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Friday, July 24, 2009


Muslim League:


The 1st Muslims to enter India with force were the Arabs under Muhammad bin Qasim who conquered Sindh in 712 AD. From that time onwards Sindh became predominantly a Muslim region. During the four of the five and a half centuries, northern India was ruled by two Muslim Empires (The Delhi Sultanate – 1192-1398; The Mughal Empire – 1526-1760).

The Deccan too was under the Muslims from early 14th Century; and twice the entire subcontinent was under the Muslim rule. It was under these circumstances that 1/4th of the population became Muslim (but not homogeneous).


The response of Indian Islam to the west came not from the Indian Prices who superficially adopted the western practices but from a British servant, Syed Ahmad Khan[1]. According to him the British rule was acceptable and that Muslims should be loyal to them as he observed that the British showed no sign of interference with Islam.

Today the major outcome of Muslim League is considered to be the Formation of Pakistan. The genesis of Pakistan can be traced to the activities of Syed Ahmad Khan and his comrades at the M.A.O. College in Aligarh. They are identified as the only vocal group, which raised the specter of Hindu domination, the first to introduce the language and vocabulary of minorityism.

They were backed by Muslim ‘elites’ of Upper India who turned to ‘separatism’ politics to safeguard their ‘interests’, which under threat from British educational policies, bureaucratic reforms and powerful Hindu revivalist campaigns. Muslim government servants and landowners in particular, whose power was most obviously reduced by the pressure of change in the late 19th century organized the Simla Deputation and later founded the Muslim League.

The Muslims in general watched the growth of Congress from a distance and stood aloof from its controversies with Lord Curzon. But having allowed it to become predominantly Hindu in character through their abstention, they took alarm at the first signs of Concessions to its demands.

With the Partition of Bengal (1905), the British had successfully driven a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims by creating a separate Muslim Province of East Bengal. In 1906 it was announced that Lord Minto[2] into was about to appoint a small committee to consider the question of regarding extending the representative element in the legislative council. This opened before the Muslims the possibility of negotiating in advance with the government in order to safeguard their interest and have some rights as well in the new legislation. Finally, a deputation of 35 Muslims led by His Highness the then Aga Khan waited at the Viceroy at Simla on 30th October, 1906 and demanded the following:

a) A separate electorate for the Muslims,
b) Some rights for the popularly elected representatives
c) Special favors for the Muslims in appointment to government services etc.

Birth of the League:

Taking advantage of a large number of eminent Muslim leaders at Dhaka in connection with the Mohammedan educational college, Nawab Salimullah of Dhaka convened a meeting and proposed the scheme of a central Mohammedan association to look after exclusively the interest of the Muslim Community. So on 30th December, 1906 at Dacca, the All India Muslim League was founded.


The league laid down the following aims:
1) to promote among Indian Muslims feelings of loyalty towards the British government
2) to protect the rights of the Muslims
3) to promote friendly feelings between Muslims and other communities of India


One can study its Ideology – construction and modifications, which took place with time by the following important events of the league.

a) Initial Membership and Functioning: Its initial membership was far more conservative than that of Congress in its initial stages, consisting of titled nobility, wealthy landowners and only a few lawyers’ educators and journalists. Membership was strictly restricted to Muslims and no more than 400 would be for some time permitted to join the upper-class club of India’s foremost minority community. It is said that the Muslim League functioned only by holding meetings. In reality there was no real implementation as such until the Khilafat Movement.

b) The Morley Minto Reforms (1909): The Morley Minto reforms with their separate electorates for Muslim landholders and their retention of irresponsible power by the British satisfied them for the time being. It was with the Khilafat Movement that the complete picture changed. The reforms gave them separate electorates.

c) Karachi held the 2nd meeting under the Presidentship of Bombay’s Merchant Prince, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy. Until 1913 the League remained a cautious loyalist lobby for elite Muslims interests, pampered by British official attention, condemned by Congress and ignored by most Indian Muslims as well as Hindus.

d) Turkish Influence: Political consciousness grew amongst Muslims. The National Democratic Young Turk movement greatly influenced the Indian Muslims in the direction of a program of self-government for India, which was subsequently adopted by the league in 1913. In 1912, Comrade (and English paper) and Hamdard (Urdu paper) were published by the Members of the League.

