Partition of India and Patriotism of Indian Muslims


Indian Muslims are almost habituated to hear such statements as, “They (the Muslims) have taken Pakistan, now what else here for them?” This one line statement from our co-citizen can’t but forces a serious, social conscious person to investigate the truth. Thus led to this article —

In pre-partition India, there were clearly demarcated two types of Muslims – one in favour of partition, to create two numbers of religious majority countries. This Muslim group was led be Md. Ali Jinnah under the political umbrella of Muslim League. However, Jinnah and Sir Muhammad Iqbal both initially were the champions of Composite Indian Nationalism. The other part of Muslims, the Indian Muslims were completely in disagreement with the League and Jinnah, and were the solder of religion neutral Composite Indian Nationalism. This significant group of Indian Muslims were led by Allah Baksh, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, M. A. Ansari, Saifuddin Kitchlu, Asaf Ali, Abbas Tayabji, Yusuf Mihir Ali and others.

The process of bifurcation of Indian Nationalism into Hindu and Muslim variants started in the 3rd quarter of 19th century (after the failure of 1857-58 war of Independence). As the Muslims took the leading role not only in this great war against the British, rather they consistently fought to drive this foreign rule out of our country since its very beginning in 1757, so, after crushing the war, the Queen of England declared her hostile Order against the Indian Muslims, known as Allahabad declaration of 1858. The declaration says, henceforth Govt. jobs will be given only to those who have proved his /her ability and loyalty to the British rule. This actually ensured no entry to the patriotic Indian Muslims in Govt. jobs due to their proved disloyalty, rather hostility towards this foreign rule. In this situation, Hindu communities availed the advantage to establish monopoly in Govt. jobs, which led to their strong hold on almost every sphere of social, political and economic life of the country. Whereas, the unfortunate Muslims community lagged behind in every field. Thus, two distinct classes – the elite Hindus and the poor Muslims slowly generated in the Indian masses, which ultimately led to the conceptualization of a separate Hindu Nation by the more conscious elite Hindus. Whereas, the poor and illiterate Muslims remained practically unconscious about their future developmental plan. Formation of Indian National Congress in 1885 facilitated the nourishment of Hindu Nationalism. Indian Muslims realised this when the Congress opposed the pro-Muslim partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905. Being frustrated by the pro-Hindu role of Congress, the Muslims as a protective measure, formed their separate organization – the Muslim League in 1906. As for Congress, the League also facilitated the conceptualization of Muslim Nationalism. In 1925, the elite Hindus, in order to protect their interest of superiority on the Indian masses, established Rashtriya Sayamsevak Sangh and started campaign in favour of Hindu Nationalism.

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In the All India Muslim League Conference in Delhi(Jan.1929) the great Islamic scholar Muhammad Iqbal expressed the need of separate State (not country) under a common central administration,“I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-Govt. within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.”– [Ref.: Cited in Naim, C.M. (ed.), (1982), Iqbal, Jinnah and Pakistan, Jinnah Publication House, Delhi, pp.195-6].[Underline added]. So, even no hint of partition is there in his statement. After ten years, Md. Ali Jinnah resolved in Sindh Provincial Muslim League meeting in October, 1938, “in the interest of abiding peace of the vast Indian continent and in the interest of unhampered cultural development, the economic and social betterment and political self-determination of the two nations, known as Hindus and Muslims that India may be divided into two Federations, viz., Federation of Muslim states and Federation of non-Muslim states.” - [Ref.: Sherwani, Latif Ahmed, (1986), The Pakistan Resolution, Karachi:  Quaid-e-AzamAcademy, p.10].[Underline added]. Here, even Mr. Jinnah is not demanding a separate sovereign country like Pakistan or other, what he demanded two federations to accommodate two nations – Hindus and Muslims under a common central administration.Ultimately, on March 22, 1940, the All India Muslim League adopted a clear cut Pakistan resolution in its Lahore session, which reads as, “The problem of India is not of an inter-communal character, but manifestly of an international one, and it must  be treated as such … If the British Govt.  really is earnest and sincere to secure [the] peace and happiness of the people of  this sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to  allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into ‘autonomous national states’. (See Shamsul Islam (2015), Muslims Against Partition, New Delhi: Pharos, p.51). [Emphasis added].

