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The Partition and Independence

‘Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do?’

This Independence Day we remember three declarations: the Lahore Congress resolution declared in 1930, Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s presidential address to the First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, and an extract from B.R. Ambedkar’s Pakistan, or, the Partition of India published in 1945.

Lahore Congress Resolution, declared 26 January 1930

“We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth.

We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it.

The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually.

We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete independence.

India has been ruined economically. The revenue derived from our people is out of all proportion to our income. Our average income is seven pice (less than twopence) per day, and of the heavy taxes we pay, twenty per cent are raised from the land revenue derived from the peasantry and three per cent from the salt tax, which falls most heavily on the poor.

Village industries, such as hand-spinning, have been destroyed, leaving the peasantry idle for at least four months in the year, and dulling their intellect for want of handicrafts, and nothing has been substituted, as in other countries, for the crafts thus destroyed.

Customs and currency have been so manipulated as to heap further burdens on the peasantry. The British manufactured goods constitute the bulk of our imports. Customs duties betray clear partiality for British manufactures, and revenue from them is used not to lessen the burden on the masses but for sustaining a highly extravagant administration. Still more arbitrary has been the manipulation of the exchange ratio, which has resulted in millions being drained away from the country.

Politically, India’s status has never been so reduced as under the British regime. No reforms have given real political power to the people. The tallest of us have to bend before foreign authority. The rights of free expression of opinion and free association have been denied to us, and many of our countrymen are compelled to live in exile abroad and cannot return to their homes. All administrative talent is killed, and the masses have to be satisfied with petty village offices and clerkships.

Culturally, the system of education has torn us from our moorings, and our training has made us hug the very chains that bind us.

Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly, and the presence of an alien army of occupation, employed with deadly effect to crush in us the spirit of resistance, has made us think that we cannot look after ourselves or put up a defense against foreign aggression, or even defend our homes and families from the attacks of thieves, robbers and miscreants.

We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to a rule that has caused this fourfold disaster to our country. We recognize, however, that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence. We will therefore prepare ourselves by withdrawing, so far as we can, all voluntary association from the British Government, and will prepare for civil disobedience, including nonpayment of taxes.

We are convinced that if we can but withdraw our voluntary help and stop payment of taxes without doing violence, even under provocation, the end of this inhuman rule is assured.”

Jinnah addresses the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947

“…I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of every one of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all. But you must remember, as I have said, that this mighty revolution that has taken place is unprecedented.

One can quite understand the feeling that exists between the two communities wherever one community is in majority and the other is in minority. But the question is, whether it was possible or practicable to act otherwise than what has been done.

A division had to take place. On both sides, in Hindustan and Pakistan, there are sections of people who may not agree with it, who may not like it; but in my judgement there was no other solution, and I am sure future history will record its verdict in favour of it. And what is more, it will be proved by actual experience as we go on that that was the only solution of India’s constitutional problem.

Any idea of a united India could never have worked, and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen. All the same, in this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities being in one Dominion or the other. Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution.

Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed.

If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste, or creed, is first, second, and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit, and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on — will vanish.

Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this.

Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.

As you know, history shows that in England conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class.

Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.

The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation, and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country; and they went through that fire step by step.

Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain, and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State…“

An excerpt from B.R.Ambedkar, Pakistan or the Partition of India, second edition published January 1945

“It is a pity that Mr. Jinnah should have become a votary and champion of Muslim Nationalism at a time when the whole world is decrying against the evils of nationalism and is seeking refuge in some kind of international organization.

Mr. Jinnah is so obsessed with his new-found faith in Muslim Nationalism that he is not prepared to see that there is a distinction between a society, parts of which are disintegrated, and a society parts of which have become only loose, which no sane man can ignore.

When a society is disintegrating—and the two nation theory is a positive disintegration of society and country—it is evidence of the fact that there do not exist what Carlyle calls ” organic filaments “—i.e., the vital forces which work to bind together the parts that are cut asunder. In such cases disintegration can only be regretted. It cannot be prevented.

