Manzoor Ahmad Rather
Pakistan or The Partition of India’ is the title of Volume 8 of ‘Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches’. Dr Ambedkar in his introductory note wrote, “I have not sought to impose my views on the reader. I have placed before him both sides of the question and have left him to form his own opinion on it.”
Mr Jinnah explained the resolution of the Muslim League in its session held in Bombay on 30th December 1924 as: “The object was to organize the Muslim community, not with a view to quarrel with the Hindu community but with a view to unite and cooperate with it for their motherland.” The Muslim league split over the question of cooperating with the Simon Commission. Sir Mohammad Shafi led the group that supported the Simon Commission whereas Mr Jinnah led the group that supported the Congress and decided to boycott the Commission. In 1928, Dr Ansari formed the Nationalist Muslim Party, which went one step ahead of Mr Jinnah with its support to the Motilal Nehru Report. Mr Barkat Ali, secretary of the Punjab Muslim League, who was part of Mr Jinnah’s group, left it and joined Dr Ansari’s Nationalist Muslim Party, as he found Mr Jinnah’s group not being nationalist enough. In 1931, at the Punjab Nationalist Muslim Conference in Lahore, Mr Barkat Ali said, “We not only believe in a free India but we also believe in a united India: not the India of Muslim or Hindu or the Sikh but the India of all.”
The Muslims, thus, had plenty of nationalist spirit. But Dr Ambedkar opined, “The Muslim spirit of aggression is his native endowment and is ancient as compared with that of the Hindu.” He added, “The second thing that is noticeable among the Muslims is the spirit of exploiting the weaknesses of the Hindus. If the Hindus object to anything, the Muslim policy seems to be to insist upon it and give it up only when the Hindus show themselves ready to offer a price for it by giving the Muslims some other concessions.”
To prove this, Dr Ambedkar gives an example of the Muslims insisting on Separate Electorates, whereas Hindus insisted on Joint Electorates. Dr Ambedkar writes: “That this insistence is a matter of bargain only can be seen from Mr Jinnah’s 14 points.” However, Dr Ambdekar criticised the idea of joint electorates. He writes, “The Hindus have been to my mind utterly foolish in fighting over joint electorates especially in provinces in which the Muslims are in minority. Joint electorates can never suffice for a basis of Nationalism. Where two communities live a life which is exclusive and self-enclosed, they will not be one because they are made to come together on one day in five years for the purpose of voting in an election. Joint electorates may produce the enslavement of the minor community by the major community but by themselves they cannot produce Nationalism.”
As the Hindus wanted Muslims to quit the demand of separate electorates, the All India Muslim League passed a resolution in its Calcutta session held on 30th December 1927 in form of a bargain, that Muslims will give up separate electorates only when Hindus agreed to the separation of Sind and to the raising of the N.W.F.P to the status of self-governing provinces of Musalmans. It is relevant to mention that Muslims used separate electorates as a way to obtain their other demands as mentioned in Jinnah’s 14 points.
It was on 26th of March 1940, in the Lahore session, that the Muslim League passed the resolution with four points of which the third clearly mentioned the demand for separate states of geographically contiguous units on the basis of Muslim cultural homogeneity. This demand shook India, and practicality led to the Partition.
Dr Ambedkar’s analysis of the Muslim League resolution was that it was ambiguous, as the League did not clearly mention whether the Muslim provinces will be independent sovereign states or will they join one constitution as members of a single state. The League’s basic demand was separation from India but it was not stated clearly. It further demanded a Muslim state in the east by including Muslims of Assam and Bengal. Dr Ambedkar pointed out that the League could not even name the Muslim states. “In the discussions they used to say, ‘Muslim State in the West’ and ‘Muslim State in the East’.”
Dr Ambedkar also explains the historical background of the demand for Pakistan. He cites the year 1849, when Punjab was conquered by British. Punjab and NWFP constituted a single province till 1901. Lord Curzon broke this unity by creating two provinces of Punjab and NWFP. Lord Northbrook had earlier opined that Sind should join Punjab. But as Sind remained a frontier state after formation of Balochistan, Sind was not made part of Punjab. Dr Ambedkar writes, “Had the British not acquired Balochistan and had Lord Curzon not thought of carrying out NEFP out of Punjab, we would have witnessed long ago the creation of Pakistan as an Administrative Unit.”
Similarly, in 1905, Lord Curzon divided the provinces of Bengal and Assam. Eastern Bengal and Assam with Dacca as capital and Western Bengal with Calcutta as capital. This was opposed by Hindus and the partition was abrogated in 1911. Dr. Ambedkar writes, “If the partition of Bengal had not been annulled, the Muslim State in Eastern Bengal, instead of a new project, would now have been 39 years old.”
