P. 1
Indian Muslims Since Independence in Search of Integration and Identity

Indian Muslims Since Independence in Search of Integration and Identity

|Views: 14|Likes:

More info:

Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: আজাদ মাস্টার on Nov 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Third World Quarterly

Indian Muslims since Independence: In Search of Integration and Identity Author(s): Mushirul Hasan Reviewed work(s): Source: Third World Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 2, Islam & Politics (Apr., 1988), pp. 818-842 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3992669 . Accessed: 29/11/2011 05:30
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Taylor & Francis, Ltd. and Third World Quarterly are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Third World Quarterly.


since Indian Muslims independence:in search identity and integration


In the long and impressive historyof India'snationalistmovementthere was a deep ideological schism between ardent communalists and committedchampionsof a secularand compositeIndianstate. But the mainstreamof Indian nationalismhad a decidedlysecularorientation. That is why, when the newly createdstate of Pakistanwas fosteringits Islamic image in 1947-48, India was engaged in reconstructinga democraticand secular polity amidst the brutal and bloody violence and which accompanied independence partition.Jawaharlal Nehru, the main architect of India's secular state,' emphaticallydeclared: 'The Government a countrylike India ... can neverfunctionsatisfactorily of in the modem age excepton a secularbasis.'This was an articleof faith with many of his comrades in the Congress and in other political formations. After forty yearsof independence India'ssecularexperiment needs to be reviewed in its implications both for other plural societies endeavouring tackle their ethnic, regionaland religiousproblemsin to Asia and Africa, and for the Indian Muslims who form the largest minoritysegmentin the country. (Accordingto the 1981 census, there were 82 millionMuslimsin India,or 12 per cent of the population.)We do so withoutlosing sight of the obvious facts that the IndianMuslims do not constitutea single,homogeneousand monolithicentity and that the differentiating features that characterise Indiansocietyas a whole are also to be found withinthe Muslimcommunity.2 the same time, our At concern is to uncover certain broad trends amongst Muslims which would excluderegional,local and class nuancesfrom our analysis. In the 1940sMohammadAli Jinnahled a powerfulmovementwhich was meantto advancethe interestsof his co-religionists afterthe British
'The secular state is a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom of religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion nor does it seek either to promote or interfere with religion', D E Smith, India as a Secular State, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1963, p 4. For an elaboration of these differences, see Rasheed-uddin Khan, 'Minority segments in Indian polity: Muslim situation and plight of Urdu', Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay) 2 September 1978.
TWQ 10(2) April 1988/ISSN 0143-6597/88. $1.25




withdrawalfrom the Indian subcontinent.But the final outcome of his campaignprovedcatastrophicto over 35 million Muslimswho chose to remain in post-partition India. Leading industrial families, trading groups and professional men hurried to Pakistan to improve their fortunes, leaving behind a socially fragmented and economically depressedMuslim community.With the introductionof the universal franchiseandjoint electorates,the Muslimsof Uttar Pradeshand Bihar minority-a position they had enjoyed lost theirposition as a privileged under the British since 1909. There was also a diminution of their influencein governmentservice,for the bulk of the professionalgroups in these states had migratedto Pakistan.The abolition of the zamindari systemreducedthe ruralinfluenceof the formerMuslimlandlords,even more than that of their Hindu counterparts,because of the smaller number of Muslim peasants in the north and the greater number of The amongthe Muslimlandlords.3 dissolutionof princely urbanrentiers if a statesimpoverished largepercentage, not the majority,of the upper and middleclasses. Finally, politics for Muslims as Muslims had no raison d' e'trein secularIndia. With the Muslim League dissolved in the north and its of drainedoff to Pakistan,the politicaltrajectory the Muslim leadership communitywas definedwithin the democraticand secularframework; its future lay in coming to terms with the broad contours of Indian secularismand rallying round political parties with avowed secular unlesscommunal to goals. 'Thereis absolutelyno alternative secularism, suicide be considered to be one', wrote an influential Muslim commentator.4 and in But a communitynurtured the traditionof politicalseparatism religious fundamentalism,exemplified by the Jamaat-i Islami and Muslim Leaguemovements,was ratherslow in accommodatingto the secular Indian framework.One of India's leading lawyer-politicians noted in 1962 that his brethrenhad 'not yet fully adjustedthemselves emotionallyto a secularstate'.5This view was supportedby two leading scholarseducatedin the famousreligiousseminaries-the Dar al-Ulum The concept of a at Deoband and the Nadwat al-Ulamain Lucknow.6
Paul R Brass, Language, Religion and Politics in North India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974, p 235. 4 Abu Sayeed Ayyub, 'A long-term solution', Seminar (67) March 1965, p 15. s 6 January 1962, typescript, M C Chagla Papers, NMML. 6 Mushirul Haq, Islam in Secular India (Simla, 1972), pp 11-12; Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, 'Indian Muslims and the ideology of the secular state', in D E Smith, South Asian Politics and Religion, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1966, p 140.




oo a

N C9 oo ra
m o

m ^ C,

oo wt
N m lm

It "


m ?o


-r l)ft













~ ~ ~~~~C
_trC ~~~~~~~~Cl







edlC'b0IC --


N -


t2 ON


~ ~






~omu ~~
Clet mCl X -l

Cl Co^X^tl o~~ r4 x~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I


ON -

C o 0 CN





cl cn-

't Cl4

en Cl






-~e'~ m















t P-00c Y


st --



l0 -oe~N

N b oo

o I



- t I


00 W 0 7N

C~~~~ '0~~C
1 C QYY > *



w ON r-

t N_8v




64S4 91*


lt 4 = d




secular state was contrary to the fundamentalsof Islam, and to be secularwas nothing short of beingghair mazhabi or la dini(irreligious). 'The modernsecularstate,' statedan officialpublicationof the Jamaat-i Islami,'restson the denialof God ... on the denialof the sovereigntyof
His exclusive title to the obedience of His creatures . . . To owe allegiance

to God is to refuseallegianceto every other authorityunless the latter acts as His servantand upholds the authorityof His law.'7 While the rumblingsover the acceptanceof the secularconcept have not quite ceased, relativelyfew Muslimscling to the idea of an Islamic state. Some hard-headedulema may still cherish the hope of a dar al-Islam, but most Muslimshave come to regardsecularismas a boon, since their welfaredependsso much on the secularityof the state. The Jamiyatal-ulemapropoundedthe theory of a social contract between Hindus and Muslims to establish a secular state, while the Jamaat-i Islami, after years of diffidence,declaredin 1970 that: 'In the present the circumstances, Jamaat-iIslamiHind wants that in contrastto other
totalitarian and fascist modes of government, the ... secular democratic

mode of governmentin India should endure'.8 A keen and sympatheticobserverof Indian politics remarkedin the mid-1960sthat 'informedMuslimopinion is clear that it wants nothing better than the liberty to work out its own destiny within the Indian secular society'.9An inquiry conducted in 1970-71 reached the same

