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Separate Electorates

Separate Electorates are that type of elections in which minorities select their own representatives separately, as opposed to Joint Electorates where people are selected collectively. When minorities fear that they would not get representation in state affairs and government then they demand separate electorates. Same was the case with the Indian Muslims. They were very large in number, but in case of combined elections they would not get due representation. When the British implemented the system of democracy in India in order to strength their rule, and to involve local people in government, the Muslims demanded separate electorates .These were not imposed by British, however were granted on the request of the Muslims.


As all nations in Europe were Christians and there was no concept of a separate nation on the basis of religion. So they regarded India as a single country inhabited by Indians who were a nation collectively. But the Muslims and Hindus were conscious about their religious differences and of being two separate nations. In India, Hindus were in majority so Congress was in favour of combined elections. In a democratic government every bill or law is passed by a majority of 51% or more and in this situation the Hindus would get 100% legislative powers and Muslims would get no power to effect legislation in their own country. More in number than the population of any state in Europe, they would have no share in government. Thus they would become slaves and serfs having zero percent power in legislation, politics, and administration of their own country.


When direct elections were introduced to increase the participation of Indians in government affairs, a deputation of Indian Muslims led by Sir Aga Khan presented an address to Viceroy and Governor General Lord Minto at Simla on 1st October 1906. They asked for separate representation at all levels of government, district boards, legislative councils, and municipalities. They mentioned that they were almost one-fifth and in some areas one-fourth of the whole population. So they must be given recognition as an important factor of the state machinery. The positions given to the Muslims should not only depend on their numerical strength, but also on their political importance and contributions as they had ruled over India for a long time. Under the Act of 1892 in United Province, where Muslims were fourteen percent of population, they had not secured a single seat by joint franchise. And if by chance they would get any seats they would have to agree with Hindus, and thus had to go against their own interests. So, Muslims should be given separate representation for both local bodies and legislative councils, through separate electorates. Viceroy listened to them and promised them that their demands would put forward to British Government. With this positive response Muslims established their own political party named as All India Muslim League in December, 1906.


In 1909 the Morley-Minto Reforms granted separate electorates to Muslims. In these the numerical strength of legislature councils was increased. 27 out of total 60 members were to be elected and 5 seats were reserved for the Muslims. In provincial government, Muslims were to be represented by separate electorates. It gave constitutional recognition to Muslims. They would have not only elect their own representatives, but also had right to vote in general constituencies. Muslims were given fewer share than their numerical strength, but this was a land mark in the political history of Indian Muslims.


In 1916 Lucknow Pact was passed with the collaboration of Congress and Muslim League. Congress conceded to the legitimate rights of Muslims. In this pact the right of separate electorates for Muslims was recognized. It was declared that Muslims would be given one third central legislature seats. And in provinces minorities were to have more seats than their numerical strength, this was known as the Weightage System. According to this system Muslims got more representation than their population in minority provinces whereas, in Bengal and Punjab their representation was reduced to 50% and 40% from 56% and 55% respectively. In 1919 the Montague Chelmsford Reforms were introduced. The demands of Lucknow Pact were accepted. In centre Muslims were given one third seats. These all rights were denied, and Congress deviated from their own prospective in Nehru Report in 1928.


After many years of constitutional debates, Government of India Act 1935 was passed. And elections were held in 1937 under this act. Congress won 706 seats out of total 1771 seats. It contested for 58 seats of total 482 Muslim seats and won 26 seats whereas, the newly organized Muslim League won 102 Muslim seats. The remaining seats were won by local parties. In December 1945 elections to central Legislative Assembly were held. Congress demanded for independence of united India and opposed partition of India. Congress claimed that it is the only soul representative party of all Indians, and mentioned the economic problems as real problems of masses otherwise all Indians were a community. Whereas Quaid-i-Azam announced that Muslims were a separate nation and Muslim League was their representative party. They would not accept any constitution, in which they were relegated as a frustrated minority. He said that they were a separate nation and they must have their own state. Congress made alliance with some split Muslims groups to prove Muslim League wrong. But the results of elections proved that Muslim League claims and demands were right. In central Assembly 30 seats were reserved for Muslims and Muslim League won all of them. Contrary to that Congress even lost some of general seats. In provincial elections Muslim League won 428 out of 492 seats. Only Party of Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, won almost 50%seats in N.W.F.P.


In this journey of almost 40 years, many demands were presented, many pacts were introduced, and many resolutions were passed. All had their own importance but the right of separate electorates was a land mark for the Muslims. They all revolved around this demand of separate electorates. Acceptance of this demand was a sign of recognizing them as a separate nation. They were treated as a minority before it. Now they had share in government at Central and provincial levels both. Beyond that these Separate Electorates led them towards separate homeland named as Pakistan.

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