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Might Partition have been averted?


August 15 stays a day for considering whether or not India’s 1947 Partition was avoidable. Some say the British compelled it. Any scholar of historical past will say that is laughably false.

The most well-liked narrative says Jinnah’s obduracy compounded by Congress’ lack of backbone brought about Partition. However historians globally disagree strongly. Learn a wonderful account in ‘Our Hindu Rashtra’ by journalist Aakar Patel. Those that abhor Aakar as an anti-BJP fanatic can learn historians like Ram Guha or Perry Anderson.

In native elections beginning 1909, the British Raj created separate electorates for Muslims — solely Muslims may vote in these reserved seats, guaranteeing them a minimal illustration. This was totally different from at the moment’s reserved seats for Dalits and tribals: all events area Dalits and tribals in these seats. Within the previous Muslim electorates, Muslims voted nearly completely for the Muslim League, ignoring supposedly secular Congress.

Congress castigated separate electorates as damaging of a nationwide ethos. Really, this was realpolitik. In a first-past-the-post electoral system, Muslims with one third of the inhabitants would win far lower than one third of the seats. Separate electorates diminished Congress dominance.
Lala Lajpat Rai, fearless ‘Lion of the Punjab’, seen power-sharing with Muslims by separate electorates as unimaginable, and proposed Partition. Hindus would management the majority of the subcontinent, whereas Muslims would get (a) the Pathan majority NWFP: (b) the western half of a communally divided Punjab; (c) Sind; and (d) the japanese half of a communally divided Bengal. This proposal was made in 1924 earlier than the phrase Pakistan had been invented. But it conformed precisely to Partition in 1947.

Regardless of secular claims, the Congress was overwhelmingly Hindu. Muslims constituted lower than 1% of its membership in 1914, 2% in 1915 and three% in 1916. Motilal Nehru baldly known as Congress a Hindu physique. This modified with Gandhi’s takeover of Congress management. He allied with Muslims, backing their Khilafat motion. However that alliance ruptured when he known as off his non-cooperation agitation in 1922 after supposedly non-violent agitators burned a police station at Chauri Chaura. He by no means consulted Muslims on this choice, and so misplaced their belief.

In 1927 Jinnah, initially a Congressman, organised an all-India assembly of Muslim outfits that produced the ‘Delhi Proposals’. As an alternative of a separate Muslim citizens, these proposals reserved one-third of Cupboard seats for Muslims; reserved seats for Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their inhabitants; and proposed new provinces in Sind, Baluchistan and NWFP. Initially the Congress accepted these proposals. However Madan Mohan Malaviya’s Hindu Mahasabha objected strongly, and the Congress caved. A golden alternative was misplaced.

Another Motilal Nehru report in 1928 proposed reserved seats for Muslims in proportion to inhabitants in joint electorates, however no reserved seats within the Central authorities or religion-based reservations in Punjab and Bengal, which might have meant Muslim majorities.

Jinnah then proposed a decentralised, federal India with uniform autonomy for all provinces, separate electorates, and one-third Muslim illustration in each provincial and central Cupboards. These variations with Congress deepened thereafter on either side. Historian Okay Okay Aziz says that solely 15 of 33 proposals for Partition between 1931 and 1940 got here from Muslims — many Hindus needed it too.

Politics at play: It wasn’t compelled on India. Finally, it was as a lot Nehru’s alternative as Jinnah’s

The Authorities of India Act, 1935 created elected provincial governments. The Congress swept the provincial elections in 1937. After this, says historian Perry Anderson, Nehru noticed the political battle as one between Congress and the British, with the Muslim League and princes as mere fringe actors. But Congress membership was 97% Hindu. It couldn’t even discover Muslim candidates for 90% of reserved Muslim constituencies, which the Muslim League swept.

Within the post-war 1945-46 elections, the Muslim League received 446 of 495 provincial Muslim seats, and each central seat. The Congress swept open seats. The outcomes have been, alas, solidly communal.

An interim Cupboard was fashioned with Nehru as Prime Minister and Liaquat Ali Khan as Finance Minister. Liaquat’s price range imposed hefty taxes on industrialists. Most Congressmen known as this anti-Hindu for the reason that overwhelming majority of industrialists have been Hindu. But this was unwarranted communalism: the taxes hit Parsis and Christians too, together with the mighty Tatas.

As Finance Minister, Liaquat may and did continuously thwart proposals of Congress ministers entailing authorities expenditure. This infuriated many Congress leaders, who stated co-habitation with the Muslim League was unimaginable. Therefore Partition, which Congress deemed unthinkable until 1945, was rapidly accepted by the Congress when Mountbatten proposed this in 1947 in return for handing over energy inside just a few months.

Had Congress been prepared to share energy underneath Jinnah’s earlier proposals, the horrors of Partition may have been averted. However would deepening communalism have plunged an undivided India into civil battle? In all probability, and so I feel Partition was the most effective answer. Nevertheless it was not compelled on India. It was finally Nehru’s alternative at least Jinnah’s.

 

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