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Muslims and the Congress

After the War of Independence 1857 the English government had realized that their policy to rule by force was no longer beneficial in India. Thus, they tried to win the support of the Indian people. Several promises were made by the government that the Indians will, from now onward, also be a part of political affairs in their country and that they will no longer be treated as mere slave/masses but as citizens.


During these circumstances an ex English CSP officer named Alan Octavian Hume came up with the idea of forming a political party, of the Indians and for the Indians. For that purpose he met with senior English bureaucrats and with their guidance, along with local Indian contribution a political party was formed in 1885. It was called the All Indian National Congress. Its first president was an Indian and Mr. Hume was its first general secretary. On 28th December 1885 the first session of the Congress was held with 72 members among whom, 58 were Hindus of which only 2 were Muslims. This obvious difference in the ratio of membership continued throughout the history of the Congress’s existence as the only political party in the Indian sub-continent. For instance in the Congress session held in 1894 there were 118 Hindu members of Congress and only 20 were Muslims. The difference of proportion between the two nations’ representatives can show a great deal of truth about the intentions of the Congress.


The chief Muslim leaders in India at that time were Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his Aligarh comrades who believed that the English government was accusing Muslims to be the real force behind the “mutiny of 1857”. According to Sir Syed, Muslims should stay aloof from all political matters to give the government the impression that they were not concerned with the politics so that they can save themselves from the government’s wrath. Attainment of modern western education was the focus of the educated sections of Muslim society. The rest of the Muslim population was either too unaware of the current political affairs because of their educational backwardness or too afraid for their lives.


Congress on the other hand started to become more and more prejudiced against the Muslims. Hindus, being in majority in the party started using it to achieve their own ends. The Congress during all her life in united India kept claiming that it represented all the communities living in India no matter what their faiths were. But the reality was quite the opposite. During the last decade of the 19th century Congress and its policies became excessively biased and violent toward the Muslims. Extremist Hindus like Tilak, Medan Mohan Malvia, Rash Behari Ghosh and Banerjee became its major leaders who practically took arms against the Muslims, their faith and practices. Their violent protests against cow slaughter and division of Bengal are living proofs of Congress’s pro-Hindu approach.


In spite of all anti-Muslim activities of the Congress, some Muslim politicians had stuck their desires with the part because they agreed with the claim of the Congress that all the people living in India were one nation and Congress planned to keep it that way. Muslim politicians like Maulana Azad, Maulan Mohammad Ali Johar and even Mohammad Ali Jinnah were also in favor of united India and they believed that in spite of all the newly emerging Hindu-Muslim differences there was still the chance of their unity and that’s why they remained with the Congress.


On the Aligarh side, after the death of Sir Syed, his successors like Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Wiqar-ul-Mulk perceived that the time for Muslim separation from politics was gone and a new era had begun, that demanded a political party for the Muslims as well. For that reason in 1906 All India Muslim League was formed which in contrast to the Congress declared itself to be the representative of the Muslims of India alone who were by all definition a separate nation. The formation of Muslim League opened new doors for Muslim politicians who now had an independent platform of their own to work for their own good. Still there were some Muslims like Jinnah and Johar who believed that the unity of Hindus and Muslims alone could help figure out the solutions of the problems that India and the Indians were facing. That’s why Jinnah joined Muslim League as well in 1913 when he was still a member of the Congress. He tried to become the bridge between the two major political parties of India at that time and because of his efforts in 1916, the famous Lucknow Pact was finalized between the two associations which could create a relationship of mutual trust but even that attempt proved to be futile because of the rigidity of Congress. Their constant claim to be the only representative party of the Indians and their refusal to accept Muslims as an independent nation led to the failure of the Lucknow Pact. Similarly the betrayal of the Congress during the Khilafat Movement, when the intentional of Congress the movement to save the Ottoman Caliphate failed in India disillusioned the Muslims from Congress even more. Soon Jinnah also realized the non-conciliatory intentions of the Congress and resigned from its membership.


With the passage of time Muslim League started becoming a great representative of the aspirations of the Muslims of India and they started looking towards the League it as their guardian. So the chances of Congress having the Muslim support as well started to become bleak. The Congress, however, did not bother about that much and in 1928 the Nehru Report from the Congress platform distinctly crystallized the anti-Muslim approach of the “political party of the whole of India”. These differences of opinion on all matters led to the freedom movement of Pakistan prior to which during the elections of 1937 Congress won the majority seats in the legislature and formed government in India.


Those were terrible times for all Indians except Hindus of course, and particularly for Muslims. Congress during its rule did all in its capacity to work against Muslims and their representative political party Muslim League. Hindu-Muslim riots were common stories of the day in which the Muslims were always accused for everything. Cow slaughter was banned in many regions. Congress party song Banday Mataram was declared the national anthem of India which branded all Muslims as outsiders and traitors and the song suggested the elimination of Muslims by all means. The language controversy was given a new life during that time as well. All these events proved that all Congress wanted was to destroy Muslims, their heritage and to rule them as masters over slaves. That’s why when Congress ministries resigned in 1939; Muslims of India celebrated Day of Deliverance on 22nd December. The Congress doings intensified the feelings of freedom of the Muslims and though Muslims like Maulana Azad and his party Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind kept themselves on the Congress side and hailed for a united India the majority of the Indian Muslims followed Muslim League and finally founded an independent country for themselves called Pakistan in 1947.

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