The origin of Muslim League in India was one of the many gifts of Colonialism to India. India once had a past which now no one likes to refer to. The so-called ‘secular’ political parties don’t refer to it either. ‘Secular’ parties only refer to the present where Hindus are in majority and Muslims form a ‘minority’. They paint a picture where every Hindu is anti-Muslim. Armed with electoral data that says Muslims vote en-bloc, they convince people of the Muslim community that there is an imminent danger to their lives. No one likes to refer to that history of India anymore. Hindu nationalists convince us of another history. A history where Hindus ruled and Muslims were invaders. Invaders who plundered ‘our’ resources.
No one talks about what happened in between? The syncretic and composite culture is lost. True there were Muslims invaders and Islam came to the sub-continent through war with a number of atrocities but the nation as we know it was a joint venture so to speak of Hindus and Muslims. Unlike Britishers, as Jawahar Lal Nehru said it, “invaders including Aryans, Arabs, Turks, Afghans and Mughals had settled down in India permanently and made it their homeland.” This land has never been an ideal type for a Hindu nation. The concept of nation was exported from the west and so is the emphasis on religious boundaries.
The roots of communalism in India were sown during the British period and so the ground for the origin of Muslim League in India was prepared by the colonizers. In the revolt of 1857, Muslims and Hindus fought shoulders to shoulders against the British empire. The revolt of 1857 started the building of a nation and aroused nationalist feelings among Indians. Britishers sensed that this unity among the Indians can be a threat for the empire. Britishers had come to India- the fractured polity and now Hindus and Muslims along with various castes and clans were uniting against the handful Britishers.
This is when the Britishers who were far less in number decided to follow the policy of divide and rule. Islam and Christianity have had wars in the past for political power but there was no such war between Hinduism and Islam. Both had developed together and had come to acquire a mutually inclusive identity. It is nothing but foolish to understand Islam through the prism provided by the west. Colonialism sowed the seeds of division and now US’s war against terrorism is taking it forward by making Islam look like a religion which only stands for war and violence. Here is a low down on how Muslim League originated in India.
1) Policy of Fear and Appeasment
On the basis of a report published in a book called “Indian Musalman” written by W.W Hunter, Britishers tried to create the fear of an artificial Hindu dominance in the country. Britishers stated that the Indian Muslims are not educated enough and hence they will be overshadowed by the Hindus who are not only educated but also in majority. It was similar to the Sinhalese-Tamilian conflict in Sri Lanka where Tamilians were educated and Sinhalese were threatened that they will fail to catch up after independence.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who was a Muslim leader, had concerns that Muslims may be sidelined after Independence and thus fell the prey to this policy of divide and rule. He sought the govt help to improve the education among Muslim. The govt happily extended its help to Sir Syed Ahmad to give him land and other facilities to set up the Anglo Mohammedan Oriental college in 1876, which later became Aligarh Muslim University.
Establishment of a Muslim college with the help of govt started creating apprehensions in the mind of some Hindu leaders. As a result they declared Urdu as a foreign language and further they started an anti-cow slaughter movement. Thus Britishers succeeded in dividing the Hindus and Muslims.
2) Birth of Congress and opposition of Congress
British govt was not very much comfortable with the growing nationalist feelings in India and in these circumstances the creation of Indian National Congress(1885) provided a nation wide platform to the
nationalists. British government wanted to limit the effect of Congress and thus started supporting creation of a separate political front for opposing Congress.
As a result Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, along with Raja Shiv Prasad of Benaras formed a political group called United Patriotic Association in 1887. The basic agenda of this organization was to oppose congress.
With this, people started looking at Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as a British supporter. This led to furthered the rift between Hindu and Muslims. The damage was done by now and India started witnessing the communal riots during this time.
3) Partition of Bengal, Swadeshi Movement and Origin of the Muslim League
By the time Lord Curzon joined in as the new viceroy the roots of communal tension were already laid. Curzon went extra miles to ignite this tension and took the decision to divide the state of Bengal. Part of this excitement to divide Hindus and Muslims also goes to their idea of one nation, one religion theory which is nothing but western hegemony at its best.
Though the division was the need of the time due to administrative reasons but Curzon used the division as a political tool.
At the time of partition the social structure of Bengal was such that the big zamindars were Hindus and the farmers were mainly Muslims. Although the religion was no where related to this social
structure but Curzon added a communal flavour to this social structure. Since zamindars are natural enemies of farmers, He pursued Muslims that Hindu zamindars are the cause for poverty of
Muslim farmers. He declared in Dhaka that the partition of Bengal is in favour of Muslim community and he wanted to protect his Muslim brothers from the clutches of Hindu zamindars.But initially he failed to convince Muslims.
prayers that Muslims should refrain from participating in the Swadeshi movement . This gave birth to communal riots in Bengal.
In the situation of communal riots, a delegation of Muslim leaders headed by Sir Aga Khan went to meet Viceroy Minto to ask for the protection of Muslims. It seems that Minto suggested
the delegation to form a political group to fight it out politically. And this was the moment when the Muslim League came into existence in 1906.
So in a way it can be said that Britishers were successful in creating fear in the minds of Muslim community of India . The same fear which led to the origin of Muslim League in India is still created in the minds of Muslims by the so-called ‘secular’ left behind by the Britishers. The aim remains the same to stay in power by doing nothing for the betterment of neither Hindus nor Muslims.