Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rise of Muslim Communalism and Partition of India

Centuries before the British rule in India, the Hindus and Muslims had lived together without any bitterness and the century’s long cordial interactions and inter-relations between the two communities led to the growth of rich composite culture. But with the coming of the British, the Indian social scenario, where all communities had been living undiluted understanding, love and regard for each other, was caught in the whirlpool of bitter misunderstanding and communal discord.

The communal problem in India is of recent origin later half of the 19th century. Moreover, the communal problem at its base was more politically motivated than religiously oriented. The founding fathers of the communal triangle in modern India were the British rulers, who were neither the true friends of the Muslims nor the foes of the Hindus. They were true friends of the British Imperialism and acted on the tested the tried maxim of Divide et Impera.

Until the seventies of the 19th century it suited the Imperial interests to support the Hindus and they did it. The British looked upon the Muslims as Chief conspirators in the revolt of 1857. The Wahabi movement confirmed their suspicion. But towards the 1870s, the British policy towards the Hindus perceptibly changed, because politically more volatile Hindus posed a serious threat to the stability of British rule in India.

The Anglo-Indian bureaucracy which worked at the grassroots of British administration in India worked for a change of British policy. Subsequently, the utterances and changing policies of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan also fell in line with the British Imperialism. In 1884, Sir Syed described the Hindus and the Muslims as “two eyes of a beautiful bride, i. e. India”. In sharp contrast with this in 1888, he maintained that "the Hindus and Muslims were not only two nations, but as two warring nations who could never lead a common political life, should ever the British quit India”. A true devotee of the Muslim cause, Syed Ahmad Khan was fully aware of the Muslim backwardness in the fields of education and politics and came to the conclusion that India was not fit for the introduction of Western Political institutions, for his community could not get its due share in it. This fear took the form of the Hinduphobia and loomed large in all subsequent Muslim Political thinking.

Causes for the Growth of Communalism



  1. The Anglo-Indian administrators were quick to work on Muslim apprehensions and strove to drive a wedge between the Hindu and the Muslims. The three British principals of the MAO college, Beck, Morrison and Arch-bold gave the pro-British and anti-Hindu bias to the Aligarh Movement. The Aligarh Movement worked to instill into the minds of the Muslims a spirit of loyalty towards the British Crown and worked consciously and deliberately to keep them away from the main stream of Indian political life.

  2. British writers on Indian history also served the Imperial cause by initiating, developing and emphasizing the Hindu-Muslim approach in their study of Indian history and development of Indian culture. This communal approach to Indian history fostered the communal way of thinking.

  3. The religious reform and revival movements - both the Hindu and Muslim - of the 19th century contained some mutually contradictory aspects. These movements were launched to purge Hinduism and Islam of irrational and obscurest tendencies but these generated some unhealthy tendencies. The Wahabis’ crusade against all non-Muslims and aim to establish Dar-ul-lslam (the world of the Islam) was an odious to Hindus as Dayanand’s slogan of Aryanisation of India and aim of Shuddhi (conversions of non-Hindu to Hinduism) were unpalatable to Muslims.

  4. Similarly the militant nationalists of the early 20th century in their search for ‘national heroes’ and ‘hero myths’ referred to Maharana Pratap, Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh as national heroes and the Muslim rulers like Akbar, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb as ‘foreigners’.

  5. This enormous patronage in higher and subordinate services was cleverly used by the rulers to promote rivalry and discord among different sections of society. “It led to demoralization and conflict and the government could play one group against the other'.

  6. The imperial administrators right from the Secretary of State in England to the District Officer in India, all were convinced that adequate ‘counterpoises’ to the growing strength of the Indian National Congress must be found, if the British rule in India was to be stable. One such counterpoise though about was the official acceptance of the principle of separate Muslim electorates; i. e. reservation of seats for the Muslim community and election to such seats to be made by separate Muslim electorates.

  7. The All India Muslim League was formerly inaugurated on 30 December 1906 primarily to promote among Indian Moslems feelings of loyalty towards the British Government. British Imperial policies in India provided a congenial climate for the emergence growth and popularity of communal organisations. A communal organisation though outwardly organised to promote the interests of a particular community also indirectly promoted British imperial interests apart from serving the personal ambition of opportunistic leadership. This was true not only of the Muslim League but also of the other communal organisations.

  8. As a counterpoise to the Muslim League, a group of Hindus decided to organise the Hindu Mahasabha in 1910. The Hindu Mahasabha never gained that popularity with the Hindu masses as the Muslim League did with the Muslims in India. But the Hindu Mahasabha’s propaganda of a Hindu race, Hindu culture and civilisation and Hidnu Rashtra (nation) in India did harden the Muslim League’s attitude and made it more suspicious and more determined to demand Pakistan. However, it is to be stated that the Muslim League was the first ever communal organisation to come into existence and all other communal organisations in India were born after it, as a counterpoise to each other.



Towards the Demand of a Separate Muslim State


Rise of Muslim Communalism and Partition of IndiaDuring the first decade of the foundation of the League, it worked relentlessly for the continuance of the British rule in India and to that and in view opposed the nationalist activities of the INC. The true political idea behind this thinking of the League was that “If the British rule disappears from India, Hindus will Lord over it; and we will be in constant danger of life, property and honour. The only way for the Muslims to escape this danger is to help in the continuance of the British rule. Let the Muslims consider themselves as a British army ready to shed their blood and sacrifice their lives for the British Crown".