In orderto assess the Muslims'responseto the secularprocesses,we must turn to an examinationof their political preferencesas exercised throughthe generalelections. In the first three generalelections,Muslimstied their fortunesto the Congressbandwagon,which had the image of a secularparty, and they lent their full support to JawaharlalNehru whose secular credentials
Mohammad Mazhar-ud-din Siddiqi, After Secularism What? Rampur: Maktaba-e-Jamaat-i Islamia Hind, 1952, pp 4-5. 8 Quoted in Theodore P Wright, Jr, 'Inadvertent modernization of Indian Muslims by Revivalists', Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs Summer 1979, p 86. 9 Percival Spear, 'The position of the Muslims, before and after Partition', in Philip Mason (ed), India and Ceylon: Unity and Diversity (London, 1967), p 47. Also, see Mir Mushtaq Ahmad, 'Role of Indian Muslims', Mir Mushtaq Ahmad Papers, NMML; Mushirul Haq, op. cit., pp 11-13, 17. '? Gopal Krishna, 'Problems of integration in the Indian political community: Muslims and the political process', in Dilip K Basu and Richard Sisson (eds), Social and Economic Development in India (Delhi, 1986), p 181.



were never in doubt." Of the total Muslim legislators in 1952, 145 belonged to the Congress;in the next generalelection 131 of the 159 legislatorswere Muslim Congressmen.In Uttar Pradesh,India's most populous state, Muslim candidates contesting elections on Congress Party tickets constituted the largest proportion among the Muslim politicalactivists,and succeededin gettingelectedin largerproportions than the candidatesput up by other politicalparties.12 The earliernotion of communalconsciousnessas a strongelementin Muslimvoting behaviour'3 standsrefutedby recentstudies.Paul R also Brassfound the Muslimvote in Kanpurcity to be non-communal the in 1957 and 1962 elections.'4So did Peter B Mayer in his account of and Tiruchirapalli Jabalpurtowns.'5 Othershave shown that Muslims do not operateas a monolithicentity in politics;competitiveelectoral processes have, moreover, helped to break down their communal solidarity. 'The increasingtendency of Muslim candidatesto assume nationalpartyidentifications,' concludesGopal Krishna,'showsthat the integrative processis at work.'A furtherindicationis that those Muslim candidatescontesting elections on the tickets of the national parties improved their share of the total votes polled by Muslim candidates from 65.41 per cent in 1952to 75.20 per cent in 1962.16 Equally important was the conscious decision to reject overtly communal organisationsand an unmistakablepreferencefor secular parties.'7 The MuslimLeaguedisappeared fromnorthIndiain 1947,and attempts to revive it during 1959 proved futile. The Indian Union MuslimLeaguein the state of Keralastruggledto survive,but managed to send only one representative the Lok Sabha in 1957 and two in to 1962. Regional organisationslike the ItehadulMuslimeenmade some headway in the state elections, but their electoral appeal remained confinedto Hyderabad city. At the nationallevel,bodieslikethe Jamiyat
A cynical view is that 'the vote for the Congress had been the protection money Muslims paid in return for the promise of security'. M J Akbar, India: The Siege Within London: Penguin 1985, p312. 12 Imtiaz Ahmad, 'The Muslim electorate and election alternatives in UP', Religion and Society 21(2) June 1974. Sisir K Gupta, 'Moslems in Indian politics, 1947-60', India Quarterly 28(4) October-December 1962, p 380. 4 Paul R Brass, Caste, Faction and Party in Indian Politics (Delhi, 1985), vol. 2, pp 291-2. 5 Peter B Mayer, 'Tombs and dark houses: ideology, intellectuals, and proletarians in the study of contemporary Islam,' Journal of Asian Studies 40(3) May 1981' pp 495-6. 16 Gopal Krishna, 'Electoral participation and political integration' Economic and Political Weekly, Annual Number, February 1967, p 187. For a different view, see Imtiaz Ahmad, 'Indian Muslims and electoral politics', Economic and Political Weekly, 11 March 1967, p 523. 1 Gopal Krishna, 'Problems of Integration', op. cit., pp 187-8; and 'Muslim politics', Seminar (153) May 1972 by the same author.



al-ulema pursued their traditional nationalist policies and acted in unison with the Congress.Many of its leaders,such as MaulanaHifzur Rahman,were returnedto the Lok Sabha as Congresscandidates. In the mid-1960s,however,various Muslim groups in differentparts of the countrybeganto questionthe wisdomof continuingtheiralliance with and dependence the Congress.Theydid so becausethe Congress on had ceased to be a vehicle for their aspirations, and had shown insensitivity towards their specific complaints regarding unequal educationalopportunities,discriminationin governmentemployment, in in and poor representation centraland state governments, the Indian AdministrativeService,the police and the army.'8Muslims were also victims of organised communal violence, as in Jamshedpur and Rourkela districts (1964), and were aggrieved at the Congress assaults.Under the stressof failureto curbsuch persistent government's insecurity created by riots there was a growing perception of the community's dwindling fortunes under Congress rule. Summing up Muslimfeelings,a leadingpoliticalscientistnoted in 1968:'The Muslims in India are in a quandary.They appearlost and out-of-gripswith the Indian life."9 evolving realityof contemporary This disenchantmentfound expression in the 1967 elections when most Muslimsdesertedthe Congress,especiallyin Uttar Pradesh,Bihar and Bengal,and vigorouslypressedthe need for a separateand exclusive platform so that they would send to the legislatures their 'own' who representatives would not be at the mercyof 'non-Muslimparties'. The Muslim Majlis-i Mushawarat,established in August 1964, was and meantto articulateMuslimgrievances seekways of alleviatingthem throughthe processesof party and electoralpolitics. The Majlis was a loose confederation of diverse political interest groups, includingformer leaders of the Muslim League, the Jamaat-i backedby the Jamiyatal-ulema. Islami,and some MuslimCongressmen Its demands were embodied in the 1967 People's Manifesto, which effectivelysummarisedthe main grievancesand demands of Muslims, includingthe revisionof textbookswith a Hindu bias, the introduction in of proportionalrepresentation elections, protection of the Muslim PersonalLaw, recognitionof Urdu as a second officiallanguagein the

Some of these issues were discussed at the All-India Muslim Convention held in Delhi on 10-11 June 1961 and formed part of the resolutions adopted. Hindustan Times, 12 June 1961. 19 Rasheeduddin Khan, 'Modernization', Seminar (106) June 1968, p 25; Also, see Badruddin Tyabji, The Self in Secularism (Delhi, 1971), pp 201, 203.



north Indian states, and preservation of the 'minority character' of the Aligarh Muslim University. With its nine-point manifesto, the Majlis urged Muslim voters to support independent candidates from different parties, 'primarily according to the candidates' attitudes towards the Muslim community'. Thus, it was recommended that they vote for those who were free of caste and communal prejudices, subscribed-to democratic and secular principles, and were broadly in agreement with the People's Manifesto issued by the Majlis. Candidates who met these conditions were asked to sign a pledge to support the nine points of the manifesto and to work for their adoption, if elected. The Majlis succeeded in stirring up 'political and social consciousness' amongst Muslims,20 and in 'detouring' them 'from their usual solid support for the Congress'.21 But it was only marginally successful in influencing the outcome of the 1967 elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where it had developed a network of support. The erosion of Congress support amongst Muslims had much more to do with the general anti-Congress sentiment than with the campaign conducted by the Majlis.22Dr Abdul Jalil Faridi, the chief architect of the Majlis, had conceded that it was difficult to replace the Congress or to remove it from its dominant position.23 The electoral reverses suffered by the Majlis, combined with the volte face executed by its allies when elected to the legislature,24undermined the morale of its constituents. In Bihar the Majlis had become defunct by the time of the 1969 elections, and the Congress did quite well in Muslim areas even though it won fewer seats in the state as a whole.25In Uttar Pradesh, Faridi established a new political party, the up Majlis, to contest the 1969 mid-term poll. Two years later, he is supposed to have reached an electoral understanding with the Congress, led by Indira Gandhi, having sensed the massive support she was going to receive from the Muslims.

