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Roots of Sachar Committee, Religion Based Reservations and Lessons from History

Note : In the last couple of decades there has been a competition among the political parties as to who shall out do all other in the vote bank politics, especially wooing Muslim Votes. Often they are proposing reservations for the Muslims. The political parties have refused to learn any lesion of such a policy implemented based on religious identity during the British period. Congress in order to consolidate its Muslim vote bank appointed Justice Sachar to suggest ways and means to elevate the status of Muslims; as if it was not required for the other community. Sachar in tern suggested reservations for the Muslim in proportion of their population. The present article looks at the perils of such a policy.

On 15 August, 1947 India became a free country after loosing its one-fifth of the population and one-third of geographical area. The partition of the country was demanded on the principle of two-nation theory i.e. Muslims are different kaum and have nothing to do with Hindus and they cannot live with Hindus on the principle of equality to all. Despite the fact that the theory was and is absurd, demand was accepted. The theory is absurd can be illustrated by the fact that more than 98% of Muslims are Hindu converts. The most articulate and powerful theoretician of the creation of Pakistan was Sheikh Mohd. Iqbal – popularly known as Allama Iqbal. It must not be forgotten that Iqbal was born as a Hindu – Kashmiri Brahmin. His grandfather converted to Islam sometime after the birth of Iqbal.

Despite all this, the demand for a separate state for the Muslims was accepted (33% of the territory for 20% of the population) just for the sake of peace between the two communities. The newly created state of Pakistan chose to be an Islamic state and the parent state i.e. India decided, as per its seven thousand years old tradition, a sarvapanth sambhava state where each and every one will equal irrespective of caste, creed and religion – i.e. ‘a true secular state’ in modern idiom.1 India decided that we will be state based on sarvapanth samabhava or sarvadharma samabhava, where all citizens will be governed by a Common Civil Law. Article 44 of the Constitution says, “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” This Common Civil Code still remains a mirage, even after six decades of independence. A perusal of the behavior and policies of the political parties, political leaders and the ‘secularists’ alike shows that everything is being done to make sure that the question of the Common Civil Code enshrined in the Constitution and being reminded constantly by the Hon. Supreme Court of India, is best forgotten.

In the recent past a new trend has been witnessed. The judgments of the various courts are being seen in the communal light and not in the light of the Constitution and law of the land. Whenever a judgment goes against the political motives and unjust aspirations of a particular minority, the courts become a subject of intense criticism and media debate. The Hon. Courts are painted in a bad light but the moment a judgment is against the Hindus (i.e. 86% of the population), it is not only welcomed but also the courts and judges are lauded as ‘secular’, independent and free from biases.2 Indeed, an act of inducement and emotional blackmail. What does all this mean? The answer is appeasement and minorityism.

In the following pages we are going to have a look at this kind of approaches in the past and their perilous impact on the society and the nation.

Sir Syed, British and the Minorityism:

The most frequently mentioned cause for the Hindu-Muslim animosity is the British policy of ‘divide and rule’, which is really not the whole truth. In fact, it would be more appropriate to say that some Muslim elite class to protect and further their own interests created this divide. The British simply widened this divide to rule the country.

Between 1193 and 1857 AD, major part of northern India was almost continuously under the Muslim rule. Though at the hands of the ruling class, Hindu masses suffered considerably, there was not much animosity between the Hindu and Muslim masses. Though the social chasm between the two communities could not be bridged, the majority of the Muslim population, Hindu converted to Islam, could be seen participating in and celebrating Hindu festivals, and Hindus, in their true catholic tradition, participated in and celebrated Muslim festivals. Several British and native accounts as well as gazetteers make a mention about Muslims participating in Holi, Durga pooja etc. and converted Muslims simply adding ‘Khan’ etc. after their Hindu names. Some of such fusion did exist in the courts also.3 However, the problem lies in the fact that the Muslim elite suffered from a remarkable disinclination to imbibe even a modicum of the cultural heritage of pre-Muslim India. This was in sharp contrast to what happened in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and several countries in Western Asia. In Indonesia, several Hindu traditions and rituals survive among the Muslims, and a version of the Ramayana and Ramalila has been staged through centuries. The Muslims of Arabia and West Asia have cherished some of the heroes of the pre-Muslim eras: the ideally just king was Nausherwan, the ideally generous man was Hatim; the ideal philosophers were Plato and Aristotle. But for the Muslim elites the History of India began (even today it begins) with the Prophet Mohammed and the Arab conquest of India, and almost the entire pre-Muslim Hindu history remains irrelevant. The elite and educated class of Muslims does not think that they have anything to do with the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, Kalidasa, Panini and so on. They do not think that Buddha, Mahavira, Ashoka, Chandragupta Maurya, and Harshavardhana also belong to their heritage, though they accept Shahnama and Sikandarnama as their heritage.4 They called on Indian Muslim to purge themselves of beliefs and customs which they shared with Hindus- with astrologers, vegetarianism, visiting tombs of saints, and common celebration of festivals. This call for ‘social reform’ among the Indian Muslims amounted to a “rejection of Medieval Islam in India in favour of early Islam in Arabia.”5

The modern ‘secular’ historians, following the lead provided by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, have created a myth that Muslims took the lead against the British in 1857 and as a consequence, they suffered most after the failure of the first war of independence. The fact is that Muslim attitude towards the British differed from region to region and state-to-state. Although the Muslims holding large estates in U.P and Bihar may have suffered but a new class of Muslim Zamindars emerged. In western India Muslims remained virtually indifferent to and unaffected by the 1857 events. In the regions of Agha and Aligarh, Sayyids, Pathans and Shaikhs were the gainers and Mughals were the losers. There was a definite “shift in land holding within the Muslim community itself, with those having Mughal past losing to those with a British future.”6 Loyalists such as Mahmud Ali Khan of Chhatari, Inayat Allah Khan of Aligarh and Imdad Ali of Mathura were typical of the new men, who had turned the British raj into their profit and were to collaborate with it. Mujeeb further elaborates it and says that the so-called noble families had by the middle of the nineteenth century become “incurably degenerate. If they had continued to set standards of ethics and morality, the recovery of Indian Muslims under the British rule would have become extremely difficult.” Mujeeb further says that it was a misfortune of the Muslim community that a small upper class ‘selfish and parasitical’, which survived the upheaval of 1857-58 in north India by accident, or by acts of loyalty to the British, was destined to become the residuary legatees” of all cultural values.” This class successfully diverted the attention of the Government and the people towards its own needs and grievances, and thus gave a wrong direction to political and social thoughts of Muslim community for the better part of a century.7

There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that the first war of independence was initiated and largely led by Hindus but credit must be given to Syed Ahmad Khan for creating and institutionalizing the myth that it was caused by the Muslims and they were its sole victim. The educated class among the Muslims perpetuated this myth. Another myth, which Sir Syed succeeded in creating and further popularizing, was that of Muslims’ backwardness in education and civil employment.8 Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was virtually obsessed with Hindus vs. Muslims, Hindi vs. Urdu, Sanskrit vs. Persian issues all his life. His entire vision was coloured with Hindu phobia and an animosity towards cultural heritage of India. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was not only well acquainted with the Semitic religions and cultures but also had sympathies of the raj. But “he does not, however, seem to have acquired even a passing acquaintance with rudiments of Hindu thought and philosophy. His interest in extending modern education was commendable, but his approach to it was curiously parochial. He insisted that Muslim children must be educated separately from the children of other communities. He considered schools and colleges run by other communities “wholly unsuitable because the presence of non-Muslim students curbed the national feelings of the Muslims.”9

Sir Syed considered even the higher educational institutions like Universities wholly unsuitable for the Muslims because they were distributing only the degrees and not providing the real knowledge and learning. He, therefore, drew his own scheme of education system which was to be as follows:

  1. The strengthening of faith with required knowledge of religious truth;

  2. Training of character through establishing residential institutions; and

  3. Teaching of modern science.

He conceived three tired education system for Muslims:

  1. The primary grade of elementary schools (Maktabs) for those between six and 11 years of age;

  2. The middle grade, consisting of secondary schools for children between the age of 11 and 18 years where medium of instruction was Urdu; and

  3. The highest grade which was represented by Mohammedan-Anglo Oriental College for the students above the age of 18; it was comprised of three sections – English, Urdu and Persian.

Sir Syed said, “We shall not build our nation by educating our young men in those colleges, but in colleges of our own nation.”10 He further said that it was necessary “to collect Muslim students in one place, to teach them Persian and Arabic beside other subjects, so that they stay together, eat together, study together and grow up into good Muslims.”11

Sir Syed was anxious to bridge the gap and misunderstanding that had developed between the British (Christian) rulers and Muslim subject. He not only refrained from criticizing the new rulers and their faith but also went to a great length explaining the virtues of Christianity, the new rulers and the great unifying elements between the Christianity and Islam. In order to build bridges with the British Sir Syed welcomed British conquest of India and said that it was a “historical necessity”. He said:

“At the time when the British rule established itself India was… left a poor widow, and she stood in need of another husband which husband she herself chose in the English nation in order to fulfill the commendation of the gospel that twin shall be one flesh.”12

Sir Syed explained the virtues of British rule in his Meerut speech:

“Now suppose that British are not in India and that one of the nations of India has conquered the other, whether the Hindus the Mohammedans or the Mohammedans the Hindus. At once some other nation of Europe, such as the French, the Germans, the Portuguese or the Russians, will attack India… Everyone will agree that their Governments are far worse than the British Government. It is, therefore, necessary that for the peace of India... English Government should remain for many years – in fact for ever.”13

Sir Syed exhorted Muslims to keep away from the Congress and its politics and cooperate with British in ruling the country. Loyalty to the British Raj was the core of Sir Syed’s political philosophy. His concept of loyalty to the government was based on his sense of superiority of the British race and British institutions. Therefore, he vehemently opposed any kind of dissent from the policies of Government and advised Muslims to abstain from participating in any political movement against the government. He considered Congress’ policies synonymous with criticism and disagreement. However, surprisingly, loyalty and blind support to the government and its policies was not considered by as politics. Expressing solidarity with the British rules and the utility of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College for the British Empire, he thundered in 1896 that should the necessity arise, “the stout hearts and strong arms of students bred in this college... would be ready facing the common enemy to prove that Mohammadans of India, with their martial spirit burning as of old, are ready to face bullets and bayonets in the defense of the glorious empire to which it is our privilege to belong.”4

He justified his support to the British on the strength of Muslim religious tradition and Koran. In his famous Meerut speech Sir Syed said: “God has given us the light of religion and the Koran is present for our guidance, which has ordained them (the Christians) and us to be friends. Now god has made them ruler over us. Therefore, we should cultivate friendship with them and should adopt that method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India.” He advocated this Anglo-Mohammedan alliance to keep the Hindus out of the pale of ruling class and stoutly opposed any form of democratic Government in which Hindus could have a major say due to their numerical strength. He told the Muslim masses, “We do not want to become the subjects of the Hindus instead of the people of the book. (the Koran describes the followers of Judaism and Christianity as ahle-kitab ‘the children of book’. It is because all the three religions share the same religious roots and traditions.) If our Hindu brothers of these provinces and the Bengalis of Bengal and the Brahmans of Bombay and the Hindu Madrasis of Madras wish to separate themselves from us, let them go, and trouble yourself about it not one whit. We can mix with the English in a social way. We eat with them; they can eat with us.”15

He made these points very forcefully in Viceroy’s Council (1883) condemning most of the representative institutions on the ground that Muslims would suffer under them. He was the strongest supporter (rather profounder in the modern times) of the Hindu-Muslim incompatibility and succeeded in convincing the Muslim masses that the Congress was a Hindu organization which should be avoided at al cost.

