Tagore’s foreboding about the aftermath of empire proved all too prophetic, not just for India, but for post-colonial states at large. The magic formula ‘divide et impera’ left communities in many of these countries bitterly polarised, often with some sections resenting others—generally minorities—for having been patronised by the colonial state. Differences and historical divisions, coaxed out by imperial midwifery, came to the fore in the narratives being constructed. Arbitrary borders left some communities split between states, and forced others to live with hated neighbours.
All this would erupt in the wake of independence in the 20th century, leading to civil war, ethnic cleansing and some of history’s most terrible genocides. Many of the resulting communal conflicts have continued in hot and cold phases and show no signs of abating, as seen in the ongoing Syrian Civil War and the Israel-Palestine impasse.
- Palestine A Jewish state became a realistic proposition after the British betrayed their promise to the Arabs (who they were inciting to rebel against the Ottomans) via the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917. Europe virtually exported its ‘Jewish problem’ to the Middle East with Israel’s creation in 1948; this was followed by a Palestinian exodus and a crisis that is still ongoing, with no resolution in sight.
- Lebanon The civil war in Lebanon began in 1975 and continued till 1990, resulting in the death of close to 1,20,000 people. The French controlled the West Asian country between 1920 and 1943, favouring the Christians in a Muslim-majority country. Many pan-Arabic and left-leaning forces who allied with the Palestinians were against the succeeding government, which they thought was...