HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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One Nation Under Many Gods

 In 1947, India achieved its independence from England. This freedom was long fought and hard earned. This independence is well known for the non-violence approach of Mahatma Gandhi. However on this day of independence, India was split into two different countries– Pakistan, a Muslim state, and India, a Hindu state.

               Millions of people were suddenly displaced overnight in this partition of India. Families who have lived on their land for generations were told they were supposed to move to another country. Many had to leave most, if not all, of their possessions behind to make this strenuous journey.  It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million people crossed the border of India and Pakistan as a result of this partition. People crammed themselves onto trains, even riding on top of the train, in an attempt to make it across the border.

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              This plea for two nations came from an increasing divide between Hindus and Muslims.  The tension between the two religions was slowly growing as India approached its independence, and the partition caused the hatred between the two religions to explode. After this separation of the two states, there was mass genocide on both sides as people tried to flee to their newly determined homeland. It is estimated that several hundred thousand to a million people lost their lives in the chaos that ensued the partition. People from each religion would hear the horrors that other religion has committed and then in turn would seek out members of the opposing religion to exact some type of revenge. Trains would arrive in the stations, filled with bodies of people who were slaughtered as they tried to cross the border into their new country.

Gandhi opposed this partition, but he was unable to stop it. He believed in the unity of both Muslims and Hindus in one state where they could live together peacefully. However, this dream of his was never able to come true. After the partition, he did his best to stop the massacres, but he could not truly control the chaos that ensued after the creation of the two nations. He considered the partition of India to be his greatest disappointment in his life. He was assassinated in 1948, just one year after the partition of India. 

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These horrible events that followed the partition of India and Pakistan still plague the relationship between these two countries today. As well, this partition set an example for religions or states to follow.

The partition of India and its freedom from colonial rule set a precedent for nations such as Israel, which demanded a separate homeland because of irreconcilable differences between the Arabs and the Jews. The British left Israel in May 1948, handing the question of division over to the UN. Unenforced UN Resolutions to map out boundaries between Israel and Palestine have led to several Arab-Israeli wars and the conflict still continues.

And now again, Israel and Palestine are trying to call for an Arab state and a Jewish state. The tension between these two groups of people is very high, with new casualties every day from this war. However, there are a very small group of people who believe in Gandhi’s idea that two religions can peacefully coexist under one nation. Many, though, do not believe this is a possibility. Instead, they see the only possibility is separate states for these two nationalities. Will these two separate states be able to find a peaceful way to end this brutal conflict or will it further alienate these two nationalities, increasing the hatred between the two? Or was Gandhi right to think that the best way is to have a single nation in which the two religions learn to put aside their hatred peacefully coexist?

Resources:

http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/partition-of-india/

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/indo-pak-partition.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India

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21 Comments

  1. I think one secular state makes the most sense, but I don’t know if it will be possible unless there’s a shift in thinking in younger generations. When people already have a history of mistrust or have already made up their minds on an issue or how they feel about someone, it’s hard to overcome this.

  2. tnatoli3 says:

    I like how you connected this past event with the current situation in Israel. I am someone that believes it is and should be possible for two religions to coexist. It feels similar to the civil rights movements the United States dealt with earlier in it’s history and we eventually got over it. At the same time, history is used so we do not repeat our mistakes and India eventually needed to be split into two nations so maybe that action must be taken.

  3. marymsherman says:

    I don’t know much about Indian history, so this was really interesting to read. Its amazing the historic parallels that can be found in past and current conflicts. Also, I’m a little discouraged by reading this since I know the regional conflict between India and Pakistan still goes on Kashmir (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir_conflict). This somewhat points to the possibility that a two-state option does not completely work in these situations. When two sides are unwilling to give an inch, and they both think they have rights to a region, where do you draw the line if you even can draw one?

  4. kolson23 says:

    I like the connection between our topics in class and another, very similar conflict. I too agree that a one state solution would probably be best for the conflict, however it would be understandably difficult. How could you all of a sudden bring these groups of people together after a conflict that has lasted years. I also think that the religious aspect of these conflicts makes people very stubborn with the whole give and take side of a solution. Britain did not seem to do a great job of leaving their colonies in great shape.

  5. flambert3 says:

    I think without some resolution made that the violence will escalate to war and one side will completely try to wipe out the other and relocate them to other lands. It would be nice if some peace and the ability to be together and coexist but I don’t see it right now at all.

    • jbholleman says:

      There have already been several conflicts with each side trying to eradicate the other in the region, and they have just furthered the problem. Also, many of the refugees have been refused entry into neighboring countries and in many cases refused basic human rights. As I see it, no one really wants to end the conflict peacefully without a paradigm shift in thinking.

  6. jdowling6 says:

    If Gandhi were alive today, he would say a one-state solution is the only right way. It promotes more peace, stops the bloodshed. Not too difficult to understand. I like it. What is reality in my opinion is that I think neither side would be willing to forgive the other from the consequences of the war, that is losing family, friends to suicide bombings and such for many years to come. If there was only a way to agree on not killing each other anymore, and guarantee no more fighting, the one-state solution stands a chance to pass as the newer generations of Israel and Palestine fill in the shoes of the older generations of diplomats. I support the one-state solution with all my heart but lets hope that both can figure out ways to end the killing first and foremost. If tons and tons of armed guards and checkpoints is not doing the trick after so long, I think not enough is not being done in order to change things. At least the quiet peace talks, I think, are solid proof that things are finally going to start changing after this long of war. However long it may be until we see change, at least we know that an effort is being made in the right direction. I would like to see more support to continue the talks like this, however I don’t understand why they have to be so secret right now.

