Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Freedom Movement and The Birth of Pakistan  

Pakistan emerged on the world map on August 14, 1947. It has its roots into the remote past. Its establishment was the culmination of the struggle by Muslims of the South-Asian subcontinent for a separate homeland of their own. Its foundation was laid when Mohammad Bin Qasim subdued Sindh in 711 A.D., as a reprisal against sea pirates that had taken refuge in Raja Dahir's kindom.

Advent of Islam

The first permanent Muslim foothold was achieved with Mohammad Bin Qasim's conquest of Sindh in 711 A.D. An autonomous Muslim state linked with the Umayyad, and later with the Abbassid, caliphate was established. Its jurisdiction extended over the Southern and Central parts of present Pakistan. Several new cities were founded and Arabic was introduced as the official language.

At the time of Mahmud of Ghazna's invasion, Muslim rule existed in Multan and some other regions. The Ghaznavids (976-1148) and their successor, the Ghaurids (1148-1206), were Central Asian by origin; their respective kingdoms covered mostly the regions of present Pakistan, but their capitals, were outside India. In the early thirteenth century were laid the foundations of Muslims rule in India, with extended boundaries and Delhi as the capital. From 1206 to 1526 A.D., five dynasties held away. Then followed the period of Mughal ascendancy (1526-1707), and their rule, however, continued till mid-nineteenth century. In 1857, the Mughal empire came to an end and was replaced by the British.

From the time of the Ghaznavids, Persian had gradually replaced Arabic as the official language and the Muslims developed their own economic, political and religious institutions. Shariah was recognised as the basic law of the state and in principle the rulers were expected to enforce it, so the prolonged periods of laxity were generally followed by reinforcement of the basic law under public pressure.

The impact of Islam on the South Asian subcontinent was deep an far reaching. Islam introduced not only a new religion, but also a new civilization, a new value structure and a new way of life. The Islamic traditions of art and literature, of culture and refinement, of social and welfare institutions, were introduced. The Muslims also introduced new trends in architecture, and they gave the sub-continent most of its magnificent forts, palaces towers, majestic mosques and beautiful monuments. New fruits from Central Asia were introduced, and the interaction between Central Asia and India in the culinary field gave birth to the Mughlai (Mughal) cuisine which holds, sway over the northern parts of the subcontinent even today.

Horticulture and gardening were developed to a point that well-laid gardens with fountains and running water came to be called "Mughal Gardens" Highways were built; so was a grand trunk road from Bengal to the Frontier. A new revenue system was introduced, which continues to this day. Literature and the arts came to be patronised, a new language (Urdu) was developed and local languages encouraged, a new school of (north Indian) classical music developed, and new sartorial trends introduced. The cultural and civilizational aspect of Muslim rule reached their zenith during the reign of Emperor Shah-Jahan, the great builder, whose age is often compared to that of Louis XV in France.

The new language, Urdu, was a blend of Arabic, Persian and Sansi; it drew heavily from Arabic and Persian while adopting indigenous words and idioms. It took birth in the Deccan (South of Narbada), as a result of Muslim soldiers from the north intermingling and establishing communication with the local population in later thirteenth century. Though Persian continued to be the court language, Urdu gained currency among the general populace over the centuries to become the lingua franca of the subcontinent, before parochialism and communal prejudice deflected the Hindus to opt for Hindi in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. Apart from religion, culture, laws and ethos, Urdu also enabled the Muslim community during the period of its ascendancy to preserve its separate identity in the Subcontinent.

The problem of Muslim identity became increasingly critical during the period of the decline of Mughal empire (1720 onwards) which saw the rise of independent principalities and especially of the militant Marathas in Western India. Their depredations, especially into the heart of the empire, even up to Delhi, the capital indicated the weakening of Muslim power. Shah Walliullah (1703-62), the scholar-theologian, sought to address the twin problems of Muslim identity and loss of Muslim power at various levels. He founded a school of thought, laid the foundations of Islamic renaissance in the Subcontinent, and became the prime inspiration for almost all subsequent social and religious reform movements of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He was also responsible for masterminding a coalition of Muslim forces under Ahmad Shah Abdali (173), the founder of modern Afghanistan, to checkmate the Maratha ascendancy on the Indian political chessboard and the Jat depredations in the Punjab. The Maraths were finally routed in the extremely consequential third Battle of Panipat (1761), with their dreams of becoming the sovereign power in the Subcontinent shattered for once and all.

