MUSLIM LEAGUE, NATIONALISM AND MUSLIM-HINDU DIVISIONS IN BENGAL (1900-1945)

MUSLIM-HINDU DIVISIONS IN INDIA

Muslims and Hindus that lived in the same villages generally got along fine until their passions were stirred by nationalist and separatist politicians. One Muslim villager told TIME, "Many of our Hindu friends would join us in [our] processions. There was no trouble then. The only thing was at school Hindus and Muslims drank from different taps."

Muslims were generally poorer than Hindus, who regarded Muslims as members of separate inferior quasi-caste. The purity requirements of Hinduism discouraged Hindus from marrying, sharing meals and even drinking the same water as Muslims. In railway stations, there were separate drinking-water pitchers labeled "Hindu water" and "Muslim water." "Muslims lived under double colonial rule—British colonialism and Hindu colonialism," a Pakistani official told Newsweek. "A Muslim could start a race riot merely by touching the Hindu water pitcher."

The British fanned the divisions between the two groups as part of their divide-and-rule policy. Many historians argue that partition of India and Pakistan, and the violence that followed it, was a direct result of the divide-and-rule separatism. Others have argued the difference ran deep. "We are different," the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah once said. "Our names, our clothes, our foods...We challenge each other at every point of the compass."

There were language riots, caste riots and riots between Hindus and Muslims. Describing life before partition, one Pakistani man told National Geographic, "There was a lot of fighting in India then. People would hit you if they found out you were a Muslim. When Pakistan was created, Muslims were overjoyed to have a place whey the could go, where people wouldn't hurt them just because of who they were. We only wanted to be free, and now, Praise Be to Allah, we have our freedom."

Gandhi greatly abhorred Hindu-Muslim hatred. He went on several fasts to stop violence between the two groups. He called the division of India and Pakistan a "vivisection of the motherland" and once said, "You will have to divide my body before you divide India." Gandhi urged Muslims to join the Indian National Congress and even established relations with the Ottoman Empire, whose Caliph was the protectors of Islam’s holy sites. The tactic briefly worked but the Caliphate was abolished in 1924 and Muslim activists left the National Congress. Gandhi was so upset by the partition of India and Pakistan he didn't attended the August 14-15 independence celebrations.

Growing Resentment with British Rule in Bengal

In general, Hindus in Bengal prospered under the British. The Muslim aristocracy of eastern Bengal, on the other hand, resisted British rule. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, both communities united in anti-British feeling. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations: Both Muslims and Hindus “took offense at British efforts to impose western educational systems on local universities, reducing their independence. The rise of nationalism throughout British-controlled India in the late 19th century resulted in mounting animosity between the Hindu and Muslim communities. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Hindus were further enraged by the British decision in 1905, in an effort to improve administration and to placate Muslims, to divide the overly large Bengal Presidency in two, with the Muslim-dominant area of eastern Bengal and Assam to be a separate province. The 1905 partition was the first acknowledgment of a sense of separateness among Muslims by the British and foreshadowed events of 42 years later when Bengal was divided between Muslim-majority and Hindu-majority districts to create East Pakistan.

Hindu Dominance and Low Status of Muslims in Bengal

In education, commerce, and government service the Muslims lagged behind the Hindus, who more quickly adapted themselves to rapidly changing socioeconomic conditions. During British rule in India, most industry was Hindu-owned and Hinduoperated . Muslims lagged behind in business and in industry, especially those from eastern Bengal, which had long been regarded as remote from the hub of commerce. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The words of Bengali commentator Mansur Ali succinctly describe the Hindu dominance and Muslim inferiority in virtually all spheres of society in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: "In Bengal, the landlord is Hindu, the peasant Muslim. The money lender is Hindu, the client is Muslim. The jailor is Hindu, the prisoner is Muslim. The magistrate is Hindu, the accused is Muslim."

