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Separatist Movement (1855-1947) in India

During the revolt of 1857, the Hindus and Muslims fought together against British rule, but very soon a separatist Movement emerged in India which ultimately resulted in the partition of the country in 1947. The emergence of the separatist movement was an event of great significance in Indian history because many important developments were shaped by it directly or indirectly.

The separatist movement was a product of the prevailing social-economic environment in India. The British rulers were responsible for the birth of separatism in India.

Background of separatist movement in India

  1. By the middle of 19 century, the Hindu society had progressed quite considerably because of the liberal and progressive character of the Hindu socio-religious Reform movement.
  2. The Hindu reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Devendra Nath Tagore, Keshab Chandra Sen, supported Western education.
  3. The spread of Western education in Hindu paved the way for their entry into government service as a result of which the economic condition of Hindus started improving. The spread of Western education also contributed to the growth of awakening among Hindus. The progressive socio-cultural Idea gained popularity in Hindu society.
  4. While Hindu society had progressed quite considerably by the middle of 19 century while the Muslim society had remained trapped in backwardness. Because the Muslim reformist was strongly against western education and ideas.
  5. Wahabi movement of Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly and Ahmadiyya Movement of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad emphasize restoration of the purity of Islam. They were strongly against new elements. As a result of this, the Muslims could not get the benefits of Western education. They could not enter government jobs. The levels of awakening also remained low among Muslims.
  6. The contrasting difference between the socio-economic conditions of Hindu Muslims attracted the attention of Muslim intellectuals like Abdul Latif, Syed Ahmed Khan, Syed Amir Ali, and Syed Amir Hussain. They started working to propagate western education and liberal ideas among Muslims so that Muslim society also move onto the path of progress.
    • In 1863, Mohammedan Literary and Scientific Society was established by Abdul Latif at Calcutta to spread Western education among Muslims.
    • In 1864, the Scientific Society (translation society) was established by Syed Ahmed Khan to translate the English works into the Urdu language so that the Muslims could benefit from them.
    • In 1870, Syed Ahmed Khan started the publication of a journal named the Tehzib-ul-Alq to spread his ideas among Muslims.
    • In 1875, Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College was established by Syed Ahmed Khan at Aligarh to impart modern Western education to Muslims. In 1920, the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College became Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
    • In 1877, National Mohammed Association was established by Syed Amir Ali and Syed Amir Hussain at Calcutta to promote the interest of Muslims by using all legitimate and constitutional means.
  7. The efforts being made by Muslim intellectuals were secular in characters. There was nothing against Hindus in their activities. Those movements was a cultural movement.
  8. Since Hindu society was being used as a reference, the feeling of competition could be converted into communalism by British colonial rulers by using their policy of divide and rule.
  9. As the level of national awakening increased among Hindus, the English Scholars had started practicing the policy to conciliate Muslim. So that their loyalty could be insured for British rule.
    • The first such attempt was made by W.W. Hunter. He was an English man. He wrote a book titled “Indian Musalman” in 1871. In this book, he asked the British government to look positively towards Muslims. He was of the opinion that the Muslims could do no harm to the British Indian Empire.
    • After 1858, the British attitude towards Muslims was negative because Muslims were held responsible for the Revolt. The revolt of 1857 was interpreted as an attempt to re-establish Muslim rule in India.
    • The English man, like W.W. Hunter, advises the government to give up their negative attitude towards Muslims. Because they could see that spirit of nationalism was growing rapidly in Hindu. And this growing nationalism was going to harm the British India Empire

Rise of Separatist Movement in India

  1. The formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was an event of great significance in the history of India. Because on the one hand Indian Nationalists gained the first Pan-India political platform and on the other hand the British start practicing a policy of divide and rule in a new way.
  2. By 1887-88, the Nationalist character of Congress was clearly visible. As Indian nationalism started gaining strength, the British started brainwashing Muslim intellectuals like Syed Ahmed Khan to believe that the demand of Congress for a democratic social India was anti-muslim.
  3. Syed Ahmad Khan was a great supporter of Hindu-Muslim Unity initially.
    • While speaking at Gurdaspur in 1884, he emphasized that the Hindu and Muslim were not different, like they were two eyes of a beautiful bride called India.
    • By 1888, Syed Ahmad Khan was a very strong opponent of Hindu Muslim Unity, while speaking in Meerut in 1888, he commented that Hindus and Muslims had different interests and they can never live together peacefully.
    • This transformation of leaders, like Syed Ahmed Khan, was the result of the British policy of divide and rule. This policy was implemented in the socio-religious arena. So that Hindus and Muslims could not walk together as a unit against the British. Hindu-Muslim Unity was the main source of strength of the Indian National Movement.
    • In this way, Indian communalism was a child of the British Raj.
  4. In 1888, the United India Patriotic Association was established by Syed Ahmed Khan to organize propaganda against congress. In 1893, Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Defence Association was established by Syed Ahmed Khan to promote the interest of Muslims.
  5. This policy of promoting communalism in India was continued by the British in the future by supporting and encouraging separatist forces in various ways.
    • In 1905, the partition of Bengal was carried out to convince Muslims that the British rule was in their favor.
    • The partition of Bengal was welcomed by separatist leaders like Waqar-ul –Mulk, Agha Khan Etc. They celebrated the first anniversary of the partition as the “Day of Rejoicing.”
    • On 1st October 1906, a delegation of 35 Muslim leaders led by Agha Khan met Governor-general Lord Minto at Shimla. In this meeting, the governor-general blessed the establishment of the Muslim League which came into existence in December 1906.
    • Muslim League was founded in Dhaka by Aga Khan as its first president.
    • Grant of separate electorates to Muslims in 1909 was another important communal move of the British to divide Indians among communal lines and to strengthen the separatist forces.
    • When Congress oppose the grant of separate electorates to Muslims, the mass support to separatist leaders increased.
  6. The activities of communal forces among Hindus further added fuel to the fire of separatism.
    • Shuddhi and Sangathan movement organized by leaders like Swami Sahajanand. In response, Tabiligh and Tanzeim movements were organized by separatist Muslim leaders like Maulana Abdul Bari.
    • The Foundation of Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and Rashtriya Swayamsevak (RSS) in 1925 further intensified the fire of separatism because they also practiced their radical communal policies.
  7. In spite of this development, the separatist movement was still a cultural movement. The slogan guided that “Muslim interest is in danger and those interests should be safeguarded through concessions and reservations.” The idea of a separate state was yet to gain popularity among mainstream Muslim organizations like Muslim League.