e) Lucknow Pact 1916: In 1916 both the League and the Congress held their annual session at Lucknow, when in the atmosphere of give and take, the Lucknow Pact was signed. This is the 1st instance of collaboration between the two organizations. It provided greater weightage with separate electorate to the Muslims in zones where they constituted a minority.

f) Delhi Session of 1918: At its session held in 1918, the League passed a resolution demanding the application of the principle of self – determination to India.

g) Khilafat Movement: This agitation was a product of a particular political climate where Indian nationalism and pan-Islamism went hand in hand. It witnessed Muslim Participation in the national movement at an unprecedented level. However, communalism started making in-roads into Indian politics and society. Apart from the violent incident of Chauri Chaura (which led to the withdrawal of Non-cooperation Movement) a series of communal riots broke out and there were many symptoms of increasing communalism[3] between 1922-27. The Muslim League got revived and began to preach separatist politics. The Hindu Mahasabha formed in 1915 too found a good reasoning which to revive itself. With the Khilafat Movement a massive campaign was launched by the League to popularize the League.

h) League and Simon Commission and Split within the League: Though Congress had boycotted the Simon Commission, Muslim League found itself in a fix. The League ranks were split into two sections. One section led by Jinnah stood for boycott while the other section led by Sir Muhammad Shafi was in favor of cooperating with it. Both the sections held their sessions separately at Calcutta and Lahore to chalk out their future course of action. Jinnah was ready to give up separate electorates in favor of Joint-electorates, if certain conditions were met. His conditions were accepted by the Congress, but its rejection in uncompromising terms by the Hindu Mahasabha at the all parties’ conference (1928).

i) Nehru Report – 14 Points of Jinnah: Motilal Nehru proposed joint electorates with reservation of seats for the Muslims. After the publication of Nehru Report, the Muslim League was divided into two groups. Jinnah was opposed to the scheme from the beginning. He presented his 14 Points[4] as an alternative to Nehru Report. The Nehru report increased the distance between various political groups and pushed Jinnah more towards communalism. It also contributed to the aloofness and even hostility of most leaders among the Muslims towards the civil disobedience movement.

j) Round Table Conference: In due course, Jinnah reconciled to communal politics of the Muslim League. The 14 Points of Jinnah was a sort of irrevocable charter of Muslim demands for any compromise with the Congress. During the two round table conferences in London, the Muslim League struck fast to its 14 point Program and foiled all the attempts made by Congress demand. Gandhi was forced to return empty-handed.

k) Communal Award: Mr. Ramsay Macdonald issued the Communal award conceding the Muslims all they had asked for.

l) Reforms of 1935: The League called it as a trick to put off the country’s demand of self government for an indefinite time period.

m) Break with Congress: Not that there was ever an alliance between the two of them in true sense. Though the Congress went to the extent of supporting the League candidates against the Non-League Muslim candidates in the election to the provincial legislatures in 1937. But this superficial unity finally broke again and the two premier organizations drifted further apart and never reconciled again.

n) 2nd World War 1939: The outbreak of the 2nd world war in 1939 transformed the Indian political situation. The Indian National Congress resented Britain’s action in committing India to war without the people’s consent. Under its instructions the Congress ministries resigned in the provinces. The League expressed its Jubilation at the resignation of the Congress ministries by observing “a Day of Deliverance.”

o) The Cripps Proposal: As in the words of Gandhi, Cripps Proposal was a “Post dated cheque”, which talked about Dominion status, not full independence was promised that too after the war. It talked about a new Indian Union. Since it had no mention about Pakistan, Jinnah denied agreeing to it. They, thus, rejected the Proposal.

p) The Cabinet Mission Plan: By early 1946 the British authorities wanted to withdraw from India. The Cabinet was sent to India to establish a government and workout on the Constitutional arrangement for transfer of power. The Mission did not favor Pakistan, which led to the Direct Action Day on 16th August, 1946. The British Prime Minister declared that the British Government would transfer power into hands of Indians by June 1948. According to Lord Mountbatten’s plan of June 3, 1947 partition was agreed upon.

q) Indian Independence: The Indian Independence act was passed by the British Parliament in July, 1947 and on 14th August, 1947, M. A. Jinnah was declared as the Governor General of Pakistan.

