PARTITION OF INDIA IN 1947: A DISASTROUS CULMINATION OF COMMUNALISM IN INDIA

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PARTITION OF INDIA IN 1947: A PRODUCT OF COLONIALISM, CAPITALISM AND COMMUNALISM IN INDIA

Partition of India: The Disastrous Product of Communalism in India
Partition of India: The Disastrous Product of Communalism in India ( Source: The Times of India)

A SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC INDIA” that will be governed on the principles of “JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY” had been envisioned by the makers of India since the freedom struggle for SWARAJ commenced but what colonialism and communalism eventually created out of India in 1947 were two geographically different regions- Hindustan and Pakistan with the constant perpetuation of communal ideologies which for a long time afterwards, had structurally functioned as the root cause of communal politics, communal violence and communal tensions between both religions and nations.

The geopolitical partitioning line drawn between India and Pakistan in 1947 was premised upon the inexplicable communal violence that continues to be a justification for excruciating communalist actions like Anti-Sikh Riots 1984, Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmiri-Hindu Pandit 1989, Babri Masjid Demolition in Ayodhya 1992, Muzzafarnagar Violence 2013 etc. between the two countries even today and therefore, it is imperative to analyze “how and when COMMUNALISM grew, spread and intensified to reach the disastrous culmination of PARTITION OF INDIA in 1947?” which is the prime objective of this article.

UNDERSTANDING “COMMUNALISM” AND ITS GENESIS IN INDIA:

According to sociologists, in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like India, when any religious or ethnic community start considering their social, political and economic interests separate to the national interest so much so that they start imposing their ideologies over other communities, thereby hampering the national integrity and communal harmony, then this process is termed as “communalism.” Historians hold the opinion that communalism is a modern phenomenon that had germinated in the colonial period in India due to multiple socio-religio-cultural and economic differences between Hindus and Muslims but was catalyzed by coercive policies of British rule. Let’s revisit the colonial history for analyzing the genesis and growth of communalism in colonial India.

According to the recent historians, “Communalism in India” is the algebraic product of three social constructions i.e. Colonialism, Capitalism and Feudalism. Historians assert that aftermath of the Revolt of 1857, the British imperial government was alarmed by Hindu-Muslim integration and post 1857, their colonial legislative decisions consistently suppressed Muslim community so much so that they took a long time to respond to the modernizing processes and the socio-religious developments of 19th century.

In the meantime, there was a massive growth in the middle-class intelligentsia of Hindus as a result of Macaulyian system of English medium education in India and the socio-religious reformist and revivalist movements that emerged on the Indian land. By the end of the late 19th century, the stagnated economy and the cut-throat competition for job brought Hindus and Muslims in the opposition to each other.

INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS AND MUSLIM LEAGUE: COMMUNALIST DISSENSIONS 

Striking on the hot iron rod of these contentious communal differences, the British government who had been too regressive to Muslims after Wahabi Movement and Mutiny of 1857  had, later on, lured them for political concessions and reservation on communal lines as to counteract the process of the emerging nationalism. Resultantly, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who had been a firm promoter of Hindu-Muslim unity denied Muslims for participating in Congress nationalist activities and democratic organizations after the foundation of Indian National Congress. By the year 1887, two years after the formation of INC there was strong resistance to this all-India based organization both from colonizers like Lord Dufferin and from Muslims like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

Although endured the sharp criticism, the Indian National Congress couldn’t manage to re-connect with Muslims harmoniously and resolve the communal issues amongst them because the colonial government continuously acted as a mediator between them who always illusioned with more than what Congress could provide and with the upsurge of militant nationalism, the reconciliation became almost an impossibility because religiosity became an emblem of nationalism, the leaders like Tilak celebrated Hindu practices like Ganpati and Shivaji festivals, Aurobindo Ghosh promoted the Aryanization of the world which was deemed by Muslim leaders as an imposition of Hindu religious practices upon Muslims.

To this excruciatingly intensified inter-religious relation of Muslims and Hindus, the Partition of Bengal 1905 was the perfect colonial strategy for devastating the rising spirit of “Nationalism” and thereby “Dividing and Ruling” India. Although in the early hours, the intentions of imperialists seemed defeated with the massive anti-colonial resistance against the decision with increasing Hindu-Muslim participation in Swadeshi and Boycott Movement but it climaxed in 1907 with exactly what they had expected- the foundation of All-India Muslim League under the leadership of Aga Khan and Nawab Salaimullah of Dacca who thereafter like Syed Ahmed Khan propagated the notions of separation of Muslims from Congress and Hindus.

