Hindu-Muslim Conflict and the Partition of Indiaby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe the causes and outcomes of the partition of India to create Pakistan.
Muslims and Hindus share a long history of violence that began with the invasion of Islam and continues through the response of Hindu Nationalism.
The tension between India and Pakistan is rooted in religious violence that began during the 7th c. invasion of Muslims into India. It was briefly controlled by strong sultans who rather tax than slay, and the British who sought the profit motive. Political freedoms for the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, following the 1947 partition and independence, allowed for a surge of Hindu nationalism to fight back radical Islam. The newly independent India and Pakistan began a bloody land scramble over the Kashmir region that violently displaced at least 10 million persons and flared in the 1970s when both nations acquired nuclear weapons. In the 1980s the USA funneled weapons through Pakistan (upsetting India) to provide indirect support for Afghanistan in repelling of the USSR.
One of the fiercest religiously motivated political rivalries existing today is between the nuclear powers India and Pakistan. Many think it began when the Indian Hindu nationalist movement of the early 1900s refused to represent the interests of Indian Muslims. It’s true that this widened a rift until, as independence from the British Empire drew near, it was impossible for them to share a single nation. Muslims had a justifiable fear of being ruled by the more numerous Hindus. Yet partition of British colonial India into the free nations of India and Pakistan did not solve the problem; Hindus and Muslims are still at loggerheads -- through their nations -- the focal point of the strife being the disputed territory of Kashmir. The animosity goes back to the time of Islamic conquest.
Islamic conquest of India
In the tradition of the Vedas there was no Indian nationalism before the arrival of the Islamic forces. Rather there were loosely affiliated Hindus serving millions of gods and who were stuck in a Karma ordered, highly divisive "caste system" which produced "India's Social Chains". This political disunity and polytheistic idolatry incited attracted the zeal of Muslim armies. In 711, the same year as the Umayyad began their conquest up Spain's Iberian Penisula, Islam began their long violent march across what would become Pakistan, down through India.
Beginning with Mahmud of Ghazni's genocide against idolaters which killed about two-million Hindus, Dr. Kishori Saran Lal estimates that between 1000 AD (Islamic conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 AD (end of Delhi Sultanate) Indian Hindus violently decreased by 80 million at the hands of the Muslims ("Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India", 1973) out of a total population of about 200 million. These speculative numbers are based on reports by Muslim historians.
Bloodshed in Kashmir is centuries old. The initial rift in Pakistan-Indian relations was created during the Islamic invasion over ten centuries ago. Will Durant, author of The Story of Civilization, wrote, "...the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.” While nominal Muslims suggest the genocide was carried out by leaders ignorant of true Islam, the Koran (Surah 8:65, 9:73) justifies the fanatical violence by Muslim's with, "Slay the infidels, wherever ye find them and prepare them for all kind of ambush"; and "Choose not thy friends among the infidels till they forsake their homes and the way of idolatry. If they return to paganism then take them whenever you find them and kill them."
Firuz Shah Tughlaq [Sultan 1351-1388] as per the Muslim source, Sirtat-i-Firuz Shaho, records Firuz attacked "nearly 100,000 men of Jajnagar had taken refuge with their women, children, kinsmen and relations." Where they turned "the island into a basin of blood by the massacre of the unbelievers." The Hindu "women with babies and pregnant ladies were haltered, manacled, fettered and enchained, and pressed as slaves into service in the house of every soldier." Later in his reign he apparently softened by using bribes...
I encouraged my infidel subjects to embrace the religion of the prophet and I proclaimed that everyone who repeated the creed and became a Musalman should be exempt from the jizya or poll-tax. Information of this came to the ears of the people at large, and great numbers of Hindus presented themselves, and were admitted to the honour of Islam. Thus they came forward day by day from every quarter, and adopting the faith, were exonerated from the jizya, and were favoured with presents and honours
Soft rulers and violent scriptures are quoted in the journals of Tamerlane (Amir Timur, 1336-1405) who launched his attack on India in 1398 and put to the sword what he considered to be weak Sultans who were not killing enough Hindus. He claimed, "My great object in invading Hindustan had been to wage a religious war against the infidel Hindus...[so that] the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the Hindus." At the fort of Kator, on the border of Kashmir, he ordered his soldiers "to kill all the men, to make prisoners of women and children, and to plunder and lay waste all their property."
