Preceding the Partition of India on August 14, 1947 and the creation of Islamic state of Pakistan (and Bangladesh out of it in 1971), India had been witnessing Moslem-Hindu riots for nearly a half century. Their frequency and ferocity increased in the 1940s, after the Muslim League asserted the two nation?Hindu and Moslem?theory and launched ?Direct Action?, violent rioting and killing those who opposed Partition, i.e., Hindus. It started in Calcutta under the guidance of Muslim League Chief Minister HS Suhrawardy. The riots spread quickly to Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Frightened by the carnage, Congress and Mahatma Gandhi, who till well into 1947 opposed Partition and agreed to Partition of India and creation of Islamic state of Pakistan as asserted by 98.5 per cent of the (separate) Muslim electorate in the 1945/46 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi followed by numerous riots to wrest Partition. The Mahatma and Congress believed that with the creation of Pakistan as home-land for the sub-continent'sMoslems the Muslim/minority problem would be solved and there would be no more riots.
Alas! The Mahatma?s, Nehru'sand Congress belief has proved to be utterly false. Moslem-Hindu riots in post-Partition, ?secular?, socialist, democratic India have increased in frequency, ferocity and death. Just before Partition, what is now Pakistan had 16 per cent minority Hindu-Sikh population. The figure for East Pakistan, (Bangladesh, since 1971) was 30 per cent. Pakistan had quickly and forcibly carried out ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs, retaining by compulsion only the sweepers, all lowly Hindus. Thus in one fell swoop it solved, got rid of the minority (Hindu-Sikh) problem. What riots there are now in Pakistan are sectarian, within Islam'sbelievers. Pakistan had declared one sect, Ahmedias (also, known as Kudianis) as non-Moslem and has been persecuting them ? they cannot build any more mosques; they cannot describe themselves as Moslems, they are second class people. Shias and Sunnis are battling; the fundamentalist Wahabi Talibanis are dwelling against soft Sunnis, Shias and all other Islam'ssects (Ismails, Bohras] Deobandis and Baralvis are fighting against one another. But all these are internecine wars; not between the majority Moslems and minority non-Moslems.
Bangladesh has not carried out ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Buddhists in a carnage as West Pakistan has done. It has been making the life of Hindus and Buddhists so humiliating, insecure and depriving that the squeeze out has been gradual; first from villages and then from towns. Abduction and forced marriage of Hindu girls and women, encroachment and appropriation of their properties, desecration and destruction of temples and denial of jobs and work expelled Hindus to leave Bangladesh. Their population has been reduced from 30 per cent in 1947 to about 9 per cent by 2008. So, there are no Moslem-Hindu riots; no minority problem in Bangladesh. The duels are between different Moslem groups.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League had demanded exchange of minority populations between Pakistan and India. Dr BR Ambedkar demonstrated in his book, Pakistan or Partition of India, that exchange of minority population alone could solve the minority problem and end Hindu Moslem riots. He cited the League of Nations supervised, peaceful exchange of Moslems and Christians between Moslem Turkey and its former Christian dominions ? Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. After the first World War when the Ottoman (Moslem) Turkish empire was dismantled. Unfortunately, Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress persisted in their vein and baseless belief that Moslems of what remained as India would give up their separate, two-nation (Moslem, different from Hindu) mentality and could become common citizens of the nation state of India.
Prior to Partition, Moslem residents of India denied they were a minority; they asserted they were a separate nation and hence demanded Partition and Pakistan. They took one-third of Indian land from where all Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists were expelled. But 90 per cent of those who voted (98.5 per cent of Moslems) and rioted for Partition, and Pakistan have continued to stay in the remnant India and have reverted to the minority assertion. Before Partition, communists only were Moslems? allies in the latter'sfight for Partition.
But after Partition, as the Congress began losing strength both the Congress and its rivals namely the regional (Dravidian, Telugu) and casteist (Samajwadi, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Dal, Janata (U), Janata (S), NCP are vigorously and competitively courling Moslems in the name of ?secularism?, comforting and confirming Moslems? separateness, minority special rights and privileges through constructs like central and state Minority Commissions, Minority Welfare Departments, minority financial corporations, minority colleges, Haj subsidies, minority Universities (AMU, Jamia Millia, Urdu University), Urdu Academies, Arab Cultural Centre (no Hindu/Indian/Gandhi/Nehru cultural centre in Riyadh on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect, a component Nehruvian Panch Sheel). What remnant India now has pre-1947 Moslem problem with more intensity and more supportive Hindu politicians in their hunt for power wooing and readily appeasing Moslems in the name of secularism. That is the reason for the continuance of communal riots between Moslems and Hindus as before 1947.
Can there be an end to these communal riots? There could have been an end if India solved its minority problem as Pakistan has solved (expulsion) or by peaceful exchange. That is past. The second alternative is treat the Moslem minorities in India as Pakistan (and Bangladesh) treat their Hindu/Buddhist minorities. A third alternative is restore to Moslems separate electorate as before 1947. Then no non-Moslem political party would need to woo, appease and court Moslems for their votes. Moslems will elect Moslems and would not decide the electoral fortunes of non-Moslems. But then what should be the representation for Moslems? Before Partition, Moslems had weighted representation, 50 per cent more than what their population was entitled. That weightage was given in the hope of avoiding Partition. But that Partition had been conceded, any weightage to Moslems would be unmerited reward for them and deprivation for non-Moslems. The proportion of Moslems in India immediately after Partition was 10 per cent. Therefore in the Lok Sabha they should have only that proportion of seats. In the state legislatures, too their representation should reflect the proportion of their population then, i.e., in August 1947.
Alternatives 2 or 3 will get linked to the Kashmir problem. Alternative three should have as its adjunct self determination for the people of the three regions namely Kashmir, Jammu and Laddakh.
Would communal riots in India stop if alternative three is implemented? It is doubtful, if the Moslems? violent secessionist movements in Philippines, Thailand, China, Russia, Cyprus and Serbia and communal riots in UK, France, Spain etc., are any indication. But then, that will be part of the global Moslem problem and maybe the solution will be a global one.
(The writer is Director, Centre for Telecom Management & Studies and can be contacted at [email protected])