While the Hindu had marched on towards the twentieth century with a confidence bordering upon
the militant, the Muslim stood by and sulked. He wept upon the passing of the old glories of Delhi
and Lucknow. He resented the new system whose values seemed so alien to him. He was the
fallen hero unable to rise, spending himself in the nostalgia of his past. He was fixated to the days
of the glory of his forefathers. And this fixation had immobilised him completely.
The only economic vitality that any section of the Muslims of India had demonstrated in this
period, was the growth of the Khojas, Bohras and the Memons of the coastal areas of Gujerat and
Bombay into businessmen, lawyers, merchants and industrialists along with their Hindu
compatriots. They would become the catalysts of the "Pakistan movement". In the upper reaches
of the Indus region, a rich new Muslim feudal aristocracy rose with the opening of new land to the
plough. Vast landed estates and jagirs were allotted in the Punjabi districts of Campbellpur,
Mianwali, Shahpur, Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh. (The colonisation of lands in the districts of
Montgomery and Lyallpur was based on the allotment of smaller holdings). Charactristically the
two regions, the west coast and the Punjab, were to bring forth leaders of two different types with,
ultimately, constituencies that were coincident but with policies that conflicted. The west coast of
India presented Jinnah. The Punjab threw up Fazl-e-Hussain.
At the turn of the century the Muslims had, to say the least, been confused. Syed Ahmed Khan
had already spent his life pleading with the Muslims in the same vein as Raja Ram Mohan Roy
had exhorted the Hindus half a century ahead of him. Syed Ahmed had been knighted in the
service of the Crown and was the moving force behind the founding of the Anglo-Muhammadan
College at Aligarh. Syed Ahmed Khan exhorted the Muslims to come out of their shells and to
seek modern education so as to join the race. Aligarh's sons would respond enthusiastically.
Having served the Company through the 'Mutiny' Sir Syed was eminently qualified to disarm the
prejudice of the Muslim establishment on account of his undisputed piety and gentility of spirit.
The Muslim elite had also begun to realise the futility of it all. They could not continue to sit
indefinitely on the sidelines and fret. They became conscious of the need for social advancement,
albeit within the framework of the Raj. There was, also, the need to collect upon a unified platform
and to raise defences against the growing hostility generated by Tilak and the Arya Samajis. The
Hindu extremists appeared to be on the warpath and the only salvation for the Muslim ruling
classes seemed the sanctuary of the British Government.
The British were themselves fully cognisant of the importance of the Muslim community. It was
the most important element in the consolidation and the security of the Empire east of the Suez. It
was to assuage Muslims therefore, that the Government partitioned Bengal in 1905. The Muslim
majority areas of Bengal which were also the agrarian hinterland, were separated from the
Hindu-dominated industrial vortex of Calcutta. The Hindu community reacted sharply to the
Partition of Bengal. It denounced the administrative measure and initiated a popular movement
The Muslims were on the defensive. The compulsion for one single platform was imperative. Yet
nothing could be obtained, it seemed, without the patronage of the imperial Government.
The Muslim League was founded in December 1906 after a delegation of Muslims, led by the
Agha Khan had waited upon the Viceroy in October and sought the support of the Government
with the following argument: "We venture, indeed with your Excellency's permission, to go a step
further and urge that the position accorded to the Muhammadan community in any kind of
representation, direct or indirect and in all other ways affecting their status and influence, should
be commensurate not merely with their numerical strength but also with their political importance
and the value of the contribution which they make to the defence of the Empire".
