This is a short summary basically of the events that lead to the Tragic story of partition. The summary of events are based on the ” Tragic Story of partition” by H.V.Seshadri.
The Tragic Story of Partition – HV Seshadri
– A Summary
1703-1762 – Shah Wahiullah Dehlavi inspired the Wahabi movement & bore upon Muslims to keep away from national mainstream. He asked them to feel a part of the entire Muslim world. His son, Shah Abdul Aziz 1746-1822- declared Bharat as Dar ul Harb. They created an army of 80,000 wahabis and attacked the Sikhs. After being routed by the Sikhs, they attacked the British. The British therefore took upon the process of neutralization.
Sir Syed Ahmed khan, a loyal servant of the British formed the Aligarh Muslim University in 1875. However, in 1884, he declared that Muslims, Xtians and Hindus are part of the same Hindu nation. Needless to say, this was only for the consumption of the Hindus. By 1888, he declared that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together and one has to conquer the other to survive.
In 1904, the seeds of the partition of Bengal were sown by the British & in 1905 the partition happened. Sir Henry Cotton said, “ The objective of the measure was to shatter the unity of India.” Nawab Salimullah Khan was won over by the British by a bribe of 1 Lac. But his own brother, Khwaja Atikulla declared that the Muslims are against partition.
The opposition to the partition of Bengal was widespread across the country. On Oct 16, 1905 over 50,000 people participated in Raksha bandhan program on the banks of Ganga, resolving to undo the partition. Rabindranath Tagore and other leaders were in the forefront of this movement. This movement was also called the Vandemataram movement. Vandemataram become the mantra that aroused the entire country.
By 1906, Minto Morley observed that caste and religion were weakening and prepared the separate electorate plan.
Founding of Muslim League: On 30th Dec 1906, the Muslim league was formed at Dacca under the leadership of Nawab Salimullah Khan with Aga Khan as its permanent President. Aga Khan is 48th in the lineage of Shia Imams. The following were the stated objectives:
a. Loyalty to the British
b. To protect the political rights of the Muslims
c. As far as possible under the paras a and b to promote friendly feelings between Muslims and other communities.
Not withstanding the above, a pamphlet was published by name Lal Ishtehar and distributed to the delegates – “ Ye Muslims Arise , Awake ! Do not read in the same schools with Hindus. Do not buy anything from a Hindu shop. Do not touch any article manufactured by Hindu hands. Do not give any employment to a Hindu. Do not accept any degrading office under a Hindu. You are ignorant, but if you acquire knowledge you can at once send all Hindus to Jehannum( Hell). You form the majority of the population in this province. The Hindu has no wealth of his own and has made himself rich only by despoiling you of your wealth. If you become sufficiently enlightened, then the Hindus will starve and soon become Mohammadans.”
On 4th March, riots broke out in Comilla, now in Bangladesh. Rape, arson, loot were common in that period.
At the same time due to the Vandemataram movement lead by Lal, Bal and Pal, the British government was forced to annul the partition of Bengal. The Muslim league leaders were shocked. As recorded by Aga Khan, In 1906, a barrister by name Md.Ali Jinnah was vehemently opposed to the principle of separate electorates. He said this principle is dividing the nation itself.
The freedom movement now started spreading worldwide. Shyamji Krishna Varma, Lala Hardayal, Rash Behari Bose, Savarkar, Madam Cama, Dhingra and many more took the message of India’s freedom worldwide. At the same time in 1910, Khudiram Bose, a boy of 18 years threw a bomb a British official, Kingsford. The nation was astounded by the bravery of the boy.
Right Approach to Dissolving Muslim separatism :
Bismil-Ashfaq friendship and their sacrifice for the nation. Both were poets, friends and revolutionaries. Both were hanged on the same day, time but in different jails.
Kazi Saifuddin supported Tilak’s Ganesh Utsav Mandals, Shivaji Jayanti etc. However, at the same time Times of India declared Sivaji as anti-Muslim.
