Sarmad Ishfaq |
As loudly as it echoed in the period leading up to 1947, the two-nation theory still resonates in modern-day “secular” India. The two-nation theory was the basis of the Pakistan Movement, which ultimately led to the creation of a Muslim homeland. Syed Ahmed Khan is described as the architect of the theory, while Allama Iqbal provided the philosophical exposition to it – Quaid-e-Azam, thereafter, transformed it into a political reality. The people of Pakistan, therefore, owe a massive debt to our founding fathers, which can never be paid off.
The two-nation theory is intrinsically intertwined within the spirits of all Pakistanis and furthermore, it is a pillar validating the separate identity of the Pakistani polity. The foundation of the theory was that Muslims and Hindus are fundamentally distinct due to their religions. The Quaid, formerly an advocate for a united India, recognized that Muslims would be second-class citizens if at all in a Hindu-dominated India. This was evidenced by Hindu hegemony in politics, the government sector, and educational institutions during British Raj.
The two-nation theory was the basis of the Pakistan Movement, which ultimately led to the creation of a Muslim homeland.
Even though the secular Congress alleged to represent all Indians despite religion and claimed that a united India would stand strong, the ground realities displayed that religion was pivotal for both Muslims and Hindus and that their faith would primarily act in opposition to the other. In the 1937 elections, the Congress who claimed to represent 95% of India could only secure 40% of the seats in 11 provinces – they were dominant only in Hindu-majority provinces.
This showed that Muslims clearly did not distinguish the Congress as their primary representative while the Hindus ominously did. Under the 1937-39 Congress rule, Muslims experienced a precursor of what living under a Hindu-dominated government in India would entail and how “secular” the Congress really was. The Congress declared Hindi as the official language; slaughtering cows was made verboten, and the Congress flag was adopted as the national flag.
Furthermore, Vande Mataram, a Hindu-deity celebrating song was chosen as the national anthem to the dismay of Muslims. Since this song defies the land of India, it is in contrast to Islam’s monotheistic beliefs. Furthermore, the song was adapted from the novel Ananda Math which glorified the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Besides this, the Congress’ educational reforms too had anti-Muslim insinuations in them – the Warda Taleemi Scheme aimed at eliminating the two-nation theory from the cognizance of Muslim students, while the Vidiya Mandar Scheme made obligatory Mandar (Hindu temple) education at the elementary level.
The purpose of the latter was to acclimatize Hindu practices and beliefs within Muslim children. The doors of public sector jobs were also closed for Muslims and the Muslim economy was purposefully wounded vis-à-vis trade and agriculture. Even the British could not help notice this deliberate alienation of the Muslims. In April 1938, Marquees of Lothian termed Congress rule as a “rising tide of Hindu rule”.
The foundation of the theory was that Muslims and Hindus are fundamentally distinct due to their religions.
One only needs to read the reports published during these times to fully comprehend Hindu aggression – for example, the Pirpur Report, Muslim Sufferings under Congress Rule, and The Sharif Report. It is no wonder that Quaid-e-Azam asked Muslims to celebrate December 22, 1939, as a Day of Deliverance when the tyrannical rule of the Congress ceased. In the article “Jinnah and the making of Pakistan” by Ian Talbot, the author rightfully asserts that due to Congress making no effort in appreciating and respecting the Muslims’ religious and cultural sensibilities, the All India Muslim League (AIML) was pushed to advance the cause of Pakistan.
Almost 80 years since the Day of Deliverance, the situation for Indian Muslims in modern India is more detrimental than ever before. Whether the Congress– who has been in power for the majority of India’s existence– is in government or the Hindutva-oriented BJP, Muslims have not found any semblance of solace. Under the so-called inclusive constitution of India, Muslims have been relegated further down the societal hierarchy since partition.
This can be attributed, among other things, to the rise of Hindutva groups in the country who have an extreme distaste for Muslims. Whenever these groups surged, Muslims have suffered in all aspects whether religious, social, or political. The political representation of Muslims in India is in an abysmal state and they remain without any significant Muslim political party to safeguard their rights as the AIML did for them in British India. In 1952, there were 11 Muslim MPs in the parliament – this number increased gradually and peaked in 1980 to 49 Muslim MPs.
The backdrop drastically changed in the 1980s however, as far-right Hindu forces expanded and asserted their influence to further marginalize the Muslims. This occurred in the same period when the Babri Masjid issue was being used to augment religious fractures across India. In 1992, the Babri Masjid was desecrated by Hindu extremist groups (some members of the BJP were also involved) and this triggered mass communal rioting across India killing 2000 people (mainly Muslims). Therefore, due to the increase of Hindutva ideology in the 1980s and 1990s, Muslim MPs became and remain an endangered species – in 1991, there were only 25 Muslim MPs in parliament.
The doors of public sector jobs were also closed for Muslims and the Muslim economy was purposefully wounded vis-à-vis trade and agriculture.
