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Aligarh Movement
By Sanjeev Nayyar, November 2001 [[email protected]]

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Hindu Muslim Relations      

Some of us might blame the Brits were creating the Hindu Muslim divide. The divide already existed due to the ferocity of the Muslim invasions starting the 8th century a.d. The Brits exploited the divide to consolidate the empire and weaken the independence movement. In the bargain India has paid a heavy price both before and after Partition.

Relations among the masses though calm on the surface took an ugly turn in the shape of riots. In Kashi October 1809, a Hindu mob stormed the mosque built by Aurangzeb. To the Indian Muslim it does not matter that he is a Hindu convert and Aurangzeb a Mughal was no ancestor of his. So attached is he to symbols left by foreign invaders! In 1820 the Muslims assaulted a Durga Puja procession in Calcutta. There were riots in 1871-72 at Bareilly too.

Communal disturbances grew in volume and frequency, particularly between 1885 to 1893. There were riots in Lahore & Karnal in 1885, Delhi in 1886, Hoshiarpur, Ambala 1889 and Palakod in Salem, Tamil Nadu in 1891. 1893 was a bad year with grave outbreaks in Azamgarh of U.P., Mumbai lasted for six days. Also Swami Dayanand Saraswati founder of the Arya Samaj was in 1883 allegedly poisoned by a Muslim lady while he was a guest of the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

It is not unreasonable to assume that this increased tension between the masses of the two communities, was the direct consequence of the growing cleavage between their leaders. Thus by 1905 there were two distinct camps the Hindu and Muslim one. There was a totally communal Muslim outlook influenced by the Wahabi and Aligarh movements. The Muslims being a pan – Islamic religion were guided by purely Muslim interests then and today but it was the Hindus who carried this baggage of nationalism, unity. Lets take a look at some reasons why the Muslims behaved in a communal way.

One it should be remembered that neither of these two movements represented the Muslim community as a whole. While I agree with this logic I believe that if adequate number of Muslims had protested strongly against the communal outlook of their brothers the communal elements would have to take a back seat. Here the problem is that conservative Islam does not encourage modern education which could have made the community progressive in its thinking.

Secondly if the Muslims were communal must not the Hindus be blamed for it partly atleast. There was a general anti Muslim feeling in the minds of the Hindu intelligentsia. Let me share another perspective. For some seven hundred years Hindus in various parts of India were looted, raped, temples destroyed by various Muslim conquerors and rulers. Since they were being ruled they had no option than to keep quiet and swallow their humiliation. They welcomed the Brit rule because it freed them of Muslim tyranny. Surely from generation to generation feelings of humiliation would have got accumulated and passed on so was it not surprising that Hindus would distance themselves socially and politically from the Muslims. Why must the onus of reconciliation be the sole responsibility of the Hindus when it is they who have suffered the maximum?

Thirdly the Hindus had outgrown this narrow separatist tendency and imbibed a truly national spirit while the Muslims failed to do so. One of the characteristics of Indian philosophy is open ness to new chains of thought. There are atleast eight systems of philosophy with so many gurus and rishis, each with an independent mind of his own. So Hinduism encourages diversity and blesses them with the ability to absorb new ideas. On the other hand Islam is conservative, narrow, restricts itself to the Koran. Education has been part of Indian Samskaras for times immemorial; acquisition of knowledge is one of the paths to self-realization so Hindus had a head start in education but Islam!

This feeling of backwardness was brought to a head at the evidence before the Public Service Commission in 1886. In his evidence Dadabhai Naoraoji urged the necessity of holding exams simultaneously in India and England but was opposed by the Muslims “who feared that an examination held in India would lead to a preponderance of Hindus in the Civil Service to the detriment of the Muslims”. Ibid. The basic problem was the Muslim insecurity about Hindu domination in a democratic framework.

Dadabhai however, touched the crux of the problem when he observed that the attitude of the Muslims was “based on selfish interests, that because the Muslims are backward, therefore, they would not allow the Hindus and all India to go forward”. Well said Dadabhai. Profound words. Lets draw an analogy with modern day Pakistan. The Pakistanis realize that as a nation they have been left behind India. Such is their hatred for India, they cannot see her progress. They are using the ISI, Nepal, Indian Muslims and Bangladesh to make it difficult that the Indian state to survive. They encourage disgruntled elements and want the Indian state to break up. Because a successful Indian state would mean that the theorocratic state of Pakistan has failed.

Four were different community heroes. If the Hindus worshipped Shivaji, Guru Govind Singh and Rana Pratap the Muslim hero was Aurangzeb. The Third Battle Panipat was a day of mourning for the Hindus while it was a day of great deliverance for the Muslims. Also historical traditions and culture were so different. Hindu leaders like Gandhi and Nehru either did not attempt to understand the Hindu mind out of ignorance or dislike. So blindly committed were they to Hindu Muslim unity as recently witnessed during the build up to the Agra Summit 2001 that the Hindu leaders lost touch of reality. The riots caused by the Direct Action Plan of 1946 and Partition woke up some of the Congress leaders from slumber.

This is what founder of the Bharitya Vidya Bhavan, eminent freedom fighter, K M Munshi had to say “Last 25 years, we have been brought up on a slogan, naturalness and inevitableness of Hindu-Muslim unity. That this was wishful thinking has been proved in Noakali, Bihar, Rawalpindi. The Muslim a hard realist knew and exploited the hollowness of the slogans, the Hindu cherishes it still. Hindus love words and ideals”.

What I am saying is that the Congress leaders should have accepted the reality of Hindu Muslim relations and moved ahead. Aided by the Brits the Muslims had a veto power on just anything and everything, ably assisted by the Congress, that was to eventually result in the partition of India. I am not suggesting that partition might not have happened or the massacres would have been averted but am sure that what might have happened would surely been better than what happened and the state of the Indian sub continent today. Here I will draw an analogy with Kamalahasan’s movie Hey Ram. In that movie the hero played by Kamalhasan recalls the Hindu Muslim riots in the 1940s and even in 1990s i.e. when he is on his deathbed being transported in an ambulance. Has anything changed in these fifty years. Hindus Muslims continue to fight within the country and outside, Hindu India vs Muslim Pakistan.

So what existed earlier was a fassad and is typical of the Indian read Congress, Hindu attitude of refusing to accept reality. The Chinese taught us a bitter lesson in 1962 but lessons learnt! This point was so beautifully brought out albeit in a different context by noted management consultant ex Chairman of Proctor & Gamble India Gurcharan Dass in a recent presentation that I attended. He said that we Indians are great thinkers but poor implementers. That was one of the reasons why the Indian state and industry continue to lag behind. To implement well you have to take tough decisions and not postpone them. You must learn to live with opposition and move on inspite of criticism. But politicians and industrialists try to please all or take no action, rarely confront an issue, which is why they are poor implementers.

Ability to face opposition is derived from confidence in yourself. Confidence comes from your upbringing, education, family values, culture, traditions and success. Indian read Hindu religion and culture was subject to Islamic onslaught since 712 A.D. The Brits criticized Indian education, way of life, called us superstitious, divided society vertically and made us a poor country. Basically they made Indians loose confidence in their way of life. Post independence not much has changed. Our education continues to be based on the Brit model. We are taught Shakespeare not Kalidas. We have become educated but in a sense Rootless. When such a feeling creeps in we become insecure in our dealings with people, nations. This logic applies to most Indians especially politicians, secularists and the English media.

To know the impact of Gandhian / Nehruvian thinking on Independent India, please read the essay Why has Asceticism led to the weakening of Bharat.

This article is based on inputs from volumes 10 & 11 of the History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.

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