Formation of All India Muslim League
On 1 October 1906, a 35-member delegation of the Muslim nobles, aristocrats, legal professionals and other elite sections of the community mostly associated with Aligarh movement gathered at Simla under the leadership of Aga Khan to present an address to Lord Minto, the viceroy. They demanded proportionate representation of Muslims in government jobs, appointment of Muslim judges in High Courts and members in Viceroy’s council, etc. Though the Simla deputation failed to obtain any positive commitment from the Viceroy, it worked as a catalyst for the foundation of the All India Muslim League (AIML) to safeguard the interests of the Muslims in 1907. A group of big zamindars, erstwhile Nawabs and ex-bureaucrats became active members of this movement. The League supported the partition
of Bengal, demanded separate electorates for Muslims, and pressed for safeguards for Muslims in Government Service.
Objectives of All India Muslim
League The All India Muslim League, the first centrally organized political party exclusively for Muslims, had the following objectives:
* To promote among the Muslims of India feelings of loyalty to the British Government, and remove any misconception that may arise as to the instruction of Government with regard to any of its measures.
* To protect and advance the political rights and interests of Muslims of India, and to respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the Government.
* To prevent the rise among the Muslims of India of any feeling of hostility towards other communities without prejudice to the aforementioned objects of the League.Initially, AIML was an elitist organization of urbanized Muslims.
However, the support of the British Government helped the League to become the sole representative body of Indian Muslims. Within three years of its formation, the AIML successfully achieved the status of separate electorates for the Muslims. It granted separate constitutional identity to the Muslims. The Lucknow Pact (1916) put an official seal on a separate political identity to Muslims.
Separate Electorates and the Spread of Communalism
The institution of separate electorate was the principle technique adopted by the Government of British India for fostering and spreading communalism. The people were split into separate constituencies so that they voted communally, thought communally, judged the representatives communally and expressed their grievances communally. That the British did this with ulterior motive was evident from a note sent by one of the British officers to Lady Minto: ‘I must send your Excellency a line to say that a very big thing has happened to-day. A work of statesmanship, that will affect Indian History for many a long year. It is nothing less than pulling of 62 million people from joining the ranks of seditious opposition.’Communalism: Organising a religious group on the basis of its hostility towards the followers of other religions to fight even material issues. Communalism as an ideology or movement has been defined in various ways by various scholars. According to Nehru, communalism is one of the obvious examples of backward-looking people trying to hold on to something that is wholly out of place in the modern world and is essentially opposed to the concept of nationalism. According to another scholar, communalism denotes ‘organised attempt of a group to bring about change in the face of resistance from other groups or the government through collective mobilisation based on a narrow ideology.’ The announcement of separate electorates and the incorporation of the principle of “divide and rule” into a formal constitutional arrangement made the estrangement between Hindus and Muslims total.
Emergence of the All India Hindu Mahasabha
In the wake of the formation of the Muslim League and introduction of the Government of India Act of 1909, a move to start a Hindu organisation was in the air. In pursuance of the resolution passed at the fifth Punjab Hindu Conference at Ambala and the sixth conference at Ferozepur, the first all Indian Conference of Hindus was convened at Haridwar in 1915. The All India Hindu Mahasabha was started there with headquarters at Dehra Dun. Provincial Hindu Sabhas were started subsequently in UP, with headquarters at Allahabad and in Bombay and Bihar. While the sabhas in Bombay and Bihar were not active, there was little response in Madras and Bengal. Predominantly urban in character, the Mahasabha was concentrated in the larger trading cities of north India, particularly in Allahabad, Kanpur, Benares, Lucknow and Lahore. In UP, the Mahasabha, to a large extent was the creation of the educated middle class leaders who were also activists in the Congress. T he Khilafat movement gave some respite to the separatist politics of the communalists. As a result, between 1920 and 1922, the Mahasabha ceased to function. T he entry of ulema into politics led Hindus to fear a revived and aggressive Islam. Even important Muslim leaders like Ali brothers had always been Khilafatists first and Congressmen second. The power of mobilisation on religious grounds demonstrated by the Muslims during the Khilafat movement motivated the Hindu communalists to imitate them in mobilising the Hindu masses. Suddhi movement was not a new phenomenon but in the post-Khilafat period it assumed new importance. In an effort to draw Hindus into the boycott of the visit of Prince of Wales in 1921, Swami Shradhananda tried to revive the Mahasabha by organizing cow-protection propaganda. Before the World War I, Britain had promised to safeguard the interests of the Caliph as well the Kaaba (the holiest seat of Islam). But after Turkey’s defeat in the War, they refused to keep their word. The stunned Muslim community showed its displeasure to the British government by starting the Khilafat movement to secure the Caliphate in Turkey.T he bloody Malabar rebellion of 1921, where Muslim peasants were pitted against both the British rulers and Hindu landlords, gave another reason for the renewed campaign of the Hindu Mahasabha. Though the outbreak was basically an agrarian revolt, communal passion ran high in consequence of which Gandhi himself viewed it as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Gandhi wanted Muslim leaders to tender a public apology for the happenings in Malabar.
