By Amir Suhail Wani –
Minorities, be they religious or cultural, are always engaged in struggle for existence while majoritarian population works to win or convert them to their side – or in exceptional cases exile, massacre or torture them. When religious incentives are attached to these votaries of violence and ideological propagation, the beast within human is let loose. Shuddi and Sangathan movements, as were launched by Hindus in early twenties to convert Muslims to Hinduism, were timely and properly confronted and responded by organisations like Tabligi I Islam and Tanzim. But challenge on religious front wasn’t the only thing confronting Muslims, Hindu politics was another demon that was upto devouring them. The Indian national Congress, no matter how much it spoke of inclusiveness and safeguarding the minority rights, could in fact never free itself from Hindu extremist elements and worked on their behest against Muslims and played an assymetrical role in representing Hindus and Muslims. This political proxy was recognised very early and Muslims had no option, but to create a representative party of their own named Muslim league to make their representation meaningful and effective. The demand for separate Muslim electorates had been a long impending Muslim demand, as joint electorates seemed to undermine Muslim representation and deprive them of their legitimate political space. But this proposal was opposed tooth and nail by Hindu right wingers and the already existing tensions between Hindus and Muslims were assuming new and frightening dimensions. In an attempt to cool the brains and mitigate the issues at hand, S. Srinivasa Iyengar wanted to work out a plan, which would protect Muslims’ rights and eliminate the Hindus’ convictions that separate electorates spawned communal rights. Ali Muhammad Jinnah, in consultation with other Muslim leaders, formulated a seven-point agenda which came to be known as Delhi proposals. The proposals included demands like splitting Sindh from the Bombay province, constitutional reforms province in northwestern frontier province and other clauses. It was agreed upon by Jinnah and leaders who stood with him that Muslims will withdraw their demand for separate electorates if and only if these conditions are accepted all at once. However, Iyengar, due to stiff opposition from Mahasaba and right wingers failed to get these demands sanctioned and accepted by Congress.
Iqbal was strongly opposed to the idea of giving up a demand for separate electorates as he thought it entailed total loss of Muslim representation because of various factors working in favour of Hindus. Also, writes Hafeez Malik that “joint electorates were likely to lead to a united nation, which according to him ran contrary to the principle of basic Muslim national identity”. Iqbal also presaged that “Hindus would never ever accept an agreement with Muslims, even if the Muslim leaders except all the conditions”. He thus took a jibe at those leaders who had passed Delhi resolutions, expecting acceptance from the Congress. These were also the days when Hindu- Muslim clashes became incidents of frequent appearance, and Iqbal now and then went on to request people to stick to unity, harmony and common welfare, avoiding bloodletting and insane acts of violence. But Iqbal’s participation in active politics has no effect on his literary activities and in June 1927, he went on to publish one of his literary masterpieces Zabur I Ajjam, which according to Mustansir Mir occupies a distinctive place in Iqbal’s poetic corpus both for profundity of thought and exquisiteness of diction and style. Iqbal himself summarised the contents of the book in one of his letters. The first two parts represent man in conversation with God and man commenting on the world of man, respectively. The third part offers responses to a series of philosophical questions raised in Shabistari’s Gulshan I Raaz and the fourth part discusses the impact of slavery on a nation’s religion and culture.
On April 16, 1927 Iqbal delivered his lecture on “The spirit of Islamic culture” in Anjuman I Himayat I Islam’s session in presence of Syed Sulaiman Nadvi. The lecture revolved around the themes of prophetic consciousness, mystic consciousness, the essence of time and general epistemological tendencies. The lecture now forms fifth chapter in reconstruction of religious thought in Islam.
In 1927, the British government appointed a commission of seven members, all English, to study and suggest constitutional reforms in India. The commission came to be known as Simon commission after its chairman, Sir John Simon. The total exclusion of Indians from the body of members anguished and enraged political establishment in India and both Congress and Muslim League decided to boycott the commission. Besides creating a rift between political parties, the commission caused a rift in Muslim League itself where leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Maulana Muhammad Ali favoured boycotting the commission and leaders like Sir Muhammad Shafi, Hasrat Mohani and Allama Iqbal welcomed it. Iqbal believed that it was an opportunity to earmark the Muslim grievances to British authorities and boycotting will be simply counterproductive, though he too had earlier expressed his disappointment for exclusion of Indian representatives. Following the split in League and the movement of two wings in opposite directions, Iqbal addressed a public meeting in Lahore on December 29, 1927 in which he stated
“Muslims confront two major issues today. One issue pertains to the achievement of Swaraj (self-determination) of India. The other issue is that of separate electorates – – – Unfortunately, the majority’s policy has greatly disenchanted Muslims towards the objective of Swaraj. Now (Muslims) are preoccupied of their national rights, and the future progress of Muslims hinges on this issue”. Maulana Muhammad Ali, who was in friendly terms with Iqbal, tried to win him over to his side. But the conditions laid down by Iqbal for reconciliation were far beyond Muhammad Ali’s ken of influence, so the effort failed.
A widespread disenchantment had already befallen Muslim leadership in Lieu of Congress’s dualism and political opportunism. But that wasn’t the only thing causing eerie, Muslim leadership’s divided response to Simon Commission had furthered split in the room and Jinnah league and Shafi league were enroute opposite to one another. An atmosphere of ambiguity surrounded Muslim league’s response to Delhi proposals which shunted the Muslim claim for separate electorates. Jinnah, with his aides decided to hold the session of league at Calcutta instead of Lahore, a decision which Iqbal interpreted as a tactic to gain consent for Delhi proposals and thus to give away the claim for separate electorates. Iqbal remarked “Muslims confront two Major issues today. One issue pertains to the attainment of Swaraj (Self-determination) for India. The other issue is that of separate electorates – – – Unfortunately, the majority’s policy has disenchanted Muslims towards the objective of Swaraj. Now Muslims are preoccupied with the protection of their national rights, and the future progress of Muslims hinges on this issue”.
(Amir Suhail Wani is a Kashmir based freelancer, Comparative Studies Scholar, and R&D Engineer with SA Power Utilities Pvt Ltd. Feedback at [email protected])