Tag Archives: Tragic story of partition

Partitioned Freedom – 4

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1” from this link – 1)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)

Part 4

Khilafat Movement: Congress’ turn towards communal politics

What began as a tactical move to wean away the League from the British soon became a conviction within the Congress, that – without Muslim League coming along, there would be no freedom. For the British, the League not joining hands with Congress meant no united resistance. Hence, both started patronizing the League. The last three decades of the independence movement were a saga of this competitive bargaining with the Muslim League.

There were many Muslim leaders in Congress at that time. Even Jinnah was a Congress leader and was seen as the ambassador of Hindu – Muslim unity. Sadly, in its competitive bargaining for the League’s support, the Congress leadership gave up on those saner and secular Muslim leaders and leaned more towards the communal and fundamentalist elements of the community.

Khilafat Movement:

The first milestone in the race of appeasement of the Muslim League was the Khilafat movement of 1919-1924. Khilafat was a religio-political movement launched by a section of the Muslim League for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmed V as he was regarded as the Khalifa (leader) of the entire Muslim Ummah (religious community). It should be clear from the description that, one, it was a religious movement; and two, it had nothing to do with India’s independence. More importantly, the myth of the Ottoman Emperor as the Khalifa of world Muslims had been shattered by the dismantling of the empire by the British and the French after World War I, and subsequently when Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the newly elected leader of Turkey, abolished the title of Khalifa in 1924.

That was what even Jinnah told the Muslim League convention held in Delhi in 1918. Jinnah called Khilafat a ‘false religious frenzy of which no good will come out for India.’ When some members objected to his views and the League decided to form a Khilafat Committee to launch an agitation for the cause, Jinnah, along with some others, walked out of the session.

However, where Jinnah had walked out, Gandhi walked in a year later. Gandhi had returned to India in 1915 and was a relatively new figure in the Congress. But certain historical events paved the way for his easy rise in the Congress hierarchy. His mentor and a senior Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale passed away in February 1915. Feroz Shah Mehta, too died in the same year. Lokmanya Tilak left for London to sue the British journalist, Valentine Chirol for defamation in 1919, and he too passed away a year later.

Gandhi walked into the space vacated by several illustrious seniors. Yet he needed an anchor which he found in the issue of Hindu-Muslim unity. In South Africa, during his struggle against the British, Gandhi was regarded as the leader of both the Hindu and Muslim migrants. Gandhi looked at the native situation too from the South African prism. By then, winning over the Muslim League became a zealous conviction for many in the Congress. Gandhi decided to use the Khilafat for Hindu-Muslim unity as well as for establishing his own credentials as the leader with the power to achieve that.

Several Congress leaders participated in the Khilafat Day protests organized by the Muslim League on October 17, 1919. Swami Shraddhananda, a renowned Arya Samaj leader and a senior Congress leader, was one among them, standing on the steps of the Jama Masjid in Delhi and exhorting the Muslims to fight for the Khilafat. Gandhi, along with Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya, and others, was present at the Muslim League convention in December 1919. He described Khilafat as the “holy cow” of the Muslim community. Gandhi viewed Khilafat as the best opportunity for Hindu – Muslim unity and exhorted the Hindus to join the struggle for preserving Islam’s honour if they really want Muslims’ friendship. “Arise! Awake! Or be fallen forever”, was Gandhi’s call to the Muslims.

However, a section of the Congressmen started raising concerns over this gamble. Sardar Patel was unconvinced about a slave country fighting for the maintainence of a foreign Muslim Empire. Many were aghast when they heard that Khilafat leaders like Shaukat Ali and Hasrat Mohani were inviting the King of Afghanistan to invade India to achieve the Khilafat. Gandhi’s good friend Barrister Henry Pollack had warned that on the Khilafat question, Gandhi was behaving in an “ill-informed and dangerous manner”. On the other hand, the Khilafat leaders like Maula Abdul Bari started threatening Gandhi that if he failed to deliver on the promise of the Congress’ support, they would end their relations with it.

