[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE last phase of Gandhiji’s life was like the final test of his steadfast nature. On the surface, he appears to have failed completely but in his inner equanimity he had succeeded cent per cent.
On 15th August, 1947 India attained freedom but the country stood partitioned. Congress had come to power in one part of the divided nation. Muslim League too had come to power in a divided Pakistan.
Gandhi’s dream was almost completely shattered. The country did not remain one. There was no peace between the two nations. The largest organization, the Indian National Congress, instrumental in leading the nation to freedom did not even entertain the thought of engaging itself in serving the people instead of ruling them.
But spiritually, Gandhiji stuck to his perceived truth till the end and sacrificed his life in his effort to establish love.
A peace brigade capable of combating the nation-wide violence with a bare chest could not be established. The various institutions set up by Gandhi for carrying out his national reconstruction programmes had not followed his advice of becoming service-oriented. His close associates who had supported him for over three decades in good and bad times had now deserted him.
But Gandhi remained firm in three matters – he desired the well-being of the people of both the countries, stuck firmly by his truth and worked tirelessly, leaving the rudders of his own life in the hands of God.
There were more than one factor responsible for the partition of the country. There can be many answers to the question as to who was more responsible for this. However, one thing we cannot negate is the fact that we ourselves created a favourable ground for partition.
We cannot find an institution like caste anywhere in the world except in places inhabitated by the Indians. We Indians took with us the caste system not just to Pakistan and Bangladesh but also to Mauritius, Surinam, South Africa, England, America and Canada, the other countries where the Indians migrated and settled down.
The caste system created differences between human kind, gave rise to the feeling of superiority and inferiority amongst them and also the social evil of untouchability of various degrees. When communalism entered our society, the divisive forces attained greater success.
By the time the British arrived, casteism and communalism had already gained firm roots in our country. This provided the most favourable ground for the British imperialism.
The Britishers came, first to trade and then to rule. They did not consider this land as their own to settle down. They collected wealth from here and took it back to their homes across seven seas. “Divide and rule” is a well-known principle of the imperialists. This principle came in handy to the Britishers to rule over our country and a favourable ground for this was provided by our casteism and communalism.
A noteworthy fact is that there has been no communal violence throughout the centuries of Hindu-Muslim co-existence and such violence started occuring only after the arrival of the Britishers in India. There used to be violent clashes and wars, but these were not communal violence. There have been wars between Hindu kings and Muslim kings. Yet, these cannot be described as communal violence because there were Hindu and Muslim soldiers and generals in both the warring armies.
After the Britishers came the first violent opposition to them at the national level happened in 1857. The people of India called it ‘Freedom struggle’ while the Britishers called it ‘rebellion’.
The 1857 war of independence largely remained confined to the princely class and the sepoys. But it was instrumental in instilling a sense of nationalism among the Indian leaders. Thereafter the Britishers decided to scrupulously follow in a systematic manner the time tested ‘divide and rule’ policy.
India was the jewel in the crown of England whose rule extended over five continents of the world. In the foundation of England’s total wealth was spoils from India. It also got a large section of its army from India.
An important aspect of their long-term political plan was the ‘divide and rule’ policy. In a way it was like the famous fable of two cats and a monkey which they pursued brazenly or clandestinely for 90 years from 1857 to 1947. Both Hindu and Muslim princes fought shoulder to shoulder in the 1857 war of independence.
But since the Muslim emperor reigned over the throne in Delhi, Britishers thought that if Indians emerged victorious the Muslim emperor would directly or indirectly call the shots in the regime. Thus began the imperialistic game of supporting the Hindus and disfavouring the Muslims. The first assault was on the Persian language which was the preferred administrative language during the Moghul reign. English replaced Persian language in courts, government offices and schools.
For nearly three decades after 1857, the Hindus enjoyed the patronage of the British rulers. In the formation of the Congress in 1885, even the British officials played an important role. However, the British rulers became wary of the Congress as it became better organized.
Shortly after the foundation of the Banaras Hindu University, the Aligarh Muslim College was set up which was soon upgraded to Aligarh Muslim University. British registrars played crucial role in the administration of the Aligarh Muslim University.
Soon Aligarh became the centre of Muslim politics. It was at the signal of the registrar of the Aligarh Muslim University that a delegation of muslims met the viceroy at whose suggestion Muslim League was formed in far off Dhaka.
When in the Coconada Congress session Maulana Mohammed Ali described the League as ‘Command performance’ he hinted at this development. By this time (1906), the Congress had started talking about the rights of the countrymen and so was floated Muslim League as a counter balance.
During the same period, as a part of the Morley-Minto plan (1909), Muslims were given separate voting rights in local bodies. This was the first devious move to divide the country’s two largest communities. Initially, the demands of the Congress and the League were almost similar. The annual conferences of both the organizations also used to be held in the same cities in nearby dates so that their leaders can address members of both the organizations. Till then, dual membership was allowed by both the organizations.
In 1905, a systematic attempt was made to create chasm between Hindus and Muslims by partitioning Bengal into East and West. But this proved counter productive. There was a massive upsurge against the partition. Both the communities fought the move hand-in-hand.
The movement was instrumental in creating awareness about the issue in rest of the country. At the time leaders like Sir Syed Ahmed and Iqbal declared that all who lived in Hindustan are known as Hindu. At the time of the Montegue-Chelmsford reforms (1918) too there was an effort to put the divide and rule principle on a firmer ground by giving separate voting rights to Muslims in the local body elections.
During the Khilafat movement (1919-1924), the country witnessed scenes of Hindu-Muslim unity, though half-hearted in nature, as a result of the combined efforts of Gandhiji and Ali brothers.
Satisfied over the success of the divide and rule policy, the India affairs minister Sir Samuel Hoare wrote on October 2, 1931, at the time of the Second Round Table Conference: “The delegates have moved further away this time compared to last year. I believe there is very little possibility of a communal solution in the minority committee.”
But the chasm became real serious after the 1937 elections. Even the distant prospect of power was successful in creating this chasm. When in 1947 Pakistan and India became independent nations, Mahatma Gandhi, known as the father of a united India, found himself marginalized. He worked for Hindu-Muslim unity till the very last when he was felled by the bullets of a fanatic Hindu on January 30.