15th AUG: VICTORY DAY OF MUSLIM COMMUNALISM IN INDIA
For a historian, the 20th century was a saga of continuing success of Muslim separatism and communalism that culminated in the partition of the country between Muslim Pakistan and non-Muslim India. Hindu Mahasabha, the counter Hindu communal political party that had come up as a reaction to Muslim League, tottered and failed miserably in its opposition to the Partition of India because the Indian National Congress parading as a Party representing both Hindus and Muslims, de facto functioned as a Hindu party, outsmarting Hindu Mahasabha. With Gandhi in the garb of a Hindu religious man, striving for Ram Rajya and ban on cow slaughter, the Congress came to occupy the mind space of Hindus, claimed by Hindu Mahasabha. His songs equalizing ‘Ishwer’ and ‘Allah’ offended the strict monotheistic beliefs of Muslims and alienated them from the Congress into the arms of Muslim League. Thus, at the time of the Partition, the Congress was an organisation consisting entirely of Hindus, loudly claiming to be opponent of the Partition plan. Hindus were taken in. They dumped the Hindu Mahasabha and voted for the Congress en masse. The Hindu Mahasabha was not invited to participate in the Partition negotiations; with the result there was nobody to safeguard the Hindu interest. The Congress betrayed Hindus and accepted the Partition. The Congress betrayed Hindus and accepted the Partition.
Freedom and Partition both came to India on 15th August, 1947 and a big portion of her territory was slashed off as Pakistan. Rank communalism was the basis of this divide. While the provinces with Muslim majority were clubbed together to form Pakistan, the Hindu majority provinces remained as India. The provinces of Bengal and Punjab were also partitioned on the basis of religion. West Punjab and East Bengal which had Muslim majority became part of Pakistan. East Punjab and West Bengal having Hindu majority continued to be part of India. That is how the British left India after dividing the country into the Muslim majority Pakistan and the Hindu majority India. Was this partition the handiwork of the British Government alone? The answer is an emphatic NO. They only had created conditions as catalysts but the demand came from Mohammad Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League and acceptance came from Jawahar Lal Nehru on behalf of the Congress. The responsibility for the country's partition, thus, lay as much on Nehru as it does on Jinnah.
The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 on the principle of Indian nationalism. But the propagation of separatist Islamic communalism had started even earlier. Its foundation was laid with the establishment of the Mohammaden Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh (UP), the fore-runner of the present Aligarh Muslim University.
The founder of the College, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, stayed away from the Congress. There were only two Muslim participants in the first session of the Congress in 1885. Of the 440 participants in the second annual session of the Congress, only 33 were Muslims. Warning the Muslims against their increasing inclination towards the Congress, Syed Ahmed Khan had said:
"The demand of the Congress for a Government of elected representatives means a rule of the majority in which the Hindus will be in power by their numbers and Muslims never".
Scare of Hindu majority rule was engraved in the Muslim mind by leaders during the last quarter of the 19th century. Since then, Muslim mind-set has generally remained separatist and anti Hindu. They never let communal unity develop between Hindus and Muslims.
In the early years of the twentieth century when the trio of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal gave an assertive nationalist turn to the Congress, away from its earlier stance of declaration of loyalty to the Empire, the British got alarmed. They realized that the British Empire in India would not last long if the Hindus and the Muslims challenged it unitedly. In order to halt this revolutionary trend in the Congress, they partitioned Bengal to widen the Hindu-Muslim divide. In 1906 they fathered the Muslim League to achieve their objective.
First Victory of Muslim communalism: Morley-Minto Reforms.
A delegation of Muslims met Lord Minto, the Viceroy on 1st October 1906 under the leadership of Agha Khan had demanded that the Muslims be given proportional representation in legislatures, municipalities, universities senates etc. and that the Muslim representatives should be elected by Muslims only. The British grabbed the opportunity and in 1909, through a declaration known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (The Indian Councils Act 1909), created a separate electoral college for the Muslims, providing for them representation in the elected bodies in a proportion higher than their actual population. This declaration raised a permanent wall of separation between the two communities which ultimately ended up with the partition of the country on the basis of religion.
Tilak and other national leaders were in jail in 1909. The Congress was dominated by the so called 'liberals' under the leadership' of Gopal Krishna Gokhle; who could not muster courage to oppose or to boycott publicly the scheme of separate electorate. Therefore, the Congress in spite of its declared adherence to nationalist policy, quietly accepted the rank communal provision of a separate electorate. This was the starting point of the political victory of Muslim communalism and defeat of nationalism in India.