For holding such a view one has to acknowledge the fact that the Muslim elite was unable to reconcile to the fact that they are no longer the rulers of the country and at the same time they could not agree to share power with the Hindus over whom they had ruled for several centuries. The loss of power was too disturbing. Sir Syed writes, “Oh my brother Muslims! You have ruled over nations, and have for centuries held different countries in your grasp. For seven hundred years in India you have had imperial way. You know what it is to rule.”16

Further, Sir Syed was not only greatly influenced but also guided by such British officers as Auckland Colvin, John Strachey and Theodore Beck. His thinking that each and every region, district and even Tehsil and so also each and every community was a nation in itself was directly the result of his faith and belief in the likes of Strachey’s statement:

“This is the first and foremost thing to learn about India that there is not’ and never was’ an India, or even any country of India possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity – physical, political, social, and religious, no Indian nation, no ‘people of India’ of which we hear so much.”17

When Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was talking of Bengalis, Madrasis, Bombay Maharashtrians etc. as nations, he was simply echoing J.A Dubois who in 1879 wrote:

“A good observer will remark, under general points of resemblance, as much difference between a Tamil and a Telugu, between a Kanares and a Mahrata, as one would perceive in Europe between an Englishman and a Frenchman, an Italian and a German. There are countries in India peopled from time immemorial by different nations who, though mixed together in same province and even in the same district, still preserved their distinct language, character, and national spirit. On the Malabar coast, for example, within a space of forty or fifty Leagues from north to south, from Telichery to Onore or to Naghar, there are no less than five different nations peopling that small territory; and all of them appear to have been settled there upwards for a thousand years. These five nations are the Nairs or Maimars, the Kurgs or Kudageu, the Tuluvu, the Kaunguni and the Knanariese. These are not merely names of castes as might be supposed, but they distinguish five different nations, each of which is divided, like all other Indian nations, into a variety of castes; and although these five races dwell in the same district, each has its peculiar language by which it is much be discriminated as by its, national customs, spirit and character.”18

The people like Strachey, Dubois and Beck came from a small country which had only one language, only one religion, only one ruler, and hardly had any tradition of social, religious, cultural or linguistic tolerance. Coming from a country where religious institution and even the highest temporal seat of religious faith could be shown the door just on the question of ego and personal matters like marriage of an individual, they were just not equipped to comprehend and more so beyond their belief that there has existed a tradition of religious, cultural, social, linguistic, and regional diversities within one rashtra for thousands of years. They totally forgot that Hinduism was the cultural tradition and India was the nation where people of all kinds found place to live and progress in peace. They also forgot that not only did India welcome all the religious preachers who came here to preach their religions but also provided shelter to even those who took refuge to save their faiths from onslaught from other religions. Also in consonance with the philosophy of equal respect to all sects and religions, India had never sent its armies on Crusade or jehad.

The British authors deliberately demonized Hindus and Hinduism and did everything to paint them in blackest possible colour. They were branded as cowards, incapable of leadership, effeminate, etc. Hinduism was travestied. It was stigmatized as negative, passive, cruel, idolatrous, impervious to suggestion and disgusting. Hindu religious places were also not spared from denigration. A description of Hardwar by Philip Mason, as an example, is as follows:

“Wickedness clings to the skirt of holiness for what is holy becomes just lost in superstition… There are charlatans among the priests there are evil eyed fakirs, and there is every kind of imposter among the hundreds of beggars. And it is because the place is holy and blessed by nature that it is also homes of pimps and panders, smugglers of the intoxicating hemp drugs, venders of cocaine, cattle thieves, kidnappers and gamblers.”19

Mason is not alone in this approach to Hindus. We may recall Ms. Mayo’s book which was called by Gandhiji as ‘gutter inspector’s report’. Compare the above description of Hindus with the following about Muslims or Islam:

“They were an imperial people who, like the British, had captured India from the Hindus, that they possessed the supreme values of activity, masculinity and forcefulness, and in contrast with Hindus (Muslims) were smart, capable and resourceful.”20

Many of the British officers serving in India formed group which in modern American terminology would be called as caucus or lobby. Some of the officers of this group were W.W. Hunter, Nassau Lees, Theodore Beck, Phillip Morrison, Alfred Lyall and W.S. Blunt. W.W. Hunter in his book Indian Musalmans (1871) writes about Sir Syed that he “was the first able and somewhat impassionate advocate of Muslims.”21 In an instigating tone W.S. Blunt said, “I told them if the Musalmans only knew their power they would not be neglected.”22 Lord Dufferin was much more direct in his farewell speech when he solicited Muslims support to rule over India. Flattering the Muslims beyond even their own imagination, Dufferin said, “Descended as you are from those who formerly occupied such a commanding position in India, you are exceptionally able to understand the responsibility attaching to those who rule.”23 Muslims were being sought to support the British rule. Randolph Churchill, the then Secretary of State for India, visited India and not only approved the pro-Muslim policy of the British rulers but also advised them to accelerate the process.

Sir Syed’s open declaration of loyalty to the British was suitably reciprocated. Lord Northbrook donated Rs.10,000 to the Mohammedan-Anglo Oriental College for the support of Muslim student in terms of scholarship. This help came due to the help of John Strachey who was deeply involved in the affairs of Aligarh College. W.W. Hunter, the Chairman of Education Commission of 1882, held the first meeting of the Commission at Aligarh as a mark of complement to its importance and accepted the special claim of Muslims in the education, despite the fact that countrywide surveys showed that there was not need for accepting such a demand. Alfred Lyall praised the founders of Aligarh College for rendering a great service to the Government. Auckland Colvin held the college in special regards for inculcating loyalty to the government. The British public opinion was suitably molded in the favour of Muslims and against the Hindus.

The extent to which the British rulers went to appease the Muslim communalism can be understood by the one simple fact: “Under the Sikh rule killing of cow was strictly prohibited and the offender was liable to the death penalty. After the annexation, the prohibition was abolished. The Hindus and Sikhs felt resentful at this but Muslims were pleased.”24 However, it is also true that not all Muslims were pleased with the lifting of the ban on cow-slaughter. Abdul Hai, a very eminent theologian of India and three other ulemas issued a fatawa which made it clear that by giving-up cow-slaughter no sin was committed and no defect caused in the performance of rite of sacrifice. The fatawa said:

“It is necessary for us Muslims that we should abstain from giving pain. Holding that iniquity and violence towards human beings is improper... [Muslims] ought to make utmost effort to prevent people from being guilty of such action. Cow-killing is not at all a religious injunction of Islam, hence it is of highest value to abstain from such futile action.”25

Statements and advices like the one quoted above fell on deaf ears, not because it interfered with the religious beliefs of Muslims but simple because it was hurtful to the Hindus. The whole British attitude to this matter as well as to others was dictated by a simple policy that of “because Muslim was forceful, even as enemy, he was worthy of respect.”

Through the Muslim rules Hindus who constituted well over 85-90 percent of the total population were treated with utmost contempt and humiliating way by the Sultans, shahanshahs, kazis, and zamindars. Of and on Hindus had to pay jaziya (a kind of tax levied on the Hindus for their right to live as non-Muslim) to the Muslim rulers. Of course, the Muslims and that too mainly of foreign origins held most of the landed property and higher positions in the administration and armies. As we have already seen, educated class Muslims started building up the case for Muslims being economically and educationally backward. Encouraged by the overt British favouritism in 1882 National Mohammedan Association of Aligarh, of course with the active participation of Sir Syed, presented a charter of demand to Lord Ripon, the then Viceroy of India. The representation urged the government to “restore the balance of state patronage” which is not in proportion to their population under the British rule. It argued that Muslims have been “denied their share in the public service and educational opportunities.” On the receipt of this charter Ripon sought the details from various provinces. But let it be remembered that even then army was left out of it.

The data obtained from various provinces showed that Muslims complaint was false and demands unreasonable. To illustrate the point we take, for example, just the case of Central Provinces where Muslim population was 2.5 per cent. In the administration Muslims civil servants accounted for 36.70 per cent i.e. fifteen times more than the ratio of their population. Similarly, in the realm of education, of the total Muslim population 1.9 per cent went to school/college in comparison to just 0.8 per cent of the total Hindu population. Thus, here again ratio was almost 2.5 times more in the favour of Muslims.26

Data collected from various provinces told the same story. The reports after reports proved that since 1857 the Muslim participation has been constantly “improving one rather than the reverse” in respect of both in education and public services. W.W. Hunter, himself a great champion of Muslim cause said in his report that Muslims “have a tendency to exaggerate the backwardness of the Mohammedans.”27

There is no doubt that the needs of separatism, sown and nurtured by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan finally led to the break up of the country and emergence of Pakistan as a sovereign state in 1947. Sir Syed has rightly been hailed “as the father-figure by Pakistani scholars.”28 Bashir Ahmad Dar, a highly respected intellectual of Pakistan writes:

“Pakistan is in reality the result of the whole scheme of things as envisaged by this good old man [Sir Syed Ahmad Khan] who represented in his person the ideology and aspirations of the whole Muslim nation of this sub-continent.”29

Institutionalization of Communalism and Mynoritism

Sir Syed died in 1898 and his legacy was carried on by his two successors, Syed Mehdi Ali Hasan (later known as Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk) and Mushtaq Hussain (later came to be known as Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk), who succeeded Sir Syed as Secretary of MOA after his death. In 1906 Liberal Party returned to power in Britain and the adoption of elective principle for Indian legislatives became a live issue. In such a situation it was clear that Muslims could not be kept aloof from politics, as envisaged by Sir Syed. The Muslim elite opted for the second principle of Sir Syed, i.e., separatism, of course, with the open support of the British.