Non-Cooperation Movement

An emergency session of the Congress was called in August 1920 at Kolkata, in which Gandhi proposed to launch a nationwide Non-Cooperation Movement in support of the Khilafat.         “I would, in order to achieve success in the Khilafat issue, even postpone the issue of Swaraj,” Gandhi declared. Leaders like Chittaranjan Das, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Annie Besant were against this bargain. Finally, issues like Swaraj and Jallianwala Bagh massacre were also included to make it look like an agitation for the Indian cause.

Jinnah, who was until then midwifing the Congress-League friendship, got disillusioned. He was particularly upset with his own sidelining and promotion of rank fundamentalists like Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali – the ‘Ali Brothers’ – by Gandhi. At the Nagpur session of the Congress later that year, Jinnah resigned, highlighting his opposition to the Khilafat. “I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria, politics is a gentleman’s game”, Jinnah told while quitting.

Khilafat failed

Khilafat failed. The Non-Cooperation Movement was abruptly called off by Gandhi when a violent incident took place at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces in which 22 policemen were killed by the agitators. However, the damage to the fabric of national unity was already done. After the Khilafat, the voices of the nationalist Muslims became further subdued. Condoned by the Congress leadership, Muslim communalism became the order of the day. For example, when Shaukat Ali and others were arrested by the British on sedition charges for inviting the King of Afghanistan to invade India, Gandhi reacted by arguing that he couldn’t understand why the Ali brothers should be in jail when he was outside.

This was the only religious cause that Gandhi ever espoused during the independence movement. He probably had his reasons for doing so.

The passions he had helped rouse, which were now turned against him and the Congress, meant that the Congress haemorrhaged Muslims ever afterwards. Gandhi returned to the secular straight-and-narrow with the Salt Satyagraha ten years later and strove manfully to secure the moderate aim of a pluralist nationalism in the age of mass politics, but opportunism of the Khilafat movement haunted the Congress and helped alienate the one constituency it prized above all others: India’s Muslims”, wrote historian Mukul Kesavan.

The Khilafat misadventure of the Congress had demonstrated that the seeds of communal separatism sown by the British a decade earlier were sprouting up actively, nurtured by the misplaced convictions of the Congress leadership. Later events led the process further along resulting in the blossoming of Muslim communal politics as the Congress continued its appeasement policies.

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 5” from this link – 5)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 16, 2020)

Partitioned Freedom – 3

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1” from this link – 1)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)

Part 3

The emergence of the Muslim League on the political horizon and the open patronage that the British extended to it came as a challenge to the Congress. Hitherto the Congress had projected itself as the collective voice of all the Indians. The earlier efforts to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims and distance Muslims from the freedom struggle did not succeed much. After the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 a big section of the elite Muslims too joined it and started working with Hindu leaders.

In fact, the first war of Independence in 1857 was fought against the British by Hindus and Muslims together. After the war, the British had come down heavily on the leadership of both the communities. The failure of the 1857 war and the subsequent brutality of the British had a different impact on some of the eminent Muslims, including the renowned Urdu poet Ghalib and the distinguished Muslim educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Both had firmly believed that it was a mistake on the part of the Muslims to join hands with the Hindus against the British.

Syed Ahmed, who had once proclaimed that everyone living in India, irrespective of his religion, was a Hindu, became a staunch critic of the 1857 war. He was in Bijnour at the time of the insurrection. While the Nawab of Bijnour participated in the war against the British, Syed Ahmed was busy arranging for the security of the British in Bijnour. He told the Nawab that “nobody can challenge British sovereignty over India”. After the war, Syed Ahmed took it upon himself to mobilise Muslim support for the British. He started an organization by the name ‘Loyal Muhammadans of India’ and published stories of those Muslims who had helped protect the British officers and their families during the war. Syed Ahmed was one of the earliest Muslim leaders to propagate the thesis that Muslims were a separate community and they should be careful in protecting their separate identity from the Hindus. He also branded the Congress as a Hindu Bengali Party. Syed Ahmed had founded Aligarh Muslim University and focused on educating the Muslims. Hector Bolitho, the author of a book ‘Jinnah – Creator of Pakistan’ described Syed Ahmed as the first bold Indian Muslim to talk about partition.

