Saturday, May 27, 2006

Steps to Partition

In school days we learned that during the British Raj, Hindus took to English education and modernizing with much greater alacrity than Muslims, and dominated employment by the government. This led to a fear among Muslims of permanent domination by Hindus in an independent India, and led to the demand for Pakistan, a independent nation for the Muslims of the subcontinent.

In reality, in the United Provinces, it could only have been a fear of losing their dominant position that could have led UP Muslims to demand Partition. This post by sadna on is illustrative. (Muslims constituted 14% of the population of UP at that time.)

A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh, 1937-39 (Sage Series in Modern Indian History, Vol. 2)
by Salil Misra

page 258
One notable feature in the Assembly during 1937 and the first few months of 1938 was a number of questions put by Muslim Leaguers regarding the proportion of Muslims in various jobs and the financial grants provided by the government to specifically "Muslim" educational institutions. The idea behind this enquiry was obviously to establish a case of discrimination against Muslims, or put the government on the defensive, or more significantly mobilize the non-League non-Congress Muslim legislators in the Assembly. The interesting discovery, unfolded on the floor of the Assembly by mid-1938 was that Muslims had a representation in the government jobs well in excess of their proportion of the population. This then sparked off a volley of questions from mid-1938 onwards, this time from the "Hindu" quarters as to why the Muslim proportion was so high.

Pant [Govind Vallabh Pant, Chief Minister of United Provinces-sadna] prepared a statement showing the representation of various religious communities in the important public services in UP and established that the proportion of Muslims was quite high and ranged from 30 to 60 percent in various jobs.

He then added:

"Give me the returns from any provinces showing that any Government in any province has treated the minority like this and I will accept defeat. I claim and I claim that we have not only been just but we have been generous and we will contine to be so because we know that these posts may come and may go. But how long can you afford to misunderstand us. Our actions will prove too strong even for your misunderstanding?.."

By the middle of 1938, the League's outburst on Muslim representation in jobs in UP died out. The number of questions put to the government also came down significantly. Pant had mentioned that earlier the number of questions put to the government in the UP Assembly far exceeded those put in any other Assembly. This lack of enthusiasm may have been because the Congress government had effectively called the League's bluff on the question of Muslim employment. The other reason probably was that Muslim League's campaign had sparked off a counter campaign from the "Hindu" quarters about discrimination against Hindus in government employment.

The reference the author uses for the above are the volumes of U.P Legislative Assembly Proceedings.