By remaining aloof from the Western-oriented education system, the Muslims alienated themselves from the many new avenues opening up for the emerging middle class. This self-imposed isolation led to an intensified awareness of their minority role. Curiously, however, it was Muslim opposition to the extension of representative government--a political stance taken out of fear of Hindu dominance--that helped to reestablish rapport with the British, who by 1900 welcomed any available support against mounting Hindu nationalism.

The recovery of the Muslim community from its low status after the 1857 mutiny was a gradual process that went on throughout the ensuing century. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, under the leadership of a Muslim noble and writer, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817- 98), a beginning was made toward reconciling the traditional views of Indian Muslims and the new ideas and education system being introduced by the British. Syed was responsible for the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan-Anglo Oriental College (renamed the Muslim University of Aligarh in 1921), where Islamic culture and religious instruction were combined with a British university system. Syed was one of the first Muslims to recognize the problems facing his community under a government ruled by the Hindu majority. He did not propose specific alternatives to majority rule, but he warned that safeguards were necessary to avoid the possibility of open violence between the religious communities of India.

Early Nationalist Parties in India

In the late 19th and early 20th century, British power was challenged by the rise of nationalist mass movements. The Indian National Congress began attracting wide support in the 1920 with its advocacy of nonviolent struggle. But because its leadership style appeared, to many Muslims, to be uniquely Hindu, Muslims formed the All-India Muslim League to look after their interests. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale. 2007]

The Indian National Congress, a Hindu-dominated political organization, was founded in 1885 and supported by the Calcutta elite. It had both Indian and British members. It was founded by 72 lawyers, journalist and academics in Bombay. The Indian National Congress (INC) became the major vehicle of the Indian independence movement and still is a major political force today. Bombay. The founding members included 68 Hindus and 2 Muslims and a 73-year-old retired British civil servant named Allan Octavian Hume, who felt that the British colonial rulers were unresponsive to the needs of the Indian people. For the first 30 years of it existence the Congress operated in Bombay with financial help from wealthy merchants. [Source: Library of Congress]

Muslims seeking an organization of their own founded the All-India Muslim League in 1906. It sought separate communal representation. For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern Western knowledge. The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.

According to Countries of the World and Their Leaders The subsequent history of the nationalist movement was characterized by periods of Hindu-Muslim cooperation, as well as by communal antagonism. Although both the League and the Congress supported the goal of Indian self-government within the British Empire, the two parties were unable to agree on a way to ensure the protection of Muslim political, social, and economic rights. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009]

Division of Bengal in 1905

In 1905, Bengal was divided by the British along religious lines, with West Bengal intended to be predominately Hindu and East Bengal intended to be predominately Muslim, with East Bengal being more or less the same as Bangladesh. Since the new province had a majority Muslim population, the partition was welcomed by Muslims, but it was fiercely resented by Indian nationalist leaders who saw it as an attempt to drive a wedge between Muslims and Hindus. The partition was withdrawn in 1911, but it had pointed the way to the events of 1947, when British India was partitioned into the states of India and Pakistan. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Sir George Curzon, the governor-general of Bengal (1899-1905), ordered the partition of Bengal in 1905. He wanted to improve administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal and Assam, with its capital at Dhaka (then spelled Dacca), and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta (which also served as the capital of British India). An ill-conceived and hastily implemented action, the partition outraged Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to "divide and rule." Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of swadeshi. [Source: Library of Congress]