Some more thoughtful Muslims came forward against separatist attitude of the Mullah-maulvis.
Appeasement of Muslims by Congress :
In 1888 itself under Badruddin Tyabji had declared that Congress would not pursue any policy that is opposed nearly unanimously by both Hindus and Muslims.
Swami Shradhananda observed that even from 1899 Muslim delegates were given free tickets by the Congress.
1916, Lucknow pact which accepted and gave weightage to separate electorates was approved by stalwarts of the likes of Tilak too. Among the top leaders, only Madan Mohan Malviya opposed it.
1919, Khilafat movement began to restore the Khalifa of Turkey, Kemal Pasha. Kemal himself was inspired by Jamaluddin Afghani who advocated liberal reform in all Muslim countries by giving up clinging to their past.
Oblivious of this, the Muslim league insisted that the Congress join the khilafat movement. Gandhi launched the non co-operation movement was launched to support the Khilafat movement. Even Tilak supported it. Swami Shradhananda spoke from the Jama Masjid. Aga Khan and Amir Ali met Kemal Pasha but they were rebuked. He said” Islam is a religion of defeated people. He dethroned Islam from pedestal of official state religion and declared Turkey secular.
Moulivis and Mullahs did support Gandhiji in large numbers initially It is interesting that only Jinnah who is said to have felt threatened by the influx of Mullahs and Moulvis into politics and who was at one time in the Congress, opposed this move of Gandhiji
Khilafat aftermath : The Muslims went on a rampage on the Hindus. Servants of India society recorded that in Moplah, Kerala, over 1 lac people were displaced, 20K converted and 1500 people killed. Even pregnant women and cows were not spared. They killed the men and married the women and they declared Gandhi a kafir.
During this period, Swami Shradhananda notes, “ even nationalist Muslims support Moplahs. Gandhi said “ They are god fearing people & have acted based on what they have understood of Islam. Annie Beasant rebuked Gandhi. The Congress distanced itself then from the movement. Marxist historians now bud the Moplah uprising as nationalist and in 1971, the Government of Kerala officially recognized the participants as “freedom fighters”.
1925, Suhrawardy, a one time member of Swaraj Party wrote on Haj very approvingly that Islam claims thousands of Hindus every year. These people are put in the discipline of the annual pilgrimage of Mecca and they retrun to India purged and purified, and adopting the manners and customs of Arabia, become as distinct from the Hindus as the Hindus are from the Chinese and Jews. Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, a so called nationalist Muslim warned Hindus against putting any obstacles in our path for the Tanzim movement.
Ghar Vapasi : By this time Swami Shradhananda realized that unless Islamic conversions are arrested, we would not be able to survive. In 1923, he reconverted 18,000 Muslims back to the Hindu fold. He observed that while Muslims involved in Tabligh were encouraged by the Congress, Hindus involved in Shudhi were tabooed. In 1926, Swamiji was murdered by Abdul Rashid. Gandhi supported Rashid saying that guilty are those who excited feelings of hatred against one another. He called Rashid a brother. The case for Rashid was fought by Asaf Ali. We must remember that Gandhi refused to put a signature in favour of saving the lives of Bhagat Singh, called Sivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots did call Rashid his brother and asked a senior Congress leader to fight to save him.
1924, every Hindu festival was attacked. Gandhi declared in Young India “ My own experience but confirms that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. Need the Hindus blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards there will always be bullies..
Hindus Massacred in Kohat : Kohat was a small town with less than 5% of Hindu population in NWFP As many as 150 Hindus were killed. The entire Hindu population had to seek shelter in Rawalpindi, 320 km away. Gandhi fasted for 21 days since he could do nothing to bring the two communities together. When Mahadev Desai asked for what error he was undergoing the fast, , he replied, “What error ? I may be charged wit breach of faith with Hindus. Hindu women are in mortal terror of Muslim goondas. How can I ask the Hindus to put up with everything patiently ? and then said “ Who listens to me and yet even today I ask Hindus to die and not to kill”.