Where, however, such organic filaments do exist, it is a crime to overlook them and deliberately force the disintegration of society and country as the Muslims seem to be doing.

If the Musalmans want to be a different nation it is not because they have been but because they want to be. There is much in the Musalmans which, if they wish, can roll them into a nation. But isn’t there enough that is common to both Hindus and Musalmans, which if developed, is capable of moulding them into one people?

Nobody can deny that there are many modes, manners, rites and customs which are common to both. Nobody can deny that there are rites, customs and usages based on religion which do divide Hindus and Musalmans.

The question is, which of these should be emphasized. If the emphasis is laid on things that are common, there need be no two nations in India. If the emphasis is laid on points of difference, it will no doubt give rise to two nations.

The view that seems to guide Mr. Jinnah is that Indians are only a people and that they can never be a nation. This follows the line of British writers who make it a point of speaking of Indians as the people of India and avoid speaking of the Indian nation.

Granted Indians are not a nation, that they are only a people. What of that ? History records that before the rise of nations as great corporate personalities, there were only peoples. There is nothing to be ashamed if Indians are no more than a people. Nor is there any cause for despair that the people of India—if they wish—will not become one nation. For, as Disraeli said, a nation is a work of art and a work of time.

If the Hindus and Musalmans agree to emphasize the things that bind them and forget those that separate them there is no reason why in course of time they should not grow into a nation. It may be that their nationalism may not be quite so integrated as that of the French or the Germans. But they can easily produce a common state of mind on common questions which is the sum total which the spirit of nationalism helps to produce and for which it is so much prized.

Is it right for the Muslim League to emphasize only differences and ignore altogether the forces that bind ? Let it not be forgotten that if two nations come into being it will not be because it is predestined. It will be the result of deliberate design.

The Musalmans of India as I have said are not as yet a nation in the de jure or de facto sense of the term and all that can be said is that they have in them the elements necessary to make them a nation.

But granting that the Musalmans of India are a nation, is India the only country where there are going to be two nations? What about Canada? Everybody knows that there are in Canada two nations, the English and the French. Are there not two nations in South Africa, the English and the Dutch? What about Switzerland? Who does not know that there are three nations living in Switzerland, the Germans, the French and the Italians?

Have the French in Canada demanded partition because they are a separate nation? Do the English claim partition of South Africa because they are a distinct nation from the Boers? Has anybody ever heard that the Germans, the French and the Italians have ever agitated for the fragmentation of Switzerland because they are all different nations? Have the Germans, the French and the Italians ever felt that they would lose their distinctive cultures if they lived as citizens of one country and under one constitution?

On the contrary, all these distinct nations have been content to live together in one country under one constitution without fear of losing their nationality and their distinctive cultures… The case of Switzerland is worthy of note. It is surrounded by countries, the nationalities of which have a close religious and racial affinity with the nationalities of Switzerland. Notwithstanding these affinities the nationalities in Switzerland have been Swiss first and Germans, Italians and French afterwards.

Given the experience of the French in Canada, the English in South Africa and the French and the Italians in Switzerland, the questions that arise are, why should it be otherwise in India?

Assuming that the Hindus and the Muslims split into two nations, why cannot they live in one country and under one constitution?

Why should the emergence of the two-nation theory make partition necessary?

Why should the Musalmans be afraid of losing their nationality and national culture by living with the Hindus?

If the Muslims insist on separation, the cynic may well conclude that there is so much that is common between the Hindus and the Musalmans that the Muslim leaders are afraid that unless there is partition whatever little distinctive Islamic culture is left with the Musalmans will eventually vanish by continued social contact with the Hindus with the result that in the end instead of two nations there will grow up in India one nation.

If the Muslim nationalism is so thin then the motive for partition is artificial and the case for Pakistan loses its very basis.

Must there be Pakistan because otherwise Swaraj will be a Hindu Raj? The Musalmans are so easily carried away by this cry that it is necessary to expose the fallacies underlying it.

