Communalism in pre-independence India

Communalism in pre-independence India

Question:- Communalism, in the context of future of India, played a deciding role. Narrate in detail.

Definition: Communalism is a socio-politico-economic and cultural ideology represented by the people of a community to satisfy their needs.

Growth: The development passed through three stages.

(i) Moderate Communalism: From emergence to 1906
(ii) Extreme Communalism: 1906-38
(iii) Militant Communalism: 1938-47

(i) Moderate Stage:
- In the beginning it was not associated with radical politics and remained both within Muslim League and Indian National Congress.

- The Aligarh Movement of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was to promote Muslims but not at the cost of the Hindus. For this reason it secured Hindu support too.

- Similarly, the promotion of nationalism by INC got support from leaders like Badruddin Tyabji, Hassan Nazami, Hazim Azmal Khan and others.

- Even the Muslim League, formed in 1906, was not intended to oppose the Hindus.

(ii) Extreme Stage:

Some incidents that started extremism in communal politics were

- separate electorates to Muslims in 1909

- Congress trying to win the support of the League in Lucknow Pact in 1916

- championing of the Khilafat by Gandhi

- failure of Non-Cooperation, communal riots such as the Moplah rebellion.

Motilal Nehru committee report was rejected by the League saying that it did not support communal electorate.

During Civil Disobedience and Round Table conferences League kept itself away from the freedom movement and communal electorates to Muslims.

In 1935, it was granted and the elections took place in 1937. League was in majority in 3 provinces whereas Congress was in 8. But the Congress refused to ally with the League to form government. The gap kept widening.

The gap reached its peak when the demand for a separate Muslim state, Pakistan, was conceived by Rahmat Ali in 1933 and was championed by Mohammed Iqbal in 1938 (Allahbad session) and Mohammed Ali Jinnah in 1940 (Lahore session).

(iii) Militant Stage:

- This stage grew violent due to the League's adamant persistence for Pakistan and minority rights proposed by the British government.

- During the Cripps proposal too there was no understanding between the Congress and the League.

- All through the Quit India movement the Muslims remained isolated.

- Gandhi and Jinnah had a violent difference of opinion on the topic of leadership representation for their respective parties.

- According to the Shimla conference of 1945 the portfolios of the Viceroy's cabinet were to be divided between the two parties. Congress had accepted it initially but refused later when Jinnah insisted that he should have the sole right to appoint the Muslim members of viceroy's executive council. This would have deprived leaders like Maulana Azad and Ansari from respectable positions and acknowledged Jinnah as the sole leader.

- In 1945 elections the League formed government in 3 provinces and the Congress in 8. When the Cabinet Mission rejected the claim for Pakistan in 1946, militancy reached the highest point. August 16th, the direct Action Day for Pakistan, was the bloodiest day due to riots.
The League first refused to join the interim government but later joined only to obstruct proceedings. They were louder and more obstinate to compensate their outnumbering. Congress failed to deal with it and that was the main reason for the partition of the country.

No leader was sure if a safe and sure government was possible to be established in alliance with the Muslims. Situation became tight and future consequences were too hard to be considered. Thus, partition became inevitable.
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