On 18th April 1924, Rabindranath Tagore wrote in the TOI, “ Muslims cannot confine their patriotism to one country”.
In 1924, Lala Lajpat Rai wrote to CR Das, “ I am not afraid of the 7 crores of Muslims of Hindustan, but I think the seven crores of Hindustan plus armed hosts of Afghanistan, Central Asia, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Turkey will be irresistible. I do honestly believe in the necessity and desirability of Hindu Muslim unity. I am fully prepared to the trust the Muslim leaders, but what about the injunctions of the Koran and Hadis? The leaders cannot override them. I hope your learned mind and wise head will find some way out of this difficulty.
Rising Demands: From 4 to 14 points. Partition Plan
a. Sind separation from Mumbai.
b. NWFP & baluchistan as full fledged governor provinces.
c. Punjab and Bengal to have proportionate representation
d. 1/3 Muslims in Central legislature.
e. Plus 14 other points
1930, Nehru adopted completed independence resolution. In the same year, Iqbal as President of Muslim league pressed for partition.
Communal award by PM of Britain, Ramsay Macdonald – 1932 : Separate electorates for Sikhs, Muslims, Eurpoeans, Xtians, Anglos & depressed classes. But same minority rights not to Hindus in Muslim majority areas. While Ambedkar supported this, Gandhi opposed this thus saving Hindu society. However, the Congress took the official stand of neither supporting nor rejecting the award. This angered Malviaya and Bhai Parmanand who quit the Congress.
1937, Congress swept the Provincial elections, League slumped. This also saw the metamorphisis of Jinnah who had returned to India in 1934. The League took a complete separatist stand.
Savarkar, who formed the Hindu Mahasabha declared in 1937 that India cannot be assumed to be a homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main, The Hindu and the Muslim. This came as a rude shock to the other Indian nationalists. However, Savarkar was dead set against formation of a Hindu India an Muslim India. Let the Indian state be purely Indian with no cognizance whether he is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or a Jew. (Editor comments: Clarification issued by Savarkar is in this link ).
In 1923, Kakinada Session, Vandemataram was opposed in its full form by the Congress President, Maulana Md. Ali. Sri Vishnu Digambar Pulaskar however continued to sing it. In 1922, Congress had already accepted Sare Jahan Se Accha as an alternate anthem. By 1937, Vandemataram was truncated.
1931, Flag Committee, Patel, Maualana Azad, Tara Singh, Nehru, Kalelkar, Dr.hardikar and Dr.Patabhi Sitaramayya. They all accepted the saffron flag with Chakra in blue. Yet the tricolour was chosen.
Shiv Bhavani of Bhushan was banned in 1934. Bhajans were tampered – Raghupati Raghava Rajaram to say Ishwar Allah tere naam. Link
Cow slaughter was given free hand. In a letter to Jinnah in 1938, Nehru assured that Congress would not restrict the established rights of the muslims.
Congress resigns League enters :
22nd Dec 1939 –In protest against the British unequivocal stand of involving India in the WW II without as much consulting the leaders of the country, the Congress leaders resigned from the government. The Muslim league was quick to act and occupied all positions. In Assam, the got a golden opportunity to change the demography by settling Muslims and making it into a Muslim dominated area.
The Muslim league submitted a memorandum for the partition of India as Pakistan. It is notable that in the Pakistan resolution, the demand was made for independent states for Muslims in N.E and Eastern Zones of India. It was later that the word States was changed as State. Jinnah termed it as a printing error.
Savarkar calls for militarizing Hindus. He said” Mind, Swaraj will never come to you, although you cover the whole earth with paper resolutions. But if you pass resolutions with rifles on your shoulders, you will attain it.
In 1942, Cripps mission – he assured that Hyderabad state would be part of the Muslim dominion. Congress launched the “ Quit India movement”. It failed due to absence of efficient organisatiion of national revolutionary forces. ( JP)
British-League- Communist Hook Up:
The communists had supported Congress in anti-British stand since Hitler had tied up with Stalin. However when Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Russia aligned with Britain and therefore the communists and league cosied up.
