Mr Kesavan’s thesis (“Selective representation”, The Telegraph Opinion Page 31 May 2013) wholly misses discernible origins of Muslim separatism in North India which long preceded formation of the Indian National Congress (let aside the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909), and was directed at the British and the Sikhs.
“We are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and Arabic language are our pride,” declared Shah Wali Allah (1703-1762), contemporary of Mohammad Ibn Abdal Wahhab of Nejd (see especially Francis Robinson’s chapter in Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy edited by WE James and myself, Sage 1993, p. 36.) “We must repudiate all those Indian, Persian and Roman customs which are contrary to the Prophet’s teaching”, declared Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831), who also initiated the idea of a religious mass migration of North Indian Muslims. His movement saw “jihad as one of the basic tenets of faith… it chose as the venue of jihad the NW Frontier of the subcontinent, where it was directed against the Sikhs. Barelvi temporarily succeeded in carving out a small theocratic principality which collapsed owing to the friction between his Pathan and North Indian followers…” (A. Ahmed, in A Basham (ed) A Cultural History of India, Oxford 1975).
Professor Robinson in an email of 8 August 2005 has added: “the fullest description of this is in Mohiuddin Ahmad, Saiyid Ahmad Shahid (Lucknow, 1975), although practically everyone who deals with the period covers it in some way. Barelwi was the Amir al-Muminin of a jihadi community which based itself north of Peshawar and for a time controlled Peshawar. He called his fellowship the Tariqa-yi Muhammadiya. Barelwi corresponded with local rulers about him. After his death at the battle of Balakot, it survived in the region, at Sittana I think, down to World War One.”
Two centuries after Wali Allah, Iqbal’s 1930 Presidential Speech to the Muslim League conceptualised today’s Pakistan but wished precisely to become free of the Arab influence that Wali Allah had extolled: “I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state… The life of Islam as a cultural force in this living country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory… For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power, for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and the spirit of modern times.”
In between all this, the British had quickly discovered that the mutual antipathy between Muslims and Hindus could be utilised in fashioning their rule — that the organisation and mobilisation of Muslim communal opinion was a decisive counterweight to any pan-Indian nationalism which might emerge to compete with British authority. As early as 1874, John Strachey ICS observed “The existence side by side of these (Hindu and Muslim) hostile creeds is one of the strong points in our political position in India. The better classes of Mohammedans are a source of strength to us and not of weakness. They constitute a comparatively small but an energetic minority of the population whose political interests are identical with ours.” By 1906, when the deputation of Muslims headed by the Aga Khan first approached the British pleading for communal representation, Minto replied: “I am as firmly convinced as I believe you to be that any electoral representation in India would be doomed to mischievous failure which aimed at granting a personal enfranchisement, regardless of the beliefs and traditions of the communities composing the population of this Continent.” Minto’s wife wrote in her diary that the effect was “nothing less than the pulling back of sixty two millions of (Muslims) from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition.” British loyalties lay with those who had been and would be loyal to them.
The true significance of Maulana Azad may have been that he, precisely at the same time, did indeed feel within himself the Indian nationalist’s desire for freedom strongly enough to want to join the ranks of that “seditious opposition”. Later, on behalf of scores of millions of Muslim Indians including Sheikh Abdullah and Zakir Hussain and Ghaffar Khan among the most prominent, he candidly raised objections to the entire exercise that had come about: “I must confess that the very term Pakistan goes against my grain. It suggests that some portions of the world are pure while others are impure. Such a division of territories into pure and impure is un-Islamic and is more in keeping with orthodox Brahmanism which divides men and countries into holy and unholy – a division which is a repudiation of the very spirit of Islam. Islam recognises no such division and the Prophet says `God made the whole world a mosque for me’.” Azad had seen that India was not dar-ul-harb but is or can be at least dar-ul-aman.