Rise of the British

Meantime, the British through the East India Company had gained a foothold in Bengal. The East India Company which was granted trading rights and permission to establish a factory at Surat in 1600 A.D. by emperor Akbar had expanded its activities a good deal during the next century and a half. It had constructed forts at Madras and Calcutta, and established a private para military force on the pretext of providing protection to its ships, trade, and colonies. It competed with other European trading companies, notably the Dutch and the French, and was supremely successful in almost driving them out of the sub-continent except for some port-cities by the middle seventeenth century. And now, for the first time in the battle at Plassey in 1757, the East India Company, as a result of their joining forces with Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula's deputy scored their first major victory against an Indian ruler. In Perspective' the victory at Plassey, which invested the British with sovereign power in Bengal, foreshadowed the rise of the British power in India. Seven years later,in 1764,the triumph of the British arms at the battle of Buxar not only confirmed their sovereignty over Bengal, but also extended it to cover Bihar and Oudh. Buxar also gave the British the Diwani(tax collection rights)in both Bengal and Bihar, and brought Oudh under their suzerainty or in direct control. Several minor wars followed Buxar, but the major one was the Fourth Mysore War at Seringapattam in 1799, in which the British were finally able to oust from power their greatest foe in India namely, Tipu Sultan of Mysore. He fell fighting with his sword in hand. The death of Tipu Sultan made the British the supreme power in the whole of southern India. Next came the turn of the Marathas, their erstwhile allies against Tipu, and the Marathas war (1818-1819) extended British supremacy to western India and Rajputana. In 1843, the Battle at Miani, near Hyderabad, ended the rule of the Mirs of Sindh and opened the way for the extension of British power and influence in Balochistan. Punjab, the North-West Frontier region and Kashmir were added to the sprawling British empire of after the Second Angla-Sikh war during 1848-49. And seven years later, in 1856, the fabulous kingdom of Oudh was annexed on the pretext of mal-administration. Meantime, several other states like Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Khairpur and Bhopal were successfully pressurised into accepting British suzerainty and indirect control, while others like Jhansi, Sumbalpur, Katchela and Nagpur were annexed under the doctrine of lapse, which laid down that any state or principality whose ruler had died childless would lapse to the British Government. Thus, by 1856,the entire subcontinent, from Kashmir to Cape Comorin and from Gujrat to Assam, had come under the over-lordship of the East India Company.

Muslim Resistance and the War of Independence of 1857

In Bengal, South India, Sindh, Balochistan, Oudh and the North-Western region, indeed in large parts of India, the British had risen to power at the expense of the Muslims; hence they were the first to realise the potential threat to Indian freedom the British policies and strategies had posed from mid-eighteenth century. Thus by early nineteenth century, the more thoughtful among Muslims had pronounced India a Dar Al-harab i.e. an abode of war. Indeed, Shah Abdul Aziz, the son of Shah Waliullah and the first translator of the Quran into Persian in India, had given a fatwa pronouncing India under British Government as dar al-harab. Shah Waliullah had earlier diagnosed the malaise that had eaten into the very vials of the Muslim body-politic in the post-Aurangzeb period (1707), and had suggested the twin ideals of moral reform and political supremacy of Islam. While the first edict meant that Muslims should get rid of all un-Islamic practices which they had brought over from Hinduism or had adopted through their contact with the Hindus, the latter ideal meant that Islam could not flourish under alien domination and that political supremacy was essential if Muslims were to fashion their destiny according to their own ethos. These Waliunnahi ideals inspired the rise of the Mujahidin movement(1826-64), founded by Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rai Braeli(1786-1891).