Dr Ambedkar also explains the demand for Paksitan as a fallout of the policy of linguistic division of India into states. “In this distribution, no attention was paid to considerations of Area, Population or Revenue… The determining factor was Language…. The scheme was, no doubt, put forth with the sole subject of winning the people to the Congress by appealing to their local patriotism,” Dr Ambedkar remarks. On the linguistic basis, many states demanded separation: Orissa from Bihar, Andhra from Madras, Karnataka from Maharashtra. Dr Ambedkar opines, “It is no use saying that the separation of Karnataka and Andhra is based on linguistic differences, and the claim to separation of Pakistan is based on cultural difference. Linguistic difference is simply another name for cultural difference.” When India was witnessing partition of Hindu provinces, why the Partition due to Pakistan left Indians in shock? Dr Ambedkar asks this genuine question: “If there is nothing shocking in the separation of Karnatak and Andhra, what is there to be shocked in the demand for the separation of Pakistan? If it is disruptive in effect, it is no more disruptive than the separation of Hindu provinces such as Karnataka from Maharashtra or Andhra from Madras. Pakistan is merely another manifestation of a cultural unit demanding freedom for the growth of its own distinctive culture.”
The British were of the opinion that India was not a Nation. Rather, ‘Indians’ was only a name for the people of India. Tagore, the national poet of Bengal, agreed with this view. Dr Ambedkar defines Nation as, “Nationality is a social feeling… It is a feeling of consciousness of kind.” Muslims had such social feeling more acutely than caste-based Hindus.
The history of Hindu Mahasabha shows that the Hindus had their own plan for the future of India. In 1925, Lala Hardayal published this statement in the newspaper published from Lahore named ‘Pratap’: “I declare that the future of Hindu race, of Hindustan and of Punjab, rests on these four pillars: (1) Hindu Sanghatan (2) Hindu Raj (3) Shuddhi of Moslems and (4) Conquest and Shuddhi of Afganistan and Frontiers. So long as the Hindu Nation does not accomplish these four things… safety of Hindu race will be impossible…The Musalmans and Christians are far removed from the confines of Hindustan, for their religions are alien… Just as one removes foreign matter from eye, Shuddhi must be made of these two religions… If Hindus want to protect themselves, they must conquer Afganistan and the frontiers and convert all the mountain tribes.”
Dr Ambedkar shed light over this argument by saying, “Hinduism perforce ceased to be a missionary religion after the time when the Hindu society developed its system of caste… According to Hindus, for a person to belong to a caste, he must be born in it… A convert is not born in caste, therefore he belongs to no cast. For a Hindu, to be without caste is to be without society.”
It is relevant to mention the suggestion of Savarkar as president of Hindu Mahasabha. He proposed the Two-Nation Theory and did not advocate for partition. Dr Ambedkar quotes, “Mr Savarkar admits that the Muslims are a separate Nation. He concedes that they have a right to cultural autonomy. He allows them to have a National Flag. Yet he opposes the demand of the Muslim Nation for a separate national home. If he claims a national home for the Hindus, how can he refuse the claim of the Muslims?”
Dr Ambedkar explains Savarkar’s theory as, “He wants the Hindus and the Muslims to live as two separate nations in one country, each maintaining its own religion, language and culture.… One can justify this attitude only if the two nations were to live as partners in friendly intercourse with mutual respect and accord. But that is not to be, because Mr Savarkar will not allow the Muslim Nation to be co-equal in authority with the Hindu Nation.… He wants the Hindu Nation to be the dominant nation and the Muslim nation to be the subservient nation.”
Savarkar did not put forward a novel theory; rather, he took the old Austria and Turkey formula for maintaining Hindutva, Hindu Rajya and Swarajya. Dr Ambedkar reveals, “One cannot give Mr Savarkar credit for having found a new formula… He sees that in Austria and Turkey there lived one major nation, juxtaposed to other minor nations bound by one constitution, dominating the minor nation and argues that it this was possible in Austria and Turkey, why should it not be possible for the Hindus to do the same in India.”
To reveal the hidden desire of Savarkar behind the Two-Nation Theory, Dr Ambedkar says, “The scheme of Swaraj formulated by Mr Savarkar will give Hindus an empire over the Muslims and thereby satisfy their vanity and pride in being an imperial race.”
When Savarkar expressed unconcern towards Muslims regarding his proposed scheme, Dr. Ambedkar expressed this unconcern as, “He formulates his scheme and throws it in face of the Muslims with the covering letter: ‘Take It or Leave It’.”
The Muslims were thus given the message by Hindus that they can remain with India as a minor nation, otherwise they can leave and without them freedom will be achieved.
In conclusion we can say that the freedom struggle of Indians against British rule slowly reflected the political aggression of majorly Congress Hindus, i.e., Upper Caste Hindus. Dr Ambedkar’s analysis helps in understanding the partition from historical, political, social, psychological, and religious point of view.
The writer is a researcher currently based in Nagpur. He has previously been associated with the Partition Museum Amritsar.