Badruddin Tyabji, a renowned Muslim lawyer from Bombay (Mumbai) and his elder brother Camruddin Tyabji became active members of the Congress in the initial years. Badruddin even became the president of the Congress in 1887-88. Responding to the skepticism induced both by the British and leaders like Syed Ahmed among the Muslims about participation in Congress activity, Tyabji would categorically declare, “I, at least, not merely in my individual capacity but as representing the Anjuman-i-Islam of Bombay, do not consider that there is anything whatever in the position or the relations of the different communities of India — be they Hindus, Musalmans, Parsis, or Christians — which should induce the leaders of any one community to stand aloof from the others in their efforts to obtain those great general reforms, those great general rights, which are for the common benefit of us all.

The Congress continued to attract people from all communities. But the rise of the Muslim League as a political entity in 1906 had altered that situation. With the blessings of the British, the League had begun an aggressive campaign with serious communal overtones. A pamphlet called ‘Lal Ishtar’ – Red Pamphlet – was distributed at its Dhaka session in 1906. It called for a complete boycott of the Hindus. Communal tensions began to rise. Bengal witnessed widespread rioting and violence in 1907. The emergence of the Muslim League led to the deterioration of relations between Hindus and Muslims.

Minto-Morley Reforms (separate electorates for Muslims):

The British saw in it an opportunity to exacerbate communal divisions and perpetuate their rule. With a view to placate the rising nationalist fervour in India, the British Government had agreed to introduce electoral reforms to the legislatures. The Muslim League immediately swung in and demanded separate electorates for the Muslims. Muslims used to be nominated by the Congress to several seats. But the League insisted that the Muslims would no longer be at the mercy of the Hindu electorate. Despite the Secretary of State for India John Morley’s reservations, the British Viceroy Lord Minto and Home Secretary H H Risley agreed to grant separate electorates for Muslims under the amended Indian Councils Act 1909. Known in history as Minto-Morley Reforms, these provisions went beyond the electoral arena into administrative and governance issues also. Their discriminatory character had put off a moderate like Gopal Krishna Gokhale who called the reforms as ‘discouraging to all communities except the Muslims’.

The Minto-Morley Reforms came as a shock to the Congress leadership. They realised that the British were luring away the Muslims through concessions like separate electorates and something should be done to keep the Muslims with Congress. The moderate Congress leaders like Gokhale started making the moves. As a first step, the communal electorates which the Congress had opposed initially, were almost accepted in 1912 at the AICC session at Bankipore in Bengal.

Efforts began to cultivate the Muslim League leadership:

Gokhale used Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the midwife in his overtures to the League. The Aga Khan was approached in London with a shockingly strange request to become the President of the Congress in 1911. He did not agree. But Jinnah’s midwifing did not stop and efforts continued to somehow pull the League closer to the Congress. The Congress session was to take place at Mumbai in 1915. The Muslim League too had announced that it would hold its sessions there. The Congress had constituted a committee to persuade the League for a joint session. The League leadership did not agree. Surendranath Banerjee, the Congress President that year, had sent a message of ‘affectionate greetings’ to the League leadership on the day of their session. No reciprocal message came back.

Jinnah’s midwifing finally succeeded next year. The Muslim League agreed to join the Congress session at Lucknow in December 1916 on the condition that the Congress would not oppose separate Muslim electorates to the provincial legislatures. The famous Lucknow Pact of 1916, that had paved the way for the Congress and the League to come together, was thus a bargain struck between the two sides.

