Basis for a StatePosted: May 11, 2008
I am reading The Indus Sage (i am sure you would know this by now, but for those of us who dont …) these days. So, for the next few days, you can expect more on the subject. One issue the book raises is that Indus (modern day Pakistan, the geography around the Indus river, and its tributaries), and India have always been two distinct civilizations. By and large, i agree with the hypothesis, but there are areas of the argument which Mr. Ahsan raises, which i cant get myself to agree with.
First of all, i am not too comfortable with the idea of defining a civilization based on geographical characteristics alone. While historically, we have talked about the Indus Valley civilization, and most ancient civilizations flourished around sources of water, the scenario today doesnt necessarily seem to be the same. The importance of having big cities close to rivers is not as much of importance today as it was in ancient ages. This is not to undermine the importance of water sources, but this is taking into consideration the way human civilization has evolved over the last few millenia.
As such, i am more comfortable with defining a civilization culturally rather than based on proximity to geographical characteristics by themselves. This, to my mind, is a definition which tends to be far more robust. This doesnt really tend to go down well with the modern definition of Pakistan, but then a lot of other things dont either.
1. I get the feeling that the entire idea of the Indus civilization is related to Islam. Historically, it may not have been, since the region was primarily Hindu and Buddhist over a period of time, but since the advent of Islam, the identity seems to be more and derived, and even more so since the creation of Pakistan, the identity of Pakistan seems to be have been defined even more based on Islam if Mohajirs are people who reverted to their Indus heritage, even if they find their home and roots in the Gangetic plains. Having said that, i do agree with Mr. Ahsan that Islam is not the defining characteristic of the Indus civilization. More about this in point 3.
2. If the civilization is going to be defined based on geographical characteristics, then the logic holds true, but if it is not, then the entire argument of declaring Kashmir an inseparable part of the Indus civilization loses its entire foundation. For, culturally, Kashimir can in no way found to be congruous to the Punjabi or Sindhi. Besides, if we are to define a civilization based purely on geographical characteristics, then maybe Tibet should also be a part of Indus, since the Indus river originates there. This doesnt stand to reason.
3. None of these considerations (except religion), can define the true nature of Indus, considering East Pakistan being a part of Pakistan. But, this by itself proves that religion is not the founding stone of the Indus of today, given that if it were, the centrifugal force which created Bangladesh would not have existed.
In a nutshell, i agree with Mr. Ahsan that the culture and civilization of Indus is distinct from an Indian civilization. I just dont agree with too many of the conclusions he seems to draw from this fact.