Barking up the wrong tree

By Prafull Goradia

Last month, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi demanded to know the number of Muslims in the Armed Forces. Earlier, he had asked for Darul Qazas (Sharia’h courts) in every district to be recognised by the Government. Soon thereafter, Deputy Grand Mufti of Srinagar, Nasir-ul-Islam, insisted on the same facility of Darul Qazas. He went on to say that if they were not granted, Muslims would be justified in asking a separate homeland, which means another Pakistan. This has caused a great deal of apprehension in the rest of India.

When the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were introduced in the 19th century, the British rulers had abolished the Qazas. A resurrection of these communal courts will damage the country’s secular fabric. Moreover, the Qazas would be tantamount to being Islamic enclaves within the Indian republic, a state within a state. In other words, India would become a half sovereign state.

The question of representation of respective communities in the Armed Forces was thoroughly examined by BR Ambedkar on the morrow of March 1940, when at Lahore, the League passed the Pakistan Resolution. His findings and comments merit careful reading even today:

“Hindus have a difficult choice to make: To have a safe Army or a safe border? Is it in their interest to insist that Muslim India should remain part of India so that they may have a safe border, or is it in their interest to welcome its separation from India so that they may have a safe Army? Which is better for the Hindus? Should the musalmans be without and against or should they be within and against? If the question is asked of any prudent man, there will be only one answer, namely, that if the musalmans are to be against the Hindus, it is better that they should be without and against, rather than within and against. Indeed, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished that the Muslims should be without. That is the only way of getting rid of the Muslim preponderance in the Indian Army.”

“How can it be brought about? Here again, there is only one way to bring it about and that is to support the scheme for creating Pakistan. Once Pakistan is created, Hindustan, having ample resources of men and money, can have an Army which it can call its own and there will be nobody to dictate as to how it should be used and against whom it should be used. The defence of Hindustan, far from being weakened by the creation of Pakistan, will be infinitely improved by it. The Pakistan area, which is the main recruiting ground of the present Indian Army, contributes very little to the central exchequer.” (Pakistan or The Partition of India, reprinted by the Government of Maharashtra, 1990).

One of the committees appointed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the one headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar; he had asked for the same information and the Government was willing to provide for it. But the Chiefs of Staff of the three services refused to do so on grounds of national security. Even in the British era, once recruited, there was no counting as to who is a Hindu or Sikh or a Muslim. How can sectarian soldiers fight in the face of the enemy? That tradition has been consistently sustained in post-independent Indian Armed Forces.

It would be relevant to recall here that the Khilafat Committee formed on the morrow of World War I in 1919, and presided over by Mahatma Gandhi, to save the Caliph on his throne, endorsed that Muslim soldiers would not fight if India was invaded by a Muslim Army, say from Afghanistan. The Muslim League headed by MA Jinnah further endorsed this contention. It is to the credit of our Army after the Independence to have abolished such communal ideas. Does Owaisi for his unsavoury political motives want to reawaken the obsolete Khilafat sentiments?

Owaisi must appreciate that independent India has been large-hearted enough to accommodate his party founded by Kasim Rizvi and subsequently led by Abdul Rasheed, the grandfather of Asaduddin. Their musclemen, who were thousands in number, were called Razakars. Their single point programme was to take Nizam’s Hyderabad State into Pakistan. They failed to do so only because Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had the will to send a force led by Major General JN Raychaudhuri into Hyderabad.

As for Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam’s abominal demand for another Pakistan, it needs to be mentioned that India is yet to implement the logical corollaries of Partition that took place in 1947. This is what Justice GD Khosla recorded in his book, Stern Reckoning: A Survey of the Events leading up to and following the Partition of India (Oxford University Press). “The Muslim League demand for Pakistan was based on the hypothesis that Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate nations, each entitled to a separate and exclusive homeland where they would be free to develop their culture, tradition, religion and polity. On any other ground, the partition of the country and the setting up of a separate independent State for the Muslims would have been indefensible. But the two-nation theory brought the problem of minorities into greater prominence than ever before, and the Partition, instead of offering a solution, made it even more difficult and complicated. No matter where the line of demarcation was drawn, there would be Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs on either side of it, in a majority or in a substantial minority, and whatever the geographical boundaries of Pakistan, large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs would overnight become aliens and foreigners in their own homes.”

“Jinnah made desperate efforts to evade the issue by promising protection and rights of citizenship to the minorities, but the nature of his demand was wholly inconsistent with these promises. How could millions of foreigners acquire rights of citizenship and equal status with, the nationals of Pakistan; and if they could, why divide India, why not let Muslims continue as nationals of India? Jinnah could find no answer to these questions and he was finally compelled to suggest an exchange of population. On November 25, 1946, Jinnah, addressing a Press conference at Korachi expressed the opinion that the authorities, both Central and Provincial, should take up immediately the question of exchange of population.”

For now, Mufti deserves to be exiled and not allowed to return to India. For MA Jinnah, along with his seven senior colleagues named Sir Feroz Khan Noon, Nawab of Mamdot, Mohammed Ismail, Pir IIahi Bux, II Chundrigar, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah wanted an exchange of populations. They were keen for all Muslims to migrate and gather in Pakistan and for all non-Muslims to go to Hindustan. They had all made public statements which appeared in the Dawn in 1946, a daily founded by MA Jinnah. In response to this proposal, Rajendra Prasad, our first Rashtrapati for two terms, had suggested in his book, India Divided, that those Muslims who could not emigrate should be allowed to reside in India, but as aliens with visas issued by New Delhi. Jinnah agreed with this suggestion. What is tragic is that Pakistan did implement an envisaged exchange, but India did not.

Owaisi should realise that had Jawaharlal Nehru allowed this idea exchange to be implemented, he would have either been a Pakistani or an alien in India without any voting rights. Let him, therefore, not be a party to generate communal tensions in general, and in the Armed Forces, in particular.

(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author)

Source : Daily Pioneer

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