Issues

Indian Muslims: balance-sheet since Partition

Though Iqbal had limited his concept of a Muslim homeland in the Sub-continent, he enunciated in 1929, to the NW only, Partition was conceived in 1940 for the benefit of the Muslim majority living in the northwest as well as the east of the Sub-continent. The Pakistan Resolution adopted by the Muslim league in March 1940 spoke in terms of ‘Muslim majority areas’ in these two regions and the creation of Muslim states therein. The Resolution conceived that the religious minorities, living on the two sides of the region, under a reciprocal arrangement shall be able to safeguard the interest of Muslims in multi-community India. The Pakistan Movement did receive more enthusiastic support from the Muslims living in the Muslim minority provinces of British India, particularly, UP and Bihar than from Muslim-majority provinces (which were to form Pakistan). It is generally conceded that the near unanimous support of the Muslim electorate in Muslim minority provinces in the election of 1945-46 created the unchallengeable basis for the Muslim League to claim the ‘sole’ leadership of all the Muslims of India and from there on, it negotiated on equal terms with the British government as well as the Indian National Congress for determining the future set-up, after the British left.
 
Real author of two Nation theory

The irony lies in that it was Lajpat Rai who first envisioned Pakistan and proposed the partition of the Punjab. And it was Savarkar who first defined Indian citizenship as exclusively Hindu and in 1937,as  President of the Hindu Mahasabha, defined India as a country of two separate nations for Hindu and non-Hindu. So not Jinnah and Iqbal but Lajpat Rai and Savarkar were the real authors of the two-nation theory. Jinnah only reversed the Savarkar proposal to divide India between Muslims and Non-Muslims.

In 1947 by proposing to partition Punjab and then Bengal and Assam on the basis of religion and contiguity, the Congress leadership directly contributed to the partition of the country thus foisting Jinnah on his own petard and leaving him with what he called ‘moth-eaten’ Pakistan.
 
Why Muslims in Minority Provinces Supported Pakistan Movement?

The question is why the Muslims of minority provinces signed a blank cheque in favour of Pakistan, shouted slogans and voted massively in its favour. Why they never questioned the leadership of the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement on their status after the country was divided. Why they behaved like dumb, driven cattle. Why they never asked any questions? And never received any answers. In retrospect, this lack of thinking appears to be not only short-sighted but almost suicidal.

Immediately after Partition, there was almost total migration of non-Muslims from West Pakistan to India, substantially even from East Pakistan, although the Hindus continued to form some 15 % of its population.

The theory of reciprocity hostage and tit-for-tat enunciated by the supporters of the Muslim League even by Jinnah in negotiations with the Cabinet Mission thus proved to be hollow and ineffective and useless before it could be put to any test, in protecting the interest of the Muslims of India even if the rulers of Pakistan so wanted.

In any case, India and Pakistan had emerged as independent sovereign states and under international law and as members of the UNO they were both expected to respect human rights of their minorities but they were precluded from interference in the internal affairs of the other state. This explains why the Liaqat Ali Khan-Jawahar Lal Nehru Agreement of 1950 which was signed in the wake of communal disturbances in East Pakistan remained a dead letter and has hardly ever been invoked. Indeed, the successor state, namely Bangladesh, has never invoked it in relation to the Muslims of India.

The prevalent view in Pakistan is that the Muslims of the minority provinces were expected to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the Muslims in Pakistan and for the glory of Islam. In fact, they did. Was it bravado or stupidity? In any case, Muslim Indians received no reward, not even acknowledgment for the ‘sacrifice’.
 
Possibility of Mass Migration to Pakistan

Before Partition there were some hints on exchange of population but this was an absolutely impracticable proposition considering the lack of balance between the huge number of Muslims in India and the relatively small population of non-Muslims in Pakistan. No doubt after the communal bloodshed, millions of Muslims migrated to Pakistan from East Punjab and some from UP and Bihar. For some time there was relative freedom of movement between the two countries and over the next 10 years a few hundred thousand Muslim Indians crossed the border, largely into East Pakistan.

