idea and practice riven with acute contradictions and conflicts.
The less-than-successful attempt at identitarian consolidation of Pakistan into a homogenised nationhood of subcontinental Muslims sought to paper over and repress the ethno-linguistically and/or socio-economically indexed class contradictions internal to this supposedly homogeneous Muslim community of the subcontinent, rendering federalism in Pakistan a modality of mutual bargaining among various sections of its ruling elite, and simultaneously an instrument in the hands of these regionally divided sections of that elite to regiment and control their respective subject-populations (read working peoples). The disaffection this idea of Pakistani nationalism – an idea-in-practice — has yielded is there for all to see.
But then again this is not exactly exclusive to Pakistan. The failure of the Indian national project, which has also primarily been a pure idea, both in its secular and religious/communal articulations, is precisely on account of the same contradiction of seeking to homogenise various territorial and/or ethno-linguistic, and caste- and community-based heterogeneities, which also historically index class divisions, into a pure idea of Indian nationhood through the modern political instrument of federalised unionism. What makes matters worse here is that unlike in Iqbal’s conception of (Muslim) nationality as a pure idea, the idea of India is construed and envisaged, even and especially by the arch-secularist Nehru (a la his Discovery of India), as a transhistorical and metaphysical ideal, almost Kantian, to be generalised. Needless to say here that Iqbal’s conception of (Muslim) nationality as a pure idea — wherein this pure idea is meant, philosophically speaking, to be an axiom of demystifyication and thus de-identitarianisation — is radically distinct from this metaphysical and conservatively Kantian idea of the secular (to say nothing of the religious-nationalist) Indian nationhood. It, therefore, offers more possibilities in terms of being rendered a discourse that can be refounded to articulate a radical internationalist political project vis-à-vis the subcontinent from its determinate location in Pakistan.
That Pakistan has become a constituency tailor-made for the reception of the global re-emergence of the Islam as a pure idea of togetherness against dominance – albeit this time in a completely spiritualised and thus reactionary form – must be attributed to the failure of Pakistan as a nation-state on account of the historical contradiction at its very core. But the truth also is that if there is any discursive form organic to the Pakistani project that can be posed as an effective counter to this identitarianised, reactionary Pan-Islamism, it’s Iqbal’s conception of (Muslim) nationality as a pure idea that, as I have insisted above, points clearly in the direction of nonidentitarian internationalism, what with its discursive registers of Islam and Muslimness being no more than historically concrete and determinate indices of such an ecumenical politico-hermeneutic approach. I see such conceptions of Iqbal’s as the only ones capable of discursively articulating the constellating of the struggles of the Pakistani proletariat in its nonidentitarian diversity with the equally diverse working-class struggles in the rest of the subcontinent; India and Kashmir included.