Tyabji, The Self in Secularism, p 128. Zaheer Masood Quraishi, 'Electoral strategy of a minority pressure group: the Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat', Asian Survey 8(12) pp 981-2. 22 Imtiaz Ahmad, 'The Muslim electorate and election alternative in UP'. 23 Seminar (95) July 1967, p 14. 24 In Gujarat the Majlis supported the Swatantra party which was mainly a party of Patidars and Kshatriyas who were traditionally anti-Muslim. Ghanshyam Shah, Caste Association and Political Process in Gujarat (Bombay, 1975). 25 Harry W Blair, 'Minority electoral politics in a North Indian state: aggregate data analysis and the Muslim community in Bihar, 1952-1972', The American Political Science Review 68(4) December 1973, p 1286.



The adventurism the Majlis failed on account of the absenceof a of unified leadership,the fragmentarynature of the Muslim community with its regional and local specificity, and the small and scattered Muslim votes in most electoral constituencies.Besides, the path of 'contest mobility'26 was clearly strewn with difficulties because democraticpoliticalinstitutionsdo not alwayslend themselvesto being used by minoritygroupsin defenceof their interests.The Majlis learnt this lesson the hard way when it was stigmatisedas a sinister,incipient revivalof the old Muslim League,and its demandspushed more votes towardscandidateswhose appeal was to Hindi and Hindu revivalism. Muslims, it seemed, could not hope to take the political process into theirown handsas they thoughtthey could;they had to be content with organising themselves as pressure groups exerting their influence throughother politicalforces. At the same time, it was inexpedientto allow Muslim anxieties to grow, for at stakewas nationalunity, the secularimageof the Congress, and the country'sprestigein otherpartsof the world,especiallyin West Asia. Already,the dangersigns were too obvious to go unnoticed.The alienationof the minoritiesand the consequentweakeningof the secular elementsamongstthem, the newly acquiredmilitancyof parochialand sectariantendencies,the growingintrusionof religioninto politics, and the wideninggulf that separatedHindus and Muslimslent credenceto the view that 'the secularism Indiais an aspiration,not yet a reality'.27 of II the afterindependence communalforces, long Just a decade-and-a-half surgedforward,causingserious kept undercheckby Nehru'sleadership, stress to India's secularfabric.Amongst Muslims, the Jamaat-iIslami and the ItehadulMuslimeenderivedstrengthand sustenancefrom the wave of communalviolencewhich swept throughmuch of north India, leading a perceptive Muslim observer to conclude that 'Muslim
communalism ... is now coming to surface again. Its fundamental idea ... is that true Muslim society can exist only in a country where the

governmentis in the hands of Muslimsand is carriedon accordingto Islamiclaw'.

I have borrowed this idea from R A Schermerhorn, Ethnic Plurality in India, Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1978, p 176. W C Smith in Seminar (67) March 1965, p 10, and the view that 'the country is far from secular. In fact to impose secularism on a country so balkanised was as likely to prove successful as making an omelette out of hard-boiled eggs'. M R A Baig, 'Enlightened communalism', Seminar (125) January 1970, p 13.



Spearheaded the cadre-based by RashtriyaSwayamsewak Sangh(RSS) and its politicalwing, the BharatiyaJana Sangh, Hindu communalism found a substantial in the resurgence nationalistfeelingsafterthe of ally Indo-Chinawar of 1962;the alliancewas strengthened the war with by Pakistan three years later. Committed to the cause of building a resurgent Hindunationand a revivedHindi-Hindu culture,the ideology of the RSS and the Jana Sangh was fuelled by the stereotype of an aggressive Islam on the rampage. They repudiated secularism, denounced the Congress for its policy of appeasement under the 'camouflage of secularism',28 and proposed the 'Indianisation' of Muslims to purge them of disloyal tendencies. 'Indianisationof the Muslimoutlook is the only solutionof the socio-religious well as the as politicalaspectof the communalproblem',declareda foremostRSSand Jana Sanghactivist.29 'The strength and influence of the avowedly and objectionably militant Hindu parties have grown alarmingly', warned a leading journalist in the Delhi Statesman.30 This growth was reflectedin the electoraladvancesmade by the Jana Sanghwhichwas the only party to have increased its percentageof the popular vote and its share of and parliamentary assemblyseats in each successiveelectionfrom 1952 through 1967.3'In the 1962 generalelections it more than doubled its strengthin Parliament and the state assemblies.Comparedto 1951-52, the percentage votes polledby the JanaSanghin 1962showednearlya of two-foldincreasein Lok Sabhaelectionsand about a one-and-half times increasein assemblyelections.In Uttar Pradeshand Madhya Pradesh the Jana Sangh became the second largest party-49 seats to the 248 Congress's in the Uttar Pradeshassembly,41 seatsto the Congress's 142in the MadhyaPradesh.32 upwardtrendcontinued,especiallyin This Uttar Pradeshwherethe partypolled 21.53 per cent of votes and gained 98 seats at the fourth generalelection.33 HindustanTimessaw the The extension of Jana Sangh's influence to the rural areas as 'the most significantdevelopmentof this electionin Uttar Pradesh'.34
Akhand Bharat or Akhand Pakistan?, Exchange of Population Conference, New Delhi, 28-29 March 1964. 29 Balraj Madhok, Hindustan on the Crossroads (Lahore, 1946), p 101, and Indianization (Delhi, 1970), p 82, by the same author. 30 Inder Malhotra in Statesman, 6 October 1968. 3' Craig Baxter, The Jana Sangh: A Biography of an Indian Political Party, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968, p 1. 32 Smith, India as a Secular State, pp 474-5. 33 Bashiruddin Ahmed, 'Uttar Pradesh', Seminar (95) July 1967, p 42. 34 Hindustan Times, 12 March 1962, cited in Craig Baxter, 'The Jana Sangh: a brief history', in Smith (ed), South Asian Politics, p 98.