Syed Ahmad Shaheed pronounced the twin principles of a free homeland and a reformed Islam. He upheld the doctrine of dar al-harab and preached jihad against alien domination. His first target was the Sikh kingdom in north-western India where Muslims were being denied even the right to practise their religion- for instance, even the right to say Azan. Thus, Syed Ahmad Shaheed unfurled the banner of Jihad against the Sikhs from the northern heights in 1826. His cataclysmic campaign in the Frontier underwent many vicissitudes, but at one time (1830) Sayied Shaheed even captured Peshawar, and proclaimed an Islamic Republic, with himself at its head. Latter, however, he along with his principal lieutenants was killed (1831) in an encounter at Balakot. fortunately though, the movement, inspired by certain transcendent ideals, did not die out with him. It was reorganized from its base at Patna and replenished with recruits from as far afield as Bihar, and Eastern Bengal. And with the collapse of the Sikh power in the Punjab, Kashmir and the Frontier, the Mujahidin waged a rather long and sustained struggle against its successor, the British Their struggle continued almost unabated till about 1865 when their headquarters in the Frontier and their vast network inside the country were utterly wiped out.

Thus, the Mujahidin, who were the first to breathe a spirit of revolt and revolutions in the Subcontinent, became the forerunners of the war of 1857. Indeed, their preaching of Jihad through their vast network and through itinerant preachers form more than two decades had in part prepared the Muslims for revolt. The Mujahidin preaching against the British found a fertile soil because of certain extra-religious factor such as the scuttling of the indigenous industry and trade, the economic emasculation of both the gentry and the masses alike, the heavy taxation burden, the extremely provocative activities of the missionaries, the racial exclusiveness and feigned superiority of the British ruling classes, and their contemptuous and disdainful attitude and behaviour towards Indians and all things Indian, besides the annexation of several kingdoms by the British on various pretexts. These causes had infuriated the Indians as a whole beyond repair, invested them with a mounting feeling of discontent and rage, and drove them to desperation. Thus came the War of Independence of 1857, which engulfed practically the whole of northern India in its raging flames, and threatened British rule in India. However, because of certain weaknesses, both internal and external, this herculian Indian effort to throw off the British yoke could not succeed. This failure, at once both spectacular and dismal, spelled disaster for India, and especially for Muslims.

Economic Collapse of Muslims

The British pinned down the responsibility for the popular war on the Muslims and were determined to teach them a lesson. Even otherwise, the British economic, linguistic and administrative policies had generally discriminated against Muslims from the beginning. Thus, the Permanent Settlement of 1793 had dispossessed the Muslim nobility of Bengal of most their lands, and made Muslim peasantry subservient to the Hindu tax collector, now raised to the position of landlords. If the Permanent Settlement had dispossessed the Muslims in Bengal, the Macaulay's Minute of 1835 replacing Persian by English as the court language had hurt the Muslims economically throughout the British dominions. This decision had made the Muslims "illiterate" so far as the official language was concerned, and, therefore, unfit for any government employment. The East India Company's commercial policy and likewise reduced Muslim artisans to a state of unemployment and penury.

This general trend towards the economic collapse of Muslims received further impetus in the post-1857 period when the British, incensed at Muslim "audacity" to stage a revolution against them, launched upon an avowedly anti-Muslim policy. Their lands were confiscated without rhyme or reason; they were barred from getting enlisted in the army and the police, their traditional vocations. Indeed, they were made to stew in their own juice persecuted, humbled, and frustrated. Thus, by 1870s, according to W.W. Hunter, the author of Indian Musalmans, there was scarcely a Government office in Calcutta in which a Muslim could "hope for any post above the rank of a porter, messenger, filler of ink-pots and mender of pens". The poignancy of the Muslim economic situation was summed up by Hunter in these words, "A hundred and seventy years ago it was almost impossible for a well-born Musalman in Bengal to become poor; at present it is almost impossible for him to continue rich". In the rest of the subcontinent as well, the Muslims had fallen on evil days in the aftermath of the mass uprising.