During the next few years, the long neglected and predominantly Muslim eastern region of Bengal made strides in education and communications. Many Bengali Muslims viewed the partition as initial recognition of their cultural and political separation from the Hindu majority population. Curzon's decision, however, was ardently challenged by the educated and largely Hindu upper classes of Calcutta. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The Indian National Congress initiated a well-planned campaign against Curzon, accusing him of trying to undermine the nationalist movement that had been spearheaded by Bengal. Congress leaders objected that Curzon's partition of Bengal deprived Bengali Hindus of a majority in either new province--in effect a tactic of divide and rule. In response, they launched a movement to force the British to annul the partition. A swadeshi (a devotee of one's own country) movement boycotted British-made goods and encouraged the production and use of Indian-made goods to take their place. Swadeshi agitation spread throughout India and became a major plank in the Congress platform. Muslims generally favored the partition of Bengal but could not compete with the more politically articulate and economically powerful Hindus. In 1912 the British voided the partition of Bengal, a decision that heightened the growing estrangement between the Muslims and Hindus in many parts of the country. The reunited province was reconstituted as a presidency and the capital of India was moved from Calcutta to the less politically electric atmosphere of New Delhi. The reunion of divided Bengal was perceived by Muslims as a British accommodation to Hindu pressures.

Ending of the Division of Bengal in 1912 and Its Impact

After a period of anarchy and violence, Bengal was reunited in 1911 at the request of Hindus. Muslims were angered by this. Muslims were also repulsed by perceived aggressions towards Muslims by Europeans in Libya, Morocco, Persia and Turkey.

In 1906 a Muslim deputation met with the viceroy, Gilbert John Elliot (1905-10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The All-India Muslim League was founded the same year to promote loyalty to the British and to advance Muslim political rights, which the British recognized by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the India Councils Act of 1909. The Muslim League insisted on its separateness from the Hindu-dominated Congress, as the voice of a "nation within a nation." [Source: Library of Congress *]

In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911 King-Emperor George (1910-36) visited India for a durbar (a traditional court held for subjects to express fealty to their ruler), during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to a newly planned city to be built immediately south of Delhi, which became New Delhi. *

According to Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations: “The 1905 action resulted in increasing acts of violence. Th is lasted until it was undone six years later in favor of reuniting Bengal and instead separating out what would become the provinces of Orissa and Bihar. But the agitation provoked by the 1905 partition and the Hindu-Muslim enmities it left behind continued to provoke terrorist actions against British rule until nonviolence emerged as a mode of political struggle, under the leadership of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi of the Indian National Congress. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“British reforms in 1909 and 1919 expanded local self-rule in their Indian domains, but the pace fell short of the pace of demands put forth by the rising tide of nationalists espoused by the Indian National Congress, which in 1929 committed itself to the goal of complete independence. As the struggle gained momentum, differences between Hindus and Muslims widened. While the majority Hindu community saw a single Indian polity committed to secularism and diversity as the goal of the independence movement, Muslims came to fear that their community would be a permanent electoral minority, an anxiety they saw borne out in the 1937 elections held under British auspices.

“To look after their unique cultural interests, they formed the All-India Muslim League, and under the Muslim League leadership, sentiment began to coalesce around the "two nation" theory propounded earlier by the poet Iqbal, a belief that South Asian Muslims and Hindus were and should be two separate nations, i.e. that Muslims required the creation of an independent nation of their own—Pakistan—in which they would predominate. In 1940, the Muslim League adopted this as its goal, under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Mumbai (formerly Bombay) attorney who resisted all efforts at compromise through all the difficult days leading up to the grant of independence in 1947.

Founding of the Muslim League in 1906

“The Muslim League was a political organization formed in December 1906 to defend the rights of Muslims in India against the Hindu majority. during British colonial rule. The League helped establish the independent nation of Pakistan. In the early 20th century, Muslims did not believe the National Congress represented their interests. Initially, the League adopted the same objective as the Congress—self-government for India within the British Empire—but Congress and the League were unable to agree on a formula that would ensure the protection of Muslim religious, economic, and political rights. The Muslim League sought separate communal representation. The India Councils Act of 1909 addressed Muslim grievances that they were being discriminated against by granting them their own representatives to the Legislative Council. This move was seen by some historians as the first step in the creation of Pakistan.

The Muslim League sought separate communal representation. For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern Western knowledge. The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.