The conscious need for this patronage of the imperial adminstration was reflected in the Inaugral
Address that Nawab Viqar ul Mulk, Nawab Mushtaq Hussain of the United Provinces,
Chairman of the Founding Session of the Muslim League delivered at Dacca on 30th December,
1906 wherein he concluded:
"In short, gentlemen, we are today prepared to enter on a political career as a community which
the spirit of the times impells us to do ...... But nothing of the spirit of loyalty is lost thereby, and
no amount of candour shall rob us of our traditional courtesy..... The object of our League is,
frankly, the protection and advancement of our political rights and interests, but without prejudice
to the traditional loyality of the Musaalmans to the Government..." And despite the annulment, in
1911, of the Partition of Bengal, (a clear indication of the British Government's concessions to
Hindu intransigence), the Muslim League Council laid down its rather servile aims on 31st
December, 1912 as, inter alia: "to promote and maintain among Indians a feeling of loyatlty
towards the British Crown".
The first object spelt out for need of the founding of the All India Muslim League in the main
resolution of the December 30, 1906 session was "to promote among the Mussalmans of India,
feelings of loyalty to the British Government and to remove any misconception that may arise as
the intentions of Government with regard to any of its measures". A year later, in the first
anniversary session at Karachi, this objective was reiterated when the resolution containing the
objectives of the Muslim League as redefined in the Constitution was adopted (December 30,
The Muslims were compelled by the fear of Hindu revivalism to seek protection of the British and
to that effect to manifest their loyalty to the Crown on every possible occasion. At this time Hindu
moderates began to marginalise the influence, within the Congress, of Hindu extremists. To some
extent the moderates like Gokhale (who was President of Congress in 1905) and the less
fearsome reformists like Mrs. Annie Besant (President in 1917) succeeded in isolating the
extremists and in weaning the Indian Muslims away from the British.
The imperial Government had kept the Muslims on its side by providing for separate electorates in
the Act of 1909. These ensured the minority's representation in all circumstances. The majority
community of India also wanted to win them over, so as to make them a passive agrarian appendix
to an ultimately independent India. At this juncture the Hindu bourgeoisie bent over backwards to
accomodate Muslim demands.
The Lucknow Pact of 1916 recognised the Muslim right to separate electorates. Hindu-Muslim
amity continued through the agitation against and the massacre in the Punjab at Amritsar. In the
meantime, India had been "bled white" by First World War, in the words of Lord Curzan
himself, and the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms Act of 1919 had not obtained much attention.
The communal amity, however, reached its zenith in the "Khilafat Movement", the reaction of a
Muslim community shocked by the unjust terms imposed upon Turkey by the Treaty of Surges.
The Movement sought the reinstatement of the Turkey's "Khalifa". Hindus, led by Gandhi,
adopted these demands and supported the Muslims in the Movement. Gandhi, in fact, presided
over the 1919 Khilafat Conference. The Congress took advantage of this unrest. It synchronised
its Non-Co-operation Movement. Some prominent Muslim ulema repaid Gandhi for his support.
A fatwa endorsed the Non-Co-operation Movement.
After the Rowlatt Act and Jalianwala Bagh the Congress had again been over-whelmed by the
extremists. On the other side some of the fundamentalist leaders of the Muslim community also
went to the most preposterous extremes. "In the Khilafat crisis the leadership of the Muslim
community was grasped by the ulema and their allies. Before 1918 the divines considered poltics
outside their domain and were generally indifferent to all that happened in the country. In some
respects, the new orientation was unfortunate. As a class the divines were sadly behind the
times. They were ill-educated and illequipped for the business of politics. Their mutual bickerings
were well known and their angularities proverbial. With a sizeable section of them religion did not
necessarily come into politics as an idealistic or constructive force. Sometimes its influence
bordered on the vulgar. Quite a few zealots among them ransacked the whole of Muslim law and
tradition and disinterred some texts which could be stretched to justify the use of Gandhian
techniques of non-co-operation and passive resistance for political ends. By some ingenuity they
read into the Meccan life of the Prophet a titanic example of satyagraha. But their grotesque
attmepts to effect a cohesion between Islam and Hinduism led them to make oblations in the
sacred Ganges in the orthdox Hindu fashion, They idscovered in the Krishna of Hindu mythology
the Moses of the Christians and Muslims and identified Gandhi with the promised one in Islam
called the Mehdi. They snatched at a hundred and one straws to establish the essential oneness
of the two faiths."