On October 1, 1906 a delegation of Muslim elite class under the leadership of Agha Khan met Lord Minto, the then Viceroy of India. This elite class was mainly comprised of Nawabs, Khan Bahadurs, landed gentry etc. The primary demand of this delegation was not to extend the elective principle to the legislatives, and if that was not possible then Muslim electors should form a separate electoral college of their own. Further, the Muslim community should be awarded more seats in the legislatives than their numerical strength deserved. They insisted that in an elective system they didn’t want to leave their “national interest at the mercy of an unsympathetic majority.”30 In this context the fifth paragraph of their petition to the Viceroy is worth quoting in full:

“We venture, indeed, with Your Excellency’s permission, to go a step further, and urge that the position accorded to the Mohammadan Community in any kind of representation, direct or indirect, and in all other ways affecting their status and influence, should be commensurate not merely with their numerical strength, but also with their political importance and the value of the contribution which they make to the defense of empire; and we also hope that Your Excellency will in this connection be pleased to give due consideration to the position which they occupied in India a little more than a hundred years ago, and of which the traditions have naturally not faded from their minds.”31

On this petition, Lord Minto, who was known for his ambiguous and evasive manners on important sensitive issues, was quick to concede most of the demands. Minto said in his reply to the petitioners:

“The pith of your address, as I understand it, is a claim that, in any system of representation, whether it affects a Municipality, a District Board or a legislative Council, in which it is proposed to introduce or increase an electoral organization, the Mohammadan community should be represented as a community and you justly claim that your position should be estimated not merely on your numerical strength, but in respect to the political importance of your community and the service it has rendered to the Empire. I am entirely in accord with you.”32

The petitioners could not conceal their glee at the Viceroy’s promised concession. Mohsin-ul-Mulk was not only delighted but also thanked Viceroy for putting “a new heart” into the Muslim community and for making “a historic declaration of the policy of Indian Government.”33 In return for this gift by the Viceroy the Muslims declared that, “they would not join the Congress” to oppose the Government and that they (the Muslims) preferred appealing to their Mai Bap to stumping the country.”34

Agha Khan’s letter, written on 29 October 1906, to Dunlop Smith made the above promise on behalf of Muslims much more clear. He wrote:

“In order to reach the definite objects mentioned by the deputation, I have asked all the members to form a permanent Committee, and I have given to my old friend Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, who, as you know, is a most loyal and zealous Mohammdan, certain instructions regarding the method by which he is to proceed… I have also asked him not to move in any matter before first finding out if the step to be taken has full approval of the Government privately, as otherwise, unintentionally he might be led to do something or other that would leave the Government in an inconvenient position.”35

On the face of it the above narrative meeting between the Viceroy and Muslim leaders appears quite innocent but once we see what went on behind the scene, one is able to understand the Muslim-British conspiracy Against the Congress in particular and Hindus in general. Sir Syed had very vehemently appealed to the Muslims not to join Congress and be loyal to their British Masters. This policy was continued by Sir Syed’s successors with the help of the Lt. Governor of N.W Provinces, J.B. La Touche and the Principal of MAO College, W.A.J. Archbold. It was Archbold who not only fixed the meeting between the Viceroy and Muslim leaders and drafted the petition submitted by the Muslim leaders but also negotiated/advised Dunlop Smith, the Private Secretary of the Viceroy, as to what the Viceroy could say to the delegation and also grant them.

When John Morley became Secretary of State for India with the Liberals coming to power, Muslims became very apprehensive of him. They were worried because it had become known that Morley was thinking of reforms in the Govt. of India, which he did announce in the British Parliament on July 20, 1906. Morley was also known for not being such an admirer of British-Muslim unity and also Morley and Minto could not be said to be in the best of terms. Morley was in favour of giving equal importance to Congress and Hindus also, if not more. Minto wrote to Morley:

“I have always had great hopes of Mohammedan population… Now that they are becoming somewhat alarmed at what they consider Bengali success the justice of our safeguarding their interests will become all the more apparent, and ought to be of real assistance to us in dealing with much of the one-sided agitation we have to face.”36

On the other hand Minto, Dunlop Smith and Archbold worked up plans to hoodwink any reform with which Muslims were not pleased. Archbold advised Dunlop Smith, “If the Mohammedans were informed (privately) that a deputation would be received and a statement made, they would present a petition to the Viceroy at Shimla”.37 On August 10, Dunlop Smith told Archbold, “H.E. will agree to receive the Deputation.”38 And on 13 September leader of the Deputation was told that Viceroy would meet the deputation on October 1, 1906.

Meanwhile, Archbold and others were busy preparing a petition and coaching the Muslim delegation about what to do and what not to do. Archbold in his strictly confidential letter of 10 August, 1906 to Mohsin-ul-Mulk said that he (Archbold) had consulted Dunlop Smith and assured him that the Muslims had no wish whatever to do anything that would cause difficulty to the Government.

He went on to suggest the various steps that should be taken regarding drafting the formal petition, choosing the delegation and so on. He advised that the petition should contain:

“A general profession of loyalty and a statement that the history of Mohammedans in the past justifies confidence in their conduct in future;

“An expression of gratitude that important steps in the direction of self-Government are contemplated…,

“A statement of the fear lest by the adoption of any general system of elections, the interest of the Mohammedans who are numerically in minority in many districts would suffer.

“The expression of the hope that by the adoption of some system of nomination, or of the representation of interests as determined by religious belief, the proper weight should be given to the opinions of Mohammedans...”

Archbold further wrote:

“In this whole transaction I want to keep in background. But you know how thoroughly I have the interest of the Mohammedans at heart, and I shall be delighted in everyway in my power to help. I may be of service in preparing a draft of the address.... You will, at all events, let me see the address before it is settled as I know something of the art of wording requests, so that they may please as well as asked.”39

Archbold, indeed, drafted the petition, showed it to Dunlop Smith who communicated with S.H. Bilgrami of Hyderabad and S. Nawab Ali Chaudary of Dacca before it was formally submitted.

The acceptance of Shimla delegation of Muslim elite under the leadership of Agha Khan and also the acceptance of their demands had two far-reaching consequences – of immediate and the other in distant future. Of the immediate consequence was the fact that a small group of loyal Muslims came to be recognized as the sole spokespersons of the Muslim community. It may not be forgotten that this small group of Muslim comprised mostly of aristocratic class more worried about their perks and privileges. Of the far-reaching consequence was the recognition that Muslims were ‘a nation within nation’ and thus showed seeds of partition of the country at a future date. Agha Khan writes in his autobiography:

“Lord Minto’s acceptance of our demands was the foundation of all future constitutional proposals made for India by successive British Governments, and its final inevitable consequence was the partition of India and the emergence of Pakistan.”40

Thus, it can be seen that the British Government and Muslim separatists started working hand-in glove. Throughout the rest of the time, i.e. till 1947, the British not only found a strongest ally in the Muslim Community but also a great handle with which to beat both, the Congress and the Hindus.

Muslim League, Communalism and Minorityism

On December 30, 1906, just two months after Agha Khan’s letter to Dunlop-Smith, quoted above, a number of Muslim leaders met in Dhaka and founded an organization, which they christened as “Muslim League.” The resolution adopted on the occasion declared:

“Resolved that this meeting composed of Musalmans from all parts of India assembled at Dacca decided that a Political Association be formed, and styled All-India Muslim League for the furtherance of the following objects:

  1. To promote, among the Musalmans of India, a feeling of loyalty to the British Government and to remove any misconception that may arise as to the intention of the Government with regard to any of the measures;

  2. To protect and advance the political rights and interests of the Musalmans of India and to respectfully present their need and aspirations to the Government;

  3. To prevent the rise among the Musalmans of India of any feelings of hostility towards other communities without prejudice to the other aforementioned objects of the League.”

Thus, despite the camouflage under article (c) of the resolution, we see here that “the first major ‘communal’ political group which made its appeal on an all India basis was thus, founded. It is communal in that its membership was confined to one community and its programme was the furtherance of the political and general well-being of that community.”41

The founding of Muslim League was welcomed not only by the Englishmen serving in India but also by the Imperial Government in Britain. The League was seen as an organization which “will provide an effective answer to the Congress as well as afford an avenue for the publication of Mohammedan aspirations.”42 The Times of India happily noted the formation of the League “on the safe and sure rock of loyalty to the British raj.” Even the Prince of Wales, the future king George V could not restrain himself and wrote:

“I see Mr. Naoroji has been holding forth before the national Congress and inciting them to agitate until they get what he calls “their rights.” The Mohammadan movement is indeed most satisfactory and ought to have solitary effect on these Bengal agitators...”43

Thus, it can be seen that the British were successful in enlisting the support of Muslims to counter any move by the Congress or Hindus in destabilizing British rule in India. Prince of Wales noted with satisfaction that Muslim League would torpedo all the moves of Congress and the Hindus against Bengal partition, which was done on communal lines in 1905. It was the East Bengal of 1905 which finally became East Pakistan in 1947.

Before we proceed further, let us see what was the demand of Muslims delegation to Shimla and later became one of the main agendas of the Muslim League. On the issue of the electoral reforms the Muslim elite class, completely soaked in to communalism, thought that since Muslim population was only 14 per cent of the total population they would be routed in the elected bodies. But the analysis proves that they were not only wrong but also misrepresenting the fact. The grievance of Muslims about their representation in the local self-governing bodies was exaggerated. For example in the year 1900-01 and 1901-02, the representation of Hindus and Muslims in the Municipal Boards of Uttar Pradesh (then known as North-West Provinces) was as follows44:




Total Number of Representatives












# 27.70%; ## 27.40 % (against the 14% Muslim Population)

In 1909 Muslims were 14 per cent of the total population and Hindus 84 per cent yet “Mahomedan electors formed 23 per cent of the total electors for district boards…In as many as 29 districts out of 45, the proportion of Mohammedan members was greater than the proportion of Mohammedans to the total population.”45 The total number of District Board members was 663 of whom Hindus were 445 and Muslims 189 (28.5%) (excluding the nominated official members). In Municipal Boards there were 562 Hindus and 310 (32.10%) Muslims.

In the middle of 1911 there were 116 Hindus and 67 Muslims elected members; 10 Hindus and 2 Muslims nominated members in the District Boards; and in the Municipal Boards 207 Hindus and 89 Muslims elected members and 36 Hindus and 36 Muslims nominated members.46 Thus, it can be seen that the allegation that Muslims were discriminated in the matter of local governments is not true. In fact they got up to three and a-half more seats than their population ratio would have entitled them to.

