‘Lies sound like facts to those who’ve been conditioned to misrecognise the truth.’
In 2021 Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared 14th August to be remembered as ‘Vibhajan Vibhisika Diwas’ or the day to remember the horrors of Partition. The objective of remembering this day was stated to “remind the present and future generations of Indians of the pain and suffering faced by the people of India during the Partition”.
However, wrapped in this innocuous statement are three diabolical objectives. The first is to demonise the Indian Muslims by holding them responsible for the division of Bhara. The second is to vilify the Indian National Congress by implying that its leaders allegedly connived with the Muslim separatists that led to the tragedy of Partition.
By hammering on the above two, the third objective is to gloss over the role the Hindutva forces played in Partition, and in the circumstances that led the things to that pass.
In 2019 Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while introducing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), accused the Congress of dividing the nation on religious lines as a rationale for introducing the bill. By constantly blaming Congress, Nehru, Gandhi, and Muslims, the Hindutva forces very cleverly attempt to put an iron curtain on the role played by important Hindutva ideologues in pushing the idea that later came to be known as the “two-nation theory”.
But who were the first proponents of this ‘two nation’ theory? Contrary to the Hindu right wing propaganda, the first proponents of partition of the Indian subcontinent on religious lines were two leaders who went on to become the leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha.
The first such proposal came from Bhai Parmanand in 1908-09 who went on to become a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha. In his autobiography ‘The Story of my Life’, Bhai Parmanand while remembering his exchanges with Lala Lajpat Rai on two nations wrote: “The territory beyond Sindh could be united with North-West Frontier Province into the great Musalman Kingdom. The Hindus of the region should come away, while at the same time the Musalmans in the rest of the country should go and settle in this territory”.
Following this, Lala Lajpat Rai another prominent figure of the Indian freedom struggle, who left the Congress to join the Hindu Mahasabha, wrote an article musing on the idea of two nations that appeared in The Tribune on December 14, 1924. Expanding upon the idea of Bhai Parmanand, Rai wrote; “Under my scheme, the Muslims will have four Muslim States: (1) The Pathan Province or the North-West Frontier; (2) Western Punjab (3) Sindh, and (4) Eastern Bengal.
“If there are compact Muslim communities in any other part of India, sufficiently large to form a province, they should be similarly constituted. But it should be distinctly understood that this is not a united India. It means a clear partition of India into a Muslim India and a non-Muslim India.”
After Bhai Parmanand and Lala Lajpat Rai, the next big proponents of the two nations theory from the Hindutva camp was none other than VD Savarkar who reiterated the idea on 1937 and then again in 1943, when he said that he had no quarrel with Jinnah’s two nation theory.
This conceptualisation that India constituted two nations, a Hindu and a Muslim, was not born in a vacuum. It has a historical background that goes back to colonial Calcutta in the 1870s when the idea of a ‘Hindu’ nation began to take shape.
The concept of India as a Hindu nation first gained currency among the intelligentsia of Bengal, especially after the 1870s, which historians of the period have called the period of Hindu revivalism. Intellectuals like Rajnarain Basu and Nabagopal Mitra who are also dubbed as the ‘grandfather’ of Hindu nationalism began articulating the idea.
Basu, a believer of Hindu supremacy and founder of Bharat Dharma Mahamandal-- a precursor to Hindu Mahasabha-- envisioned “the noble and puissant Hindu nation rousing herself after sleep and rushing headlong towards progress with divine prowess”.
Similarly, Nabagopal Mitra who started the Hindu Mela in 1867, played an important role to build ‘Hindu Consciousness’, wrote in his National Paper that “the basis of national unity in India is the Hindu religion. Hindu nationality embraces all the Hindus of India irrespective of their locality or language”.
Observing the role played by Mitra in the development of the two-nation ideology, historian RC Majumdar wrote, “Nabagopal forestalled Jinnah’s theory of two nations by more than half a century.”
While it’s true that some prominent Muslims like Sir Mohammed Iqbal and Mohammed Ali Jinnah among others promoted the idea of two nations, but it is also a fact that a vast majority of Muslims did not vouch for it.
Apart from Muslim politicians associated with the Indian National Congress, there were more than 10 Muslim organisations from all across undivided India like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam, All India Momin Conference, All India Shia Political Conference, Khudai Khidmatgar, Krishak Praja Party, Anjuman-e-Watan Baluchistan, All India Muslim Majlis, and Jamiat Ahle Hadis, who opposed the Partition.
In 1940 these organisations held a pan India conference, known as the ‘All India Azad Muslim Conference’ to oppose the All India Muslim League.
Even when it comes to Nehru, Gandhi, and the Congress party, the Hindutva narrative completely erases the fact that both were opposed to partition. The Indian National Congress only accepted the partition on 3rd June 1947, the reason being the direct-action call of Jinnah on 16th August 1946 that unleashed massive riots all across the nation leaving behind a trail of blood.
Another reason was the British government’s refusal to recognise the All India Azad Muslim Conference as representatives of Indian Muslims at the expense of the Muslim league, despite of the fact that the former represented almost 80% of Indian Muslims according to a British intelligence report.
The tragedy of Partition cannot be blamed on a few individuals or a few parties, it was a collective tragedy, a result of many factors colluding together that led to the suffering of millions of human beings on both sides of the border.
But in recent years, the Hindutva propaganda has solely targeted Gandhi, Nehru, and the Congress party blaming them for the tragedy while brushing the role of their own ideologues under the carpet.
The objective clearly is only to further their political agenda and not any kind of empathy for those who suffered the unimaginable pains of Partition.
(The author is an independent researcher. Views are personal)