Emergence of Movement for Separate state

  1. The idea of a separate state for Muslims was put forward for the first time by Abdul Sattar and Abdul Jabbar in 1916 in Moscow. These two Muslim brothers were in Moscow to participate in the second communist International and there put forward the idea that a separate state should be created for Muslims in India.
  2. In 1924, Lala Lajpat Rai opined that Muslims should be partition into a separate state along religious lines.
    • In 1930, Mohammed Iqbal put forward the view that the creation of an autonomous unit in the North-Western part of India would be in the larger interest of Muslims.
    • In 1933, the word Pakistan was coined by Chaudhari Rehmat Ali, an undergraduate of Cambridge from Punjab. He demanded the creation of a separate Nation as Pakistan for Muslims. The term Pakistan was coined by taking letters from Muslim majority provinces and areas.
  3. Before 1937, no prominent Muslim leaders supported the idea of a separate state. In 1933, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was asked to comment about the demand of ‘Pakistan’ put forward by Rehmat Ali. He a point that “Rehmat Ali was a kid and was not aware of the reality of India”

Election of 1937 and Movement for Separate State

  1. The outcome of the general election of 1937 and political development witnessed in India thereafter gave birth to the movement of a separate state in India.
    • In this election, Congress was highly successful and Muslim League was a miserable failure.
    • Congress won a majority in 6 provinces and could form a coalition government in two other provinces.
    • Muslim League could not win the majority or form government in any of the provinces. It receives only 4.4 % of the total Muslim vote. In Bihar, Orissa, Central province, and Sind, the league could not even open its account.
    • Other Muslim parties like Krishak Praja party of Fazal-ul-Haq (won a majority in Bengal), United Sind party of Sikander Khan (Punjab) were far more successful.
  2. In the election of 1937, Congress and Muslim League closed some understanding. Their manifesto was quite similar. They did not attack each other deliberately during campaigns.
    • Congress and Muslim League shared a secret understanding that irrespective of the outcome of the election result, they would form a government together.
    • Congress did not invite Muslim League to join the ministry because the politics of the Muslim League was badly rejected by voters. The pressure of public sentiments forced Congress not to extend an invitation to Muslim League to join the ministry. In spite of the fact that Jinnah wrote a number of letters to Congress asking that the League should be invited to join the ministry.
    • When Congress did not ask Muslim League to join mystery, it felt humiliating. And Muslim League begins to attack Congress.
    • The hostility of the Muslim League towards Congress was further intensified by the decision of Congress to organize a mass contact program to widen its reach among poor Muslim peasants.
    • Analysis of election results had revealed that the poor peasants did not Vote for Congress in large numbers. Since these sections of the Indian population formed a support base of the Muslim League. It felt that Congress was determined to wipe it out.
  3. To ensure its political survival and to widen its mass base, Muslim League adopted the policy of religious polarization. The old slogan that “Muslim interest is in danger” was abandoned and a new slogan that “Islam is in danger” was adopted.
    • The number of fabricated reports was published in the form of Pirpur report 1938, Fazal-ul-Haq report 1939, and Sharif report 1939 to organize radical communal propaganda against Congress. Through these reports, it was emphasized that Holy Quran was being burnt, Mosques were being demolished, Muslim women being dishonored and Muslim children being killed in congress ruled states.
    • Hundreds of branches were being opened by Muslim League throughout India. Other Muslim parties was forced to come to turn to Muslim League. Sikandar-Jinnah pact was signed to allow the member of the Unionist party to join the Muslim League.
  4.  When Congress provincial Ministries resigned in October 1939 to protest against British war policy. Their exit was celebrated by Muslim League as “Day of Deliverance” on 26th September 1939.
    • In March 1940, Lahore Resolution was adopted by Muslim League in which, for the first time a separate state was demanded, though the name of Pakistan was not used.
    • In December 1943, Karachi Resolution was adopted by Muslim League through which the British were asked to divide and Quit India
  5. This radical communal politics of the Muslim League was highly successful. In the election of 1945, Muslim League won 75% of total Muslim seats. It formed a government in Bengal and Sind. Their results of elections revealed that Muslim League was a force to reckon with that it could not be easy to sideline.

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