Muslim Response (1860s-1880s)

The Muslim response to the multi-faced challenge posed by the rise of the British was rather disparate, tardy, unintegrated, and somewhat group-oriented or local in character. the religious leaders who had provided leadership to the community since the decline of Muslim power in India, withdrew from the mainstream of community life, and devoted themselves exclusively to imparting religious education. their seminaries, especially at Deoband, Farangi Mahal, Rai Bareilly and Calcutta did help the Muslims to preserve their identity, but hardly addressed themselves to the problem of economic collapse of the Muslims. The first response came in April 1863 when Nawab Abdul Latif (1828-93) launched the Mohammandan Literary Society in Calcutta, then the capital of the British Indian Empire. The Society stood for Western learning and progress; it submitted to the government a number of memorials on the state of Muslim education and on social and religious issues; it was in part responsible for the Government's Resolution of August 7, 1871 on Muslim education. Initially apolitical, the Society progressively assumed a political role: it represented the Muslim view-point and Muslim grievances to the government. Syed Ameer Ali (1849-1928), the great jurist and scholar, also addressed the Muslim problem, but primarily in political terms. He founded the National (later, Central) Mohammedan Association in 1978; and it submitted a memorial to the Viceroy in August 112, which for the first time processed, aggregated and articulated Muslim demands and grievances. The memorial which became the basis of discussion on the state of Muslim education and Muslim employment for three years, finally led to the government's Resolution of July, 15, 1885. It signified a reversal of government's policy towards Muslim progress. Ameer Ali, who was by far the most politically oriented among the Muslim leaders of his time, mooted the idea of a conference of Muslim leaders and intelligentsia and later the establishment of an All India Muslim Political Conference, both in 1888, but his plans were aborted because of opposition or lack of response from other leaders.

Of all the Muslim responses, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's (1819-98) was the most sustained, the most wide-ranging and the most comprehensive; it was also more widely owned up by the mainstream Muslim community and was more consequential. Sir Syed's panacea for the Muslim situation in the post-1857 period was modern education. He founded schools at various places and a college at Aligarh; he launched the Tahzib al Akhlaq to bring about moral and social reform; he fought against the prevalent feeling of despondency and resignation. And, "Aligarh, with all the forces it organized", to quote Kraemer, became "the starting point of a slow awakening of the Muslim community out of its listlessness". It was also "the most potent factor in the breaking down of the crushing feeling of backwardness and despondency".

Aligarh Movement

Sir Syed's movement at that time was considered mainly educational, if only because of his unending stress on Muslims acquiring modern education. He was also averse to Muslims participating in any sort of organized political activity, which, he feared, might revive British hostility towards them. That was why he opposed Ameer Ali's proposed Political Conference and why he advised Muslims against joining the Indian National Congress, when it was organized in 1885. However, in his policies and programme, he was, in part, guided and goaded by political considerations. For one thing, in his age education was the passport to political power; for another, he seemed supremely conscious of the basic fact "that the political life of the Muslims cold be saved from extinction by their participating in and not by discarding Western education". For instance the Mohammedan Education Conference, which he founded in 116, helped to provide a common platform for the Muslims of various provinces to come together, "to formulate a centre of public opinion for the entire Mohammedan `nation` and then to spread those ideas among the community" and to create communal consciousness and solidarity. The Aligarh School which Sir Syed founded, says Dr. I.H. Qureshi, "gave the Muslim community a new hope, a new sense of mission. >From the deepest despair it pulled the Muslims out into a new field of fruitful activity....Indeed Aligarh was the cradle of the feeling of nationalism among the Muslims because it kept alive the idea of a well integrated Muslim community in the Subcontinent".

Muslims Enter Politics

The growth of communal consciousness among Hindus since the 1860s made the Aligarh movement increasingly politically oriented. Earlier in 1867 the Hindus in Banaras had launched an agitation for the ouster of Urdu from courts. As years rolled by, Sir Syed also became increasingly fearful of the numerical, educational and economic superiority of the Hindus; this obliged him to demand reservation of seats for Muslims and other important Indian elements in the Imperial Council. Otherwise, he felt, the Muslims stood no chance of getting elected by a predominantly Hindu electorate on the basis of sheer numbers. The Congress' demand for elections without reservations alarmed him and led him to oppose its claims and demands.