In 1906 the All-India Muslim League (Muslim League) met in Dhaka for the first time. The Muslim League used the occasion to declare its support for the partition of Bengal and to proclaim its mission as a "political association to protect and advance the political rights and interests of the Mussalmans of India." Muslim League was founded in Dhaka to promote loyalty to the British and "to protect and advance the political rights of the Muslims of India and respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the Government." It was also stated that there was no intention to affect the rights of other religious groups. Earlier that same year, a group of Muslims--the Simla Delegation--led by Aga Khan III, met the viceroy and put forward the concept of "separate electorates." If the proposal were accepted, Muslim members of elected bodies would be chosen from electorates composed of Muslims only, and the number of seats in the elected bodies allotted to Muslims would be at least proportional to the Muslim share of the population, but preferably "weighted" to give Muslims a share in seats somewhat higher than their proportion of the population. The principles of communal representation, separate electorates, and weightage were included in the Government of India Act of 1909 and were expanded to include such other groups as Sikhs and Christians in later constitutional enactments. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Development of the Muslim League

The Muslim League initially professed its loyalty to the British government and its condemnation of the swadeshi movement. It was of an altogether different nature from Congress. Congress claimed to fight for only secular goals that represented Indian national aspirations regardless of religious community. Yet despite its neutral stance on religion, Congress encountered opposition from some leaders in the Muslim community who objected to participation in Congress on the grounds that the party was Hindu dominated. The Muslim League strictly represented only the interests of the Muslim community. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Both parties originally were elitist, composed of intellectuals and the middle class, and lacked a mass following until after 1930. The Muslim League looked to the British for protection of Muslim minority rights and insisted on guarantees for Muslim minority rights as the price of its participation with Congress in the nationalist movement. In 1916 the Muslim League and the National Congress signed the Lucknow Pact which recognized a separate Muslim electorate in return for support ousting the British.

World War I had a profound impact on the nationalist movement in India. Congress enthusiastically supported the war effort in the hope that Britain would reward Indian loyalty with political concessions, perhaps independence, after the war. The Muslim League was more ambivalent. Part of this ambivalence had to do with the concerns expressed by Muslim writers over the fate of Turkey. The Balkan wars, the Italo-Turkish War, and World War I were depicted in India as a confrontation between Islam and Western imperialism. Because the sultan of Turkey claimed to be the caliph (khilafa; literally, successor of the Prophet) and therefore spiritual leader of the Islamic community, many Muslims felt fervently that the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire presaged the destruction of the last great Islamic power. Muslims in India also were alarmed over reports that the Allied Powers contemplated placing some of the holy places of Islam under non-Muslim jurisdiction. In 1920 the Khilafat Movement was launched in response to the news of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The Khilafat Movement combined Indian nationalism and pan-Islamic sentiment with strong anti-British overtones. *

Growth of the Muslim League

“In 1916, the Muslim League entered into an agreement, the Lucknow Pact, with the Indian National Congress that called for greater Indian self-government, with separate Hindu and Muslim electorates. After 1920, the relationship between the two organizations grew more contentious as their interests and methods to achieve self-rule diverged. (The League did not support Congress leader Gandhi's calls for non-violent resistance against the British.)

“The League's political activity gained momentum in the 1930s under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who became its president in 1934, and after the introduction of the Government of India Act of 1935, which allowed for the election of Indian representatives to provincial assemblies. The League won few seats in the elections of 1937; most went to the Congress, which retained the support of India's Muslims. However, the Congress's governance in the provinces came to be viewed as too preferential to Hindus and led many Muslims to switch allegiance to the League. Jinnah increasingly lost faith in the Congress's ability to represent Muslim interests, and in 1940, the League adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of an independent Muslim nation, Pakistan, comprised of the northwestern and northeastern areas of India.

