How were Indian Muslims engaged during Freedom Movement?

Analysing Indian Freedom Movement: Muslims Leaders’ claim of contribution is found something else.

There is always a grievance witnessed coming from the Muslim community on being not recognized justly as a contributor in the freedom movement of India.

Before some time over the issue of Triple Talaq debate, Muslims law board who claims to be representative of Indian Muslims stated that the Muslims equally participated in India’s freedom struggle, but their participation has always been underestimated and the same is all time resentment of the community especially whenever community wants to get it wanted to be done emotionally.


On the same point, there are also a large number of voices especially from the freedom times, who say that rather than freedom of entire India, nearly all of the Indian Muslims were solely interested in the separate Islamic state, which could be run by Islamic/Sharia law? Moreover, Congress Politicians like Ghulam Nabi Azad also find space to play their appeasement politics over this matter and to gain political mileage from it. In public meeting organized by Jamiat Ulama-I- Hind in 2012, he said, “The role of Muslims in India’s freedom struggle has not been portrayed properly in history books.”  Further, he noted that Jamiat had called for non-cooperation against the British in 1920, and was also against the Partition.

Thus there is a huge contradiction in the claims of the matter which is getting raised time and again particularly whenever any affairs related to Muslim community comes; so it becomes necessary to check the facts, and the actual occurrences took place during freedom movement:

After the first freedom movement of 1857 that could not fetch success; the second freedom struggle commenced in the late 1910s through Non-Cooperation movement. World War I was underway and Britain had attacked Ottoman Empire in Turkey and subjugated 600-year-old Caliphate, an Islamic system of governance. This subjugation ended the rule of Caliph who was nominally the supreme religious and political leader of all Muslims across the world. The same was a major setback for Muslims all over the world, and so was for Indian Muslims.

Apparently for the purpose to get the Caliphate back from the British Empire, Indian Muslims decided to combat with them. And for the same purpose, they formed the All India Khilafat Committee and initiated the Khilafat movement in India in 1919. The committee came with the Khilafat Manifesto to enlist their demands, and its delegation went to London in 1920 to convince the British Govt.

In India, Congress and MK Gandhi had already called for Non-Cooperation movement for the independence from British Govt; on the other hand, Khilafat Committee was also struggling for the independence of Ottoman Empire from British rule. So for the common cause of pressurizing the British Govt to get their individual demands granted. Congress & Khilafat Committee stood together in the protest against the British. It is saying that the movement was first in its history when Hindus and Muslims came together on such a large scale in any movement.

Under the Khilafat movement, in 1920 Maulana Azad gave a call for Hijrat movement to Muslims to leave an India and migrate for Afghanistan; the call was for the reason as Indian is a Kafirs’ country, and under the British Raj the land was not the safe for Muslims. Once British govt started suppressing the Khilafat movement, it turned into violent and created rebellions like Moplah in Malabar, Kerala. The Mappila Muslims of Malabar started attacking Police and then Hindus of that region. As per prominent freedom fighter Annie Besant, they had forcibly converted many Hindus and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatize total number was lakh (100,000).

But Khilafat movement had to be called off then as Turkey itself wanted to live as a nation instead of as a caliphate, an empire of the caliph. So here the first claim as quoted above, “Jamiat had called for Non-Cooperation against the British in 1920” or “Muslims contributed in large part to Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation movement” is found incorrect. In fact, in 1920 community called for Khilafat movement which was to get Caliphate, an Islamic empire back from the British.

With this premature conclusion of Khilafat movement, many prominent Muslim leaders like Ali brothers and others joined Muslim League, which took a turn towards Pakistan movement since then. Muhammad Ali Jinnah already left the Congress and joined the Muslim League as soon as MK Gandhi called for Non-Cooperation movement. In 1928, Congress came with its Nehru report to which Muslim League lodged a strong protest. Furthermore, in response, Jinnah made his 14 points, which later became known as Jinnah’s 14 points. The points were seeking more benefits for the Muslim community over others, and then it greatly influences the whole community and became demands of all Indian Muslims. Rejection of it led to the demand of separate nation for Muslims, and thus seeds for partition of India were sowed.

Later, once World War II started in 1939, Congress and Muslim League took contrary stands regarding rendering support to British Govt. On one side British Govt was refused to use Indian men, money, and material by Congress unless it granted the right to self-determination to the Indians; on another side in secret memorandum to the then PM Churchill, Muslim League obliged to support Britain’s war efforts.

Besides, it extended the support concerning political co-operation and human contribution for its wish to get Lahore resolution sanctioned, which was the formal political statement adopted by Muslim league to draft its demand of separate Pakistan well.

In August 1942, the last freedom movement which is Quit India movement(August Kranti) was called demanding to end the British rule over India, and there was a Do or Die call by Indian freedom fighters. Unfortunately, the British had the support of Viceroy’s Council of Muslim league and some princely states by which the British could manage to crush Quit India movement.

After World War II, when the British realize to not been able to rule over the India, the provincial elections were held to elect members of legislative councils. In election results, Muslim League came second after Congress with almost all seats from the Muslim-dominated areas, in other words, it became the only party getting support from Indian Muslims having around ⅓ population, and thus proved the sole representative of them. Even more, it justified to the British Govt that the demand of Muslim League is an actual demand of Indian Muslims, which was to have a separate Pakistan, as an independent or an autonomous state with or without British rule!

Cabinet Mission Plan was chalked out in 1946 to transfer the power of the British Raj to the India as a combine nation for Hindus & Muslims. But in the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah rejected the plan and announced 16 August 1946 as “Direct Action Day” to put pressure on the separate nation for Muslims. It was also known as Great Calcutta Killings, and under which to show their Strength Muslim League called for the protest, indirectly the massacre of Hindus and killed lakhs of people mainly in the then Calcutta. Riots continued to perpetrate in other parts of India; in Noakhali, Bengal again Hindu genocide happened, thousands were killed by the Muslim community. It’s saying that this riots made an agreement for the demand of partition; thus Muslim League used violence and genocide as their ultimate tools to get acceptance for a division.

In essence, they didn’t participate in Quit India Movement as well. So these were the typical stance of Muslim Community over the freedom movement of India, to seek a portion of India called Pakistan, which could be ruled as Islamic State.

Another, there’re certain figures like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad of Congress, who are considered as top freedom fighters of the country, but their integrity towards the Nation is doubtful. Certainly, Azad was against the partition exceptionally among Muslim Leaders, but his addresses to Indian Muslims after the Independence don’t support this claim. For Instance, in his book ‘India Wins Freedom,’ he says in opposition to the Partition that it would be against the interests of Muslims. In a sense, he meant to say that if the Muslims had followed him rather than Jinnah, he would have made them virtually masters of the whole land, whereas Jinnah was satisfied with only a portion of it. Moreover, former CJI Mehr Chand Mahajan questioned the integrity of Azad and quoted as saying, “The Maulana was more shrewd than Mr. Jinnah. Left to him, India would have become virtually a Muslim-dominated country”. As mentioned above Azad also gave a call for Hijarat movement to leave India.

Indeed, there are exceptions like Ashfaqulla Khan and Bacha Khan among the Indian Muslims, who fought honestly for the Independence of India. On the whole, the demand of separate Pakistan was a rule among the Indian Muslim Leaders, whereas struggle for freedom of India was an exception.

Originally published on December 04, 2016

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