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Indian Leadership Visionless
Versailles (1919) concluded after the end of World War...
Jan 2017

Indian leadership of the 20th century particularly, after the departure of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Surendra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai functioned in a vacuum. It did not recognize the fact that the political and economic map of the world had undergone a change as a result of the First World War and internally, the All India Muslim League had been set up in 1906 to promote the interest of Muslims and Muslims only. 

The first three decades of the 20th century had seen the end of the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarain  Empire, The German Empire and The Russian Empire.  The boundaries of countries earlier under the occupation of the various empires were redrawn. This resulted in the problem of minorities on a massive scale. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) concluded after the end of World War I, had also imposed harsh penalities on the central powers particularly Turkey and Germany. John Maynard Keynes came out with the world famous volume, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). It highlighted the fact that the terms were so severe that it was beyond the capacity of Germany to pay up the reparation costs. As anticipated by him, it sowed the seeds for the Second World War.

M.A. Jinnah had become a member of the Central Legislative Council in 1913 as a consequence of the separate electorate granted under Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. It was also in 1913 that he successfully brought back the Waqf Aulad Revalidating Act which had been abolished by the British in the last quarter of the 19th century. Communal riots in India had become a regular feature in the country after the end of Muslim rule in India. The earliest recorded communal riot had occurred in Ahmedabad in the year 1713. Mahatma Gandhi, who was responsible for changing the objectives of the Indian National Congress, as also the methods by which these could be achieved took no notice of these momentous happenings and their impact on Indian politics.

Had the Indian leadership followed the events in Europe and the behavioural pattern of the the Muslim Leadership, the Minority problem that India faces today would not have arisen.


In modern times, the problem of minorities arose after the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Lord Curzon, formerly Governor-General of India, headed the allied delegation to the Peace Conference held in Switzerland. Lord Curzon went on to observe: the minorities problem excites more attention throughout the world than anything else, and by the manner in which it is solved will this Conference be judged. If the Turks adopt an unreasonalble attitude upon this; if we break down upon this; if we have to go away after this; will there be a single voice lifted up for the Turkish Delegation in the whole world?  

The way this problem was solved is fully detailed in the book The Exchange of Minorities, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey by Stephen P. Ladas (1932). The following paragraphs are based on the work of Ladas: 


Origin of the Convention

Like the Convention concerning Reciprocal migration between Greece and Bulgaria, the Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations of January 30, 1923, is a part of the peace settlement with Turkey in 1923. It is the fruit of long and laborious negotiations at the conference of Lausanne. As a result of the Greek military disaster in Asia Minor in September, 1922, hundreds of thousands of Greeks were driven out from Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace and came to swell the great numbers of Greek refugees who had fled from those provinces during the period 1912 to 1920.

There has been a good deal of dispute as to how the idea of an exchange of populations, and, in particular, its compulsory character, originated, and it is important to trace this development here. Dr. Nansen, on September 27, 1922, after his appointment by the Assembly of the League, telegraphed to Mustapha Kemal Pasha, Head of the Revolutionary Government of Angora, expressing his earnest desire to enter into relations with the authorities of the Angora government with respect to the questions of relief intrusted to him. 

The Turks had decided not to allow the further presence of Greeks on Turkish soil, and would propose at the forthcoming conference the compulsory exchange of Greek and Turkish populations. Mr. Venizelos, President of Hellenic Delegation at the Conference, then pointed out that the question of housing the refugees would be even more difficult than that of their alimentation, and added: “I take the liberty of requesting that you will endeavor to arrange that transfer of the populations begin before signature of peace.” Mr. Venizelos thought that the problem of housing the refugees in Greece would be facilitated if the 350,000 Turks in Greece could be immediately transferred to houses that the Christians in Asia Minor had already left. 

On October 15, the High Commissioners of France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan at Constantinople formally invited Dr. Nansen “to take all possible steps to endeavor to reach an agreement with regard to an exchange of populations between the Greek and Turkish governments as soon as possible, independently of the peace negotiations.” On October 23, Dr. Nansen received a telegraphic communication from Mustapha Kemal Pasha, informing him that “the exchange proposed ... is acceptable in principle,” but that the matter must be considered with the government. On October 30, a telegram from the President of the Council of Ministers at Angora to Refet Pasha, Turkish Governor of Thrace, confirmed likewise the agreement in principle to the exchange of populations excluding Western Thrace. Hamid Bey, being instructed to negotiate with Dr. Nansen, informed him on October 31 that “his instructions only permitted him to negotiate on the basis of a total and enforced exchange of populations, from which the population of Constantinople would not be excepted.” Dr. Nansen was opposed both to the compulsory exchange and to the inclusion of the Greeks of Constantinople. 

