Thoughts on Pakistan by Dr Ambedkar

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Social Stagnation      

PAK & the Malaise - The Hindu Muslim problem has two aspects to it. One is the problem of two respective communities facing each other and seeking adjustment of their rights & privileges. Two is the problem of the reflex influences, which this separation & conflict produces upon each of them. So far we have looked at PAK in relation to problem one but not two. Yet such an examination is necessary. It cannot be overlooked that their lot is cast together: as such they have to participate in a course of common activity whether they like it or not. And if in this activity they face other as two do, then their actions & reactions are worth study, for they affect both & produce a state of affairs which if it is a deceased state, the question of escape from it must be faced. A study of the situation shows that the actions & reactions have produced a malaise, which manifests itself in three ways. Will PAK be remedy for the malaise? Or will it aggravate the malaise? The next three chapters are devoted to the consideration of PAK as a remedy for the malaise.

1. Social Stagnation : Chapter 11
2. Communal Aggression : Chapter 12
3. National Frustration of Political Destiny : Chapter 13

1. The Social evils that characterize Hindu society are well known. While the publication of ‘Mother India’ by Miss Mayo gave these evils widest publicity it created the impression that Hindus were conservative and were groveling in the mud of these social evils, the Muslims were free from them. That such an impression should prevail is of course surprising to those who know the Muslim Society in India at close quarters. One may ask if there is any social evil, which is found among the Hindus but not the Muslims?

Census Report 1931-married Females aged 0-15 per 1000, females of that age.

Hindus

Muslims

Jains

Sikhs

Christians

1881

208

153

189

170

33

1911

184

123

130

88

39

1931

199

186

125

80

43

Can the position of Muslims on child marriage be considered better than of Hindus?

Position of Women - It is insisted by Muslims that the legal rights given to Muslim women ensure them a great degree of independence than say Hindus. Reliance is placed on some of the provisions of the Muslim law. One that Muslim law does not fix any age of marriage and recognizes her right to marry at any time. Except if given in marriage without the permission of the father or grand father in childhood she has the power to repudiate her marriage on attaining puberty. Two marriage among Muslims being a contract. Being so the husband has a right to divorce his wife and the Muslim law provides ample safeguards for the wife, which put the wife on the same footing as the husband. Three Muslim provides that the wife can claim from her husband, consideration on divorce, a sum of money or property known as ‘Dower’. This gives her economic independence.

Granting all these provisions, the Muslim woman is the most hapless in the world. To quote an Egyptian Muslim leader- “Islam has set its seal of inferiority upon her, and given the sanction of religion to social customs which have deprived her of the full opportunity for self-expression and development of personality”.  She cannot escape the marriage tie the husband can always do so without having to show cause. Utter the word Tallak and observe continence for three weeks and the women is cast away. This latitude in the matter of divorce destroys the sense of security, which is so fundamental for a full, free and happy life for women. Muslim law allows a Muslim to have four wives but also allows a Muslim to cohabit with female slaves. (permitted by the Koran read sura 70).

Caste System  - Islam speaks of brotherhood. Everybody infers that Islam must be free from slavery & caste. Regarding slavery nothing needs to be said. It stands abolished by law but while it existed much of its support was derived from Islam & Islamic countries. While the prescriptions of the Prophet regarding the just & humane treatment of slaves contained in the Koran are praiseworthy there is nothing in Islam that lends to the abolition of this cause.

On Caste the Suptd of the Census in 1901 for the Province of Bengal records the following facts regarding the Muslims of Bengal – “The conventional division of the Muslims into four main tribes, Sheikh, Saiaad, Moghul & Pathan has very little application to Bengal. The Muslims recognize two main social divisions, one Ashraf and two Ajlaf. The former means nobles, descendants of foreigners and high caste Hindu converts. The latter including the occupational groups and converts of lower ranks are known by such contemptuous terms as Ajlaf, wretches or mean people. In some places a third class, called Arzal or lowest of all is added with whom no Muslim would associate”. Similar facts from other provinces of India could be gathered from their respective Census Reports but the facts of Bengal are enough to show that the Muslims observe not only observe caste but also untouchability as well. Friends I have reproduced only excerpts from the Census Report. There is a break up given of each of the three classes.

There can be no doubt that Muslim society is afflicted by the same social evils, which afflict Hindu society. Indeed the Muslims have something more.

