March of the Two-Nation theory

ByHoor Asrar Rauf

A national swimming champion and recently Graduated from UCF-USA in Hospitality and Event Management


August 20, 2023

Two-Nation theory

Hoor Asrar describes the
crucial base Pakistani freedom struggle depended upon

Two-Nation theory – The month of August every year reminds Pakistanis the central importance of the Two-Nation theory that vitally underpinned the struggle for a separate state for the Muslims of the subcontinent. The theory was an evolutionary process that gradually strengthened and many events assisted in its eventual development into a credible expression of the national aspirations of the Muslims of the subcontinent. The Muslims desperately needed a strong base not only to make the British rulers realise their crucial existence in India but also to stand-up to the gradually aggressive Hindu community. Hindu community felt encouraged by the attitude of the British who strongly resented Muslims as the former rulers and considered them primarily responsible for the bloody revolt of 1857. Finding the opportunity too good to miss the Hindu community and it started devising and pursuing strategy aimed at reviving their separate identity. This would not have been a displeasing effort provided it was not done on the expense of the Muslims that soon became a highly contentious issue polarising both communities.

Another factor that contributed to the inception of Two-Nation theory was that Muslims were downcast after the end of their rule and were badly disoriented and were in a state that they could follow any suitable path that promised them salvation. They had lost power to the British and the first option open to them was to align with the Hindu majority and initial efforts were made to arrive at some kind of understanding with but the narrow vision of Hindu leaders disappointed outrightly. It became clear to them that the majority community was asserting its rights to become the dominant force and considered the British as their adversaries and, at best, they could only accept Muslims as an adjunct to their ambitions. In any case Muslims were not prepared to play second fiddle and soon started protesting about the overbearing attitude of the majority community.

The situation aggravated soon as Hindus started to squeeze out Muslims in any way they could and used their majority status to evoke the interest of the British to give them more leverage than Muslims. The aftermath of 1857 was exceptionally severe for Muslims and they clearly noticed that the Hindu leadership was bent upon revival of their ancient civilisation and in the process would declare cleansing India of the Muslims whom they insist were interlopers insisting that they should renunciate their faith as, according to their stance, they converted to Islam under duress by foreign Muslim conquerors. The intention was to exhort Muslims to return to their original fold as Hindus and amalgamate in the wider Hindu community. Needless to mention that the intention of Hindu community was extremely repugnant to the Muslims and it was obvious that strong resistance from Muslims would result which it did.

The institutional aspect of the communal tension generated by the Hindu community came to fore in shape of the notorious Hindi-Urdu controversy that helped to crystallise Muslim opposition that was spearheaded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his colleagues. Sir Syed and his group was already involved in working for Muslim resurgence and their organisations the Central Mohammedan Association and Mohammedan Literary Society were actively engaged in this respect. Sir Syed and his efforts were directly affected by Hindi-Urdu controversy and it was quite natural that Muslims felt threatened by the blatant attack on their legacy of which Urdu was a crucial part and they rightly perceived that their cultural and religious inheritance was in danger. It was actually the Hindu intention of emphasising upon both the British and Muslims that they are prepared to take advantage of their majority status and are unwilling to accept any other version of existence. The underlying point was that they wanted only Hindu perspective to be recognised as the only legitimate version of existence in India and any deviation from it was unacceptable to them. This clearly implied that the majority community was unwilling to adjust to any communal arrangement that was not according to their perceived notions of existence in the subcontinent.

The British were aware of the sensitivity of the subject and were willing to initiate political activities that they though may bring in an adequate communal understanding. This policy was also aimed at assigning a superior role to the British as untouchable neutral rulers who were anxious to bridge the gulf between two antagonistic communities. It was a combination of these factors that prompted the British to institute a political organisation with a view to provide Indians with a safe, mild, peaceful, and constitutional outlet or safety valve for the rising discontent among the masses which was inevitably leading towards a popular and violent revolution. Though the British initially prompted the predominantly Hindu leadership of the Indian National Congress but soon became wary about the bitter attitude of the Congress towards their rule.

The British ruling class continuously monitored the situation and gradually had grown cool to the Congress and began to keep it at an arm’s length. From 1886 onwards,they began to attack the Bengali Babus and Mahratta Brahmins for being inspired by questionable motives and for wanting to start Irish-type revolutionary agitations in India as the Congress leadership initiated aggressive propaganda, issuing thousands of pamphlets agitating against British rule. This method of agitation annoyed the British officials who had to make extra efforts to keep law and order under control. It was getting obvious that viceroy Dufferin and his team were getting impatient with Congress’ tactics and in 1888 Dufferin attacked the Congress in a vicious manner by writing that he would consider in what way the happy dispatch may be best applied to the Congress for the British cannot allow the Congress to continue to exist. He openly castigated Congress for its dubious motives and also as representing a microscopic minority. The British opposition became stiff with the passage of time and by 1890 the government forbade officials to become its members.

These developments were taken as conducive by the Muslim leadership that cogently realised that the future was bleak for intercommunal relations and deeply aware of the duplicitous policies of Congress Sir Syed Ahmed Khan appealed to the educated Muslims to stay away from the Congress, although some Muslims did join the Congress. Syed Ahmed Khan believed that the Muslim community could advance only by remaining on good terms with the British and not by joining Congress. Moreover, Sir Syed publicly started attacking the Congress in his speeches emphasising three points that the Hindus and the Muslims were two nations, representative institutions were unsuited to Indian conditions as this system would end in the subjugation of the Muslims by the Hindus who enjoyed numerical superiority and that the Muslims must depend on the British for the safeguarding of their interests.

In order to strengthen the concept of two nations, Sir Syed founded the Mohammedan Educational Conference and United Indian Patriotic Association with the express aim of countering Congress activities. Several booklets, pamphlets and posters were published by middle-class Muslims with the aim of keeping their co-religionists away from Congress. The result was a virtual aloofness Muslims exhibited regarding the politics pursued by the Congress that resulted in formation of a separate strand of politics that was followed by Muslims. The Weekender


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