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Panun Kashmir

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Symbol of Unity

 
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Presidential Address of Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal 
delivered at the Allahabad Session of the All India Muslim League
December 1930

Legal Document No 48

(Extract)

What is the problem and its implications? If religion a private affair? Would you like to see Islam, as a moral and political ideal, meeting the same fate in the world of Islam as Christianity has already met in Europe? Is it possible to retie in Islam as an ethical ideal and to reject it as a polity in favour of national politics, in which religious attitude is not permitted to play any part? This question becomes of special importance in India where the Muslims happen to be in a minority. The proposition that religion is a private individual experience is not surprising on the lips of a European. In Europe the conception of Christianity as a monastic order, renouncing the world of matter and fixing its gaze entirely on the world or spirit. led by a logical process of thought, to the view embodied in this proposition. The nature of the Prophet's religious experience. us disclosed in the Quran, however, is wholly different. It is not more experience in the sense of a purely biological event happening inside the experiment and necessitating no reactions on his social environment. It is individual experience creative of a social order. Its immediate outcome is the fundamentals of a polity with implicit legal concepts whose civic significance cannot be belittled merely because their origin is revelational. The religious ideal of Islam, therefore, is organically related to the social order, which it has created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other. Therefore, the construction of a polity on national lines, if it means a displacement of the Islamic principle of solidarity is simply unthinkable to a Muslim. This is a matter which at the present moment directly concerns the Muslim of India. "Man", says Renan, "is enslaved neither by his race, nor by his religion, nor by the course of rivers nor by the directions of mountain ranges. A great aggregation of men, sane of mind and warm of heart, creates a moral consciousness which is called a nation".

Such a formation is quite possible, though it involves the long and arduous process of practically remaking men and furnishing them with a fresh emotional equipment. It might have been a fact in India if the teaching of Kabir and Divine Faith of Akbar had seized the imagination of the masses of this country. Experience, however, shows that the various caste-units and religious units in India have shown no inclination to sink their respective individualities in a larger whole. Each group is intensely jealous of it collective existence. The formation of the kind of moral consciousness which constitutes the essence of a nation in Renan's sense demands a price which the people of India are not prepared to pay. The unity of an Indian nation, therefore, must be sought, not in the negation, but in the mutual harmony and cooperation of the many. True statesmanship cannot ignore facts, however, unpleasant they may be. The only practical course is not to assume the existence of a State of things which does not exist, but to recognise facts as they are and to exploit them to our greatest advantage. And it is on the discovery of India Unity in this direction that the fate of India as well as of Asia really depends. India is Asia in miniature. Part of her people have cultural affinities with nations in the east and part with nation, in the middle and west of Asia. If an effective principle of cooperation is discovered in India, it will bring peace and mutual goodwill to this ancient land which has suffered so long, more because of her situation in historic space than because of any inherent incapacity of her people. And it will at the same time solve the entire political problem of Asia.

It is however, painful to observe that our attempts to discover such a principle of internal harmony have so far failed.

Why have they failed ? Perhaps, we suspect each other s intentions and inwardly aim at dominating each other. Perhaps, in the higher interests of mutual cooperation, we cannot afford to part with the monopolies which circumstances have placed in our hands, and conceal our egoism under the cloak of a nationalism, outwardly stimulating a large-hearted patriotism but inwardly as narrow-minded as a caste or a tribe. Perhaps, we are unwilling to recognise that each group has a right to free development according to its own cultural traditions. But whatever may be the cause of our failure, I still feel hopeful. Events seem to be tending in the direction of some sort of internal harmony. And as far as I have been able to read the Muslim mind, I have no hesitation in declaring that if the principle that the Indian Muslims entitled to full and free development on the lines of his own culture and tradition in his own Indian homelands is recognised as the basis of a permanent communal settlement, he will be ready to stake his all for the freedom of India. The principle that each group is entitled to free development on its own lines is not inspired by any feeling of narrow communalism. There are communalisms and communalisms. A community which is inspired by any feeling of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignoble. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religious and social institutions of other communities. Nay, it is my duty, according to the teaching of the Quran, even to defend their places of worship if need be. Yet I have the communal group which is the source of my life and behavior; and which has formed me what I am by giving me its religion, its literature, its thought, its culture, and thereby recreating its whole past, as a living operative factor, in my present consciousness. Even the authors of the Nehru Report recognise the value of this higher aspect of communalism. While discussing the separation of Sind they say:

'To say from the larger viewpoint of nationalism that no communal Provinces should be created is, in a way, equivalent to saying from the still wider international view-point that here should be no separate nations. Both these statements have a measure of truth in them. But the staunchest internationalists recognises that without the fullest national autonomy it is extraordinarily difficult to create the international State. So also, without the fullest cultural autonomy, and communalism in its better aspect is culture it will be difficult to create a harmonious nation.'

