Dhulipala’s methodological posture is a refreshing departure from academic histories in which the saga of partition only unfolds through the hidden motives and intrigues of nationalist elites. At the very outset of the book, he therefore rejects the famous “bargaining counter” thesis that sees Pakistan as the unintended outcome of a failed political bargain by its founder
Pakistan’s descent into violent forms of religious extremism has recently become the subject of best-selling books. Causal explanations for the country’s current state of crisis rely on either one or some combination of the following: incomplete modernization, persistent religious dogma and super-stition as impediments to secularization, disruptions in democratic rule by a strong military junta, American interventionism and surrogate warfare, etc. For those not captive to a view of the present, the roots of Pakistan’s religious predicament may even be traced to the country’s inception with the partition of British India in 1947. Nationalist autobiographies of both Pakistan and India remember partition and its attendant violence in starkly different terms. Whereas for the former partition symbolizes the glory of sacrifice that earned Indian Muslims their independence in the form of a separate homeland, for the latter it marks a disruption of irrational communalist fervor in what was to be an anti-colonial liberation struggle for a united India. India and Pakistan became nation-states in 1947, but the historical consciousness that renders them immemorial draws on the originary violence of partition: the nation is consecrated once bonds of community are forged in the glory and tragedy of bloodshed.