Opposition to Partition

After the Muslim League’s Pakistan demand came to the surface, the Indian patriotic Muslims set out to protest all over the country. Almost all the Muslim organizations and the prominent personalities of the community openly staged their opposition to partition of India. All India Azad Muslim Conference played a prominent role here. According to its leader Allah Baksh, “No power on earth can rob anyone of his faith and convictions, and no power on earth shall be permitted to rob Indian Muslims of their just rights as Indian nationals.” The Conference had organized a meeting to oppose Pakistan resolution, on April 27, 1940 in Delhi, which in every aspect was a much more representative organization of Muslim opinion from all over the country than the Muslim League session held a month back at Lahore. The major Muslim organizations represented in the Conference were –All India Jamiat Ulama, All India Momin Conference, All India Majlis-e-Ahrar,All India Shia Political Conference, Khudai Khidmatgars, Bengal Krishak Proja Party, All  India Muslim Parliamentary Board, The Anjuman-e-Watan  (Baluchistan), All India Muslim Majlis, and Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadees. Even the Muslim students supported this anti-Pakistan conference and extended their voluntary services for the cause. The very motive of any organization or public demonstration can be clearly conveyed by its slogans. The Azad Muslim Conference also did it without doubt through its slogans - “Inquilab Zindabad, Hindustan Azad, Pakistan Murdabad.” “Freedom through National Unity”, “We are Indian and India is our Home.” The Conference received about 200 messages from its supporters – like, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, Cong. President; Business delegations; Zahid Ali –the son of late Moulana Shaukat Ali; Ghulam Hossain Hidayatullah; Md. Bhoy Bowjee, former Sharif of Bombay and members of Aga Khan Supreme Council; and Jamiat Ulama, Assam;  Md. Bhoy Bowjee’s message reads, “The forces of communalism and narrow minded bigotry supported by Mr. Jinnah and his comrades of the Muslim League deserve no mention.”[Ref.: ibid, p.84]. Another such joint message by the leading politicians from Bengal – Humayun Kabir, Nawabzada Hasan Ali Choudhury, Dr. Ahmad, K.M. Zakaria, ex-Mayor of Calcutta, and several others reads, “a conference such as this must declare that India civilization of today is the creation of the joint efforts of Muslims and Hindus, and any attempt to disrupting the unity of its spirit is a betrayal of the history of a thousand years. The Muslim League’s scheme or portioning India, if taken literally, is against the true spirit of Islam…” [Ref.: The Hindustan Times, April 27, 1940]. Allah Baksh, the president of the Conference vehemently opposed the partition both in realistic and Islamic point of views. He cleared, “Even in the darkest and most difficult days of Islam the Prophet had not thought of creating Pakistan.” “Whatever our faiths we must live together in our country in an atmosphere of perfect amity and our relation should be the relation of several brothers of a joint family, various members of which are free to profess the faith they like without any let or hindrance and all of whom enjoy equal benefits of their joint property.” [Ref.: The Sunday Statesman, April 28, 1940]. “when they talk of Muslim culture they forget the composite culture which the impact of Hindus and Muslims has been shaping for the last 1000 years or more and in which is born a type of culture and civilization in India in the production of which Muslims have been proud and active partners.”[Ref.: Islam, S (2015), op. cit., p.91.]. He further stressed that, “The country as an indivisible whole and ….heritage of the Indian Muslims as of other Indians. No segregated or isolated regions, but the whole of India is the Homeland of all the Indian Muslims and no Hindu or Muslim or any other has the right to deprive them of one inch of this Homeland.”– [Ref.: Ibid, p. 90].

The Bombay Chronicle, in its May 2, 1940 issue evaluated the standing of Indian Muslims, “Whatever may be the nature and extent of the following behind Jinnah, it has now been made clear that there is vast body of Muslims and Muslim Organizations who think differently.”