Purdah system - That something more is the compulsory Purdah system for women. As a consequence a system of segregation of Muslim women is brought about. ‘Friends have reproduced excerpts of purdah impact’. All of them are confined to the same room, not expected to visit outer rooms. These burkha-clad women walking on the streets are one of the most hideous sights one can witness in India. Such seclusion cannot but have its deteriorating effects upon the physical constitution of Muslim women. They are usually victims of anaemia, tuberculosis and pyorrhea. Their bodies are deformed with their backs bent etc. Ribs, bones and nearly all their bones ache. Heart palpation is very often present in them. The result of this pelvic deformity is untimely death at the time of delivery. Purdah deprives Muslim women of mental & moral nourishment. Further they become narrow and restricted in their outlook. Being deprived of a healthy social life, the process of moral degeneration sets in. They have no desire for knowledge, because they are taught not to be interested in nothing outside four walls of the house. It makes them helpless, timid & unfit to fight life.

The origin of purdah lies of course in the deep-rooted suspicion of sexual appetites in both sexes and the purpose is to check them by segregating the sexes. But far from achieving that purpose, it has adversely affected the morals of Muslim women. They have limited contact with the outside world; the men have no company of females except children & aged. The isolation of the males from the females is sure to produce bad effects on the morals of men. It requires no psychoanalyst to say that a social system that cuts off all contact between the two sexes produces an unhealthy tendency towards sexual excesses & unnatural and other morbid ways & habits.

‘Friends so beautifully said. Alas in 2003 nearly 62 years after this book written the system of purdah is widely prevalent may have actually gone up even in a city like Mumbai. I have seen college-going girls wearing a burkha that shows only their eyes; gosh imagine wearing a second layer of clothing in hot, sultry Mumbai! One of the social effects of this segregation is an increase in Muslim boys marrying Hindu girls. A Muslim boy goes to college, comes in contact with mostly Hindu girls since most Muslim girls wear burkhas & is not encouraged to mix with boys. Since he is exposed to the outside world a lot of them like wives who are pushy, independent, smart, know how to carry themselves. Such can be mostly Hindu girls only since there are few Muslim girls like that. A classic example is the marriage of cricketer Azaruddin to model Sangeeta Bijlani. Azar had a gorgeous looking wife, very rich but she came from a conservative Muslim family. Sangita was not only super looking but had the right contacts in high society. She made Azar stylish & got him introduced into elitist’s circles. Examples like this are galore, Aamir Khan marrying Reena (now divorced). The sad part is that the Muslim man insists on making his wife a Muslim like Sangita is supposed to have become Ayesha’.

Purdah is also responsible for social segregation of Hindus from Muslims, which is the bane of public life in India. The Hindus do not want to establish social contact because it means contact between a Muslim man with a Hindu lady and Hindu man. Surely Purdah is found amongst a section of the Hindus too but it lacks religious sanctity, as is the case with the Muslims. ‘Friends what the Hindu ladies do is to have a ghoonghat, meaning covering of the head & face. Again it is more prevalent today in smaller towns & villages. A number of ladies cover their heads only as a mark of respect to elders. However, Hindu women do not wear another layer of clothing like Muslim women do'.

Thus there is stagnation in the social life of the Muslims. But there is also stagnation in the political life of the Muslim community in India. Their predominant interest is religion. Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference namely that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place – they are subordinated to one and the only governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namely Religion.

2. IMP - Social Reform in Muslims - Far more distressing than these evils is the fact that there is no organized social reform amongst the Muslims. The Hindus have their social evils but there is a relieving feature among them – namely that they are conscious of their existence and a few of them are agitating for their removal. The Muslims do not realize the evil but oppose change. Muslims opposed the Child Marriage Act brought in the Central Assembly in 1930, whereby the marriageable age for a girl was raised for 14 & boy 16 on the grounds that it was opposed to Muslim cannon law. Fortunately the Civil Disobedience Movement of the Muslims against the Act did not swell and was submerged in the Congress Civil Disobedience campaign, which synchronized with it.

Why are Muslims opposed to social reform? - The usual answer is that Muslims all over the world are an unprogressive people. After the first spurts of activity that led to the foundation of vast Empires – the Muslims fell into a condition of torpor from which they never seemed to have become awake. Its cause by those who made a study of their condition is said to the fundamental assumption made by all Muslims that Islam is a world religion, suitable for all peoples, for all times and for all conditions. It has been contended that (excerpts) – “It is indeed, one of the salient features of Islam that it immobilizes in the native barbarism the races whom it enslaves. It is unchangeable, and political, social or economic changes have no repercussions on it. The religious law of the Muslims has had the effect of imparting to the very diverse individuals of whom the world is composed, a unity of thought, of feeling, of ideas of judgment”. It is urged that this uniformity is deadening and is not merely imparted to Muslims, but is imposed upon them by a spirit of intolerance which is unknown anywhere outside the Muslim world for its severity & violence which is directed towards the suppression of all rational thinking which is in conflict with the teachings of Islam.