Gandhi- Jinnah talks for 19 days:
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee urged Gandhi not to engage in talks with Jinnah.
Gandhi argued against two nation theory, “ I find no parallel in history for a body of coverts and their descendants claiming to be one nation apart from their parent stock.” While Gandhi called Jinnah has Quaid E Azam, Jinnah always referred to him as Mr.Gandhi. By talking to Jinnah, Gandhi boosted Jinnah’s image.
1945-46 Elections ;
The league however was able to win only in 2 provinces ( Bengal and Sind) out of the 5 it had sought for Pakistan ( Baluchistan, Punjab, NWFP, Bengal and Sind).
In a counter attack aimed at recapturing the momentum, on Aug 16th 1946, the League called for a Direct Action Day.
Aug 16th 1946, Direct action Day:
Jinnah declared jehad against Hindus. Terror was unleashed on the Hindus. In Bengal and Sind, holiday was declared on 16th August. The police which was overwhelmingly Muslim, joined hands. In Bengal and sind, Muslims formed 70% of the police. At the meeting convened under the Presidentship of Premier Suhrawardy, speaker after speaker called for Jehad against the Hindus. The Hindus retaliated and seeing that the Muslims were now at the receiving end, the governor called in the army. Over 10,000 men and women were killed, 15000 injured and over 1 lac rendered homeless in Calcutta alone.
The league shifted operations to Noakhali. From a relief centre in E.Bengal Miss Mueral Lester wrote on 6th Nov 1946, “ The women had to watch their husbands being murdered and then forcibly converted and married to the very people who were responsible for their husband’s murder. Mullahs and Maulvis accompanied the rioters to complete the conversion process.”
When Sucheta and Acharya Kriplani met the governor and reported the mass killings and conversions, the governor replied that it is quite natural since Hindu women are more beautiful than their Muslim counterparts. Jinnah on his visit to England found that the Queen and the King were favorable to Pakistan, while Churchill coreponded secretly wiht Jinnah under a pseudonym.
Syama Prasadji was the first to reach those riot ravaged areas to organize self defence among the Hindus. The riots spread to Bihar where the Hindus had an upper hand. Acharya Kriplani brings the contrast that while in Bengal the government was party to the riots, it was not so in Bihar.
Churchill- Jinnah axis : They used to write to each other under pseudo names. Exposed in letters released in 1982. When Jinnah visited England, he found that the Queen and the King were favorable to Pakistan while Churchill corresponded secretly with Jinnah under a pseudonym.
The leagues direct action continued to NWFP, Kashmir. In a village called Khalsa after a prolonged fight when all Hindu and Sikh men were killed, 74 women lead by Smt. Lajwanti jumped into a well to save their honour.
Mountbatten arrived in Bharat on 22nd March 1947 :
Gandhi in his first interview to Mountbatten opposed partition . Gandhi gave an offer saying that disband cabinet and invite Jinnah to form his own cabinet which can be completely Muslim.
Nehru remarked that Gandhi had lost touch with happenings at the centre. Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy that since that since his plan was not finding any acceptance, he is handing over the charge of all negotiation to CWC.
Patel accepted to have a clean separation. Nehru and Rajendra Prasad also accepted partition. But Maulana opposed saying that Gandhi’s proposal had the best interest of Muslims in mind
Syama Prasad roused the Hindus to insist to retain West Bengal and East Punjab. Rajendra Prasad reminded Jinnah that this was in line with League’s own Lahore resolution. By the same time, Jinnah came up with a new demand – 800 mile corridor connecting West and East Pakistan.
V.P.Menon came forward with a draft plan for partition. Gandhi a few days earlier had told Mountbatten that the Congress may not be with me but India is with me. A few days later in a public program declared that the Viceroy is opposed to partition but since Hindus & Muslims are unable to live together, he is accepting it. When somebody reminded him of his statement, “ Vivisect me before the country. “ , he replied “when the public opinion is against me, am I to coerce it ?”
