enigmatic indian partition
In view of the Jaswant Singh’s recently released book, ‘Jinah; India, partition and independence’ the debate on the Jinah’s reinvented role in the partition goes unabated. While the eminent writers keep writing columns on the subject, following historical facts, I think, may be of some help to understand as to why the partition could not be averted.
1. The common notion that Muslims were discriminated and had been slow in taking advantage of western education and the competition for jobs and economic advancement might be true for West Bengal or Sind but not the Western UP where Muslims were forward in education and employment and wanted to preserve their strong position than to improve weak position. Muslim elite preferred to choose ‘divisive’ for they did not recognize a common destiny with Hindus. The faster social mobilization of Hindus than Muslim elite, led to the feeling of the latter to lose privileges to the dominant Hindu community and therefore to a sense of history incompatible with Hindu aspirations and an apprehension of Muslim decline into backwardness. In 1909 when government became less concerned to woo Muslims after 1909 and was more concerned to woo landed groups instead, the Muslims identity lost force in politics.
2. Commercialization of royal power in the 17th and 18th century helped to bring about the development of a rooted Islamic service gentry and a unified merchant class. These were distinct social formations expressing themselves in different cultural idioms and operating in sharply differentiated contexts—the Hindu and Islamic high cultures (C.A. Bayly). Islamic service gentry perpetuated its identity and economic domination through the institution of the rural ‘qasbah’ town. Hindu merchant class that got its identity through the organization of the markets, the systems of credit, Hindu and Jain religions flourished in ‘ganjs’, the markets. The people of ‘qasbahs’ and ‘ganjs’ provided the leadership to the communities and the wide separateness of the worlds of ‘qasbah’ and ‘ganjs’. The two brought gifted people to their religious parties or to socialist ideologies and/or to the legislative/ provincial councils.
3. British deliberately created division in Indian society for their own imperial purpose and led to Muslims being discouraged from joining the nationalist movement. They took advantage of the root of the problem, an age old antagonism, between India’s 300 million Hindus and 100 million Muslims. It sustained by tradition, by antipathetic religions, by economic differences, and the British subtly exacerbated the conflict through the years by the policy of ‘divide and rule’ till it reached the boiling point. This led to the anti Muslim sentiments; for example British rule would be hailed for supplanting Muslim tyranny, accused of robbing Hindus of their religions, wealth, women; they are outsiders in India; they are not Hindustanis; only Hindus are Indians; while relics of Muslim powers are presented as wounds in the heart kept afresh by the sight of a Masjid by the holy temple of Vishvanath, (Sudhir Chandra). Anecdotes of Muslim maltreatment of Hindus were aimed at generating the desired anti-Muslim sentiments. The Muslim perception on the other hand that Muslim alone would represent Muslims in view of their divine religious values was found difficult to be practiced after joining the heterogeneous Congress. Muslims were unlikely to feel comfortable with devolution of power from British which at the all India level and that of the Muslim minority provinces promised the subordination of a Muslim minority to a Hindu majority. The Jinah’s presidential address to Lahore session of AIML in 1940 that the Hindus and Muslims are two different. Muslims counted for more than 20% of population of British India between1892-1909. They accounted 6 ½% of the yearly gathering of the nationalist forces. Their involvement reached a peak during the khilafat--non cooperation movement--when they formed nearly 11% of those attending the Ahmedabad session. By 1923 the attendance had fallen to 3 ½%. From late 1920 only handful derring-dos (Muslims) claimed to be the nationalist, for they had to face the disapproval of the Muslim friends.
4. Hindu revivalism and the barriers it presented to the Muslims for joining congress, particularly in Bengal and Maharashtra, was largely due to the anti Muslim content, be it the banning cow slaughter, imposition of be devnaghri script on the government machine or the conversion of Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism. Congress never developed secular ethos; its symbols, its idioms, its inspiration were all Hindu and Hindu revivalism. The latter was responsible for the difficulty to reach compromise over the future structure of power by Congress and all India Muslim league (the top secret document (6-7 pages) was circulated to the Congress chief ministers by the Congress in the vicinity of 1946-47 to remove all the Muslim officers from the important positions and to keep vigil over Muslims of every aspect of life whether in the government or outside). Congress has always had its main “internal other’ the Muslim, who according to it could take no solace in also occupying the role as external enemy in India’s dominant narrative. As a nation India would seek to establish territorial dominion over the future boundaries of the nation, attain monopoly on the means of violence and organize human and natural resources to enhance the productivity and power of the nation. Every nation that achieves the normative status of modern democracy utilizes sustained and prolific violence to realize these imperatives and establish in the process its identity.
