GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com                                    

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Partitions and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

As a man of non-violence I cannot forcibly resist the proposed partition if the Muslims of India really insist upon it. But I can never be a willing party to the vivisection. I would employ every non-violent means to prevent it. For it means the undoing of centuries of work done by numberless Hindus and Muslims to live together as one nation. Partition means a patent untruth. My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me denial of God. For I believe with my whole soul that the God of the Koran is also the God of the Gita, and that we are all, no matter by what name designated, children of the same God. I must rebel against the idea that millions of Indians who were Hindus the other day changed their nationality on adopting Islam as their religion. 1 

The partition proposal has altered the face of the Hindu- Muslim problem. I have called it an untruth. There can be no compromise with it. At the same time I have said that, if the eight crores of Muslims desire it no power on earth can prevent it, notwithstanding opposition, violent or non-violent it cannot come by honourable agreement. That is the political aspect of it, but what about the religious and the moral which are greater than the political? For at the bottom of the cry for partition is the belief that Islam is an exclusive brotherhood, and anti-Hindu. Whether it is against other religions it is not stated. The newspaper cuttings in which partition is preached describe Hindus as practically untouchables. Nothing good can come out of Hindus or Hinduism. To live under Hindu rule is a Sin. Even joint Hindu-Muslim rule is not to be thought of. The cuttings show that Hindu and Muslims are already at war with one another and that they must prepare for the final tussle. Time was when Hindus thought that Muslims were the natural enemies of Hindus. But as is the case with Hinduism, ultimately it comes to terms with the enemy and makes friends with him. The process had not been completed. As if nemesis had overtaken Hinduism, the Muslim League started the same game and taught that there could be no blending of the two cultures. In this connection I have just read a booklet by Shri Atulanand Chakravarti which shows that ever since the contact of Islam with Hinduism there has been an attempt on the part of the best minds of both to see the good points of each other, and to emphasize inherent similarities rather than seeming dissimilarities.

The author has shown Islamic history in India in a favourable light. If he has stated the truth and nothing but the truth, it is a revealing booklet which all Hindus and Muslims may read with profits. He has secured a very favourable and reasoned preface from Sir Shafaat Ahmed Khan and several other Muslim testimonials. If the evidence collected there reflects the true evolution of Islam in India, then the partition propaganda is anti-Islamic. Religion binds man to God and man to man. Does Islam bind Muslim only to Muslim and antagonize the Hindu? Was the message of the Prophet peace only for and between Muslims and war against Hindus or non-Muslims? Are eight crores of Muslims to be fed with this which I can only describe as poison? Those who are instilling this poison into the Muslim mind are rendering the greatest disservice to Islam. I know that it is not Islam. I have lived with and among Muslims not for one day but closely and almost uninterruptedly for twenty years. Not one Muslim taught me that Islam was an anti-Hindu religion. 2 

Of course Hindus and Sikhs will have the same right. I have simply said that there is no other no-violent method of dealing with the problem. If every component part of the nation claims the right of self-determination for itself, there is no one nation and there is no independence. I have already said that Pakistan is such an untruth that it cannot stand. As soon as the authors begin to work it out, they will find that it is not practicable. In any case mine is a personal opinion. What the vast Hindu masses and the others will say or do I do not know. My mission is to work for the unity of all, for the sake of the equal good of all.  Hindu-Muslim unity is a morsel by itself. But my friend is on the wrong track when he suggests that unity should be hastened for fear of Muslims raising their demands, Demands against whom? India is as much theirs as anybody else’s. The way to unity lies through just demands once for all, not through ever-increasing demands, whether just or unjust. The demand for partition puts an end to all effort for unity for the time being. I hold that communal understanding is not a pre- requisite to the British doing justice on their part. When they feel that they want to recognize India’s right of self-determination, all the difficulties that they put forth as obstacles in their path will melt away like ice before the sun’s rays. The right of self-determination means the right of determination by every group and ultimately every individual. The demand for a Constituent Assembly presumes that the determinations of the groups and individuals will coincide. Should it happen otherwise and partition become the fashion, either we shall have partition or partitions rather than foreign rule, or we shall continue to wrangle among ourselves and submit to foreign rule, or else have a proper civil war. Anyway the present suspense cannot continue. It has to end one way or the other. I am an optimist. I have every hope that when we come to grips Hindus, Muslims and all others will throw in favour of India which all will claim as their own. 3

