In recent months a number of articles appeared in Daily Times on the rationale (or lack of it) for the creation of Pakistan as a separate homeland for Muslims. One author forcefully argued that carving out a homeland for the Muslims was rooted in Jinnah’s refusal to work under the mandate of Congress and that he needed a separate state to manifest his ideas. The Muslims being a minority community had no chance to challenge the majority community and its leaders and aspire to govern united India. Others have explained that the creation of Pakistan has transformed a tiny port city like Karachi into a megacity with a thriving business community and elite — which was not envisioned in ‘Akhand Bharat’. The most recent article by Razi Azmi on this subject reminded us, amongst others, of the present state of affairs of Muslims living in India.
One fundamental question that was not addressed is why Jinnah demanded a separate homeland for Muslims. Jinnah began his political career as a member of the Indian Congress. He witnessed deep division between the two major communities and tried to create unity. His efforts earned him the title ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. Notwithstanding the leadership of secular personalities like Gandhi, Nehru and Rajagopalachari in Congress, Jinnah observed the growing influence of communal outfits like the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. Congress leaders could not dismiss the influence of the radical outfits, drifted from secular principles, and championed the cause of the Hindus. When the British introduced limited self-rule in local bodies, Sir Syed Ahmed led a delegation to the Viceroy and argued that without putting sufficient safeguards in place, the minority ran the risk of being marginalised under majority rule. Swami Sradhananda cautioned the British government that a minority should not be given the license to dictate to the majority. He added that if Muslims could not come to terms with the majority they would be pushed to the Arabian Sea as they were chased from Spain in the 15th to 16th century. Over the years, relations between Hindus and Muslims became so vicious that even the secular leaders of Congress realised that granting autonomy to some regions might provide a solution. The Cabinet Mission Plan, though convoluted, offered an interim framework where the two major communities could co-exist in united India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad felt that communal tension would gradually retrench and the two communities would come to terms with each other. He believed that the Cabinet Mission Plan provided a much needed transitional framework. But Nehru declared that the Congress government would have unfettered authority to make constitutional changes deemed necessary for the people of India. Nehru’s innuendos put the last nail in the coffin of united India.
The Muslim League representatives to the Radcliffe Commission were utterly incompetent. They failed to argue against the partition of Bengal and Punjab. In both these provinces Muslims were a majority — therefore the vivisection of these provinces on religious lines was untenable. But the Radcliffe Commission decided on partition, which brought colossal damage to Bengal and Punjab. Suhrawardi, the Prime Minister of Bengal, saw the forebodings awaiting partition. He reached out to Congress leaders in Bengal with the proposal of keeping Bengal and Assam united under a separate entity. Jinnah lent passive support but the Congress high command turned down the proposal since part of Bengal and all of Assam was being allocated to India. Losing part of Bengal and part of Punjab, Pakistan emerged as a truncated country with poor infrastructure.
Jinnah brilliantly advocated the Two Nation theory to the British government as well as to the people of India. At the end he won. However, after partition Jinnah set aside the Two Nation theory and suggested that in Pakistan Muslims would cease to be Muslims and Hindus cease to be Hindus and become Pakistanis in a political sense. Though this was a smart attempt to forge national unity, it showed that Jinnah used the theory as a weapon to achieve the division of India. Large scale exoduses from both sides of the border created a myth that Muslims would be unsafe in India and the Hindus would not be safe in Pakistan. Emerging business communities like the Ispahanis, Adamjees and Bawanis had endorsed the creation of Pakistan. They were confident that in a new state they would enjoy monopolies in industry without fierce competition from the wealthy Hindu community. They were correct — in the sixties these conglomerates owned most industry in Pakistan. Muslim bureaucrats saw enormous opportunities waiting in the new country as Hindu bureaucrats migrated to India. In Pakistan, Muslim bureaucrats not only ascended to higher positions vacated by Hindu officials but gradually came to exert tremendous influence on politicians. The prospect was similar for military officers. Muslim professionals including lawyers, doctors, teachers, professors found a country bereft of competition from better educated and more competent Hindu professionals. They achieved a level of prosperity that seemed impossible in undivided India. But what happened to the Muslims left behind in India? Azad felt that “Muslims remaining in India have been weakened.” Muslims in Indian cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation, 2012, mentioned, “Muslims are as badly off, if not worse, socially and economically, than Dalits and tribal peoples. Almost 40 percent of Muslims in urban centres live below the poverty line. They constitute almost 15 percent of the population, but only 5.5 percent members of Indian parliament are Muslims. Many of the biggest provinces do not have even one Muslim representative in parliament. Underrepresented in the judiciary, Muslims form a meagre component of the police force.” Though Muslims in India constitute 15 percent of the population, their representation in government services remains disproportionately low. Their poor induction in public services has disadvantaged them in making demands for justice. The most recent Indian election sent even fewer Muslims to the Lok Shoba than in previous parliaments. In Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet, only one Muslim was made a minister.
Had there been no partition Muslims would have constituted about 30 percent of the total population in India — a powerful minority that could not have been ignored by the majority community. Some even believe that no government in New Delhi could have been formed without the acquiescence of the Muslim electorate. Others argue that the communal mindset of upper-caste Hindus would have kept Muslims underrepresented in elected bodies by the same mechanism through which the 15 percent population has been left with a 5.5 percent share in public services. India has over the years achieved political stability, relentlessly pursued democracy, but ignored social justice. As economic disparity widened amongst regions and communities, secessionist movements have grown in seven provinces. Muslim leaders and journalists, for the sake of survival, have now joined the BJP — a party that openly preaches Hindutva — an absurd political doctrine. Communal hatred has not dissipated in India; in fact it is on the rise. The destruction of Babri mosque and the Gujarat riots bear testimony to growing fundamentalism in India. Let me conclude with a quotation from Maulana Azad’s autobiography: “The new state of Pakistan is a fact. It is to the interest of India and Pakistan that they should develop friendly relations and act in cooperation with one another. Any other courses of action can lead only to greater trouble, sufferings and misfortune.”
In this follow-up article to ‘Mahatma Gandhi on Palestine’ (Daily Times, July 22, ...