Alienation of Muslims

In the beginning of the partition of Bengal movement a section of the Muslims were supportive of the protest or were generally unconcerned. However Curzon played a cunning game by appealing to the divisive and the communal sections of the Muslims by promising them a better deal. Muslims intellectuals and thinkers were already inspired by the Two Nation theory originating in the Aligarh movement of Sir Syed Ahmed. curzon visited East Bengal and convinced Dhaka Nawab Salimullah that the Muslims would derive great benefit from the Partition.Therefore with the creation of the united province of East Bengal and Assam, Muslims were very enthusiastic as they were the majority in that province. Writes Dr. R.C Majumdar that even though the Aligarh movement had promised the Muslims a separate identity and a nation, it had no home base except Punjab where Muslims were a majority. Many Muslim leaders who supported the Congress were also in favour of the Partition of Bengal for the same reason. The Muslim leaders met in Dhaka in December 1906 and passed a resolution upholding the Partition as beneficial to the Muslim community. The resolution also condemned the Boycott and the anti Partition movements. The Central Committee of the Muslim League met in 1908 in Dhaka and expressed concern over the "Hindu" agitation against Partition. In the Imperial Council meeting of 1910 when Bhupendranath Basu raised the question of reversing the Partition of Bengal, Shamsul Huda of Bengal and Mazhar Ul Haq from Bihar strongly objected. It is to be noted that even Maulana Muhammad Ali, who championed the Khilafat movement and was close to Gandhi, in 1923, as President of the Congress referred to the reversal of the Partition of Bengal as an important cause for the alienation of the Muslims from British Government (Dr. R.C Majumdar - History of Freedom Movement of India volume 2). 

The baton of Aligarh movement had passed to Mohsin Ul Mulk. He and Aga Khan, made a deputation to Lord Minto on the question of safeguarding the rights and interests of the Muslims in the new legislation. They demanded Muslim representation in every governing body so that Muslim interests could be upheld, ensuring employment of Muslims in government services, appointment of Muslim judges, a Muslim University, and so on. Minto, in his address, gave an official seal to the demand that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate electoral entities whose interests would be safeguarded separately. Minto also accepted the demand to show undue favour to the Muslims in their representation in the Legislative Council by making it far in excess of their numerical ratio to the population. These demands formed the basis of foundation of Pakistan down the line. This deputation, according to Dr. R.C Majumdar, was engineered by the Government, to ensure that the Muslims stayed away from the anti Government movements and the special favour given to the Muslims formed the basis of the worst communal genocide forty years down the line and the line of the communal politics of appeasement and violence in the name of protecting community interests to be followed thereafter. The English press also took this opportunity to ridicule the concept of Indian Nationhood and were delighted to see the Indians pitted against one another on the basis of religion.

After the Partition of Bengal and later when the Constitutional reforms were announced, Muslims thought that they should have an organization of their own to counter the growing influence of the Hindus. In the Muhammedan Educational conference in Dhaka Nawab Salimullah proposed that a new central political organization of Muslims should be formed that would look only into the interests of the Muslim community and would support the British Government. It would also give an outlet to the politically conscious section of the Muslim youth, a platform to join, instead of joining the Indian National Congress. The League was opposed to the ideals and visions of Congress and professed loyalty to the British Government. They were opposed to the political ambition of Hindus to rule over India after the departure of the British. Muslims were opposed to Shivaji festivals and were not ready to accept Hindu heroes as icons of Nationalism. Mohsin Ul Mulk went to the extent of saying that even though Muslims did not have the might of the pen, they still had their sword (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India, Vol 2). The Aligarh Muslim University in particular, the seat of Sir Syed Ahmad's radical views, was hostile to the Nationalist Movement and asked the Muslim students abroad to refrain from taking part in the Indian Home Rule League. Muhammad Ali, on whom Gandhiji had deposed faith and trust during the later period, also belonged to the anti Hindu camp as early as 1908 when he presided over the Muslim League Session. He ridiculed the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. Muslim leaders therefore largely viewed the interest of the Muslims as different from that of the Hindus. They were Muslim first and Indian afterwards (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India, Vol 2).