The Lincoln's Inn barrister, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was, at this time, an emerging leader of the
entire Muslim community. He, too, stood for communal harmony. After the Lucknow Pact he had,
in fact, been described by a prominent Hindu leader and activist, Miss Sirojini Naidu as the
"ambassador of Hindu-Muslim amity." Jinnah, however, stood aloof of the compact between the
Congress and the Muslim divines. But "the concord between the divines and the Congress proved
lasting . The ulema had arrived in the field of politics to stay and did nto retire even when the
ashes of the Khilafat movement had cooled down. Thus they became the nucleus of various
'nationalist' Muslim organisations which basked in the Congress sunshine in the thirties and
early forties. On the one hand they stood for a resurgent Islam and on the other they owed
allegiance to the Congress whose ideals were, in almost every respect, antithetical to theirs."
Although these divines would take their "allegience to the Congress" at least right up to August
1947, the Hindu-Muslim amity was not to last. On both sides there had been significant
developments and a substantial gains of self-confidence.
In terms of the achievement of its avowed object, the Khilafat Movement was fiasco. The Khilafat
being itself dissolved, in 1924, by a Muslim modernist, a hero to modern Turkey and to the Islamic
world, Kamal Ata-turk himself, the leaders of the Movement in India were squarely
embarrassed. The divines clung to the Congress as they lost face. They now appeared to have
been propounding and agitating at the wrong issue. The mass frenzy, the desparate call of Hijrat
(actual migration) out of India as a protest against the non-Muslim rulers, and the popular
mobilization, all petered out in widespread and comprehensive confusion.
But the Movement had made substantial contributions, not least of all being the aura of romance
that had now been added to mass political mobilisation and to political resistance. But the
Movement had established the Muslim potential to generate mass rallies. For the first time in the
sub-continent's recent history and certainly since the passage of the Regulation Act of 1818,
arrest for a political cause began to be looked upon with respect, even admiration. Political causes
began to find adherents who had dreams in their eyes. Political detainees gained respect and
social recognition among all the sections of the populace, (except, of course, the mercenaries in the
civil and police bureaucracy). This tradition continues today and has alone contributed very
heartily towards the securing of what civil rights there are. The Ali Brothers (Muhammad Ali,
Shaukat Ali, and the younger Muhammad Ali), became the gallant forbears of a vast and
unending line of brave detenues suffering till today for the rights of man.
No less significant was the impetus imparted by the Khilafat Movement to Muslim political
journalism. A tradition of vibrant and live press, underterred by the frequent penalties, closures
and forefeitures established in this period was to become the guiding principle later of the Pakistan
A yet greater significance of the Movement was the self-confidence with which it instilled the
Muslims of Sub-continent. For once they had felt neither the need for the protective patronage of
the British Government, which they had confronted, nor a compulsion to undertake a policy of
"tailism" of Mr. Gandhi and his Congress. In fact Gandhi had been forced, by the vast sweep of the
Movement, to have his own strength, counted on the side of the agitators. The Khilafat Movement
had been of the most vital import in resurrecting the confidence of the minority community.
This was the tide of mass politics in the Muslim populace which Jinnah was to take at the flood
and lead them to Pakistan. The pattern set in the Khilafat Movement, the inhibitions destroyed
and the chains broken, the energies released, were all the assets of the demand for Pakistan
almost two decades later at Lahore in 1940.
Moreover, an embryonic Muslim bourgeoisie was now keen to make its own compacts with the
feudals of the Muslim majority areas rather than let its Hindu counterparts make further inroads
into these provinces. Both now hoped to take over from the British commercial, banking and
industrial interests. This was to be reflected in the Delhi Proposals of 20th March 1927 and
subsequently in the Fourteen Points of 1929, wherein the Muslims specifically demanded the
separation of Sind from Bombay, and the extention of all reforms to the provinces of NWFP and
Baluchistan, (all Muslim majority areas), even at the price of accepting a modified form of joint
electorates. The Muslim community, therefore, had begun to take the initiative.
