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Historical
Exchange Of Populations
Mar 2013

Before the actual division of India took place in 1947, the British rulers made all efforts to keep the country united. Their last attempt in this direction was the dispatch of Cabinet Mission in 1946. However, there was no meeting ground between the Indian Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. Jinnah and other prominent league leaders insisted on the partition of India before the departure of the British. Since the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent was based on the premise that Muslims could not coexist with Hindus, the exchange of population was not only logical but was also an integral part of the scheme of Partition. This was repeatedly pointed out in speeches made by the League leaders and also in discussions with the British rulers.

The writeup that follows is based on written records of those times particularly during the years 1946-1947:

Dr. Rafiq Zakaria

Soon after, Clement Attlee came to power in England, he announced on February 20, 1947 that Britain would hand over political power to Indian representatives latest by June, 1948. In order to expedite the change, he sent a cabinet mission to India comprising Lord Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and A.V. Alexander. On its arrival in India in March 1946, it held discussions with Gandhi and Nehru and Jinnah. What transpired between the Mission and Jinnah was told to Dr. Rafiq Zakaria by Lord Alexander soon after he returned to London. This is how the dialogue went: 

The Mission asked Jinnah : "Do you realize that the Pakistan you are demanding will leave substantial Hindus under Muslim domination?" 

Jinnah replied: "That will be so; but I will leave many more Muslims under Hindu domination in Hindustan."

Surprised at this reply the Mission said: "How does it then resolve Hindu-Muslim discord? It will only perpetuate the hostilities."

Jinnah persisted: "I will free at least two-third Muslims from Hindu domination."

The Mission told him: "And you will put more than that number of Hindus under Muslim domination. That is no solution."

Jinnan was adamant. He asserted: "That is the only solution if you don't want civil war."

The Mission was nonplussed at his stand and asked: "But should you adopt such a callous attitude towards the minorities in the two states, they will be in worse condition than the Muslims in united India-also the Muslims in divided India will be the worst sufferers."

Jinnah replied: "Their best protection will be the establishment of two strong states, neither of which will dare misbehave towards each other's minorities." 

The Mission enquired: "You mean to say that these minorities will be hostages."

Jinnah said: "Exactly. If one state mistreats its minorities, the other state will retaliate against its minorities. It will be tit for tat.

(The Man Who Divided India, 2001) 

Justice G.D. Khosla 

Once, during the discussions with the Governor General, when the un-wisdom of cutting up the country and setting up two widely separated and attenuated States of Pakistan was pointed out to him he picked up a box of matches and, striking a dramatic pose, exclaimed with considerable heat: Even if I get so much territory for a separate State of Pakistan I shall insist on Partition 

Demand for Pakistan : Justice Khosla says that the demand for the Partition of India was a logical corollary to the loyal and inspired Address presented by Muslims to Lord Minto in 1906. Forty years of separate electorates and British favoritism had brought about a state of affairs from which it was impossible to escape. The Muslim League demand for Pakistan was based on the hypothesis that Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate nations, each entitled to a separate and exclusive homeland where they would be free to develop their culture, tradition, religion and polity. On any other ground, the partition of the country and the setting up of a separate independent State for the Muslims would have been indefensible. 

No matter where the line of demarcation was drawn, there would be Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs on either side of it, in a majority or in a substantial minority; and, whatever the geographical boundaries of Pakistan, large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs would, overnight, become aliens and foreigners in their own homes. Mr. Jinnah made desperate efforts to evade the issue by promising protection and rights of citizenship to the minorities, but the nature of his demand was wholly inconsistent with these promises. How could millions of foreigners acquire rights of citizenship and equal status with the nationals of Pakistan: and if they could, why divide India, why not let Muslims continue as nationals of India? Mr. Jinnah could find no answer to these questions and he was finally compelled to suggest an exchange of population. (Stern Reckoning, OUP, 1949)

Qaid-e-Azam's statement

On November 25, 1946, Mr. Jinnah, addressing a Press Conference at Karachi expressed the opinion that "the authorities, both Central and Provincial, should take up immediately the question of exchange of Population".

To the Muslim League, however, it was a matter of great urgency as it offered a complete answer to the opponents of Pakistan. Exchange on a voluntary basis was an impossibility. The non-Muslims of the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Bengal could never consent to leave their lands, the industry and commerce they had built up with their money and labour, and become beggars and nomads to satisfy a whim of Mr. Jinnah's. The dream of exchanging populations on a voluntary basis was impossible of realization and the Muslim League had to find another way of resolving the difficulty.

A change of tactics, better organization and more favourable conditions enabled the Muslim League to strike terror into the hearts of the non-Muslims, destroy their property, their self-respect and the honour of their women, and convert them wholesale to Islam. This was a more effective way of dealing with the minorities and obviated the difficulties involved in an exchange of population.

