Partition and Independence

The World War II came to an end in 1945. Though Great Britain emerged victorious in the war, it was completely exhausted with immense loss of men and material. It had now to concentrate its energy towards rebuilding its economy and tackle war related problems at home. This apart, the campaign of the I.N.A. and the revolt of the Royal Indian Navy had undermined its hold over the Indian Armed forces. The British also felt that to retain the good will of the Indian people it would be better to leave India gracefully than be kicked out sooner of later. But before that they had to yield to the demand of the Muslim League to partition India and create a separate homeland for Muslims.

Genesis of Pakistan: P.D.Kaushik in his book, The Congress Ideology and Programme1920-47, has cited the causes, which led to the partition of United India. According to the learned scholar, the Indian Muslims always insisted on their separate identity and never regarded themselves as Indian first. To them a Muslim foreigner was a nearer kith and kin than a Hindu neighbour. For instance making a statement at Aligarh in 1924, Mohammed Ali said that however pure Gandhi’s character might be, from his point of view, he considered Gandhi as inferior to any Mussalman even though he be, without character. They were sensitive to the misfortune of their Turkish co-religionists than to the murder of their Hindu brethren at Jallianwallbagh. In fact, the support of the Indian Muslims to the Caliph exposed their extra-territorial loyalty as no Muslims in Asia and Africa gave their support to the Caliph and even the Turks themselves under Kemal Pasha abolished the office of the Caliph in March 1924.

The justification of Moplah’s revolt (1921) against the Hindus by some Muslims shook Hindu-Muslim unity. Hindus started the Shuddhi (conversion) movement under the leadership of Swami Shraddhananda and a movement for Sangathan (organization) under the leadership of Madan Mohan Malaviya. The Muslims replied with counter-movement of Tabligh (spread of Islam) and Tanzim (organization of Muslims). Referring to the criticism from Muslims to the Shuddhi movement, Dr.Rajendra Prasad observed that as the Christians and Muslims are engaged in proselytizing mission and converting Hindus to their own faith, they had no business to criticize the Hindus for bringing back Hindu converts into their faith. There were regular communal clashes between the Hindus and Muslims for trivial reasons. Hindus considered cow as some sacred and worshiped it as mother and felt offended when the Muslims slaughtered cows during Bakrid. The Muslims used to object the playing of music in front of their mosques by the Hindus while they used to take religious processions. The worst form of communal clash took place at Kohat in North West Frontier Province in September 1924, where large-scale killing and looting took place. This led to the entire Hindu population of the town being evacuated.

Separate homeland for Muslims: In 1930 presiding over the Allahabad session of Muslim League, Mohammad Iqbal presented his scheme for an autonomous Muslim region in the north-west of India as a solution for the communal problem. But the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims to be called Pakistan took a definite shape in the mind of Rahmat Ali, a young under-graduate at Cambridge. He visualized Punjab, N.W.F.P. (also called Afghan province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan as the national home for the Indian Muslims. The word Pakistan was coined by taking the initials of the first four and the last four letters of the fifth province mentioned. He issued a four page leaflet “Now or Never”. Later he also made a demand that Hyderabad and Bengal should be separated from India. He wrote that the religion, culture, history, tradition, literature and customs of Hindus and Muslims are very distinct from each other.

In 1937, elections were held for the Provincial Legislative Councils under the Government of India Act 1935. While the Congress won 716 seats out of the 1161 seats which it contested, the Muslim League won only 109 out of 482 Muslim seats.

The electoral discomfiture deeply offended the Muslim League President Jinnah’s pride. In the United Province, a stronghold of Muslim League, the Congress Ministry under Govind Ballabh Pant assumed power in July 1937.

Muslim League makes baseless charges: Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman, who led the Muslim League in United Province was anxious that his party should be associated in the governance of UP and started negotiating with the Congress. The Congress and the Muslim League represented two contradictory ideals. The former stood for democracy, socialism and a common Indian nationality, whereas the latter’s goal was to promote the interest of only the Muslims. Still the Congress agreed to share power with the Muslim League and offered one Cabinet seat. But the Muslim League demanded two Cabinet posts. In the six member Ministry, there were already two Muslims and an addition of another two would have upset the proportion of communal representation and hence the talk broke. Jinnah interpreted this as a calculated move against the Muslim League. He leveled baseless allegations against the Congress Ministries and dubbed the Congress a Hindu organization, out to crush all minorities. In a by-elections to the Muslim seat in Jhansi Jalaun Hamirpur constituency in UP, the Muslim League conducted it electoral campaign with a complete lack of decency. It raised the cry “Allah-O-Akbar” and “Islam in danger” and defeated the Congress.

Pakistan resolution passed: The climax of Muslim communalism was the resolution passed by the Muslim League at its annual session in Lahore on 24 March 1940, wherein the establishment of an independent sovereign Muslim state was adopted. In the 1945 general elections, the Labour Party won a landslide victory and Clement Attlee became the Prime Minister of England. The war wearied Englishmen yearned for peace and wanted to transfer the responsibility of governance of India to the representative of Indian. But the Muslim League insisted that the British divide India before it quit and when the Cabinet Mission plan failed to recommend the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah gave a call to the Muslims to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan. On 16 August 1946, the League decided to observe a hartal.

Massacre of Hindus: At that time the Premier of Bengal was H.S.Suhrawardy, a Muslim Leaguer who also held the Law and Order portfolio. The police force was largely manned by Muslims and the Hindu officers had been transferred from all key positions. On 16th August, a public holiday was declared and thousands of Muslim thugs were supplied with lethal weapons by the Suhrawardy government. The same afternoon Suhrawardy addressed a huge gathering and carnage followed in Calcutta for four days claiming more than 7000 lives. Some 15,000 were injured. In East Bengal, Ghulam Sarwar, a thug gathered around 1000 armed men and terrorized the Hindus of Noakhali. The Hindus were forced to pay tributes or face forcible conversion or death. Even small children were killed by the mobs and in one place a three year old child was killed and nailed to the door. From Calcutta the communal frenzy spread to UP, Bombay, Punjab, N.W.F.P. and Sind. In March 1947, Mountbatten was sworn in as the new Viceroy of India. He convinced the Congress leaders of the futility of opposing Partition in order to prevent India from bleeding. Thus India attained Independence on August 15, 1947, but its western and eastern territories were separated to form Pakistan.

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