Delhi treating APHC as London treated Muslim League
by Hari Om on 02 Dec 2009 6 Comments

The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (AHPC) of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is no different from the Muslim League pre-1938. The only difference is that while the APHC has never contested polls fearing adverse results, the Muslim League did take the plunge, particularly in the 1937 provincial elections held under the Government of India Act, 1935, but only to suffer a humiliating defeat.


That Muslims of Muslim-majority provinces like West Bengal, Punjab, North West Frontier Province and Sindh would reject the Muslim League outright and would, instead, vote for the Congress and regional outfits like the Praja Krishak Party in West Bengal and the Unionist Party in Punjab was a foregone conclusion. The Muslim League, which was controlled by feudal lords as well as British stooges like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was thoroughly unpopular in the Muslim-majority provinces. The overwhelmingly majority of Muslims in Muslim-majority provinces at no point of time between 1906 and 1937 endorsed the Muslim League’s pernicious two-nation theory. It needs to be underlined that it was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and not Jinnah, who propounded the two-nation theory. Jinnah simply carried forward the separatist and communal legacy of Sir Syed with renewed zeal.


It would not be out of place to mention here that the Muslim League suffered defeats in all eleven British Indian provinces; it was the Congress which scored splendid victories in five provinces and emerged as the single largest party in the remaining four. In fact, the Congress formed provincial governments in 9 out of the 11 British Indian Provinces and the Praja Krishak Party and the Unionist Party formed governments in West Bengal and Punjab, respectively.


It was only in the Hindu-majority United Provinces (UP) that the Muslim League could make its presence felt. Its candidates emerged successful in several constituencies. In fact, the number of seats it won was in excess of the numerical strength of the Muslim community in UP. The Muslim League won because it vitiated the prevailing secular environment in UP by raising the bogey of “Islam in danger”. Thus it polarized Muslim votes and its slogan of “Islam in danger” clicked in this Hindu-majority province; but it utterly failed to enthuse or win over Muslims of Muslim-majority provinces.


The defeat of the Muslim League in the 1937 elections was not just the defeat of the protagonists of the two-nation theory and their out-on-the-limb leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was also the defeat the canny British, who all through sought to implement their divide and rule policy in order to rule over India without difficulty. The British all through sought to set the followers of one religion against the followers of another to consolidate their Imperial stranglehold over India. Earlier, they had used Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and helped him establish a school at Aligarh from where he started the separatist and pro-British movement called the Aligarh Movement, in 1877.


Remember, it was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who supported the British during the 1857 anti-British upsurge in India and who, in 1887, not only denounced the Congress as a “Bengali movement” and dismissed Congress as a Hindu organization and “a civil war without arms”, but also bitterly opposed the Congress demand seeking establishment of a popularly-elected and responsible government. (“If you (read Muslims) accept that the country should groan under the yoke of Bengali rule and its people wish to lick the Bengali shoes, then, in the name of God jump into the train, sit down, and be off to Madras, be off to Madras.” Sir Syed said this before his Lucknow audience on December 28, 1887, while reacting to the report that 83 Muslims had gone to Madras to participate in the Congress session.)


Do not forget that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan rejected out-of-hand the Congress demand seeking introduction of the parliamentary form of government and election system, saying since the Hindus were four times the Muslims, their number in the elected bodies would be four times that of the Muslims, and that Muslims would ever remain in minority. What Sir Syed said was not new. Earlier in November 1887, Theodore Beck, Principal of the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College, founded by Sir Syed himself, expressed similar perverted views. In an article published in The Pioneer, November 2 & 3, he inter alia wrote: Parliamentary form of government was “unsuited to a country containing two or more nations tending to oppress the numerically weaker”.    


A tirade against Congress was what the British needed most to create a counterpoise to the aspirations of the Congress and the Indians. Sir Syed, Aga Khan, Nawab Salimullah of Dacca, Mohammad Shafi, Haji Mohammad Ismail Khan, Amir Ali, Nawab Biquar-ul-Malik, Nawab Mohsin-ul-Malik and so on all made common cause against Congress to help the British. Their single-point agenda was to defend British policies and make Muslims believe that the success of Congress would mean the rise of a situation under which Muslims would have no say whatsoever in the governance of the country and the result would the rigorous exclusion of the Muslim community from all spheres. They, in short, played the role of collaborators and tried to the hilt to make Muslims “support whenever possible all the measures emanating from the government.”


Significantly, the role played by the Congress presidents, particularly by Badruddin Tyabji, President of the 1887 Madras Congress session, was no different. His letter published in The Pioneer on April 2, 1888, among other things, said: “The Congress could not be rightly termed a ‘National’ Congress, where any particular resolution could be carried against the unanimous protest of either the Hindu or Mussalman delegates”.


