The title of the chapter is ‘Escape from Degradation.’ What grievances do Muslims have – ask the Hindus in a spirit of indignation? Grievances are many but they may be summed up in one sentence – namely that constitutional safeguards have failed to save them from the tyranny of the Hindu majority.
At the Round Table Conference the Muslims presented their list of safeguards, which were formulated in the well-known 14 points. The Hindu representatives at the Conference would not agree to them. However, the British govt intervened and gave what is known as the Communal decision. By that the Muslims got all the 14 points. There was much bitterness amongst the Hindus against the award but when the Resolution was moved in the Central Assembly condemning the Communal Award, the Congress, though it did not bless it, remained neutral.
The victory of the Congress at the polls in the Provinces, where Hindus are in a majority did not disturb the tranquility of the Muslims. They felt that they had nothing to fear from the Congress and the prospects were that the Congress and League would work the constitution in partnership. But two years and seven months later the Congress govts had completely disillusioned them. The Deliverance Day celebrations held on 22/12/1939 shows the depth of their resentment.
What had the Congress done to annoy the Muslims so much? - The League claimed that under the Congress regime the Muslims were oppressed. While these matters need to be examined by an impartial tribunal, there are undoubtedly two things that produced the clash. 1. The refusal by the Congress to recognize the Muslim League as the only representative body of the Muslims. 2. The refusal by the Congress to form Coalition Ministries in Congress provinces.
On the first question both the Congress and League are adamant. The Congress is not willing to accept the league as the only political organization representing the Muslims but it must recognize either the National Muslims or the Ahrars or the Jamiat-ul-Ulema and fix the terms of settlement between the two communities. But it must deal with one or the other. To deal with neither is stupid or mischievous. The Muslims rightly interpret this attitude of the Congress as an attempt to create divisions among them with a view to cause confusion in their ranks and weaken their front.
On the second issue the Muslim demand has been that in the cabinets shall be included Muslim Ministers who have the confidence of the Muslim members in the Legislature. The Congress agreed to include Muslims in the cabinet provided they joined the Congress and signed its pledge. This was resented the Muslims on 3 grounds. One Muslims regard it as a breach of faith by the Hindus. The Muslims say that this demand of theirs is in accordance with the spirit of the constitution. In the second place the Muslims felt that signing the Congress pledge means to make the Congress the only political party in the country and the political death of the Muslims as a free people.
The Congress's reply to these accusations by the Muslims are two. One, they say that coalition cabinets are inconsistent with collective responsibility of the cabinet. Also as a matter of fact there was no collective responsibility in the Congress govt. since everyone was just a minister. For the Congress to talk about collective responsibility was impertinent and even more, it was dishonest because in provinces where the Congress was in a minority they did form coalition Ministries without asking the Ministers from other parties to sign the Congress pledge. The second reply of the Congress is that even if they have to take Muslim Ministers in their cabinet that have not the confidence of the majority of the Muslims, they have not failed to protect their interests.
But the Congress High Command seems to have misunderstood what the main contention of the Muslims has been. Are Hindus to be a ruling race and the Muslims to be subject races under Swaraj? ‘Friends similar sentiments were expressed by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of the Aligrah Muslim University on 16/3/1888 at Meerut, “Now suppose all the Brits were to leave India, then who would be the rulers of India? Is it possible that Hindus & Muslims could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable”’.
The Congress High Command does not seem to realize that the Muslim care more for the recognition of their self respect at the hands of the Congress, than for mere good acts on the part of the Congress. It is no use saying that the Congress is not a Hindu body. So also it is no use saying that the Congress does not recognize the distinction between rulers and ruled. If this is so the Congress must prove its bonafides by showing its readiness to recognize the other communities as free and equal partners. However, the Congress is not willing to share power with a member of the community who does not owe allegiance to the Congress.
Exclusion from political power is the essence of the distinction between ruling and subject race and inasmuch as the Congress maintained this principle it must be said that the Congress enforced this distinction while it was in the saddle – from the British. The Muslims may complain that they have already suffered enough. Their decline and fall in India began ever since the British occupation of the country. Every change legal, administrative, executive introduced the British inflicted a series of blows on the Muslim community. The Muslim rulers had allowed the Hindus to retain their law in civil matters but had made Muslim criminal law applicable to Hindus and Muslims. The first thing the British did was to displace gradually the Muslim criminal law by the making of another until the process was finally completed by the enactment of Macauley’s Penal Code. This was the first below to the prestige and position of the Muslim community in India.
This was followed by the abridgment of the field of application of the Muslim Civil Law. Its application was restricted to matters concerning personal relations only such as marriage & inheritance. Side by side came the abolition in 1837 of Persian as official language of the Court and of the general administration and the substitution of the English and the vernaculars in place of person. Then came the abolition of the Qazis who during Muslim rule administered the Shariat. In their place were appointed judges who got the right to interpret Muslim law and whose decisions were binding on Muslims.
As a result Muslims found their prestige gone, laws replaced, language shelved and education shorn of its monetary value. Long with these came more palpable blows in the shape of annexation of Sind and Oudh and the Mutiny. The last particularly affected the higher classes of Muslims who suffered enormously by the extensive confiscation of property inflicted by the British as a punishment of for their suspected complicity in the Mutiny.
Without prestige, education and resources the Muslims were left to face the Hindus. The British pledged neutrality but were indifferent to the struggle between the two communities. ‘Friends I disagree, the British starting 1860’s worked hard with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to accentuate the Hindu-Muslim divide, read the article on the Aligarh Muslim Movement section history. Further there was so much talk of Muslim sentiment. What about the sentiment of the poor Hindu who survived the brutality of Muslim rule and now British rule!’ By the British conquest a complete revolution had taken place between the relations between the two communities.
For 600 years the Muslims had been masters of the Hindus. British occupation had brought the two communities to the same level. But a change from status of fellow subjects to that of subjects of the Hindus is really humiliation. Is it unnatural, ask the Muslims, if they seek an escape from so intolerable a position by the creation of separate national states in which Muslims can find a peaceful home and in which the conflict between a ruling race and a subject race can find no place to plague their lives?
‘Friends two interesting points. One the main reason for Muslim separatism was their inability to accept that they were no longer rulers, would be subject to Hindu rule. Two why were the Muslims feeling so helpless after advent of British rule. The Hindus lost their pride and independence over 600 years ago but with freedom from Muslim rule/ advent of British rule they bounced back taking to education, social reform and later on fight for independence. (Thanks to people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Sarawati and Swami Vivekananda).
The moot point, why did the Hindus adapt themselves to the new ruler’s way of thinking, education etc so quickly? Think! Has it do with the Hindu way of life, our scriptures, teachings, social system? Lets look from the Muslim angle with a quote from pg 99 of the book The Widening Divide by Rafiq Zakaria, quote Prof Ziauddin Sardar of the King Abdul Aziz University “By emphasizing the precision in the mechanics of prayer and ablution, length of beard and mode of dress, they have lost sight of individual freedom, the dynamic nature of the many Islamic injunctions, and the creativity that Islam fosters within its framework”. Open-mindedness, tolerance, ability to accept different schools of thought, education, culture, emotional strength of the Hindu women are just some of the qualities that enabled Hindus to withstand the Muslim onslaught’.