I have only given my opinion. If the majority of Hindus or Christians or Sikhs or even Parsis, small though their number is, stubbornly resist the express wish of the duly-elected representatives of eight crores of Muslims, they will do so at the peril of a civil war. This is not a question of majority of minority. If we are to solve our problems non-violently, there is no other way. I say this not because the eight crores happen to be Muslims. I would say the same if the eight crores were any other community. 4 The cry for partition is the logical outcome, but it is also the strongest condemnation, of separate electorates. When we have learnt wisdom we shall cease to think in terms of separate electorates and two nations. I believe in the innate goodness of human nature. I therefore swear by the Constituent Assembly. The Muslim vote will surely decide the issue so far as their special interest is concerned. Arguing communally, therefore, the fear, if there is any, about a Constituent Assembly should surely be on the part of the Hindus. For if the Muslim vote goes in favour of partition, they have either to submit not to one but many partitions or to a civil war. As things are, all satisfy themselves by passing resolutions and seeing their names in print. In practice all of us remain where we are in a state of subjection. A Constituent Assembly is a reality. It will not be a debating or legislative irresponsible body. By registering its final decision it will decide the fate of millions of human beings. You may oppose it. If you are successful in your opposition, there is the dread prospect of anarchy, not an orderly civil war. There seems to me to be no solution of the painful deadlock except through a Constituent Assembly. 5

I wish to give a message to the Muslim brethren. If eight crore Muslims oppose India’s independence, India will never win independence. But I shall admit such opposition only when all adult voters from among the eight crore declare their opposition to independence. But I consider this almost impossible. They may, of course, declare that they want independence without Hindu domination. It is worse than anarchy to partition a poor country like India whose every corner is populated by Hindus and Muslims living side by side. It is like cutting up a living body into pieces. No one will be able to tolerate this plain murder. I do not say this as a Hindu. I say this as a representative of Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and all. I would say to Muslim brethren, ‘Cut me to pieces first and then divide India. You are trying to do something which was not attempted even during the Muslim rule of two hundred years. We shall not allow you to do it.’ Whatever I have said about the Muslims also applies to the Sikhs. If the 30 lakh Sikhs wish to obstruct India’s independence, they are in a position to do so. We shall deal with them also in the non-violent way. Non-violent swaraj cannot be secured without non-violence. I shall work for communal unity. Islam means peace. It does not mean peace to the Muslims only; it means peace to all communities and to the entire world. 6

Does the partition make India a leper country the presence of whose inhabitants must carry heavy penalties including the tickets of leave such as criminals carry? They do not cease to be less offensive because they bear the inoffensive name of passports and permits. I should be prepared to understand the validity of the permit and passport system when the necessity is clearly established. I must refuse to believe that this Agreement is in response to a vital cry from the great Burmese nation with which the people of India never had any quarrel and with which India had enjoyed cultural contact long before the advent of the foreigner from the West. 7 Unfortunately, at the present moment, those Hindus who do not know the use of violence, of deadly weapons, would fain learn the trick, so as to be able to match what they describe as Muslim violence. If peace is ever to come in that manner, through both parties being equally matched in violent weapons, I know that it will not come in my lifetime, and if it came, I should not care to be a witness of it. For it will be an armed peace, to be broken at any moment. Whether those who believe in the two-nation theory can live as friends with those who believe in one nation, I do not know. If the vast majority of Muslims regard themselves as a separate nation having nothing in common with the Hindus and others, no power on earth can compel them to think otherwise. If they want partition of India on that basis, they must have partition, unless the Hindus want to fight against such a division. So far as I can see, preparation for such a fight is going on now on behalf of both parties. 8 