The British tried their best to use these Muslim leaders to controvert the influence of the Congress and weaken the national movement, but nothing substantial came out. Even their policy of divide and rule employed during the round table conferences in London (1930-1932) did not really create an environment in India that would help the Muslim League score electoral victories. The common Muslims consistently held aloof from the Muslim Leaguers. The humiliating defeat of the Muslim League in the 1937 elections needs to be viewed in this context.


The defeat of the Muslim League should have rendered Mohammad Ali Jinnah irrelevant for all practical purposes. But it did not happen. On the contrary, he was pampered and promoted by the British, who wanted to use Indian resources in the Second World War and also wanted to implicate India in the War against the Indians’ will – moves the Congress opposed tooth and nail. In fact, convinced that the British would implicate India in the War efforts, the Congress ministries resigned in the nine provinces in 1939 making it loud and clear that the Congress would not allow the British to use Indian resources in the War.


Who came to the rescue of the unnerved British? The likes of Jinnah who continued to enjoy official patronage, notwithstanding the fact that he and his Muslim League had been thoroughly humbled by the Muslim electorate across India, including Muslim-majority provinces. Jinnah, who should have been discarded by the British as someone not able to neutralize the influence of the Congress, was instead given overt and covert support by the British. So much so, the British gave everyone to understand that Jinnah and his Muslim League were one of the two most important local factors in India (the other being the Congress) and that the British Government would not do anything not acceptable to Jinnah and his Muslim League.


The over generous, but highly motivated and ill-designed, attitude of the British towards Jinnah, who had nothing to do with the Muslim masses and who only wished to further his personal agenda so that he was able to exercise political power, gave him status. Not just this, London crossed all limits to create an impression that Jinnah represented the Muslim general will; Britons like Lord Wavell had somewhat different views.


The fact of the matter is that both the British and Jinnah and his handful of supporters joined hands against India and worked overtime for the communal partition of the country. The discussions between the British and the Congress on the political future of India, held between 1940 and 1947, should leave no one in doubt that the British always put their eggs in the basket of Jinnah and did so with a design.


It needs to be underlined that London, which had become economically very weak due its involvement in the Second World War and whose war machine was not in a position to strike any longer, had finally realized even during the war that it would be impossible for the British to hold their own in India and that they had to quit sooner than later. But before quitting India, London wanted to divide India on communal lines and it did that, with Jinnah being the beneficiary and with, of course, certain elements in Congress, like Jawaharlal Nehru, also contributing to the division of India with a view to achieving power at the earliest.


APHC like Muslim League


One can understand the reasons behind what the frustrated British did to India. One can also understand the reasons behind their calculated support to Jinnah and his Muslim League. But one simply fails to comprehend the reasons behind New Delhi’s unflinching support for the APHC, which like the Muslim League, is unpopular, patently communal, and out-and-out separatist.            


Is the APHC representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Does it represent the general will of the people of the state? Is New Delhi not giving undue importance to the APHC? And will not a settlement between New Delhi and the APHC lead to another communal partition of India?


As pointed out earlier, the APHC neither represents the general will of the people nor has it any representative character. It is basically a rag-tag amalgam consisting of disparate and selfish elements - all, like other separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, one as far as their anti-India, pro-Pakistan and communal agenda is concerned. But more than that, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is heading the amalgam, is one who has already fallen from grace because of his aristocratic and autocratic style of functioning.


That he doesn’t enjoy the backing of the likes of Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Syed Salim Geelani and several others in the APHC and that a fierce power struggle is going on between the Mirwaiz and others in his fast-crumbling outfit could be seen from developments unfolding almost daily since Mirwaiz’s return to Kashmir from the United States.


A reference to at least seven such developments here would be in order.


One: Stung by the revolt against him, the Mirwaiz abolished the posts of provincial president and media advisor and threatened strict action against those creating “chaos, confusion and indiscipline” and not accepting his dictates. Nayeem Khan was, it needs be noted, the provincial president of the APHC and Syed Salim Geelani, another detractor of Mirwaiz, the media advisor and chief spokesperson of the outfit.


Two: The Mirwaiz has “imposed a blanket ban on the issuance of statements by the members of executive and general council”. 


Three: Shabbir Shah and Nayeem Khan have vehemently opposed the idea of talks with New Delhi and described the same as “against the APHC constitution”. Khan has gone to the extent of saying that “those (read the Mirwaiz and supporters like Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone) tired of fighting against India must rest at home and allow the new generation to take over the movement”.


Four: Syed Salim Geelani has been holding separate meetings of “general council constituents” to corner the Mirwaiz.