r) Coining of Pakistan: In 1930 Muhammed Iqbal (a great Muslim poet) suggested the Union of the Frontier Province. Baluchistan, Sindh and Kashmir as a Muslim state within a federation. This proved to be a creative idea which germinated during the early 30’s to burst into rigorous life with the advent of the new reforms. The idealist Choudhari Rahmat Ali developed this conception at Cambridge, where he inspired a group of young Muslims and invented the term “Pakistan” in 1933[5]. The basis of Leagues demand was its mischievous two nation theory which first came from Sir Wazir Hussain in his Presidential address at Bombay session of the League in 1936[6]. Pakistan became the Keystone of the ideological arch of the Muslim League after 1940.

s) Impact of Congress Mistakes:

1. The strategy of the Congress leadership to bring the Muslims into the anti-imperialistic struggle on a religious question (Khilafat movement) was basically wrong because the Muslims joined the movement as a matter of religious duty and not for the protection of their economic and democratic rights. It is dangerous to exploit religious sentiments for political purposes.

2. The Congress had its strong base amongst the Hindu masses but failed to establish themselves as in the same manner to the Muslims.


It is impossible to conceive the Idea of Muslim League without Jinnah. He has been the strongest force behind the success of the League. Muslim League is as incomplete without Jinnah as Jinnah without the league.

Jinnah was earlier a part of Congress, but later with the changes in personal ideologies and preferences he chose to be a member of the Muslim League and head it. He took a retirement in 1931 but was called back to lead them again in 1933.

After 1933, the League began to reorganize and reconsolidate itself under the leadership of Jinnah. It elected him as its President and decided upon a program of intensified political activity. One can understand his position in the League with one of the incidents in which a phase of Congress-League co-operation occurred again while the reforms of 1935 were in the making. Jinnah believed that the proposed reforms were only a trick to put off the country’s demand of self-government for an indefinite period.

Thus he was not only the driving force but like a soul of the League. His role is very important in the formation and functioning of the League, especially in last few decades before we got independence. It is interesting to note that though his native home was in Mumbai, he went to Pakistan to call it his home. He, even today, is one of the most controversial figures in history.

Conclusion and Summary:

Thus one can say that the birth of the League was due to the internal insecurity amongst a religious minded group caused by the then existent political situation, which seemed to deteriorate with time. The mishandling and manipulation at the hands of British filled the hearts, minds and politics of India with the earlier unknown concept of Communalism. It was so strong in its nature that we still are suffering from it frequently.

The League’s Ideology was influenced by a lot of factors and people. It was not a static process. It kept evolving, even at the hands of Jinnah. Yet if one wants to point out one center theme on which the League worked, we can say that it wanted to protect the interests first of elite muslims, then to gain power and interest of the ordinary muslims, they were merged into it. From 1933 onwards, Jinnah’s Ideology became the League’s Ideology.

Their Ideology shaped the destiny of not only one nation but the world. Something which was used as a fuel by the British, led to the Partition of India as well. Something for which even the innocent people of all the nations involved (Pakistan, Bangladesh and India) in some way or the other are still paying
[1] Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born in 1869 and took service under the British in 1837. He visited England in 1869 and retired from service in 1876. In1878 he became the member of the Governor General’s Legislative Council and was knighted in 1888. He died in 1898, the acknowledged “Grand Old Man of Indian Islam”.

[2] Lord Minto was appointed as the Viceroy in 1906. Until then it was Lord Curzon under whom the Partition of Bengal had taken place.

[3] The outbreak of communalism was probably due to the two fold fact that the national consciousness had not still struck deep rots among the backward Muslims and secondly the nationalist leaders failed to give an appropriate program after the end of non-cooperation movement.

[4] The proposals embodied in the 14 points ran counter to the most important suggestions made in the Nehru Report and included among others the establishment of a federal state with the residuary powers vested in the provinces, the Muslim representation in the central legislature to be not less than one-third, separate electorate, and the inclusion of one-third Muslim ministers in any central provincial cabinet which might be formed.

[5] P stands for Punjab, A for Afghans (Frontier Province), K for Kashmir, S for Sindh; the whole meaning “Land of the Pure.”

[6] Sir Wazir said, “The Hindu and Musalmans inhabiting this vast continent are not two communities but should be considered two nations in many respects.”