Had Sir Stafford remained detached, he would have conferred with his radical friends in India and secured their approbation before undertaking his very difficult mission. If it be said in answer that he could not very well do so, that is exactly what I mean when I say that, having become part of the machinery, he was bound to fall under its spell and could not do the obvious thing. But it is no use brooding over the past or British mistakes. It is more profitable to look within. The British will take care of themselves, if we will take care of ourselves. Our mistakes or rather defects are many. Why blame the British for our own limitations? Attainment of Independence is impossibility till we have solved the communal tangle. We may not blind ourselves to the naked fact. How to tackle the problem is another question. We will never tackle it so long as either or both parties think that independence will or can come without any solution of the tangle. There are two ways of solving what has almost become insoluble. The one is the royal way of non-violence, and the other of violence. In the first way the formal consent or co-operation of the other party is unnecessary. If there is a dispute between two boys over the ownership of an apple, the non-violent way is to leave the apple for the other party to take, the latter well knowing that it would mean non-co-operation on the surrendering party’s part. The second way is the usual way of violence. There the parties fight with each other till one is for the time being worsted. All interested in freedom have to make the choice. I suppose the choice has already been made by the chief actors. But the rank and file does not know own minds. It is necessary for them, if they can, to think independently and take to non-violent action in terms of unity.

It consists in Hindus and Muslims on the wayside fraternizing with one another, if they believe that joint life is a perfect possibility, nay, a necessity. Whether those who believe in the two-nation theory and communal partition of India can live as friends co-operating with one another I do not know. If the vast majority of Muslims regard themselves as a separate nation having nothing in common with Hindus and others, no power on earth can compel them to think otherwise. And if they want to partition India on that basis, they must have the partition, unless Hindus want to fight against such a division. So far as I can see such a preparation is silently going on behalf of both the parties. That way lays suicide. Each party will probably want British or foreign aid, In that case, good-bye to independence. The fight will then range round not independence but the imaginary apple after the manner of the imaginary boys. I dare not contemplate the actuality. I should not like to be its living witness. I would love to see a joint fight for independence. In the very process of securing independence it is highly likely that we shall have forgotten our quarrels. But if we have not, it will be the only time to quarrel, if we must. 9

As for communal unity, the third party being removed unity will follow as day follows night. Unity will not precede but will succeed freedom. Today we do not even know that the goal of the Congress and the League is one. And you cannot bribe the League to co-operate for independence. Either the League believes that India is as much the home of Muslims as of non-Muslims, or it does not. If it does, it must first free the home from bondage before partitioning it. Today there is nothing to partition. After ridding the home of the foreign occupant, it can demand partition if it wishes and get it by negotiation or force. However, if it does not believe in India being the home of the Muslims, there is no question of negotiations for freeing India from bondage. Rajaji’s plan is, in my opinion, wholly unnatural. He wants to thrust himself on the British power which does not want him, for as the possessor by right of conquest it gets all it wants. In order to thrust himself on the British he gives the League the right of self-determination which every single individual has whether the others recognize it or not. Rajaji does not like partition and hugs the belief that his superfluous recognition of the inherent right will enable him to avoid partition. I advise my correspondent not to worry over our differences. We know and love each other enough to let time correct the error, whether it lies on my side or his. Meanwhile a frank and bold admission of differences and their exact nature makes for healthy education of public opinion. What is needed is avoidance of anger and intolerance, the twin enemies of correct understanding. 10 

It was a test of my patience. I am amazed at my own patience. However, it was a friendly talk. His (Jinnah’s) contempt for your Formula (Rajaji Formula) and his contempt for you is staggering. You rose in my estimation that you could have talked to him for all those hours and that you should have taken the trouble to draw up that formula. He says you have accepted his demand and so should I. I said, “I endorse Rajaji’s Formula and you can call it Pakistan if you like.” He talked of the Lahore Resolution. I said, “I have not studied it and I do not want to talk about it. Let us talk about Rajaji’s Formula and you can point out any flaws that you find there.” In the middle of the talk he came back to the old ghost: “I thought you had come here as a Hindu, as a representative of the Hindu Congress.” I said, “No, I have come here neither as a Hindu nor as a representative of the Congress. I have come here as an individual. You can talk to me as an individual or as the President of the League, whichever way you prefer. If you had agreed with Rajaji and accepted his Formula, you and he would have gone before your respective organizations and pleaded with them to accept it. That is why Rajaji came to you. You would then have placed it before other parties, too, in the same way. Now you and I have to do it.” He said he was the President of the League. Where was the basis for a talk if I was there representing nobody except myself? Who was to deliver the goods? I was the same man as he had found me in 1939. There was no change in me. I almost felt like saying, “Yes, I am the same man and since you think it is no use talking to me, I will go away.” But I resisted the temptation. I told him, “Is it not worth your while to convert an individual? I am the same man no doubt. You can change my views if you can and I will support you whole-heartedly.” “Yes, I know, if I can convert you, you will be my Ali,” he said.

