Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

"In whose hands shall the administration and the empire of India rest? Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable. At the same time you must remember that although the number of Mohammedans is less than that of the Hindus, and although they contain far fewer people who have received a higher English education, yet they must not be considered insignificant or weak. Probably they would by themselves be enough to maintain their own position. But suppose they were not. Then our Musalman brothers, the Pathans, would come out as a swarm of locusts from their mountain valleys, and make rivers of blood flow from their frontier on the north to the extreme end of Bengal. This thing – who after the departure of the English would be conquerors would rest on God's will. But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land." – Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (Meerut, 16 March 1888)


This speech by Sir Syed was made three years after the Indian National Congress was founded. If you remember your Pak Studies, then you must know that Sir Syed was extremely opposed to the INC, believing, somewhat irrationally, that it was a conduit for Hindu supremacy.

What really surprised me about this speech was not how easily and firmly Sir Syed dismissed the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity over fifty years before the Pakistan Resolution, but how extremely aggressive he was. This talk about making blood flow and about making the other nation obedient makes him sound less like a progressive intellectual and more like a firebrand. It doesn't quite jibe with his image as a reformer that we Pakistanis have, but makes him sound queasily close to the religious fanatics of today.

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