As a student in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the eighties, I would sometimes hitch-hike, as people still did at the beginning of the 80s. Anyway one day there was me on my way from Coleraine down to Larne and just outside Ballymena, with the rain teeming down, the driver of my car asked me, a very simple question, “now, yur a university man, urnt ye? so just tell me wan thing, if Maggie Thatcher can send half the British Navy, half way aroon the world, (the said gentleman was referring to a certain crisis in the South Atlantic)fur the sake oh a few sheep, why cant she send the whole British Army ower here and chase these bastards doon tae Cork? So, being a university man, I started babbling on about the artificial border from 1921 and before you could say, bob’s your uncle, not that you are likely ever to say that, there was the car screeching to a halt and “yer man” saying to me, “out” and there was me standing at Ballymena roundabout getting soaked to the skin. In retrospect it was me saying, “artificial border” that got me thrown out of the car and the episode constituted a little personal inconvenience of mine due to one particular British fuck-up when it came to drawing borders. Of course, it is a personal inconvenience, which pales into insignificance when compared to the grief that this and other borders have caused. This week in Mumbai we were reminded of that once again.
On the Indian sub-continent in 1947 we had a massive ethnic cleansing, which saw millions dead, we saw the creation of the very artificial state of Pakistan, which, was based on religion and was split into two very unequal and distinct parts and this led to one of those parts, East Pakistan, not only being oppressed by the western part of the country but also being deprived of its industrial core which is now based in the Indian state of Bengal. The war of 1971, which resulted in the state of Bangladesh, solved one of those problems, the other problem will probably never be solved. There were, of course, lots of other problems, the large Muslim minority in India, the north western border of Pakistan, the whole problem of large ethnic minorities in both India and Pakistan. However, to cut a lot of long stories short, let’s just concentrate on the “enlightened” Maharaja of Kashmir, a certain Sir Hari Singh, yes, that’s right, “Sir”, decided to take “his” state into India despite its population being 77% Muslim, the British didn’t really do much to stop him, and that is where the lions share of the state still is.
Now, at the end of the day, I think we have to solve the national question before we move onto other matters. That question has not quite been resolved in Ireland but at least there the fascist state in the six counties that the Civil Rights movement of 1968 protested against has been largely dismantled. It is possible today to be Irish and live in Northern Ireland or, if you prefer, the north of Ireland. Moreover, in Scotland, well, all things being considered, English policemen do not enter Scottish homes and beat up Scottish nationalists and, if they did, the union wouldn’t last more than a couple of days. Suicide attacks from Ireland and Scotland are not going to happen. However, yesterday there was an interesting article from William Dalrymple in the ‘Guardian’, he wrote, “Three weeks ago, in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, I met a young surgeon named Dr Iqbal Saleem. Iqbal described to me how on 11 August this year, Indian security forces entered the hospital where he was fighting to save the lives of unarmed civilian protesters who had been shot earlier that day by the Indian army. The operating theatre had been tear-gassed and the wards riddled with bullets, creating panic and injuring several of the nurses. Iqbal had trained at the Apollo hospital in Delhi and said he harboured no hatred against Hindus or Indians. But the incident had profoundly disgusted him and the unrepentant actions of the security forces, combined with the indifference of the Indian media, had convinced him that Kashmir needed its independence”(1) The point is this; fuck-ups caused by the Brits as they aided and abetted a motley collection of crusading Calvinists, zany Zionists, hapless Hindus and mindless Muslims, while trying to pursue their own political objectives by proxy, are not going to be that easy to resolve. However, when the Israelis and the Indians start to treat the Palestinians and the Kashmir Muslims as human beings and as equals, we might really begin to wonder at terrorist attacks coming from those people. Back in the early eighties I could understand the hate of an Irishman or woman from West Belfast or Derry and I would not have been surprised if he or she had decided to take up arms against Britain. Today, if someone from the IRA were to plant a bomb I would consider it a heinous criminal act.
The picture shows officials from both sides of the sectarian divide having a friendly chat at the artificial border in 1922.
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