The Price of ‘Independence’

Independence is synonymous with glory, sacrifice, bloodshed, patriotism. But the funny part is that it is a very stereotyped and subjective emotion in itself. This has been clearly pointed out by the Two Nation Theory given by the great M. A. Jinnah.

The Theory was the basis for the Partition of India in 1947. It stated that Muslims and Hindus were two separate nations by every definition, and therefore Muslims should have an autonomous homeland in the Muslim majority areas of British India for the safeguard of their political, cultural, and social rights, within or without a United India. It is based on the fact that in the true sense of the word, Independence is freedom from religious and not just geographical suppression.

Jinnah, speaking in Lahore in 1940, stated that Hindus and Muslims belonged to two different religious philosophies, with different social customs and literature, with no intermarriage and based on conflicting ideas and concepts. Their outlook on life and of life was different and despite 1,000 years of history, the relations between the Hindus and Muslims could not attain cordiality.

A contradiction to the theory is that India, in the past has been invaded by Islamic rulers – and that some of these invaders engaged in acts of terror and vandalism is also undeniable. If this is to be believed, Shouldn’t the victims of this invasion, the Hindus be the advocates of the Partition? But in 1947, the demand for partition was brought forward by the Muslim League, not by the Hindu Mahasabha. How do we unravel this apparent contradiction? How could Pakistan be the only logical outcome of that ancient animosity?

The second party responsible for the rise of the theory was the Indian National Congress, which left Jinnah with no alternative. In the 1937 elections, The League emerged as a competitive party but lost in the Muslim-majority Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP. Jinnah offered an alliance with the Congress – both bodies would face the British together, but the Congress had to share power, accept separate electorates and the League as the representative of India’s Muslims. The latter two terms were unacceptable to the Congress, which had its own national Muslim leaders and membership and adhered to secularism.

And lastly it was the British that added fuel to the fire. When the Quit India Movement was launched, majority of the Congressmen were arrested. This gave the Muslim League an opportunity to bring out the religious passions of the Muslims in the sub-continent. The British authorities supported the League in this period. The League put forward the view in the Muslim majority states that they would be denied all rights in a Hindu dominated India and that only they – the Muslim League, could guarantee their rights as Muslims. This worked in their favor and League ended the 1945b Provincial Elections with a near majority. It was forgotten that the Muslim League had only been able to garner some support when the Congress was at a serious disadvantage with most of its leaders in jail.

But this was precisely the British plan. They wanted to leave power to those who had been most loyal to their rule. They scripted India’s independence in a manner that would prevent India’s future development. They made sure that it was they who ruled India or no one else. They wanted it to remain loyal to the policy-makers of the West for life. They also did something else that would enforce their policy of divide and conquer – enforce job quotas on religious affiliations and voting for local bodies based on a divided electorate in the heat of the moment.

Would the Two-nation theory have held well if evidence was found of harmonious co-existence? Of Hindu society collaborating with Islamic rulers? What if ordinary Hindus and Muslims related to each other in a peaceful and friendly way? Even if the animosity caused a divide in Indian society, couldn’t a modern democratic setup overcome this problem and create a secular polity in which Hindus and Muslims and people of other religions could live in peace?

In a nutshell, it is clear that partition was largely a colonial trick. The Muslim League had never proved its strength in any truly democratic vote. They exploited the Congress, impatient for freedom to accept partition even when it wasn’t what the masses of the Indian sub-continent had really wished for.

The manner in which the British promoted the Muslim League, the manner in which geographical shuffling of senior officials of the colonial administration in both countries took place, makes it apparent that it was a continuation of the long premeditated policy of divide and conquer which led to the bloodshed of the partition (which even surpassed the violence and bloodshed if the World Wars).

It is equally ironic that the Muslim League in the name of “defending Muslims” left the region’s Muslims divided into three nations. What could be more unbelievable than for the Muslim League to have collaborated with the British when they were the ones that conducted a 200 year campaign of defamation of Muslims as invaders of Indian civilization?

Rather that the fight for pride and honor, the freedom struggle for the ones we look up to, was a prima facie fight to ensure that people living in Pakistan, both Muslims and Hindus, would become one nation in the same way as Hindus and Muslims living in India would be. In the eyes of the masses, religion would be a private affair, not part of the state and not the other way round as it was meant to be. It was a fight for religion and ethnicity in a sovereign, democratic and secular setup. Some call it economic pleasure, some call it restoring of a purpose. The world calls it Independence.

Deshan Tucker

[Image Source:]