Equallyominouswas the revivalof the cow protectionmovementand the Hindi-Urdu controversy, issues on which Muslim interests and susceptibilitieswere disregarded,much to Nehru's disappointment. Much of the communal rioting in the 1960s was centred on these problems, though no less explosive were disputes over religious processionsand the playingof music beforemosques. In the 1950sthe numberof violent communaldisordersfell steadily, reachingthe low watermark twenty-sixin 1960.The numberwent up of to ninety-twoin 1961;the worstyearwas 1964with over 1,170incidents, mostly in Bengal.From 1965 to 1967 therewere 515 officiallyrecorded in outbursts,35 which Muslims suffered the most at the hands of rampaging communal mobs, headed not very infrequently by RSS volunteers.36 Nehrudeclaredthat fromhis own inquiriesit appearedthat local Congressleadershad madeno attemptat all to calm the communal frenzy which seized Jabalpurand other cities and towns of Madhya Pradesh during the riots of February 1961. They simply sat in their houseslike 'purdahladies'whilethe situationdeteriorated.37 pattern The was no different in the communal catastrophe at Ahmedabad in September1969, when over a thousand people, mostly Muslims, lost their lives.38 The communalupsurgein the 1960s was part of the sharpeningof existing caste, class and community cleavages, and reflected the limitationsof the secularisation processwhich had been boldly initiated through democratic processes, progressive social legislation, rapid industrialisation a massiveadultliteracycampaign.Thesecleavages and werekept undercontrolduringthe anti-colonialstruggle,with unityand consensus among its central concerns. But not so after independence. The Congresswas no longerat the head of a movement:it was overnight turnedinto a politicalpartywhose main aim was to exercisecontrol and dominanceover the levers of power and authority.Devising electoral strategies became its prime concern, while populist slogans, radical rhetoric and diffused socio-economic policies were its answers to growingcaste/classtensionsand increasedcommunalanimosities.'The
image of Indian unity,' warned the Economic and Political Weekly,
35 36

Brass, Language, Religion and Politics, p 219. The Communist Party of India was of this view, especially in relation to the disturbances in western Uttar Pradesh in 1961. Hindustan Times, 10 October 1961. 37 Hindustan Times, 24 April 1961; also, Smith, India as a Secular State, p481. 38 Ghanshyam Shah, 'The 1969 communal riots in Ahmedabad: a case study', in A A Engineer (ed), Communal Riots in Post-IndependenceIndia (Hyderabad, 1984), p 198.



'cannot be built merely of eye-catching laces and frills: it must also have the supporting "stays" of harder material.'39 The Congress was singularly lacking in ideological coherence, as was signified by the presence of communal and revivalist elements entrenched in the states and districts, and their uneasy relationship with Nehru who was committed to the destruction of communalism and the establishment of a secular state and society. It surged ahead without isolating such elements,40 without developing any formal or informal structures to effect social transformation, and without evolving instruments to widen the social basis of secularism and thus assuage the fears of the minorities while satisfying the rising aspirations of various social groups. Nehru was no doubt aware of these limitations, but he also dithered on vital issues. He took certain steps or failed to take others which did not fit squarely with his promotion of secularism.4' A few years after Nehru's death, the Economic and Political Weekly observed: The rudestshock comes from the mannerin which the Governmentand the countryare allowingthemselves be pushedoff the edge of secularism the to into abyssof communal reaction,fallingbackto the frightening atavismof stagnant, dark and medievalethos of the Hindi-speaking areas.42 An easy way out of the communal impasse was to woo sectional and parochial interests and to make occasional friendly gestures towards the minorities, even if it meant heightening their community consciousness. In his keenness to win Muslim confidence, Nehru allowed Muslims a voice in whether or not to provide equality before the law to all Indian women or to promulgate a common civil code, thus precluding either.43 He stated in 1954 that he thought a unified civil code was inevitable, but that the time was not ripe to push it through in India. Again, he failed to press his own initiative for the banning of communal parties." The banning of cow-slaughter was also a matter in which Nehru failed to act according to his convictions.45 Legislation imposing a total ban on cow slaughter was enacted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and
Economic and Political Weekly, Annual Number, February 1962; and editorial comment in Hindustan Times, 3 June 1961. 4 Notice the warning of a veteran Congressmen that 'the Congress authorities should not tolerate the presence in its ranks of people who neither believe in socialism nor in a secular democracy'. J B Kripalani, Minorities in India (Calcutta, n.d.), p 42. 41 Sarvepalli Gopal, 'Nehru and secularism', Occasional Papers on History and Society (62) p 23, NMML. 42 Economic and Political Weekly, 5 November 1966. 4 Gopal, op. cit., p 23. 4Smith, India as a Secular State, pp 473-4. 45 Gopal, op. cit., p 25.



Rajasthan. All of these governments were controlled by the Congress party. Given the established tradition of using religion as a lever to influence the course of politics, it was not unusual for political parties to collaborate with communal organisations for short-term electoral gains. The Congress did so with the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1956, and with the Muslim League in Kerala just two years later. Opposition parties, too, were often compelled in the sheer interests of survival to fall back on expediency and forge unprincipled alliances. The role of the Praja Socialist Party stands out in pushing the Muslim League forward in the anti-communist alliance in Kerala. In 1965 the Communist Party of India (Marxist) marred its excellent record of waging anti-communal struggles by aligning itself with the Muslim League as part of its strategy of forging an anti-Congress front. Nor was it uncommon to rouse religious passions during electioneering. In the 1963 parliamentary by-election contest between the Congress candidate Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim and the opposition nominee, Acharya Kripalani, deep-seated prejudices against the Muslims were activated by the opposition parties.' The entire campaign was vitiated by communalism.47 Nehru was sickened and expressed his anguish in no uncertain terms.

Over the years we have been moving towards a society which will soon be ruled by communal bigots. -Udayan Sharma, in Sunday, 22-28 June 1986 A wounded India with festering communal sores is limping towards the 21st century ... India, today, certainly cannot boast of a heritage and a past which has succeeded in checking the growth of communalism. -Seema Mustafa, in Sunday, 28 December 1986-3 January 1987. An all-devouring communal fire is raging across the country, threatening the very existence of a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society. -Kuldeep Kumar, in Sunday, 21-27 June 1987.

These are not sensational newspaper headlines but serious reflections on India's secular experiment over the last four decades. They portray a picture of Indian society which is both realistic and alarming. Their assessment deserves consideration. There can be no doubt that the last phase of the government of Indira Gandhi witnessed an unprecedented intensification of religious fervour
"Bashiruddin Ahmed, 'Congress defeat in Amroha: a case study in one party dominance', Economic and Political Weekly, 22 May 1965, p 865. 47 Statesman, 20 May 1963.



