Was the partition of India the right thing?

So the first article in this series has provoked some healthy debate (and some abuse). Many friends have asked questions as to how we can say Pakistan was a good idea considering what we see today. However, that is not the discussion, at least not yet. What we are looking at is why Muslims demanded Pakistan.

To continue where we left, we have established that the Muslims and Hindus of India in 1940 thought of themselves as separate nations. The argument for this I have provided from Mr Ambedkar’s book and I have had no one who has challenged the argument with contrary evidence. I have also presented Mr Ambedkar’s declaration that contrary to what the Congress claimed there was no single Indian nation. That within the India created by the British lived more than one nations, he has identified Muslims and Hindus, and here some friends have asked if we accept this than what about the others? Well he has not mentioned any others (nor has he ruled out the possibility of others). We know that new nations do appear in time when they did not exist before. What is needed is a group of people developing a national identity. In 1940 only the Muslims were demanding a separate homeland based on their individual national identity and so they are the only ones we can discuss, if other groups like the Sikhs had developed a national identity and demanded a separate homeland (which they later did) we could have discussed them as well.

So now that we have Muslims and Hindus as separate nations in India under the British who are about to leave, we ask:

  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?

At the start of Chapter 3 of the book, Mr Ambedkar very conclusively states that a nation has the right to demand a separate and autonomous homeland. Quoting Lord Acton and historical perspective he declares that a nation can demand a national state and does not need to give any reasons for this demand.

Maybe he is being too generous, maybe some reasons are needed and as the Congress leaders were asking at that time why do the Muslims want their own country, what have we done to them?

Well Mr Ambedkar takes up this question next.

According to him at the round table conference when the Muslim 14 points were accepted by the British as the communal award much to the displeasure of Hindus the Congress leaders did not show any open hostility towards the Muslims. Subsequently when a resolution to condemn the award was moved in the Central Assembly in India the Congress leadership remained neutral. And thus, he says, the Muslims started looking at the Congress as being friendly towards them. At the Round Table Conferences, it had also been agreed that in the upcoming elections provincial cabinets will have ministers from the minorities. However, when Congress won a landslide victory in the elections to the shock and dismay of the Muslims it did not attempt any power sharing with Muslim parties. In insisting that anyone who wants to join the cabinet will have to leave his party and join Congress it gave the impression that it (Congress) wants total hegemony on power. This was contrary to the spirit of round table conference.

Subsequently the Muslims who already felt betrayed also collected a long list of grievances during the 2 years and some months of Congress ministries. How many of these grievances were real and how many were imagined is arguable as it always is in such situations.

Subsequently the Congress’s refusal to talk to Muslim league as the party representing the Muslims of India further irked the Muslims. In words of Mr Ambedkar, such behavior by Congress where it refused to accept any of the Muslim parties as legitimate representatives of Indian Muslims was not just stupid but also mischievous and was rightly interpreted by the Muslims as an attempt to divide and confuse them.

Mr Ambedkar then discusses the Congress stance on forming provincial ministries in some detail and concludes that it amounts to Congress insisting that any community that does not swear allegiance to the Congress is to be excluded from political power. And he says that the claim by Congress that it is not a Hindu body is absurd as it is composed predominately of Hindus. In words of Mr Ambedkar there is no difference between Congress and Hindu Mahasabah except that the Mahasabah is crude and brutal while the Congress is polite and political.

And thus he concludes that by excluding other communities from power sharing the impression given by the Congress was that it wants to establish the rule of a ruling class (Hindus) and a subject class (Muslims).

And this was not acceptable to the Muslims who demanded Pakistan where they will be the ruling class.

Now one friend has asked why did not the Hindus demand a separate state as well? The answer is they did, for post-colonial India if we were to believe Mr Ambedkar and Muslims of that time did was to be a Hindu state where Muslims were to be a subject nation.

Another angle to this is the argument that the Muslims had ruled large parts of India for several centuries and had committed unspeakable atrocities on Hindus, so what was the problem if now they would have had to live in a country dominated by Hindus? I find this argument rather funny. Even if we accept that every word from the worst stories of Muslim barbarity is true, I fail to understand why the Muslims of India in 1940 should agree to be thrown on the mercy of Hindus as a penance of what their forefathers had done 400 years ago. And the promises of revenge by some of the crude and brutal Hindu organizations did not help to calm Muslim anxieties either.

In conclusion at this stage we have established that the rightly or wrongly the Muslims of India thought of themselves as a separate nation. They felt that the other nation in India the Hindus were planing to make them into a subject nation and therefore demanded a separate state for themselves.

We can now discuss these conclusions and in the next part(s) I would like to discuss how the eventual outcome could have been avoided and would it really had been better if India had become independent as one country.

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