In the first place, is the Muslim objection to Hindu Raj a conscientious objection or is it a political objection? If it is a conscientious objection all one can say is that it is a very strange sort of conscience. There are really millions of Musalmans in India who are living under unbridled and uncontrolled Hindu Raj of Hindu Princes and no objection to it has been raised by the Muslims or the Muslim League.

The Muslims had once a conscientious objection to the British Raj. Today not only have they no objection to it but they are the greatest supporters of it. That there should be no objection to British Raj or to undiluted Hindu Raj of a Hindu Prince but that there should be objection to Swaraj for British India on the ground that it is Hindu Raj as though it was not subjected to checks and balances is an attitude the logic of which it is difficult to follow.

The political objections to Hindu Raj rest on various grounds. The first ground is that Hindu society is not a democratic society. True, it is not. It may not be right to ask whether the Muslims have taken any part in the various movements for reforming Hindu society as distinguished from proselytising. But it is right to ask if the Musalmans are the only sufferers from the evils that admittedly result from the undemocratic character of Hindu society.

Are not the millions of Shudras and non-Brahmins or millions of the Untouchables, suffering the worst consequences of the undemocratic character of Hindu society ? Who benefits from education, from public service and from political reforms except the Hindu governing class—composed of the higher castes of the Hindus—which form not even 10 per cent. of the total Hindu population?

Has not the governing class of the Hindus, which controls Hindu politics, shown more regard for safeguarding the rights and interests of the Musalmans than they have for safeguarding the rights and interests of the Shudras and the Untouchables? Is not Mr. Gandhi, who is determined to oppose any political concession to the Untouchables, ready to sign a blank cheque in favour of the Muslims?

Indeed, the Hindu governing class seems to be far more ready to share power with the Muslims than it is to share power with the Shudras and the Untouchables. Surely, the Muslims have the least ground to complain of the undemocratic character of Hindu society.

Another ground on which the Muslim objection to Hindu Raj rests is that the Hindus are a majority community and the Musalmans are a minority community. True. But is India the only country where such a situation exists?

Let us compare the conditions in India with the conditions in Canada, South Africa and Switzerland. First, take the distribution of population. In Canada out of a total population of 10,376,786 only 2,927,990 are French. In South Africa the Dutch number 1,120,770 and the English are only 783,071. In Switzerland out of the total population of 4,066,400 the Germans are 2,924,313, the French 831,097 and the Italians 242,034.

This shows that the smaller nationalities have no fear of being placed under the Raj of a major community. Such a notion seems to be quite foreign to them.

Why is this so? Is it because there is no possibility of the major nationality establishing its supremacy in those centres of power and authority, namely the Legislature and in the Executive? Quite the contrary.

Unfortunately no figures are available to show the actual extent of representation which the different major and minor nationalities have in Switzerland, Canada and South Africa. That is because there is no communal reservation of seats such as is found in India. Each community is left to win in a general contest what number of seats it can.

But it is quite easy to work out the probable number of seats which each nationality can obtain on the basis of the ratio of its population to the total seats in the Legislature. Proceeding on this basis what do we find? In Switzerland the total representatives in the Lower House is 187. Out of them the German population has a possibility of winning 138, French 42 and Italians only 7 seats. In South Africa out of the total of 153, there is a possibility of the English gaining 62, and the Dutch 94 seats. In Canada the total is 245. Of these the French have only 65.

On this basis it is quite clear that in all these countries there is a possibility of the major nationality establishing its supremacy over the minor nationalities. Indeed, one may go so far as to say that speaking de jure and as a mere matter of form in Canada the French are living under the British Raj, the English in South Africa under the Dutch Raj, and the Italians and French in Switzerland under the German Raj.

But what is the position de facto? Have Frenchmen in Canada raised a cry that they will not live under British Raj? Have Englishmen in South Africa raised a cry that they will not live under Dutch Raj? Have the French and Italians in Switzerland any objection to living under the German Raj? Why should then the Muslims raise this cry of Hindu Raj?