He said I should concede Pakistan and he would go the whole length with me. He would go to jail, he would even face bullets. I said, “I will stand by your side to face them.” “You may not,” he said. “Try me,” I replied. We came back to the Formula. He wants Pakistan now, not after independence. “We will have independence for Pakistan and Hindustan,” he said. “We should come to an agreement and then go to the Government and ask them to accept it, force them to accept our solution.” I said I could never be a party to that. I could never ask the Britishers to impose partition on India. “If you all want to separate, I can’t stop you. I have not got the power to compel you and I would not use it if I had.” He said, “The Muslims want Pakistan. The League represents the Muslims and it wants separation.” I said, “I agree the League is the most powerful Muslim organization. I might even concede that you as its President represent the Muslims of India, but that does not mean that all Muslims want Pakistan. Put it to the vote of all the inhabitants of the area and see.” He said, “Why should you ask non-Muslims?” I said, “You cannot possibly deprive a section of the population of its vote. You must carry them with you, and if you are in the majority why should you be afraid?” I told him of what Kiron Shankar Roy had said to me “If the worst comes to the worst, we in Bengal will all go in Pakistan, but for goodness sake do not partition Bengal. Do not vivisect it.” “If you are in majority,”

I said, “you will have your choice. I know it is a bad thing for you, but if you want it all the same you will have it. But that will be an adjustment between you and me. It cannot occur while the Britishers are here.” He began to cross-examine me on the various clauses of the Formula. I said to him, “If you want clarification of those things, is it not better to have it from the author of the Formula?” “Oh, no”, he did not want that. I said, “What is the use of your cross-examining me?” He recollected himself. “Oh, no, I am not cross-examining you”, and then added: “I have been a lawyer all my life and my manner may have suggested that I was cross-examining you.” I asked him to reduce to writing his objections to the Formula. He was disinclined. “Must I do so?” he asked. “Yes, I would like you to.” He agreed. In the end he said, “I would like to come to an agreement with you.” I answered, “You remember that I have said that we should meet not to separate till we had come to an agreement. He said, yes, he agreed. I suggested, “Should we put that also in our statement?”1 He said, “No, better not. Nevertheless that will be the understanding between us and the cordiality and friendliness of our talk will be reflected in our public utterances, too.” 11

It can be said that the breakdown took place because we could not come to an agreement of the two-nation theory of Quaid-e-Azam’s. As the correspondence will show I wanted to avoid a Central Government. I suggested an authority acceptable to both the parties, but he would insist first on complete partition as between two nations and then an agreement between them as on foreign affairs, etc. He would not agree to anything simultaneous. 12 I have long intended to write to you asking you about the Working Committee resolution on the possible partition of the Punjab. I would like to know the reason behind it. I have to speak about it. I have done so in the absence of full facts with the greatest caution. Kripalani said in answer to a question in Madras that it was possible that the principle might be applied to Bengal also. I was asked by a Muslim Leaguer of note if it was applicable to the Muslim-majority provinces, why it should not be so to a Congress majority province like Bihar. I think I did not know the reason behind the Working Committee’s resolution, nor had I the opportunity. I could only give my own view which was against any partition based on communal grounds and the two-nation theory. Anything was possible by compulsion. But willing consent required an appeal to reason and heart. Compulsion or show of it had no place in voluntariness.  13

My objective opinion is that the British should leave without worrying about us. And this is in their interest as well. America and England are, no doubt, big nations advanced and ambitious, but in comparison with the mute millions of Asia and Africa, their eminence is just like dust. Until they wash clean the blot on their faces they have no right to talk big. And equally true is the fact that people are no longer going to be fooled by their tall talk. It will be in their interest to earn the blessings of the millions of Africa and Asia by giving them the human right of freedom. I admit there will be chaos once the British leave India. Even at present, strife is very much in evidence everywhere. But I believe if they grant the country its independence in all sincerity and in an orderly manner, all the quarrels will come to an end and the leaders of all the parties will be able to come together and form a stable government. But I do not know whether it is going to happen or not, because I am aware of the fact that there is a large section in favour of the vivisection of India. Who cares for the nation today? Everyone wants to realize his ambition and grab power by creating dissensions. This is the situation obtaining today. 14