For consolidation of the Muslim interests, the Viceroy of India Lord Minto provided the separate electorates to Muslims in India under Government of India Act 1909 and for this communalist step, he is regarded as the father of Communalism in India. According to Mr David Page’s interpretation in “Prelude to Partition, 1982”,

“The granting of separate electorates was an attempt to extend and broaden the base of its rule by extending and broadening the support of its traditional allies.”

By 1909, another communalist Hindu organization called Punjab Hindu Sabha also came into existence under the leadership of U.N. Mukherjee and Lal Chand who were too enraged with Muslims and by 1925, Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh [RSS] was also set up but Hindu forces of communalism were not as stronger as that of Muslims and therefore, they remained mostly unobserved.

Lucknow Pact, 1916
Lucknow Pact,1916

Time rolled by, the communal divisions diluted and by 1916, both Hindus and Muslims realized the importance of collective action against colonialism because the British Government intended to weaken the power of Khalifa, the spiritual head of Islam post First World War which facilitated the reconciliation of Hindus and Muslims.

Consequently, the consociational document Lucknow Pact officially called Congress-League Scheme 1916 was jointly drafted by Indian National Congress and All-India Muslim League in December 1916 that functioned to build a junction between Hindus and Muslims. Under this Pact, Congress agreed to “accept separate electorates for Muslims in Central and Provincial Legislative Council; and conferred on Muslims 1/3rd proportion of seats in the all-India and Provincial Council and Muslim League agreed to jointly put forward the nationalist demands to the colonial government, that are underlined below:

  1. Self-Government for India
  2. Separation of judicial and executive organs
  3. Expansion of Provincial and Central Legislative Council
  4. Demand for charging salary of Secretary of State on British treasury rather than Indian exchequer.

What this integration finally brought is the magnified irresistible wave of Gandhian Non-Cooperation Movement that although proved failure witnessed the synergetic involvement of Hindus and Muslims in the nationalist quest for self-government.

However, the communal differences had never invisiblized but submerged and therefore, the unity was short-lived and during 1920-1930, the communal disparities distanced Muslims from Hindus to a terrible extent. The Swarajists, in 1925 paid no attention to Muslim concerns in Bengal that eventually brought rift in the relationship and the rise of Arya Samaj’s “Shudhi Movement”  paralyzed the backbone of the unit because it endeavoured to bring back the “Hindus proselytized into Christian or Muslim” again into Hindu fold after the re-conversion and sanctification.

14 Points of Jinnah and Pakistan Resolution announced.

By 1928, the Muslims and Hindus collectively demonstrated their agitation against Simon Commission but Hindu Mahasabha’s apathy for the incorporation of Muslim demands in Nehru Report led to the culmination of the breakdown of Indian National Congress and Muslim League. As a consequence, the Muslim support to the national struggle for independence weakened and Jinnah called it “Parting of ways” from congress. Then onwards, the participation of Muslims with Congress was negligible and even in Gandhian Civil Disobedience Movement of 1931, only Muslims from the State of Kashmir and Khudai Khidmatgars took part that was very less. By 1932, the British government conceded the 14 demands of Jinnah through Communal Award and guaranteed communalism in perpetuity.

IDEA OF PAKISTAN: A COMMUNALIST STEP TOWARDS “PARTITION OF INDIA” IN 1947

B612 20210218 231900 310 PARTITION OF INDIA

Till 1935, the unbalanced yet somewhat Hindu-Muslim involvement in the freedom struggle for Poorna-Swaraj could be detected but within the timeline of 1937-1947, the communalist political tussle between them amplified to the degree that despite the several attempts for negotiations, the culmination of Partition of India 1947 couldn’t be averted. Indian Provincial Elections of 1937 that were conducted in accordance with Government of India Act 1935 had realistically fanned the fire of communalism during late 1940s since Muslim League failed to achieve majority in any of 11 provinces despite communal representation while Congress managed to succeed in 7 provinces. When League attempted to form the coalition government with League, Congress declined since it was victorious in Hindu-majority provinces.

