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Recurrent deceptions

East Bengalis never realised that Urdu would be the national language of their new homeland and their beloved Bengali would become the language of their backyard. Jinnah had indeed sold them a mad dream that ended up dividing the Indian ummah into three. If only the Qaid had let them be, an undivided India would be today 40 per cent Muslim with the Prime Minister being always a momin. This was the biggest deception.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The fate of Muslims since 1757 has been to be deceived. For the Battle of Plassey, Robert Clive of the East India Company had a troop contingent of only about 3,500 soldiers and sepoys to fight against a horde of one lakh commanded by Nawab Sirajuddaula. Should there have been a question as to who would win? The Company’s agents had however in advance, arranged with the Nawab’s senior most general Mir Jafar to defect on the temptation of being made the Nawab of Bengal if Sirajuddaula was killed at Plassey or thereafter. The result was the rout of the Nawab’s horde; the Nawab was chased, rounded up and killed at Rajmahal.

The Bengal Presidency fell to the Company with Mir Jafar as the titular nawab and Clive as the de facto master. Symbolic of the Muslim fall was that, for the first time, Durga Puja in the autumn of 1757 was publicly celebrated in Calcutta with Robert Clive as the chief guest. Until then, all pujas were held behind closed doors so as not to offend the Nawabi sentiments. In short, as a result of the deception at Plassey, the Company had brought down the Muslims from the throne to the floor of eastern India, level with where the Hindus had sat for centuries.

After eastern India, it was the turn of Tipu Sultan’s defeat and death at Srirangapatnam in 1799 at the hands of Lord Richard Wellesley. That signaled the end of Muslim rule in South India. The next Muslim back to be broken was at Awadh when in 1856 Lord Dalhousie took over the domain of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. This was a big blow in north India, especially UP, which has been the Islamic centre of India.

The Revolt of 1857 was essentially a revolt by the dispossessed Princes of north India, mainly UP and the old emperor Bahadur Shah Jafar who got roped in by the mutineers. At the conclusion of the clash between the Sepoys and soldiers, 90 per cent of those punished by being hanged to death at Delhi Gate were Muslims. By 1858, the Muslims of India had been dethroned and made to sit on the same floor as Hindus had for centuries.

Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan was an officer of the Company who stood by the British and emerged as the most influential leader of his community until his death in 1898. He took a contrarian view and asked Muslims to support the British rulers who were Ahl-e-Kitab or People of the Book and much better than the Hindus kafirs. Contrary to the view of the Islamic clergy, he sponsored the study of English and Western science. To enable Muslims to study these subjects he established the Anglo Mohammedan School at Aligarh which later bloomed into the well-known university. In 1887, he, for the first time, termed Hindus and Muslims to be separate nations. Whether the Sayyid was right or wrong, the university grew into, as described by M A Jinnah, the arsenal of Pakistan.

In 1906, the Muslim League was founded in Dacca with the Nawab of the area as the patron. He did not hesitate to accept a loan-cumbribe of £ one lakh sterling to patronise the founding. As a corollary, the Bengal Presidency was divided; the event was the partition of Bengal 1905 into East Bengal and Assam, a Muslim majority province and the rest of Bengal. For Muslims it was an hour of elation but its effect lasted for only six years. In 1911, King George V came to Delhi and annulled the partition; so back to square one. But in Muslim eyes, the British remained better than Hindus with whom they would not unite for the freedom struggle.

In 1935, Mohammed Ali Jinnah returned from London as life president of the Muslim League. He looked for a new goal and a strategy to reach it. Poet Iqbal in 1930 had proposed a partition within a loose confederation. A few years later Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Cambridge scholar, had coined a name for a Muslim Darul Islam-Pakistan. So when in the 1937 elections, the League did not fare well, Jinnah began thinking in terms of partition of India. On 23 March 1940 at Lahore, he had the Pakistan Resolution passed by the League. The majority provinces like Bengal, Punjab, Sindh and NWFP showed little interest. They had Muslim Premiers and generally dominated their provinces. Where Muslims were in a minority, some of them responded but why one could not guess. Bihar, UP and the business classes of Bombay State showed more enthusiasm because they preferred to compete against the Punjabi peasants rather than the Banias, Parsis and Shettys. In 1945, the Viceroy called a general election at the end of the year and in early 1946. Jinnah took to the campaign road and created a whirlwind. He argued that Hindus and Muslims belonged to entirely different cultures and the former would be in a majority. The Muslims therefore needed a separate homeland called Pakistan. The argument caught on like a fire. No one really questioned how UP and Bihar Muslims would benefit. Nor did the other provinces like Gujarat or Orissa. Pakistan became the craze. The more meetings Jinnah addressed, the crazier it became. How the two wings of Pakistan 1600 km apart, comprising Bengal and Punjab, would coexist, no one asked.

On 14 August 1947, the green flag was unfurled by the Qaid-e-Azam and the citizens of Karachi shrieked with triumph. They did not realise that before long the Sindhis would become a minority in their own beloved city. Nor did the East Bengalis realise that Urdu would be the national language of their new homeland and their beloved Bengali would become the language of their backyard. Jinnah had indeed sold them a mad dream that ended up dividing the Indian ummah into three. If only the Qaid had let them be, an undivided India would be today 40 per cent Muslim with the Prime Minister being always a momin. This was the biggest deception. Nevertheless, the tragedy of gullibility was not over. Gandhi had four sons of his own but his favourite was Jawaharlal whom he had appointed in a manner that led him to prime ministership. The Congress party wanted Sardar Patel who was told by the Mahatma to step aside.

Nehru was therefore in search of a support base of his own. His eyes fell on the Muslims who were hopeless after Partition. He befriended them with charm, more charm and flattery. He called himself culturally a Muslim; indeed, his wedding invitation card was printed in Urdu. He had Articles 25 to 30 written into the Constitution. He and his successors made the Muslims feel that they held the veto on Indian policy. Several of them became Presidents and vice-presidents and soon. Dr Manmohan Singh declared “Muslims First” and called for 15 per cent of the country’s resources to be allocated to them.

Yet, materially the flattery did not help any Muslim upliftment. Educationally they remained backward with madrasas teaching them religious subjects which did not help them to get secular jobs. Hence, they still claim to be poor and backward.

Their epic of deception is not yet complete. Maulana Madoodi, the founder of Jamaate-Islam was against Partition and stayed back in India. But in a matter of months, he suddenly took off to settle in Pakistan. Janaab Khaliquzzaman of Allahabad decided to stay back and Jinnah had him appointed president of the League. He functioned as such and a few months later suddenly went away to Pakistan and became the president of the League there. Yet another example of deception was that by Huseyn Shaheed Surhawardy, former premier of undivided Bengal.

On 10 September 1947, he wrote at length to Khaliquzzaman detailing a strategy for Muslims in post-partition Hindustan. It read a very sincere letter, but by January 1948 he also took off for Pakistan.