Majority-Minority Question in the Writings of Gandhi and Jinnah Essay
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Two major political leaders stand out in early twentieth century history of India. These two men are Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. In the lead up to the demand of Indian political leaders for independence from British colonial rule, a major political party was formed, and named ‘The Indian Congress Party’. All areas of British colonial India was represented in the Congress party. British colonial India was made up of people of many religions; the two major ones being Hinduism and Islam.
Hindus were in the majority, while Muslims were in the minority, though a sizable minority. Both Gandhi and Jinnah were members of Congress Party. The initial push for independence from British colonialism was supported by people of all religions and from all regions. Of the main actors in the Indian independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi advocated a single united India composed of people of all religions in a secular constitutional democracy. Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the other hand, wanted an India made up of two states of equal parity, Pakistan and Hindustan.
Hindustan would be ruled by the majority Hindus while Pakistan would be ruled by the minority Muslims, not as a democracy, but as an Islamic state. His difference of opinion with other Congress Party leaders like Gandhi, led Jinnah to leave Congress Party and to join ‘The Muslim League’. The inability of the two different and extreme positions to reach a consensus, eventually led to the division of British colonial India into two different countries at independence in 1947: India and Pakistan. Gandhi’s Position on Indian Independence
Mahatma Gandhi was first and foremost a Hindu. When Gandhi entered Indian politics by joining the Indian Congress Party, he had three major objectives in view. The first was to unite all the people from diverse regions and religions into one united, indivisible India. The second was to awaken in all Indians a sense of nationalism and moral rearmament. The third was to use non-violent civil disobedience to force the British colonialists to grant India both political and economic independence. His speeches and writings were tailored towards these three objectives.
Prior to Gandhi’s entry into Indian politics, there had been agitations for political autonomy by Indians. Many of these agitations had turned violent. The British on their part forcefully put down these violent protests, with consequent heavy loss of life of protesting Indians. Gandhi institutionalized non-violent protests as an effective method of forcing British colonialists to grant, first economic concessions and later political self determination to Indians. One of Gandhi’s most quoted famous speeches is one address to all Britons and given in 1942. “Leave India to God.
If that is too much, then leave her to anarchy. ” (Gandhi, May 1942) ‘”During the struggle for freedom, Gandhi had written this speech as an appeal “To Every Briton” to free their possessions in Asia and Africa, especially India”’ (Philips and Wainwright, 567). In order for both Gandhi’s Indian Congress Party and the Muslim League to present a common front to the British for a unified Indian independence, Gandhi had meeting with Jinnah on many occasions. However, because of their diametrically opposed positions on the majority/minority issue, their talks yielded no positive results.
While Gandhi and his Congress party wanted a unified India with a secular constitutional democracy, Jinnah and his Muslim League wanted a two state structure with the Muslim minority being granted political parity with the Hindu majority. Thus the stage was set for division of India into two separate political entities, one secular and the other religious. Jinnah’s Position on Hindu/Muslim Parity The stance of the Muslim minority of British colonial India was articulated by Jinnah in his speeches and talks with British colonial administrators and Gandhi.
‘In 1940 Jinnah said “So far as I have understood Islam, it does not advocate a democracy which would allow the majority of non-Muslims to decide the fate of the Muslims”’ (Quaid-e-Azam, Vol II) ‘”Also in 1940 Jinnah spoke of how the Muslims constituted not a mere minority, but a nation and must have their own homeland. (Gwyer and Appadorai, 1957) Hence from his speeches and writings, Ali Jinnah left no room for meaningful compromise with those like Gandhi, who wanted a unified independent India, with a secular democratic constitution.
Jinnah and the Muslim minority in India feared that the Hindu majority would dominate them and subjugate them in reprisal for the way the Muslim rulers of pre-colonial India had subjugated the Hindu populace which they ruled. In the words of Burke, ‘”At best, Jinnah and his colleagues were apprehensive of the intentions of the Hindu-dominated Congress towards the Muslims, and its ability and willingness to provide for and facilitate the progress and well-being of the minorities. In short, they were seeking to “escape the yoke of the more numerous Hindus. ”’ (Burke, 1973) NOTES 1. Philips and Wainwright, eds.
The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-1947. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1970. 2. Speech delivered at Aligarh, March 6 1940, Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam, Vol II, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore 3. Speech at Lahore Session of the All India Muslim League, March 22, 1940,’Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-47′,Vol II, Gwyer and Appadorai, 1957 4. Burke, S. M. Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis (London: Oxford University Press, 1973) p. 65.
1. Burke, S. M. Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis (London: Oxford University Press, 1973) p.65. 2. Philips and Wainwright, eds. The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-1947. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1970. 3. Speech delivered at Aligarh, March 6 1940, Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam, Vol II, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore 4. Speech at Lahore Session of the All India Muslim League, March 22, 1940,’Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-47′,Vol II, Gwyer and Appadorai, 1957 Internet Sources 5. Gandhi, May 1942, quoted in “The Partition of India” http://www. english. emory. edu/Bahri/Part. html