Some important Muslim personalities strongly stood against Jinnah, Muslim League and partition of India. Shibli Nomani (1857-1914) was one such personality who stood for composite nationalism and denounced Muslim League as the affair of‘dast-e-karam’ or moneyed people only. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari (1880–1936) was another strong enemy to communalism. According to him,“communalism is too harmful to be left to itself in the hope that it will die a natural death some day in the definite future … Your first duty, therefore, is to carry on a relentless crusade against communalism as an active guiding principle of Indian political life.”-[Ref.: Ansari in Modern Review, July 1929, p.104].He along with Moulana Mahamudul Hasan, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Moulana Mohammad Ali established a Muslim educational institution in Aligarh on October 29, 1920 (later shifted to Delhi), based on secular and composite ideology, today known as Jamia Millia Islamia University. He wanted the Jamia to be a model Muslim educational centre and hub of nationalist activities to serve his ideal of promoting Hindu-Muslim integration. Mr. Ansari also formed the All India Nationalist Muslim Party in 1929for counter communalism in Indian politics. According to Historian Francis Robinson, the activities of Muslim personalities, like Ansari and Azad during the Indian freedom struggle were testimony to the fact that in a region increasingly beset by communalism there were Muslims who worked for the highest secular ideals. -  [Ref.: Hasan, Mushirul, (2010), M.A. Ansari, Gaudhi’s Infallible Guide, Manohar, p.16]. Mr.Shaukatullah Ansari, nephew of Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari continued this legacy alive.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890–1988), another important personality for composite nationalism used to quote the verses from the Holy Qur’an in order to inspire people for jihad against British slavery in the line of composite Indian nationalism through his organization Khudai Khidmatgars. W.C. Smith observed, “No section of India has been more thoroughly nationalist than the Khudai Khidmatgars. [Ref.: ibid, pp. 208-9]. As a result they had to bear the wrath of the mighty and tyrant ruler. “Towards the end of 1932, out of 1500 Civil Disobedience prisoners in Peswar, 5 were Hindus, 2 Sikhs the rest being Muslims …. In the province as a whole over 90% of the Civil disobedience prisoners were Muslims.”- [Ref.: Islam, S. (2015), ibid, p.126].Mr. Khan vehemently protested against Congress when in June 1947 it agreed to partition of the country in CWC meeting -“We Pakhtuns stood by you and had undergone great sacrifices for attaining freedom. But you have deserted us and thrown us to the wolves.” [Ref.: ibid, pp.127].

Syed Abdullah Barelvibravely edited The Bombay Chronicle, a prominent English daily for Hindu-Muslim unity and organizing Muslims against Pakistan. For this purpose he established Congress Muslim Party. Motilal Nehru wished it,“I heartily welcome the formation of Congress Muslim Party and wish its great success… I have no hesitation in saying that success of Congress depends on the selfless service of Patriotic Muslims.” [Ref.: Awadh Akhbar, Lucknow, July 25, 1929]

Like All India Muslim Conference, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind was another organization which worked for the Composite Indian Nationalism. One of its founders, Moulana Hussain Ahmad Madani said in 1937, “In the current age, nations are based on homelands, not religion.” He further expressed in“uncompromising term, the Islamic sanction for Muslims is to work and live with non-Muslims in a shared polity, and specifically, to embrace the secular democracy.”- [ibid, pp.131]. When Govind Vallabh Pant presented a resolution in support of Partition, patriotic Muslim, Hifzur Rahaman Seoharvi, a prominent JUH leader expressed his fierce objection as, “With all respect to our leaders I would like to state that the result of the Partition of India will be far more dangerous than the complications and pressure of situations which are being presented to support Partition of India. If today the scheme of Partition of India is accepted at the Congress platform, it would mean that we are rubbing off with our own hands, whole of our history and our beliefs and pronouncements. We are surrendering to two-nation theory.” - [Ibid., pp.136].

