How Dr Ambedkar proved that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations

In the run up to 14th/15th August I have been reading the book Pakistan or Partition of India by BR Ambedkar. This book is a must read for anyone who has any interest in this subject. The second edition was published in 1945 so it pre-dates the events of 1947. And in this is its great advantage for the writer is not biased by hindsight which is the problem with those who have written on the subject in the years after the events. And thus we get the real idea about what was the thought process in those days which lead to the making or Pakistan. I will try to share some of the subjects discussed in the book which I hope will enlighten some and may open some eyes.

Was the creation of Pakistan and partition of India the right thing?

There are many people now who question the logic behind the creation of Pakistan. And so they feel that those Indian Muslims who demanded Pakistan in 1940 were wrong.

The demand for any new country is based on an ideology and it is often repeated that the ideological demand for Pakistan was Islam and no country can be made and kept together in the name of a religion. Well first of all we should correct this error, Pakistan was not made for Islam, and this concept was propagated much after the creation of Pakistan. When the Indian Muslims demanded Pakistan it was not a country for Islam but a country for Muslims. The basis of this demand was that the Muslims of India are a separate nation and by virtue of being a separate nation they have the right to demand a separate, autonomous homeland for themselves.

Many now question the validity of this so called Two Nation Theory. I feel they are right but not in the right way. I will come back to this later, but first we need to establish if the Muslims of India in 1940 were a separate nation or not.

And here Dr BR Ambedkar in his book Pakistan or Partition of India provides the most convincing arguments. First of all, he rejects the Congress claim that India as a whole is a nation and points out that it was Mr Gandhi who started demanding the separation of provinces on linguistic basis, sowing the seeds of linguistic nationalism in India.

He then proceeds to examine the question if Indian Muslims are a nation or not and he defines what is Nationality as: ‘’Nationality is a social feeling. It is a feeling of a corporate sentiment of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel that they are kith and kin. This national feeling is a double edged feeling. It is at once a feeling of fellowship with one’s own kith and kin and an anti-fellowship feeling for those who are not one’s own kith and kin. It is a longing not to belong to any other group.’’

And he then goes on to apply to above test on Muslims and Hindus of India. And I think we have to accept that there was a general separation of Muslims and Hindus into two different groups that can be called as two nations.

We can learn this from the story Amrita Pritam narrates about four separate glasses in her childhood kitchen which were kept separate from others and only used when Muslims were visiting. We can read the words of Rabindranath Tagore who admonishes Hindus for rejecting the Muslims as outsiders and we can recall the fact that on railway stations water was separated into Hindu pani and Muslim pani. My father told me that they used to play boyish pranks on Hindu classmates by just touching their lunchbox and the poor boy would start crying saying he can no longer eat this food.

So we can see that the feeling that Muslims and Hindus were separate was well established in pre-Partition India.

Now, despite the above, the Congress insisted that Muslims and Hindus were one nation as they were the same race, spoke the same language and shared the same land.

Dr Ambedkar rejects all these three criteria. He quotes Renan in that race cannot be used as the sole criteria for a nation as there is no pure race.

For language he says that while it invites union it does nor force it and he gives examples of US separating for Britain, the South American countries separating from Spain despite same language while Switzerland remaining one country despite several different languages.

As for shared land the counterargument is the same as the race for land is just a place which is dead and it is the soul and thoughts of the people who live on it that divide them into separate nations or unite them into one.

Renan then lays down the principles behind what is a nation which can be summarized as shared memories of past and the present and future desire to live together.

And here Dr Ambedkar asks what he considers the crux of the problem: ‘’Are there any common historical anecdotes which Hindus and Muslims can be said to share together as matters of pride or as matters of sorrow?’’

And he points out that there is no such shared history between them.On the contrary, their history is one of mutual destruction and animosity, their historical heroes are different often those who were at war with each other.

There are no shared incidents or myths of glory in their past.

The only way the above could change is if they could have forgotten their pasts which as we know was not possible.

And so Dr sahib sums up that to claim Muslims and Hindus are one nation is nothing but a hallucination (I would think a delusion would have been a better word).

Thus to conclude we can say that there can be no doubt that Muslims and Hindus in 1940 identified each other as two separate nations. They may have had some reasons to bind them tougher but the differences which separated them were greater and in their collective conciseness they thought of themselves as two separate entities and more important than their internal unity was the fact that they looked at each other as being different, it was us and them.

Now that we have settled the issue of Muslims and Hindus as two separate nations we can ask the next set of questions:

  1. Does a separate nation have an inherent right to demand a separate homeland or they can only make this demand provided there are valid reasons for it?
  2. Why the Muslims of India made this demand in 1940?

I will explore these questions in the next part.

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