So Who Was Really Responsible For India’s Partition?

Jaswant Singh’s latest book has raised a fresh controversy on who was responsible for the partition of India. Some think it was Jinnah while others say it was Nehru/Patel. The truth is that the seeds for Partition were sown atleast eighty years before partition actually took place.

This article seeks to share some insights and is not meant to be an exhaustive piece on the reasons for partition or the events that led to it. It covers:

•    Former foreign J N Dixit’s views on partition.
•    Cause for 1857 Mutiny in brief.
•    Status of Muslims around 1857.  
•    Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the two nation theory.
•    Role of British principal of Aligarh Muslim University in encouraging Muslim separatism.
•    Was the idea of a separate nation conceived after 1935 or when? Impact of the Khilafat Movement.
•    Why Dr B R Ambedkar suggested that Hindus concede Pakistan?

{Medha Editor’s Note: A highly condensed version has just been published on Click HERE to read that. For full article, read on…}

1. In his book ‘Anatomy of a Flawed Inheritance’, former foreign secretary J N Dixit wrote, “The partition of the sub-continent, in a manner, has its roots in Islamic ethos. It goes back to the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Madina in 622 A.D. in the face of persecution and harassment, known as Hezira. The concept of Hezira is generally acknowledged as a norm, to the effect that Muslims do not live in tyranny or oppression from peoples of other faiths. They must remake their lives in order to practice their faith. Where Islam is not dominant, it is Dar-ul-Harb. It is necessary to move to Dar-ul-Islam. This was the sub-conscious logic underpinning the demand for Pakistan by Chaudhury Rahmat Ali of Cambridge, later on endorsed by Allama Iqbal and concretized by Jinnah.

The demand for Pakistan came from areas where there were sizeable Muslim minorities desiring to escape from anticipated or imagined thrall of Hindu domination. It was, in fact, the concept of Hezira transmuting itself to 20th century sub-continental politics!
A host of prominent Muslim leaders did not buy the two nation theory or the sub-conscious negative theological impulses which gave consent to it.”

Partition was as much a result of what Mr. Dixit wrote as it was the British’s desire to perpetuate the Hindu Muslim divide. The article restricts itself to some key events post 1857 and the British role in promoting separatism.

2. Dr B R Ambedkar wrote in 1941, “The curious may examine the history of the 1857 Mutiny, if he does, he will find that in part at any rate it was actually a Jihad proclaimed by the Muslims against the British that owing to the occupation of India by the British the country had become Dar-ul-Harb”. Thoughts on Pakistan

This statement is substantiated by Prof Sheshrao More in the book ‘The 1857 Jihad’ published by Manas Publications. It is because the Muslims took an active part in the 1857 mutiny that the British were anti Muslim in the initial years post mutiny.  

By trying to establish Muslim rule over India the community wanted to make India Dar-ul-Islam once again. This reiterates the point made by Mr  J N Dixit above.

With the advent of British rule Muslim insecurity leapfrogged. One wonders why the former rulers were insecure. This is what the next section explores.

3. Let us look at the condition of Muslims around 1860.

The British had swept away the last vestiges of Muslim rule by annexing Sindh in 1843, Avadh in 1856 and exiling the Mughal kings to Rangoon. The Deccan kingdom had a Muslim ruler in the Nizam but he was more of an ally. 

The condition of Muslims was best stated by a liberal, R M Sayani in his Presidential address at the 12th session of the Congress held in 1896. Excerpts, “Before the advent of the British in India, the Muslims were the rulers of the country. The rulers and their chiefs were Muslims so were the great landlords and officials. The court language was their own (Persian was the official language of India till 1842). Every place of trust and responsibility, or carrying influence and high emoluments, was theirs by birthright. The Hindus did occupy the same position but were tenants-at-will of the Muslims. The Muslims had complete access to the rulers and chief. The Hindus were in awe of them. By a stroke of misfortune, the Muslims had to abdicate their position and descend to the level of their Hindu fellow-countrymen. The Muslims resented the treatment.

Meanwhile the British introduced English education into the country. This required hard application and industry. The Hindus were used to this, as under Muslim rule, they had practically to master a foreign tongue, and so easily took to new education. But the Muslim had not yet become accustomed to this sort of thing. Moreover, they resented competing with the Hindus, whom they had till recently regarded as their inferiors. The Muslims were gradually ousted from their lands, offices; in fact everything was lost save their honor. To the Hindus it was the opposite. They were soon reduced to a state of utter poverty. Ignorance and apathy seized hold of them while the fall of their former greatness rankled in their hearts.” History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan volume 10 pg 295

The hostile attitude of Muslims towards the English, their aversion to secular education kept them aloof from English education imparted in schools and colleges. On the other the establishment of the Hindu College in 1817 gave a great impetus to English education amongst the Hindus. For the next fifty years the Muslims made little progress.

This feeling of backwardness was brought to a head at the evidence before the Public Service Commission in 1886. Dadabhai Naoraoji 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”. History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan volume 10 pg 330

The Muslim community had to cope with not only the loss of political power but had to deal with an ever adaptable progressive Hindu community. How did the Hindus feel when they lost political power to the Muslims is the subject matter of another article?
This is reflected in Pakistan’s attitude towards India. Their stance is, we are not progressing and shall pull you down as well. It is one of the reasons why Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, is a victim of frequent terror attacks.

This attitude worked well from 1947 to around 1999. Subsequently, the Indian economy has gone into a different orbit leaving Pakistan far behind. The Pakis can see it so has the world.

How did the Muslim community respond to the change in political equations? Read on.

{Excerpt courtesy eSamskriti. To read full article: click HERE to get to eSamskriti website. }

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