  7. Very interesting indeed. I definitely did not hear about this in grade school. I guess if I were to pick a solution for Israel/Pakistan, I would say it needs to be split. I believe that it eventually will over time, just how the United States needed to be split from Great Britain, the people want a nation of their own under their own laws. Each side will most likely have to give something up in order to do so.

  8. John Girata says:

    I don’t really understand the attraction of a one-state solution. I feel that a one-state solution would only cause more problems. Why not just create Jewish and Muslim states that can leave each other alone?

    • shaimsn says:

      Exactly. Two states. And that was the offer in 1947, denied by the Arab side.

      In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. In addition, he agreed to dismantle 63 isolated settlements. In exchange for the 3 percent annexation of the West Bank, Israel would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third.
      Barak also made previously unthinkable concessions on Jerusalem, agreeing that Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the new state. The Palestinians would maintain control over their holy places and have “religious sovereignty” over the Temple Mount.
      The proposal also addressed the refugee issue, guaranteeing them the right of return to the Palestinian state and reparations from a $30 billion international fund that would be collected to compensate them.
      Israel also agreed to give the Palestinians access to water desalinated in its territory.

      Arafat (leader of PLO) denied this.

      To counter the perception that Arafat was the obstacle to peace, the Palestinians and their supporters then began to suggest a variety of excuses for why Arafat failed to say “yes” to a proposal that would have established a Palestinian state. The truth is that if the Palestinians were dissatisfied with any part of the Israeli proposal, all they had to do was offer a counterproposal. They never did.

  9. akranc3 says:

    Good transition from India and Pakistan to Israel and Palestine. Most of us, if not all of us, should know about the India-Pakistan split, why it happened, and what resulted from it. It is clear that history repeats itself, and this is a good example. We can only hope that there will be a peaceful resolution to the current Israel situation, and nothing as horrific as the mass genocides which occurred in 1947.

  10. mjuren3 says:

    Very interesting article, I like how it tied in so well with the class. I’m not sure what if anything will end up being the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I agree with the comment above in that nothing will change until the two sides both agree to stop fighting and killing each other…and then actually carry out that promise. You can’t end a conflict with so much history of hatred, resentment, and violence overnight. It would take a very, very long time before I think the two sides would ever be ready for a one state solution. A people cannot coexist if they have such strong negative sentiment against each other. However, one of the main themes I’ve picked up in the class is that when people actually know and live/work with people of other ethnicities/nationalities/religions in their day to day lives they are generally much more tolerant and level-headed in their opinions about the other. So perhaps a slow integration of the societies would eventually diffuse the concentration of hatred and mistrust in order to one day allow the two to live in peace.

  11. kledbetter6 says:

    The comparison between the situations in India and Israel is apt, though I never would have drawn the connection myself. I wonder, if there were separate states of Israel and Palestine with defined borders, if the fighting would stop. I think such a solution would still require increased understanding and cooperation between the two countries. Though most of the reasons they currently claim to be fighting for would be eliminated by a two-state solution, I can imagine a war starting at the slightest provocation.

  12. In my opinion, the world will maintain in the state of consistent conflicts even if religions never exist. There will be conflicts about social ideology, territory, and ethnicity. Religion is mainly a tool, in most political realists’ eyes, for the rulers to motivate citizens to fight, or to justify their stances in each of these conflicts. Gandhi is right about the point that people with different religious beliefs can live harmoniously together in one nation, but it won’t solve the problem about all the conflicts around the world.

  13. nholdaway3 says:

    It is interesting you mentioned the cycle of violence during and after the split. When one side hurts the other, they retaliate to get revenge. For India and Pakistan, it seems they have been doing this since the split in 1947. I do not see Israeli conflict ending in a different way unless people want to stop seeking revenge for past actions.

  14. jkipp3 says:

    Thanks for shedding some light on this situation. To be honest, I have always wondered why the India vs. Pakistan cricket rivalry is so heated.

  15. ojanus3 says:

    I really enjoyed the comparison of the partition of India and Pakistan against the partition of Israel and Palestine. In the past week or two in our discussion of solutions for the issue surrounding Israel and Palestine I find it interesting that they are unable to put their differences aside and live in one peaceful state. (I understand at this point a lot is hatred due to the savage nature of feud, however…) My thoughts on this I guess are based on the fact that I am from the United States- a huge melting pot. I can’t imagine not being able to get along with the Muslims, Hindus, Jews that many of my friends are.

  16. phillipscheng says:

    Interesting – I liked reading about a parallel conflict. It was interesting to think about the potential roots of each conflict and how they compare and contrast. I feel both conflicts have much of their modern day conflicts rooted in a culture of suspicion and grudging remembrances.

  17. drippykins says:

    I think in these two cases, a unified state is unrealistic. It’s difficult for non-homogenous populations to coexist as one state, particularly two groups that are deeply rooted in different religions and cultural ideals. Gandhi wasn’t wrong to think it possible, but maybe unrealistic. After so many years, the disagreement, resentment and perhaps hatred is so ingrained that unification seems unlikely and unnecessary. I’d argue the best bet is to establish separate states that can peacefully coexist.

  18. Jeffrey Lester says:

    The idea of a one state solution is a noble one indeed but I don’t think that it will ever come to fruition. The two states in question were formed exclusively on a religious basis and I just don’t see them overcoming that to have one government. I do think that in this day and age a peaceful resolution can be implemented. I think that the situation with the Israel-Palistine land dispute is different in that both sides aren’t going to come to an agreement unless they are both happy. If they both come to an agreement and are both happy or at least content then I doubt we will see any genocide or mass violence during the transition.

  19. mnicholas6 says:

    History really does repeat itself. Compromise is always hard when each party thinks they’re right and without fault. Hopefully the regions mentioned can find some peace before they destroy each other.

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