The course of events during the next two decades also showed that Muslim rights stood in danger of being trampled upon. Under the influence of Bal Ganngadhar Talak, and extremist Hindu leader, the Congress mounted agitation, directly or indirectly, in favour of Hindi and co-protection, and a representative form of government on a non-denominational basis.

The Hindu agitation for making Hindi the court language in the U.P., Bihar and Oudh succeeded in 1890, affecting the Muslims adversely, not only economically but also culturally since the elevation of Hindi posed a threat to the status of Urdu as the Lingua France of India. Hence, the Muslims under Nawab Muhsin-ul-Mulk, organized the Urdu Defence Association in 1900. Before long, this Association took on the complexion of a political platform; it also became the forerunner of the All-India Muslim League.

Then came another opportunity for Muslims to test the bona-fides of the Hindus vis-a-vis their legitimate rights, in 1905, the unwieldy Bengal Presidency was partitioned for purely administrative reasons; but, as a by-product, it resulted in the emergence of the Muslim majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The Hindus had till then dominated the entire Bengal Presidency economically and otherwise, and this partition portended a termination of their monopoly in the political, economic, cultural and educational spheres, so far as the new province was concerned. Hence, under the auspices of the Congress, the Hindus launched a countrywide movement against the partition of Bengal. And, in so agitation against the Bengal partition, they came to be pitted against the beneficiaries of the new province namely the Muslims.

First, the anti-Urdu agitation in the U.P., and Bihar; then the cow-protection activities resulting in Hindu-Muslim riots followed by the setting up of Shivaji Clubs and the concurrent degradation of Muslim rulers, especially Aurangzeb Alamgir; next the demand for elections on a non-denominational basis which would preclude Muslims from getting elected without Hindu backing; and now the agitation again the partition of Bengal and these demands and postures, one after the other, had pitted the Hindus against the Muslims, embittering their relations for the worse and foreclosing the traditional avenues of cooperation between them.

It was against this backdrop that the Muslims demanded separate electorate in 1906, in order to ensure their representation through genuine representatives. The demand also implied that the Indian Muslims, though a minority, were yet a distinct entity by themselves in Indian's body-politic, and that they were determind to keep their entity intact in any future constitutional arrangement. Thus, from now on separate electorate became the sheet-anchor of Indian Muslim politics. They were conceded by the British in the Minto-Morley Reforms (1909), and by the Congress in the Lucknow Pact (1916) which Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) had masterminded to bring about.

Foundation of the Muslim League (1906)

Meantime, the Muslims' compelling urge to organize themselves politically led to the founding of the All-India Muslim League at Dhaka in 1906. With the Aga Khan (1877-1957) as the permanent President and Nawab Salimullah Khan (the Nawab of Dhaka), Nawab Muhsin-ul-Mul, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk and Mohammad Ali (1877-1931) as the core of its leadership, the League aspired to become the political mouthpiece of Indian Muslims. Its platform included safeguarding of Muslim interests, articulating their demands, building up public opinion in favour of separate electorate, and countering Hindu propaganda and agitation against the partition of Bengal.

The rather precipitative annulment of this partition in 1911, and this in the face of His Majesty's Government's plighted word, gave Muslims a rude shock. The British complicity in the spoilation of the Ottoman Empire and in the strangulaion of Iran about the same time caused further alienaion. The British had refused Turkish troops' access to Libya through Egypt in 1911, when Libya was raided by Italy, and then during the subsequent Balkan wars of 1912-13, which brought the Balkan powers to the gates of Adrianopole, the British sympathies, as usual, were with the aggressors and against the aggrieved Turks.

Then, in 1912, the British refused to grant the Aligarh Muslim University Scheme, on which Muslim India had set its heart, and which was designed not only to strengthen Muslim community consciousness throughout the subcontinent, but also to further strengthen the concept of an integrated pan-Indian Muslims community. Finally, in 1913, a portion of a mosque in Cawnpore was demolished to make room for building a road. These events, coming one after the other in barely two years but hurting Muslim susceptibilities grievously and almost beyond repair, completely eroded Muslim faith in the British promises, justice and conduct British. Thus were the Muslims launched upon a career of anti-Britishness.