Similar was the case regarding their grievance in the service matters. Just to illustrate the point let us take the example of military service. The position in 1900 was as follows:




Native Army



Imperial Service Troops



Military Levies and Military Police






Thus, it can be seen that the Muslims constituted well over 50% in the service while their population was barely 14%.47

With each passing day Muslim League, of course, with the connivance of British Government in India, started taking a very strident position. The result was that the Indian Council Bill of 1909 was further liberalized in favour of Muslims. For example in Uttar Pradesh Muslim population was just 14% but their representation in the Imperial Council was the same as of 86% Hindus. In Bombay every Muslim who had an annual income of £135 had a vote for the Provincial Legislative Council, but no Hindu or Parsi could vote, however wealthy or whatever his position might be. A Muslim graduate of 3 years’ standing acquired the right to vote, but a Hindu had to be of 30 years’ standing. Apart from these, Muslims were given direct elections and weightage. Gokhale was one of the great votaries of generosity towards Muslim minority. He not only felt cheated but also felt that the Government regulations had “virtually killed all enthusiasm for the (constitutional) scheme in the country except among Mohammedans.”48

Minorityism and the Lucknow Pact:

The partition of Bengal in 1905 was never accepted by the people of Bengal in particular and people of India in general. A great agitation against this partition ensued. After six years of struggle the partition was finally undone. In the Coronation Durbar of Delhi in December 1911, King George-V announced this decision. While the people of Bengal and the Congress welcomed this decision, Muslim elites showed their true colour. They saw the Muslim majority East Bengal as an Islamic state within India. Zamindar, a Muslim newspaper from Lahore cried:

“The Government has undone an Islamic province by one stroke of the pen.”49

Vikar-ul-Mulk, Secretary of MAO College, Aligarh said, “A morsel has been snatched away from the Muslims in order to placate the obstinate opposition of a stronger community.”50 It is most unfortunate that the revocation of the partition of Bengal was painted by the Muslim elites as a victory of Hindus over the Muslims. In fact, Mohammed Ali warned Hindus “not to be carried away by a feeling of triumph.”51

When the end of World War I was very much in sight, the British Government again started exploring the possibilities of introducing the elective principle for the legislature. The Muslim League again clamoured for separate electorate, and this time, in the larger interest of the people and peace in the country, Congress not only accepted the League’s demand for separate electorate but also conceded excess number of seats that was normally due to Muslims as per the percentage of their population. For example, in Bihar Muslim were 13% of the population, but were allotted 25% of the seats in the provincial legislative; Bombay had 20% Muslims, but got 33% of seats; Central Provinces had 4% Muslims, but got 10% of seats; in Madras, Against a population of 7%, they got 15% seats; in United Provinces, their population was 14%, but they got 30% seats.


Muslim Population (%)

Number of Muslim Legislative seats (%)










​Central Provinces












Congress, since its founding in 1884 had been giving confusing signals to Muslim communalism, and in fact, in 1890, Tilak was constantly criticizing Ranade and Gokhale for not standing up against Muslim communalism. The very same Tilak now took the lead from the side of Congress and showed great generosity in allotting far more seats than the principle of proportional population would have given them.

Explaining his position and change of heart Tilak said that by this generous gesture the Congress was able to put an end to the Muslim fears and suspicions. Tilak further felt that by this generosity if the Congress was able to win over the Muslims and replace their extra-territorial patriotism with Indian nationalism, the price was worth paying.52 But the response of Jinnah, the then President of Muslim League was very different in his assessment of Lucknow Pact. He said, “Our constitutional battle may be said to have been half won already...”53

The Lucknow Pact was forgotten by the Muslim League even before the ink on the pact had dried. In December, 1917 at the time of its annual session at Calcutta, the scope of communal demands were widened. The Pact’ presumed to have been settled, re-opened. Resolutions were passed demanding extension of the principle of separate representation for Muslims to local bodies, to public services and even to the universities in the same proportion of the representation accorded in the legislature.54 What is most remarkable is that the very same people in the Muslim League who were responsible for Lucknow-Pact – the Raja of Mahmoodabad, Mazhar-ul-Haq and M.A Jinnah – made these demands. The utterances of Muslim League leaders became alarming. Presiding over the Annual Session of the Muslim League in Delhi in 1918 Fazl-ul Haq said:

“To me the future of Islam in India seems to be wrapped in gloom and anxiety. Every instance of a collapse of Muslim powers of the world is bound to have an adverse influence on the political importance of our community in India.”55

Thus the whole euphoria built up by the Lucknow Pact evaporated in thin air within a few months it came into existence.

Gandhi and Minorityism

Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915, and after an initial hesitation, he plunged into Indian politics in the middle of 1917 with his famous Champaran Satyagraha. Gandhi’s ascendancy in Indian politics was rather rapid and his complete control over the Indian National Congress was to last for almost 30 years, i.e., till his death. It may be mentioned here that by the time Gandhi arrived on Indian political scene, most of the veteran leaders like Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, B.G.Tilak, Ananda Charu, S.N. Bannerji, A.O.Hume, Dada Bhai Naoroji, Fhirozshah Mehta, B.Tayyabji and Mrs. Annie Besant were either already dead or past their prime.

Gandhi’s overture towards Muslim communalism became very apparent by 1919. Beginning with Champaran (1917), Gandhi already had guided Kheda Satyagraha (1918), Ahmadabad Mill Workers’ strike (1918) and Satyagraha against Rowlatt Act (March 1919). On April 13, 1919, Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre took place. Gandhiji was now planning an all India Non-Cooperation Movement.

In the last four years, i.e., since he was in India, he found that Muslims were not taking any interest in Congress and its struggle Against the British. Meanwhile the First World War came to an end. Turkey had fought alongside Germany. With the end of the World War, the Ottoman Empire was abolished and Arab countries and Egypt etc. were freed, while the island and some of the mainland, over which the Ottoman Empire had ruled and exercised its sovereignty over the holy places of Muslims, were appropriated by the victorious powers. The institution of Caliphate was abolished. Without realizing the various dimensions and complexities, Indian Muslims led by such leaders as Ali Brothers, Maulana Azad, Hakim Azmal Khan and Z.A. Ansari began agitation against the British. The agitation came to be known as “khilafat movement”. The main demand of khilafatists was the restoration of the institution of Caliphate which automatically implied the reinstatement of Ottoman empire to its pre-war status, i.e., the imposition of Ottoman rule upon the Arabs, who were totally unwilling to accept the resurrection of that dead horse. It is important to mention that except for the Indian Muslims, that too mainly the Sunnis, no Muslim community of any country shed any tears either for the demise of the Ottoman empire or the abolition of the Caliphate.

Gandhiji agreed to participate in the khilafat movement for political as well as moral reasons. Gandhiji thought that by joining khilafat he would be able to enlist the support of Muslims in the Non-Cooperation movement and also for future movements against the British. Secondly, as a great champion of Hindu-Muslim unity, he thought that this was the opportunity to cement the unity. Gandhiji felt that “if the Hindus wish to cultivate eternal friendship with Musalmmans, they must perish with them in the attempt to vindicate the honour of Islam.”56 However, the khilafat Movement lost the credibility within three years because by 1922 Turkey had dropped the idea of sovereignty over the holy places and then on March 3, 1924 abolished the Caliphate itself.

The khilafat movement raises some very pertinent questions relevant even today. Indian Muslims took up an issue which was not only extra-territorial, but also of no concern for any Muslim from any other country. One fails to understand how the Ottoman empire and its Sultan as Caliph became a public issue in India where neither the empire nor the Caliph was recognized till then. Indian Muslim rulers had consistently refused to recognize the temporal authority of Turkish Sultan as Caliph since the Mughals in the 16th century. Even Sir Syed had refused to acknowledge the Caliphate. He held that the institution of Caliphate “with Imam Hasan ended on the expiry of thirty years after the death of Prophet… The Sultans of Turkey had no justification to claim the title of Caliph, and that the loyalty to the British ruler was obligatory.”57

Tara Chand, a well known and articulate apologist of Muslim communalism sums up the demise of khilafat movement in the following words: “Indian Muslims supported the Caliphate on religious grounds. It reflects great credit upon them that for the sake of religion they were prepared to make the greatest sacrifice.”58 One is tempted to ask as to what great sacrifice was made by those who conceived and led the khilafat movement? Even the bigger question is how could the khilafat movement be called as the movement led and participated by all Indian Muslims when Muslim soldiers in British army fought against Turkey in the war and a host of leaders like Jinnah voiced their opinion against it; and “Agha Khan and men of his way of thinking continued to uphold loyalty to the British empire.”

Nothing can be more cruel and absurd on the part of a historian to arrive at a conclusion reached by Tara Chand.

Most of the Congress leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Swami Shraddhananda, Madan Mohan Malaviya and even Jawaharlal Nehru were against Gandhi joining Khilafat movement, because in their opinion, “Mohammad Ali wanted to use Hindus simply as Pawns.”59 Gandhiji would just not listen. He said that he would rather be deceived a thousand times, than not to trust.

Till the fate of Turkey and the Caliph was hanging in the balance, Ali brothers – Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali – were full of praise for Gandhiji. They toured all over India and got support of the Congress party as well as Hindus. Mohammad Ali was even chosen by Gandhiji as the President of the 1923 session of the Congress. Here is what Mohammad Ali said about Mahatma in his Presidential address at Kakinada:

“Many have compared the Mahatma’s teaching and latterly his personal sufferings, to those of Jesus...When Jesus contemplated the world at the outset of his ministry, he was called upon to make his choice of weapons of reform... The idea of being all-powerful by suffering and resignation, and of triumphing over force by purity of heart, is as old as the days of Abel and Cain, the first progeny of man... Be that as it may, it was just as peculiar to Mahatma Gandhi also; but it was reserved for a Christian Government to treat as a felon the most Christ-like man of our times and to penalize as a disturber of the peace the one man engaged in public affairs who comes nearest to the prince of peace. The political conditions of India just before the advent of the Mahatma Gandhi resembled those of Judea on the eve of the advent of Jesus, and the prescription he offered to those in search of remedy for the ills of India was same that Jesus had dispensed before in Judea…Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai.” 60

Gandhiji was in Yeravada jail at that time. On January 12, 1924, Mahatma Gandhi was shifted toSasoon Hospital for an urgent operation. Ali brothers visited Gandhi in the hospital. Mahadev Desai has given the following account of their visit to Gandhi:

“...By that time Shaukat Ali’s army came up. After some casual chat Shaukat Ali talked about his activities. It was a moving sight to see him uncover Bapu’s feet and kiss them at the time of his departure.”61

A few days later Ali brothers and Hakim Ajmal Khan came together. Mahadev Desai gives the following account of the meeting:

“The meeting with Hakimji, Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali was also as touching as that with Shaukat Ali alone. Mohammad Ali also kissed Bapu’s feet but with covering kept intact.”62

Slowly it became clear to all that neither Turkey was going to be restored to Sultan nor was Caliphat going to be restored to the Muslims. Also during this four year period of honeymoon with khilafat and riots after riots breaking out in different parts of the country Gandhiji, and so also the Congress discovered slowly that their efforts toward achieving Hindu-Muslim unity were like chasing a mirage. Ali brothers started avoiding the Mahatma and soon enough Mohammad Ali, who had been kissing Mahatma’s feet and had hailed him as “the most Christ like man of our times”, declared at Aligarh and Ajmer:

“However Pure Mr. Gandhi may be, he must appear to me from the point of view of religion inferior to any Mussalman though he be without character.”

While speaking at a meeting held in Aminabad Park in Lucknow, Mohammad Ali was asked whether the statements attributed to him were true. Mr. Mohammad Ali without any hesitation replied:

“Yes, according to my religion and creed, I do hold an adulterous and a fallen Mussalman to be better than Mr. Gandhi.”

