By Amit Roy
PARTITION is never a good solution for a country, as was demonstrated by the example of India, but perhaps after the death of George Floyd, the time has come to recognise that there ought to be two countries – a white United States of America and a black USA.
In the case of India, Partition triggered a tragedy of epic proportions in which a million people died as Hindus and Sikhs on the one hand, and Muslims on the other, were caught on the wrong side of hastily drawn borders.
Rightly or wrongly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, once hailed as “the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, changed his mind and decided that after the British left India, Muslims could no longer live in safety in a Hindu-dominated country. More than 70 years on, there are as many Muslims in India as the population of Pakistan. And the secession of East Pakistan to form Bangladesh in 1971 proved that Islam was not sufficient as a glue to hold together the two wings of Pakistan, separated by a thousand miles of India.
In India, during the time of the Mughal emperors, the Muslims had been the ruling class. But even in Kashmir, such a disputed region today, Hindus and Muslims had lived harmoniously alongside each other for 1,000 years.
In Bengal, on the other side of the country, Bengalis – both Hindus and Muslims – were united by their culture. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, had once said: “First I am a human being, then a Bengali, and after that a Muslim.”
The problem with America is that the fundamental truth about the black presence in the country cannot be changed. It goes back to the slave trade. To be sure, there has been progress, otherwise America could not have had a black president. But the image from Minneapolis, of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on the neck of Floyd, a black man, who died an hour or so later, has gone around the world.
The protests over his death have spread to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta, Portland, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, and even in front of the White House in Washington. Last Sunday (31), there was a demonstration outside the US embassy in Battersea, south London.
As the violence got out of hand in Minneapolis and elsewhere, the National Guard was deployed, with president Donald Trump’s tweet reflecting the views of a white American: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Part of America is still the Wild West. Sooner or later, another black man will be killed by a white police officer, as has happened far too often in the past. Of course, “black lives matter”, so maybe the time has come for “African Americans”, who make up 13 per of the 331-million population of the Disunited States of America, to take control of their own lives.
Economically, the chances are that black people will do less well in a black USA – initially, anyway – but at least they will able to breathe, metaphorically and literally.
After all, Floyd’s last words before he died were: “Please, I can’t breathe.”