Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Muslims not a minority

Muslims not a minority

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 14, 2007

While sponsoring the Pakistan Resolution on March 23, 1940, Jinnah elucidated as to what the Muslims were. In his own words, "Muslims are not a minority; they are a nation, of a nation and they must have their homeland, their territory and their state. We wish to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours as a free and independent people. We wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best".

Jinnah hailed from Saurashtra, a peninsula in Gujarat. He spoke either Gujarati or English. He was born an Ismaili Khoja. He was not at home with Urdu. While the bulk of his political support came from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, his financiers were Gujarat Muslims, whether Khoja, Bohra or Memon. These facts underline that he did not really represent the heartland of what is Pakistan. Yet, he is still the acknowledged father of Pakistan and no President of that country comes on television without his portrait in the background.

In essence, what Jinnah spoke was the true voice of the sub-continental Muslim. He was a life president of the Muslim League when he led the 1945-46 general election. The League won an overwhelming mandate for what was a one-point programme of the party, namely, Partition. On obtaining the mandate, his party's demand was for an exchange of population.

Shaukat Hayat Khan, Mohd Ismail of Madras, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Ismail Chundrigar of Godhra queued up to articulate that the Muslims of what will remain as Hindustan must be allowed to migrate to their holy land. On April 8, 1946, Sir Feroze Khan Noon went to the extent of threatening the re-enactment of the murderous orgies of Changez Khan and Halaqu Khan if non-Muslims took up an obstructive attitude against population exchange.

These statements were reported by The Dawn which was then published in Delhi and later transferred to Karachi. On December 3, the Nawab of Mamdot, on the next day the Bihar Muslims League as well as the Sindh leaders Pir Ilahi Bux and Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, were vociferous on the same demand. But before that, in a press conference at Karachi on November 25, Jinnah said: "I am of the opinion that the authorities, both central and provincial, should take up immediately the question of exchange of population".

To sum up, the unquestioned leaders of the Muslims of the sub-continent had three central points to make. One, that the Muslims are not a minority but a separate nation, distinct from non-Muslims. Two, they are civilisationally different and, therefore, cannot flourish without their own homeland.

Three, that all the momins of the sub-continent must gather in the holy land. By implication, all the kafirs should transfer to Hindustan. Mr Manmohan Singh as well as former Prime Minister IK Gujral are two outstanding examples of the resulting hijrat from Pakistan.

The concept of 'minority' is of European origin. Most people on the continent were Christian. Almost every country had some Jews and many a pocket of eastern Europe was Muslim. In enclaves like Bosnia, Albania as well as Turkey, it was the Christians who needed protection.

The concept of 'minority' became formal after the League of Nations debated the issue after World War I on the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Broadly, two solutions were considered to deal with people in smaller numbers. One answer was to ask countries to offer safeguards to the 'minorities' whereby they would not suffer discrimination. To restate this point, the effort was to ensure equal rights and not superior privileges.

The second solution was an exchange of population. For example, under the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923, the League of Nations supervised the transfer of most Christians from Turkey to Greece and the migration of most Muslims from Greece to Turkey. Similarly, the Turko-Bulgarian exchange took place.

Posterity found the second solution preferable. Neither Turkey nor Greece nor Bulgaria has had any communal clashes since then. But Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia as well as Russia have witnessed fighting.

The Indian experience has been different. Since the advent of Mohammed bin Qasim into Sindh in 711 AD, there was, for the following thousand years, a crawling flood of Islamic conquests. Except for the far south, most parts of the country came under the Muslim yoke. As a corollary, most rulers imposed jizya or poll tax on non-Muslims and gave them the status of dhimmi or second class citizens.

The shari'ah was supreme and the Islamic world recognised India as a dar-ul Islam. The conquered lands which were distributed to the followers of the conquerors, were given away as wakfs. India became a dar-ul harb only after the British government assumed direct control over the Indian empire in 1858.

The Muslim population at that time was 15 per cent. Evidently, the minority ruled a majority for many centuries in most parts of the country. With the advent of the British, Muslims also became subjects like Hindus.

At the turn of the 20th century, the myth of 'minority' began to be discussed. The British also played along with the new myth because it suited them for the purpose of divide and rule. The self-proclaimed Muslim minority had little interest in safeguards. Instead, they insisted on parity with Hindus. The high watermark of parity was reached when the British government conceded the right of the Muslim League to have an equal number of ministers in the pre-Partition cabinet at New Delhi.

In any case, until it suited Nehruvian politics, 'minority' was seldom on the minds of Muslims. They believed themselves to be a separate nation. This justified their demand for Partition. A minority, as understood in Europe, was supposed to be patriotic. Its members were loyal citizens but because they belonged to a different religion or ethnicity, they needed safeguards.

On the other hand, they were punishable, including as traitors, in the event of disloyalty. Secession resulting in Pakistan should have been treated as treason if the Muslims were to claim to be a minority. It is only because they claimed to be a nation that they were given a separate homeland.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements