Monthly Archives: March 2008

INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS AND PARTITION OF INDIA PART-IV

The Congress leaders while in public platform spoke of Hindu Muslim fraternity adopted a totally different approach when it affected their personal lives.

Inconsistent opinions of Congressmen

When Moti Lal Nehru’s daughter wished to marry Syed Hussain, the editor of a newspaper Independent, Moti Lal Nehru threatened that he would commit suicide. Gandhiji later persuaded Syed Hussain to forget about his marriage and to leave the country. Similarly when Gandhiji’s son embraced Islam Gandhiji ostracized him and was reconciled to him only when he was brought back to the Hindu fold under Birla’s influence. ( Gauba K.L., The consequences of Pakistan, Lion Press, Lahore. 1946, p.10) There was a tendency in Congress circles to overlook the communal character of Muslim leaders. Especially an attempt was made to portray Syed Ahmed Khan and Mohammad Iqbal as nationalists, who later became communalists due to the influence of Britishers, that too Beck, the principal of Aligarh college. But both these persons were too strong willed to play in the hands of any Britisher.As early as in 1867 Syed Ahmed Khan had said that he was convinced that these communities (Hindus and Muslims) cannot cooperate in any work. (Kaushik P.D., The Congress Ideology and programmes-1920-47, Allied Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1964, p.289) Iqbal, in an interview given to Bombay Chronicle in September 1931 said “In my college days I was a zealous nationalist, which I am not now. The change is due to mature thinking.” Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his letters to Padmaja in 1929 said-” I have never met Iqbal. He was always been one of the many problems I could not solve. How can a real poet be so extraordinary communal and narrow minded and earthly? And yet he happens to be both.( Lal Bahadur, Struggle for Pakistan, p.312) Though Gandhiji had said in Harijan (January 6th, 1940) that it was Hindu’s cowardice that had made the Mussalman a ‘bully’ leading to Hindu Muslim riots, (Kaushik P.D., Op cit. p. 297) yet his advise to girls menaced with rape in the Punjab ( after Partition ) was to bite their tongue and hold their breath until they died.( Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd. 1998.p.479) Even with regards to partition, while Gandhiji said that it could happen only over his dead body, (Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, p.115) at the same time he backed Rajaji’s formula which agreed for a separate state for Muslims after a plebescite. (Tara Chand, History of the Freedom Movement in India Vol. IV p.426) As early as in April 1942  the Congress working committee had declared that even though it was wedded to Indian unity and regarded any division of India as injurious to all concerned, it could not “think in terms of compelling the people in any territorial unit to remain in an Indian union against their declared and established will” (Bipin Chandra, Ideology and Politics in Modern India, Har-Anand, Publications, New Delhi,1994. p.76) In July 1945, Nehru made his stand explicit in the context of Pakistan: “If those areas which have predominant Muslim majorities are utterly bent on separation no power on earth can stop them” and even more explicitly in August 1945: “If the Muslims insist on it (Pakistan) they will have it”. ((Bipin Chandra, Ideology and Politics in Modern India, p76) It was these types of inconsistent view and conflicting opinions which caught the masses unaware and ill prepared when partition actually took place, resulting in the genocide of the century.

Was Partition unavoidable?

Partition could have been avoided, provided, the men in the Congress, some, of great intellectual stature had tried to analyze the rapid growth of Islam in the sub-continent and adopt remedial measure to counter it.As the Census Report revealed, unabated conversion during British regime proved beyond doubt that Islam was bound to grow in Bengal whether the backing of political power was available of not. (Ram Gopal, Indian Muslims. A Political History (1858-1947), Asia Publishing House, 1964. p.8) People dissatisfied with the rigours of a caste-ridden society and a religion based on vulgar ritualism turned to the new faith which promised common brotherhood, liberation from the offensive yoke of the Brahman priests and some material incentives such as easy appointments to government jobs. The process of conversion was facilitated by the practices of Hindu society, such as the one that closed the doors of the society to anyone who had been forcibly fed beef or who had taken food or water from the hands of a Muslim, or any woman who had been abducted by force and wished to return to her home and faith but was denied that right. Islam also offered young widows, the prospect of a normal and honoured life which, the   Hindu society had denied and imposed upon them a life of privation and indignity. (Nitish Sengupta, History of the Bengali speaking people, p 67) Early Smriti writers had stated that if a woman was criminally assaulted, she was not to be socially ostracized and readmitted into the family and society after some penance and purification. This procedure was followed in the beginning in the case of women forcibly converted and violated. The Devala Smriti went to the extent of declaring that women of this unfortunate category should be readmitted to the fold of Hinduism even if their violation was followed by pregnancy. This liberal viewpoint was however given up by 1000 A.D. From that time onwards, Hindu women once carried away by force into the fold of Islam had no hope of return to the religion of their birth. They had to reconcile themselves with their captors and live a miserable life, not much different from a concubine. (Swami Madhavananda and R.C.Majumdar Edited, Great women of India. Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta. P. 44) In Kashmir also the majority of the people were forced to give up the religion of their forefathers in the 17th and 18th century under the rule of fanatic Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In the later part of the 19th century, a delegation of Kashmiri Muslims went to Varanasi, to get the approval of Brahmins there to return to Hindu fold, but the priests declined their request. Even today most common family name in Kashmir is Butt, a distortion of Bhatt, a Hindu surname common amongst the Brahmins in India. (Anil A.Athale, Let the Jhelum smile again. Adithya Prakashan, Mumbai, 1997. p.33)  The converts in Bengal remained as ignorant of Islam as of Hinduism. “Some of them” says the Imperial Gazetteer of India Vol I (1885) “have never heard of Mohammed; some regard him as a person corresponding in their system of religion to Rama or Lakshman of the Hindus. The Koran is hardly read even in Bengali and in the original Arabic not at all. Many of those who have heard of it cannot tell who wrote it. Yet any Muslim peasant is able to repeat a few scraps of prayer in Arabic. This prayer gave him a sense of religion and he considered himself as a member of a socio cum religious system, which he did not have it when he was, a Hindu.( Ram Gopal, Indian Muslims. A Political History (1858-1947), Asia Publishing House, 1964. p.9) In fact the Jamait ul ulema was opposed to Pakistan, as it would affect its propagation of Islam. Maulana Madani delivering a speech on 19th September 1945 in Delhi on the occasion of the formation of the Azad Muslim Parliamentary Board to fight the last constitutional battle against the demand of Pakistan said that at the termination of the Muslim rule, there were about 25 million Muslims in India. Within a period of less than a century their number increased up to 100 millions. The missionary work of the Jamait has a great share in this increase. The great object of an overall spread of Islam in the whole of India cannot be realized by appealing to passion of hatred and antagonism. It is the non-Muslims who are the field of action for the tabligh (spread of Islam) and form the raw material for this splendid activity. ( Ziya ul Hasan Faruqi, The Deoband School and the demand of Pakistan, Asia Publishing House, 1963. pp.116-117) The above factors definitely reveal that lack of social cohesion had weakened the Hindu society and evangelists of various faiths had reaped its advantage. The Arya Samaj was the first organization to recognize the need of Shuddhi, to bring back into the Hindu fold, those people who had been forced to embrace other faiths due to unavoidable circumstances.