Eighteen years later (in 2009), there were only 30 Muslim MPs and after the BJP took office in 2014 this number fell to 19 – the lowest point since 1957. What makes the decline of Muslims MPs even more distressing is that the Muslim population has been growing steadily in post-partition India. In 1951, Muslims amounted to 34 million or 9.8% of the populous, contrasted to 172 million (14.2%) in 2011. Therefore, in the largest “democracy” in the world, which also has the third highest number of Muslims globally, a minuscule 19 (parliamentarians) represent over 172 million Muslims.
Foreshadowing and experiencing exactly this void of Muslim representation in British India, Quaid-e-Azam demanded separate electorates so the Muslims would have a voice and later, when Congress displayed anti-Muslim contours, realized the compulsion of Pakistan. Unfortunately, what the Quaid presaged then is still the reality of Muslims in India today. In 2004, the Congress returned to power after languishing in the opposition for 8 years, an unprecedented amount of time for a party, which ruled India for 52 out of 57 years between 1947 and 2004.
The Congress won against the BJP by only three seats and this victory was widely attributed to the Muslim vote. In 2006, a report was commissioned by the Congress government to ascertain how terrible the conditions of the Muslims were nationwide. The results of the Sachar Committee were shocking. Concerning education, it concluded that the literacy rate of Muslims in 2001 was 59.1% and far below the national average of 65.1%.
In the premier colleges of the country, only 1 out 25 undergraduate students (4%), and 1 out of 50 postgraduate students (2%) was a Muslim. In many states, Muslim literacy levels were even lower than those of the most disenfranchised communities of India – the SCs (Scheduled Castes, previously known as Untouchables) and STs (Scheduled Tribes). Vis-à-vis the Indian economy, the report found Muslim women’s engagement in the economy as very low.
The backdrop drastically changed in the 1980s however, as far-right Hindu forces expanded and asserted their influence to further marginalize the Muslims.
Furthermore, Muslim workers were more susceptible as they were concentrated in the informal sector characterized by lower wages, little or no social security, and pathetic working conditions. Their penetration in managerial and white-collar jobs was extremely lacking as well. Relating to poverty, Muslims fared only slightly better than the SCs and STs. The Muslims also complained how government institutions and certain segments of the population viewed them with an inordinate amount of suspicion.
The report presented many recommendations but the Congress government “rewarded” the Muslims for their loyal electoral support by doing little to rectify the concerns of the aggrieved. If Indian states are analyzed individually, the conditions of Muslims is as bad if not worse. Hindu nature and authority are reflected in almost all sectors of society and economy. Muslim penetration in the civil service, the armed forces, and police remain negligible while Hindus make up the overwhelming majority.
Read more: March 23,1940: A walk down memory lane
To put the preceding into better context, I will cite a 2013 report by the Rahman Committee established by the Maharashtra government in 2008. Astonishingly, according to the report, Muslims comprised less than 1% of the Indian Administrative Service and 4% of Maharashtra’s police force. Furthermore, 60% of Muslims lived below the poverty line and only 2% graduated from college in the state. The report also concluded that the quality of schools in Muslim dominated areas is reprehensible and that these schools are not conducive for students’ talent to blossom.
In Foreign Policy magazine’s article, “Is Modi’s India Safe for Muslims?”, James Traub emphasizes that Muslims across the country have less access than the average Indian to primary education, health care, and credit. Notwithstanding this, Muslims are also often the victims of ethnic violence whenever the Muslim-Hindu schism deepens. Albeit with vicissitudes, communal violence has been a recurrent phenomenon in India throughout its history. The 2002 Gujarat massacre was a three-day period of ethnic violence, which led to Hindu mobs killing 1,100 to 2,000 Muslims.
The Congress won against the BJP by only three seats and this victory was widely attributed to the Muslim vote.
This event occurred under then chief minister of Gujarat, Modi, who himself is a lifelong member of the infamous Hindutva group – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Communal violence is not only restricted to Muslims and Hindus but also exists among Hindus and Sikhs as well as Hindus and Christians. The infamous 1984 Sikh Massacre, for example, was a series of pogroms organized and supported by Congress Party members, which led to the deaths of 8,000 to 17,000 Sikhs.
In the aforementioned Gujarat violence, besides Muslims, many Christians were targeted and killed and many churches were destroyed. Furthermore, during the 2007-2008 attacks in Odisha against Christians, 40 people died and 134 were injured. Again, the violent Hindu shadow that casts over all minorities in India was anticipated and witnessed decades ago by the Quaid – who subsequently took affirmative action by liberating the Muslims.