However, I am an optimist. I therefore think that the sincerity with which the British relinquish power will determine how well organized the new Government will be. And the Congress, the Muslim League and the States will be well represented in it. It hurts me to talk about the partition of the country. What will be the plight of a body if it is dismembered? Similarly, dismemberment of a prosperous country like India will utterly ruin the people. Today it is the country which is being divided, tomorrow it may be Kashmir and the day after it may be the State of Junagadh in the remote corner of Kathiawar. How is it all possible? Let the whole of India be handed over to the League. I would not mind it. That is why I believe that if, after the exit of the British power, the people of India are not awakened; India will become the battle-ground for the Princes to fight among themselves and the big ones among them will try to gain sovereignty by swallowing up the smaller ones. My non-violence will not destroy anyone, it will only purify. I therefore tell the Princes that they need not have any fears because the Congress has always been in favour of coming to terms with them. The Congress has adopted the policy of non-violence. The Princes have to delegate power to the people’s representatives of their own accord. Then the Congress will treat them with respect. We do not want to do away with the Princes After all; they are also citizens of India, aren’t they? The Princes have only to reform themselves and become servants of their subjects. The Congress will be on their side to help them. Unless they mend their ways they will be inviting their own doom,  The only alternative to Pakistan in undivided India.

There is no via media. Once you accept the principle of partition in respect of any province, you get into a sea of difficulties. By holding fast to the ideal of undivided India, you steer clear of all difficulties. Then why does not Congress give a clear lead, because it feels helpless. It is not in favour of division. But it says, and with perfect logic, that if Pakistan is to be conceded, justice should be done to non-Muslim majority areas of Bengal and the Punjab, and to the Sikhs, and these provinces should be partitioned on the same principle on which the Muslim League demands the partition of India. I do not agree with that view. In my opinion, the Congress should in no circumstance be party to partition. We should tell the British to quit unconditionally. If they do not listen and partition the country in spite of us, we shall know what to do. Why should we make ourselves accessory to what we hold to be evil? In other words, you think that the British power need not stay on in India for another thirteen months? Quite so. If their intention is perfectly honest, they should not bother as to what would happen to the country after them. The country is quite capable of taking care of itself. They can quit with a clear conscience. The Congress leaders have said that the British cannot go away without bringing about a settlement between the Congress and the League.

Supposing no agreement can be arrived at between the congress and the League even after thirteen months, would that be a ‘reason’ for them to stay on in India even after that date? I therefore say: Let them quit now, otherwise their going even after thirteen months will be problematical. But if they go to whom are they to hand over power? They can hand over power either to the Muslim League or to the Congress, I do not mind which. If they hand it over to the Congress, the Congress will come to a just settlement with the League. But even if they make it over to the League, the Congress has nothing to fear. Only, let the transfer of power be complete and unqualified. The way they do it will provide a test of their sincerity and honesty. So far the British have said that they had yielded to Congress nonviolence; it was because of the non-violent struggle launched by the Congress that the Cabinet Mission was sent and the British Government made its famous declaration to withdraw from India. If this is really so, they should have no difficulty in handing over power to the Congress. But so far as I, for one, am concerned, they are free to ignore the Congress and hand over power to the League. They will then have bowed before the power of violence. For that is what the League swears by. We shall then pit our non-violence even against the League’s violence. Non-violence was meant not to give fight to the British only. It is ubiquitous in its application and scope. We shall settle with the League by offering our innocent blood to be spilt without spilling any and we will succeed. Your position is perfectly logical and consistent. You said in 1942 that the British power should withdraw immediately and unconditionally.

You have not changed. We are wholly with you there. But a considerable section among Congressmen today has begun to think in terms of collaboration with the British power. You are right. I have not changed. I would change only if I saw my mistake. But I see none. On the contrar

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