Discussion at the Conference of Lausanne. 

A statement prepared by Dr. Nasen was read by Lord Curzon. It was declared in the statement that the four Great Powers were favorable to the proposal of exchange of populations, believing “that to unmix the populations of the Near East will tend to secure the true pacification of the Near East and because they believe an exchange of populations is the quickest and most efficacious way of dealing with the grave economic results which most result from the great movement of populations which has already occurred.” 

Dr. Nansen was not unaware of the grave difficulties “involved the displacement of populations of many more than 1,000,000 people, in uprooting these people from their homes transferring them to a strange new country” and of the hardship “upon great numbers of the individual citizens.” But he was impressed by the fact that these hundreds of thousands of people had left their productive employment in Turkey and were without any chance of securing other productive employment in Greece, and that the exchange would provide Turkey immediately with the population necessary to continue the use of the cultivated lands which the Greeks had abandoned, while the departure from Greece of her Moslem citizens would make it possible to render self-supporting a great proportion of the refugees. 

The Convention respecting Reciprocal Emigration between Greece and Bulgaria should serve as a model; and that a machinery such as the Mixed Greco-Bulgarian Commission should be set up. The political questions to be solved before an agreement could be made were the following: (1) whether the treaty should be based on the principle of compulsory or of voluntary emigration; (2) what should be the area of its application; and (3) what should be the nature of the Mixed Commission or other machinery to be set up. The President of the Turkish Delegation, Ismet Pasha, declared that the Greeks of Constantinople should be included in the exchange. Lord Curzon expressed his preference for a compulsory exchange, as in this way only the results expected would be obtained. On a voluntary basis the exchange would take months, "whereas what was wanted was firstly to get the Turkish population into Eastern Thrace ... and, secondly, to provide for the accommodation in Greece of the refugees." He also proposed to exempt the Greeks of Constantinople from the exchange in the interest of Turkey herself, and to set against these people Turkish population of Western Thrace. 

Compulsory or voluntary exchange?

Dr. Nansen admitted that precedents for the exchange may be seen in the Convention concluded at Adrianople between Turkey and Bulgaria on November 2/15, 1913 as well as in the negotiations entered upon between Greece and Turkey in 1914. On the other hand, Ismet Pasha declared that the compulsory exchange of populations was accepted by Lord Curzon and Mr. Venizelos. Hamid Bey had put the compulsory character of exchange as a condition sine qua non to negotiating with Dr. Nansen at Constantinople.  

Lord Curzon's Views

Lord Curzon declared that he deeply regretted that the, solution should be the compulsory exchange of populations, “a thoroughly bad and vicious solution, for which the world would pay a heavy penalty for a hundred years to come.” He “detested having anything to do with it. But to say it was a suggestion of the Greek government was ridiculous. It was a solution enforced by the action of the Turkish government in expelling these people from Turkish territory.” Lord Curzon had declared that no solution was possible except the exchange of populations, and that, as voluntary exchange could not give any result, recourse must be had to compulsory exchange.  

A serious disagreement arose with respect to the demand of the Turkish delegation that the Moslems established in Western Thrace should be exempted from the exchange, and that all the Greeks established in Turkey, including those in Constantinople, should depart. After long discussions continuing during several meetings, the Turkish delegation agreed, in principle, that the exemption should be extended to the Greeks of Constantinople, The Turks insisted, however, on the removal of the Oecumenical Partiarchate from Constantinople, with all its organizations and constituent bodies. This demand, vigorously opposed by the Greek delegation, and also by the British and American representatives. Lord Curzon and, after him, the heads of the French, Rumanian, Jugoslavian, and Greek delegations voiced their opposition to the Turkish demand for the removal of the Patriarchate from Constantinople, where it, had remained as all Oecumenical Patriarchate since the fourth century of our era. All agreed that the Patriarchate should in future lose its political and administrative character and that it should remain a purely religious institution. 

Provisions of the Convention 

The Treaty of peace between the British empire, France ,Italy, Japan, Greece, Rumania, the Serb-Croat-Slovene state, and Turkey, signed at Lausanne on July 24, 1923, was ratified by Turkey on August 23, 1923, and by Greece on August 25, 1923. The Convention concerning the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations consisted of nineteen articles. Article 2 defined the persons who were not to be included in the exchange. These were the Moslems of Western Thrace and the Greeks of Constantinople.

 Constitution of the Commission 

The Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations provided, in article 11, that within one month from its coming into effect a Mixed Commission was to be set up for the supervision of the exchange and the liquidation of the movable and immovable property referred to therein. The Commission was to consist of four members representing Greece, four representing Turkey, and three chosen by the Council of the League of Nations from among nationals of Powers which did not take part in the war of 1914-1918.  


