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Friday, February 16, 2024

The Spellbinders of Hindustan

This article aims at describing the role of spellbinders in the Hindustan Peninsula during the twilight years of the British Raj. Even though the people of the subcontinent are extremely religious-minded, we find that both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League were essentially secular parties.

Spellbinder is a novel written by Harold Robbins in which he emphasizes that even the sacred isn’t sacred. He aims for the world of religious revivalism. They’re all over the airwaves-the televangelists-promising eternal salvation for an earthly price. The biggest of them all simply calls himself “Preacher.” He begins his career in the foxholes of Vietnam, with a noble goal: spread the word of peace, love, and charity. Back home in the States, he starts “The Church,” where sex and drugs are as much a part of the culture as prayers and sacraments.

Preacher’s following grows as he travels throughout the country, taking the faithful. In Texas, he meets up with a powerful billionaire who likes his style. Before long, Preacher is the top entertainer in the televised arena of big-top, big-time religion for profit. Somewhere deep inside Preacher, a guilty conscience burns, and he knows he must make a terrible sacrifice to expose the hypocrisy.

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Understanding the matter better

This article aims at describing the role of spellbinders in the Hindustan Peninsula during the twilight years of the British Raj. Even though the people of the subcontinent are extremely religious-minded, we find that both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League were essentially secular parties. Nehru and Jinnah, the leading lights of the freedom movement, were thoroughly disliked, rather hated, by the communal parties preaching Hindu and Muslim doctrines. Nehru didn’t believe in God. Jinnah was an agnostic

Interestingly, the same happened in the British-mandated Palestine where the Zionists were led by Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir who did not believe in the Jewish religion. While the Zionists were struggling to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, a significant proportion of the ultra-religious Jews considered it blasphemy if a Jewish state were established before the advent of the legendary Jewish Messiah. The ultra-orthodox Jews still don’t believe in Israel. Whereas every able-bodied Israeli Jew has to undergo a compulsory military draft, the ultra-orthodox Jews are exempted from it.

What were the reasons for Israel and Pakistan, founded based on religion, to be led by secular leadership? And why the Indian National Congress, patronized by a Hindu Mahatma, had to restrict him to a titular role? Nehru, the atheist, ruled independent India for seventeen years and built it in his image. It is an intriguing story that, after Indira Gandhi, India also regressed into a rabidly anti-Muslim state. “We feed milk to our gods, and drink cow urine”, laments an Indian Twitter.

Bhartiya Jana Sangha was an Indian right-wing political party that existed from 1951 to 1977 and was the political arm of RSS, a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization. In 1977, it merged with several other lefts, center, and right parties opposed to the Indian National Congress and formed the Janata party. In 1980, the Jana Sangh faction broke away from Janata Party over the issue of dual membership (of the political Janata Party and the social organization RSS) and formed the BJP.

Even as it happened with the Hindus, orthodox Muslim political leaders never cut ice with Jinnah and labeled him as Kafir-e Azam (The great infidel). Maulana Azad, a Congress heavyweight, and interpreter of the Quran, vehemently opposed the partition of India. Nevertheless, he had a secret wish to become “Imam ul Hind”. After the “vivisection of Mother India’ leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI, and the Khaksar (to name a few), closed their offices in India and stormed into Pakistan. Seven decades after independence, they have not reconciled with the idea of Pakistan. This brings us to the fantasy of “Jesus in Kashmir” – the Qadiani mythology that Jesus died in Kashmir and was buried in Srinagar.

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MirzāGhulām Ahmad (13 February 1835 – 26 May 1908) was an Indian religious leader and the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, disguised as a breakaway sect of Islam. He claimed to have been divinely appointed as the promised Messiah and Mahdi—which is the metaphorical second coming of Jesus (mathīl-iʿIsā), in fulfillment of Islam’s latter-day prophecies, as well as the Mujadid (centennial reviver) of the 14th Islamic century. Mirza died and was buried in Qadian, a city and a municipal council in Gurdaspur district, northeast of Amritsar, situated 18 kilometers northeast of Batala city in the Indian state of East Punjab.

As stated earlier, after the “Vivisection of Mother India’, the leadership of JI, JUI, Khaksar, and Qadianis migrated to Pakistan.  Maulana Azad also realized the bankruptcy of his political dogma. His change of heart is amply demonstrated in “ India Wins Freedom”- Azad’s post-independence testament. Among all of them, the Qadianis were the most scheming in their attempts in establishing a Qadiani state in Pakistan. They established their headquarters and caliphate in Rabwah, on the banks of river Chenab, near Chiniot. Qadiani movement had a strong political dimension which eventually led to their ex-communication – they were declared non-Muslims. After getting declared non-Muslim, the Qadiani caliphate shifted to London, lock-stock, and barrel.

Kartarpur is a town in the Shakargarh Tehsil of Narowal , Pakistani Punjab. Located on the right bank of the Ravi River. It is said to have been founded by the first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, who established the first Sikh commune. Kartarpur is located in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor. Its western boundary is defined by as River Chenab which enters Pakistan in the vicinity of Marala, north of Sialkot, and, flowing northeast to southwest, cuts Grand Trunk Road southwest of Gujrat. The eastern boundary of the corridor is marked by river Ravi. Here, the Radcliffe line, running roughly parallel to the river, at places decides to cut right through it, creating several Pakistani and Indian enclaves on both sides, notably the Pakistani enclave at Jassar and the adjacent Indian enclave at Dharam.

North of Marala the border juts into India like a dagger, forming the so-called Chicken’s Neck. Immediately to the east of Chicken’s Neck the border, south of Jammu, dips into Pakistani territory and creates the Charwasalient. Next to it is Pakistan’s Shakargarh salient. Between the two rivers, there are many tributaries of river Chenab flowing along the grain of the ground–from northeast to southwest.

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Kartarpur is a visa-free-free border crossing and religious corridor, connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, near Lahore to Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab. The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurudwara in Kartarpur, Pakistan, 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side without a visa. The corridor was proposed by Navjot Singh Sidhu, a former Indian cricketer, and politician, to General Qamar Javed Bajwa. On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid on the Indian side by Prime Minister Narendra Modi; two days later, then-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did the same for the Pakistani side. The corridor was completed for the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, on 12 November 2019.

While the Kartarpur Corridor is operationalized, ostensibly to facilitate the Indian Sikhs, one should not ignore that Qadian, the birthplace of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the Punjabi prophet, is located just 45.5 km to the east of Kartarpur. There is a strong likelihood that sometime in the future the Qadianis, through their foreign interlocuters, will demand a corridor linking Qadian with Rabwah. They have not given up on their ambition to create a state – a sort of Qadiani Vatican, in the heartland of Pakistani Punjab.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.