The All India Momin Conference, an organization of backward Muslim artisans, especially weavers of northern and eastern pre-Partition India was one of the first major Muslim organizations to challenge the two nation theory. In its Patna Conference, 1940 resolved, “the Partition scheme was not only impracticable and unpatriotic but altogether un-Islamic and unnatural, because the geographical position of the different provinces of India and the intermingled population of the Hindus and Muslims are against the proposal and because the two communities have been living together for centuries, and they have many things in common between them.”- [Ref.: ibid, p.143].

Another such anti-partition organization was Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam formed by Punjabi Muslims. Its prominent leader Afzal Haq wrote, “Partition of India is, in fact, the cry of upper classes …. It is not a communal demand as some people think but a stunt in order that the poor classes may not concentrate their thought and energies on all important questions of social and economic justice.”- [Afzal Haq (1941), Pakistan and Untouchability, Lahore: Maktab-e-Urdu, p.162]. The anti-people rulers always adopt this strategy to divert the attention of the common people from the genuine issues of livelihood to the non-issues. They, with the unholy nexus with media, are expert in making issues to non-issues and non-issues to issues! The same path is being adopted by our swadeshi rulers when they consciously brings cow, ghar-wapsi, love jihad, jai Sri Ram, temple etc. as the central issues by replacing employment, education and health from the people’s thought process!

All Parties Shia Conference’s leader Morza Zafar Hussain stressed,“I believe the Nationalist Muslims have a duty to perform at the present political crisis in the country. They should strive hard to bring about complete communal unity and banish all Hindu-Muslim difference which are in my opinion more imaginary than real.”[Shamsul Islam, op. cit., p.150].

All India Muslim Majlis established in 1943 by Shaikh Mohammad Jan from Bengal, worked hard for Hindu-Muslim agreement against Partition of India. Its president, Abdul Majid Khwaja, wrote a strongly worded letter to Gandhi, “It means that you are prepared to surrender the Congress Muslims who have fought the battles of the country side by side with you to those Mussalmans who have done nothing except for themselves, their seats, their posts, their salaries and their lunches and dinners at the Government houses … So far they [Congress Muslims] have fought against the Government and against the self-seekers of their own community … If now they are thrown overboard by the Congress or by you, they must either clear out of the field altogether or must henceforth fight against the Congress.” (Ibid., pp.154-55).

Other Muslim organizations, like Krishak Praja Party of Bengal (which won provincial election of 1937 and A.K. Fazlul Haque became its Premier), Ahl-e-Hadees and Anjuman-e-Watan (Baluchistan) [Its leader Khan Abdul Samad Khan, was also known as Baluchistani Gandhi] all tirelessly worked against partition of India and in favour of composite Indian nationalism. Muslims throughout the country as well as in the abroad worked against partition. An anti-Separation Conference was organized at Kumbakonam (in Tamilnadu) in June 1941 by Moulana Obaidullah Sindhi, the political guide of Netaji Subhas Ch. Bose, and resolved, “if such schemes were considered realistically, it would be apparent at once how damaging they would be not only for Indian Muslims but for the whole Islamic world. The experiment of using the Ottoman Empire as a political level had been tried.”–[ibid, p.158]. Muslims in England under the banner of All Britain Jamiat-ul-Muslim expressed their opinion as, “99 per cent of the Muslims in Great Britain are opposed to Pakistan and support our move for unconditional alliance to the Indian National Congress.”-[ibid, p.159].

Reasons of Failure

In spite of the fact that “The attendance at the Nationalist meeting was about five times than the attendance at the League meeting.” (The Bombay Chronicle, Apr.18, 1946), i.e., the opponents to partition were five times more than its supporters, our motherland was trisected! This happened due to the following reasons -

Ø      The British wanted to weaken us by dividing and putting the seed of permanent enmity among us. So, the Nationalist Muslims’ even much strong opposition to partition failed to extract the expected backing by the royal crown! The Ananda Bazar Patrika of Calcutta rightly sensed that as, “It is quite possible that the British Government will ignore the opinion of the Azad Conference, as they did regarding the claims of the Nationalist Muslims to be represented at the Round Table Conference, even by one person. Already Lord Zetland has given the certificate of sole agency for Indian Mussalmans to the League, and there is little doubt that there will be no change in the old tactics. But we may all take it for granted that the British Government will not be convinced. They will further be strengthened in their attitude by the Pact that Sir Subhas Chandra Bose has made with the Muslim League, letting down the Nationalist Muslims.” [Ibid., p. 97]