The president of Congress, Maulana Azad passed the resolution for partition hoping that the partition would be a shortlived one. Purushottam Das Tandon opposed it till the end saying “ Let us suffer the British rule a little longer than sacrifice our cherished goal of united India. Let us gird up our loins to fight, if need be both the British and the League and safeguard the integrity of the country.” There was a loud applause for his words. But Gandhi came down in favour of the acceptance. The issue was clinched. At the close of his speech, Gandhi said, “ Wouldn’t I oppose it, if only I had the time ? But I cannot challenge the present congress leadership and demolish people’s faith in it unless I am in a position to tell them “ Here is an alternate leadership”.I have not the strength today Or else, I would have declared rebellion single handed. But it must be remembered that Nehru told Mosley that if Gandhi had told us, we would have gone on fighting and waiting.
Motive Behind urgency : fear of resitance :
Mountbatten advanced the date of partition from June 1948 to August 1947 by ten months.Almost all Indian officers were opposed to partition. Added to this the general atmosphere was charged in the wake of INA trials and naval revolt.
Mosley writes, partition of India was announced in May 1947 with no plans of division of army till June.
Commission to decide on boundaries of 2 states not yet formed until end of june.
People deliberately kept in ignorance as to which side they would be on until 2 days after Independence.
Radcliff boundary commission award postponed till 17th August complicated the matter.
Cyril Radcliff, chairman of both Punjab and Bengal boundary commission. The congress erred in accepting a one man commission instead of a 3 man commission and that too for both the boundaries. Even the members of the commissions were kept in the dark.. Muslims started to show inflated numbers to influence the decision. M.C.Mahajan and Tej Singh two members of the Punjab commission were so convinced about Lahore remaining as part of Bharat that even they did not begin arrangements to move. Muslims were only 25% of Lahore. Most of the great canal systems, the rich wheat lands, the sikh shrines & Lahore were gifted to Lahore only on the pretext that “ How can two big cities Lahore and Calcutta be given to India” ? Over 40% of them became homeless. The loss to Hindus was over 4000 crores, the loss for Muslims was a fraction of that. The same story was repeated in the Chittagong Hill tracts. Overwhelmingly Hindu, it was acceded to East Pakistan. Pakistan with 19% population got 23% territory.
Mountbatten said “ I give you complete assurance I shall see to it that there is no bloodshed and riot. I am a soldier not a civilian.
What followed was a never before seen cataclysm. The transfer of population that the Congress leaders wanted to avoid, took place. They were killed, robbed, looted in transit. As the biggest migration of population in recorded history was in progress, a most dangerous situation arose in the capital. Every 4th person in Delhi was a Hindu or Sikh refugee from Pakistan. They were furious against the Muslims and also against the Congress.
RSS to the rescue:
Most of the police force was Muslim.
Bharat Ratna, Dr.Bhagwandas said, I have been reliably informed that the RSS youths were able to warn Patel and Nehru about an impending coup on Sept 10, 1947 and about a plan to kill all Hindu officials and plant the flag of Pakistan on the Red Fort. Tens of millions of Hindus would have been slaughtered and all the rest converted to Islam.Gandhi undertook a fast to grant 55 crores additionally to Pakistan.
A.N.Bali recounts the valour and the service rendered by the RSS swayamsevaks. He say, “ The refugees from West Pakistan- all of them without exception wherever they are living in India to a man, are grateful to RSS for coming to their help at a time when they felt deserted by all.
Assimilation – 600 princely states integrated into one union. Maharaja Hari Singh was convinced by Guruji Golwalkar on 17th Oct 1947 to join in Bharat inspite of Mountbatten asking him to join with Pakistan. On 23rd October, Pakistani tribesman led by general Akbar Khan invaded Kashmir. British commanders rebelled against Kashmir King and handed over Gilgit to Pakistan. The RSS swayamsevaks cleared the Srinagar aerodrome of snow just in time for Indian planes to land. On 21st November, Nehru took the Kashmir issue into the UN.