Second Victory of Muslim Communalism: Congress-League Pact of 1916.
During the First World War, Turkey had sided with the Germans against the British. The Sultan of Turkey was the Caliph of the Muslim world. The Muslim sentiment against the British, for being the enemy of Turkey, stirred up agitation on religious lines. In order to strengthen their confrontation with the British, the Muslim leadership in a tactical move mended fence with the Congress. The Congress welcomed them with open arms. It had naively believed that the coming together of the Congress and the Muslim League would usher unity between Hindus and Muslims, and would strengthen the national movement. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the President of the Muslim League, threw bait to the Congress by passing a resolution that the League would form a committee for suggesting political reforms in consultation with the Congress. The Congress fell into the trap and was ready to extend every possible concession to the Muslim League.
A Committee comprising Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Wazir Hasan, Motilal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru was formed to draw an 'agreement’ between the Muslim League and the Congress. In pursuance of the recommendation of this committee, the Congress accepted in its Lucknow Session (1916) a separate electorate for Muslim based on the Morley-Minto Reforms. In history, it is known as Congress-League Pact. Shri Madan Mohan Malaviya and some other senior leaders opposed to it, as it gave statutory recognition to Muslim separatism. Even Tilak sincerely looked for Hindu-Muslim unity through this Pact, when he said:
"Some gentlemen have alleged that we Hindus are paying greater attention to our Muslim brothers. I have to say that I would have no objection if the right of self rule is given to the Muslims. Unity is the most important thing when you are fighting a third party-communal unity, religious unity and unity of different political ideas".
Tilak had thought that it would be an expedient policy to accede to some of the communal demands of the Muslims if' that helped to forge a united front against the British. But this hope did not materialize. It did not take long for the Muslim League to desert the Congress and revert to its separatist path. The fact that by entering into the Pact, the Muslim League was able to get the approval of the nationalist Congress to a separate electorate for Muslims, which was an anti-nationalistic provision cannot be denied. To further appease the Muslims, , the Congress also agreed for ‘ weightage’ to Muslim representation, i.e. larger number of reserved seats for Muslims on elected bodies than their population warranted. For instance, the Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims constituted only 14 percent of the total population, as much as 30 percent reservation for them was accepted on elected seats. Similarly, in Madras, with barely 6.5 per cent Muslim population, 15 percent reservation was accepted. One third seats of the Central Legislative Assembly were reserved for the Muslims.
Third Victory of Muslim Communalism: The Khilafat Movement
After the end of the First World War, the British appointed an Allied High Commission to wield all the powers of the Sultan of Turkey, who was regarded as Caliph by Muslims all over the world. In effect, the Sultan was divested of all his powers. The Indian Muslims got furious at this. They formed the Khilafat Committee to reinstate the Sultan of Turkey as the Caliph. Mahatma Gandhi was invited to a Khilafat meeting organized by Muslims. Gandhi thought that the Caliph issue was a God-sent opportunity to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity, which would not come in a hundred years. Therefore, the Congress decided to launch ‘Khilafat movement’ in support of the Muslim demand. Gandhi sent Dr. Ansari and Maulana Mohammed Ali to the Viceroy in a delegation which demanded the status quo for regal as well as spiritual powers (as Caliph) to the Sultan of Turkey. This delegation also went to U.K. in March, 1918, seeking reinstatement of the Sultan. The Khilafat leaders Maulana Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali accepted Congress membership at the instance of Mahatma Gandhi, in return of the latter's support for the Caliph of Turkey.
Gandhi launched a non-cooperation movement to support the cause of the Caliph. Thousands' of Hindus went to jails, along with the Muslims. Slogans of 'Hindu-Muslim Jai'(Victory to Hindu-Musims) were heard everywhere. When this movement was at its climax, the agitators burnt the Chauri Chaura police station in a small town of Uttar Pradesh in which 22 policemen were burnt alive. Gandhi did not approve of this violence and suspended the movement. This perhaps was too much for the Muslims. They felt that Gandhi had betrayed their cause. Ali brothers (Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali), who had emerged as prophets of Hindu-Muslim unity, came out in their true colors. They left the Congress, and insulted Gandhi publicly.
Maulana Mohammed Ali while speaking at Aligarh, and thereafter at Ajmer said:
"Howsoever pure the character of Mr. Gandhi may be, to me, he will always be smaller than the most characterless Muslim". (The World of Fatwas-Arun Shourie, P.23).
After a few days, when he was asked about the authenticity of this statement at Aminabad Park, Lucknow he accepted it without hesitation saying:
"According to my religion and faith, I consider a corrupt and degraded Muslim better than Mr. Gandhi".
Gandhi had associated the Congress with the Khilafat movement in the fond hope that Muslims would join the mainstream of nationalism. He had believed that the Congress (mainly Hindus) was fighting the British for the freedom of the country and if the Hindus and Muslims were united, the success of the freedom movement was certain. But his hopes were belied. The Muslims were interested only in restoring sovereignity of Sultan of Turkey and not in India’s freedom. But when Mustafa Kamal Pasha, the Army Commander of Turkey revolted against the Sutan and dethroned him, the Muslims had no use either of the Congress or of the Mahatma. Ali Brothers (Maulana Mohd Ali and Maulana Shoukat Ali) left the Congress Party along with their Muslim supporters. Gandhi was left high and dry.
Fourth Victory of Muslim Communalism: Communal Riots as Srategy
The end of the Khilafat movement had brought the honeymoon between the Congress (read Hindus) and the Muslims to an unpleasant end. Soon enough the entire country was engulfed in communal riots invariably started by the Muslim communalists.
Despite the failure of the Khilafat movement in the country the Mopla Muslims of Kerala did not give up. They declared one Mohammed Haji as Caliph and revolted against the British. In the process a large number of rebels were either killed or arrested. The leaders of Mopla Movement were tried and sentenced to death by military courts. The frustrated Moplas turned their anger against the hapless Hindus by looting and burning their homes and killing them en mass.
According to an enquiry made by the Bharat Sewak Samaj, 1500 Hindus were killed, 20,000 were forcibly converted to Islam and property worth Rs. 3 crores looted. Hindu women were subjected to gross humiliation on an unprecedented scale. According to Dr. Anne Besant (an English woman and former President of the Indian National Congress), "they (Moplas) killed to their heart's content, looted and killed or drove away all those Hindus who did not embrace Islam. The Hindus were deprived of everything except the clothes on their bodies."
Hundreds of Hindu women committed suicide to save their honor from the Mopla tyrants. In their petition to the wife of the Viceroy, Lady Reading, the Hindu women of Malabar stated:
"There have been many riots during the last one hundred years in this non-peaceful district, but the riots this time have surpassed them all. Tyranny on such a large scale was never committed. It is noteworthy that our dear ones who had refused to give up their religion ... wells and ponds were heaped with their wounded but half dead bodies. Pregnant women were cut into pieces and their dead bodies thrown on the road sides and in jungles. It was a most horrible scene. Our husbands and parents were tortured, lashed and burnt alive. Our sisters were forcibly taken away and subjected to most shameful dishonour as though all human values had ended. Even shame itself would have been ashamed. It was a naked dance of terror and destruction. Thousands of our homes were burnt or razed to ground. Our temples were defiled and destroyed. The statues of our gods and goddesses were broken and thrown away. Pieces of beef were put around their necks in place of flower garlands. Only we know what agony we have undergone. Homeless, we had been wandering in jungles-weary, hungry, thirsty with little clothing.... " (Shankaran Nayar: Gandhi and Anarchy, P. 139)
Poor Gandhi! All his efforts to bring the Muslims into mainstream came to naught. Even then, he did not publicly decry the Mopla revolt, nursing the hope of bringing the Muslims in the national stream, at some future date. Just as a defeated person humors the victor, so did Gandhi, when he said:
“They (Moplas) are God-fearing people. They are fighting for what they consider their faith and are fighting in a manner they consider is permitted by their religion".
The religious fanaticism ignited in the Muslim mind by the spark of Khilafat movement set the entire country on fire. In 1922-23, many cities including Amritsar, Lahore, Panipat, Multan, Moradabad, Meerut, Allahabad, Saharanpur, Bhagalpur, Gulberga and Delhi were engulfed in Hindu-Muslim riots.
"In most of these places, the Muslims gave a green signal for wide-spread riots by instigating attacks against Hindus during Muharram processions" (M.A. Karindkar: Islam P.126)
The Muslim Communalism inflicted the biggest defeat on the Congress nationalism in Kohat, situated in the North West Frontier Province which shook even the Mahatma. Kohat had only 5 percent Hindus and Sikhs, the rest being Muslims. On 9th September, 1924, the Muslims killed 250 Hindus and wounded hundreds of them. Many were forcibly converted to Islam. All the remaining Hindus and Sikhs were compelled to take shelter in Rawalpindi, about 200 miles away. All Hindu temples were demolished.