“During the years that Britain fought in World War II, membership in the League increased, thanks to Jinnah's advocacy, as did Muslim support for an independent Muslim state. (At the same time, the Congress's leaders were jailed for engaging in civil disobedience campaigns.) In the 1946 provincial elections, the League won the vast majority of the Muslim vote, and subsequently reached an agreement with the British and the Congress to partition the subcontinent into the separate nations of India and Pakistan upon independence. On August 14, 1947, Pakistan was established and Jinnah became its first governor general, with Liaquat Ali Khan as the nation's first prime minister.

The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration. Subhas Chandra Bose was a popular Bengali leader who died in the 1940s. He looked down on Gandhi's nonviolence and supported the Nazi and Japanese in World War II. The Congress neither acknowledged the Muslim League's performance, albeit poor, in the 1937 elections nor deigned to form a coalition government with the League, a situation that led to the collapse of negotiations and mutual trust between the leaders. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Western-educated Muslim lawyer, took over the presidency of the moribund Muslim League and galvanized it into a national force under the battle cry of "Islam in danger." [Source: Library of Congress]

Relations Between the Muslim League and the National Congress

In 1916 the two parties signed the Congress-Muslim League Pact (often referred to as the Lucknow Pact), a joint platform and call for national independence. The essence of the alliance was the endorsement by the Muslim League of demands for democratization in representation; Indianization of administration and racial equality throughout India in return for acceptance by the Congress of separate communal electorates (Muslims voted for and were represented by Muslims, Sikhs voted for and were represented by Sikhs, while the remainder of the population was termed "general" and included mostly Hindus); a reserved quota of legislative seats for Muslims; and the Muslim League's right to review any social legislation affecting Muslims. The Lucknow Pact was a high-water mark of unity in the nationalist cause, but it also endorsed a scheme that engendered communal rather than national identity. The plan for separate electorates for Muslims, first put into law by the Indian Councils Act of 1909, was further strengthened and expanded by the India Act of 1919 (the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms). * After Gandhi became head of the National Congress in 1920 there were brief periods of cooperation between the Muslim League and the primarily-Hindu National Congress but the relationship fell apart in the mid-1920s, because the Muslims were fearful of the Hindu majority. Many Muslims didn't embrace Gandhi's non-violent tactics of achieving independence and Hindus rejected Muslim demands for a third of the seats in a future parliament.

For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern Western knowledge.

Beginnings of Self-Government in Muslim Areas

The Government of India Act of 1909 — also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (John Morley was the secretary of state for India, and Gilbert Elliot, fourth earl of Minto, was viceroy) — gave Indians limited roles in the central and provincial legislatures, known as legislative councils. Indians had previously been appointed to legislative councils. The granting of separate electorates and communal representation was welcomed by Muslims but opposed by Congress. The Muslim League was pleased by the apparent British intention to support and safeguard Muslim interests in the subcontinent. Separate electorates remained a part of the Muslim League platform even after the independence of Pakistan. Congress opposition was understandable. As the majority community in most provinces, Hindus stood to lose from weighted minority representation. Congress also presented itself as a national secular party and could not support identification of voters with a particular community. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

For Muslims it was important both to gain a place in all- India politics and to retain their Muslim identity, objectives that required varying responses according to circumstances, as the example of Mohammad Ali Jinnah illustrates. Jinnah, who was born in 1876, studied law in England and began his career as an enthusiastic liberal in Congress on returning to India. In 1913 he joined the Muslim League, which had been shocked by the 1911 annulment of the partition of Bengal into cooperating with Congress to make demands on the British. Jinnah continued his membership in Congress until 1919. During this dual membership period, he was described by a leading Congress spokesperson as the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity."