It was now taken up by the League leaders and put forward in all seriousness and with all the vehemence at their command. They became more and more uncompromising on this issue and answered all criticism by uttering scarcely veiled threats, and predicted a horrible doom for those who disagreed with them. 

Statement of Mamdot, President of Punjab Muslim League

He declared, with great enthusiasm, that "the exchange of population offered a most practical solution of the multifarious problems" of the Muslims. "We are not going to ask Sardar Patel or Dr. Khare for it, but we will get it by our own inherent strength. The exchange of population will wipe out the most important argument against Pakistan which has been persistently fired from the Congress armoury."

Statement of the Sind Premier, Ghulam Husain
Statement of Raja Ghaznafar Ali Khan


"After what has happened, the present position cannot be accepted with equanimity and minorities which are too scattered and helpless owing to the smallness of their numbers must not be left as a tempting prey to those who can arrange organized lawlessness."

Sir Evan Jenkins, the Governor of the Punjab, observed that by advocating an exchange of population the Muslim League was thinking of forcibly driving away the Hindus from the Punjab. 

Sir Feroze Khan Noon : had already threatened to re-enact the murderous orgies of Changez Khan and Halaqu Khan if the non-Muslims took up a refractory attitude. 

Professor M. Mujeeb, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi: had an interesting experience in 1949. In his words, quoted from his book Islamic Influence on Indian Society, (Meenakshi Prakashan, Meerut, 1972.) : At a party given during the U.N. General Assembly Session in 1949 I had the pleasure of being placed next to the Turkish representative. He looked at my name card, saw that I was a Muslim and at once asked, are there still any Muslims in India? The impression then created does not yet seems to have been removed and it is believed that the sub-continent had been divided between Muslims and Hindus, with all Muslims on the one side and all Hindus on the other.

What the politicians said was confirmed by Professor M. Mujeeb, in his erudite work. He said that the Muslim League demanded the creation of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. He further stated that in the elections held early in 1946, the League, whose dominant manifesto was the creation of Pakistan, secured 425 seats out of 492 reserved for Muslims. The League insisted that the right to a separate homeland should be conceded first and other negotiations could be held thereafter. 

Sardar Swaran Singh said, "the Sikhs in the Punjab would not tolerate any move to this end." The Muslim League leaders, on the other hand, expressed their wholehearted approval of the scheme.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

The Hindus can never be expected to consent to the inclusion of Hindus in a Muslim state deliberately created for the preservation and propagation of Muslim faith and culture.

If the Musalmans are bent on having Pakistan then it must be conceded to them. In my judgment there are two governing factors which must determine the issue. First is the defence of India and second is the sentiment of the Muslims.

(Thoughts on Pakistan, 1940 by B.R. Ambedkar)

COMMENTS : As regards the remarks made by the Union Minister for Minority affair and Grish Karnad that Hindus who were opposed to the setting up of Tipu Sultan University at Sringapatnam were biased, it may be pointed out that both Haydar Ali and Tipu Sultan persecuted Hindus. This is what Professor Sir Thomas Arnold who taught at the Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College Aligarh (now Aligarh Muslim University) in the last quarter of the 19th Century has written about the atrocities perpetrated on Hindus by Haydar Ali and Tipu Sultan : Tipu Sultan is probably the Muhammadan Monarch who most systematically engaged in the work of forcible conversions. In 1788 he issued the following proclamation to the people of Malabar: From the period of the conquest until this day, during twentyfour years, you have been a turbulent and refractory people, and in the wars waged during your rainy season, you have caused number of your warriors to taste the draught of martyrdom. Be it so. What is past is past. Hereinafter you must proceed in an opposite manner, dwell quietly and pay your dues like good subjects; and since it is the practice with you for one women to associate with ten men, and you leave your mothers and sisters unconstrained in their obscene practices, and are there all born in adultery, and more shameless in your connections than the beasts, of the field, I hereby require to forsake these sinful practices and to be like the rest of mankind, and if you are disobedient to these commands, I have made repeated vows to honour the whole of you with Islam and to march all the chief persons to the seat of Government. In 1789, Tipu Sultan ordered that every being in the district without distinction should be honoured with Islam, that the houses of such as fled to avoid that honour should be burned, that they should be traced to their lurking places, and that all means of truth and falsehood, force or fraud should be employed to effect their universal conversion. Thousands of Hindus were accordingly circumcised and made to eat beef. Most of the Brahmans and Nayars who had been forcibly converted, subsequently disowned their new religion.
- Thus the missionary spirit of Islam is supposed to show itself in its true light in the brutal massacres of Brahmans by Mahmud of Ghazna, in the persecutions of Aurangzeb, the forcible circumcisions effected by Haydar Ali, Tipu Sultan and the like (The Preaching of Islam, London 1913)

It may also be mentioned that no less a person then Sir Aga Khan has given all credit to Aligarh Muslim University for the creation of Pakistan in1947. The setting up of Muslim Universities in different parts of the country by the Government of India may in due course lead to the balkanization of this nation.

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