Five: All the detractors of the Mirwaiz have opposed the idea of “triangular” talks between the APHC and New Delhi and between the former and Islamabad. (Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is also for similar approach.)   


Six: The APHC’s constituents like the Republican Movement, the Gujjar-Pahari Forum, the People’s Movement, the Islamic Political Party and the National People’s Party have “accused the top leadership of violating the Hurriyat constitution of 1993 by talking to New Delhi directly and without the mandate from the constituent groups.” “The APHC is a forum consisting of a number of…parties. Any decision on dialogue has to be based on consensus”, some of the detractors of Mirwaiz told a correspondent of a national daily. The correspondent wrote: “The shrill opposition to the Mirwaiz’s moves evokes a deep sense of déjà vu, with charges of a ‘sell-out’ being thrown about…”                           


Seven: Detractors of the Mirwaiz have denounced the APHC chairman for his double-speak, for his overall conduct and for his secret meetings with New Delhi, especially his two recent meeting with the Union Home Minister.


The message is loud and clear: the Mirwaiz is on slippery ground; his support-base is shrinking at a very rapid pace; he has offended several of his colleagues; and there are leaders in the APHC who have made up their minds to take cudgels with its chairman and paint him black in the eyes of Kashmiri Muslims. Yet another message is that the desperate Mirwaiz is taking recourse to all means to save his chair and position – a task which appears difficult.


However, all this is not to suggest that the detractors of the Mirwaiz are not rank opportunists. They have their own axes to grind. Whatever they are doing is for their own selfish interests so that they remain relevant. The fact of the matter is that the APHC is on the verge of another split.


Yet it is with this fast-crumbling APHC and its chairman Mirwaiz, who is being opposed by his own men, that New Delhi is over eager to enter into “quiet talks” and “quiet diplomacy” to find a “unique solution” to the “Kashmir problem” and end the ongoing turmoil in the Valley.


New Delhi is treating the unpopular APHC and its unpopular chairman the way London treated the unpopular Muslim League and its unpopular president Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who did all he could to establish Muslim Pakistan.  


It is notable that Congress treated the Deoband divines and their political organ Jamait-ul-ulama-i-Hind the same way before 1947. Congress adopted them and “offered to the public as the only nationalists among the Muslims”, notwithstanding two basic factors. One was that the area of influence of the Deoband divines and its political organ was confined to some areas around Saharanpur (UP) and Delhi. The other was that the Deoband divines had made it loud and clear on day one that their single-point agenda was to reestablish Islamic rule in India.


The over-friendly or soft attitude of Congress towards the Deoband divines only brought the latter “status, stability and monetary resources”. The same Jamait on several occasions after 1947 issued fatwas asking Muslims not to sing Bande Mataram because singing of national song would, according to it, mean going against the holy covenant.


Strange that New Delhi which gets inputs from several intelligence agencies daily, is not aware of the support-base and ideology of the APHC. New Delhi knows everything and yet it seeks to put all its eggs in the basket of the Mirwaiz, thus giving him status and enabling him to amass wealth. It allowed Mirwaiz and his close associates to flout the foreign travel rules so that he could go to Islamabad and pour venom on India. It has been allowing the Mirwaiz to participate in the hate-and-break-India seminars being held in London, Washington, New Delhi and other places, knowing full well that he uses these forums to propagate his sinister and seditious views.


New Delhi has now decided to allow him to go to China, despite the fact that Mirwaiz has publicly stated that Beijing has a stake in Jammu & Kashmir and that he would go to China to rake up the Kashmir issue and discuss the plight of Kashmiri Muslims. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Roy has said Mirwaiz would not be allowed to go to China in case the Chinese authorities give him a stapled visa, but that is neither here nor there.


The truth is New Delhi has adopted the unpopular Mirwaiz like London once adopted Jinnah, and given him full freedom to meet everyone who matters in the Delhi-based embassies, Washington, New York, London, Islamabad, to mention only a few places, and spoil the Indian pitch in Jammu & Kashmir. In other words, New Delhi has been desperately seeking to make common cause with the Mirwaiz, overlooking the fact that this helps the APHC chairman achieve his ultimate goal – another communal partition of India and emergence of Islamic State of Jammu & Kashmir.


New Delhi must recognize the grave implications of what it is doing, sooner rather than later. Not to revise its approach towards the Mirwaiz or to continue to flirt with him would not only provoke deadly explosions in Jammu & Kashmir, but would also ensure the country’s partition on communal lines – an eventuality which must be averted at any cost. Another partition would have disastrous results, such as riots across the country.


One hopes New Delhi will discard and neutralize the Jinnahs wherever they are and undertake definite measures to preserve the unity and integrity of India and promote democracy and secularism in the real sense of the terms.


The author is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu

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