Hindu - Muslim Schism
The current reporting about Hindu-Muslim issues in the Indian press and TV discussions seem to highlight two things, One, Hindu-Muslim quarrels are of recent origin, that is, they began with the independence of India in1947 and have assumed a serious proportion after the BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014. Two, Hindus and Muslims had peacefully ( happily) lived before the advent of the British rule in India. At least that was the message conveyed by Jawaharlal Nehru in his Lal Qila address on every 15th August. He would often declare: Hum Do Sau Saal Ghulam Rahae. Both these propositions are wrong and have little support in the history of modern India. If the logical corollaries of the Partition of India, brought about by Muslims, had been implemented by Gandhi and Nehru, Hindu-Muslim discords of today would have been a thing of the past.
The Communal antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims is as old as the advent of Islam in India. The differences which separate the Hindus and Muslims are essentially religious. In this context, Sir R. Coupland an authority on Constitutional Reforms in pre-independent India has written: The record of Hindu-Muslim rioting in India is long and tragic. The earliest serious case in British records is the outbreak at Benaras in 1809, in which the deliberate insult inflicted on that sacred Hindu city by erection of a mosque on its most sacred site by the Mogul Emperor, Aurangzeb, a century before, was last avenged by the Hindus. Several hundred people were killed and some fifty mosques destroyed. Happily that tragedy is unique, and for another seventy years there appears to have been no serious outbreak except in 1871 and 1872. But there was violent rioting at Lahore and Karnal in 1885, at Delhi in 1886, at Dehra Gazi Khan in 1889, at Palukod in 1891, and in a large area of United Provinces and in the City of Bombay in 1893. The chief reason for this persistent trouble between 1885 and 1893 was undoubtedly the fact that during the first four years of the period the Moslem festival of the Muharram coincided with the Hindu Dashera festival. Another disturbed and anxious period ran from 1907 to 1914– a period marked by enactment and the operation of the Morley-Minto Reforms. Tensions due to other reasons may be hightened for example, at the time of the annual Moslim festival of Baqr'Id, which is peculiarly provocative to Hindu sentiment, since it requires the sacrifice of animals, and among the victims is generally a cow, which is an object of veneration to Hindus. Another common cause of trouble is the carrying of the taziyahs, bamboo and paper structures, representing the mausoleums on the plains of Kerbala, to the local burying place at the Muharram festival. For, if peepal tree, sacred to the Hindus, is growing beside the road, its branches may be touched by taziyah; and the branches must not be lopped, nor may the taziyahs be lowered, as if in obedience to the tree. Rival processions are abroad in the streets; vast crowds collect; religious emotions, sometime sensitive; sometimes provocative is deeply stirred; the atmosphere is highly charged and the general excitement seeks an outlet.
A more constant irritancy is provided by the traditional practice of processional music. Not only at festivals, but at every Hindu marriage, there must be a procession with a band; and if it passes a mosque, where noise is strictly forbidden, especially at one of the daily periods of prayers, Moslem feeling is quickly inflamed. For Government to forbid such music would be regarded by Hindus, as an intolerable violation of their rights, and at times of tensions, therefore, British officials must do their utmost to obtain an agreement between communal representatives as to the route a procession should take and the points at which the music should be stopped or muted. But the mood of the disputants has often been provocative rather than conciliatory, and whether by music or the other means it is tragically easy to provoke a riot in the poorer quarters of an Indian tour.