In their eagerness to win over the League from the British, the Congress leadership had missed the point that they were converting the independence movement into a bargaining chip with the League. They also missed the point that the correct way to deal with the League was by attracting more Muslims into the Congress rather than pandering to the whims of a handful of elite Leaguers. The Congress leadership was in such a trance that a leader of the stature of Lokmanya Tilak was overcome by exuberance and declared the League’s joining the Congress at Lucknow as “Luck Now at Lucknow”.

Thus began the story of appeasement, bargain and outright surrender before the communal forces by the country’s greatest hope for independence, the Congress, that wouldn’t stop for the next thirty years until we reach that point of no return, the Partition of India.

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 4” from this link – 4)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 15, 2020)

Partitioned Freedom – 2

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1″ from this link – 1).

Part 2

The British had attempted their first partition of India four decades earlier in 1905. They decided to partition the Bengal province into two. The capital of British India, until 1911, was in Calcutta (today’s Kolkata) in the Bengal province. Bengal was the largest province in British India with over 80 million population in those days, almost 1/5th of the population of the entire country. Bengal was also home to a strong resistance movement against colonial rule. A large number of revolutionaries in India’s freedom movement came from Bengal. A strong Congress movement too flourished in the province. Poets, littérateurs, academics, and journalists – Bengal was home to many eminences who were at the forefront of the struggle against the British.

The British then decided to tackle this fledgling anti-Colonial movement in a different way. They partitioned the province of Bengal into two – East Bengal with Dhaka as the capital, that included Assam, and West Bengal with Kolkata as the capital that included Bihar and Orissa.

Lord Curzon, who was the British Viceroy of India when Bengal was partitioned, argued that it was only an administrative measure. But his own colleagues like Henry Cotton, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, who was opposed to this move, openly stated that the act was intended to weaken the nationalist movement in the region. “There were no administrative reasons. Curzon’s plan was to oppress the rising force of a nationalist political movement”, Henry Cotton later wrote.

The Congress leadership and the revolutionaries sensed the British mischief behind this decision. Through this policy of divide et impera – Divide and Rule, the British had planned to secure two objectives. They wanted to weaken the freedom movement and also in the process sow seeds of mistrust and conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The partitioned East Bengal was to become almost 60% Muslim, while the residual West Bengal was to be 80% Hindu. The leaders of the independence movement decided to firmly reject London’s ploy.

Curzon travelled across the length and breadth of the province. Everywhere he encountered popular resistance to his move. Even the Muslims, including the brother of the Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Atiquallah, were opposing Bengal’s partition. But Curzon was adamant. He insisted that the partition of Bengal was a “settled fact”. October 16, 1905 was declared as the day of the partition.

People were furious. Agitations, protests, lockdowns, speeches, writings and posters started dominating the province. On the appointed day of the partition, a massive protest rally was organised at Barisal town in the then South Central Bengal, now in Bangladesh. Over fifty thousand people joined the protests. The slogan ‘Vande Mataram’, from the song authored by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, a Bengali scholar in his novel Anand Math, reverberated in the air. Gurudev Robindronath Tagore was present to administer an oath to the people for the reunification of Bengal. At another big meeting in Kolkata on August 7, 1905 a resolution was passed calling for the boycott of British products so long as the ‘Partition Resolution was not withdrawn’. Thus was born the famous ‘Swadeshi’ movement.

The agitation against the partition of Bengal had soon spread to the whole country. The Congress was in the forefront. Swaraj and Swadeshi became the twin mantras of the movement. It became popular as the Vande Mataram Movement or the Swadeshi Movement. Nationwide resistance was led by the trio popularly known as Lal-Bal-Pal – Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra, and Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal.

The agitation intensified forcing the British Parliament to take cognisance. Finally, the British emperor, King George V had to rush to India in December 1911 and declare the annulment of Bengal’s partition. Bengal became united again, unsettling Curzon’s and his successor Viceroy Lord Minto’s ‘settled fact’. It was a great victory for the nationalist forces led by the Congress although a large section of the Muslims of Bengal was thoroughly disheartened.