The Muslim ruler Akbar (1542 - 1605), massacred of over 30,000 captive Hindus after taking the Chitod in 1568. A few years later, after he had taken foreign women into his harem, he became so ecumenical that his fellow Muslims considered him a heretic.
Stepping into ten centuries of Muslim Hindu struggle in India, have been the peaceful influence of Christianity. In 1529 the British government abolished suttee (widow burning). (Pappas, 2010) But Christian missionaries were banned as inhibitors to the free exercise of commerce. Between the revised East India Company charter of 1813 and the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion which gave Great Britain the excuse to usurp control from the Company. Willam Wilberforce was instrumental in opening up India to Christian missionaries and participated in the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Christian missionary work flourished and reflected British "humanitarian attitudes toward India". (Pappas) [Some Christian missionaries to India included Alexander Duff (1806-1878), Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951), William Carey (1761- 1834)]
Obviously, if there is no god but Allah, then polytheistic Hinduism cannot be peacefully unified with such an aggressive and intolerant religion, despite Gandhi's dream of coexistence. British rule enforced an artificial peace that abruptly ended in August of 1947.
The freedom movement that was to result in India’s partition had its tangible start when the Englishman Allan Hume helped a group of Indians start the Indian National Congress in 1885. At first it worked as a lobbying group and did not challenge British control of the government. But in the early 1900s a more radical faction emerged within it, led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, whose aim was independence. The Indian National Congress also had socialist leanings.
In 1906 a crucial split took place; the few Muslim delegates in the Indian National Congress left, and a group called the Muslim League was formed. There are three significant reasons why the Muslim nationalist movement emerged in 1906, later than the Hindu movement. Muslims, because they had their own religious schools, were less quickly influenced by western thought, which was an important characteristic of the leaders of the revolutionaries. Secondly, the Muslims in the Indian National League were becoming alienated by the increasing Hindu nationalism that accompanied the radicalization occurring there. Thirdly, and perhaps the catalyst that brought the others to the surface, was a dispute that occurred 1905-1911 in Bengal. In 1905, The British restructured the provincial borders in a manner that gave Muslims a majority in one of the districts, raising a great Hindu outcry that brought about a reversal of that decision in 1911.
Consequently, from 1906 there were two parties working for independence: the
Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. In 1915, Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948) arrived
in India. He had a law degree gained in England, experience in nonviolent protests
gained working in South Africa, and the leadership and strength of character
and morals to mobilize the general Hindu public for the independence cause. Gandhi recognized the propensity of Islamic violence saying
The pressure Gandhi and his followers exerted caused the British Parliament to pass the Government of India Act in 1935. It gave Indians a legislative law-making body. However, the British Viceroy had veto power and the British were still the de facto rulers of India.
Neither Hindus nor Muslims were satisfied with this. In the popularly elected Indian legislature, the minority Muslims had little power or representation, and Hindu rule infuriated them. In spite of the peacemaking attempted by Gandhi, for many Hindus in the freedom movement, there was no room for Muslims, and during the period of the Indian National Congress’ limited rule, the Muslims were submitted to degradations such as being barred from building new mosques. This was the final break between Hindus and Muslims. From now on, in the negotiations with the British the Muslim League would settle for nothing less than a separate Muslim state.
In 1939 international events intervened with the start of World War II. India’s English viceroy, Victor Alexander John Hope, declared India’s entrance on the side of the Allies without consulting the Indian or Muslim political parties. The Indian National Congress responded by quitting its power in India’s government. They tried to use the war to force the issue with the British, demanding immediate independence. The British offered independence at the end of the war, and the Indian National Council cooperated for much of the war, perhaps seeing a worse future for India if Britain lost the war, as was looking quite likely in 1940.
After the war, the last British viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, managed to negotiate a deal whereby northwestern and the far eastern sections of India became a Muslim state – Pakistan – and the remaining territory a Hindu one. Independence day for Pakistan came on August 14, 1947, and for India August 15, the day after.
This decisive action to end the controversy threw the area into turmoil. Millions of Muslims and Hindus living on the wrong side of the newly drawn border fled their homes. Violence caused by extreme nationalists from both side was fierce and took thousands of lives. One of the victims was Mohandas Gandhi, assassinated on January 30, 1948, by a Hindu militant who opposed Gandhi’s campaign for peace and reconciliation.