and religiosity, an exacerbation of sectarian feuds, and an increased polarisation of Indian society not along class lines, as Nehru had envisaged, but on purely communal grounds. Close to 4,000 people have been killed in communal riots during the 1980s. This is almost four times the figure of the 1970s which had seen a relative lull after the bloody 1969 Ahmedabad rioting.48The number of districts affected increased from sixty-one in 1961 to 250 in 1986-87 (out of a total of around 350 districts).49Since February 1986 nearly sixty 'major' and 'minor' riots have taken place in Uttar Pradesh, killing over 200 people, leaving more than 1,000 injured, and causing damage to property to the tune of 1.5 crores.50 Equally significant has been the rapid growth of communal organisations with militant overtones. They numbered less than a dozen in 1951; there are now over 500, with an active membership that, according to government estimates, runs into several millions.5' The newly formed Hindu militias are the trishuldharisof the Akhil Bharatiya Shiv Shakti Dal which boasts of 3,000 followers and sixty branches between Delhi and Saharanpur;52 Hindu Manch, activated after the the highly publicised conversions to Islam of a few hundred Harijans in the Tamil Nadu villages of Meenakshipuram in 1981, with a following of 20,000 among the lower middle classes;53and the Hindu Shiv Sena with strong supporters among the Hindu migrants from Punjab. All these bodies, combined with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Virat Hindu Sammelan which are at the apex of several right-wing organisations, have been vying with each other to emerge as the greatest champion of Hindu communal causes, and are now leading an aggressive campaign to 'liberate' a list of 450 mosques. These developments seem to suggest that the secular consensus, an imprimatur of the Nehru era, was all but set aside by the dominant Congress leadership, eager to accommodate Hindu revivalist and obscurantist tendencies in order to isolate and deflect the emergence of alternative political forces surfacing in different parts of the country. This was done in Kashmir where Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was
India Today, 15 June 1987, p 37. In May 1979 the Minister of State for Home announced in Parliament that there was a three-fold rise in riot deaths since 1977, with Uttar Pradesh heading the casualty list: 65 in 1978 and 19 in 1977. Times of India, 4 May 1979. 49 India Today, 15 June 1987, p 38. 50 Sunday, 21-27 June 1987, p 12. 5' ibid. 52 Sunday, 24-30 August 1986, p 22. 53 ibid.



The same story isolated and his defeat engineeredby IndiraGandhi.54 was repeated in Punjab, though with far more serious implications. Giani Zail Singh,ChiefMinisterof Punjabfrom 1972to 1977,exploited adroitnessto divide the Akali Dal, and religionwith his characteristic propped up an obscure priest, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale,to forces in Punjab.IndiraGandhi backedZail counterthe anti-Congress forces in Punjab. Singh againstthe more secular-oriented The widelysharedMuslimperception beenof a virtualbreakdown has of the secularconsensusembodiedin the model of integrationworked out by Nehru. Cracksbegan to appearsoon after India's victory over Pakistanin the Bangladeshwar, where Indira Gandhi was convinced that she wouldhave to cultivatea Hinduimageto strikedeep roots in the Indianpolity. She went on conspicuousvisits to varioustemples,swiftly scandal banned the use of beef tallow as soon as a ghee-adulteration broke out, adopted Hindu rituals and symbols in state affairs, was lenient towards Hindu revivalism which expressed itself most marchesto 'Save Hinduism',and almost in spectacularly cross-country assertedthe 'rightsof the majority'.All this was a uncharacteristically reversalof the seculartraditionsthat Nehru had tried to establish.'Far from challengingsuch revivalism,'wrote one of her admirers,Indira Gandhi'decidedto rideit as far as it would take her. And so, therewas not even the minor consolation of words of sympathy from Indira Gandhi after Moradabad saw in 1981 one of the worst instances of violence against Muslimsin independentIndia.'55 The situationhas remained unchangedand the mixingof religionwith politics continues under Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress, so claim its has detractors, takenup the mantleof Hinduprotector,a fact whichhas led the RSS, with over a million members and more than 20,000 to branches,56 lend its supportto the party'spoliciesand programmes.57 The breaking of coconuts, putting vermilion on foreheads, and invocation of Hindu Gods at state functionscontinues,with disregard for the secularspiritof the Constitution. What has most angeredMuslims is not so much the fact that state patronage of religious fervour has encouraged the fringe of Hindu extremism, but that a systematic neglect of their interests has

Kashmir, see Akbar, India: The Siege within, part three. ibid., p 198. 56 Sunday, 25-31 October 1987, p 30. 57 ibid., p 27-8.



contributed to their economic decline.58 The view that the economic weakness of the Muslims must be seen in the context of the society as a whole, where development is slow, wages are low and unemployment is on the rise, carries no conviction with most Muslim activist groups who argue that opportunities for economic advancement are specifically blocked for their community which has borne the consequences of official neglect and discrimination. In the case of scheduled castes and tribes there are compensatory programmes; there are none for the Muslims. Yet, other categories in north India, such as the Kurmis, Yadavs and Gujars, have been economically weak and have not had access to compensatory programmes. They have, however, in some measure sought to neutralise their weakness through mobilisation in the political domain, using their numbers and voting strength to secure attention. To be sure, such mobilisation, when it seeks politically allocated resources by way of job quotas and so on, has generated violent controversy in Bihar and elsewhere; but the magnitude of this controversy is small compared to the consequences that await Muslims when they seek to assert themselves, politically or otherwise. It is possible to debate the causes of the economic decline of the Muslims, but there is no denying that they have been on the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of the basic categories of socio-economic indicators of development.59 In modern industry and trade, except for isolated instances, they have not owned large-scale industry or business. There is not a single Muslim house among the fifty industrial groups, while at the lower end of the scale most Muslims are poor and backward.60 The benefits of various government schemes, aimed at improving the lot of the weaker sections, have not accrued to Muslims. Of the houses allotted by state governments to lower and middle income groups, only 2.86 per cent went to them. Of the licences issued for Fair Price shops, only 6.9 per cent were awarded to Muslims. Finally, Muslims account for only 0.25 per cent of the tangible benefits extended to the artisans by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission.6'
S N Faridi, Economic Welfare of Indian Moslems (Agra, 1965). Also, the issues of Muslim India, edited by Syed Shahabuddin. 59 Rasheeduddin Khan, 'Minority Segments in Indian Polity', op. cit., pp 1514-15. 60 Vir Sanghvi, 'Coming to terms with the Hindu Backlash', Imprint,July 1984, p 28. There are only four units owned by Muslim industrialists, in a group of 2,832 industrial houses owned by large corporate units, each with sales of Rs 50 million and above. Muslim India, February 1985, p 82. 61 Sanghvi, op. cit., p28; also, Akbar, op. cit., pp 310-11.



The cooperativesectorshave fared no better.Of the loans advanced by financialinstitutionsonly 3 per cent of those betweenRs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh went to Muslims.Of those betweenRs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakhs, less than 2 per cent was receivedby Muslims. Of loans between Rs 2 lakhs and Rs 10 lakhs, the figurewas under 1 per cent.62 When it comes to employment,Muslims present a grim picture of to and theirunder-representation, complainthat they have been reduced. but being 'the hewersof wood and the drawersof water',63 the causes of are their under-recruitment still a subject of much dispute. Muslims as settle for discrimination a convenientexplanation,though much of the problem in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is the consequence of the depletionof the Muslimmiddleclassesin the aftermathof partitionand and education, the abolition of Urdu as a languageof administration which affected the very section of the middle classes that sought employment at the clerical level, in lower governmentservice or in educationalinstitutions. Widespreadabandonmentof Urdu has also made it difficultfor a greatmany Muslimcandidateswho have Urdu as their mother tongue to take competitiveexaminationsfor government posts. This accounts for the fact that very few Muslims take the examinationsat all; another reason, of course, is a constant fear of discrimination they do take them. The promotionof Urdu, which has if been a victim of communalbigotry and linguisticjealousy, is thus not Muslimsbut is only centralto the culturalidentityof the Urdu-speaking equallycrucialfor theirmaterialadvancement. The plight of the Muslimsis compoundedby the fact that nearlyall the majorcommunalriots duringthe last two decadeshave occurredin towns wherethey have attaineda measureof economicsuccessthrough skills.' This is the lesson their traditionalartisanaland entrepreneurial of AligarhwhereMuslimsown lock industriesand have recentlymoved into producing building materials;Varanasi, where Muslim weavers established their hold over the silk saree trade and tried to obtain ownership in the industry itself; Moradabad, where the industrial
ibid. N C Saxena, 'Public employment and educational backwardness among Muslims in India', Political Science Review 23(2-3) April-September 1983. 63 Ansar Harvani, quoted in Imtiaz Ahmad, 'Secular state, communal society', Communalism: The Razor's Edge (Bombay, n.d.), p 25. 64 It is argued that riots tend to occur in medium-sized towns with a relatively large entrepreneurial class competing with and challenging the monopoly of the Hindu trading and business class. This has led to the conclusion that communalism is essentially a product of competition between the petty bourgeoisie in medium-sized towns. A A Engineer, 'Socio-Economic basis of Communalism', Mainstream 21(45) July 1983, pp 15-18; Javed Alam, 'Dialectics of capitalist transformations and national crystallisation', Economic and Political Weekly, January 1983, pp38-9.



