According to Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhiji was a Hindu and an Indian, the
greatest in many generations, and he was proud of being a Hindu and an Indian. He
said this in a broadcast on 14th February, 1948. What the Mahatma wrote, said and did is
widely known. The track record of Babasaheb Ambedkar as a Hindu is not so well known.
His popular image is that of a dalit leader and a constitutional guru. How much he
felt, thought and pleaded for the interests of Hindus therefore deserves recounting.
Babasaheb's was one of the few Hindus, if not the only one, who foresaw the consequences
of not letting Muslims have their Dar-ul-lslam. He therefore openly and in cold print
favoured partition and in precise detail by 1940. He did this almost on the morrow of the
resolution demanding Pakistan which was passed by the Muslim League at its Lahore session
on 23rd March 1940. He was clear in his view that partition without an exchange of
population was worse than partition. His reason was impeccable. To him dividing the
subcontinent was to solve its communal conflict. The Communal Award was given in 1932 when
Ramsay MacDonald was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The award gave the Muslims what
they had demanded. Their weightage as well as their separate electorates were retained and
in addition they were given the statutory majority of seats in the provinces in which they
were the majority population.
At the time there were five Muslim majority and nine Hindu majority provinces. Since
the Hindus had nothing comparable to the Muslim League, the Congress presumed to lead
every one including the Hindus It did not believe in separate electorates. In fact it had
continually insisted on joint electorates for all communities, and had strongly objected
to any community being given a majority of seats guaranteed by the constitution. The
privileges which the Muslims had been given had no meaning for the Congress and its
In Ambedkar's perception, in the provinces of Punjab, North West Frontier, Sind, Bengal
and Baluchistan, Muslim governments could treat Hindu minorities as they wished, knowing
fully well that they need not fear retaliation in the other provinces as they would have
secular governments. Hindu minorities in the Muslim provinces also insisted on joint
electorates although the Communal Award ignored their feelings. It is interesting to
recall what Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had to say as President of the Muslim League session
held in Calcutta during 1927. In that speech the Maulana declared:
That by the Lucknow Pact they had sold their interesrs. The
Delhi proposals of March last opened the door for the /irst time to the recognition of the
real rights of Mussalmans in India. The separate electorates granted by the Pact of 1916
only ensured Muslim representation, but what was vital for the existence of the community
recognition of its numerical strength. Delhi opened the way to the creation of such a
state of affairs as would guarantee to them in the future of India a proper share. Their
existing small majority in Bengal and the Punjab was only a census figure, But the Delhi
proposals gave them for the first time five provinces of which no less than
three (Sind, the FrontierProvince and Baluchistan) contained a real overwhelnting Muslim
majority. If the Muslims did not recognise this great step they were not fit to live.
There would now be nine Hindu provinces against five Muslim provinces, and whatever
treatment Hindus accorded in the nine provinces, Muslims would accord the same treatment
to Hindus in the five provinces. Was not this a great gain? Was not a new weapon
gained for the assertion of Muslim rights?
Babasaheb felt that the Communal Award meant that the Hindu minorities
would be hostages and at the mercy of the five Muslin majority provincial governments.
This, he felt was a strong enough argument in favour of partition. The scheme for Pakistan
had been conceived by one Rehmat Ali in 1933 who had advocated partition. Ambedkar
immediately noted that merely the information of Pakistan would not ensure safety for the
Hindus in Muslin majority areas. In fact, their condition might worsen, because the
hostages could at least appeal to the central government about their grievances whereas in
Pakistan, there would be no impartial Central government to turn to. He recalled that the
Hindus in Pakistan could then be in the same position as the Armenians under the Turks or
the Jews in Czarist Russia or in Nazi Germany.
Babasaheb was perceptive enough to realise that the evil was not partition, but the
bouundaries of the provinces which did not reflect, nor were they consistent with the
profile of Hindu Muslim populations. The boundaries had to be altered; Punjab and
Bengal had to be bifurcated. Even then, some Hindus would get left behind in Pakistan and
many Muslims would be scattered across Hindustan. All these would then have to be moved in
a planned manner so that Hindus and Sikhs came away to Hindustan and Muslims moved to the
territory of Pakistan. This was the gist of Ambedkar's formula. Nevertheless, it would be
useful to quote him: that the tramsfer of minorities is the only lasting remedy
for communal peace is beyond doubt. If that is so, there is no reason why Hindus and
Muslims should keep on trading in safeguards which have proved so unsafe. That, If small
countries with limited resources like Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria were capable of such an
undertaking, there is no reason to suppose that what they did cannot be
accomplished by Indians. After all, the population involved is inconsiderable and it would
be a height of folly to give up sure way to communal peace because some obstacles in it
require to be removed.