But this cannot be the true answer. If it were so how are we to account for the stir that is going on in Muslim countries outside India? Indeed the social reforms, which have taken place in Turkey, (‘friends not visible however any where in the Middle East’) have been revolutionary in character. If Islam had not come in the way of Muslims of these countries why must it come in the way of the Muslims of India?

IMP - It seems to me that the reason for the absence of the spirit of change in the Indian Muslim is to be sought by the peculiar position he occupies in India. He is placed in a social environment, which is predominantly Hindu. That is always silently but surely encroaching upon him. He feels it is de-mussalmanizing him. As a protection against this he is led to insist on preserving everything that is Islamic without caring to examine its merits or demerits to his society. Two Muslims are placed in a political environment that is predominantly Hindu. He feels that he will be suppressed that political suppression will make Muslims a depressed class. To my mind this is the primary cause why the Indian Muslims as compared to other fellow Muslims are backward in the matter of social reform. Their energies are directed to maintaining a constant struggle against the Hindus for seats & posts, so there is no time for social reform. And if there is any, it is all overweighed & suppressed by the desire, generated by pressure of communal tension, to close ranks & offer a united front to the menace of Hindus & Hinduism by maintaining their socio-religious unity at any cost.

The same is the explanation for the political stagnation in the Muslim community. Poor Muslims will not join the poor Hindus to get justice from the rich. Why? If he does so he may be fighting against a rich Muslim in which case the poor Muslim would be injuring a rich Muslim. He is conscious that any injury to a rich Muslim is a disservice to the Muslim community for it weakens the Community in its struggle against the Hindu Community.

Kashmir - How perverted politics has become is shown by the attitude of the Muslim leaders to the political reforms in the Indian states. Muslims & their leaders carried on a great agitation for the introduction of representative government in the Hindu state of Kashmir. The same leaders are deadly opposed to the introduction of representative governments in other Muslim states. This is somewhat difficult to understand but the reason for this strange attitude is quite simple. The determining factor is how that will affect the Muslims. In Kashmir the ruler is a Hindu and majority of subjects are Muslims. A representative government would mean transfer of power from Hindu to Muslims. In other Muslim states the ruler is a Muslim but majority subjects are Hindus a representative government would mean transfer of power from a Muslim ruler to the Hindus, which is why the Muslims support the introduction of a representative government in one case, and oppose it in the other. The dominating consideration with the Muslims is not democracy but how will it affect the Muslims in their struggle against the Hindus. If democracy weakens them they will not have democracy. They will rather prefer the rotten state to continue in the Muslim states than weaken the Muslim ruler in his hold upon his Hindu subjects.

Reason for political & economic stagnation can be explained by on reason - The Muslims think that the Hindus & Muslims must perpetually struggle, the Hindus to establish their dominance over the Muslims, and the Muslims to establish their historical position as the ruling community – that in this struggle the stronger will win and to ensure strength they must suppress or put in cold storage everything which causes dissension in their ranks.

3. Hindu reform - This blind spirit of conservatism has taken hold of the Hindus also. At one time the Hindus did recognize that without social efficiency permanent progress in other fields was possible which is why the birth of the National Congress was accompanied by the foundation of the Social Conference. For some time they the Congress & Conference worked as two wings of one common activity but soon the two wings developed into two parties as a political & social reform parties, they became two hostile camps. The point at issue was whether social reform should precede political reform. For a decade both of the parties were evenly balanced but it was evident that the fortunes of the Social Conference were ebbing fast. In course of time the party in favor of political reform won & the Social Conference vanished & was forgotten. And from thereon vanished from Hindu society the urge for social reform. Under the leadership of Gandhi Hindu society became mad after politics if not a political madhouse. Non-cooperation etc and a cry for Swaraj took the place which social reform once had in the minds of the Hindus.

The Social Reform party led by Ranade & Gokhale died leaving the field to the Congress. There has grown up another party among the Hindus called the Hindu Maha Sabha. One would expect from its name that it was body bringing about the reform of Hindu society. But its quarrel with the Congress has its origin in the pro-Muslim policy of the Congress. Its plan is to organize the Hindus for offering a common front against the Muslims. As a body keen on bringing about a common front it cannot afford to create dissensions among its elements as would be the case if it undertook to bring about social reforms. For the purposes of Hindu consolidation it favors the retention of the Indian states with their administration as it is. Hands off the Hindu states has been the battle cry of its President. This attitude is stranger than that of the Muslims. Representative govt in Hindu states cannot do harm to the Hindus. Why then should the President of the Mahasabha oppose it? Probably because it helps the Muslims which he cannot tolerate?