Hyderabad : Kasim Rizvi the chief of Razakars carried a virulent campaign against Bharat and Hindus. 2 lac Razakars with arms and 40,000 regular and irregulars of the State’s force. The Razakars had aligned themselves with the communists. Indian forces marched into Hyderabad in Sept 1948 from 5 directions. This was known as “Operation polo and it lasted for just 108 hours.
Bhopal Nawab & Junagarh Nawabs tamed.
Maharaja of Udaipur shows his character :
The dream of Nawab of Bhopal to accede to Pakistan would succeed only if Udaipur which had Jodhpur on West and Indore and Bhopal on East accede to Pak. He said, My choice was made by my ancestors. If they had flattered, they would have left a kingdom as large as Hyderabad. They did not, neither shall I. I am with India.
Was partition unavoidable?
There was a very strong pro-nation sentiment running in the army, INA Trial, naval rebellion were all causing the the CIC of Army, Claude Auchinleck to be in a dilemma.
Stafford Cripps said in a discussion in the house of commons “ The alternate to quitting would have entailed considerable reinforcement of British troops and civil personnel. It would be politically impracticable from both a national and international POV.
There was a strong nationalist sentiment in the Army. The INA trials, the RIN mutiny had put the British rules on tenterhooks. All these caused the British to precipitate Partition and leave India at all costs to India.
In 1949 in New York, Nehru declared that if he had known the terrible consequences of partition, he would have resisted the partition of India. On the other hand, Congress was led by tired leaders, whose best years of struggle were behind them. Congress had no policy to take advantage of the divisions with in Muslims, or to man oeuvre. Gandhian methods which had some success against the British failed against the brutal and bloody approach of the Muslim separatists.
Mountbatten while narrating how he was persuaded to accept the assignment as Viceroy said Churchill had accepted that their time in India was up and they were reaching a stalemate there. The situation is murky and it is only you who can resolve it.
The League itself was weak: The Delhi Muslims used to go to Patel and press him to have no truck with the League and have a firm policy against them. It would sap its power and Muslims would gravitate towards the Congress. Muslim society itself was deeply divided with the leadership invariably from the Ashrafi classes. They considered the local Muslims as low
In 1949 in New york, Nehru declared that if they had known the terrible consequences of partition, they would have resisted the.partion of India.
Why we lost ?
1. Lack of idealogical faith in Congress. Their concept of nationhood was emotionless, devoid of life spirit and being limited to territorial, political factors.
2. Lack of National Conviction : Why swaraj ? had been shelved to the background. The sublime national ideals and aspirations forming the life breath of Independence had evaporated.
3. Treating it as a division of brothers. But do you cut your mother too ?
4. Path of national assimilation ignored and a policy of appeasement followed. The slogan became No swaraj without Hindu Muslim unity instead of If you come with me, with you, if you do not, without you ; if you oppose, inspite of you;
5. Toynbee writes ‘ What is Pakistan ? it was the first successful step in this 20th century to realize their ( Muslims) 1200 year old dream of complete subjugation of this country.
6. Hindu backbone broken.. Sarath Chandra Chaterjee writes. When Americans fought for their freedom, more than ½ the people were with the British. In the irish freedom, how many actually engaged in it ? Right or wrong is not decided by counting heads, it is decided by the intensity of tapasya to the cause. No swaraj without Hindu Muslim unity is an insult to the Hindus.
7. Leadership exhausted and tempted: Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia says,” No shadow of doubt need obscure the simple proposition that a decaying leadership operating in a riotious situation produced partition. A more youthful people may have avoided the division of Hindustan. Not one leader was in jail when the country was getting partitioned. I regret that I did nothing to get into jail at India’s partition.
8. In 1960, speaking to Leonard Mosley, Nehru says” the truth is that we were tired men and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again and if we would have stood out for a united India, as we wished it, prison obviously awaited us. ( In Leonard Mosley’s The British Raj)