Babasaheb was convinced that the secret of a happy and successful state
lay in homogeneity. That was the lesson also taught by the histories of Turkey, Greece and
Bulgaria. Many of the countries on the map of Europe after World War I were given
safeguards for the welfare of minorities. Their experience, however, showed that the
safeguards did not save the minorities. The same old policy of exterminating minorities
continued. Hence an exchange of minorities was found to be about the only solution.
There was another factor which caused Ambedkar a great deal of anxiety.
Basing his conclusions on the facts provided in the Simon Commission Report, he found that
more than half the soldiers of the then Indian Army were from the North West Frontier and
West Punjab and most of them were Muslim. Although the British Indian government justified
the profile of recruitment with their theory of martial and non-martial classes, yet the
fact was that during the great rebellion of 1857, the people of these areas remained loyal
to the British whereas soldiers recruited by the East India Company from the Indo-Gangetic
plains were the ones that actually revolted. This was the conclusion of a Special Arrny
Survey in 1879 which observed that the distinction between martial and non-martial classes
The Khilafat committee, in its anxiety to safeguard Pan Islamism had
enunciated the principle that the Indian Army should not be used against a Muslim power.
The Muslim League had endorsed this principle. In the words of Ambedkar even Theodore
Morrison, writing in 1899, was of the opinion that the views held by the Mahomedans
(certainly the most aggressive and truculent of the peoples of India) are alone sufficient
to prevent the establishment of an independent Indian Government. Were the Afghan to
descend from the north upon an autonomous India, the Mahomedans, instead of uniting with
the Sikhs and Hindus to repel him, Would be drawn by all the ties of kinship and religion
to join his flag. The Hindus, he continued, could find themselves between the devil and
the deep sea so far as the defence of India was concerned. If India remains as one whole,
what would happen? The issue might sound remote today, but remember that in 1919 the
protagonists of the Khilafat movement had actually gone to the extent of inviting the Amir
of Afghanistan to invade India.
Even the cost benefit factor did not escape Babasaheb although he was
not a financial expert. As he put it: The Pakistan area which is the main recruiting
ground of the present Indian Army contributes very little to the central exchequer. The
main contribution comes from the provinces of Hindustan. In fact it is the money
contributed by the provinces of Hindustan which enables the Government of India to carry
out its activities in the Pakistan provinces. The Pakistan provinces are a drain on the
provinces of Hindustan. Not only do they contribute very little to the Central Government
but they receive a great deal from the Central Government. The revenue of the Central
Government amounts to Rs. 121 crore. Of this about Rs. 52 crore are annually spent on the
army. In what area is this amount spent? Who pays the bulk of this amount of Rs. 52 crore?
The bulk of this amount of Rs.52 crore which is spent on the army is spent over the Muslim
army drawn from the Pakistan area. Now the bulk of this amount of Rs. 52 crore is
contributed by the Hindu provinces and is spent on an army from which the Hindus, who pay
for it, are excluded! How many Hindus are aware of this tragedy?
It is time now to briefly recall what Mahatma Gandhi did, or said, in
the context of Hindu Muslim relations. His insistence on the delivery of Rs 55 crore to
Pakistan regardless of its invasion of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 is well known. What
however isuseful to recall are the Moplah riots in the Malabar area of, what is now,
Disappointed at the likelihood of not being able to retain the Khalifa
on the throne of Turkey, the Moplahs turned on their Hindu neighbours and slaughtered
several thousand of them and destroyed hundreds of their houses. Yet, Gandhiji spoke of
the attackers as brave God fearing Moplahs who were fighting for, what they considered
their religion and in a manner which they considered as religious. Simultaneously,
Gandhiji exhorted the Hindus to have courage and faith that they could protect their
religion in spite of such fanatical eruptions.
If only Ambedkar had been the first Prime Minister of India, would not
the history of the subcontinent been different? With the respective populations
transferred, as suggested by Babasaheb and demanded by the Muslim League, would there have
been any scope left for communal conflict?