(a) Communalism in United Provinces (UP)
T he suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 and the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924 left the Muslims in a state of frustration. In the aftermath of Non-Cooperation movement, the alliance between the Khilafatists and the Congress crumbled. T here was a fresh spate of communal violence, as Hindus and Muslims, in the context of selfgoverning institutions created under the Act of 1919, began to stake their political claims and in the process vied with each other to acquire power and position. Of 968 delegates attending the sixth annual conference of the Hindu Mahasabha in Varanasi in August 1923, 56.7 % came from the U.P. The United Provinces (UP), the Punjab, Delhi and Bihar together contributed 86.8 % of the delegates. Madras, Bombay and Bengal combined sent only 6.6% of the delegates. 1920s was a trying period for the Congress. This time the communal tension in the United Province was not only due to the zeal of Hindu and Muslim religious leaders, but was fuelled by the political rivalries of the Swarajists and Liberals. Motilal Nehru M.M. Malaviya In Allahabad, Motilal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malaviya confronted each other. When Nehru’s faction emerged victorious in the municipal elections of 1923, Malaviya’s faction began to exploit religious passions. The District Magistrate Crosthwaite who conducted the investigation reported: ‘The Malavia family have deliberately stirred up the Hindus and this has reacted on the Muslims.’
(b) The Hindu Mahasabha
In the Punjab communalism as a powerful movement had set in completely. In 1924 Lala Lajpat Rai openly advocated the partition of the Punjab into Hindu and Muslim Provinces. T he Hindu Mahasabha, represented the forces of Hindu revivalism in the political domain, raised the slogan of ‘Akhand Hindustan’ against the Muslim League’s demand of separate electorates for Muslims. Ever since its inception, the Mahasabha’s role in the freedom struggle has been rather controversial. While not supportive of British rule, the Mahasabha did not offer its full support to the nationalist movement either. Since the Indian National Congress had to mobilize the support of all classes and communities against foreign domination, the leaders of different communities could not press for principle of secularism firmly for the fear of losing the support of religious-minded groups. The Congress under the leadership of Gandhi held a number of unity conferences during this period, but to no avail.
(c) Delhi Conference of Muslims and their Proposals One great outcome of the efforts at unity, however, was an offer by the Conference of Muslims, which met at Delhi on March 20, 1927 to give up separate electorates if four proposals were accepted.
1. the separation of Sind from Bombay
2. Reforms for the Frontier and Baluchistan
3. Representation by population in the Punjab and Bengal and
4. Thirty-three per cent seats for the Muslims in the Central Legislature.
Expressing anguish over the development of sectarian nationalism, Gandhi wrote, ‘There are as many religions as there are individuals, but those who are conscious of the spirit of the nationality do not interfere with one another’s religion. If Hindus believe that India should be peopled only by Hindus, they are living in a dream land. The Hindus, the Sikhs, the Muhammedans, the Parsis and the Christians who have made their country are fellow countrymen and they will have to live in unity if only for their interest. In no part of the world are one nationality and one religion synonymous terms nor has it ever been so in India.’ Motilal Nehru and S. Srinvasan persuaded the All India Congress Committee to accept the Delhi proposals formulated by the Conference of the Muslims. But communalism had struck such deep roots that the initiative fell through. Gandhi commented that the Hindu-Muslim issue had passed out of human hands. Instead of seizing the opportunity to resolve the tangle, the Congress chose to drag its feet by appointing committees, one to find out whether it was financially feasible to separate Sind from Bombay and the other to examine proportional representation as a means of safeguarding Muslim majorities. Jinnah who had taken the initiative to narrow down the breach between the two, and had been hailed the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity by Sarojini, felt let down as the Hindu Mahasabha members present at the All Parties Convention held in Calcutta in 1928 rejected all amendments and destroyed any possibility of unity. Thereafter, most of the Muslims were convinced that they would get a better deal from Government rather than from the Congress. In despair Jinnah left the country, only to return many years later as a rank communalist. Sarojini
(d) Communal Award and its Aftermath
T he British Government was consistent in promoting communalism. Even the delegates for the second Round Table Conference were chosen on the basis of their communal bearings. After the failure of the Round Table Conferences, the British Prime V.D. Savarkar Minister Ramsay MacDonald announced the Communal Award which further vitiated the political climate. T he R.S.S. founded in 1925 was expanding and its volunteers had shot upto 1,00,000. K.B. Hedgewar, V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalker were attempting to elaborate on the concept of the Hindu Rashtra and openly advocated that ‘the non-Hindu people in Hindustan must adopt the Hindu culture and language…they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation claiming nothing.’ V.D. Savarkar asserted that ‘We Hindus are a Nation by ourselves’. Though the Congress had forbidden its members from joining the Mahasabha or the R.S.S. as early as 1934, it was only in December 1938 that the Congress Working Committee declared Mahasabha membership to be a disqualification for remaining in the Congress.