apparatus was reoriented into producing decorative brassware for export to rich Arab countries; Bhiwandi in Maharashtra where Muslims gradually bought up small-scale textile units; Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh where Muslim weavers became entrepreneurial and have done well in iron foundries, furniture manufacture, and scissor-making and lathe operations; and in the walled city of Delhi where the traditional Hindu mercantile community resents the Muslim intrusion into its commercial enclave. 'Hindus tend to raise their eyebrows at the assertion of an equal status by a community which they have been used to look down upon as their inferiors in the post-independence era', concludes a report on the Delhi riots of May 1987.65 This 'economic resurgence' is often ascribed to Islamic fundamentalism and a new sense of confidence among Muslims, now that their co-religionists in the Gulf have acquired wealth and considerable global influence. The connection is at best tenuous, though the Hindu petty bourgeoisie has not hesitated to use this argument in order to whip up communal sentiments against the Muslims. The motive is to displace the emerging Muslim entrepreneurial class in certain crucial areas of trade and business and to reduce the possibility of keen competition. This was attempted in Moradabad and Meerut where Muslims witnessed the destruction of their hard-earned capital, invested in small factories.' A similar pattern can be seen in Ahmedabad and Bhiwandi,67 both of which are important centres of textile manufacturing. Yet the more bizarre theories in circulation include the suggestion that riots at these centres were lubricated by petrodollars funnelled through various Muslim organisations. Communal riots were not uncommon during the Nehru era, but they were sporadic, localised and easily controllable. This has not been the case for nearly two decades. Since the outburst in Ahmedabad in September 1969, riots have tended to be bloodier and more prolonged, with areas like Aligarh, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Moradabad and Meerut in a state of perpetual tension. The effects of the recent Meerut riots in June 1987 spread to the walled city of Delhi and threatened to engulf the
65 Walled city riots: A report on the Police and communal violence in Delhi, 19-24 May 1987 (Delhi,


1987), p 1. It is worth noting that since the last riot in Moradabad in 1980 there has been a slump in the traditional trade of brass. Exports dropped from Rs 720 million in 1980 to Rs 300 million in 1985. Neerja Chowdhury, 'Growing assertiveness', Statesman, 19 April 1986. See the collection of essays in A A Engineer, Communal riots in post-independence India (Hyderabad, 1984).



whole of Uttar Pradesh,which 'becamea high tension communalwire threateningto sparkoff conflagrations unimaginabledimensions'.68 of The apathy,negligence complicityof local officialshas also grown and over the years;whereverpublic authorityis compliantto anti-Muslim forces, the administration offeredweak or inadequateprotectionto has the Muslims. This was a crucial variable in Ahmedabad, where the Congress administrationdelayed a crackdown on rioters for several days.69It was the same a decade later in the steel township of In Jamshedpur.70 Uttar Pradesh,on the other hand, the police and the ProvincialArmedConstabulary (PAC) have often acted ratheras though they were a force expresslyorganisedto beat, loot and kill Muslims. Theydid so in Moradabad,7" morerecentlyin Malliana,a township and, close to Meerutcity. 'Themassacreof Malliana(conductedby the PAC),' wrotean angryjournalist,'willgo down in the historyof this once-proud Amnesty city as an unimaginableinstance of sadism and brutality.'72 International indictedthe PAC for its brutalitiesin Mallianaand the has Hashimpuraarea of Meerut.73

The articulationof minority interestsis often constrained,even in a democracy, as is illustrated by the case of India's Muslims whose identification with the Muslim League movement in the pre-independenceperiod has inhibited them from voicing their grievancesin a sustainedand organisedmanner.The formationof the All India Muslim Conventionand the Majli-i Mushawaratwere bold initiatives, but the strategy of working through the electoral process backfired. The bittercontroversyover Urdu, faced by the non-Congress governmental coalitions in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after 1967, reinforcedthe proposition that parties identifiedwith minority causes riskedalienatingmany of theirconstituents.IndiraGandhiwas quickto learn this lesson when she talked of a 'Hindu backlash' against any of further'pampering' the minorities.

India Today, 15 June 1987. 69Balasubramaniam report on Bihar Sharif riots, 1981, quoted in Muslim India, September 1984, pp 425-6. 70 Times of India, 22-24 April 1979. 71 Patriot, 27 August 1980; Satish Saberwal and Mushirul Hasan, 'Moradabad riots: causes and meanings', in Engineer, op. cit. 72 Sunday, 7-13 June 1987, p 18. Malliana is some 10 km west of Meerut which is 60 km northeast of Delhi. 73 Allegations of extrajudicial killings by the PAC in and around Meerut, 22-23 May 1987 (Amnesty International, November 1987).



Though Parliament and the state legislatures have remained important forums, the part played by Muslim legislators has not been seen in a favourable light by most Muslims. Muslim legislators, though often elected from Muslim-populated constituencies and sponsored as minority representatives, have eschewed the more public forms of protest and rebuffed petitions for help on minority causes. This is because the electoral processes sometimes work in favour of Muslims who are inclined to be docile and reluctant to raise embarrassing issues lest they are denied nomination at the next election.74The result is that sponsored mobility has improved the political fortunes of a few chosen legislators without advancing the interests of their constituents. 'Hence, when scholars or publicists prepare impressive lists of the Muslim candidates elected over a number of years, they may contribute to group pride, but they signify no more than a Pyrrhic victory.'75 Some formal and informal channels of articulation existed during the first two decades after independence because of Nehru's close links with certain sections of the Muslim leadership, especially in the Jamiyat al-ulema, his long-standing association with Indian nationalists such as Abul Kalam Azad, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Syed Mahmud, Abdul Majid Khwaja and Zakir Husain, and his personal commitment to providing equal opportunities to the minorities and ending discrimination against them. Sensitive to the demands of the minorities, he pressed his colleagues to offer adequate representation to the Muslims in the armed and civil services,71 instructed Chief Ministers to send him quarterly reports of official recruitment,77 advocated justice for the Urdu language,78 and warned that communalism, especially of the majority, was the greatest of all the dangers facing India.79He was unsparing in his criticism of some senior party members who were unfriendly towards Muslims, pulled up Charan Singh for his reported remarks against the Muslims,80expressed unhappiness over the anti-Muslim bias of Govind Ballabh Pant,8' the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and was disappointed that Vallabhbhai Patel, the Home Minister, had relapsed
Theodore P Wright, Jr, 'The effectiveness of Muslim representation in India', in Smith (ed), South Asian Politics and Religion, Chapter five. 75 Schermerhorn, Ethnic Plurality in India, pp 177-8. 76 Statesman, 12 May 1958. 71 Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (Delhi, 1979), vol. 2, p 206. 78 Statesman, 26 June 1958; Gopal, op. cit., p 206. 79 Statesman, 26 June 1958. 80 Charan Singh denied the newspaper reports. File no. 3, G B Pant Papers, NMML. 81 Gopal, op. cit., p 92.



