You may call it a quirk of fate, historical coincidence or ?history repeating itself?, that there has been a striking similarity between the happenings and government actions that occurred in the year 1906, a hundred years ago, and more recently in the year 2006, almost exactly at the same time of the years. The only difference is that in 1906 India was a slave country under the yoke of British colonial rule whereas India now is a sovereign republic.
It may not be out of point to mention here that Lord Curzon carried out the partition of Bengal on October 16, 1905, and even that was supported by majority of Muslims but was vehemently opposed by Hindus and some Muslim leaders. Though the government advanced the administrative considerations as an argument in favour of the partition, but the real motive was ?to curb the growth of national feeling in politically advanced Bengal by driving a wedge between the Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims and destroy the solidarity of 78 million Bengalis by dividing them into two blocs. It is clear from the historical records that the partition of Bengal was aimed at placating the Muslims and creating a solid Muslim bloc against the Hindus in respect of political views. It was a clever and shrewd move deliberately designed by Curzon and British officials, to make a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims.
It would be interesting to recall the events of year 1906 and the role of the British government under Lord Minto in dividing Hindus and Muslim into almost two hostile political camps and creation of what may be called the future two-nation theory. It is learnt that the Muslims, anyhow, came to know that the Viceroy had appointed a committee to consider, among others, the question of the representation to Indians in the legislative council.
On October 1, 1906, a deputation of 36 members led by Aga Khan met Viceroy Lord Minto and presented a memorandum to him demanding several special concessions for the Muslim community. This address to the Viceroy can be summarised as follows:
First, that ?the position accorded to the Mohammedan community in any kind of representation, direct or indirect, and in all other ways affecting their status and influence should be commensurate not merely with their numerical strength but also with their political importance and the value of contribution, which they make to the defence of the Empire?, and with due regard to ?the position they occupied in India a little more than a hundred years ago??, i.e. at the end of the 18th century. Second, that they should be given proper type or adequate number of representatives, and that in the proposed reforms they should be granted the right of sending their own representatives through separate communal electorates.
In addition to these two major demands, the deputation also sought greater representation in the services, protection of their interests in the executive council, abolition of competitive examinations for recruitment to the services, appointment of Muslim judges in every high court and chief court, communal electorate for municipalities and Muslim electoral colleges for election to legislative councils.
In reply, Lord Minto is reported to have assured the deputation that ?in any system of representation, whether it affects a municipality, a district board or a legislative council, in which it is proposed to introduce or increase the electoral organisations, the Mohammedan community should be represented as a community, (and its) position should be estimated not merely on numerical strength but in respect to political importance and the service it has rendered to the Empire?.
Minto'sreply was an ominous event in the history of India and was the death knell for Indian nationalism. The reply ushered into a new policy of British rule in India. First, it gave the official seal of approval to the principle that the Hindus and the Muslims constituted practically two separate nations with separate interest and separate outlook. Secondly, the government showed undue favour and concessions to the Muslims in respect of their number of representatives in the legislative council by making it far in excess of their numerical ratio in the whole population. These two points formed the chief planks in Muslim politics ever since 1906. It seems to be a ?command performance?, by the Muslim deputation, inspired by sinister design to weaken the Congress influence, an idea that was either conceived by Minto himself or engineered by English bureaucrats.
Aga Khan writes in his Memoirs, ?Lord Minto'sacceptance of our demands was the foundation of all future constitutional proposals made for India by successive British governments, and its final inevitable consequence was the Partition of India and emergence of Pakistan.?
Long afterwards, Ramsay Mac Donald, Prime Minister of Britain, admitted in this context that ?sinister influences have been at work, that the Mohammadan leaders are inspired by certain Anglo-Indian officials and that these officials have pulled wires at Simla and in London and of malice afterthought, sowed discord between the Hindu and Mohammadan communities by showing the Muslims special favours.?
Compare the action of Lord Minot'sgovernment in India under British colonial rule in 1906 with the action of Manmohan Singh UPA government in free India in 2006. Lord Minto, a firangee Viceroy of British government, appoints a committee to placate Muslims, grant them special favours and concessions to curb the growth of nationalism in Indians, especially Hindus and drives a perennial wedge between the Hindus and Muslims and thus paves the way for the Partition of the country on religious ground, which is accompanied by bloodbath of thousands of Indians, both Hindus and Muslims and their forced migration and ethnic cleansing about 40 years later.
And now in the year 2006, Manmohan Singh, a bureaucrat-turned-Prime Minister, guided and commanded by a Firangee chairperson of UPA and influenced by sinister designs of the communists, pseudo-secularists and pan-Islamists in order to appease and placate Muslims and use them as vote banks, appoints a high-level committee under Justice Rajinder Sachar to study ?social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India? and to ?identify areas of intervention by the government to address the issues arising out of the study or report?.
As was obvious, Sachar Committee has not failed its masters and sinister influences referred to as above in doing ?command performance? in the form of bringing out Sachar Committee report. Without going into the credibility, authenticity and biases of the sources of information gathered and inferences drawn therefrom by the Sachar Committee, it is not surprising that stopping short of separate communal electorates, it has now sought the same sorts of concessions and favours for Muslims from the government in the name of equality, political position and affirmative action that were sought by the deputation of Muslims led by Aga Khan in 1906. There is no qualitative difference, notwithstanding the fact that even after formation of Pakistan the Indian Constitution bestows on them some superior rights, which are not available even to majority community in this country. Sachar Report has gone one step further. It has sought de-reservation of some Muslim-dominated seats, reserved for Scheduled Castes so as to ensure ?safe seats? for Muslims. It is tantamount to acceptance of the principle of communal electorates. Sachar, wittingly or unwittingly, has thus tried to sow the seeds of discord between SCs and Muslims.
The chief motive of the protagonists of the Sachar report is not to ameliorate the social, economic and educational conditions of the Muslim community but to cause dissensions and create conditions for civil strife by dividing the nation on the basis of religion and caste and thus to keep themselves in saddle of power Alas, the Congress and the parties in the UPA have not learnt any lessons from the past history of last hundred years and are pursuing the same policy of ?divide-and-rule? as pursued by the Britishers in 1906 and onwards and are presently playing the communal card with impunity. At least it is not expected of the PM Manmohan Singh, who himself has seen the suffering at the time of Partition, to conduct himself like an incarnate of Minto.
Note: This piece is based on excerpts from the writer'sunpublished essay entitled Failings of Gandhi (Some little exposed facets of Gandhi'spersonality.)
(The author can be contacted at 660/10, Krishna Colony, Gurgaon 122 001, Haryana.)