Shuddhi as a means to strengthen Hinduism

The word Shuddhi simply means purification. At first, the term was used to apply to efforts by Arya Samajists and others to reconvert Hindus who had become Christians or Muslims. Traditionally a Hindu who converts to Christianity or Islam becomes an outcaste, and there is no mechanism whereby that individual might be restored to caste upon reconverting. Arya Samajists were among the first reformers to try to change the situation, to develop a system through which Hindu converts to other religions could become Hindu again. The motivation behind this initiative was not just sympathy for individual outcastes. Arya Samajists understood Hinduism to be hobbled by its own exclusiveness. While Christianity and Islam were able to proselytize and draw others into their community, Hinduism could not even take back reconverted Hindus much less accept converts. From 1884 to 1894 at least eighteen local Arya Samaj chapters sponsored Shuddhi ceremonies; whereby Hindus who had converted to other religions were accepted back into the Hindu fold. (J.E.Llewellyn, The Arya Samaj as a Fundamentalist Movement. A Study in Comparative Fundamentalism, Manohar Publishers & distributors, New Delhi, 1993. p.99)The real expansion of Shuddhi came when it was used to make the Untouchables into caste Hindus. On 3rd June 1900 a large number of low caste Rahtias from the Jalandhar area were declared to be no longer Untouchable through a Shuddhi ceremony sponsored by the Lahore Arya Samaj. By the 1911 census three to four thousand Rahtias had become “purified” caste Hindus. From 1903 the Sialkot Arya Samaj worked with the Untouchable Meghs. By 1911 there were 30,000 Arya Meghs. The program with the Meghs was not limited to the Shuddhi ceremony. The Sialkot Samaj also supported the establishment of an industrial training school and grammar schools for the “purified” Meghs.The Arya Samaj believed that political agitation was futile because a nation, which considered millions of human beings as untouchables, had no business to talk of liberty and democracy. The Vedic magazine of the Samaj argued that Indians were subjected to foreign rule because of their moral weaknesses and that without the necessary religious and social reforms, political subjection of Indians was bound to continue and that the expulsion of the English could only result in a change of masters for Indians. (Sankar Ghose, The Renaissance to Militant Nationalism in India, Allied Publishers, 1969. p.39) Even the intellectual giant, Lala Hardayal had observed that the future of Hindu race and Hindustan rest on Hindu Raj, Hindu Sangathan, Shuddhi and conquest and Shuddhi of Afghan and the Frontier, otherwise it is useless to win Swaraj. (Ram Gopal, Indian Muslims .pp.124-125) The Congress under Gandhiji created a lot of awareness among the masses, the need for the removal of Untouchability resulting in the passing of legislation to abolish it. Similarly the Congress could had have taken a positive stand towards Shuddhi to consolidate the Hindu society.(concluded)

INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS AND PARTITION OF INDIA -PART III

In 1937 elections to Central and Provincial assemblies under the 1935 Act were held and the Congress won majorities of seats in six provinces. In N.W.F.P it constituted the largest single group with 19 members out of 50-member assembly. A similar situation existed in Assam where 33 out of 108 belonged to the Congress party. The Congress High command committed one of those political mistakes which cost the nation dear when it decided that the Congress would form ministries only in those provinces where it had an absolute majority in the assembly, and would not join hands with any other party.

In Bengal when the governor John Herbert invited Sarat Chandra Bose as the leader of the single largest party to discuss the formation of a ministry, he declined the offer. Fazlul Haq, the leader of the Krishak Praja Party, requested Kiran Shankar Roy, the leader of the Congress assembly party to join him to form a coalition government under his leadership. Sarat Chandra Bose who led an unofficial Congress group was inclined to agree and requested Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress President for permission to join hands with Haq taking into account the special situation in Bengal. This ides was said to have the support of Subash Chandra bose. But the Congress High command turned it down despite repeated requests. Haq turned to Muslim League, which promptly seized the initiative when it agreed to join the coalition under Haq’s leadership. (Nitish Sengupta, History of the Bengali speaking people, p.422) It is said that Gandhiji was unduly influenced by G.D.Birla and Nalini Rangan Sarkar, both representing Indian business interests. Birla as leader of the Marwari business interest strongly felt that a political unity between the Muslims and Hindus in Bengal would threaten Marwari domination over the trade and economy of Calcutta. According to a letter written by Subash Chandra bose to Gandhiji dated 21-12-1938 even in the case of Assam, Maulana Azad opposed Subash’s proposal for a coalition ministry and if Sardar Patel had not come forward to support Subash, Gandhiji would not have accepted his (Subash) views and no coalition ministry would have been formed in Assam. Azad was against a coalition in Sindh too while Subash and other members of the Congress working committee were in its favour. According to Maulana Azad Muslim ministries should be accepted where Muslims are in a majority even though those ministries are blatantly communal. (Nitish Sengupta, pp.423-424)

Resignation of Congress Ministries.

