PART 6 -- [The history of communal representation]
[A] In this article I propose to trace the history of the evolution of the idea of Communal Representation and separate communal interests. It was in the seventies of the 19th century that the movement for the establishment of the M. A. O. College at Aligarh [] was started, and it was about the same time that the Arya Samaj was founded. The idea of a united India was present to the minds of the founders of both when they met at Delhi on the occasion of the Imperial Durbar of 1877. But they soon found out that it was impossible to unite India on the basis of a common faith. The Indian National Congress had not then come into existence, and the idea at back of Sir Syed's mind was to found an institution which would enable Indian Muhammadans to make up for lost time in the acquisition of that Western knowledge which was, in his eyes, [a] sine qua non of worldly prosperity both under the Government and otherwise.
[B] Sir Syed was materially helped and supported in the development of his idea by influential Hindus. Rich Hindus and Hindu princes liberally subscribed to the funds of the Aligarh M. A. O. College. But the idea of a denominational college necessarily carries with it emphasis on communal characteristics and communal glories. It unavoidably increases communal consciousness. So it was here. Again, the success and the popularity of Aligarh College depended largely on its alumni finding high and lucrative posts under Government. At first the great Syed's personal influence with the high officials sufficed for the purpose, but it was soon found that it was necessary to supplement it by insistence on communal claims. Thus comparative statistics of Hindus and Muslims in Government services became a characteristic feature of the deliberations of the Muhammadan Educational Conference even in its early days.
Sir Syed was a great religious reformer. By his liberal expositions of Islam and by his attempts to rationalise Islam, he drew upon himself the wrath of the Muslim Ulemas, and they raised a storm of prejudice against him. His strength lay in his alliance with the Government. Whether the idea of this alliance had taken hold of his mind even before the Indian National Congress was founded, cannot be definitely asserted. What is certain is that after the foundation of the latter it became a definite article of his political creed. Thus the Aligarh School of Muhammadans became characteristically anti-Hindu and pro-Government.
[C] On the other hand, the Arya Samaj activities in the Punjab brought into existence a community of Hindus who began to lay emphasis on the glories of ancient India and also on the outrages commltted on Hindus and Hindu temples, etc., by Muslim rulers. These [] Arya Samajists borrowed their ideas of political freedom from the writings of Thomas Paine, Joseph Mazzini, George Washington, etc. They attempted to unite Hindus against non-Hindus, both Christians and Muslims. The D. A. V. College stood for Hindu unity, Hindu progress, and Hindu consolidation.
Thus came into existence the two classes of Hindus and Muslims who stood for sharply divided communal consciousness and communal consolidation, with only this difference: that while one preached the cult of political freedom, the other preached that of alliance with the ruling power. This difference became the foundation of that fire of estrangement which has since burst into flames, and now threatens to reduce to ashes all hopes of a united India. The Aligarh-educated Muslims on the one hand, and the Arya Samajists on the other, have since then been the doughty standard-bearers of their respective faiths.
[D] The demand for communal representation and separate electorates on the part of the Muslims was the next natural step in their march towards exclusive communal progress. The Government, on its side, found a natural and welcome ally in Sir Syed and his school of Muslims, and began to encourage their demands for special representation both in the Legislatures and the Services. The "political importance" of the Muslims also assumed the rank of a war cry. Hindus all over India resented this, but none more vehemently than those of the U. P. and the Punjab. To those who want to trace the development and growth of this idea, the early volumes of the "Comrade"/12/ will furnish an interesting and illuminating study.
[E] What was at the root of the claim about the political importance of the Muslims? The fact that they had been the rulers of India for centuries, and also the fact that there still existed several independent Muslim states outside India. It is a well-known historical fact that Sir Syed himself was opposed to the Muslims of India sending any help to the Turks in the war with Russia in 1877-78. I don't know if he was a Pan-Islamist. I am inclined to think that he was not. In any case, he was strongly opposed to the idea of the Indian Muslims meddling with the affairs of outside Muslim States.
Indian Muslims, however, soon found out that Great Britain, like other European powers, was only as much interested in the independent Muslim states as it suited its imperial interests. Suspicions began to be entertained that perhaps the attitude of the Indian Government towards Indian Muslims was only a narcotic to prevent them from [] taking any active interest in the affairs of Muslim states outside India. The alliance of the educated Muslims with the Government had its natural influence upon the masses. The classes and the masses were both permeated with the idea that the Government was their friend, and anti-Hindu. There were European officials who rubbed it into their conscience [=consciousness] as much as they could.
[F] But the reaction was bound to come. It came in two ways. Firstly, the Muslims began to raise their demands so high that even the Government found it impossible to meet them. Secondly, the gradual fall and dismemberment of the Muslim empires of Turkey and Egypt opened the eyes of Indian Muslims as to the value of British friendship. First came the occupation of Egypt; then came the rapid contraction of tbe Turkish Empire by the loss of its Christian provinces; next came the Italian war on Tripoli, which was a purely Muslim country. Finally came the war with Turkey, with the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire by the treaty of Severes. This brought about a complete change in the political views of some of the Muslim leaders, and gave birth to the Non-co-operation idea.
It is not implied that during all this time there were no Muslim leaders who stood for alliance with Hindus for the purposes of political freedom, as against alliance with Goyernment and consequent political dependence. It must be said to the honour of Messrs. Badruddin Tyabji, Rahmatulla, and Rasul, among the dead, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, M.A. Jinnah, Hasan Imam, and Mazhar-ul-Haq, among the living, that they always stood for political unity between Hindus and Muslims.
[G] It was left for Lord Morley, the great Liberal tbinker and statesman of Great Britain, to finally sanction, at the instance of the Indian bureaucracy, the canker of communal representation with separate electorates into the Indian system;/13/ and this arrangement was subsequently sanctified by the pact of Lucknow arrived at by the Liberal leaders of both the communities./14/
[H] This, in brief, is the history of communal representation.
I have said nothing as to its necessity or otherwise, and before I do that
I want to comment briefly on the policy of the late Sir Syed Ahmed Khan,
and also trace the growth of Pan-Islamism in India.
/12/ The Comrade,
an English weekly, published by Maulana Mohamed Ali, originally from Calcutta
and later from Delhi. The first issue of the paper was dated 4 January
/13/ Separate communal electorates for Muslims were first introduced by the Indian Councils Act of 1939 when John Morley was the Secretary of State for India.
/14/ The Congress-League Pact concluded in 1916 at Lucknow conceded the principle of separate electorates for Muslims.