He reiterated his stand on Gandhi also to Swami Shraddhanand who was deeply involved in Hindu-Muslim unity efforts. In a long letter that was published in ‘Young India’ on 10.04.1924, Mohammad Ali wrote:

“As a follower of Islam I am bound to regard the creed of Islam as superior to that professed by the followers of any non-Islamic religion. And in this sense the creed of even a fallen and degraded Musalman is entitled to a higher place than that of any other non-Muslim irrespective of his high character even though the person in question may be Mahatma Gandhi himself.”63

Mohammad Ali repeated this in a letter written to the Editor of ‘Tej’. This letter was published in the same issue of ‘Young India’ (10.04.1924) as the letter to Swami Shraddhanand. He wrote:

“The essential conditions for revelation are faith, purity of action, persuading others to do good and to warn them against evil and to submit to all consequences of your action with patience... The point at issue was not at all as to the essential condition for salvation, but only regarding the distinction between Belief and Conduct... But to consider one’s creed as superior to that of every non- Muslim is the duty of a Mussalman.”64

Such was the opinion about the man who between 1919 and 1924 stayed most of the time in Ali brother’s house whenever in Delhi or Bombay. Such was the opinion about a man who went through his twenty-one day fast from Mohammad Ali’s house. All for the sake of Hindu-Muslim unity. Thus, no scope was left either for Shaukat Ali being misquoted or having said this out of a fit or without applying his mind. He made it clear where not just Gandhi, but the whole of Hindu community stood in his considered opinion!

However, Gandhiji may have been totally oblivious of Muslim doctrine but not many of his colleagues and contemporaries. Gandhiji may have been living in an imaginary world of Hindu-Muslim unity but not others. One example would be enough to express such assessment. Rabindrnath Tagore said:

“A very important factor which is making it almost impossible for Hindu-Muslim unity to become an accomplished fact is that the Muslims cannot confine their patriotism to any one country. I had frankly asked whether, in the event of any Mohammedan power invading India, hey would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. I was not satisfied by the reply I got from them…Even such a man as Mr. Mohammad Ali has declared that under no circumstances it is possible for any Mohammedan whatever be his country, to stand against any other Mohammedan.”65

Communalism and Minorityism Reach the Peak

Despite Ali brothers’ betrayal and aggressive communal politics practiced by the Muslim League, many leaders in the Congress and many other social organizations did not lose their head. Indeed, taking their lead from communal Muslim politics right after 1857 to the foundation of Muslim League and after, efforts began to organize the Hindus also to counter the Muslim communalism and the increasing menace of Hindu-Muslim riots. In the following pages we shall look at the Muslim politics between the post khilafat movement and 1947.

Between 1923 and 1937 Congress and the people of India continued their struggle Against the British empire. But Muslim League kept itself occupied with the sabotage of most of the freedom movements and the policy of cooperation with British Government. The League returned to the politics of pre-1914. Ali brothers and so also other prominent League leaders started seeing Hindu conspiracy in each and every problem faced by them. Every Hindu leader was seen as an enemy of Indian Muslims. Even Gandhi and Motilal Nehru could not escape from the allegation of being communal. Even the civil disobedience movement launched in 1930 was seen by Mohammad Ali not so much far the independence of India as for the enslavement of Indian Muslims.66 In January 1931 he wrote to Ramsay McDonald, the British Prime Minister, that Muslims had ruled India for a thousand years, and Hindus were determined in a spirit of revenge, and that did he does not favour “replacing the nation of shop-keepers by their Indian counterpart, the bania.”67 He propounded the theory of hostage, virtually meaning the same as the two-nation theory of Jinnah. Ali demanded, in his letter to the British Prime Minister, Muslim majorities in the legislative of Bengal and the Punjab, and the creation of more Muslim-majority provinces as ‘our safeguard, for we demand hostage as we have willingly given hostage to the Hindus in the other provinces where they form huge majorities.”68

Although during the life-time of Ali brothers themselves, Jinnah had become reasonably powerful within the League and his sway after their departure was complete. From the mid-1930s Jinnah became the sole spokes person for the Muslim League and also proclaimed himself and the League to be the sole custodian of the Muslims of India. Jinnah’s and so also the Muslim League’s real strength should be seen in the February 1937 General Election in the provinces under the new constitution enacted by the British Parliament in 1935. Because of the severe limitation imposed by the new constitution Jawaharlal Nehru described it as “a Charter of Slavery.” Jinnah described it as “thoroughly rotten, fundamentally bad and totally unacceptable.” Though both Muslim League and the Congress did not approve the new constitution, but it decided to contest the election and went on to form ministries in six provinces – Bombay, U.P., Bihar, Central Provinces, Orissa and Madras.

However, the results of the 1937 elections came as a great blow to Jinnah. The Muslim League secured less than 5% of the Muslim votes and out of 482 seats reserved for the Muslims, it won only 81 seats, i.e., less than 17% of the allotted seats. It won 39 seats out of 117 Muslim seats in Bengal, but only one seat out of 84 in Punjab, and three in Sindh out of 33 Muslim seats. The League could not get even a single seat in Central Provinces, Bihar and Orissa. In Madras it won 10 seats, in Bombay 20. In United Provinces the League won 27 out of 64 Muslim seats in a house of 228. Congress won 133 seats in U.P.

The Despite this poor showing by the Muslim League, Congress, on the suggestion of Gandhiji, Maulana Azad and several other leaders, invited the League to join the Ministry just to appease Jinnah and the League leadership. It must be mentioned here that the League failed to reach the office not only in the Muslim-majority provinces, but even in the Muslim-minority provinces it was routed. In a by-election in United Provinces in 1937, Jinnah appealed in the name of Allah and Holy Koran for the Muslim League candidate. Nehru was horrified. He said, “To exploit the name of God and religion in an election contest is an extraordinary thing... even for a humble canvasser. For Mr. Jinnah to do so is inexplicable. I would beg him to consider this aspect of the question... It means rousing religious and communal passions in political matters; it means working for the Dark Age in India.”69

On the other side of the spectrum, the Muslim League made the life of Congress Ministries miserable. Within just a few weeks, Jinnah started proclaiming “Muslims could not expect any justice or fair play at their hands.” Jinnah alleged that the Congress was “encircling the Muslim League to break up its solidarity”; “The fact is the Congress wants domination of India under shelter of British bayonets”; “Gandhi was trying to subjugate and vassalize the Muslims under a Hindu Raj and annihilate the Muslims.” The League could not pin-point its specific allegation. Indeed one specific allegations was that “excessive reverence was being paid to Gandhi and that his birthday has been declared a holiday.” Gandhi in his indomitable style suggested: “To declare my birthday as a holiday should be classified as a cognizable offence.” Despite the fact that there was absolutely no substance in Muslim League’s allegation against the Ministries, the bogey of Congress tyranny was raised not to convince the British Government or the Hindus, but to work upon the feelings of the Muslim masses.70 The Muslim League rejected Congress’s suggestion for an inquiry into the allegation by no less than Sir Maurice Gwueyer, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court (i.e., Supreme Court of India), but the proposal was rejected by the League.

Nehru was on Europe’s tour in 1938. After he returned, he was horrified at the Muslim League’s propaganda against the Congress and Hindus. He could not help comparing the propaganda methods of the League with that of Nazis in Germany: “The League leaders had begun to echo the fascist tirade against democracy… Nazis were wedded to a negative policy. So also was the League. The League was anti-Hindu, anti- Congress, anti-National... The Nazis raised the cry of hatred Against the Jews, the League raised cry against the Hindus.”

Jinnah’s tirade was not meant so much Against the Congress or the British Government as it was for ‘home consumption’, i.e., for the Muslim masses and League supporters. Just in one year, Jinnah dilated upon Sir Syed’s Muslim nation theory, Mohammad Ali’s ‘hostage theory’, Iqbal’s ideal Islamic State and came up with his “two nation theory” which touched upon not only the religion but the whole range of social, economic, educational and cultural life of Muslims. In March 1940, this “two nation theory” was adopted by the Muslim League, which declared that “no constitutional plan for India would be workable or acceptable to Muslims unless it was based on a demarcation of Muslim-majority areas in the north-west and the east as independent states. Pakistan, which Muslim spokesmen had dismissed during the Round Table Conference as a ‘Students’ Scheme had now become the goal of Muslim League.”71

Gandhiji was horrified at the adoption of this resolution by the Muslim League in March 1940. He pondered over many issues like religion, culture and nationality. Was it the function of religion to separate men or to unite them? He discussed the attributes of nationality. “A change of religion did not change nationality; the religious divisions did not coincide with cultural differences. A Bengali Muslim speaks the same tongue that a Bengali Hindu does, eats the same food, has the same amusements as his Hindu neighbour. They dress alike. His [Jinnah’s] name can be that of any Hindu. When I first met him, I did not know he was a Muslim.” Gandhi, like many souls, wondered that eight crore Muslims had really nothing to do with their Hindu neighbours! And even if there were religious and cultural differences, what clash of interest could there be on such matters as revenue, industry, sanitation or justice? The difference could only be in religious uses and observances with which a secular state should have no concern.

That is Gandhi in 1940 in April 6 issue of Harijan. Jinnah said almost the same thing about a newly created state in 1947 but only after the division of the country, massacre of lakhs of people and displacement of largest population even in the history of humankind.72 Sir Feroz Khan Noon, an ardent follower of Jinnah, thundered, “I tell you this much. If we find that we have to fight Great Britain for placing us under one Central Government or Hindu Raj, then the havoc which the Muslims will play will put to shame what Chengiz Khan and Halaku did.”73

Indeed, what Muslim League did in 1946-47 rather right from its founding in 1906, has put to shame not only Chengiz Khan and Halaku but also many others who find their place in history only because of their crime against humanity.

Communalism, Riots and Minorityism

As we have seen above the loss of power was a recurring recourse by Muslim leaders while they talked among themselves or when they talked to the British. They never failed to remind all and sundry that Hindus were ruled by them [Muslims]. With the support of the British demand for separatism, exclusiveness and finally a nation for Muslims alone, dividing the country, picked up the pitch and communalism grew by leaps and bounds. Even the most innocuous things took the shape of communal riots. Rather than indulging in celebrations the festivals became an opportunity for riots. Nothing was too small not to plunge the cities and towns into riots – be it a few drops of colours during holi, a procession with music passing through a street having a mosque, taking of religious processions through a street or a pig entering a mosque. Even as solemn an occasion as a funeral procession could result into a communal riot. Killing of a cow, held sacred by Hindus, was the regular cause of tension. Even cultural issues such as the question of the use of Hindi in the official work, the study of Sanskrit and the protection of cows became communal issues. Muslim insistence for slaughtering cows has been one of the major problems. Opposition to everything and anything that was having a relation with Hindu and Hinduism became the order of the day, despite the fact that more than 95% of the Muslims were converts from Hindus.