Ambedkar had proposed an organised exchange of population, agreed to in advance but he underestimated the enormity and impracticability of the undertaking. Neither the Muslim League nor the Congress had ever formally proposed any exchange of population as a concomitant of Partition. India was ideologically committed to build a secular state. So how could it object to Muslims living in India? Indian leadership including Gandhi, Nehru and Patel opposed it. Muslim Pakistan never raised the issue because it was never in a position to absorb them. It would have simply collapsed, had India physically forced the Muslim Indians out into Pakistan.
 
A vision of a Muslim corridor

Another popular Muslim theory was propagated that Muslim concentration areas in the north, in Punjab, UP and Bihar could form a corridor between East and West Pakistan. The theory was further extended by some to include the Hyderabad state which was ruled by the Nizam who aspired to be independent. All these were illusions. A look at the map will show that the few pockets of Muslim concentration in the north, namely, Mewat or Rohilkhand or Purnea were far apart from each other and could hardly bridge the geographical gap between the two Pakistans and there was no reason for India to be generous enough to oblige Pakistan and make any special arrangement.

Also anyone with a sense of history should have known that the Nizam could not rule for ever, in the age of democracy, as his people were 90 % non-Muslims and demanded to be a part of free India. Some misguided Muslims who put their faith in the Nizam of Hyderabad and other Muslim Princes soon realized that the princes were all to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The Nizam’s Army and the Razakars could not protect him. He finally surrendered to India and later Hyderabad was trifurcated on linguistic basis, and the three parts were merged with Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

On the eve of Partition, it is amazing to recall that a small section of the Muslims in India even believed that the creation of Pakistan was but a step towards another Muslim invasion and re-conquest of India! Fortunately the people who saw hope of security in Pakistan soon saw the stupidity of their own imagination. Pakistan would hardly take care of non-Punjabi refuges from UP or Bihar (except for some elite and professionals); the settlement of Biharis in Karachi, so called Bihar Colony, a low-lying area subject to floods spoke for itself. The Biharis and UP-wallas continued to be marginalized in government service and in professional education. First they were eased out of administration. Today the Muhajireen applying for admission to professional courses are asked to indicate where their grandparents were born! Not surprising, then that many qualified Muhajireen have emigrated from Pakistan to the USA and the Gulf.
 
Jinnah’s equivocations 

In his negotiations with the Congress leadership or the British Government, Jinnah used the terms ‘Muslim India’ and ‘homeland for the Muslims of India’. Particularly after the Resolution adopted by the Muslim League National Council at its last meeting held in Delhi in 1946 which gave final touches to the Pakistan Resolution. Since 1940 Jinnah had not only spoken of Muslims as distinct from Hindus and other non-Muslims living in the Sub-continent, he deliberately ignored the wide variation of language, culture and race as well as social organization and economic status among Muslims living in various parts of the Sub-continent. He loudly proclaimed the concept of Muslim India but no one asked him to define the term Muslim India and the concept of ‘Muslim homeland’ and clarify whether it meant only the Muslims living in the majority provinces or included also those who lived in the minority provinces for record. In some statements after Pakistan was born, Jinnah went on to describe Muslims in India as ‘our minorities’.

In his negotiations with cabinet ministers, Jinnah rather brutally propounded the hostage theory but it collapsed when Punjab and Bengal were partitioned and West Punjab and East Bengal was drained of the Hindus and Sikhs.  But Jinnah was too much of a jurist to  envisage publicly that the Muslims who would continue to live in India after Partition shall be in any legal sense Pakistani citizens living in India, with as much right to citizenship of Pakistan as the Pakistanis living  and born there. Realistically Jinnah, even though he acknowledged the contribution of Muslim Indians to the making of Pakistan, never offered to open the doors of Pakistan, except to the selected protagonists of the Pakistan Movement. He was no Muslim ‘Zionist’ who would accept the inherent right of any Muslim, anywhere in the sub-continent, to migrate to Pakistan.

