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A Fresh Look at Catastrophic
Events That Led to Partition

Book Review

, by B. SHEIKH ALI

THE HINDU MUSLIM DIVIDE (A Fresh Look)
by Amrik Singh
Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi- 110 002
Price: Rs 345
Year: 2007

Muslims of the subcontinent have undergone tremendous pressure in all walks of life during the last three centuries. The break-up of the Mughal Empire, the steady rise of the colonial power, the western impact on Indian life, the failure of the Muslims to catch up with the modern trends, the role of the Aligarh movement, the shrewd diplomacy of the British to divide and rule and the policy of the Muslim League led to the catas-trophic events of the partition of India, which broke the back of the Indian Muslims. Much has been written on these events, but none is free from subjectivity. It is a matter of great relief that Amrik Singh has thrown fresh look on all these events. What he has done is to present a panorama of the momentous events, most sensitive and complicated, that led to the partition, and what followed from the partition, in their correct perspective.

 

This study is exceedingly useful for understanding the burning problems of the Muslims in India, who have touched the bottom in the social, economic and educational sectors of national life. The thrust of the study is on two problems, how best to eradicate their poverty, and how best to bridge the gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims. Very rightly he says that the problem of poverty cannot be solved without bringing about a change of heart in both the communities towards each other. The Hindus feel the Muslims have not fallen in line with the main stream, and the Muslims feel they have the right to retain their cultural identity. A powerful political party, B.J.P. insists that Muslims should fall in line with other groups who believe in national culture, which in their view is Hindu culture. Equally powerful another political party, the Indian National Congress, believes in the secular character of the land, where scope exists for the minority community to retain its identity. The author has very lucidly analysed the approach of these two parties, and says that the Congress “reacts to issues within the broad framework of protecting the minorities, but it does not have a well-defined approach to these issues, which would not only win it new adherents but also create an atmosphere of security for the minorities – something that is urgently needed.”

It is the safety and security both life and property of the minorities that has become an important issue, and at times a question of law and order, as it happened in Gujarat. Ever since the partition, communal riots have recurred so often, particularly in the Hindi belt, that Muslims feel very insecure. Nearly 40 to 50 towns in India are identified as riot-prone. Whenever a riot occurs, it strengthens the B.J.P. rather than the Congress. The remedy the author suggests for this problem is good governance, rule of law, and spirit of liberalism. India is now committed to globalisation and liberalisation which demand a fundamental change from the medieval concepts of “Hindu Pride” and “Muslim Pride”. The whole world is now knit into a village where India cannot afford to have the luxury of either Hindu fundamentalism or Muslim fundamentalism. It is very necessary that India should build a successful secular society.

The second important aspect which this study touches for socio-economic change among Muslims is the proper political representation to them. It is not merely the poverty or safety or illiteracy factors that have reduced the Muslims to appalling conditions but also the lack of political clout. The mode of political representation should change. In the present system of one person one vote where the persons securing the largest number of votes gets elected, the Muslims have no chance in the political field, for their ratio of just 15% in the population could easily be out-voted by 85% non-Muslims. As long as the society is still ridden with caste and creed factors, the Muslims cannot be adequately represented. They are at the mercy of the Hindus in the joint electorate even for a single seat, except in a few packets where their number is large. Except in Kashmir, nowhere Muslims could touch even 20%. Reservations to the Scheduled Castes and schedule tribes helped them immensely, just as separate electorates had helped the Muslims under the British, although its impact was very harmful for the national cause. We need not have separate electorates, but some system must be devised to give them proportionate representation.

The third important point raised in the study is the handicap Muslims suffer from their social system. Their women are not having those opportunities which the fair sex of other communities enjoy. This is because of no fault of others but of their own, who have confined women to the four walls of the house. The author says, “Muslims women are much more caught up in the medieval bind than they need to have been. In any case, the last few centuries have reduced the Muslim to a state of stagnation from which they need to rescue themselves.” (P.17) Apart from the position of women there are quite a few other factors that inhibit the Muslims. Whereas the Hindu society during the colonial period took to modern ways, the Muslim nobility was fossilised by remaining in the feudal age. The best example is Urdu poetry, which Sir Syed attempted to reform. Their customs, manners, morals, ways of living and thinking were all such as to be equated with the French nobility of the revolutionary days. The community still suffers from ignorance, apathy, superstition, extravagance, false pride and disunity.

The fourth important aspect of the study is the failure of political leadership among Indian Muslims in the post-partition period. Earlier in the pre-partition days they got what they wanted through effective leadership, but after that period they were so paralysed that there was none to guide them within the country. Their position grew worse after the death of Maulana Azad. Added to this, Indian Muslims have become victims of wrong policies of some Islamic countries. The rise of Talibans in Afghanistan and the interest of Pakistan in Kashmir had an adverse effect on Indian Muslims, who were suspected to have extra-territorial loyalties. In particular Kashmir issue has become the breeding ground of difficulties for Indian Muslims. The language and cultural affinities with Pakistan is yet another factor that causes friction between the two communities.

Finally, the cultural disparities between the Hindus and Muslims form the major cause for the divide. For a long time Urdu-Hindi dispute, music before the mosques, cow slaughter, Holi and Muharram had caused wide divergence in their relations. Added to these the question of personal law of the Muslims has become a very sensitive issue. The Supreme Court judgment on Shah Banu case led to momentous changes, which ultimately resulted in the demolition of Babri mosque that issue is still pending in the courts. Adjustments and accomm-odation on sensitive issues alone would guarantee peace and progress for Muslims.



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