India's important contributions to the efforts of the British Empire in World War I stimulated further demands by Indians and further response from the British. Congress and the Muslim League met in joint session in December 1916. Under the leadership of Jinnah and Pandit Motilal Nehru (father of Jawalharlal Nehru), unity was preached and a proposal for constitutional reform was made that included the concept of separate electorates. The resulting Congress-Muslim League Pact (often referred to as the Lucknow Pact) was a sincere effort to compromise. Congress accepted the separate electorates demanded by the Muslim League, and the Muslim League joined with Congress in demanding self-government. The pact was expected to lead to permanent and constitutional united action.

Khilafat Movement

The Allies' post-World War I peace settlement with Turkey provided an additional stimulus to the grievances of the Muslims, who feared that one goal of the Allies was to end the caliphate of the Ottoman sultan. After the end of the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman caliph had become the symbol of Islamic authority and unity to Indian Sunni Muslims. A pan-Islamic movement, known as the Khilafat Movement, spread in India. It was a mass repudiation of Muslim loyalty to British rule and thus legitimated Muslim participation in the Indian nationalist movement. The leaders of the Khilafat Movement used Islamic symbols to unite the diverse but assertive Muslim community on an all-India basis and bargain with both Congress leaders and the British for recognition of minority rights and political concessions.

Muslim leaders from the Deoband and Aligarh movements joined Gandhi in mobilizing the masses for the 1920 and 1921 demonstrations of civil disobedience and noncooperation in response to the massacre at Amritsar. At the same time, Gandhi endorsed the Khilafat Movement, thereby placing many Hindus behind what had been solely a Muslim demand.

Despite impressive achievements, however, the Khilafat Movement failed. Turkey rejected the caliphate and became a secular state. Furthermore, the religious, mass-based aspects of the movement alienated such Western-oriented constitutional politicians as Jinnah, who resigned from Congress. Other Muslims also were uncomfortable with Gandhi's leadership. The British historian Sir Percival Spear wrote that "a mass appeal in his [Gandhi's] hands could not be other than a Hindu one. He could transcend caste but not community. The [Hindu] devices he used went sour in the mouths of Muslims." In the final analysis, the movement failed to lay a lasting foundation of Indian unity and served only to aggravate Hindu-Muslim differences among masses that were being politicized. Indeed, as India moved closer to the self-government implied in the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, rivalry over what might be called the spoils of independence sharpened the differences between the communities. .

1922 Hindu-Muslim Accord

For several years the Khilafat Movement replaced the Muslim League as the major focus of Muslim activism. An agreement between the leaders of the movement and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948), the leading figure in Congress, resulted in the joint advocacy of self-rule for India on the one hand and agitation for the protection of Islamic holy places and the restoration of the caliph of Turkey on the other hand. The Khilafat Movement coincided with the inception of Gandhi's call for satyagraha (truth force), a strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience to British rule. The fusion of these two movements was short lived, briefly giving the illusion of unity to India's nationalist agitation. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

In 1922 the Hindu-Muslim accord suffered a double blow when their noncooperation movement miscarried and the Khilafat Movement foundered. The outbreak of rioting, which had communal aspects in a number of places, caused Gandhi to call off the joint noncooperation movement. The Khilafat Movement lost its purpose when the postwar Turkish nationalists under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (later known as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) abolished the sultanate, proclaimed Turkey a secular republic, abolished the religious office of the caliph, and sent the last of the Ottoman ruling family into exile. *

After the eclipse of the Hindu-Muslim accord, the spirit of communal unity was never reestablished in the subcontinent. Congress took an uncompromising stand on the territorial integrity of any proposed postpartition India, downplaying communal differences and seriously underestimating the intensity of Muslim minority fears that were to strengthen the influence and power of the Muslim League. As late as 1938 Gandhi's deputy, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), said, "There is no religious or cultural problem in India. What is called the religious or communal problem is really a dispute among upper-class people for a division of the spoils of office or a representation in a legislature." Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, however, the fiery leader of the untouchables (referred to in Gandhian terminology as harijan--"children of God") described the twenty years following 1920 as "Civil War between Hindus and Muslims, interrupted by brief intervals of armed peace." *

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2020


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