In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi went to London to attend the session of the Round Table conference. At the Conference, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald asked Gandhi about the reasons for continuing conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi replied: This quarrel is not old, I dare to say it is coeval with the British advent. These would disappear once the British leave India.  

The answer to Gandhi's remarks was given by Maharajadhiraj Bahadur of Burdwan who wrote: The fact is that the religious and cultural feuds between Hindus and Mohammadans go as far back as AD 1017 or 1018, when Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the then Hindu centre of India known as Kannouj, desecrated the holy city of Muttra and destroyed and pillaged many Hindu temples.  Mahmud thus sowed the seeds of hatred and religious animosity which have survived through ages, bringing a bitterness between Hindus and Mohammedans which breaks out at any moment…(Political India 1832-1932 by Sir John Cumming, OUP, London, 1932)

Given below is a list of communal riots in India as recorded 


Year     Place/City Province/State         

1713     Ahmedabad                     

1719-20   Kashmir                        

1729     Delhi                         

1782     Sylhet                            

1786     Vidarbha                                                              

1806     Mau                             

1809     Benaras                           

1813     Azamgarh                                                          

1820     Calcutta   

1833     Moradabad,

Sambhal, Kashipur (U.P.)              

1834     Mubarakpur (U.P.)                     

1836     Malabar           

1837     Bareilly, Kanpur, Allahabad,          

Ahemadabad, Thane   

1837-52   Bareilly                            

1840     Moradabad     

1842   Mubarakpur (UP.)

1843     Lucknow        

1850     Bombay                                                                                               

1851     Bombay 

1853     Lucknow   

1855     Lahore, Karnal             

1856     Lucknow

1857     Bharooch 

1871-72 Bareilly and other places in UP.       Benaras,                                              

1873     Walluwaned Taluk, Madras, Orissa,                                                

1874     Bombay                       

1877     Karnal and Janzira        

1881     Salem     

1885     Lahore and Karnal   

1886     Delhi  

1887     Bareilly 

1889     Dehra Ghazi Khan, Hoshiarpur, Shikharpur, Ludhiana, Ambala, Delhi      

1890     Benaras    

1891     Chapra, Patna, Calcutta 

1892     Patna, Chapra, Saran            

1893     Azamgarh, Bombay, Balia,                                              

1894     Nasik      

1895     Muzaffarpur, Bihar, Gujarat 

1897     Calcutta  

1904     Mubarkpur, U.P.  

1906     Bengal     

1907     Bengal    

1910     Peshawar

1911   Bombay   

1912   Faizabad   

1913   Agra   

1916   Patna   

1917   Shahbad, Bihar   

1918   Haridwar, Calcutta   

1921   Malabar, Kerala   

1922   Multan, Punjab   

1923   Amritsar, Lahore, Saharanpur, Agra 

1924   Allahabad, Calcutta, Delhi, Gulbarga,

Kohat, Lucknow, Nagpur   

1925   Delhi, Aligarh, Calcutta, Allahabad,


 1926 Calcutta, Pabana, Dacca, Delhi, Rawalpindi, Allahabad        

1927     Punjab, Bengal, CP, Bihar, Orissa, Delhi, East, Bengal, Punjab     

1928     Punjab, Calcutta, Bihar, Bangalore, Surat, Hyderabad   

1929 Saran, Bihar, Bombay, Lahore   

1930     Dacca, Kishoreganj  

1931 Dehradun, Bulandshahar,  Azamgarh, Mathura,  Amritsar, Benaras, Bengal, 

Madras, Orissa, Bihar, Kanpur 

1932 Bihar, Bombay,  Alwar, Hisar

1933     Kanpur, Benaras

1934     Lahore, U.P.

1935     Karanchi, Secundarabad 

1936     Agra, Poona, Bombay, Bihar

1937     Panipat, Madras, Amritsar, 

1938     Allahabad, Bombay

1939     Sindh

1940     Bhagalpur (Bihar), Sind, Bengal 

1941     Decca 

1946 Calcutta, Noakhali Bihar, Bihar, Lahore,

Bombay, Ahmedabad 

1947 Bombay, Punjab

1948   Karanchi 

1950 Bangal, U.P., Assam 

1952   Gonda, U.P.

1953   Badayun, UP. 

1954   Aligarh, Mathura, Meerut, Nainital, Gazipur   

1955     U.P.     

1956     U.P.     

1957     U.P.   

1958     U.P.   

1959     U.P.     

1960     U.P.     

1962     U.P. Bengal, Maharashtra, M.P     

1963     Bengal, Kashmir, Gujarat, Maharashtra     

1964     U.P Bihar, Orissa, Bengal     

1965     Gujarat, Rajasthan     

1966     Gujarat     

1967 Ma1egaon, Ahmednagar, Bihar,   

Gujarat, Srinagar, Rajasthan, U.P. Assam, Karnataka, Orissa     

1969     Gujarat, U'P, Bengal, Karnataka     

1970     Maharashtra, Jharkhand,     

1972     U.P, Rajasthan     

1973     Delhi     

1974     Bombay, Delhi     

1975     Bombay     

1977     U.P., Rajasthan     

1978     Aligarh     

1979     Tamil Nadu, J & K, Andhra Pradesh 


1981     Bihar, Andhra Pradesh.     

1982     U.P. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Assam     

1984     Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar,     Assam, Andhra Pradesh     