Communal riots reached their nadir during the khilafat movement. The Muslims poured their anger over Hindus for the defeat of the Sultan of Turkey and the loss of Caliphate, as if the Hindus were responsible for it. Between 1918 and 1924 riots occurred in virtually all parts of India from Peshawar to Dhaka and from Jammu to Kerala.

Mr. R.N.P Singh’s painstaking documentation and masterly analysis of communal riots shows that riots were only an occasional phenomenon till about 1857. However, following the loss of power in 1857, communal riots became a regular phenomenon, as an annual or sometimes even a seasonal ritual.74 Never were the guilty punished. Rather, efforts were made to shield the culprits and whitewash the entire crime.

How the role of the minority in the communal riots was whitewashed, facts altered and distorted to suite the minority and often how Hindus were held responsible for the riots, despite the fact that they were the victims of the riots, can be seen in R.N.P. Singh’s study. To illustrate the point we shall take up a brief study of only two riots – one before the independence (Moplah riots) one after the independence (Jabalpur riots).

Moplah Riots

First, about who are the Moplas? More than one thousand years back a group of Muslim traders landed on the shores of Malabar. The Hindu kings, following the tradition of Hinduism, welcomed them and allowed them to settle there. The Muslims were permitted to establish mosques and carry on their trading activities. Hindus called them ‘Mopilla’ which in Malyalam means ‘a great child’ or ‘a bridegroom’. In course of time they intermingled with Indian population, married Indians and succeeded in converting some Indians. The present Moplah Muslims of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala are the descendants of Mopillas. The Muslim community grew and spread in the southern region of India not because of any protection from Muslim rulers, because there were none till the very late 18th and early 19th century, but because of the Hindu philosophy of peaceful coexistence, its respect for all religions and love for humanity. Unlike Muslim rulers, Hindu kings did not discriminate between one citizen and another on the basis of one’s varying mode of worship, and differing religious tradition and opinions.

After the fall of Caliphate, two parallel agitations began – one by the Central Khilafat Committee and the other by an organization ‘Khuddam-i-Kaba’ (servants of Mecca shrine). The agitators preached the doctrine that India under the British rule was dar-ul-harb. This agitation was said to have been against the British with the aim to establish the Kingdom of Islam by overthrowing it. But in reality, it targeted Hindus in an unprecedented scale. The official report describes it as follows.

“During the early months of 1912, excitement spread speedily from mosque to mosque, from village to village. The violent speeches of the Ali brothers, the July resolution of the khilafat conference – all these combined to fire the train. Throughout July and August innumerable khilafat meetings were held in which the resolutions of the Karachi Conference were fervently endorsed. Knives, spears and swords were secretly manufactured, bands of desperados collected, and preparations were made to proclaim the coming Kingdom of Islam…. As soon as the administration has been paralyzed, the Mopilahs declared that swaraj was established. A certain Ali Musaliar was proclaimed Raja, khilafat flags were flown, and Ernad and Walluvanad were declared khilafat Kingdom. The main brunt of Mopalah ferocity was borne not by the Government, but by the luckless Hindus, who constituted the majority of the population… Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, pillage, arson and destruction – in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism – were perpetrated freely until such time as troops could be hurried…”75

Besides the above report, several independent reports and documents are available. A few of these need to be referred just to realize the scale of brutality:

1. A statement signed by the Secretary and the Treasurer of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee; Secretary, Calicut District Congress Committee; Secretary, Ernad Khilafat Committee; and K.V. Gopala Menon, refers to the following atrocities on the Hindus perpetrated by the Moplahs:

“Their [Moplas] wanton and unprovoked attack on the Hindus, the all but wholesale looting of their houses in Ernad, and parts of Valluvanad, Ponnani, and Calicut taluqs; the forcible conversion of Hindus in a few places in the beginning of the rebellion, and the wholesale conversion of those who stuck to their homes in later stages, the brutal murder of inoffensive Hindus, men, women, and children, in cold blood, without the slightest reason except that they are ‘kafirs’ or belong to the same race as the policemen, who insulted their Tangals or entered their mosques, desecration and burning of Hindu temples, the outrage on Hindu women and their forcible conversion and marriage by Moplahs… These and similar atrocities were proved beyond the shadow of a doubt by the statements recorded by us from the actual sufferers who have survived.”

2. The memorial of the Hindu women of Malabar to Lady Reading contains the following:

“It is possible that your Ladyship is not fully apprised of all the horrors and atrocities perpetrated by the fiendish rebels; of the many wells and tanks filled up with the mutilated, but often only half dead, bodies, of our nearest and dearest ones who refused to abandon the faith of our fathers; of pregnant women cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles, with the unborn babe protruding from the mangled corpse; of our innocent and helpless children torn form our arms and done to death before our eyes and of our husbands and fathers tortured, flayed and burnt alive; of our helpless sisters forcibly carried away from the midst of kith and kin and subjected to every shame and outrage which the vile and brutal imagination of these inhuman hell-hounds could conceive of; of thousands of our homesteads reduced to cinder-mounds out of sheer savagery and a wanton spirit of destruction; of our places of worship desecrated and destroyed and of the images of deity shamefully insulted by putting the entrails of slaughtered cows where flower garlands used to lie, or else smashed to pieces…. We remember how driven out of our native hamlets we wandered, starving and naked, in the jungles and forests….”

(This is only a short extract from a long harrowing tale of misery).

3. After reviewing the detail documentation of Mopalah riots Resolution-VI of the Proceedings of the Conference at Calicut presided over by the Zamorin noted:

“That the conference views with indignation and sorrow the attempts made in various quarters by interested parties to ignore or minimize the crimes committed by the rebels such as:

Brutally dishonouring women;

Flaying people alive;

Wholesale slaughter of men, women and children;

Burning alive entire families;

Forcibly converting people in thousands and slaying those who refused to get converted;

Throwing half-dead people into wells and leaving the victims for hours to struggle for escape till finally released from their suffering by death.”

(Two other items refer to looting and desecration of temples as described in the above memorial of the ladies).

4. A report, dated 7 September 1921, published in the Times of India, and another, dated 6 December 1921, published in New India, give detailed accounts of the most horrible outrages on women which cannot be reproduced for the sake of decency.

5. Shri Sankaran Nair refers to cases of men who were skinned alive or made to dig their graves before being slaughtered.76

Congress’ Response

The reactions of the Congress leaders were shocking. They first refused to believe the stories of the Muslim atrocities on Hindus. Gandhiji himself, still considering himself as messiah of Hindu – Muslim unity praised Muslims, the “brave God-fearing Moplahs” who were “fighting for what they consider as religion and in a manner which they consider as religious”. Jawaharlal went several further than Gandhiji. All that Jawaharlal would remember in his autobiography, just 11 years later (though published in 1936, it was completed in mid 1934), was:

“It is possible, however, that this sudden bottling up of a great movement contributed to a tragic development in the country. The drift to sporadic and futile violence had to find a way out, and in the following years this perhaps aggravated the communal trouble. The communalists of various denominations, mostly political reactionaries, had to lie low because of the overwhelming mass support for the non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement. They emerged now from their retirement. Many others, secret service agents and people who sought to please the authorities by creating communal friction, also worked on the same theme. The Moplah rising and its extraordinary cruel suppression – what a horrible thing was the baking to death of the Moplah prisoners in the closed railway vans! – had already given a handle to those who stirred the water of the communal discard. It is just possible that if the civil resistance had not been stopped and the movement had been crushed by the Government, there would have been less communal bitterness and less superfluous energy left for the subsequent communal riots.” (Nehru, An Autobiography, Oup, 1936, 16th impression, 2003, p.86-87, first published in 1936.)

Jawaharlal’s above observation is interesting. Just in one paragraph he uses the expressions ‘possible’ and ‘perhaps’ three time justify what he was writing. Not a word about Moplahs’ misdeed, cruelty, and atrocities on Hindus. One is fails to understand as to what He wants to convey by the above description of the riots. Total silence on about Moplahs’ conduct! He gives incredible lead as how to use “superfluous energy” and according to him the only way to deal with the communal riots and communal problems is not to allow any energy left among the people!

Khilafat leaders passed resolutions after resolutions congratulating Moplahs for the brave fight they were conducting for the sake of religion.

Congress passed a resolution exonerating Moplahs of atrocities on Hindus, whitewashing all their crimes and criticizing the Government for being totally unworthy. The resolution says:

“The Congress expresses its firm conviction that the Moplah disturbance was not due to the non-cooperation or khilafat movement… but due to the cause wholly unconnected with the two movements, and the outbreak would not have occurred had the message of non-violence been allowed to reach them. Nevertheless this Congress deplores the act done by certain Moplahs by way of forcible conversions and destruction of life and property….”10

The resolution further noted:

“Whilst, however, condemning violence on the part of Moplahs the Working Committee desires it to be known that the evidence in its possession shows that provocation beyond endurance was given to Moplahs and that the reports published by and on behalf of the Government have given one-sided and highly exaggerated account of the wrong done by Moplahs and an under-statement of needless destruction of life, resorted by Government in the name of peace and order.” 11

It is an interesting resolution. One fails to understand why would the British Government report exaggerate the atrocities by the Muslims on Hindus? Congress never made public what ‘evidence’ were there in its possession which proved that the government was exaggerating the whole thing.

The questions then arises: what about the signed report submitted by the Secretary and the Treasurer of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee, Secretary, Calicut District Congress Committee, and Secretary, Ernad Khilafat Committee, and K.V. Gopala Menon? Were they also telling lies? Even if we accept that Moplahs were angry with the administration and the government then what had Hindus to do with that? Why did Moplahs show their wrath on Hindus and killed them, maimed them, destroyed their properties and forcibly converted them to Islam? The whole resolution was so disgusting that historian R.C. Majumdar lamented:

“This resolution is unworthy of a great political organisation which claims to represent India and not any particular community. Its deliberate attempt to minimise the enormity of crimes perpetrated by a band of fanatic Muslims upon thousands of helpless Hindus betrays a mentality which generally characterised Government communiqués whitewashing the crimes perpetrated by officials upon the Indians, and both should be strongly denounced by any impartial citizen. It is ridiculous to maintain that the Moplah disturbance was not due to the non-cooperation or khilafat movement in the face of well authenticated facts such as holding of khilafat meetings which endorsed the resolution of Karachi Conference, the proclamations of Khilafat kingdom, and hosting the khilafat flag.”77

It is important to mention here that according to the confidential report of Intelligence Bureau, Home Department, Government of India, which had noted:

“The Moplah rebellion broke out in August after khilafat agitators, including Abul Kalam Azad and Hakim Azmal Khan, had been making violent speeches in that area. Ever since the Majlis-ul-Ulema conference at Erode in April the feelings of the Moplahs had been steadily growing with respect to khilafat, while the non-violent and non-cooperation movements were receding more and more into the background.”13

Congress and Gandhiji still believed that khilafat had nothing to do with riots and Muslim atrocities on Helpless Hindus were largely false. However, the illusion of Hindu-Muslim unity was soon to be realized. Within two years the Sultan of Turkey entered into a treaty with the British on most humiliating terms and the institution of Caliphate stood abolished. With this development Ali brothers did not have to keep even a fig leaf over their communalism and were back at their old game. Congress learnt its lesson but Hindus paid the price of imagined Hindu-Muslim Unity suffering in innumerable communal riots from 1919 to 1924. M.J. Akbar writes:

“Gandhi offered the Muslims a blank cheque to bring about the communal settlement. But Gandhi failed. This was clearly seen during Moplah rebellion of 1921. Moplah rebellion was the result of Khilafat movement launched for the restoration of Turkish Empire.”78

The Moplah rebellion went precisely in the direction Muslim leaders had been preparing the common Muslim people.

