India, Bharat and Pakistan : The Constitutional Journey of a Sandwiched Civilisation


India, Bharat and Pakistan : The Constitutional Journey of a Sandwiched Civilisation
by J. Sai Deepak
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2022)

In a discussion with the author–scientist Dr Anand Ranganathan at the book launch of the second book of the Bharat Trilogy, the author was asked as to why he chose the colour green as the book cover as it’s indicative of a particular community and country, to which the author replied asserting that he is trying to ‘bust’ a myth that a particular colour belongs to a particular community, and if at all it belongs to a community, then it belongs to us as we are the oldest. This in my opinion, perfectly summarizes J Sai Deepak’s (JSD hereinafter) approach and viewpoint that he has followed with his infamous Bharat Trilogy.

The first book in the trilogy, ‘India That Is Bharat: Coloniality, Civilisation, Constitution’ talked about the history and concept of coloniality and how European colonizers destroyed the Bhartiya fabric through a two-pronged approach i.e., Economic and Religious domination. Not only were the European colonizers engaging in the economic exploitation of the resources of the countries they were colonizing but at the same were also operating with the imperative of ‘Christian Evangelism’ and were trying to convert more and more natives to the Christian faith. This was done mostly by making the native culture subservient to the western thought and by labelling the former as primitive whereas the latter was supposed to be ‘rational’ and ‘scientific.’

The second book, India, Bharat and Pakistan – The Constitutional Journey of A Sandwiched Civilisation takes the discussion forward from its impactful prequel. While the prequel talked about the period ranging from the year 1493 to 1919, the sequel deals with the time period 1740 to 1924. Thus, compared to the first book, the second book deals with a lesser time period and yet is thicker than the prequel. (it runs into 632 pages whereas the prequel has 484

The reason the author takes us a ‘few’ hundred years back is to make us understand the rise of various pan-Islamic movements such as Barelvi, Wahabi, Deobandi, Aligarh and Nadwah and how they grew in the sub-continent. The author tries to build on the argument that these movements had a direct impact on the formation of the ‘Two Nation Theory’ and the same led to the subsequent painful partition of Bharat. JSD again follows the methodology of exposition wherein he like a lawyer puts forth his submission followed by the sources that he is relying on, from legislative debates to speeches, letters to newspaper reports, he cites them all. This gives a lot of leeway to the reader to engage with the text. Further, a commendable aspect of the author is also the way he spins a uniform narrative backed strongly by facts. At no point the author uses rhetorical submissions for assertion and nowhere an opinion or an ideology is imposed on the readers with which they have to compulsory agree.

If I were to go into the specifics of the incidents that are discussed in the book, then the review itself will end up becoming voluminous. Therefore, I would like to talk about two aspects that I liked the most about the book. First is the explanation provided by the author for the ‘Two-Nation Theory.’ Many of us believe (courtesy our textbooks and mainstream historians) that the demand for Pakistan took place after the Lahore Declaration in 1940. The author however disagrees and instead highlights that this was not a political idea by the Muslim League but instead was a religious idea given by a few staunch Muslim factions (that have been mentioned earlier in the review) and the reason behind the same was that one of the fundamental principles of Islam is to reside in a country where Sharia law is in place. With the decline of the Mughals, the Islamic revivalist movement came up so that the Muslim prominence is not lost.

The second aspect that I liked about the book was how the author makes a distressing revelation about the Khilafat movement and how contrary to the popular perception of being an opposing movement to the British, it was instead a movement to establish the rule of the Caliph across non-Islamic countries as the Muslim leaders feared that the Hindu majority in the sub-continent will lead to the establishment of a Hindu majority administration. This was not acceptable to the Muslim leaders mostly because they did not approve of the polytheistic nature of Hindus.

The book also examines Mahatma Gandhi’s support to the movement and asserts that the same was political naivety. In the similar thread, the author also describes the Moplah genocide, something that has been missing from the mainstream history and textbooks that should be talked about.

A special mention should also be given to the author’s narration about the Aligarh movement and the role of Syed Ahmed Khan which highlights how educational spaces also ended up becoming spaces of Islamic indoctrination. Broadly speaking, and summarising the book in one line – the author talks about how Middle Eastern coloniality and Islamic Revivalism coupled with European coloniality made Bharat a ‘sandwiched’ (as mentioned in the title of the book) civilisation and decided the fate of our present state.

Now considering this is a book review, in addition to the substance of the book, a discussion needs to be done around the writing style of the author. I appreciate that JSD has this time improved his writing style and has significantly reduced the legalese that was a major roadblock in understanding the first book, especially for a layman who is not accustomed to reading what I can call a ‘legal-submission’ based format.

That being said; he still follows an exposition-based writing style in which he produces the verbatim extracts of speeches and documents that he relies on to build his argument. A personal preference for me is that either the original sources are cited only in the footnotes or provided in the Appendix. I have read authors who like to reproduce text from original sources amidst their prose. The problem arises when instead of some places, the same pervades the entire text. This breaks the coherency of the book and distracts the reader and more often than not, the message that the prose wants to deliver gets lost in the process. This way of writing can be attributed to maybe the author’s profession but the fact that JSD is passionate about both Legal History as well as Constitutional History puts this piece of work in a tricky position wherein on one hand it has a lot of points to make but at the same time it makes them in such a manner that one needs to be attentive throughout.

My final recommendation to the readers would be to still go ahead and pick up the two books. One has to read the prequel before reading this one, and it is not that the contents of the second book will be impossible to comprehend without reading the first one. It is just that there are certain overarching themes that the author wants to touch upon and that cannot be understood in isolation. Lastly, these are not the books that one can read in one or two or
even continuous sittings. Rather, these are the books that one keeps on her bookshelf and keeps on revisiting once in a while to appreciate the nuances and detailing in a more fulfilling way.


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