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Indian Muslims have a future and it is right here…
By Dr Rafiq Zakaria
|No people were so ill-served by their leaders than the Muslims in undivided India. With some exceptions, most lacked vision and few could rise above their own interests.
The Hindus were more fortunate, because their leaders concentrated on reform. Mahatma Gandhi taught them that without Hindu-Muslim unity, India could not be free. As a result, the non-cooperation movement brought the two communities so close that it shook the British Raj.
But the empire struck back.. Using the lure of constitutional reforms, they incited a mad scramble for power. And Hindu-Muslim unity was its first victim.
Jinnah, whom Gokhale had described as "the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity" but whom Gandhian leadership had sidelined, gave up his secular credentials.
Jinnah found that the slogan "Islam in Danger" coupled with the fear of Hindu Raj was the easiest way to win over the Muslims. The British aided his confrontationalist stand vis-a-vis the Congress.
Jinnah propagated the Two-Nation Theory, based on the belief that Hindus and Muslims had nothing in common. He proposed the creation of Pakistan, consisting of Muslim-majority areas in the north-west and northeast of India. The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, supported his stand; the Hindu Mahasabha’s Muslimphobia helped.
Abul Kalam Azad warned the Muslims that division would be their ruin, but the Muslims blindly followed Jinnah. To the end, the Mahatma tried to prevent Partition, but the last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, outmanoeuvred him and his two most trusted lieutenants, Nehru and Patel. Thus, Pakistan was born.
I condemned the decision in The Observer, London, to which I was then attached. I called it our greatest blunder for which centuries would suffer. Nehru and Patel repented soon after as they watched, helpless, as a million Hindus and Muslims died and more than 15 million were inhumanly uprooted. Partition emasculated India and destroyed the unity of the once-strong, vibrant and united Muslim community.
Jinnah not only destroyed united India; he also divided the Muslims in undivided India into Pakistani Muslims, Indian Muslims and Bangladeshi Muslims. Even today, they have no contact with one another.
Today all Indian Muslims wish that India had remained united. There would then have been five important states (Punjab, Sindh, the Frontier, Assam and Bengal) under Muslim majority rule; consequently they would have exercised considerable influence on the Centre. Today they hardly have a voice in Delhi.
Time is, however, the best healer; Indian Muslims are gradually getting over their misfortunes. But they have realized that they have no friends; to survive they must rely on their own strength. They must work hard and make themselves useful to their motherland.
They are beginning to re-orient their approach to life and its problems. They have begun to cultivate Hindus to win them over, for they are aware that goodwill begets goodwill. They are now less inclined to waste their energies on non-issues. Their main concerns are education and employment.
Functioning in a free, democratic and secular set-up, their vision has broadened. Some of their boys and girls are topping university examinations; many of them have become famous film and television stars. Others have shone in the print medium.
In art, MF Husain continues to reign. And In professions like medicine, engineering, even computer technology, they are making their mark. Mohammed Azharuddin, as former captain of the Indian cricket team, stands out. Azim Premji, the IT industrialist, was featured as the richest Indian in the world. Habil Khorakiwala is spreading the wings of his giant company to the west.
The poor, who form the vast majority, have still a long way to go but even they are planning ahead for their children. This year, Saleha of Maharashtra College stood first in Bombay University's BA examination. She is the daughter of a driver living in a slum, sharing an 8x8 foot room with a family of five. Likewise Bilal, a Muslim boy, has topped Maharashtra's SSC Board examination.
On the whole, Indian Muslims are marching ahead, facing new challenges bravely. The 20th century has been a tragic period, full of pain and anguish for them, but the new millennium promises a more hopeful and prosperous future. And who knows? They may be able to show the right path of enlightenment and progress to the die-hard Muslims all over the world and play an effective role in re-uniting India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in a loose federation on the lines of the European Union.