But it was not yet an advance in one considered direction. The Muslims seemed always to be
taking one step forward and two steps back. By and large, they were yet confused about their
objectives. Should they move ahead, obtain modern education, equip themselves with scientific
knowledge? Or should they shun all that was western and modern? The orthodoxy had led the
Khilafat Movement. It also resisted western influence. Although the perceptive and witty poet
Akbar Allahbadi had died in 1921, only such of his verses as ridiculed the west, and western
ways, became the tools of the orthodoxy.
BAQAUL-E DARWIN HAZRAT-E-INSAN THAY BOOZNAN,
HAM KO BAVAR AA GAYA EUROPE KAY INSAN DEKH KAR.
According to Darwin Man is descended from the ape,
We believed him only when we saw the Europeans.
BAY PARDAH MUJH KO NAZR AAEEN CHAND BEEBIAN
AKBAR ZAMEEN MAIN GHAIRAT-E-QAUMEEN SAY GARR GAYA.
POOCHHA JO UN SAY AAP KA PARDAH VO KYA HUVA?
KAHNAY LAGEEN KEH AQL PAY MARDON KEE PARR GAYA.
When I saw some women going about without veils
I was affixed to the ground with shame.
When I asked them what happened to the veil,
They replied that it had blinded the commonsense of menfolk.
And compounding this confusion was the fact that the Muslims were still without a single
inspiring and undisputed leader.
The Congress, in its turn, had been able to reach, in the 1920s with Gandhi, the Hindu heart and
soul. It had thus become a mass party. The Muslim League had, as yet, no such mass following.
Gandhi's ascetic mode of living, his manifestly humble bearing, (that would later earn him the
derisive title of the 'Naked Faqir' at London's Round Table Conference), had won for him, and the
Congress, the widespread support of rural India, predominantly Hindu. A few well-timed
"satyagrahas" and terms of confinement in prison had focussed upon him the attention of a vast
following. A further opening was provided to the Congress by the appointment of the Simon
Commission in 1928.
If the Khilafat Movement had given the Muslims some confidence, the Congress organised the
boycott of the Simon Commission. It took this opportunity to mobilise people on the ground that it
contained no Indian member. Upon the apparent success of this endeavour many elements in the
Congress began to consider the Muslim League a tiresome little pest which would, in due course,
realise what was best for it and then fall in line with the Congress in the wake of the latter's
undisputed strength. The Nehru Report (1928) was thus already written in the minds of these
Congress leaders before the Motilal Committee put it to paper! It provided no accomodation
for the Muslim League or the Muslim community. Both were considered leaderless and
rudderless. The Congress, on the other hand, seemed to have found a stable auchor in the by-now
internationally renowned Gandhi. At this time the Muslim League was also rent asunder by
fractious infighting. The Congress leaders considered nothing of it.
The Congress had miscalculated. To the Congress leadership Muhammad Ali Jinnah seemed to
have no prospects of becoming a leader of the masses. In bearing, in his mode of living, and in a
hundred other ways he was the opposite of Gandhi. He dressed in immaculately tailored Saville
Row Suits. His command over the English tongue, which he delivered in an impressive and almost
authoritarian voice, was the envy of Englishmen. He was over-awed neither by the Viceroy nor
the King. A successful practice at the bar of the Privy Council in London had won him the respect
of most of his somewhat surprised peers. And all this ostensibly spelt an exclusive arrogance
which, the Congress believed, could never endear him to the Muslim masses. One Congress
leader had gone to the extent of calling him a "spoilt child." The Congress leadership expected
that the Gandhi chaddar and the Nehru cap would, inevitably, snatch the advantage from Bond
Street. This was to be costly misjudgment.Read more...
The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan