From the early twenties to the late forties, India was caught in the vortex of conflicting political moves which continued to disturb Hindu-Muslim relations. The emergence of Mahatma Gandhi as the unchallenged leader of the Indian National Congress and his launching of the first India-wide mass struggle against the British - the Khilafat and Non- Cooperation movement - united the two communities as never before. Unfortunately this unity did not last because the British officials managed to create communal tension and riots. To stem the rot, the Mahatma went on fast at the residence of Maulana Mohammed Ali, the tallest among the Muslim leaders then. There was some improvement, but vested interests did not allow the relationship between Hindus and Muslims to be properly cemented. As the time for devolution of power to Indians began to draw nearer, MA Jinnah, who could not see eye to eye with Gandhi on the solution of the communal problem, launched a movement for the division of India, propagating his notorious "Two- Nation" theory. The result was partition which brought nothing but misery, death and destruction to millions of Hindus and Muslims. Its continuing aftermath has resulted in a festering wound which refuses to be healed, endangering the prosperity and security of South Asia.
Actually the book is more than recollections and reflection it is a vivid account of what you saw felt and experienced during those turbulent year which shaped the making of Free India. They were indeed the best of time and the worst of times. Your book has brought back memories of those year to me and made me live through them in a manner I have rarely experienced from any other account. It is reminder to all of us that secular values are more important in the conduct of a nation than religious dogmatism. It is studded with rare insights and there are flashes of brilliant reflections. Moreover it provides authentic evidence of the disastrous consequences of a wrong approach in settling a political problem.
Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, one of India's outstanding sdiol From the early twenties to the late forties, India was caught in the vortex of conflicting political moves which continued to disturb Hindu-Muslim relations. The emergence of Mahatma Gandhi as the unchallenged leader of the Indian National Congress and his launching of the first India-wide mass struggle against the British - the Khilafat and Non- Cooperation movement - united the two communities as never before. Unfortunately this unity did not last because the British officials managed to create communal tension and riots. To stem the rot, the Mahatma went on fast at the residence of Maulana Mohammed Ali, the tallest among the Muslim leaders then. There was some improvement, but vested interests did not allow the relationship between Hindus and Muslims to be properly cemented. As the time for devolution of power to Indians began to draw nearer, MA Jinnah, who could not see eye to eye with Gandhi on the solution of the communal problem, launched a movement for the division of India, propagating his notorious "Two- Nation" theory. The result was partition which brought nothing but misery, death and destruction to millions of Hindus and Muslims. Its continuing aftermath has resulted in a festering wound which refuses to be healed, endangering the prosperity and security of South Asia.
Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, one of India's outstanding scholar-politicians, recapitulates in his inimitable style, the drama of those turbulent years when as a young man, he fought Jinnah and his Muslim League opposing the "Two-Nation' theory and participating in the "Quit India' movement He worked ceaselessly for preserving the unity of India. The book is not so much an autobiography as a narration of the author's personal experiences, his interaction with leaders and intellectuals, both Indian and British and his reflections on how the partition came about. His account, as the former President of India, Mr. R. Venkataraman states in his Foreword, "is a sigh of anguish of a patriot". Dr. Mulk Raj Anand in his Afterword characterizes Dr. Zakarias recollections and reflections as the most perceptive and absorbing account that he has read of that critical era.
Are polticians, recapitulates in his inimitable style, the drama of those turbulent years when as a young man, he fought Jinnah and his Muslim League opposing the "Two-Nation' theory and participating in the "Quit India' movement He worked ceaselessly for preserving the unity of India. The book is not so much an autobiography as a narration of the author's personal experiences, his interaction with leaders and intellectuals, both Indian and British and his reflections on how the partition came about. His account, as the former President of India, Mr. R. Venkataraman states in his Foreword, "is a sigh of anguish of a patriot". Dr. Mulk Raj Anand in his Afterword characterizes Dr. Zakarias recollections and reflections as the most perceptive and absorbing account that he has read of that critical era.
Dr. Rafiq Zakaria has had a distinguished career in field as varied as low education journalism politics and Islamic studies. He is Chancellor gold medalist of the Bombay university he obtained a Ph.D with distinction from London university. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn. From his student days he was active in the freedom struggle, both at home and abroad. After a successful legal career he was elected to the state legislature of Maharashtra. From 1962 he served as a cabinet minister in the state government for fifteen years. In 1978 he was elected to Parliament and became deputy leader of the ruling Congress Party in Parliament when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was its leader. He was given various important assignments including that of Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Muslim world in 1984. He has thrice represented India at the United Nations, in 1965, 1990 and 1996.
Dr. Zakaria is a scholar of international repute. He is the author of a dozen books, including A Study of Nehru. His rejoinder to Salman Rushdie, entitled Muhammad and the Qur'an, published by Penguin International, has become a world classic. He has written several other books on the history and jurisprudence of Islam which have been universally acclaimed. An eminent educationist, he has founded more than a dozen educational institutions of higher learning in Bombay and Aurangabad. He was, for almost a quarter century, the Chancellor of lamia Urdu of Aligarh. He has chaired several important Government of India committees. He has been passionately involved in the promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity and has delivered prestigious memorial lectures at various universities on its different aspects. Dr. Zakaria lives in Mumbai with his wife Fatma, a veteran journalist.
In his Preface to the compilation entitled Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-1947, my tutor Sir C.H. Philips, writes: "It may well be said that an episode which cost so many families their lives or their homes, should be left to future generations to describe and assess. Certainly it is difficult, a mere twenty years after partition, for those Britons, Indians and Pakistanis, who lived through those terrible months to look back on them with detachment. But it may reasonably be presumed that those who played some significant part in the episode or who saw what went on have at least some responsibility for setting down their evidence, so that future generations may achieve a closer understanding of the processes which have dramatically changed the history of their three peoples and countries." This was written in 1970; more than twenty-seven years have passed since ~en. This is the fiftieth year of our independence which we are supposed to celebrate. The old wounds are still with us; they were never completely healed. Every now and again trouble breaks out between Hindus and Muslims, at one place or another, and the wounds are ripped open: There are the unending riots; the bomb blasts; the issues of Personal Law, even cricket matches between India and Pakistan- any excuse to whip up hostilities and revive ill will. Moreover the old perception that Muslims, by and Lange, were responsible for the partition, is reinforced on one pretext or the another. It has taken root in the Hindu mind.
What is not remembered is that there were millions of Muslims who opposed the partition. There were more who fought in the various struggles for freedom, whether in 1920, 1930 or 1942. Their record is as shining as that of Hindus. In fact Jinnah despised and hated them. I was one of them. I cannot, of course, claim to have played "some significant part in the episode", to use Philips' words; but I was certainly one of those "who saw what went on." It is true that more Muslims in the then Hindu-majority provinces of British-ruled India, supported Jinnah and his League; but a significant section also vehemently opposed his demand for Pakistan and suffered much for their stand. Not only that, most Muslims in the then Muslim-majority provinces which later constituted Pakistan, resisted the partition until they were swept off by the hysteria cleverly generated by Jinnah and his followers. Jinnah took full advantage of the blunders committed by the Congress leadership; he was aided in this by the last Viceroy, Mountbatten, who with his devious machinations added fuel to the fire. In the result the country was divided. In my book: The Widening Divide: An Insight into Hindu-Muslim Relations I have dealt with this aspect more fully.. My purpose in this book has been to record what I felt, saw and heard during those crucial years which resulted in the tragedy of partition. It gives an intimate glimpse into what a young Muslim, caught in the vortex of conflicting forces, experienced and suffered. The autobiographical part is incidental; the more vital is the unfolding of the ups and downs of that tragic drama. It narrates scene after scene of what actually happened. True, there are many accounts which throw a flood of light on that crucial period in our annals; but mine is the personal reaction of a young Muslim fighting with his co-religionists against their demand of Pakistan. I am that I was too insignificant to have made a fence to the tragic turn that events took; but after iencing the dreadful aftermath of partition which continued to bedevil the lives of millions of Hindus Muslims across the subcontinent they must realise now that their future need not be further ruined. My account of how and why partition was agreed upon may them to wake up to the danger that threatens them bestir them to work for restoring the unity that was so thoughtlessly given up. It is in that hope that I have penned these Recollections and Reflections. I have been advocating for some time that it is in the best interest of all peoples of our region that we work for the formation a United States of South Asia (USSA) comprising India, tan, Bangladesh, even Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri a and Burma on the pattern of the emerging European Union. SAARC (South Asian Association of ional Cooperation) is the beginning. It needs to be expanded and given more powers. The various countries, comprising this vast land mass which has been moulded nature into an interdependent conglomeration, not y geographically but also socially and economically, must be firmly knitted together. They may keep their sovereignties but they must coalesce and collaborate not y to prosper but even to survive. This is the only way put an end to all the hostilities, particularly religious d ethnic, which have crippled their march to prosperity.
It has cost each of them heavily, resulting in the wastage f their scarce resources which can be profitably messed to give the teeming millions a better, healthier and more meaningful existence.
It was almost three years ego that The Price of Partition was published; it was released by the Governor of Maharashtra, Dr. P.c. Alexander, who agreed with the author that partition was a disaster and, for the carnage that it brought in its wake, he put the blame squarely on the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten whom he described as "one of the worst administrators known to history".
In his review of this book in the weekly Outlook, Inder Malhotra, one of India's most discerning journalists, disagreed with the perception that I along with a few other historians held that Jinnah in fact did not really want Pakistan but was forced to accept it. Further research on the issue which I have detailed in my latest work: The Man who divided India (Popular Prakashan) convinced me that I was wrong and lnder was right. Nothing would have deterred Jinnah after 1937 from the goal of partition that he had set before him; Malhotra's assessment confirms the fact that Jinnah would never have accepted any form of united India. The various encounters with Gandhi and other Congress leaders and the correspondence that he had with them was just a ruse; Jinnah was only taking them round and round in a vicious circle. He had made up his mind that a separate homeland for the Muslims was the only solution. Malhotra quoted Jinnah saying to the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan: "1 would rather have a few acres of desert, provided they were mine." And that clinches the issue. He did not mind getting even what he himself described as a "moth-eaten, mutilated Pakistan", provided it was something which he could control.
That apart, this book has had a most satisfying response because it gives an in-depth analysis of how Jinnah played the whole game of drawing Muslims away from the mainstream and creating the strongest barrier of hostility and worse, of hate between the Hindus and the Muslims. As a young student I saw all this and was alarmed at the alienation that Jinnah succeeded in bringing between the two communities. What was more galling to me was the impact his Two-Nation theory was having on my generation; the more I experienced its ill-effects, the more I revolted against it. My book narrates the tragic developments that eventually dismembered the country. And also the Muslims. Those were, indeed, the worst of times and what I wrote was the outcome of the deep pain and anguish that I went through.
While reviewing the book, Prof. Sultan Shahin in Indian Express observed that what I had failed to see was that the Congress too had preferred to divide the country rather than share power with the Muslims. But that is true only of the early phase of Hindu-Muslim negotiations when Jinnah indeed tried his best to arrive at a settlement. However from 1937 onward, the tables turned. It was the League then, under Jinnah’s leadership which obstructed every move towards unity. Gandhi struggled hard to bring Jinnah and the Muslims round; he was prepared to give them the maximum share in the power structure. But Jinnah was cold and unresponsive. Ultimately it was his intransigence which compelled Nehru and Patel to give in to partition; this was truly their biggest blunder. In my book entitled Gandhi and the Break-up of India, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, I have discussed at length all the efforts and elaborated the reasons why the Union could not be preserved.
Price of Partition is not only an authentic presentation of the chronology of events and circumstances leading to the partition of India but the sigh of anguish of a patriot who swore by the unity and integrity of India, and harmony between the Hindu and Muslim brethren of our sacred land. It deals vividly with the transition of the two communities from the utmost cordiality and fraternity that prevailed during the Khilafat movement to the bitter fratricidal massacre of innocent men, women and children and the frenzy of rape and loot that followed the creation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan.
The author tells us of his slow and steady development as a nationalist Muslim, his implicit faith in the leadership of the Mahatma, his admiration for the scholarship of Maulana Azad, his emotional attachment to the charismatic Jawaharlal Nehru and of his growing conviction that only communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims could give the country a happy and healthy future. He castigates the British officials in India in the following terms :
"The British bureaucracy played their game of 'divide and rule' with Machiavellian tactics. In the result the Muslims were made to believe that they would be worse off under Free India which would be governed by the much more numerous Hindus who had not only utter contempt and disdain for the Muslims but harboured deep rooted animosity against them blaming them for the misdeeds of their so-called ancestors."
More importantly, the Communal Award giving separate electorates to Muslims tore the multi-religious Indian community apart. It perpetuated the differences instead of reconciling them and put Hindus and Muslims into hostile camps.
The elections to Provincial Assemblies in 1937 brought about Congress ministries in 8 provinces and only 3 Muslim League ministries in Muslim majority provinces. Dr. Zakaria states that at that stage, "Jinnah tried at first to come to some understanding with the Congress but the response he received was negative. In fact, I was surprised at the attitude that Nehru adopted ... He called the League a reactionary body.... rebuffed Jinnah." According to the author, Jinnah had come round to accepting even joint electorate and the Muslim League which had claimed the exclusive right to represent the Muslims was not averse to the inclusion of even a nationalist Muslim in the Congress government.
Maulana Azad was keen on reaching an understanding with the League. He went to UP. and held talks with the League leaders, Khaliquzzaman and Nawab Ismail Khan, who assured Maulana Saheb of total cooperation with the Congress in return for two ministerial offices for the League. That the Congress let slip this opportunity proved to be a national disaster according to Dr. Zakaria - a view I share with Thereafter Maulana Saheb expressed his disappointment in the following words: "Mr. Jinnah took full advantage of the situation and started an offensive which ultimately led to Pakistan." This actually strengthened Jinnah's assertion that the Congress would never share power with the Muslims.
What led to the Congress rejection of the offer is an area of conjecture. Elated. With its success in eight provinces, Congress might have thought, as Pandit Pant said, that there was no need to make any special appeal to the Muslims; they would return to the Congress by themselves when they found out that the League was pro-rich and anti-poor. Or having been influenced by the British system of party government, the idea of taking in other parties into the Cabinet might not have found favour with the Congress. The party system, which envisages the majority as the ruling group and the minority as the opposition, is a British innovation; it creates a tight division under which the parliamentary system has to work. But in our country, consulting heads instead of counting heads has been the national ethos from the Panchayat upwards; it is the basis of our democratic functioning. The sooner we revert to government by consensus as against confrontation, the better it would be for us and all developing countries. Our leaders, irrespective of party affiliation, have to put their heads together to devise some suitable approach to, or even method of, governance to meet our national requirements and bring it in line with our national heritage.
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