In their heart of hearts Hindus have grown up to hate Muslims. At the same time, by and
large Muslims do not hate but certainly harbour contempt for the Hindus. This mutually
antagonistic attitude has reflected the Hindu Muslim equation right through the centuries,
until the British began to assume power in Hindustan. Until then, the Muslim was the ruler
and the Hindu, the sublect across large tracts of the country. No doubt, there was a
phase when the Marathas gained influence in many parts of India, but their domination was
neither permanent nor widespread enough to correct the Hindu Muslim imbalance that had
grown over the centuries. This imbalance explains why there is no record of communal riots
until after 1858 when the British crown directly assumed governance How can there be a
riot between a ruler and his fearful subjects? Riots can only take place when there is a
semblance of balance.
The advent of the British signalled the defeat of those princes who were in power Much
more of India was ruled by Muslim nawabs than by Hindu rajas. The Mughal
emperor was the titular head of the country; eventhe Marathas acknowledged him as such.
The defeat was complete and formal when the rebellion or Mutiny of 1857 failed. As the
British became rulers, Muslims as well as Hindus became subjects. Thus equality between
the two communities was established for the first time. For the Hindus, it was a great
relief that they had ceased to be either zimmis or jizyah payers. The
British rulers were impartial umpires between the two communities.
These are facts. Yet, the myth of divide and rule was created. Evidently, neither
British scholars nor rulers were able to nip it in the bud. They certainly could not have
relished being accused of such an unscrupulous policy. Which indicates that there is yet
another myth: that our history has been written with bias, only because the British had it
written while they ruled the country. They did intervene and favoured positions that
served British interests. Our own scholars and politicians played their part in arriving
at twisted historical conclusions. And here, the major responsibility must lie with
Maulana Muhammad Ali, who was the principal lieutenant of Mahatma Gandhi during his satyagraha
campaign of 1920-21, refused to join him in the second campaign in 1930. At a meeting of
the All India Muslim Conference in Bombay in April 1930, attended by over 20,000 Muslims,
he bluntly stated: We refuse to join Mr.Gandhi because his movement is not a movement
for the complete independence of India but for making the seventy millions of Indian
Musalmans dependents of the Hindu Mahasabha. The Maulana made no secret of the fact
that the Muslims, as a whole, were guided by Pan-Islamism. He told members of the Round
Table Conference in London that Islam was not confined to India. I belong, said
he, to two circles of equal size but which are not concentric. One is India and the
other is the Muslim World... We are nationatists but supernationalists. In his address
as Congress President in 1923, Maulana Muhammed Ali reminded the audience that extra
territorial sympathies were a part of the equintessence of Islam, as stated by R.C.
Majumdar in History of the Freedom Movement in India, Volume III, Firma K.L.
Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta 1977.
As is well known, Muhammad Ali and his brother Shaukat Ali, were followers of Mahatma
Gandhi when he led the Khilafat movement to protect the throne of the Sultan
ofTurkey and the caliphate of all Somali Muslims in the world.
They lost all interest in Gandhiji when, in 1924. Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish general,
exiled the sultan and abolished the Khilafat.
Now read a few highlights from the Lal Ishtihar or the Red Pamphet
written by one Ibrahim Khan of Myrnensingh district in East Bengal early in the both
century; refer to page108 of Struggle for Freedom by R.C.Majumdar, Bharatiya
Vidya Bhawan, Bombay. 1988.
Ye Musalmans arise awake! Do not read in the same schools with Hindus. Do not buy
anything from a Hindu shop. Do not touch any article manufactured by Hindu hands. Do not
give any employment to a Hindu. Do not accept any degrading office under a Hindu. You are
ignorant, but if you acquire knowledge you can at once send all Hindus to johannum(hell)
You form the majority of the population of this province. Among the cultivators also you
form the majority. It is agriculture that is the source of wealth. The Hindu has no wealth
of his own and has made himself rich only by despoiling you of your wealth. If you become
sufficiently enlightened, then the Hindus will starve and soon become Mahomedans.
Hindus are very selfish.. As the progress of Mahomedans is inimical to the
self-aggrandisement of HIndus, the latter will always oppose Mahomedan progress for their
selfish ends. Be united in boycotting Hindus. What dire mischief have they not done to us!
They have robbed us of honour and wealth. They have deprived us of our daily bread. And
now they are going to deprive us of our very life.
Evidently, these are not the ravings of a normal person. Yet the depth of emotion is
reflective of the deep divide between the two communities. British manipulation to divide
Indians could not be compared to such venom, nor any administration responsible for law
and order could possibly encourage such emotions. Which does not mean that the British did
not take tactical advantage of the differences, in order to sustain their rule. The point
that is being made is that the divide was old and deep and the British were the
Decades have passed since the British left the sub-continent. Yet the tension
between the two communities continues. Between Hindustan and Pakistan, between India and
Bangadesh and between the Hindus and Muslims. Why ? Because, as Professor S.Abid Husain
has lucidly explained in The National Culture of India, National Book Trust, 1972,
like other Indian communities and most Asian peoples, while honouring as sacred' values
of patriotism loyalty to the state, Muslims are unanimousin rejecting what western nations
explicitly believe in the priority of country or state over religion.
The Hindu confirmation of these Muslim contentions is given by Nirad C. Chaudhuri in
his Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Macmillan & Company Limited.
When I see the gigantic, catastrophe of Hindu-Muslim discord of these days I am not
surprised, because we as children held the tiny mustard seed in our hands and sowed it
very diligently. In fact, this conflict was implicit in the very unfolding of our history,
and could hardly be avoided. Heaven preserve me from dishonesty, so general among Indians,
of attributing this conflict to British rule, however much the foreign rulers might have
profited by it. Indeed they would have been excusable only as gods, and not as man the
political animal, had they made no use of the weapon so assiduously manufactured by us,
and by us also put into their hands. But even then they did not make use of it to the
extent they might easily have done. This, I know, is a very controversial thesis, but I
think it can be easily proved if we do not turn a blind eye to the facts of our history.
A British view of the schism between the two communities is provided by Sir Percival
Grifflths, ICS in his book The British Impact on India, Macdonald & Company
Limited, London, 1952.
India stood sharply divided between Hindus and Muslims.The feelings between them were
much what could be expected, since one community had been dominant and the other subject,
and often, though not always, oppressed. What is today called communal dissension was thus
the permanent and inevitable legacy of centuries of Muslim rule.
Much has been made of the separate electorates as an attempt by the British to divide
and rule. Here is what Sir Percival had to say:
Indian politicians have bitterly reproached Britain for introducing the principle of
communal electorates in the Morley-Minto reforms. In reality there was no practical
alternative. If semi-parliamentary bodies such as the Morley-Minto Councils were to mean
anything at all, it was essential that all communities should be genuinely represented in
them. The gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims at that time was wide, and nobody with
experience of modern India will doubt that under any system of joint electorates the
Hindus would haste secured the return of non-representative Muslims. The philosopher might
deplore the fact that Hindus and Muslims thought of themselves as separate peoples, but
the statesman had to accept it. The fears of the Muslims were real and deep-seated. When
the Congress leaders some years later formed a temporary alliance with the Muslims, they
too had to recognise those fears; perhaps the greatest justiflcation of the British
establishment of communal electorates lies in the fact that they were recognised in 1916
by the Lucknow Pact between the Congress Party and the Muslim League.