Aligarh Movement

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. October 1809 in Varanasi 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 was no ancestor of his. In 1820 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 allegedly poisoned by a Muslim lady in 1883 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 purely by Muslim interests. However, it was the Hindus who had to carry the baggage of nationalism and unity.

Let's 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.

Two, 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?

Three. 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. 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 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”.

Let's 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 use 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. They were blindly committed were they to Hindu Muslim unity till the riots caused by the Direct Action Plan of 1946 and Partition woke up some Congress leaders from their slumber.

This is what founder of the Bharitya Vidya Bhavan, eminent freedom fighter, K M Munshi said, 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 the situation would be better than what is the state of the Indian sub continent today.

Also read

1. Thoughts on Pakistan by Dr Ambedkar

Receive Site Updates