M A Siddiqi expresses surprise at the queries raised by skeptics
Even after three quarters of a century of the establishment of Pakistan skeptics raise the question whether a separate state was needed for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It is indeed naïve on the part of such skeptics as they ignore all imperatives of history, demography, culture, religion and semantics.
They put aside the undeniable fact that two alien nations living side by side for a millennium was a unique accident of history but then the historical change during the early modern age was very slow and that both had no desire to change as they were deeply seeped in their own ways and abhorred to alter their patterns of life. They were deeply committed to their traditional ethos and their held their ideals sacrosanct and there was no way they could alter them. And they were extremely proud of their past and considered their civilisations superior than any other and could not accept any other but their own.
Though with the passage of time, the land-based traditions, climate and their superior ruling status in the subcontinent blunted the intense mobility of Muslims coming from Central Asia but these conditions did not dampen their strong religious and cultural affinities. It took Muslims almost two hundred years to reclaim their separate ruling status after losing effective power as rulers but throughout the British Raj they had the satisfaction of not being subjugated by the majority they ruled.
In fact after losing power they became even more conscious of their separate status and identity and acutely mindful of their alignment with the wider Muslim identity. They were unwillingly to concede that they were the subjugated race and particularly the one to be rule by the one to be ruled by their former subjects simply by virtue of superiority of their numerical strength.
The Need For Pakistan
The Muslim separatist movement was inherent in their very composition. They were a race apart and a community having completely reverse sets of belief than the majority they inhabited with. The apprehensions of the Muslim minority were primarily focused on the fact that the concept of majority rule introduced and practiced by the British would result in them being overwhelmed by the ruthless Hindu majority that, being subjugated for centuries, would not grant any quarter to the minority.
To them it was a contradiction in terms and they were temperamentally unsuited to accept it and rightfully so as subsequent events would prove. It was the historical burden of proof that weighed heavy on Muslim collective conscience and not any superiority notion that compelled them to stand up for their separate rights.
It was this intense apprehension that compelled Muslims to approach the British rulers for providing them a much needed safeguard in wake of the growing intransigence of the majority community. The British by then had also woken up to the high-handed attitude of the Hindus who were quite confident that the British rule will not last longer and hence were creating chaotic situation. The violent reaction to a simple administrative measure, the partition of Bengal in 1905, convinced the British that the majority community could not be trusted any more.
The British had by then realised the inherent vengefulness of the tricky Hindu mind that considered using chicanery as a useful method to further its cause. The harmful advance of the Indian Congress was checked by no less a personage than the British viceroy Lord Dufferin criticised the Congress for its seditious activities banning government servants from participating in Congress meetings.
Changes Take Some Time
The change of course took some time to materialise but in 1906 a 37-member delegation of Muslims welcomed by Viceroy Lord Minto in Simla that carried with it proposals that highlighted the joint concerns of both the British and the Muslims. The British always tried to remain within the ambit of lawful possibilities and justified the Separate Electorate proposal presented by Simla delegation on the grounds that they recognise Muslims as being the legatees of Muslim rule and by virtue of it owning, per capita, decisively large land-holdings.
As the subcontinent was a land-revenue generating entity therefore such a qualification was viewed immensely. The British also took into account the high percentage of Muslims serving in the army because of their status as former rulers. Moreover, the British were aware of the existence of Muslim nation due to their contact in Crusades, six hundred years earlier than they started interacting with Hindus in 1600.
The concerns of Muslims were further exacerbated when they noticed that Indian Congress most of the time denied either that the communal problem existed or that it was serious enough to warrant special safeguards for Muslims. The Congress believed in a roller-coaster policy as it believed that after British withdrawal the Muslim minority will be left with no option but to depend on its goodwill. There is no denying the fact that prejudices based on cast and creed were deeply rooted in Hindus and were at their extreme manifestation against Muslims during the entirety of the British rule.
Congress Hard-line Attitude
The apparent manifestation of the hard line attitude of the Hindu majority was clearly visible during the litmus-test Congress ministries formed after the victory of the Congress in 1937 provincial elections. Congress refused to share power with Muslim League despite many protestations revealing their ultimate intentions. The hardships experienced by the Muslims during the short Congress rule convinced both the British and Muslims that there were starkly low chances of any future coexistence between the majority and minority communities.
That the Muslims came to the conclusion of obtaining separate homeland after Congress Rule was not something out of the blue. It was the only solution available for a beleaguered nation. The reason for the creation of Pakistan was not to promote religious extremism but to defend the people’s right to freedom of belief and to save them from oppression and discrimination on that count.
The need of Pakistan could be gauged from the fact that even the acceptance proffered by Muslim League for Cabinet Mission Plan aimed at preserving geographical contiguity of the subcontinent came unstuck as Hindu intransigence again rocked the boat denying the British their cherished desire of keeping the country united.
The Need For Pakistan For Muslims
It again proved the point that self-serving intentions of the Congress overrode the concerns for keeping the country in one piece. The Muslim demand for Pakistan was once again vindicated as symptomatic of the rationale and object for the creation of Pakistan aimed at saving the persecuted Muslim minority from persecution by the Hindu majority.
Further proof of Pakistan’s need lies in the extreme division in the interim federal government the British installed prior to their departure. It was very clear from the outset that both the representative parties could not get along as there was no unity in the cabinet and both parties employed their power in settling scores with each other.
The intense rivalry between both the communities, given yet another chance to work together, failed at the altar of inflated opinions of the majority party that was absolutely unwilling to work out a joint formula for coexistence. Resultantly Pakistan became inevitable in the final analysis. It remains inevitable as there is no alternative to a vibrant Pakistan for Pakistanis and they realise the inevitability of their country. The Weekender