Needless to say that the British fully exploited the differences of the two communities. British had favoured the Muslims to the detriment of the interest of the Hindus as they viewed the Hindus as the Nationalists and aniti British, while Muslims were loyal subjects. The Partition of Bengal and the foundation of Muslim League widened the cleavage between the Hindus and the Muslims. The separate electorate proposal of the Muslims, with the explicit consent of Lord Minto, was hotly debated upon. The number of Nationalist Muslim leaders were very few and Muslims believed that Hindus would vote only for Hindu candidates and that would be detrimental to the fair and proportionate representation of the Muslims. In actual practice there were a larger no. of Muslims who got elected even from Hindu majority areas. There were few dissenting voices among Muslims on the issue of a separate electorate, like that of Nawab Sadiq Ali Khan of Lucknow. Muslims also exploiuted the eagerness among the Hindu leaders to forge unity. They demanded more than fair share of representation across all levels. 

In addition Muslim hotheads also actively fanned serious communal riots across the country in the wake of the Swadeshi and the Boycott movements, in the Mymensingh and the Kumilla districts, but the riots were not confined to Bengal alone. In 1910 a severe riot broke out in Peshawar. Riots broke out in 1917 in Bihar in which largely Muslims were victims in the hand of petty Hindu landlords. In 1918 riots in UP around 30 Muslims were killed by the Hindus. The troubles continued unabated even after Khilafat movement and Moplah riots in Malabar and the communal violence in Bengal in 1926 were noteworthy. The Hindu Muslim forged by leaders like Gandhi and Chittaranjan Das lay shattered in the wake of murder of Swami Sraddhanand of Arya Samaj, by a Muslim fanatic. The only point of unity was ever reached with the establishment of Azad Hind Provisional Government under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose where Hindus and Muslims were equal stakeholders. 

The first annual session of the Muslim League was held at Karachi on 29 Dec, 1907. Karachi was chosen because it was the capital of Sindh where Muhammad Bin Qasim came first, "with the torch of the religion and the gift of the Hadis." (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol 2). Muslim League appointed its British Committee in India under the presidentship of Syed Amir Ali. The League whole heartedly supported the Morley Minto reform proposal of a separate communal electorate for the Muslims. Hindus leaders were under the delusion that t would be easier to forge the bond of unity by appeasing the Muslims and giving in to their demands. But the result would invariably be that Muslim demands scaled up higher and higher. Even Gopal Krishna Gokhale opined that the Muslim fear of being dominated by a Hindu majority should be respected. Mohandas Gandhi said that the "Hindus should yield upto the  Mohammedans what the latter desire and in so doing they should rejoice. We can expect unity only if such mutual large heartedness is displayed." Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar remarks in his History of Freedom Movement in India that the "first sentence is one of the pro-Muslim sayings which bore the special trademark of Gandhi and did incalculable harm to the Hindu Muslim unity by putting a premium on Muslim intransigence. It was repeated in 1947 when Gandhi made the proposal that Jinnah should be the supreme ruler of India." Dr. Majumdar was scathing in his attack when he said, "the word mutual in the second sentence is meaningless, as Gandhi never dared make similar request to the Muslims and they never showed the slightest intention of doing any such foolish thing." Mohammad Ali and other Muslim League leaders never hid their intention that the Muslims formed a separate communal political entity in India. When the Muslim League, being disillusioned by British hypocrisy and their international policies in Islamic countries, viz. occupation of Egypt, Anglo French agreement w.r.t Morocco and support of the invasion of  the Turkish province of Tripoly by Italy, had  adopted a new constitution in 1913, that accepted the ideal of Self Governance under British rule, by promoting unity and cooperation with other communities. Dr. R. C. Majumdar stated in the History of the Freedom Movement that by doing so Muslim League did not fundamentally deviate from their position, but only reiterated the fact that the Communal politics was more important to them than national interest and they would extend their cooperation to the other communities only if their community interest was in alignment with the interest of the other communities. In other words, the resolution clearly stated that there were three parties in India - viz. Muslims, Hindus and the British Government, and the Muslims were free to cooperate with one or the other based on their own community's interest. This resolution thus formed the groundwork of the two nation theory of Jinnah. Congress and the other parties hailed the resolution without understanding what intention lay beneath the words - that Congress was no longer the representative of the who country and the Muslim interest was served only by Muslim League. Also the interest of the Islamic world and the Islamic countries counted more to the Muslims (they still do) than to the wider national interest. Muslim League as the representative of a section of the Muslims, did not hesitate to cooperate with the British and keep India under the subjugation of British, and only raised the red flag of rebellion when the interests of the Islamic nations were compromised in the First World War. 