The resistance movement and its subsequent victory signified a major shift in the policies and programs of the Congress, which until then had been a political body limited to filing complaints and petitions before the British administration. The Vande Mataram movement had given the hardliners, led by Tilak, an upper hand in the Congress. The latter had now transformed into a vehicle of popular resistance through public agitations. Tilak’s historic exhortation – ‘Freedom is my Birth Right’ – became the new mantra of Indian politics.

That was 1905. A massive 6-year nation-wide agitation was launched when just one Indian province of Bengal was partitioned and the British were forced to annul it. Fast forward four decades. The entire country, including Bengal, was partitioned and the same nation remained a mute witness. Why?

The answer lies in the history of the freedom movement during those fateful four decades. It is a tragic and revealing history, spanning the period between 1911 and 1947, which holds many startling facts and staggering lessons for India. What happened during those years must be revisited to understand those facts and learn from them.

One of the critical fallouts of the partition of Bengal was a meeting held at Dacca (Today’s Dhaka) on December 27-31, 1906. Ishrat Manzil, a well-known Nawab family mansion, was hosting the annual meeting of the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. The Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Salimullah was playing host to over 3000 delegates who came from all over the country. Nawab Salimullah presented a proposal at the conference on December 30 for establishing a political party to safeguard the interests of the Muslims of British India.

Thus was born the All India Muslim League, headquartered in Lucknow. Renowned Iranian Shia princely cleric, Sir Muhammad Aga Khan, hereditary Imam of the Ismaili sect was elected as its first president. The objectives of the Muslim League were to create loyal Muslims to the British Raj and to advance the political rights of the community.

On the horizon of the Indian political firmament, a new player had emerged, with the tacit blessing of the Viceroy Lord Minto. This new player would change the course of India’s independence movement in the next four decades substantively.

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

Partitioned Freedom – 1

Partitioned Freedom” (a four-part series of articles authored by Sri Ram Madhav) is an account of the preceding events that led to the tragic partition of Bhārat in 1947; revisiting the political haste, the wanting leadership, and the sordid consequences of the partition. AriseBharat is documenting these articles giving the links of the previous articles along with the Video talk delivered by the author on the same topic (Video Courtesy : “Disha Bharat“).

The author has earlier written a book on the same topic in Telugu (“మాతృభూమి ముక్కలైంది – 1947 విషాద గాథ ”), giving an account of the events and conditions leading to the partition, the failure of the leadership, the heart-wrenching public crisis and the carnage. This book is available for purchase at HindueShop.

Among the contributed texts in writing of this book was a well-known book titled “The Tragic Story of Partition” authored by Sri H.V. Seshadri; a comprehensive treatise that gives episodic perspective of all the facts leading to the partition.  This book is also available for purchase at HindueShop and the summary of which is available in AriseBharat. 

Part I

On the night of August 14-15, 1947, when India was celebrating its independence, the architect of the independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi was not among the revellers. When his protégé Jawahar Lal Nehru was making that epochal speech about ‘India’s tryst with destiny’, and the ministers of his new cabinet were taking the oath of office, Gandhi was not rejoicing.    A 1000 miles away in Kolkata, he was in a sombre mood, tired of the day-long fasting and prayers.

I cannot rejoice on August 15. I do not want to deceive you. But at the same time I shall not ask you not to rejoice. Unfortunately, the kind of freedom we have got today contains also the seeds of future conflict between India and Pakistan”, he had told his colleagues in July that year.

Gandhi no doubt was prophetic about the future conflict. But what was the ‘kind of freedom’ that put him off? The proclamation of India’s independence was to be a moment of jubilation and pride for over 350 million Indians. But it became a moment of sorrow and suffering for several million among them. While granting independence, the British had partitioned India into two in a hurried manner creating Pakistan as a separate nation. Overnight, the land under their feet, on which they had lived for generations, became foreign to those millions who found themselves on the wrong side of what was to be their future home. Not unexpectedly, massive violence broke out on both sides of the clumsily carved out frontiers.

India’s partition was not a smooth and peaceful affair. It happened over the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of innocents. Historians wrote poignantly that the Sindhu river flowed not with water but with the blood of tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims. Millions were uprooted, and leaving everything behind, were forced to undertake an arduous and often hazardous trek of hundreds of miles seeking a new home and meaning for lives. “It was the world’s largest and rarest exodus”, wrote Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in ‘Freedom at Midnight’.

Why did this tragedy take place? Who was responsible?

None of the leading lights of India’s independence movement wanted India to be divided. Neither did the majority of the people of India – both Muslim and Hindu.

Vivisect me before vivisecting India”, Gandhi warned firmly, when he was informed about the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 24, 1940 in which the League demanded that the “areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign”. Although the word ‘Pakistan’ was not used, the reference to ‘autonomous and sovereign independent states’ made the intentions of the League amply clear. They were demanding a separate country. This resolution became popular later in history as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’. For Gandhi, the Pakistan resolution was a ‘moral sin’. It militated against all his lifelong convictions, especially his dearest idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. It was totally unacceptable to him. “The step of Mr. Jinnah is like that two brothers have a fight on same cow and they cut it and divide it”, Gandhi lamented. Yet the country was divided before his eyes.

Jawahar Lal Nehru, in his typical romantic way, proclaimed that the idea of partition was “fantastic nonsense”, a fantasy of some mad people. Yet he became one of the enthusiastic supporters of the ‘June 3rd Plan’ for the country’s partition. Sardar Patel went one step further and declared in his typical style “Talwar se talwar bhidegi” (sword will clash with sword), meaning that the countrymen would fight till the end against partition. But even he became a mute witness to the passing of the ‘June 3rd Plan’.

Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was in jail during the Quit India Movement, went on to write the book India Divided, in which he spoke of the ills of partition and how illogical the thought was. The book was published in early 1946. Even before the ink on the pages of that book could dry up, India was partitioned.

Not just the Indian leaders, many British leaders too did not support the idea of partitioning India. Lord Wavell, who was the British viceroy during 1943-47, had opposed it in 1944, stating, “India is a God-made triangle, you cannot divide it”. Even Clement Atlee’s original mandate as Britain’s Prime Minister to Mountbatten, who was sent to Delhi to replace Lord Wavell in February 1947, was not to partition India. “Keep it united if possible. Save a bit from the wreck. Bring the British out in any case”, were Attlee’s instructions to Mountbatten.

Yet the country was partitioned.

Mountbatten presented the final plan for India’s partition to the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League in a meeting on June 3, 1947. Thus it began to be famously called as the ‘June 3rd Plan’. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Acharya Kripalani were present from the Congress while the League was represented by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali and Abdur Nishtar. Mountbatten later claimed that “the Indian leaders agreed unanimously, without any sort of reservation, to the choice of 15th August”.

When the partition plan was brought before the Congress Working Committee on June 14, 1947 there was vocal resistance. Gandhi, who declared six years earlier that it should happen over his dead body, intervened to ask the members to support the partition. Acknowledging that he was one of those who steadfastly opposed the division of India, Gandhi, nevertheless, urged the members to accept the resolution as “sometimes certain decisions, however unpalatable they might be, had to be taken”. Gandhi also indicated that if the resolution was rejected, they would have to find a “new set of leaders”. He also insisted that it was essential for peace in the country.

While nobody wanted the partition of India, nobody was there to stand up against it when the moment came. It needed people to come on to the streets to fight the forces of vivisection, and leaders to lead that resistance. Unfortunately, at that momentous juncture, people were not ready for the fight to save India’s integrity, and the leaders too were not ready.. ‘We became old’ one of them confessed later. Why?

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

A lecture delivered by Sri Ram Madhav on the tragic story of partition
(Video Courtesy: “Disha Bharat”):

Tragic Story of Partition of India

Namaste

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 book “Tragic Story of partition” by Sri 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”.

muslims-cannot-confine-patriotism-tagore

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 ).

Symbols compromised:

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.

The Holocaust
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)

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