Source: The Present State of Indian Politics: Consisting of Speeches and Letters Reprinted from the "Pioneer" (Allahabad: The Pioneer Press, 1888), pp. 54-62. Very long paragraphs have been broken into shorter ones, and these numbered in square brackets by FWP, for convenience in classroom use. Punctuation has occasionally been adjusted for clarity  nnotations in square brackets have been added by FWP. The original spelling have been retained; all the footnotes are original. NOTE: In virtually every place where the Pioneer's translation says "nation," the Urdu word is actually "qaum," or "community."


To the Editor:

[0] Sir,-- As a great deal of misapprehension seems to exist, especially in the minds of some of my co-religionists, in regard to the working of the Congress, both past and future, I beg to address you these lines, for which I trust you will find a space in your valuable columns.

[1] The principle on which the Congress has been worked is that only such questions of general public interest affecting the whole of India at large should be brought forward, in regard to which there is either absolute or at least practical unanimity on the part of the Hindus and Musalmans. Although there was no written rule expressly laid down to this effect, yet when I had the honor of presiding at the last Congress held at Madras, I rigidly excluded all questions which were merely of a provincial character, or in regard to which the three Presidencies were not practically agreed, or where the Hindus were opposed to the Musalmans as a body, or vice versa. I considered that the Congress could not be rightly termed a "National" Congress where any particular resolution could be carried against the unanimous protest of either the Hindu or Musalman delegates.

[2] I understood, however, that many of my Musalman friends had hesitated to join the Congress actively, under the belief that this principle might not always be observed at future congresses; and that possibly some resolutions might be carried by virtue of the numerical majority of the Hindu delegates, which might be prejudicial to the interests of the Musalman community as a whole. Though personally I never entertained these fears, yet I thought it better that a distinct rule should be laid down; and I accordingly requested the General Secretary to ascertain the views of the Congress Committees on the subject. I am now happy to be in a position to announce that all the twelve Standing Committees have accepted the rule drafted by me to the effect that any subject to which the Musalman delegates object, unaninously or nearly unanimously, must be excluded from all discussion in the Congress. I trust, therefore, that the passing of this rule will be looked upon by all my Musalman brethren who wish to act in harmony with their Hindu fellow-countrymen on general questions of public interest, as at least removing all grounds for fear that by participating on the Congress they might be committed to resolutions to which the Musalmans as a body are opposed.

[3]  I have no desire to enter into a general discussion as to the propriety or benefit of holding a congress at all; and I therefore studiously abstain from saying anything on that point. I would only say to my Musalman brethren:--"If you feel that there are [80] questions affecting the whole of India which are common to you as well as to your Hindu fellow-subjects, come and discuss them at the Congress, and help to advance the cause in which you are all agreed. If, on the other hand, anything is proposed which you dislike, come and oppose it; and under the rule above stated, it must be dropped. In that case your opposition from within the Congress will be far more powerful and effective than from without."


To the Editor:

[0] Sir:-- I read in your paper, dated April 2nd, a letter from my distinguished friend Mr. Budruddin Tyabji, about the National Congress. I think it fit that I should myself write a reply to it, and I ask you to be so good as to give it a place in your valuable columns.

[1] I was very glad to learn that when my distinguished friend honoured the Madras Congress by becoming its President, he "rigidly excluded all questions which were merely of a provincial character, or in regard to which the three Presidencies were not practically agreed, or where the Hindus were opposed to the Musalmans as a body, or vice versa." On my own behalf and on behalf of very many of our mutual co-religionists I thank him for this proceeding. I also agree with him in this-- "that the Congress could not be rightly termed a 'National' Congress where any particular resolution could be carried against the unanimous protest of either the Hindu or Musalman delegates."

[2] But I go further: I first of all object to the word "delegate." I assure my friend that of the Mahomedans who went from the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, there is not one to whom the word "delegate" can be applied. I know well the condition of my own Province. Not ten Mahomedans came together to elect any one of those Mahomedans who went. In those districts from which they went, there were not among the Raises and influential Mahomedans, nor among the middle classes, ten men who knew what the National Congress was, nor who had elected whom. Four days ago, a Mahomedan of liberal views, who went to Madras as a delegate, boasted that his glory lay in this: that the Hindus, and not the Mahomedans, had elected him. Then how inappropriate and absurd to apply the word "delegate" to Mahomedans under such cirdumstances!

[3] Secondly, I object to the implication that the only condition under which the Congress cannot be termed "national" is if any resolution be carried against the unanimous protest of either the Hindu or the Mahomedan members. The fact of any resolution being carried unanimously does not make the Congress a "national" one. A Congress can only be called "national" when the ultimate aims and objects of the people of which it is composed are identical. My distinguished friend himself admits that some of the aims and objects of Mahomedans are different from those of Hindus, while some are similar; and he desires that the Congress should put aside those in which they differ, and confine itself to those in which they agree. But under these circumstances, how can the Congress be a National Congress?