Basic Causes of the Feud: Riots, however, are only a symptom. What are the basic causes of the feud? It is not a conflict of race. In the North-West, it is true, many Indian Moslems are descended from the Arabs, Afghans and Turks who invaded India centuries ago, but elsewhere the vast majority is of native Indian origin, the progeny of those Indians who were converted to their conqueror's faith. There is, however, a certain physical difference. Since the Moslem domination began earlier and lasted longer in the North and never extended south wards much beyond the river Kaveri, the mass of the Moslems are northern. Eighty percent of them are in the Punjab, Sind, the United Provinces and Bengal. “There are only four and half millions in Bombay and three and half millions in Madras. Physically, therefore, the average Indian Moslem is more of the northern type than the average Hindu. But the main distinction is not physical, but cultural. It is the outcome of two sharply contrasted religious and social systems, the ways of life and thought, they have inspired. Hinduism has its primeval roots in a land of rivers and forests, Islam in the desert. Hindus worship many Gods, Moslems only one; the temple, with its luxuriance of sculptured effigies, confronts the mosque, declaring by its bare simplicity that idolatry is sin. Hinduism maintains a rigid caste system: Islam proclaims the equal brotherhood of all believers. The classical language of the Hindu is Sanskrit of Moslems Arabic and Persian: the distinctive daily speech of the one is the Hindi, of the other the Urdu variant of Hindustani. The contrast lends itself to a wealth of illustration, but its most striking feature is the fact that, though Hindus and Moslems live side by side all over India, often in the same small village, and though happily in normal times they are good enough neighbours, yet the natural ties of kinship are completely lacking, since both the Koran and the Hindu laws of castes prohibit inter-marriage; nor may an orthodox Hindu share his table with a Moslem. India has imposed certain community of living on all her children, and a stranger to the country, seeing Hindus and Moslem together, in a society or professional life, of work or at play, might find it difficult to distinguish them. Yet, under the surface, the gulf remains. The present President of the Central Assembly, Sir Abdur Rahim, once complained that, whereas Indian Moslems, felt quite at home in the Moslem countries of Asia, in India we find ourselves in all social matters total aliens when we cross the street and enter that part of the town where our Hindu fellows-townmen lives.
Historical Differences: History has intensified the difference; for the Moslems remember that they were once the conquering and ruling people and the Hindus their subjects, paying the Jizya or tax extracted from all non-Moslems. There had been great chapters in the annals of India long before the rise of Islam; but in Moslem eyes the glories of the Maury or the Gupta Empire had been eclipsed by those of the Moghuls while, moreover, Hinduism was confined to the land of its origin, Islam stretched far beyond the bounds of India across the Middle East to the Mediterranean and along its southern shore to the Atlantic; and Moslem civilization in India had been enriched by scholars and artists coming to the Mogul court from other quarters of the Moslem world and by the cultural traditions of Cairo, Baghdad and Granada.
Once the Moslems had been the lords of the land in every sense, but with the coming of the rule of law they began to lose their grip of it. Still more marked was the change in the political status of the Moslems. They ceased to be the governing class. Their set back was the dropping of Persian as the official language; the next was the Mutiny. The third was the growth of the higher education which was eagerly seized by the Hindus and rejected by the Muslims. Nationalism feeds on memories, but the memories of the Muslims were more concerned with Islam then with India.
Mahatma Gandhi's Views on Communal Violence
At the second Session of the Round Table Conference held in London in 1931, Gandhi had declared that the quarrel between Hindus and Moslems is coeval with the British advent and will dissolve when the peoples of India are free. India is still be devilled by communal violence even after 70 years of the end of British rule in India). At that time, a sufficient answer was supplied by the Maharajadhiraj Bahadur of Burdwan who wrote: The fact is that the religious and cultural feuds between Hindus and Mohmmedan go as far back as A.D.1017 or 1018, when Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the then Hindu centre of India, known as Kannauj, desecrated the holy city of Muttra and destroyed and pillaged many Hindu temples. Mahmud thus sowed the seeds of hatred and religious animosity which has survived through the ages, bringing bitterness between Hindus and Mohammedans which breaks out at any moment. (The Indian Horizone, 1931)
Was Partition a Settlement or an Appeasement?