Amidst heightened communal tensions, the first articulation of idea of Pakistan by Muslim nationalist Rahmat Ali in a 1932-pamphlet called “Now or Never: Are We to Live or Perish Forever?” regained interest and based on this idea, Muslim League under V.D. Savarkar propounded the two-nation theory in 1937 that was expounded through “Pakistan Resolution” in Lahore Session of 1940 by Mr. Jinnah during Second World War with an argument that in a Hindu-dominated region, the Muslims will always be socially, politically and culturally vulnerable. According to Mr. Jinnah:

“Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literary traditions. They neither intermarry nor eat together, and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.”

PAKISTAN RESOLUTION AND COMMUNAL DEADLOCK IN INDIA:

Under high temperature during an outbreak of Second World War, Britain realized the importance of Indian coordination in war and therefore, Viceroy Linlithgow came with August Offer 0n 8 August 1940 that proposed for the immediate implementation of “DOMINION STATUS” in India and establishment of “CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY” majorly by Indians after the conclusion of the war, the expansion of Viceroy’s executive council for affirming Indian majority and a promise that no future constitution will be adopted without the CONSENT of minorities in India. The word “CONSENT” acted as the “VETO” to the minorities and chiefly to the  Muslim League who rejected the conciliation between Hindus and Muslims afterwards.

Comprehensively Understanding Communal Deadlock between Muslim League and Congress 1940-1947

Cabinet Mission attempts to solve communal deadlock in India
Cabinet Mission attempts to solve communal deadlock in India

Dogmatic Muslim League resultantly rejected the proposals laid out in Cripps Mission of 1942, C. Rajagopalachari Plan and Desai Liaqat Pact of 1944, Wavell Plan of 1945 and Cabinet Mission of 1946 which intended to make moderate negotiations with Muslims because Mr Jinnah aspired to an independent Pakistan comprising of Muslim majority areas that will be a sovereign territory which will be performing its affairs without Hindu interference. Mr Jinnah managed to persuade the colonials for creating Pakistan under Mountbatten’s Plan 1947, that outlined following points:

  1. It suggested conducting a plebiscite in Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assemblies to decide by a simple majority if these provinces wanted Partition of India or not.
  2. It subscribed to the creation of two dominions and two Constituent Assemblies if the partition of India was finalized.
  3. Sindh could determine on its own whether to join any of the dominions or remain independent.
  4. For recognizing the demand of Congress’ unified India, Mountbatten claimed:
  • Independence of Princely States to determine by themselves whether they intend to join India or Pakistan.
  • Independence of Bengal
  • Declared that freedom would be showered on the nations on 15th August 1947.
  • A Boundary Commission would be set up to demarcate the geopolitical boundary between the two nations if Partition of India was decided.

Nerved of the inevitability of Partition of India, Congressmen by 1947 upheld and welcomed Mountbatten’s Plan. Without the smallest pause, the plebiscite was conducted in Punjab, Bengal, Sylhet districts in Bengal that concluded that India would be partitioned. Based on its results, East Bengal and West Punjab became part of Pakistan dominion and West Bengal and East Punjab remained in Indian geographical Region. Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP decided to join Pakistan.

Violence during Partition of India

Premised upon Mountbatten’s Plan, the British Parliament enacted the Indian Independence Act on 5th July 1947 that got royal assent on 18th July 1947 and was implemented on 15th August 1947. It outlined the following provisions:

  1. Validated Partitioning of India into two separate and sovereign dominions: India and Pakistan who would be administered by their respective Governors-General with effect from 15th August 1947 
  2. Creation of two Separate Constituent Assemblies who would articulate the Constitution of India and Pakistan during the traditional period.
  3. The complete legislative authority conferred upon the respective Constituent Assemblies of the two new nations
  4. In the interlude, the governments of dominions will function by the Government of India Act 1935.
  5. Termination of British suzerainty over the princely states, with effect from 15 August 1947

Under this legislation, Pakistan and India achieved their independence on the 14th and 15th of August in the year 1947 respectively.

Indian Independence was an algebraic product of countless sacrifices of revolutionaries, indomitable courage of nationalists, the bloodshed of the general public, the life struggles of non-stoppable leaders and the nationalist’s vision for unfurling the tricolour of an invincible nation that would forever be sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic but Partition of India that was the byproduct of Indian Independence demarcated the continuous perpetuation of communal tensions between the two nations forever… Therefore, the happiness of Indian Independence was also accompanied by the communal Partition of India.

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Gaurav Rathi

An enthusiastic Delhiite, Gaurav Rathi is pursuing B.A. English Hons. in Delhi University. Rather than reading history, he likes re-inventing and re-approaching history and while not researching and writing blogs, he is reading novels or celebrating life with family and friends.

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