Some businessmen particularly in Bombay and Calcutta like Memons, Bohras, Ismailis and Isphahanis saw a promising field in Pakistan for business, free of competition from the Birlas and Dalmias. Many of them migrated to Pakistan and in collaboration with local capital set-up enterprises in both wings. They thought they would reap a bumper harvest because of their initiative and experience but soon they were over-taken by the Punjabi elite on one side and the Bengali nationalism, on the other. Some propertied classes had also migrated to Pakistan in the hope of getting a share of the vast properties left behind by the Hindu emigrants, in Lahore, Karachi and other cities.

Some Urdu poets and writers thought of a glorious future in a state which was created in the name of Urdu. These included “Baba-e-Urdu” Moulvi Abdul Haq, and the great revolutionary poet Josh Malihabadi. Many civil servants and army officers, expecting rapid promotion in Pakistan to fill the vacuum opted for Pakistan (but there were only a few exceptions like Mr Azim Hussain, ICS, and Major General Habibullah). They indeed went quickly up the ladder. For example, Ayub Khan, a Lt. Colonel in 1947, would not have become a General in united India or Ghulam Mohammad and Choudhary Mohammad Ali reached the summit which they could not visualise.
 
Ulama’s role in Pakistan

Even some theologians migrated. Some of them envisaged of playing a big role in the politics of Pakistan which was propagated as the biggest Muslim state committed to Islam. These included great scholars like Abul A’la Maudoodi and Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani from Deoband. Some returned, some emigrant Ulama established madrasas on the model of Deoband. Some of these madrasas later, with US help and support of the Pakistan Army, produced the Tabliban to take over Afghanistan and now threaten Pakistan itself.

In a global sense, Jinnah was totally out of touch with reality. This became evident after the birth of Pakistan. By virtue of numbers Pakistan aspired to lead the Muslim world which included Muslim minorities in India and elsewhere. This pretension of the Pakistan leadership was rejected forthrightly and out of hand by all important Muslim countries including Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It was clear, and has been so for centuries, that Muslims who live across international borders do not constitute one nation in the political sense. The nation-state system depends on well defined territory and borders.

The net achievement of the Pakistan Movement was nothing more than to carve out of the Sub-continent a territorial state with a Muslim majority. International law debunks and contradicts the so called ‘ideology’ of Pakistan. Its ideological foundations were so weak that Maualan Abul Kalam Azad predicted its break- up between east and west within 25 years of its formation.
 
Reality of Pakistan after 60 Years

It is not surprising, therefore, that after 60 years of existence, Pakistan has not been able to develop a sense of common nationhood or even social cohesion. It remains fragmented, as it is, among five or six different ethnic groups. Sectarian, linguistic and class differences have been exploding into violence from time to time. It has failed to build up a viable system of Islamic laws. Even in the Malakand Division of FATA including the Swat, the enforcement of Shariat often praised by the Pakistani orthodoxy is based on the British concession in the 1930’s to the tribals that the civil and criminal laws that operated in the Sub-continent did not apply to their region.

Finally, as conceived by Iqbal, Pakistan was to be a political laboratory for experimenting with an Islamic polity in the modern world or the evolution of Muslim jurisprudence to come to terms with modern life. Neither has made any progress. Neither has Pakistan ever achieved an Islamic personality. In Pakistan itself most of the laws now in force are the same as those in India. Not only from the legal point of view but even culturally, to the extent that Urdu is the language of the elite in Pakistan, and even religiously Pakistan is much closer to India than to any other part of the Muslim world.
 
Pakistanis Ask: why Pakistan?

Most important, if 150 million Muslims continue to be equal citizens of India occasional violence and persistent discrimination notwithstanding, the question is beginning to be asked not only in India but in Pakistan about the rationale for the division of the Sub-continent.

The Muslim community of the Sub-continent, now divided into three states, would have not only prospered but lived more securely and made greater contribution in the realm of fine arts, science, humanities and sports, had their organic unity not been sacrificed on the altar of politics or, shall we say, the interest of the Muslim elite or the hurt ego of an individual, who at one time was one of the top leaders of the national freedom movement, and who, after he was dropped like a fly in the ointment when he raised his voice against Hindu majoritarianism and asked for democratic safeguards and guarantees for the Muslims as the biggest minority. Partition resulted from the failure of the Freedom Movement to evolve a formula acceptable to both communities.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2011 on page no. 12

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