In 1916 Congress and Muslim League entered into a common understanding. Congress accepted the League demand of separate electorate of the Muslims, in a way giving space to the rise of the politics of the appeasement of the Muslims. All the demands of the Muslim League were accepted by Congress for the sake of forging the illusive Hindu Muslim unity for which the Muslim leaders were not really interested. Congress action in 1916 had truly led to the foundation of Pakistan thirty years later. For the time being however it seemed to be smart move as the Government of India was surprised to see their trump card, of forging enmity between the two principal communities, had backfired.

Moplah Riots and massacre of Hindus, riots post 1921

According to Dr. R.C Majumdar, Moplah riot was a direct offshoot of the Khilafat movement that resulted in large scale massacre of mostly Hindus by the armed militant Muslims called Moplahs, Arab settlers from 9th Century A.D, in the Malabar province of South India (present day Kerala). Throughout 1921, preparations of a large scale riot were held through the large scale collection of weapons and gathering of a band of desperados. The local Muslims were further agitated by the violent speeches of the Ali brothers and the resolutions adopted in the Karachi Conference. On August 20, the district administration in Calicut attempted to arrest leaders possessing arms and that triggered a violent rebellion across the entire district. The rioters damaged roads, telegraph lines and railways. Few Europeans who were present were murdered with brutal ferocity and the administration was paralyzed. The rebels proclaimed Khilafat kingdom and proclaimed a certain Ali Musaliar as the ruler. The main attack was however directed at the unfortunate Hindu population who formed the majority in the district. The official report narrated extreme atrocities committed on the Hindus, later corroborated by the eye witnesses. Many people were massacred, forcibly converted, Hindu women brutally raped, houses plundered, wealth looted and arson committed. In short evert act of barbarism and wanton destruction was committed quite freely till troops could be mobilized to restore peace. Troop reinforcements were sent by October and the brigands took to the hills. By the end of 1921 the rebellion was well under control through severe repressive measures. In Pandikad the rebels massacred around sixty Gurkha soldiers and themselves lost around two hundred and fifty. The Muslim leaders estimated that around ten thousand Moplah rioters were killed. 

Gandhiji and the Khilfat leaders were silent on the atrocities committed by the Moplahs on the Hindus. But a district Congress report referred to the wholesale forcible conversions, murders, atrocities on women and children including murdering them in cold blood, for being "Kaffirs", desecration and burning of Hindu temples, forcible marriage of Hindu women to the Muslims, and a veritable reign of terror. A similar story is told by the surviving women of Malabar, in a deputation to the Lady Reading. It described the horrific incidents like cutting pregnant women to pieces including her unborn child by the Moplahs, wells and tanks filled with mutilated bodies and mangled corpses, fiendish outrage committed on many women, temples and deities smashed to pieces or burnt.

Instances of horrible outrage perpetrated on women were described in detail by Ms. Annie Besant's New India and also in the Times of India. In Sankaran Nair's book, "Gandhi and Anarchy", a vivid protrayal of various atrocities committed by the Moplahs, have been well documented. Nair for instance depicts the incidents where Hindu men were skinned alive or were forced to dig their own graves before being brutally killed. 

Predictably the Congress leaders disbelieved the story and Gandhi spoke about "brave God fearing Moplahs" (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India, Volume 3). Even in the Ahmedabad resolution, the Congress did not condemn the brutalities and instead tried to brush them off. "The Congress expresses its firm conviction that the Moplah disturbance was not due to the Non-co-operation or the Khilafat Movement", read the resolution, and blamed the incidents on the district administrations refusal to permit Non Violent Non Cooperation leaders to enter the district. 

Writes Dr. R. C Majumdar, "This resolution is unworthy of a great national organization, which launched the Non-co-operation movement as a protest against the Panjab atrocities. Its deliberate attempt to minimize the enormity of the crimes prepetrated by a band of fanatic Muslims upon thousands of helpless Hindus betrays a mentality which is comparable to that of the Government of India in the case of the Panjab atrocities in 1919,and must be strongly condemned by any impartial critic. It is interesting to compare the words -—almost apologetic in tone—condemning the Moplahs with those which are used against the Government for the faults—severe though they are—of some officials. It is nothing short of ridiculous to maintain that the Moplahs would not have been guilty of inhuman cruelties towards their Hindu brothers only if the message of non-violence had been allowed to reach them. It is quite clear that they had heard of the Non-co-operation slogans and Khilafat cries, but we are to presume that the ‘non-violence' part of it was carefully withheld from them. It is tacitly assumed that these fanatic Moplahs were more amenable to the cult of non-violence than hundreds of people—men of Chauri Chaura for example —who had broken into violence even though the message of non-violence was preached to them. Is it for this reason, one might ask, that while the excesses of the mob at Chauri Chaura induced Gandhi to suspend Civil Disobedience, the hundred times more heinous crimes of the Moplahs were not allowed to disturb his equanimity—they did not raise even a ripple..... The fact seems to be that Gandhi and his blind Hindu followers were prepared to go to any length in order to nurse the tender plant of Hindu-Muslim unity which had been grown by him, and had willy- nilly to be preserved at any cost during the campaign against the Government, as success was otherwise impossible. It is not necessary to imagine that Gandhi or his devoted Hindu followers were callous to the incredible sufferings that the Moplahs had inflicted upon the Hindus, but they perhaps thought that they had to swallow the bitter pill for the sake of the greater good of the country as a whole." He continues, "The levity with which the Muslim and Congress leaders treated the Moplah outrage is nothing short of scandalous. The Moplah outrages far exceeded in enormity those perpetrated during the Martial Law in the Panjab."