5. Besides the development of Hindu Sabhas, Hindu press, Hindu defense fund, Arya Samaj of aggressive Hindus consciousness was openly anti Muslim and communal. The Hindu feeling was often hard to distinguish from congress feeling and in effect the big deterrent for Muslims to associate themselves with Congress. Whenever congress seemed to come close to the Muslims there was a Hindu backlash. It happened in Lucknow. By late 1920s Hindu Mahasaba influence over congress was at peak that led Congress to raise unrealistic demands in its negotiation with Muslim organizations. While it is often assumed that in pre-partition India the claim that Hindus and Muslims formed 2 distinct nations –not 2 parts of the same Indian nation-was formulated by Jinah (in the context of making a case for the partition of the country on religious lines), it was in fact Savarkar who had first floated the idea well before-more than 15 years earlier than-Jinah’s first invoking of the idea. Nathuram Godse who murdered Gandhi was a disciple of Savarkar. There has been in Congress a group who would pose as nationalists but is in fact utterly communal in their outlook. They would always argue that India has no unified culture and hold that whatever Congress may say, the social life of Hindus and Muslims is entirely different; example, Shri Purshttandas Tandon. In his book, India wins freedom; Maulana Azad writes ‘I am surprised that Patel was an even greater supporter of the 2 nation theory than Jinah. Jinah may have raised the flag of partition but the real flag bearer was Patel. It would not perhaps be unfair to say that Vallabhai Patel was the founder of Indian partition.’
6. Between 1927 and 1929 Congress refused to agree on formula for the distribution of power between itself and the Muslims which accepted the principle of separate electorates. The Congress refused to form a coalition government in the UP after 1937 elections unless the league disbanded the province and its members joined the Congress. In his book, ‘India wins freedom’, Maulana Azad wrote that Congress was neither wise nor right in raising doubts. It should have accepted the plan unequivocally if it stood for the unity of India. Vacillation led India to divide. Uncompromising stance of the Congress in June and July 1946 (after Jinah and the Muslim league had accepted the Cabinet Mission plan for the constitution of an independent India) towards the League’s terms for entering the interim government and towards its understanding of how provinces of the north east and north west should be grouped led to the apprehensions of Muslims that Congress wanted Indian independence only under the control and influence of Hindus.
7. People with the jaundiced eye might have succeeded to demonize Jinah as the man primarily responsible for the division of British India into 2 sovereign states, are however beset by a seeming paradox that the person that started with as the ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity ended up to divide India. They will make no bones to admit that the lean lantern jawed man in fact had the avowed secular habit to have presided over the realization of a religious ideal. Jinah admired Kamal Attaturk and was the epitome of European secularism. In contrast Gandhi believed that politics without religion was immoral and even pandered to the Indian’s need for a religious identity. He never publicly disavowed the Mahatma attached to his name. Initially the drive for Indian independence was confined to intellectual elite in which Hindus and Muslims ignored communal differences to work side by side towards a common goal. Ironically it was Gandhi who wanted to associate the Muslims with every phase of his movement. But he was a Hindu and a deep belief in god was the very essence of his being. Inevitably his congress party movement began to take on a Hindu tone and color that aroused Muslim suspicions. This was corroborated by the congress refusal to share electoral soils with Muslims. His words and slogans steeped in Hindu symbolism of setting up of Ram Raj. Jinah wanted a secular nation with a Muslim majority. Gandhi desired a secular country with a Hindu majority. Gandhi had an inclusive and Jinah had an exclusive dream.
(References; 1. India wins freedom, by Maulana A.K.Azad; 2. The argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen;3. The man who divided India, by Rafiq Zakaria; 4. Islam and Muslim History in south Asia by Francis Robinson; 5. Shahab Naama by Qudratullah Shahab; 6. Kashmir in chains by M.S.Pampori; 7. Freedom at night by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierrie; 8. Lord Mount Betton, the last viceroy, by David Butler; and articles published in the newspapers on the subject).