Shortly before the First World War the Muslim League came under the influence of the progressive leaders and as a natural consequence of the events of the First World War - i. e. defeat of Turkey and deposition of the Sultan of Turkey, who was also Caliph of the Islamic world etc., the League came closer to the I. N. C. It entered into a pact (Lucknow Pact) with the INC and supported the non-cooperation movement. But after the suspension of the movement, the League became sworn enemy of the INC and came to adopt bitter communal overtures. By 1934, M. A. Jinnah became its undisputed leader. The British constitutional measures from 1909 to 1935, further widened the gulf between the Hindus and Muslims and the League openly came to vigorously propagate and work for the two nation theory.

When the Second World War broke out the Muslim League, while sympathising with the British, refused to offer its support unless it was recognized as the only representative organization of the Muslims. It also asked for an assurance that no constitution would be framed without the consent and approval of the Muslim League. The League condemned the Provincial Autonomy and bitterly complained that the experience of the past two years had “established beyond doubt” that "the life and liberty, property and honour” of the Muslim minorities under the Congress Government in various provinces were in grave danger and their religious rights and culture were being “as sailed and annihilated every day".

In the early years of the war, the Muslim League remained firm in its attitude of non-cooperation with the British Government. The “August Offer", though not completely satisfactory to the League, allayed their fears of a Congress Raj in India. The League proclaimed that partition of India was the only solution. It was ready to offer co-operation on the acceptance of the ‘two- nation’ theory.

For quite some time a section of the Muslim Intelligentsia was nourishing the idea of a separate independent Muslim State in India. The ideological and political background had of course been prepared by the Aligarh movement, the foundation of the Muslim League, followed by the Morley-Minto reforms, introducing separate electorates. The ’two-nation’ theory had taken deep roots by the end of the 1920s. However, it was Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938), the well- known poet, who first articulated the demand for a separate Muslim State in the India sub-continent. He was essentially a philosopher and a poet. He presided over the Allahabad Session of the Muslim League in 1930. He said, “I would like to see the Punjab the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan, amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British empire or without the British empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to be the final destiny of the Muslims of North-West India”. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Iqbal “fertilized the soil for the growth of Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan movement”.

The idea of a separate Muslim State in a new form, was elaborated by a group of young Muslim students in England at the time of the Round Table Conference. One of them, Rahmat Ali, conveyed to the Muslim delegates to the Round Table Conference the scheme of a separate Muslim homeland consisting of the Punjab, North-West Frontier or Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. The proposed separate Muslim istate was to be named PAKISTAN (sacred land). The name was derived by taking the first letter of the first four provinces and the end of the last named province. Rahmat Ali founded the Pakistan National Movement in 1933 to propagate the idea. In the early forties when Mr. M. A. Jinnah emerged as the Leader of Muslim League the Pakistan movement gained momentum. He began to propagate that from the view point of history, culture, law and in all other respects the Muslims were different. They were a separate nation. The Muslims had no social and cultural traits in common with the Hindus. The formation of the Congress Ministries in July 1937 saw the emergence of the Muslim League as a major competing force in nation politics. Other Muslim leaders gave a call for Muslim unity and they recognised the personal authority of Jinnah.


Pakistan Resolution


In December 1938, Jinnah made a scathing criticism of the Congress and blamed it for killing "every hope of the Hindu-Muslim settlement in the right royal fashion of Fascism. The Congress, he said, was nothing but a Hindu body and

he held Gandhiji responsible “for turning the Congress into an instrument for the revival of Hinduism”. He accused Gandhiji of trying to establish a “Hindu Raj” in India and utilising the Congress to further that objective. When the Congress Ministries resigned (October-November, 1939) Jinnah was overwhelmed with joy and he appealed to the Muslims all over India to observe December 22, 1939 as the “Day of Deliverance” and thanks giving as a mark of relief that the Congress regime had at last ceased to function. Jinnah’s “propaganda pistol was double- barelled”, trying to mobilise Muslim support with two slogans. The first was that the Congress Government were ruthless with the Muslims. The second was that the Muslims were not a minority but a nation in the sub-continent. His new political thesis were that democratic parliamentary government was un-workable in India; Indian Muslims wanted to develop their own political, economic, social and cultural institutions according to their own genius; the Muslim League was the only representative organization of the Muslims and no constitution was acceptable to them unless it was approved by the Muslim League; Hindus and Muslims being two separate nations, the majority principle which led to the rule of the major nation was unsuitable in India.

In March 1940, the Muslim League in the Lahore Session declared that the Muslims in India must have a separate independent State. In his presidential address M. A. Jinnah declared, "If the British government are really earnest and sincere to secure peace and happiness of the people of the sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into autonomous national States”. The Muslim League adopted a resolution in this session, famous as the Pakistan Resolution reiterating its total rejection of the scheme of Federation embodied in the Government of India Act of 1935. It demanded that the areas in which the Muslims had numerical majority “should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.

The League, it was not evident, would not be satisfied with anything but the formation of Pakistan as a State of which “Ahmad was the philosopher, Iqbal the prophet and Jinnah the statesman-creator”.

The Muslim League, while welcoming the implicit recognition of the possibility of Pakistan, rejected, the Cripps’ Declaration because it had given greater importance and priority to the creation of one Indian Union. The League reaffirmed its conviction that “the only solution of India’s constitutional problem is the partition of India, into independent zones... ” The Cripps’ proposals had not recognised separate electorates for the constitution-making body.

Reference : Partition Stories - Google Books


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