‘Friends two points. One Sir Syed Ahmed Khan did make an effort to remove the backwardness amongst the Muslims; he started the Aligarh Muslim Movement. However, he ended promoting Muslim separatisms. If you read the article, Aligarh Muslim Movement, in the history section you might realize how the two-nation theory formed the basis of the Aligarh Muslim Movement. Two BRA did not mention the social reform undertaken by many Hindu movements amongst others notably Raja Rammohan Roy in the early 19th century followed by the Arya Samaj and Veer Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha. The former undertook revolutionary reform in North India esp. w.r.t women and untouchability (to know more read History of Arya Samaj in history section). The latter undertook social reform esp. against untouchability in Ratnagiri district where the British confined him to after he was released from Kaalapani jail (to know about read Life Story of Savarkar in section Great Men of India)’. 

4.  To what length this concern for the conservation of their forces can lead the Hindus & Muslims cannot be better illustrated than by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act VIII of 1939 passed by the Indian Legislature. Before 1939 the law was that apostasy of a male or female married under the Muslim law ipso facto dissolved the marriage with the result that if a Muslim married woman changed her religion she was free to marry any person professing her new religion. This was the rule of law enforced by all courts at any rate for the last sixty years.

This law was annulled by Act VIII of 1939. According to this Act the marriage of a Muslim married woman is not dissolved by reason of her conversion to another religion. All that she gets is a right of divorce. The effect of this law is that a Muslim married woman has no liberty of conscience and is tied forever to her husband whose religious faith may be quite abhorrent to her.

Be that as it may, the legal arguments had nothing to do with the real motive underlying the change. It was stop the illicit conversion of women to alien faiths followed by immediate & hurried marriages with some one professing the faith she happened to have joined with a view to lock her in the new community and prevent her from going back to the community to which she originally belonged.

Conversion of Muslim women to Hinduism and the opposite looked at from the social & political point of view had serious consequences, it meant a disturbance in the numerical balance between Hindu & Muslims. As the disturbance was being brought about by abduction of woman it could not be overlooked. This practice of woman lifting in addition to being as had, had become as common as cattle lifting and with its obvious danger to cattle lifting had to be stopped.  That was the real reason behind the two provisions to section 4 of the Act.

In provisio I the Hindus concede to the Muslims that if they convert a woman who was originally a Muslim she will remain bound to her former Muslim husband notwithstanding her conversion. In provisio 2 the Muslims concede to the Hindus that if they convert a Hindu married woman and she is married to a Muslim, her marriage will be deemed to be dissolved if she renounces Islam & she will be free to return to the Hindu fold. (‘friends would be interesting to know the law as it stands today’).

Another e.g. would be the attitude of the Muslims towards the problems of Untouchables. The Muslims have always looked at the depressed classes with a sense of longing & there was fear amongst the Hindus that the Muslims might become stronger by assimilating them. In 1909 the Muslims took the bold step of suggesting that the depressed classes should not be enrolled in the census as Hindus.

The other feature is the preparations, which the Muslims & Hindus are making against each other without abatement. It is like a race in armaments between two hostile nations. If the Hindus have Benaras University, the Muslims must have Aligarh University. If the Hindus have R.S.S. the Muslims must have the Khaksars. This race is characteristic of two nations, which are on the warpath.

Two things must be said to have emerged from this discussion. One is that Hindus & Muslims regard each other as a menace. Two is to meet that menace, both have suspended the cause of removing the social evils with which they are infested. So long as the Hindus & Muslims regard each other as a menace the spirit of conservatisms will continue to dominate the thoughts &actions of both.

How long will the menace last? As long as Hindus & Muslims live under a single constitution. If this is so, PAK is the obvious remedy. It liberates both Hindus & Muslims from the fear of enslavement of & encroachment against each other. Without some such arrangement the Hindus & Muslims will act & react as though they were two nations, one about to be conquered by the other.

Unless there is unification of the Muslims who wish to separate from the Hindus and unless there is liberation of each from the fear of domination by the other, this malaise of social stagnation will not be set right. ‘Friends subsequent events say something else! Hindu society has made rapid strides in social reform although a lot needs to be done but Muslims in India or PAK have not kept pace. Compare the condition of Hindu & Muslim women in 1947 and 2003 and you would have found the answer’.

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