Even before the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, as a member of the Viceroy's Council, had objected to the introduction of representative institution at the local level and the holding of the Indian Civil Service examination in India. In order to induce the Muslims to join the Congress Party, Badrudin Tyabji had written to Sir Syed to the effect that no subject of interest to the Muslim community would be discussed at the meetings of the Congress Party unless it had the prior approval of the Muslim members. Sir Syed was not convinced. He instead asked the Muslims not to join the Congress Party. He had told the Muslims that they should support the British rule as they alone can protect the interest of Muslims. The Muslim leaders continued to follow the policy laid down by Sir Syed up to 1906. As soon as the British rulers in London decided to expand the representative character of the Provincial Assemblies and the Viceroy's Executive council, Muslims under the leadership of Sir Aga Khan led a delegation of 35 eminent Muslims to Viceroy Minto and demanded a) separate electorate for Muslims; b) reservation in jobs, c) appointment of Muslim Judges in the High Courts and d) establishment of a Muslim University. In the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, all the demands of the Muslim community were accepted except the establishment of a Muslim University. The demand for a Muslim University was turned down for the reason that when established it would become a cradle for Muslim fundamentalism. And, the British had only recently experienced the Mutiny of 1857 which was the last attempt by Muslims to restore Muslim rule in India.
Congress right from the beginning had adopted a policy of appeasement towards the Mulsims. It reached a new high when Gandhi took over the reins of the Party in 1920. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was the only Hindu leader who had keenly observed the policy-stance adopted by Gandhi towards the Muslims. Each and every campaign launched by Gandhi had resulted in Hindu-Muslim riots. Dr. Ambedkar has given details of the communal riots that took place in India between1920-1940. In Dr. Ambedkar's words:
Such is the record of Hindu-Muslim relationship from 1920 to1940. Placed side by side with the frantic efforts made by Mr. Gandhi to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity, the record makes most painful and heart rending reading. It would not be much exaggeration to say that it is a record of twenty years of civil war between Hindus and the Muslims in India, interrupted by brief intervals of armed peace. (Writings And Speeches, Vol. 8)
Dr. Ambedkar goes on to observe that the attitude towards women-folk is a good index of the friendly or unfriendly attitude between the two communities. As such, the case which happened on 27th June, 1936 in the village of Govindpur in Bengal makes very instructive reading. When the trial of 40 Mahommedans accused began on the 10th August, 1936, the Crown counsel pointed out:
“There lived in Govindpur a Hindu by name Radha Vallabh. He had a son Harendra. There lived also in Govindpur a Muslim woman whose occupation was to sell Milk. The local Musalmans of the village suspected that Harendra had illicit relationship with this Muslim Milk woman. They resented that a Muslim woman should be in the keeping of a Hindu and they decided to wreak their vengeance on the family of Radha Vallabh for this insult. A meeting of the Musalmans of Govindpur was convened and Harendra was summoned to attend this meeting. Soon after Harendra went to the meeting cries of Harendra were heard. It was found that Harendra was assaulted and was lying senseless in the field where the meeting was held. The Musalmans of Govindpur were not satisfied with this assault. They informed Radha Vallabh that unless he, his wife and his children embraced Islam the Musalmans did not feel satisfied for the wrong his son had done to them. Radha Vallabh was planning to send away to another place his wife and children. The Musalmans came to know this plan. Next day when Kusum, the wife of Radha Vallabh, was sweeping the courtyard of her house, some Mahomedans came, held down Radha Vallabh and some spirited away Kusum. After having taken her to some distance two Mahomedans by name Laker and Mahazar raped her and removed her ornaments. After some time, she came to her senses and ran towards her home. Her assailants again pursued her. She succeeded in reaching her home and locking herself in. Her Muslim assailants broke open the door, caught hold of her and again carried her away on the road. It was suggested by her assailants that she should be again raped on the street. But with the help of another woman by name Rajani, Kusum escaped and took shelter in the house of Rajani. While she was in the house of Rajani the Musalmans of Govindpur paraded her husband Radha Vallabh in the streets in complete disgrace. Next day the Musalmans kept watch on the roads to and from Govindpur to the Police Station to prevent Radha Vallabh and Kusum from giving information of the outrage to the Police.
These acts of barbarism against women, committed without remorse, without shame and without condemnation by their fellow brethren show the depth of the antagonism which divided the two communities.
Gandhi Failed To Understand Moslems:
After coming to power in most of the Provinces in 1937, the Congress Party had launched mass contact programme. Initially, a large number of Moslems were induced to join the Congress party. But, as time went on, it became clear that the result of the congress leaders' refusal to share power with the League was not what they had hoped. League had started conducting a formidable campaign against the Congress Raj.
