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Social Roots of Partition Process
By Ram Puniyani
|The partition tragedy has been a multifaceted phenomenon in which lot of factors played their role. Unmindful of that, various formulations are popularized to suit the political interests of vested interests. One of the most common causes for partition, propounded by the RSS and its progeny (Sangh Parivar, SP), has been that it was Gandhi's appeasement of Muslims, which emboldened them to demand Pakistan. Also, Jinnah has been given the 'distinction' of the man who broke up India by some of the scholars. A new theory comes from Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi. According to him CPI's resolution on linguistic and religious nationalism provided Muslim League with the logic of the much-needed 'Two Nation theory'. While RSS chief Mr. Sudarshan states that as the division of India has been done into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, so to complete the partition process Muslims should be packed off to Pakistan and Hindus from Pakistan should be brought back.
Partition tragedy needs to be related to the complex social roots and the goals of imperial powers in the region. With the control of India by British, to plunder its raw materials and to create the market for their industrial goods, railways, telegraphs and modern education were introduced. Due to this came up group of Industrialists, educated civil servants, professionals, modern businessmen and workers. These groups started forming various citywide and region wide associations, the culmination of which took place in the formation of Indian National Congress (INC). This organization started putting forward the demands related to more provisions for industrialists to set up their industries here, bigger role in local administration, better facilities for education and land ceiling. Rising assertion of newly emerging classes put the feudal lords and kings of princely states, belonging to both religions, to unease, and they came together to form United India Patriotic Association (UIPA) just a couple of years after the formation of INC. This association condemned the INC demands and saw this as an indication of disloyalty to the British crown. They resolved to cultivate the loyalty of local population for the Queen of England. Incidentally it was the same decade in which communal riots began for the first time. Over a period of time mainly due to the British policy of divide and rule this association gave way to the formation of religion-based bodies like Muslim League (ML) and Hindu Mahasabha (HM). Remarkably the leadership of these organizations was coming from the same sections that formed the UIPA.
Later on RSS also joined in as another outfit for the 'building of Hindu Nation', it had predominant support base from Brahmin and traditional Bania communities. Most remarkably these both outfits (ML on one side and HM+RSS on the other) spewing venom against each other shared the common premise of Nationalism in the name of religion. The only difference being that HM+RSS said it is a Hindu Nation so people of other faiths have to remain subordinate to Hindus if they do not accept Hindu culture, while ML asserted that since Muslims are separate Nation, they should have a separate country to themselves. They were critical of national movement led by INC, and most significantly they shared the same class base to a great extent (kings, feudal lords) With INC's movement becoming mass movement, people from different communities irrespective of their religion started joining it. This movement was the movement for India Nation in the making. For this nationalism the Nationalism propounded by ML and HM+RSS was like a fly in the ointment but this fly was given life and blood by the British policies in a very subtle and overt ways. While Muslim League was overtly recognized and acted as 'the representative of Muslims', unmindful of the fact that majority of Muslims were with the INC. The majority Muslims stalwarts, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan being the most well known amongst them, the Ulama of Barelvi and Deoband School, all supported this nationalism. The Hindu nationalists though they were not 'officially' recognized as the representatives of Hindus, they were merrily operating through the INC itself. The foundation of Two nation theory emerged parallel amongst Hindu nationalists and Islamist Nationalist. Savarkar articulated it most powerfully in his 'Post Andaman' book, 'Who is a Hindu', while Chowdhary Rahmat Ali conceptualized Pakistan (Punjab, Afghans, Kashmir, Sind) around 1930s.
The negotiations for the single united country were bound to fail with these diverse pulls, pressures and machinations. In the wake of Nehru committee (1927), Muslim League kept certain demands, which though accepted initially, had to be backtracked due to the pressure of Hindutva elements. Again in 1937 elections first the request for joint alliance with ML was rejected and later the request to accommodate it in the ministry was rejected by Nehru on the ground that he was keen on land reforms and alliance with feudal elements of ML will make it impossible to achieve the same. Similarly after accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan, which called for a federation of states, Nehru practically backed out on the ground that for a proper development of a strong center is a must. This was like the last straw on the camel's back after which Jinnah became adamant on his demand for a separate homeland for Muslims.
It is worth noting that the popular support for ML or HM as reflected in the election results shows that both these parties had a very narrow base, and both these had abysmal performance at the hustings. The passing of Pakistan resolution in Lahore in 1940 was met with a march of thousands of Ansari Muslims to oppose it. As ML used the religious symbolism it succeeded in raising a bogey of demand for Pakistan, due to the emotional appeal associated with the propaganda laced in religious idiom. So it gave the impression as if all Muslims are in support of the Pakistan. The Two Nation theory was repeatedly proclaimed from the sessions of ML and HM, In 1937 Hindu Mahasabha Session a resolution was passed stating that Hindus and Muslims are two separate Nations. While a year later Bhai Paramanand in his Presidential address stated that "Mr. Jinnah argues that there are two nations in the country. If Mr. Jinnah is right, and I believe that he is right then the congress theory of building a common Nationality falls to the ground. This situation has two solutions, one is the partition of the country into two and the other is to allow to grow the Muslim state within the Hindu state."
We can see here that the failure of negotiations had more than what meets the eye. The goals and perceptions of different actors in this play were different. Jinnah under the mistaken notion that ML represents all the Muslims and following the communal vision of politics like its counterpart HM+RSS, assumed that 'Hindu' INC will subjugate the interests of Muslims once the British left. Mahatma Gandhi kept brokering peace all through, at all occasions but here Nehru and Patel's wish to have a strong center finally broke the possibility of negotiations and compromise. Nehru wanted a strong center so that the development could be done in a planned manner and landlordism could be abolished, while Patel wanted a strong center for an overall strong state. It was a tragedy, which played with lives of millions and its ghost continues to haunt us till the day. The result of the partition was a truncated Pakistan, which further broke down into Bangla Desh and Pakistan, just to prove that religion cannot be the basis of Nation states, and India, did inherit the mantle of struggle for independence, the values emerging from the biggest mass movement of twentieth century, the values of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. It came up as the true representative of the aspirations of the participants of the freedom struggle for whom their Indian ness bound them in a single thread. For them religion was not the primary identity. For them a composite Indian nationalism rising above the other varieties of narrow nationalism (race, language, religion) was the primary principle of society and country. It is precisely these values, which came to be enshrined in our Constitution.
At this point to say that the two nation theory got boost from the CPI resolution is nothing but travesty of truth. We have seen the genesis of Two Nation Theory and its sustenance by ML and HM+RSS had been going on for decades before CPI resolution came up. About Sudarshan's statement the less said the better. It is no surprise that this patriarch of Hindu Rashtra politics can never understand as to what Indian nationalism is.
His ideology and organization was never a part of Indian national movement barring few exceptions. The concept of secular democracy is Greek and Latin to the followers of Hindutva ideology. Could the concept of Secularism and Indian Nationhood come up and survive without the crucial contribution of all the communities to the process of Indian Nation building? India and Indian secularism survive because most of the people of India choose to be Indians first by rejecting the narrow nationalism based on religion, be it muslim nationalism or Hindu nationalism. q
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