Khilafat leaders like Hasrat Mohani condoned and even justified the acts of violence. The other great friend of Mahatma, Shaukat Ali, moved a resolution for the provision of Moplah orphans and families. Nothing was mentioned about the atrocities committed on the Hindus.

Moplah riots were not isolated incidents. After the withdrawal of the Khilafat movement the Muslims were no more obliged to follow Non cooperation and for them a safer bet would be to side with the British Government. Except a few Nationalist Muslims, the communal masses in general asserted their rights through riots in almost all parts of India, esp. those which were dominated by the Muslims. While it is true that there were some provocation particularly by the Arya Samajists, under no circumstance the behaviour of the Muslim mob was justifiable. And yet the so called Nationalist(?) leaders like Muhammad Ali and Saukat Ali and the leaders of the Muslim League, tried to whitewash their crimes. The reaction of Congress, esp. of Gandhi and Motilal Nehru, was mild. There were riots in Gulbarga where Muslim mobs under the Nizam regime desecrated and burnt over fifty temples and looted and burnt Hindu houses and shops until police intervened. There were riots on the streets of Calcutta in 1923-24 between Muslims and Arya Samajists, and in Kohat of NWFP where Hindus had to be temporarily removed to prevent their slaughter. Riots broke out on the occasion of Bakr Eid in Delhi in 1924. Riots broke out in Lucknow and the military had to be called in. Almost all riots were marked by forced conversion of Hindus, arson, and murder of Hindu men and women. The Bengal Provincial Congress Committee under Chittaranjan Das, approved of a Bengal Pact to prevent riots in Bengal. The Bengal Pact included - Representation in the Legislative Council on the population basis with separate electorates, Representation to local bodies to be in the proportion of 60 to 40 in every district (majority vs. minority), fifty five percent of Government posts to the Muslims, no music in front of mosques, cow slaughter for religious sacrifices allowed. 

The news of the widespread riots and loss of lives made Gandhi sad and he declared a twenty one day fast as a penance. A Unity Conference was called by the leaders of all faith. However, after four days of the beginning of the fast, a serious riot broke out in Shahjahanpur in which military had to be called and nine people were killed and more than  hundred injured. When Gandhi broke his fast, riots broke out again in Calcutta, Allahabad, Jabbalpur and other regions. 

Hindu Muslim relations continued to grow worse in 1925-26. Atleast sixteen riots broke out in Delhi, Aligarh and Central Provinces. One of the nastiest riots broke out in Calcutta in 1926. Hundreds were killed and many were injured in the organized violence that followed. In 1926 Swami Sraddhananda was killed by a fanatic Muslim as he had organized reconversion of Muslim converts to Arya Samajist faith. Riots continued unabated in 1927, in Barisal where Muslims denied Hindu procession to pass through their area, in Lahore, in Champaran and other places. 

Communal riots, fueled by the Communal Award of the British and the vicious communal propaganda of the Muslim League, as well as the follies of the Congress, continued throughout the 1930s in large parts of India. In Ferozabad, the family of a Hindu Doctor, Jivaram, was burnt alive, including his children and patients in 1935. In March 1935, a Hindu was brutally murdered by a Muslim named Abdul Qaiyum, on ground of insulting Islam. The murderer was executed but his funeral procession was marked by large scale violence by his coreligionists. A dispute between Sikhs and Muslims about a mosque that was situated within the limits of a Sikh Gurdwara, resulted in serious troubles between the two communities. Rioting broke out in United Provinces, in Lahore, and other areas over music during religious processions, and bullock sacrifice. Bombay riots in 1936, which started over objection to the revamp of a Hindu temple by local Muslims, led to the killing of 93 people.