The Congress committed a big blunder by resigning from the ministries in 1939 on flimsy grounds. Its main grouse was that the government had not taken it into confidence before involving India in the Second World War. By this act, the Congress not only lost power, but also gave way for Muslim League to form ministries in Assam and N.W.F.P. After the resignation of the Congress ministry in Assam, Sir Sadulla formed a League ministry there after succeeding in the game of intense horse-trading with the members of the legislature. He was able to strengthen the roots of the League deep in Assam by his policy of allowing the Muslim migrants of East Bengal to settle indiscriminately in the province. In N.W.F.P. after the Congress ministry went out, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan headed a Muslim League ministry with the support of a few independent Hindu and Sikh legislators. Gradually the League started gaining ground in the Frontier Province, which was evident from its success in four by-elections that followed soon after. (Sailesh Kumar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the creation of Pakistan, pp.227-228)

The Quit India Movement. 

But the biggest blunder committed by the Congress was to launch the Quit India movement at a time when Britain was in the brink of the Second World War. Though the Cripps proposal conceded the right of Indians after the cessation of the war to frame a new constitution on dominion status with the right to secede from the empire, the Congress insisted upon immediate establishment of a cabinet form of government at the Center, with almost all departments of administration transferred to the representatives of the Indian parties and with the Viceroy as a mere figurehead, shorn of all powers. (Tara Chand,.Vol. IV.pp.344,452-453.) As the government did not agree to the Congress demands, on July 14th 1942 the Congress approved a resolution that if the British did not withdraw its rule from India it would launch a non-violent struggle. On August 8th the Congress met at Bombay and in a resolution decided to launch a mass non-violent struggle. (Tara Chand,pp.373,375) The movement was not only violent but also did not achieve the desired goal.  The British never forgave the Congress for putting them in grave jeopardy by launching the Quit India movement when the going for them in the war was tough. This grudge was further deepened by the war reducing England to a second rate European power that was in no position to hold on to their Indian empire, the loss of which they realized would further weaken their international standing. (H.N.Bali, India’s Wounded Polity, p.99)

Anti-Congress forces rally

 The government decided to rally anti-Congress parties, particularly the League with a view to weaken the Congress. The governors of the Muslim majority provinces obliged Jinnah by contriving the installation of Muslim League ministries and the removal or dismissal of the non-League governments. In Bengal governor John Herbert forced Fazlul Haq to resign and appointed Nazimuddin of the Muslim League as Premier on April 24, 1943. In Sindh Allah Bakhsh, a non-Leaguer expressed disapproval of the repressive policy of government. The governor under Section 51 of the 1935 Act dismissed him and Ghulam Husain Hidayatullah of the Muslim League was asked to assume office in October 1942. (Tara Chand,.Vol. IV pp.388-390)After his return from London in September 1945 Viceroy Wavell announced elections to the Provincial assemblies with a view to convene a constitution making body. The Congress leadership’s demand for freedom assumed distinctly strident notes as Nehru and others plunged in electioneering, touring the country frantically. Nehru’s speech in Lahore set the tone and tenor that was qualitatively different from the Pre-Quit India days. “India is on the brink of mighty revolution. Therefore, to vote for the Congress is to vote for the freedom that is coming soon. By your vote you have to declare whether you stand for freedom or slavery. The elections will decide the fate of the Red fort and the Vice regal lodge. Those who try to go against the great gushing torrent of Indian nationalism will be swept ashore lifeless as a log of wood.” As Wavell’s secret dispatches show, the government didn’t take kindly to what was regarded as arousal of masses for violent action. Those whose responsibility it was to maintain law and order read into the speeches of the Congress leaders (particularly Nehru) something far more than election speech. It is most likely that finding the Congress stand hardening by the day as the 1945 elections approached, the British government finalized their plans for the division of the subcontinent to sow the seeds of permanent discord with a view to teaching, as it were, a bitter lesson to India’s freedom fighters. (H.N.Bali, p.70) (to be continued)