Is it proposed that the Hindu Raj should be the rule of a naked communal majority? Are not the Musalmans granted safeguards against the possible tyranny of the Hindu majority? Are not the safeguards given to the Musalmans of India wider and better than the safeguards which have been given to the French in Canada, to the English in South Africa and to the French and the Italians in Switzerland?

To take only one item from the list of safeguards. Haven’t the Musalmans got an enormous degree of weightage in representation in the Legislature? Is weightage known in Canada, South Africa or Switzerland? And what is the effect of this weightage to Muslims? Is it not to reduce the Hindu majority in the Legislature?

What is the degree of reduction? Confining ourselves to British India and taking account only of the representation granted to the territorial constituencies, Hindu and Muslim, in the Lower House in the Central Legislature under the Government of India Act, 1935, it is clear that out of a total of 187, the Hindus have 105 seats and the Muslims have 82 seats. Given these figures one is forced to ask where is the fear of the Hindu Raj?

If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

But is Pakistan the true remedy against it ? What makes communal Raj possible is a marked disproportion in the relative strength of the various communities living in a country. As pointed out above, this disproportion is not more marked in India than it is in Canada, South Africa and Switzerland. Nonetheless there is no British Raj in Canada, no Dutch Raj in South Africa, and no German Raj in Switzerland.

How have the French, the English and the Italians succeeded in preventing the Raj of the majority community being established in their country? Surely not by partition : What is their method? Their method is to put a ban on communal parties in politics. No community in Canada, South Africa or Switzerland ever thinks of starting a separate communal party.

What is important to note is that it is the minority nations which have taken the lead in opposing the formation of a communal party. For they know that if they form a communal political party the major community will also form a communal party and the majority community will thereby find it easy to establish its communal Raj.

It is a vicious method of self-protection. It is because the minority nations are fully aware how they will be hoisted on their own petard that they have opposed the formation of communal political parties.

Have the Muslims thought of this method of avoiding Hindu Raj? Have they considered how easy it is to avoid it? Have they considered how futile and harmful the present policy of the League is? The Muslims are howling against the Hindu Maha Sabha and its slogan of Hindudom and Hindu Raj. But who is responsible for this? Hindu Maha Sabha and Hindu Raj are the inescapable nemesis which the Musalmans have brought upon themselves by having a Muslim League. It is action and counter-action. One gives rise to the other.

Not partition, but the abolition, of the Muslim League and the formation of a mixed party of Hindus and Muslims is the only effective way of burying the ghost of Hindu Raj.

It is, of course, not possible for Muslims and other minority parties to join the Congress or the Hindu Maha Sabha so long as the disagreement on the question of constitutional safeguards continues.

But this question will be settled, is bound to be settled and there is every hope that the settlement will result in securing to the Muslims and other minorities the safeguards they need.

Once this consummation, which we so devoutly wish, takes place nothing can stand in the way of a party re-alignment, of the Congress and the Maha Sabha breaking up and of Hindus and Musalmans forming mixed political parties based on an agreed programme of social and economic regeneration, and thereby avoid the danger of both Hindu Raj or Muslim Raj becoming a fact.

Nor should the formation of a mixed party of Hindus and Muslims be difficult in India. There are many lower orders in the Hindu society whose economic, political and social needs are the same as those of the majority of the Muslims and they would be far more ready to make a common cause with the Muslims for achieving common ends than they would with the high caste of Hindus who have denied and deprived them of ordinary human rights for centuries.

To pursue such a course cannot be called an adventure. The path along that line is a well trodden path.

Is it not a fact that under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in most Provinces, if not in all, the Muslims, the Non-Brahmins and the Depressed Classes united together and worked the reforms as members of one team from 1920 to 1937? Herein lay the most fruitful method of achieving communal harmony among Hindus and Muslims and of destroying the danger of a Hindu Raj.

Mr. Jinnah could have easily pursued this line. Nor was it difficult for Mr. Jinnah to succeed in it. Indeed Mr. Jinnah is the one person who had all the chances of success on his side if he had tried to form such a united non-communal party. He has the ability to organize. He had the reputation of a nationalist. Even many Hindus who were opposed to the Congress would have flocked to him if he had only sent out a call for a united party of like-minded Hindus and Muslims.