'All into his old attitudeof suspectingthe loyalty of Muslimsin India.82 of us,' he wrote sadly, 'seem to be getting infested with the refugee mentalityor, worsestill, the RSS mentality.That is a curiousfinaleto our

Though Nehru's exhortationswent unheededand the grievancesof Muslimscontinuedto reposetheir the minoritiesremainedunredressed, confidencein his leadershipand recognisedthe Congress as the main vehicle of their aspirations.The Muslim Convention, revived in June 1961by MaulanaHifzurRahmanof the Jamiyatal-ulema,acted within and the Congressframework appealedto Muslimsto 'standshoulderto shoulder with their non-Muslim brethreninside secular political and The pro-Congresssentiment was also strong social organisations'.84 withinthe Majlis-iMushawarat. Under the influenceof Syed Mahmud, Nehru's contemporaryat Cambridge,the Bihar unit of the Majlis did and not go along with Faridi'santi-Congressism supportedas many as fifty Congresscandidatesfor the Assemblyelections.85 After Nehru, Congress-Muslimrelationswere greatly strained,and the links that India's first Prime Minister had established with the minorities were either weakened or altogether severed. Having supported Indira Gandhi in her early years of political dominance, Muslimsslowly but steadilydriftedaway from her to swell the ranksof, in for example,the National Conference Kashmir,the Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the left front government in Bengal. The 1975-77 Emergencyand the accompanyingexcesses proved the last straw. TheodoreWrighthas arguedthat the 'incongruouscoalition of traditionalists, secularists and repentant former Muslim League modernists'who had supported Congress in previous elections was forced sterilisation,slum brokenup by four featuresof the emergency: removal,police firingon Muslims,and the suspensionof civil liberties, which included the banning of Muslim organisations such as the Jamaat-iIslami.86 Indira Gandhi's efforts to win over the Muslims during the 1980 In electionswere only partiallyrewarded. the two crucialstates of Uttar Pradeshand Biharthe Lok Dal ratherthan the Congressemergedas a
82 83

ibid., p 92. To Mohanlal Saxena, 10 September 1949, cited in Gopal, 'Nehru and secularism', op. cit., p 15. For communalism in the Congress, see Smith, India as a Secular State, pp 480-81. 84 Smith, India as a Secular State, pp 370-79. 85 Brass, Language, Religion and Politics, p251. 86 Theodore P Wright, Jr., 'Muslims and the 1977 Indian elections: a watershed?', Asian Survey 17(2) December 1977, pp 1207-20.



powerful political force amongst Muslims. The Lok Dal won twelve out of the twenty-three Muslim constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and secured 33.3 per cent of the Muslim vote as against 34.4 per cent gained by the Congress party. Even in Bihar, where Congress did exceptionally well in Muslim constituencies, the Lok Dal did better (23.4 per cent) in the Muslim constituencies than in the state as a whole (16.6 per cent). Myron Weiner contests the popular view that Muslims voted Congress. His conclusion is that a substantial number of Muslims who had voted for other parties in 1977 voted for Congress in 1980, but in no greater proportion than other communities (and except for Bihar and West Bengal, possibly even less).87

The gradual weakening of the Congress base amongst Muslims made it possible for the communally-oriented Muslim groups to occupy the political vacuum, while frequent riots and unending discriminatory practices against Muslims lent legitimacy to their activities. This is a familiar pattern. In the 1940s the phenomenal success of the Muslim League and its allies was, in some measure, linked to the fact of Muslim alienation from the Congress after the 1942 Quit India movement. Capitalising on the 'wrongs' done by the Congress Ministries of 1937-39, the League propaganda machine was able to persuade splinter Muslim groups to join its bandwagon. Nearly three decades later, Muslim organisations of different shades of opinion were able to broaden their base of support by dwelling on the Congress failure to stem the communal tide and its inability to assuage the fears of the minorities. The rise of the Itehadul Muslimeen in Hyderabad,88 the active political intervention of the Jamaat-i Islami in Kashmir,89and the increased support enjoyed by the Muslim League in Kerala must be seen against this background. They remain, as always, the principal force behind Muslim conservatism and political reaction. It is hard to delineate the main contours of Muslim conservatism, though its basic aim has remained unchanged since the advent of British
Myron Weiner, India at the Polls, 1980: A Study of the Parliamentary Elections (Delhi, 1984), p 124. 88 See Rasheeduddin Khan, 'Muslim leadership and electoral politics in Hyderabad: a pattern of minority articulation', Economic and Political Weekly6(15-16) 10 17 April 1971; Muneer Ahmad Khan, 'Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen: a case study in Muslim politics' (Unpublished PhD thesis, Osmania University, 1965). 89 Notice the rapid growth of the students' wing of the Jamaat-i Islami, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIM). Muslim India, May 1985, p 206.



rule in India: the preservation of cultural and religious identity within the defined Islamic framework. Its more tangible manifestation has been in its resistance to modem education, its opposition to the composite and syncretic trends in Indian Islam, and its tendency to thwart reformist initiatives. Muslim organisations and institutions conducted successful mobilisation campaigns around these issues and were thus able to insulate the community from the process of social change and modernisation, and to resist the secularising tendencies generated during and after colonial rule. This was a phenomenon unique to Indian Islam, for reformist ideas and movements were not inconsequential in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Conservative reaction after independence has been most pronounced in opposing the demand for a uniform civil code-an issue which unites the three principal organisations in India which are otherwise opposed to each other on fundamental doctrinal matters. These are the Tablighi Jamaat, established by Maulana Mohammad Ilyas in order to unite all sections of the community and 'make them realise their common bond of religion'; the Jamaat-i Islami, founded in 1941 by Abul-Ala Mawdudi to create a state and a society based upon Islamic ideology, following Islamic policies, and actively striving towards an Islamic ideal; and the Jamiyat al-ulema, born in the throes of the massive Khilafat upsurge and dominated by the ulema connected with the Dar al-ulum at Deoband. Though radical in its political orientation, the Jamiyat has regarded 'modernism' as the most dangerous heresy of the day, and its leaders have fought it vigorously. The Jamaat-i Islami, which takes the most militant position on the issue of change in the Personal Law, argues that even a ban on polygamy cannot be accepted, because Muslims are sure it will be only 'the first step in the direction of erasing every symbol of a separate Muslim culture in India'.9 The Jamiyat al-ulema agrees, though its criticism is reinforced by the argument that any attempt to alter the Personal Law would be an infringement of the 'covenant' of composite nationalism which binds Muslims to India and its Hindu countrymen.91 This was echoed at a convention organised in December 1974, and is repeated at every annual session of the Jamiyat.92Ziya-ul-Hasan states the position of the Jamiyat by arguing that the demand for a uniform civil code is
90Quoted in Brass, Language, Religion and Politics, p 220.
91Maulana Asrurul Haque Qasmi, The Community in Retrospect (Delhi, n.d.). 92 See presidential address by Maulana Syed Asad Madani, Jamiyat al-ulema session held at Bombay on 14-16 January 1983, p 16; also Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Western Civilization-Islam and Muslims (Lucknow, 1969), p 209, for opposition to 'change' and 'reform'.