Kohat Riots

One of the most serious communal riots occurred in Kohat, near Peshawar in North-West Frontier Provinces in September 1924. Below is given a summery of the incident based on Indian Annual Register, 1924 Vol. II.

The trouble allegedly arose over the publication of an offensive leaflet by a Hindu who was associated with a local body called Sanatan Dharma Sabha. It was said to be in reply to an equally offensive anti-Hindu poem published in a Muslim Newspaper. Realizing the mistake of one of their brethren, the Hindus passed a resolution regretting the publication of the leaflet requesting pardon. But this did not satisfy the Muslims and they approached the authorities to take drastic action. Thereafter Jeevan Das in whose name was the leaflet published was arrested and after a few days was given bail. On this Muslims immediately held a meeting in a mosque and took oath of talaq which meant that their wives stood divorced as the men were determined to die or arrive at a satisfactory decision by next morning. This oath, by implication, meant that they shall deal with the matter in their own way in case they are not satisfied with he measures taken by the administration. According to the Hindu version, they had brought this matter of oath by the Muslims to the notice of the administration and prayed for protection. According to the government’s version, “owing to the error of an Inspector of Police the report failed to reach the Deputy Commissioner till too late.”

There was a violent outbreak on the 9th September in the course of which the bazaar of Kohat was looted. Hindu shops were the main targets of looting and burning.

On the night of 10th September Muslims made a number of breaches in the fortification walls of the town and resorted to the wholesale plunder, rape, abduction and carnage. Well before the noon most of the Hindu houses were on fire. The policemen freely participated in loot, rape and murder. The administration failed to protect the life and properties of Hindus. The only thing that the administration could do was to move the surviving Hindus to the Cantonment to save their lives. Later those who survived the carnage moved to Rawalpindi.

The carnage was on the scale that there was a virtual outcry which moved Gandhiji to the extent that he decided to visit Kohat along with some of his Muslim friends in order to restore confidence among the Hindus but the Viceroy refused permission. The Government made an inquiry into the matter and admitted that “some members of the forces of law and order were involved in looting” arson and carnage. But as usual it exonerated all the officials. However, Lala Lajpat Rai gave the following report on the carnage of the Hindus:

“At 1.00 a.m. i.e. within an hour of taking of the vow, the Court Inspector verbally made a report of that vow to the Superintendent of Police who asked for a written report which was submitted at 6.00 a.m. The Superintendent asked for the names of the persons who had taken the vow and so a third report was given before 10.00 a.m. At 10.00 a.m. the Hindus again telegraphed to the Chief Commissioner about the seriousness of the situation, and yet we find the authorities say that they had no information. The Hindus warned the authorities on the situation on 8th, 9th and 10th and sent telegrams directly to the Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police, and the Chief Commissioner, but no action was taken, Afterwards when the tragedy had been enacted, they came round and say that they had no information.”15

This report of a person of the status of Lala Lajpat Rai cannot be taken lightly. The Hindus are certainly justified in saying that in the entire matter administration and the Muslims were one and the same.

The Kohat tragedy formed a subject of discussion in the circle of the Congress, Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha for a long time and showed their approach to the problem. Let us first take the resolution of the Hindu Mahasabha which was more a statement of facts than anything else. It “expressed grief at the loss sustained by Hindus and Muslims in life and property, burning of 473 houses and shops, the desecration or destruction of many temples and Gurudwaras which compelled the entire Hindu and Sikh population to leave Kohat and to seek shelter in Rawalpindi and other places in Punjab.”16

Motilal Nehru Moved the resolution in the Congress meeting. The resolution hardly had anything of substance and Motilal Nehru hiself said that “the resolution is a non-controversial one and commits the Congress to nothing.”17 So, the Congress was looking for escape route and as usual preferred not to talk about the atrocities perpetrated on Hindus. The only thing that the Congres resolution did was to deplore the ‘incident’ and request the Muslims to assure their Hindu brethren of the protection of their life and property.

The Muslim League and even the Muslim leaders in the Congress predictably got their acts together in justifying the Muslims’ reaction and atrocities. After condemning the ‘incident’ the Muslim League resolution said:

“All India Muslim league feels to be its duty to place on record that the sufferings of Kohat Hindus was not unprovoked, but that on the contrary the facts brought to light make it clear that gross provocation was offered to the religious sentiments of the Mussalmans, and Hindus were the first to resort to violence….”18

Lala Lajpat Rai rightly asked the Muslims League, Muslim leaders and public that “whether even admitting that Hindus were at fault, their fault was such that it deserved the punishment inflicted on them?

Both Gandhiji and Shaukat Ali conducted a joint inquiry in to the matter but interestingly conclusions reached by them were so different that they released their findings independently. Gandhiji said that there is no direct evidence to show that the riots were started by the Hindus on 9th September by firing on a Muslim crowd. He pointedout that Hindu houses and Sardar Makhan Singh were burnt much before the supposed firing by the Hindus. Shaukat Ali merely said that “the burning of the 9th September was quite accidental.”19

However, about the riots of the10th September Gandhiji wrote:

“It is generally admitted that on the 10th September the Mussalman fury knew no bounds. No doubt highly exaggerated reports of Mussalaman deaths at Hindu hands were spread, and tribesmen from all parts stole into Kohat by making breaches in the walls and otherwise. Destruction of life and property, in which the constabulary freely partook, which was witnessed by the officials and which they could have prevented, was general. Had not the Hindus been withdrawn from their places and taken to the Cantonment, not many would have lived…. Even some Khilafat volunteers, whose duty it was to protect the Hindus and regard them as their own kith and kin, neglected their duty, and not only joined the loot but also took part in previous incitement.”20

He further wrote:

“During these days temples including Gurudwaras were damaged and idols broken. There were numerous forced conversions i.e., conversions pretended for safety. Two Hindus at least were brutally murdered because they would not accept Islam. The so called conversions are thus described by a Mussalman witness. ‘The Hindus came and aked to have their sikhas cut and sacred thread destroyed, for the Mussalmans whom they approached for protection said that they could be protected only by declaring themselves Mussalmans and removing their signs of Hinduism.’ I fear the truth is bitterer than is put here if I am to credit the Hindu version.”21

How naïve on the part of Gandhiji! He laments that “Even some Khilafat volunteers, whose duty it was to protect the Hindus and regard them as their own kith and kin, neglected their duty, and not only joined the loot but also took part in previous incitement.” He could not realize that the ‘brotherhood’, ‘duty’, ‘kith and kin’, ‘protection’ etc. are the terms to be accepted, followed and implemented by the Muslims only for the followers of Islam and not for the ‘kafirs’. How could he not read the meaning of the sentence so directly spoken by the Muslim witnesses: “The Hindus came and asked to have their sikhas cut and sacred thread destroyed, for the Mussalmans whom they approached for protection said that they could be protected only by declaring themselves Mussalmans and removing their signs of Hinduism.”22

Shaukat Ali did not agree with Gandhiji’s findings and disbelieved everything Hindus said. He put the entire blame for the butchery of Hindus mainly on the Hindus themselves and partly the administration. The only point on which both Gandhiji and Shaukat Ali seems to be in agreement is putting the blame for the butchery of Hindus on the administration. Shaukat Ali said:

“The Mussalmans say that they did neither want nor force the Hindus to leave Kohat on 10th September. The police and the boarder constabulary and all the British officers were present on the spot and for the unfortunate looting and firing of the 10th September it is the Government which is responsible. They could have stopped everything if they wanted; but they did not want to stop…. It was the strong hand of the British Government that was needed for peace.”23

Gandhiji wrote:

“Truth is that the tragedy at Kohat would have never occurred and Hindus would not have run away if the Government had done its duty…. To me the Kohat tragedy is not so much a result of Hindu-Muslim tension as of the utter worthlessness and incompetence of the local administration…. The authority cannot plead helplessness. It had ample resources at its disposal. It was at no time overwhelmed except by its own criminal indifference and callousness.”24

Putting the blame for the entire sufferings of Hindus on Hindus themselves Government proves only one thing and one thing alone is important i.e. Muslims are entitled to do any thing they want and that it is the duty of the Government to stop them from that. One can legitimately ask as to why a British Government should do anything concerning Hindu Muslim amity and unity when both the communities are involved in a battle – khilafat movement – against the British Government?

Jabalpur Riots

Riots between the Hindus and Muslims in Jabalpur were not a new thing. Jabalpur had experienced riots before in 1931, 1934 and 1947 before experiencing it in 1961. We need to look at the 1961 riots carefully because Nehru thought it to be a fit excuse to ban a political party like Jana Sangh and a social and cultural organisation like RSS.

The riots in Jabalpur erupted because two Muslim employees of a Muslim manufacturer of bidis (small cigarettes) “broke into the house of a Hindu merchant and raped his daughter, who then committed suicide. Several hundred fellow students of the dead girl with support from ABVP, organised a demonstration. This degenerated into riots.”79 In the riots 55 persons had been killed. P.C. Joshi, General Secretary of CPI and other ‘secularists’ blamed Jana Sangh for the riots. Joshi resorted to all sorts of lies against Jana Sangh, RSS and the Hindus.80 Before we proceed further it must be mentioned that entire ‘secularist’ lobby – Congress, Communist and Muslims -- first got on to the job of covering the real cause of riots. First it was projected as a business dispute, then land dispute, and finally a love triangle. Most of the ‘secular’ media propagated that “the immediate cause of the riot was cause by love affair between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy. The Muslim boy had eloped with the Hindu girl which caused tension among the Hindus and resulted in the communal riots.”81

Jabalpur riot was followed by a Muslim convention in Delhi in which members of Communist, Praja Socialist and Congress Parties, Muslim Ulema and 'secularists' participated. They all condemned Hindu ‘Communalism’ in general and RSS’s and Jana Sangh’s in particular, of course, without producing any evidence whatsoever.