What did Mr. Jinnah do? In 1937 Mr. Jinnah made his entry into Muslim politics and strangely enough he regenerated the Muslim League which was dying and decaying and of which only a few years ago he would have been glad to witness the funeral.

However regrettable the starting of such a communal political party may have been, there was in it one relieving feature. That was the leadership of Mr. Jinnah. Everybody felt that with the leadership of Mr. Jinnah the League could never become a merely communal party.

The resolutions passed by the League during the first two years of its new career indicated that it would develop into a mixed political party of Hindus and Muslims. At the annual session of the Muslim League held at Lucknow in October 1937 altogether 15 resolutions were passed. The following two are of special interest in this connection.

Resolution No. 7:

“This meeting of the All India Muslim League deprecates and protests against the formation of Ministries in certain Provinces by the Congress parties in flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Government of India Act, 1935, and Instrument of Instructions and condemns the Governors for their failure to enforce the special powers entrusted to them for the safeguards of the interest of the Musalmans and other important minorities”

Resolution No. 8:

“Resolved that the object of the All India Muslim League shall be the establishment in India of Full Independence in the form of federation of free democratic states in which the rights and interests of the Musalmans and other minorities are adequately and effectively safeguarded in the constitution.”

Equal number of resolutions were passed at the next annual session of the League held at Patna in December 1938. Resolution No. 10 is noteworthy. It reads as follows:

“The All India Muslim League reiterates its view that the scheme of Federation embodied in the Government of India Act, 1935, is not acceptable, but in view of the further developments that have taken place or may take place from time to time it hereby authorises the President of the All India Muslim League to adopt such course as may be necessary with a view to explore the possibility of a suitable alternative which will safeguard the interests of the Musalmans and other minorities in India.”

By these resolutions Mr. Jinnah showed that he was for a common front between the Muslims and other non-Muslim minorities.

Unfortunately the catholicity and statesmanship that underlies these resolutions did not last long.

In 1939 Mr. Jinnah took a somersault and outlined the dangerous and disastrous policy of isolation of the Musalmans by passing that notorious resolution in favour of Pakistan. What is the reason for this isolation? Nothing but the change of view that the Musalmans were a nation and not a community!!

One need not quarrel over the question whether the Muslims are a nation or a community. But one finds it extremely difficult to understand how the mere fact that the Muslims are a nation makes political isolation a safe and sound policy?

Unfortunately Muslims do not realize what disservice Mr. Jinnah has done to them by this policy.

But let Muslims consider what Mr. Jinnah has achieved by making the Muslim League the only organization for the Musalmans. It may be that it has helped him to avoid the possibility of having to play the second fiddle. For inside the Muslim camp he can always be sure of the first place for himself.

But how does the League hope to save by this plan of isolation the Muslims from Hindu Raj? Will Pakistan obviate the establishment of Hindu Raj in Provinces in which the Musalmans are in a minority? Obviously it cannot. This is what would happen in the Muslim minority Provinces if Pakistan came.

Take an all-India view. Can Pakistan prevent the establishment of Hindu Raj at the centre over Muslim minorities that will remain Hindustan? It is plain that it cannot.

What good is Pakistan then? Only to prevent Hindu Raj in Provinces in which the Muslims are in a majority and in which there could never be Hindu Raj!!

To put it differently Pakistan is unnecessary to Muslims where they are in a majority because there, there is no fear of Hindu Raj. It is worse than useless to Muslims where they are in a minority, because Pakistan or no Pakistan they will have to face a Hindu Raj.

Can politics be more futile than the politics of the Muslim League? The Muslim League started to help minority Muslims and has ended by espousing the cause of majority Muslims. What a perversion in the original aim of the Muslim League! What a fall from the sublime to the ridiculous!

Partition as a remedy against Hindu Raj is worse than useless.”


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