departurefrom the position that in the present tantamountto a fundamental day Indian situation where the Muslim communityis deeply entangledin a it strugglefor the searchand safeguardof its self-identity, is only the Personal guaranteefor its preservation.93 Law that can be a permanent Following the December 1974 Convention, an All India Muslim Personal Law Board was set up as a watchdog body to monitor and actively resist any changes that might be brought about in the Sharia. Just over a decade later the same Board spearheaded a campaign which signified a massive fundamentalist upsurge, unprecedented in post-Independence India. The immediate provocation was provided by a Supreme Court judgment on 23 April 1985 which seemed to criticise Islamic law and Koranic concepts, in granting maintenance rights to a seventy-three-year old Muslim woman, Shah Bano, who was divorced by her husband after forty-three years of marriage. Muslims everywhere considered this judgment as an assault on the Sharia which, in their opinion, makes no such provision in the event of a divorce, and as 'the thin end of the wedge for securing the extinction of the Muslim personal law and its substitution by a common civil code'.94 They took to the streets to register their protest, and accused the Supreme Court of sacrilegious trespass into a field out of bounds for it. Z R Ansari, Minister of State for Environment in Rajiv Gandhi's government, lambasted the judges for their ignorance of the Koran and the Hadith. 'If you have a tamboli (pan-vendor) doing the work of a teli (oil-seller), things are bound to go wrong,' he said in parliament.95 The Rajiv Gandhi government capitulated to the strident clamourings of some Muslims by introducing the retrograde Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill in May 1986.96It was done in order to stem the rising tide of anger over the Shah Bano verdict which
Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, 'Orthodoxy and heterodoxy', Seminar (284) April 1983, p 23. Muslim India, May 1985, p 195. 95 Sunday, 9-15 March 1986. 96 Significant provisions of the bill introduced in Parliament included: * Where a Muslim divorced woman is unable to maintain herself after the period of iddat, the magistrate, when approached, may make an order for the payment of maintenance by her relatives who would be entitled to inherit her property on her death according to Muslim law in the proportions in which they would inherit her property. * If any one of such relatives is unable to pay his or her share on the ground of his or her not having the means to pay, the magistrate would direct the other relatives who have sufficient means to pay the shares of these relatives also. * But where a divorced woman has no relatives or such relatives or any one of them has not enough means to pay the maintenance or the other relatives who have been asked to pay the shares of the defaulting relatives, the magistrate would order the State Wakf Board to pay the maintenance ordered by him or the shares of the relatives who are unable to pay.
93 94



was losing the party its Muslim votes. The electoral defeats of the Congress after the momentous Supreme Court judgment were sharp reminders of this. Assam, Bijnor and Kishanganj,97Bolpur, Kendrapara and Baroda-everywhere the Muslim vote tipped the balance in favour of the Opposition parties. With Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala having a substantial Muslim population, the stakes were obviously too high. 'All one can say at present,' declared an angry Danial Latifi, a Supreme Court lawyer and an activist in the 'Committee for the Protection of Muslim Women', this entire operation. is that some Machiavelliseems to have masterminded is That master-mind not a friend of Islam, of the Muslimsor of the Muslim women. Still less is he a friendof the Republicof India. The act that preceded of the Bill, of recognition the so-calledMuslimPersonalLaw Boardas a college of cardinalsfor the Indian Muslims,is not only against Islam but is also the most flagrant exercise of power-drunkautocracy since Caligula installed his 'Incitatus', favouritehorse,as Governorof Rome. The Muslimintelligentsia who have opposed this act will continuetheir struggleagainst this illegitimate papacy.98 It is noteworthy that the 'victory' tasted over the Shah Bano issue has encouraged Muslim reaction in several different ways. In early January 1987, the volatile Syed Shahabuddin, editor of Muslim India and a member of parliament, gave a call to the Muslims to stay away from the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January. 'Come what may,' he announced, 'we shall stick to our resolve to stay away from official celebrations of the Republic Day because it is a legal, ethical means to express our agony over the conversion of a historical monument.'99This was followed by a call for an all-India strike (bandh)on 1 February 1987, the first anniversary of the day when, by an order of the district magistrate, the gates of the Baburi mosque or the Ram Janam Bhoomi in Ayodhya were thrown open for Hindus to offer worship in the mosque's inner sanctum. The same forces which had exerted pressure on Rajiv Gandhi to undo the 'wrong' done by the Supreme Court judgment were in the forefront of attempts to incite communal frenzy amongst Muslims. They included the elderly Abul Hasan Nadwi, chief of the Muslim Personal Law Board, Sulaiman Sait, whose Muslim League was then a partner of the Congress

Here Syed Shahabuddin, fighting purely on the plank of his fundamentalist posture, won by an impressive margin of 73,000 votes. 98 Sunday, 8-14 June 1986. 9 ibid., 25-31 January 1987.



in the ruling coalition in Kerala, and Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, the fiery president of the Itehadul Muslimeen, an ally of the Congress in the municipal elections in Andhra Pradesh. This was not all. Violence over the Baburi mosque episode, somewhat reminiscent of the 1913 Kanpur mosque agitation, spread to several towns of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, culminating in a massive congregation of over 300,000 Muslims in Delhi demanding justice and an end to discrimination against their community. The centre stage was once more occupied by, among others, Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the mercurial Imam of Delhi's Juma Masjid and the 'messiah' of the Muslim backlash during the tumultuous general elections in 1977. Organiser of a Muslim militia-Adam Sena-the Imam was also the moving spirit behind the widely-publicised incident on the night of 14 April 1987 when thousands of Muslims forced their way into several of the protected national monuments in the capital under the charge of the Archaeological Survey of India, to offer prayers on the occasion of Shab-i Baraat, a Muslim festival observed only in the subcontinent. Such stirrings in the Muslim community, perhaps related to fundamentalist movements in the Islamic world and encouraged through an ideological indoctrination,"?? symbolise its alienation from the wider democratic and secular processes in the country. The Indian people must wake up to the danger of allowing this alienation to grow. It may be that Jawaharlal Nehru's secular model and the strategy of multi-national integration may still be the answer to India's present communal impasse.

'?? The most recent work on this subject is by M S Agwani, Islamic Fundamentalism in India

(Chandigarh, 1986).


You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->