Border squabbles were to be expected, and one duly came. In the province of Kashmir, the Hindu ruler had hesitated in deciding whether to join Pakistan or India, but when his Muslim-majority populace responded with violent protests, he chose India. Within a year of gaining independence, India and Pakistan were at war in Kashmir.
The first Kashmir war ended in a compromise, but the area remained fortified on both sides and extremely violent, and war sparked up again for a short time in 1965.
Strife between the two new countries was not the only result of the division of India. Both countries’ economies suffered extremely from the social upheaval. The countries were also politically unstable. The two areas of Pakistan, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, were 1,600 km separate from each other, with India in between. On top of the ethnic and cultural differences (they shared only their religion, Islam), the East Pakistanis were underrepresented in Pakistan’s government and received less development than West Pakistan did. The government was slow to send aid when East Pakistan was hit by a devastating cyclone in 1970, and in 1971, when East Pakistan (being more populous than West Pakistan) gained a majority in the National Assembly, President Yahya Khan delayed its meeting and sent troops to quell protests in East Pakistan.
In response, East Pakistan declared itself independent on March 26, 1971, and became Bangladesh. Civil war broke out, and lasted until the end of that year, when, in December, India entered the war and aided Bangladesh in freeing itself of Pakistani troops.
After the war, Indian PM Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zhifikar Bhutto met in 1972 and agreed to work for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem. But the rivalry did not decrease, and two years later, in 1974, it entered a new phase when India tested a nuclear weapon. Pakistan was not far behind, and soon had its own nuclear weapons.
One of the effects of the division was that the foreign relations of the two nations were very much defined by their conflict. After India’s border war with China in 1962, Sino-Pakistani relations greatly improved. When India signed a treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971 and began buying billions of dollars worth of military equipment from the Soviets, formerly friendly relations between Pakistan and the Soviet Union were very much cooled.
This, in turn, gave Pakistan an ally in the United States, another country hostile to the Soviet Union. The two nations worked together to aid Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbor to the northwest, in resisting the Soviet invasion that lasted from 1979-89. Pakistan itself received some aid from the U.S., which had cut it off earlier in 1979 due to concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear program.
The end of the Cold War in 1989 changed foreign relations again. The U.S. ended aid to both countries in 1990 and then placed sanctions after both conducted nuclear tests in 1998. History repeated itself when Pakistan again became a U.S. ally in 2002 for another operation in Afghanistan. India has been displeased at Pakistan’s increasing influence, but there have not been significant repercussions in the India-U.S. relationship yet.
In the meantime, the Kashmir issue refuses to go away. Normally, such a border dispute could be settled by bilateral discussions and compromises from both sides. But religious pride, on both sides, makes compromise close to impossible. The armies of both countries are entrenched along the border of the area, and violence flashes out periodically.
The area has become the focal point for militants from both sides. What’s unclear is how much the activities of these militants are aided and abetted by their countries. Both countries insist innocence in the crimes of their individual citizens, but accuse the other of harboring terrorists. Both also accused each other (in 1983) of helping rebels within the others’ territory. Pakistan alleges that India aided rebels in Pakistan’s Sindh area, and India believes Pakistan aided Sikhs, a religious group that has often run up against India’s Hindu government. Two Sikhs were responsible for the assassination of India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, in 1984.
It’s difficult to predict the future of this conflict. There is no easy answer to the Kashmir deadlock, but the nuclear capabilities of each nation will hopefully continue to provide a deterrent to any aggressive action from either side. India’s treatment of its own remaining Muslims is a tension point that could see bigger developments in the near future. In 1992 Hindus destroyed a 464-year-old mosque in Ayodhya, claiming that it was the holy site of the birth of their god Ram. This set off a wave of bombings and riots. India is also dealing with a mounting struggle by the Dalits, the oppressed outcastes in the Hindu caste system, to claim their legal rights. In the past the Hindu extremists have responded with violence – like the murder of Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines by a mob in 1999.
On the other side are Muslim extremists, whose activities are mainly limited to the Kashmir area. Pakistani terrorists have occasionally targeted Christians (since 9/11 there have been two attacks on Pakistani churches), but outside of Kashmir their actions have been relatively limited. Al Qaeda may be hiding out along the Afghan border of Pakistan, but that's another issue.
