As a follow-up of General Musharraf's call for turning Pakistan into a secular state, requesting his fellow countrymen to stay committed to the nation rather than the ummah, Dr Rafiq Zakaria's thesis on who divided India has proved to be ill timed. Some of the references made in course of his argument are particularly unfortunate, especially if one remembers that Indian Muslims are likely to face unprecedented pressure as a corollary of Musharraf's call for secularism in his January 12 television speech. Some of Zakaria's observations are incredible. He asserts that the Indian Muslims have been permanently enslaved, two-third of them to the Hindus.
Before discussing Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah's full vision of a separate homeland, it's relevant to ask Zakaria about his notion of slavery. Has he forgotten our two important Presidents, Dr Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who happened to be Muslims? Not to forget, our three Chief Justices, Messrs Beg, Hidayatullah and Ahmadi. The Air Force too has had the privilege of having a Muslim chief. Apparently, influence of Muslim vote bank during elections is proverbial.
The same Muslim League which was responsible for Partition, is still flourishing with several MPs in the Lok Sabha. Though this does not suggest an element of favour in these achievements, it certainly indicates that Muslims are very much a part of our mainstream. Our's is perhaps one of those few countries where Muslim Personal law is still untempered.
One must note that even in Pakistan it is much more difficult to marry a second time or to divorce the first wife, than in our country. The fact that Zakaria can express such fanciful views itself proves that he is no slave. It is true that Hindus were enslaved by invaders, whether they came via the Hindukush or the Indian ocean. For centuries, many Muslim rulers in fact treated their Hindu subjects with contempt, calling them zimmis, levying jizya. Since the Shariat was in force across large tracts, by and large, the subcontinent was considered Dar-ul-Islam. It was only with the advent of the British and the defeat of the Muslim rulers that there was a growing discontent amongst Hindus.
If Zakaria's frame of mind is based on this history, it still would not add up to the Muslims being enslaved in India. Zakaria himself has written on page 202 that Muslims of Bombay, UP and Bihar, were the first to respond to the call for Partition, enthusiastically supporting the demand for Pakistan.
The Qaid-e-Azam, a Gujarati speaking Bombay man. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan belonged to UP. According to both of them, the smaller the minority, the more its insecurity. In Hindu majority areas like the Punjab and Sindh, there was no insecurity amongst Muslims, explaining their slow response to the call for Pakistan. The fault, however, lay with the betrayal of Jinnah's vision of Pakistan. An integral part of the Muslim League's demand for Partition was an exchange of population between the two dominions. The Hindus were to shift to India and all Muslims living on this side of the border were to migrate to the newly created state of Pakistan. The well-known Karachi daily, Dawn, extensively covered what the League leaders demanded throughout 1946. In turn, Justice GD Khosla has quoted the newspaper repeatedly in his book titled Stern Reckon (New Delhi, 1948). At a press conference on November 25, 1946, at Karachi, Jinnah appealed to the Central as well as the provincial governments to take the question of population exchange. Earlier that year, Sir Feroze Khan Noon, while addressing the Muslim League legislators, had gone to the extent of threatening the re-enactment of the murderous orgies of Chengiz Khan and Halaqu Khan if non-Muslims did not agree to the proposal for population transfer. Khan Iftikhar Hussain of Mamdot had said that the exchange of population offered a practical solution for the problem of Muslims in Dawn (December 3). Pir Ilahi Bur, the Sindh leader, observed that he welcomed an exchange of population for the safety of the minorities, as it would put an end to all communal disturbances. Ismail Chundrigar, who eventually became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, had said that the British had no right to hand over Muslims to a subject people, over whom they had ruled for 500 years.
Mohammad Ismail, a Madras leader, had declared that Muslims of India were in the midst of a jihad. Shaukat Hayat Khan, son of the more famous Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, had threatened, while the British were still present, a rehearsal of what the Muslims would do to the Hindus eventually. The point that comes through clearly is that the transfer of population was an integral part of the demand for Pakistan. Unfortunately, for the Muslims, the Congress leaders, on the one hand, conceded Partition, and on the other stood in the way of its total consummation, that is with regard to hijrat of Muslims. As is well-known, migration is neither novel, nor surprising to the devout Muslims. Prophet Mohammad had undertaken hijrat from Mecca to Medina while founding Islam. Much more recently and in India, hijrat was undertaken by 18,000 Muslims who migrated to Afghanistan in 1920, in wake of their realisation that British would not concede the Sultan of Turkey continuing on his throne and thus remaining the khalifa of all Sunnis. For the Muslim League, Partition, as it turned out, was a dividere interruptus.
It can however, be argued that despite the obstinacy of the Congress leaders, many Muslims, if not most or all of them, could have migrated, but they chose to stay. Surely Zakaria would not like to blame the Hindus for this.
Published in Dailypioneer.com