MAULANA AZAD AND PARTITION
by Asghar Ali Engineer
In the current debate on partition started by Jaswant Singh’s book every one is talking about the role of Jinnah, Nehru and Sardar Patel in the partitioning of India but hardly anyone has mentioned what Maulana Azad, an important leader of the Indian National Congress and an eminent scholar of Islam who held the post of President of the Congress for six long years before partition, had done to avert partition.
It is true that Maulana was also party to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution accepting partition but other than this Maulana Azad never accepted partition and had warned Jawaharlal Nehru about certain of his acts which politically were not wise and might result in the alienation of Jinnah or in partition. Pandit Nehru was not for a weak centre and hence he consciously contributed to partition but Azad had no such interest in partition and wanted to prevent it. He supported it only as something inevitable.
To understand Maulana Azad’s viewpoint his own book India Wins Freedom and the additional 30 pages which were published 30 years after his death are very helpful. About partition Maulana had a definite point of view that cannot be ignored if we are to understand the genesis and causes of partition. Maulana Azad was an important leader of the Congress, on one hand, and on the other, an important leader of Muslims and a great religious scholar. Hence his views and role assume added significance.
Maulana Azad had a passionate commitment to the freedom of India and as the youngest president of the Congress in Ramgarh session had said, in his presidential address that if an angel descended from heaven with a gift of freedom for India and declared from the Qutub Minar that India was a free country, he would not accept it unless Hindus and Muslims were united, because if India does not get freedom it is India’s loss but if Hindus and Muslims do not unite it is a loss for all of humanity. Thus Maulana Azad was passionately committed to Hindu-Muslim unity and would in no case agree to partition for personal reason, whether the centre remains weak or strong.
It would be interesting to mention here Maulana’s views on Pakistan. Maulana writes in India Wins Freedom:
“I must confess that the very term Pakistan goes against my grain. It suggests that some portions of the world are pure while others are impure. Such a division of territories into pure and impure is un-Islamic…Furthermore, it seems that the scheme of Pakistan is a symbol of defeatism and has been built up on the analogy of the Jewish demand for a national home. It is a confession that Indian Muslims cannot hold of their own in India as a whole and would be content to withdraw to a corner specially reserved for them….”
Over 90 million in number, they are in quantity and quality a sufficiently important element in Indian life to influence decisively all questions of administration and policy. Nature has further helped them by concentrating them in certain areas. In such a context, the demand for Pakistan looses all force. As a Muslim, I for one am not prepared for a moment to give up my right to treat the whole of India as my domain and share in the shaping of its political and economic life. To me it seems a sure sign of cowardice to give up what is my patrimony and content myself with a mere fragment of it.
The Maulana then examines the consequences of partition quite objectively. Thus he says:
“Let us consider dispassionately the consequences which will follow if we give effect to the Pakistan scheme. India will be divided into two states, one with a majority of Muslims and the other of Hindus. In the Hindustan State there will remain three and half crores of Muslims scattered in small minorities all over the land. With 17 per cent in U.P., 12 per cent in Bihar and 9 per cent in Madras, they will be weaker than they are today in the Hindu majority provinces. They have had their homelands in these regions for almost a thousand years and built up well known centres of Muslim culture and civilization there.
They will awaken overnight and discover that they have become alien and foreigners. Backward industrially, educationally and economically, they will be left to the mercies to what would become an unadulterated Hindu raj.
On the other hand, their position within the Pakistan State will be vulnerable and weak. Nowhere in Pakistan will their majority be comparable to the Hindu majority in the Hindustan States.
In fact their majority will be so slight that it will be offset by the economical, educational and political lead enjoyed by non-Muslims in these areas. Even if this were not so and Pakistan were overwhelmingly Muslim in population, it still could hardly solve the problem of Muslims in Hindustan.”
As to the fear that if Pakistan is not formed the Centre with Hindu majority will interfere in Muslim majority provinces, Maulana countered with the argument (which was what the Cabinet Mission Plan was about) “The Congress meets this fear by granting full autonomy to the provinces. It has also provided for two lists of Central subjects, one compulsory and none optional so that if any provincial unit so wants, it can administer all subjects itself except a minimum delegated to the Centre. The Congress scheme, therefore ensures that Muslim majority provinces are internally free to develop as they will, but can at the same time influence the Centre on all issues which affect India as a whole.”
Thus Maulana was not opposing partition only as a congress leader but also with the full conviction of a wise Muslim who could foresee far reaching consequences. Maulana Azad, unlike other politicians, was a far sighted leader both of Muslims and of whole of India also. What Maulana has said in his opposition to Pakistan is clearly borne out in the post-partition period.
Actually Indian Muslims as a whole lost much more than others. They were fragmented and divided. Had Pakistan not been formed today there would have been more than 33 per cent Muslims, a huge number in any democracy. In any case they would have formed their own government in the Muslim majority provinces and would have had stake in whole of India. Several Muslim leaders could have become prime minister of India.
Maulana says, according to the numbers of Muslims than in India that Pakistan will result in only 9 crores of Muslims in Hindustan, scattered throughout the country. Today there are about 15 crores of Muslims but are still a minority and face several problems as minority and also have to carry the guilt – wrongly of course – of having partitioned the country. Ironically there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan and yet they constitute only 14 per cent minority.
Also, Pakistan could not remain united and feel into two pieces as Bengali Muslims could not carry on with West Pakistani Muslims for more than 25 years. Thus whole sub-continent got divided into three parts. Had partition not taken place in 1947, what is Bangla Desh today would also have been part of united India. Also, democracy has eluded Pakistan in post-partition period and it has become totally dependent on American aid and military has remained, and will remain for foreseeable future, politically influential even if democracy lasts longer in Pakistan.
Though Maulana Azad does not mention it as that problem had not arisen then, there would have been no Kashmir problem either. Kashmir either would have become independent or would have enjoyed autonomy like other Muslim majority areas and thousands of Kashmiris would not have lost their lives as they did due to dispute between India and Pakistan today.
Also, both India and Pakistan spend astronomical sums on maintaining their armies. What for? Only due to fear of each other. There would have been only one army for the whole country and we would have spent much less on our army and could have faced external threats, specially from china much more effectively. What is much more important thing is that we would not have faced terrorism as both Pakistan and India are facing today. Terrorism alone has consumed thousands of life and huge amounts on armament.
Maulana Azad, in those thirty pages which were published thirty years after his death blames both Nehru and Sardar Patel. According to the Maulana, Nehru made a mistake by refusing to take two Muslim League members as cabinet ministers after provincial elections in 1937 in U.P. It made Jinnah distrustful of the Congress leaders whom he began to describe as ‘Hindu’ leaders.
Second mistake committed by Jawaharlal Nehru was his statement to the press in July 1946 after taking over as president of the Congress in which he said Cabinet Mission Plan could be changed. Muslim League and Congress both had accepted the Plan and to give such statement in an atmosphere of distrust and mutual suspicion was certainly a mistake. That finally drove Jinnah to insist on partition. And British could achieve what they had wanted.
What Muslims in what is Pakistan today?
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
(Secular Perspective September 1-15, 2009)