By Michael Deatrick, Steven Aceto, and Vish Nanda
The “Two-Nation Theory” refers to the idea that religion determines what unifies a country rather than geography, politics, or other characteristics. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a Muslim politician during India’s 1947 Partition, applied this Two-Nation Theory as a valuable justification to create the Islamic state of Pakistan. Jinnah argued that the presence of Islam and Hinduism—two highly contrasting religions—in one state (India) only lead to “growing discontent” and the eventual “destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state” (Jinnah). Inspired by this ideology, Pakistan was created and the mass displacement of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and other individuals began.
The idea of Two-Nation Theory, particularly when looking at the imperfect relationship between Pakistan and India, was the inspiration for our art piece, entitled Divided and Devastated. Using features such as an intentionally missing puzzle piece in the center of the sculpture, eroded edges on the corners, and the blended flags of Pakistan and India on the surface of the sculpture, creates a symbolic and general tone of the piece, illustrating the premise of Two-Nation Theory and the unrest between the countries of India and Pakistan.
The two flags of Pakistan and India are intertwined into one melded design, illustrating the complicated transition period between the two countries. In the years immediately after the partition of India and Pakistan, the two nations were torn along ragged lines of religion and geography. Many people from either side were forced into a future that was different and difficult, and the region was thrust into a period of confusion and turmoil. In our sculpture, the divided flags of the puzzle highlight these tensions, as towns, neighborhoods, and even families were split from the partition. The division of India had a profound impact on the lifestyle of even the smallest of villages, as shown in Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan. Even though the village of Mano Majra had lived in harmony for decades, the atmosphere sours with the awkward and often violent blending and separating of the two regions. Such is the scene when a train filled with the dead bodies of fleeing Muslim refugees silently rolls into town, increasing the local tension and confusion (73). This tension and confusion leads to the people of the town turning against each other even after they called each other “brothers” in the past (89). This messy entanglement is shown in the puzzle’s blended flags motif.
This cluttered and disorienting mood is also shown in the 1973 film, Garam Hava, a tale of a Muslim family who has lived in India for generations. In this film, panic ensues as discrimination against Muslims begins, leading to the protagonist’s, Salim Mirza’s, family members to want to leave India, despite Mirza’s resistance. Such is the scene when the family’s house that has been with them for generations is seized by the government, sending them into a disastrous diaspora. This forceful transition leads to drama, tension, and the splitting of a family due to the discrimination and hardship faced in India. The close-knit extended family that resided in the house begins to be pulled apart as individual family members decide they can avoid the oppression by fleeing to Pakistan. This film, along with the tangled familial relationships included in the story, paint a blended picture of the Two-Nation Theory. Through the attitudes of the local Hindus, the film reinforces Jinnah’s ideology that there is no room for two major religions to peaceably live in the same country.
In Divided and Devastated, the sculpture’s missing puzzle piece represents the inability of both religions to coexist, which is paramount in the premise of the Two-Nation Theory. The months leading up to August 1947 and the years after saw a huge increase in violence in the Punjab region of India. Although the partition was supposed to be a solution to this violence, there was no noticeable change in the turmoil. In his essay “Can a Muslim Be An Indian?,” Gyanendra Pandey claims that “the recriminations, calculations, bitterness, and violence of the preceding year showed no signs of abating after 15 August 1947” (614). Although the partition was intended to split the area into two nations based on religious beliefs, the failure to successfully carve out an area in Northwest India with a Muslim or Hindu majority led to the continuation of religious warfare. Not only was there a lack of harmony between the two communities, but thousands of families whose homes lay on the “wrong” side of the new India-Pakistan border because of their religion had to flee. In an interview with Major General P. N. Suri—a veteran of the Indian Navy—he revealed how he had to depart his ancestral home in Lahore as it grew too dangerous for Hindus. Suri remembers the difficulty he faced and the lengths he had to go to provide safe passage for his family. “I had to steal a truck so that we could carry some of our belongings,” he said, “and luckily I was in the navy so soldiers from Amritsar helped us cross safely” (11 March 2017). The missing piece of the puzzle encapsulates the struggles of many like Suri who emigrated, leaving behind them a wake of violence in the fractured nations.
The corners of the sculpture are jagged, representing the eroding away of not only India and Pakistan from an infrastructural and governmental standpoint due to “one of the most violent events in the history of modern nation-formation” (Daiya 7), but also from the mental standpoint of the individual citizen. What is often highlighted in text books and historical articles is the degradation of communities infrastructure, however these texts tend to overlook how the religious war impacts the mental stability of the individual citizen. This idea can be seen in Urvashi Butalia’s book, The Other Side of Silence, as she writes, “These aspects of Partition – how families were divided, how friendships endured across borders, how people coped with trauma… find little reflection in written history” (8). Evidence to further demonstrate this point is seen in Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, Cracking India. Before the war, Ayah, the protagonist’s nurse, was a proud Hindu woman who tried to avoid political debates. After being kidnapped in a Muslim attack, Ayah’s personality takes a drastic turn as she is described as someone who has had her soul “extracted from [her] living body.” Her once “radiant and animated” eyes became “vacant” (65, 272). Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story, “Toba Tek Singh,” also studies the psychic state of victims caught in the middle of partition. In the story, Bishen Singh is an older man living in a mental institution, although he is high functioning.
He was always very talkative and energetic with the other inmates, but as he begins to worry about which country his hometown village is located in, he begins to change.
Singh focuses only on the location of his village and becomes mute. By the end of the story, Singh cannot function at all and dies after being told his village was in the Muslim country of Pakistan. This news made Singh another victim of the war as he was Sikh and could not live with the idea that his hometown was in the Muslim state. Both Cracking India and “Toba Tek Singh” demonstrate Jinnah’s point that conflict and chaos result from two conflicting religions living in one single state. Like the eroded edges of Divided and Devastated, the stresses of the religious war degrade the emotional stability of the citizens of India and Pakistan.
Divided and Devastated encapsulates the many effects of India’s Partition. It explores Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory, the idea that two religious bodies cannot preside under one united nation. This art piece, along with a multitude of stories regarding partition, provide evidence to support Jinnah’s ideology and demonstrate the true terrors of the partition on not only the country and government, but also innocent citizens.
Bapsi Sidhwa. Cracking India. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2006. Print.
Butalia, Urvashi. The Other Side of Silence. London: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.
Daiya, Kavita. Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender, and National Culture in Postcolonial India. Philadelphia, US: Temple University Press, 2008. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 2 April 2017.
Garam Hava. Directed by M. S. Sathyu, performances by Balraj Sahni, Farooq Shaikh, Dinanath Zutshi, Badar Begum, Film Finance Corporation, 1973. Film.
Jinnah, Muhammad Ali. “Presidential Address to Muslim League.” Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Muslim League, 11 August 1947, University of Karachi, Karachi, India.
Manto, Saadat Hasan. “Toba Tek Singh.” Orphans of the Storm: Stories on the Partition of India, edited by K.S. Duggal and Saros Cowasjee, New Delhi: UBS Publishers, 1995, 145-154. Print.
Pandey, Gyanendra. “Can a Muslim be an Indian?” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 41, No. 4, 1999, pp. 608 – 629. Print.
Suri, P. N. Personal interview. 11 March 2017.
Singh, Khushwant. Train to Pakistan. Broadway: Grove Press, Inc. 1956. Print.