[4] Moreover, my friend has not pointed out what plan both sides should adopt for accomplishing those aims on which Hindus and Mahomedans differ. Should Mahomedans and Hindus each have their own Congress for their special objects in which they differ from one another? If so, as their aims are conflicting and contradicting, these two Congresses will go on fighting each other to the death; but when they meet in that Congress which my friends call the National Congress, they will then say:-- "No doubt you are my nation; no doubt you are my brother; no doubt your aims and my aims are one. How do you do, my brother? Now we are united on one point."

[5] I ask my friends honestly to say whether out of two such nations whose aims and objects are different, but who happen to agree in some small points, a "National" Congress can be created? No. In the name of God-- No. I thank my friend for inducing the twelve Standing Committees to sanction the rule "that any subject to which the Musalman delegates object, unanimously or nearly unanimously, must be excluded from all discussion in the Congress." But I again object to the word "delegate," and would suggest that instead of that word be substituted "Musalman taking part in the Congress." But if this principle which he has laid down in his letter, and on which he acted when President, be fully carried out, I wonder what there will be left for the Congress to discuss.

[6] Those questions on which Hindus and Mahomedans can unite, and on which they ought to unite, and concerning which it is my earnest desire that they should unite, are social questions. We are both desirous that we two nations should live in a brotherly manner, that we should help and sympathise with one another, that we should bring pressure to bear, each on his own people, to prevent the arising of religious quarrels, that we should improve our social condition, and that we should try to remove that animosity which is every day increasing between the two communities. The questions on which we can agree are purely social. If the Congress had been made for these objects, then I would myself have been its President, and relieved my friend from the troubles which he incurred. But the Congress is a political Congress, and there is no one of its fundamental principles, and especially that one for which it was in reality founded, to which  Mahomedans are not opposed.

[7] We may be right or we may be wrong; but there is no Mahomedan, from the shoemaker to the Rais, who would like that the ring of slavery should be put on us by that other nation with whom we live. Although in the present time we have fallen to a very low position, and there is every probability we shall sink daily lower (especially when even our friend Budruddin Tyabji thinks it an honour to be President of the Congress), and certainly we shall be contented with our destiny; yet we cannot consent to work for our own fall. I ask my friend Budruddin Tyabji to leave aside those insignificant points in the proposals of the Congress in which Hindus and Mahomedans agree (for there are no things in the world which have no points in common-- there are many things in common between a man and a pig), and to tell me what fundamental political principles of the Congress are not opposed to the interests of Mahomedans.

[8] The first is that members of the Viceroy's Council should be chosen by election, on which stress was laid in the recent Congress of Madras, over which our friend Budruddin Tyabji presided. I proved in my Lucknow Speech that whatever system of election be adopted, there will be four times as many Hindus as Mahomedans, and all their demands will be grqatified, and the power of legislation over the whole country will be in the hands of Bengalis or of Hindus of the Bengali type, and the Mahomedans will fall into a condition of utmost degradation. Many people have heaped curses and abuses on me on account of my Lucknow Speech; but no one, not even my friend Budruddin Tyabji, has answered it. I do not like to see my nation fall into this degraded condition; and at any rate I do not wish to join in proposals which will have this result.

[9] If I were not afraid of making this letter too long, I would discuss all the principles of the Congress in detail, and point out that they are all opposed to the interests of Mahomedans, and would bring them loss. But I will state briefly that as a general rule all political questions which can be discussed are dangerous and prejudicial to the interests of Mahomedans, and that they should take part in no political Congress.

[10] Leaving this aside, it is not expedient that Mahomedans should take part in proceedings like that of the Congress, which holds meetings in various places in which people accuse Government before crowds of common men of withholding their rights from her subjects, and the result of which can only be that ignorant and foolish men will believe Government to be tyrannical of at least unjust. They will suffer greater misfortunes from doing so than the Hindus and the Bengalis. What took place in the Mutiny? The Hindus began it; the Mahomedans with their eager disposition rushed into it. The Hindus, having bathed in the Ganges, became as they were before. But the Mahomedans and all their noble families were ruined. This is the result which will befall Mahomedans, from takiong part in political agitation.

[11] In America first this kind of political agitation began. By degrees the minds of men grew more excited. The last words which came from their mouths were "no taxation without representation." Let those people who have the strength to say and act on these words join the Congress and the political agitation. If they join it without this strength, it is but the clapping of impotent hands. We have not that strength. The Bengalis and those obscure Mahomedans who joined it at Madras may possess such strength. For them it may be a blessing; but the participation in it by our nation would be for us a curse.

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