1985     Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, U.P     

1986     U.P, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi     

1987     U.P., Delhi     

1988     U.P.     

1989     Bihar, Rajasthan     

1990     U.P Delhi, Andhra Pradesh     

1991     Gujarat, H.P. Bengal     

1992     U.P., Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh,     Bombay     

1993     Bombay, Bihar     

1994     U.P.     

1995     Andhra Pradesh     

1997     Madras     

2002     Kerala, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra     

2003     Karnataka, U.P Kerala, U.P Gujarat

                                                                                                  (Source: Islam And Religious Riots by R.P.N. Singh,

                                                                                                          Published by CARRIED, NEW DELHI, 2012)    

What the Indian Leaders should have done

M.A. Jinnah and his senior colleagues were fully aware as to how the problem of minorities was solved between Greece and Turkey.  All these Muslim leaders had asked for an exchange of population as an integral part of the scheme of partition of India.  In our previous issues, we have quoted from the speeches of the Muslim League leaders who had demanded exchange of Muslim and Hindu populations between Hindustan and Pakistan during 1946-1947. In those speeches they made it repeatedly clear that Muslims could not co-exist with Hindus. As a matter of fact the very demand for separate homeland was based on the premise that there was hardly anything common between Hindus and Muslims. It is on this basis that Pakistan was created in 1947:


Not only that. The Muslim leaders were fully alive to the problem of Muslims who would be left behind in Hindustan after the Partition.  On being asked by Choudhary Khaliquzzamam, (President of Muslim League in India after M.A.Jinnah), Shaheed Suhrawardy, gave the following advice on 10th September 1947: 

(1) Continue to live as Muslims in the best Islamic tradition connected with the Muslim League and holding fast to the two-nation theory. In this alternative we shall have to be very strong and disciplined and must be ready to undergo sacrifices and must look to Pakistan for support and protection.

(2) Be a good Muslim and remain on friendly terms with your Hindu neighbours on the basis of common citizenship of the Indian Union.

(3) Complete subservience and submergence in some places as in Bihar. This is the attitude of Hindus towards the Muslims. In order to prevent this there are three alternatives:

(a) The Muslims should form themselves into strong pockets. In my opinion this should be done even with the best co-operation in the world with the Hindus. It is politically desirable as well as necessary for survival and also culturally desirable.

(b) Transfer of population while the going is good. 

(c) Personally I think that Pakistan has provided a homeland for the Muslims living in hose majority areas, but not a homeland for the Muslims of India.  The Muslims in the Indian Union have been left high and dry and must shape their own destiny and the question arises what should be our future organization.  The fact that there is a Pakistan Government of course does give a certain amount of reflected prestige to the Muslims of India but at the same time makes them a target for antagonism, and we have to choose between the two. I think that the Muslims of the minority provinces will have to chalk out their own plan.  The Quaid-e-Azam and the Muslim League in general are too busy with doing nothing in Pakistan.  I think he solution lies in finding some ways and means to induce all Governments whether they are Pakistan or Hindustan to accept the minorities as their own and to destroy the complex of superiority in the majority population.  For this purpose an all- round effort should be made and we are extremely lucky in having Mahatma Gandhi as the spearhead of this movement. 

Among the Hindu leaders, there were a few who had impressed on the Indian National Congress leaders that Hindus/Sikhs could not survive in the Islamic State of Pakistan and therefore exchange of population was necessary. Dr. B.R.Ambedkar way back in 1940 had advocated exchange of population and had quoted the European example in this respect.  Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1946 had suggested that Muslims left behind in India after the creation of Pakistan should be treated as aliens. M.A.Jinnah had agreed with this formulation of Dr. Rajendra Prasad.  Earlier, in 1920's Lala Lajpat Rai, after the spread of Mopla riots in other parts of the country had suggested division of Punjab and Bengal provinces on communal lives. Unfortunately, Indian National Congress led by Gandhi turned down the proposal made by Muslim League nor did it listen to the suggestions made by Dr. Ambedkar, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Dr. S.P. Mookerjee 


April 2017


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