Ø      Congress itself was complicit in the establishment of Pakistan. Its major crime was in choosing Muslim League as the only representative of Indian Muslims. The Muslims in Congress, who were derogatorily termed as ‘Congress Muslims’, “did not receive the strong ideological and political backing from the Congress. They were merely used on occasions, given decorative positions in the Congress hierarchy and loudly proclaimed as selfless and devoted leaders. At the same time, their point of view was often disregarded with undeserved contempt … they were treated at best as bargaining counters; when not so, they could easily be stored in the deep freeze.” [Ref.: Hasan, Mushirul. (2010),M.A. Ansari: Gandhi’s Infallible Guide, Delhi: Manohar, pp. 223-4]. That Gandhiji favoured Jinnah in the political field is clear from Moulana Azad’s statement, “Jinnah had lost much of his political importance after he left the Congress in 1920s. it was largely due to Gandhiji’s acts of commission and omission that Jinnah regained his importance in Indian political life.” [Ref.: Azad, Moulana Abul Kalam. (2012),India Wins Freedom, Delhi: Orient Blackswan, pp. 96-97]. One can also guess Gandhiji’s support to Pakistan from the Patriotic Muslim leader Mr.Habeebur Rahman’s letter to Gandhiji, “Yesterday, I read your statement. You are again ready to give Pakistan to Jinnah. The fact is that since Jinnah is a Gujarati, you love him and cannot forget him. You want to see him victorious despite his being wrong. This kind of gentle behaviour has strengthened the reactionary forces. Since Muslim League has passed Pakistan resolution you have been saying that if Muslims want it they could be given Pakistan.”  [Azizur Rahaman Ludhianvi, (1961),Raees-ul-Ahrar Moulana Habeebur Rahman, Delhi: Talimi Samaj Markaz, p.263]. 

Ø      The Muslim League launched a reign of terror against the opponents to partition, the patriotic Muslims. It created in 1939 a special quasi-military body, Muslim National Guards (MNG). Allah Bahsh, the prominent anti-partition leader was murdered in 1943, made creation of Pakistan easy.

Ø      Hindutva Politics of hate and polarisation along religious line played damaging role in the health unified India. One can sense the intensity of the hate-venom being spread by the Hindutva leaders, from just one statement by a prominent Hindu Mahasava leader, Mr. B.S. Moonje,“the Hindu nationalism is the only nationalism of India which stands for Hindu rule and Hindu kingdom. To achieve this, the Hindu Mahasabha rightly believes that violence is the effective weapon.” [Ref.: The Bombay Chronicle, December 26, 1940]. 

Post Partition Indian Muslims:

The Indian Muslims today and their glorious ancestors fought their teeth and nail to foil the partition plan of India by the anti-nationalist forces, but failed. At the time of this painful trisection of our motherland, today’s Indian Muslims and their forefathers although had options open before them either to go to West or East Pakistan, but preferred to remain in India with a sacred oath in heart to serve their motherland in all odds and evens. Thus, the Indian Muslims passed the litmus test of patriotism by opposing partition till it’s unfortunate materialisation, and subsequently choosing India instead of Pakistan as their motherland. Unfortunately, the divisive forces as were active in pre 1947 India with the concept of religion based Hindu vs. Muslim nationalism; today they are getting active once again with the same divisive concept of Hindu nationalism in place of Indian nationalism! But it is hopeful that the Indian Muslims and an appreciable number of true patriotic Indian non-Muslims in the line of their forefathers, are fighting for Composite Indian Nationalism instead of divisive religion based Hindu vs. Muslim vs. …. Nationalism.

The author is Assistant Professor, AcharyaJagadish Ch. Bose College, Kolkata, He may be contacted at


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