These Muslim extremists are a reaction to the Hindu nationalists, who are in turn, were reacting to the encroachment of Islam. In the formative stages of this conflict, the centuries prior to independence in 1947, both the Muslims and the Hindus were obviously working for their own benefit, but the Hindus must bear the blame for escalating the competition into conflict by using their greater numbers to oppress the Muslims during the era of limited self-rule between 1935-39. Neither group could trust the other to rule over them, and the hatred that reemerged ensured that the new nations of Pakistan and India would be born enemies of each other. This analysis is demonstrated in the violence that is continuing into the 21st century.
Given the struggle against Islam, it is no wonder at the reaction of militant national Hinduism against Muslim influence. But other than to reveal the ineffectual idolatry of 300 million gods, what benefit has Islam been to India? Ironically, the same forces of militant Hinduism strives "to counter the increasing Christian influence in these areas, where missionary schools, hospitals, and social-welfare schemes had for decades resulted in a larger number of tribals to convert to Christianity".(Hansen,1999)
Islam eventually patterned itself after Christianity in the regard of providing social services. For example, it wasn't until the 20th century that the "major Islamic non-government organisations were largely inspired by the Middle Eastern reformism and modeled after Western [Christian] missionary work. Hospitals, social services and schools started to get populated under the name of Islam" (Chao referencing Schumann 1974,pg7 and Burhani 2011, pg. 337). Yet their is an enormous difference between Christians giving Justice from Muslims removing injustices like the Sultan Firuz had seen as successful in conversions by removing the jizya tax for those Hindus who converted. The modern day Islamic bribes are also drawing "converts". Social programs have precipitated an Islamic revival from the 1990s onward in line with the money that oil rich Islamic countries dedicated to social welfare and mosque building. In Indonesia, for example, new mosques construction has increased seven fold since 1980, and pilgrimage to Mecca has double since September 11, 2001. (Chao, 2011. pg 382)
Who would falsely attribute this old and ongoing Muslim-Hindu struggle as a residual of British colonial divide and rule policy? Secular Hindus, Nominal Muslims, Marxists, and liberal academic revisionists of western universities. Certainly not the Muslim historians from which these accounts are based. Were the perpetrators of Islamic terror heretical radicals who high jacked the peaceful faith, as modern Al Qaeda is accused of, or were they indeed honest Muslims sincere to perform the Quran's instructions? The answer is in a rhetorical question. Why are the bloody conquests of 16th c. Mahmud of Ghazni still widely celebrated in the Muslim world?
Durant, Will. Story of Civilization, vol.1, Our Oriental Heritage, New York 1972, p.459
Hansen, Thomas Blom . The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton University Press, 1999. page 180
Chao, En-Chieh (2011) "Blessed fetishism: Language ideology and embodied worship among Pentecostals in Java" Culture and Religion 12(4):373-399. page 378.
“What is the Babri Mosque Issue?”, Muslim-viewpoint article on the Babri Mosque controversy, http://www.imc-usa.org/cgi-bin/cfm/babri.cfm
“India”, State Department fact sheet, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3454.htm
“Pakistan” State Department fact sheet, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3453.htm
“Indian National Congress (South Asian History)”; History article on the INC; http://www.1upinfo.com/encyclopedia/I/IndianNa.html
“Indian National Congress – Wikipedia”; History article on the INC; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_National_Congress
Pappas Lecture notes http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/266LecN.html
“Establishment of All India Muslim League”, “Partition of Bengal” “Rule of Congress Ministries”; history articles from Muslim web site; http://www.storyofpakistan.com
“Independence of India” http://www.indianchild.com/independence_of_india.htm
The World Book Encyclopedia (International). Chicago, Illinois: World Book, Inc., 1995
Smith, Vincent A. The Oxford History of INDIA. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1958.
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Durant describes the historic situation and Aybak as follows, "In 1186 the Ghuri, a Turkish tribe of Afghanistan, invaded India, captured the city of Delhi, destroyed its temples, confiscated its wealth, and settled down in its palaces to establish the Sultanate of Delhi-an alien despotism fastened upon northern India for three centuries, and checked only by assassination and revolt. The first of these bloody sultans, Kutb-d Din Aibak, was a normal specimen of his kind-fanatical, ferocious and merciless. His gifts, as the Mohammedan historian tells us, "were bestowed by hundreds of thousands, and his slaughters likewise were by hundreds of thousands." In one victory of this warrior (who had been purchased as a slave), "fifty thousand men came under the collar of slavery and the plain became black as pitch with Hindus. Durant p. 461, (cf. also http://www.storyofpakistan.com/person.asp? perid=P045 (accessed July 30, 2009)
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