The Congress Leaders had underestimated the strength of Moslem religious feeling and had failed to take account of the fact that a Moslem’s religion pervades all his life, including his politics. The Mullahs of the countryside were soon up in arm against the Congress; it was blasphemy, they told their flocks to say that politics was a purely secular affair, and they reawakened in them all their old suspicions of Hindu intentions towards their faith. Instead submitting to the Congress victors, the leading Moslem politician closed their ranks and defied them. In October, 1937, Jinnah at Lahore denounced the Congress for pursuing an exclusive Hindu policy which was bound to intensify communal antagonism. Moslems can expect neither justice nor fair play under Congress government, he declared. The Moslem leaders in the two chief Moslem-majority provinces –Bengal and Punjab decided to put their weight behind the League. On the day of Jinnah's speech Sir Sikander Hyat Khan of Punjab advised all members of he Unionist party to join the League and shortly afterwards Fazl-ul-Haq and Sir Muhammad Saadulla made similar declarations in Bengal and Assam.
The Congress leaders seemed realise wise the full force of the League's reaction. His consequence in February, 1938, Pandit Nehru at the Haripura session of the Congress declared:
The congress approves of and confirms the resolution of the Working Committee on Minority Rights passed in Calcutta in October, 1937 and declares afresh that it regards it as its primary duty and fundamental policy to protect the religious, linguistic, cultural and other rights of the minorities in India so as to ensure for them in any scheme of government to which the Congress is a party the widest scope for their development and their participation in the fullest measure in the political, … and cultural life of the nation.
Failure of Unity Talks:
Recognizing the strength of the League, there were a series of unity talks between Jinnah and Subhas Bose. By the end of July, 1938 all negotiations had broken down on a straight issue: Jinnah insisted that the Congress recognize the League as the only organization representing Indian Moslems. Jinnah told Gandhi: Evidently, you have not been following the course of events. He told Nehru: You prefer talking at each other, whereas I prefer talking to each other. Jinnah was more bellicose at the League session at Patna: All hopes of communal peace said Jinnah had been wreaked on the rock of Congress Fascism.
Formal Indictment of the Congress Governments:
The League left no stone unturned to malign the Congress Government in Provinces. Every instance of communal trouble was scrutinized, written up and put up on records. The first of these was; The Pirpur Report. It was published at the end of 1938. The name of the Chairman of the Committee, Raja Syed Muhammad. Mahdi of Pirpur, a descendant of the Moguls in the United Provinces. The report pointed out: (i) The Muslims think that no tyranny be as great as the tyranny of the majority (ii) the flag, the anthem, the reverence paid to Gandhi, the emphasis laid by Mahatma himself or cow, protection all these are evidences of a far- reaching attack on the cultural rights of the Moslem community, but its most insidious feature is the attempt to extend the use of Hindi at the expanse of Urdu. The other report was; The Shareef Report on Grievances of Muslims in Bihar, 1937. The report alleged that a reign of terror had been let lose by the Congress Government in Bihar. Now Muslims will have to decide soon whether they should migrate from this Province or face annihilation. A third formal indictment of the Congress government was made after the resignation of the Congress Muslim Sufferings Under Congress Rule,1939, by Faz-l-ul-Haq wrote: Congress policy had set the stage for the blatant arrogance of the militant Hindu to burst the bounds of restraint which non-partisan Governments had imposed. The Hindus set about to impose their will on Muslims. Their will was; Mother cow must be protected Muslim must not be allowed to eat beef. The religion of the Muslims must be humbled because was not this the land of the Hindus? Hence the forbidding of prayers, attack on worshippers in mosques etc.
Kamal Yar Jung Education Committee Report, 1939
A more significant report than the other mentioned above was he Kamal Yar Jung Report. The report alleged that Urdu schools were being closed. It criticized the Wardhe Scheme of Elementary Education' particularly the Vidya Mander school adopted in Central and … by Dr. Zakir Hussan was aimed at submerging the Muslim culture. The scheme was termed as highly communal. In short, in education as in government Moslems had begun to contemplate. The division of India into Hindu and Moslem comportment.