After the Muslim Convention, a Hindu Convention was called in order to give a reply to the charges labelled against Hindus. With the support of Nehru some Congress leaders started demanding a ban on RSS, Jana Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha. Nehru appointed a Committee of Congressmen to look into the possibilities of banning the ‘communal’ parties like Jana Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha from contesting the elections. The Committee was headed by Shri Ajit Jain. The Committee in its report maintained that communalism “must primarily be fought on the political level through mass propaganda and mass contact.” Ignoring the objection of two Muslim members of the Committee, it recommended the enactment of a legislation to ban communal parties. There began a debate in the Parliament where protests began. Sinister motives of the Congress Party started being exposed. The political nature of the Jain Committee comprising only Congressmen was also exposed. On the floor of the Parliament, Atal Behari Vajpayee demanded to know the definition of ‘Communalism’. Vajpayee further wanted to know from the Home Minister and the Home Ministry that while the Jabalpur incident was being enquired into and “that is as it should be,” but why the incidents in Assam were ignored. “What is the reason for not inquiring into the disturbances in Assam? Covering up the facts is not the way to fight communalism... Al Jamiat and Nai Duniya have written all sorts of things about Jabalpur incident. Does the Home Ministry take note of such journals... I ask the Communist Party—has anyone even criticized the way Muslim papers of Delhi and Bombay have described the riots of Jabalpur? No one does it. There is a race on among all parties to please a certain religion. A spokesman of Praja Socialist Party says communal parties should be banned. I support such a ban, but when you enter into an alliance with communalists in Kerala but say in the Parliament that communalists should be banned, the two things cannot go together.”82

In August 1961, a Bill to amend the ‘Penal Code’ was brought up by the Home Minister. After the debate in the Parliament and befitting reply from Jana Sangh’s Parliamentarians, especially Atal Behari Vajpayee, the ‘Amendment Bill’ was withdrawn by the Government.83

Craig Baxter, while discussing the Jabalpur riots says, “There is no evidence so far produced (i.e., till the publication of his book in 1971) that Jana Sangh or RSS as organisations have been instrumental in communal incidents… The Jana Sangh and the RSS are the convenient whipping boys for the ruling party which is, at least officially, pledged to secularism.”84


Let us not forget a simple but brutal fact: “Those who ignore their history very soon become the part of history.” This is what is going to happen to India and the Hindus. Today India is a ‘secular’ country just because it has more than 86% Hindu population. Hindu tradition from the time immemorial has been that of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, atithi devo bhava and sarvadhartma sambhava. It must be underlined that most of the religions which came in India were not just ‘tolerated’ but in fact welcomed, and accepted by the society under the dictum atithi devo bhava and ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti. All the three Semitic religions found respectable place in India and among the Hindus. The Zoroastrians found love peace and protection in India. We need not be given the lesson of ‘secularism’. It is the ‘secularists’ who have to look inward and correct their ways. Humanity at large cannot be expected to live in peace unless one-up-manship is abandoned. Also those who profess that “their path alone leads to the ultimate truth” have to change their attitude and accept that other paths also lead to the same truth and hence they also need to be respected and revered. This will be the true ‘secularism’ that has been the tradition of India and message to the world. This alone shall ensure a cohesive India of the future and a cohesive humanity in the world.

Notes and References:

  1. See speeches and debates in the Constituent Assembly.

  2. See various articles in the News Papers on the issues of Ayodhya, Aligarh Muslim University, minority institutions etc.

  3. See B.C. Pal, 1932 Memories of My Life and Times, Calcutta, Prabha Dixit 1972, Communalism, A struggle for Power, Delhi; M. Mujeeb, 1967, Indian Muslims, London.

  4. For details see Matin Yanuk, “The Indian Muslim self-Image: Nine Historians in search of a past” in Islam and the Modern Age, 1973.

  5. Peter Hardy, 1972. Muslims of British India, London, p. 59.

  6. Ibid 76-79

  7. M. Mujeeb, 1967, Indian Muslims, London, p.507.

  8. W.W Hunter, (reprinted 1968), The Indian Musalmans, Lahore, p.145.

  9. B.R.Nanda, 1999, The Making of A Nation, Delhi p.76, For details see B.R. Nanda 1989, Gandhi, Pan-Islamism Imperialism and Nationalism in India, Delhi.

  10. Maulvi Mohd. Imanuddin, 1900, Mukammal Majmua: Lectures and Speeches of Honourable Syed Ahmad Khan, P. 507, Lahore.

  11. Ibid. p. 537.

  12. Syed Ahmad Khan, 1886, The Present State of Indian Politics, Allahabad, pp.196-7.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Shan Muhammad, 1978, The Aligarh Movement vol. III, Meerut, p. 762.

  15. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, 1886. The Present State of Indian Politics, Allahabad, pp. 50-51.

  16. iIbid.

  17. John Strachey, Expansion of the British Empire. London.

  18. J.A. Dubois, 1879, A Description of the Character, Manners, and the Customs of the People of India; And of their Institutions, Religious and Civil (edited by G.U. Pope), London.

  19. Philip Mason

  20. A.J. Guenberger, The British Image of India, p. 46; see also B.B. Wocker, 1888, Diana Barington: A Romance Of Central India; B. Kippling, Ballade of East and West; F.A. Stopeel, 1887, Knight Errant; John Strachey and J.A. Dubois above.

  21. W.W. Hunter, 1871, Indian Musalmans, London.

  22. W.S. Blunt, 1909, India Under Ripon, London, p. 103.

  23. Lord Dufferin, Speeches Delivered in India (1884-88), London, p. 204.

  24. Tara Chand, 1967, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol.2, New Delhi, pp.370 ff.

  25. Nizami Khwaja Hasan, 1925, Tarki Qurbabi-i-Gau, Lucknow, pp. 26-27

  26. W.W. Hunter, Education Commission Report (1882).

  27. Ibid.

  28. B.R Nanda, 1999, The Making of A Nation: India’s Road to Independence, pp. 81-82.

  29. Bashir Ahmad Dar, 1957, Religious Thoughts of Sayyid Ahmad Khan. Lahor, p. VI.

  30. The Muslims’ Address to the Viceroy, Para 8, Morley papers I.O.L.R.

  31. Ibid, para 5.

  32. Earl of Minto, 1910. Speeches, Calcutta, pp. 65-70.

  33. Mohisin-ul-Mulk to Dunlop-Smith, October 7, 1906, Bulter Papers, I.O.L.R.

  34. Butler Papers, I.O.L.R.

  35. Agha Khan to Dunlop smith, 29th October 1906, In Martin Gilbert, 1966, Servant of India: A study of Imperial Rule from 1905 to 1910 as Told Through the Correspondence and Diaries of Sir James Dunlop-Smith, London, p.57.

  36. Minto to Morley, August 15, 1906, cited in Mary Minto, India, Minto and Morley, pp.28-29.

  37. S.R. Wasti Lord Minto and the India Nationlist Movement,.. p. 62.

  38. M.N.Das, India Under Morley and Minto, p.166.

  39. As quoted in Tara Chand, 1972, History of the Freedom Movement in India, vol. III, pp.293-94. The original letter of Archibold to Mohsin-ul-Mulk dated Simla, the 10th of August is kept in the Archives of Aligarh Muslim University.

  40. Agha Khan, Memoirs, p. 95.

  41. Craig Baxter, 1971, The Jana Sangh: A Biography of an Indian Politcal Party, Oxford University Press, p. 7.

  42. Englishman, January 1, 1907.

  43. Prince of Wales to Minto, January 1, 1907, Minto Papers, N.L.S.

  44. Tara Chand, 1972, History of the Freedom Struggle in India, New Delhi, p.400.

  45. Kanchanmoy Mojumdar, 2003, Communal Politics in the Central Provinces and Berar 1919-1947, New Delhi, pp. 13-24.

  46. Ibid.

  47. Tara Chand, 1972, History of the Freedom Struggle in India, Vol.3, New Delhi, p.402.

  48. B.R. Nanda, 1999. The Making of A Nation. p. 42

  49. Zamindar, February 6, 1912.

  50. Aligarh Gazette, January 3, 1912.

  51. Englishman, March 4, 1912.

  52. S.V. Bapat (ed.),1925, The Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Lokamanya Tilak, Poona, p.21.

  53. M.A. Jinnah, An Ambassador of Unity, His Speeches and Writings, 1912-1917(Madras) 1918, pp.47-48.

  54. Syed Saifuddin Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan, All India Muslim League Documents, vol I, Karachi, pp. 437-9.

  55. Fazl-ul-Haq, Presidential Address, published in Sayeed Khalid Bin, 1960, Pakistan the Formative Phase, Lahore, p. 46

  56. Mahadev Desai, 1969, Day-to-Day with Gandhi, vol. IV (28January to 8 November 1924), Varanasi, p. 22.

  57. Quoted in Tara Chand, 1972, History of the Freedom Struggle in India, Vol.2, New Delhi, p.202.

  58. Ibid. Vol.3, pp.425-26

  59. Jawaharlal Nehru quoted in Mahadev Desai, 1969, Day-to-Day with Gandhi, vol. IV (28January to 8 November 1924), Varanasi, p. 22.

  60. Presidential speech delivered by Mohammad Ali at the annual session of the Congress held in Kakinada.

  61. Mahadev Desai, 1968, Day-to –Day with Gandhi, vol.III, (October 1920 to January 1924), Varanasi, 1968, pp.315-16.

  62. ibid. vol. IV, p. 21.

  63. Mahatma Gandhi, Collected works. Vol.XXIII, Appendix XIII (A); p. 568.

  64. Ibid, Appendix XIII (b), p.569.

  65. Times of India, January 24, 1924.

  66. Afzal Iqbal, 1978, The Life and Times of Mohammad Ali, Delhi, p.371.

  67. Ibid p.384.

  68. Ibid p.382.

  69. The Tribune, July 2, 1937.

  70. B.R. Nanda. 1999. The Making of A Nation, New Delhi, p.273.

  71. Ibid, p. 283.

  72. Jinnah’s Speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly .

  73. Indian Annual Register, January-June, 1946, p. 196, Dawn, April 11, 1946.

  74. R.N.P Singh, 2004, Riots and Wrongs: Islam and Religious Riots, New Delhi

  75. India in 1921-22, pp. 18-20, IAR, 1921, p.41, Quoted in R.C Majumdar (Ed.) 1969, Struggle for Freedom: Bombay, pp. 361-65.

  76. Ibid, pp. 149-152.

  77. Ibid, p. 364.

  78. M.J Akbar, 2002, The Shade of Swords, New Delhi, p. 237.

  79. Christopher Jaffrelot, 1996, Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, New York, pp. 165-66.

  80. P.C. Joshi, 1961, ‘Jabalpur – a lesson’, New Age, 12 March, 1961, p.4.

  81. Gitesh Sharma, Sampradiyikta and Sampradayik Dange, Patna, p.73.

  82. Atal Behari Vajpayee, 1996, Four Decades in Parliament, New Delhi, pp. 236-37.

  83. Ibid. pp.338-43

  84. Craig Baxter, 1971, The Bharatiya Jana Sangh: A Biography of an Indian Politcal Party, Oxford University Press, p. 202.

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