Both Gandhi and Shaukat Ali proceeded to Kohat to make enquiries on behalf of the Congress. There was not a single Muslim refugee in Rawalpindi; all the refugees were Hindus. Gandhi and Shaukat Ali talked to them and gave separate reports about the cause of Kohat riots. These reports completely differed with each other. Gandhi reported that the riots occurred as a result of Muslims getting angry at the refusal of the Hindus to change their religion. But Shaukat Ali concocted an imaginary story that "the Muslim well-wishers got the tuft of the hair of Hindus cut off and made them put on Muslim caps so as to save them from the wrath of angry Muslims". Shaukat Ali had put the responsibility of Kohat riots on Hindus and Muslims equally. Gandhiji kept mum, swallowing the white lie.
Final Victory of Muslim Communalism: Direct Action Day
In its session held on 27th July, 1946, the Muslim League decided to observe 16th August, 1946 as the Direct Action Day in support of its demand for Pakistan. The Resolution declared that:
“…the Muslims of India will not be satisfied until a wholly free and sovereign state is established .... The time has now come for Muslim nation to take direct action".
After the motion of Direct Action, the President of the Muslim League, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, said:
"Today, we have given up constitutional measures. The two parties with which we talked had their guns trained on us. One had the power of the State and machine guns in its hands and the' other the flag of non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement. We would have to reply to. We also have pistols in our pockets".
In plain language, Direct Action meant killing the Hindus and looting and burning their houses, raping and abducting their women. Bengal had a Muslim League ministry under which the most gruesome genocide of Hindus took place in Calcutta. Suhrawardy, the Chief Minister of Bengal, had declared 16th August, 1946 as a holiday. Hindu officers-in- charge of 22 out of 24 police stations of Calcutta were transferred and Muslims appointed in their places. On the remaining two police stations, Anglo-Indians were posted, The police and the Muslim League goons were let loose, who committed such barbaric acts of loot, murder, arson, rape and abduction that more than 10 thousand bodies of men, women and children lay scattered on the roads of Calcutta within three days. Those who were badly wounded numbered 15,000. One lakh people were rendered homeless. The British correspondent of the Statesman wrote:
"I have been hardened by the experience of war but even the horrors of war are not so frightening. It is not a riot. A word would have to be searched for it in the history of the medieval period".
General Francies Tukar, who was in command of the Army in Eastern India, has written in his autobiography:
"This (Direct Action) was outright barbarity where mad killers were let lose for loot and murder. The goons of Calcutta had occupied the city ... police was not controlling them".
As the day dawned on the 16th of August, the Muslim League took out processions with people shouting, "We will fight and take Pakistan". In the afternoon, a mass meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Suhrawardy, in which speaker after speaker took the oath of finishing the Hindus. A Jehad (Islamic Holy War) was declared against the 'Kafirs' (non-Muslims). Groups of people from the crowds returning from the public meeting pounced upon the Hindus and indulged in murder, loot, rape, burning of houses and throwing the people alive in the fire. The city witnessed heaps of corpses all over. On the fourth day of the Direct Action, the stink of the dead was so unbearable that the army men who had been pressed into service had to cover their noses with cloth. The dead bodies were removed in garbage vans and trucks. The dead comprised children, women, old and young who were sacrificed at the altar of the Muslim separatist demand of Pakistan.
The Muslim League had found and developed a new technique in support of its demand for Pakistan. It was using violence as blackmail. It comprised of direct and indirect threats of killing and committing atrocities on Hindus, until the congress agreed to the partition of India.
The "blackmail of violence" was continued by the Muslim League even after the Calcutta riots. It instigated riots on 30th August in Allahabad, 1st September in Bombay and Calcutta, 6th September in East Bengal and again on 14th September in Bombay and Dacca. On 23rd September, Calcutta and Dacca were once more thrown into communal riots.
Pandit Nehru and the Congress lost their nerve and could no more stick to their stand in the face of continued Muslim violence and bent backwards to propitiate the demon of Muslim communalism by acquiescing to the Partition.
A historic Victory of Muslim separatism and communalism, is commemorated as Independence Day in vivisected India on 15th August each year.