Two major developments followed this disillusionment. First, the League was brought in line with the Congress and the ideals of self-government and Hindu-Muslim unity were incorporated in its plank. Second, the Muslims presently turned to their Hindu brethern, put faith in their words, and tried to find an honourable place within the framework of Indian nationalism. Negotiations between the Congress and Muslim between the Congress and Muslim League led to a rapprochement between them, and the adoption of a joint scheme of reforms at Lucknow, where the two parties met in session in 1916. In the Lucknow Pact, as the scheme came to be generally known, the Congress accepted the principle of separate electorate, and the Muslim, in return for `weightage`, to the Muslims in the minority province, agreed to surrender their majorities in the Punjab and Bengal. From the Muslim viewpoint, the most significant gain was the assumption implicit underlying the Lucknow Pact viz., that the Hindu and Muslims were distinct entities on the Indian political scene, represented by the Congress and the League respectively. This Pact formed the basis of the next of instalment of reforms, commonly known as the Montford Reforms of 1919.

Khilafat Movement (1919-23)

The movement against British, which the Muslims had launched upon during 1912-13, came to a head about seven years later when the iniquitous Treaty of Severs (1920) was published. That treaty sought to partition even the traditional Turkish homelands, and cripple Turkey as an independent state. Additionally, British complicity in the on-going Greek invasion of Turkey (1919-22) was all too apparent. In the result, the Muslims seethed with rage, strained at the leash, and yearned for action-bold action.

For this, however, they did not have to wait for long. For, about the same time, the British, perhaps unwittingly, had hurled in the face of the Indians the grotesque Rowlatt Act (1919), the inhuman butchery at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, and numerous other galling crimes in various districts of the Punjab which were put under Martial Law. the Punjab wrongs, as they came to be called, sent the Congress and the Hindus in a fighting mood. there was thus a conjunction of Hindu and Muslim purposes, both aimed against the British, eventually leading to a joint Hindu-Muslim movement. Launched in the name of the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs, and with a view to undoing both, the Khilafat (and the civil disobedience) movement soon took the entire country by storm and the British by surprise. To induce Hindu cooperation, Mohatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was accepted as the leader, and Maulana Mohamed Ali and Shaukat Ali, the top Khilafatists, toured the country from one end to the other. Spontaneous and astonishing was the response to the Khilafat call; incredible were the sacrifice the people underwent joyously. Some 30,000 people courted arrest in just 30 days; people boycotted government institutions and court, quitted government jobs, and returned titles in large numbers. Although it was a joint Hindu-Muslim movement, the Muslim bore the brunt of the struggle.

All these sacrifices, however came to naught since the Hindu-Muslim alliance, founded as it was on a momentary hostility towards the British, could not long endure. After the arrest of the Ali brothers, Gandhi, the Khilafat dictator, seized upon an incident at Chauri Chaura, a remote village in the U.P., to call off the movement. Then, Turkey herself took the fateful decision to abolish the institution of Khilafat in March 1924. This Turkish decision robbed the movement of its raison d'etre and the Muslims sank back in utter despondency and helplessness.

However, the Khilafat movement had made important contributions, both at home and abroad. Abroad, it accomplished, albeit indirectly, some of the objectives for which it was launched. The fear of an Indian Muslim "revolt" over the question of Turkish territorial integrity and the existence of Turkey as an independent Muslim state was, in part, instrumental in changing the British foreign policy from outright hostility to one of neutrality in the Turkish `war of liberation` (1919-22) and in getting the British to back out from the original Allied powers` plans to partition Turkey. The Indian Khilafat movement also gave immense diplomatic leverage to the new Angora government under Ghazi Mustapha Kemal Pasha (1881-1938) in their negotiations with the British. At home, the movement mobilized the Muslims politically at the grass root level for the first time, and this experience came in handy during the subsequent Pakistan movement. Since the Khilafat movement was launched for the advancement of an Islamic cause, it helped strengthen their Islamic sensibilities and orientation, quickened their community consciousness, and crystalized the trends.
 
 
 

 
                      Go Back To March 23 Page                                                  Go Back To Table of Content