Read more: Pakistan : The home to South Asia’s Muslims
The tragedy, however, is that modern-day India has not learned from its barbaric past and the proliferation of Hindutva groups has led to further gross atrocities against minorities. This evidences that the Quaid’s sagacity remains timeless. Since the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the state and public have become further weary of Muslims. In the essay “How Oppressed are Muslims in India?”, Nida Kirmani mentions how the Indian state, after the 2008 attacks, increased the targeting and harassment of Muslim men – Muslims had to bear human right abuses during security forces’ search operations conducted under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Although the Muslims have rightfully become disillusioned with the Congress, they have no better political alternative and hence they remain trapped between a party, the Congress–which has had ample time but done little for their cause– and another, the BJP– who are overtly pushing a Hindutva agenda to undermine them completely. As terrible and oppressive as both parties have been for Muslims, it is the BJP’s Hindutva-based India where the Muslims are facing an existential crisis.
Notwithstanding this, Muslims are also often the victims of ethnic violence whenever the Muslim-Hindu schism deepens.
The BJP has firm roots in the extremist Hindutva ideology that views the subcontinent as the homeland of Hindus exclusively – “Hindus” are defined as people who accept India as their holy fatherland. To realize these aspirations, a complete Muslim ouster or reconversion is required. The party’s ideological parent is the controversial RSS and it has links to various other Hindu extremist groups such as the Sangh Parivar. Through these groups, the BJP maintains a strong Hindutva base in India.
Since the BJP came in power in 2014, government-supported fringe groups have initiated many anti-Muslim programs. For example, “Ghar wapsi” (homecoming) aims to reconvert Muslims back to Hinduism by using the money, threats, and even violence; cow vigilantism has increased where Muslims are attacked and killed for eating or selling beef. The Economist’s article “India’s Muslims: An Uncertain Community”, mentions that a Muslim father of three was beaten to death by a Hindu mob near Delhi on mere suspicion of consuming beef.
The article further narrates that when one of the suspects in this reprehensible crime died (of disease) in police custody, a BJP minister attended the suspect’s funeral where his casket was wrapped in the Indian flag – honouring him as a hero. Besides this, the “love jihad” campaign claims that Muslim men, allegedly, convert Hindu women to Islam by trapping them in love affairs (no hard evidence of this exists). In India’s most populated state, Uttar Pradesh, Modi selected an anti-Muslim far-right Hindu named Yogi Adityanath (founder of the militant Hindu youth organization, Hindu Yuva Vahini) as the chief minister.
Yogi is known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and his organization has been a part of communal violence against Muslims in the past. More specifics on the BJP’s Muslim-centric atrocities can be found in a recent article of mine titled “India’s Saffron Justice: The Rise of the Hindutva State under BJP Patronage”. In the New York Times’ article, India’s Muslims and the Price of Partition, author Ajaz Ashraf laments that under the Modi-led BJP government, some of the AIML’s “fears in the 1930s and ’40s have returned to haunt India’s Muslims”.
As terrible and oppressive as both parties have been for Muslims, it is the BJP’s Hindutva-based India where the Muslims are facing an existential crisis.
Finally, Indian state-sponsored terrorism in Occupied Kashmir, which has been subject to news and academic scrutiny, needs no introduction. The rebellion of the Kashmiri Muslims against Indian state atrocities peaked in the 1990s but was eventually suppressed. However, leading up to the period of the BJP’s term and especially during their tenure, the Kashmir rebellion has witnessed a new upswing characterized by pro-Pakistan slogans and Pakistani flags, stone throwing, and use of social media to make the world cognizant of Indian brutalities.
The current protests against India initiated in 2016 due to the killing of a popular freedom fighter by Indian forces and India’s abhorrent response further fuelled the fire of the protesters. The BJP government ordered the Indian police and paramilitary forces to suppress Kashmiri Muslims by adopting force. Security forces have used and continue to use tear gas shells, rubber bullets, pellet guns [blinding civilians], as well as assault rifles, which has led to the deaths of over 90 civilians and injured over 15,000 civilians.
Read more: Hindutva’s war on names
It is being labelled as the Kashmiri Intifada due to its striking resemblance to the Palestinian Intifada – the oppressed stone throwing Kashmiris akin to the Palestinians and the vicious Indian state parallel Israel. Most recently (in mid-December, 2018), 7 innocent Kashmiri protesters were killed by security forces making it one of the bloodiest days for civilians in recent memory. Modi’s government has also placed Kashmir under a media blackout so that civilians cannot communicate state-sponsored atrocities to the rest of the world.
After contemplating Indian reality pre and, especially, post-partition, the two-nation theory’s validity stands monolithic and therefore we should be ever grateful to our Quaid and the founding fathers for carving out an independent homeland for Muslims. If the Quaid had not unremittingly grasped on to the two-nation theory, Pakistan would never have come into existence – and if such a tragedy had befallen us, God forbids, we too would be the oppressed and ostracized Muslims of India today.
“Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”
Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan
After concluding his Masters and receiving the Top Graduate award, Sarmad continued his passion for writing and became a researcher for Lahore Centre for Peace Research. Sarmad has several publications in international journals and magazines in the fields of Terrorism/Counterterrorism and International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.