Communalism, in its higher aspect, then, is indispensable to the formation of a harmonious whole in a country like India. The units of Indian society are not territorial as in European countries. India is a continent of human groups belonging to different races, speaking different languages and professing different religions. Their behaviour is not at all determined by a common race, consciousness. Even the Hindus do not form a homogeneous group. The principle of European democracy cannot be applied to India without recognizing the fact of communal groups. The Muslim demand for the creation of a Muslim India within India is, therefore, perfectly justified. The resolution of the All-parties Muslim Conference at Delhi is, to my mind, wholly inspired by this noble ideal of a harmonious whole which, instead of stifling the respective individualities of its component wholes, affords them chances of fully working out the possibilities that may be latent in them. And I have no doubt that this house will emphatically endorse the Muslim demands embodied in this resolution. Personally I would go -further than the demands embodied in it. I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-Government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslim, at least of North West India. The proposal was put forward before the Nehru Committee. They rejected it on the ground that, if carried into effect, it would give a very unwidely state. This is true in so far as the area is concerned; in point of population the State contemplated by the proposal would be much less than some of the present Indian Provinces. The exclusion of Ambala Division and perhaps of some Districts where non-muslims predominate will make it less extensive and more Muslim in population so that the exclusion suggested will enable the consolidated state to give a more effective protection to non-Muslim Minority ties within its area. The idea need not alarm the Hindus or the British. India is the greatest Muslim country in the world. The life of Islam as a cultural force in this country very largely depends on its centralization in a specified territory.

It is clear that in view of India's infinite variety in climates, races, languages, creeds and social systems, the creation of autonomous States, based on tile unity of languages race, history, religion and identify of economic interests, is the only possible way to secure a stable constitutional structure in India. The conception of federation underlying the Simon Report necessitates the abolition of the Central Legislative Assembly as a popular assembly, and makes it an assembly of the representatives of federal states. It further demands a redistribution of territory on the lines which I have indicated. And the report does recommend both. I give my wholehearted support to this view of the matter, and venture to suggest that the redistribution recommended in the Simon Reports must fuel two conditions. It must precede the introduction of the new Constitution and must be so devised as to finally solve the communal problem. Proper redistribution will make the question of joint and separate electorates automatically disappear from the constitutional controversy of India. It is the present structure of the provinces that is largely responsible for this controversy. The Hindu thinks that separate electorates are contrary to the spirit of true nationalism, because he understands the word nation to mean a kind of universal amalgamation in which no communal entity ought to retain its private individuality such a state of things, however, does not exist. Nor is it desirable that it should exist. India is a land of racial and religious variety. Add to this the general economic inferiority of tile Muslims, their enormous debt, especially in the Punjab and their insufficient majorities in some of the provinces as at present constituted, and you will begin to see clearly the meaning of our anxiety to retain separate electorates cannot secure adequate representation of all interests, and must inevitably lead to the creation of an oligarchy. The Muslims of India can have no objection to purely territorial electorates if Provinces are demarcated so as to secure comparatively homogeneous communities possessing linguistic racial cultural and religious unity.

To my mind a unitary form of government is simply unthinkable in a self-governing India. What is called "residuary power must be left entirely to self-governing states, the Central Federal States exercising only those powers which are expressly vested in it by the free consent of federal states. I would never advise the Muslim of India to agree to a system, whether of British or of India origin, which virtually negatives the prince pies of true federation or fails to recognize them as a distinct political entity.

I have no doubt that if a Federal Government is established, Muslims will willingly agree. for purposes of India's defence, to the creation oft, neutral military and naval force. Such a neutral military force for the defence of India was a reality in the days of Mughal rule. Indeed in the time of Akbar the Indian frontier was, on the whole, defended by armies officered by Hindu generals. I am perfectly sure that the scheme of a neutral Indian army, based on a federated India will intensify Muslim patriotic feeling, and finally set at rest the suspicion, if any of Indian Muslim joining Muslims from beyond the frontier in the event of an invasion.

I have thus tried briefly to indicate the way in which the Muslims of India ought in my opinion to look at the two most important constitutional problems of India. A redistribution of British India, calculated to secure a permanent solution of the communal problem is ignored then I support, as emphatically as possible. The Muslim demands repeatedly urged by the All India Muslim League and All India Muslim Conference. The Muslims of India cannot agree to any constitutional changes which effect their majority rights, to be secured by separates electorates, in the Punjab and Bengal or fail to guarantee them 33 per cent representation in any Central Legislature.

No Muslim politician should be sensitive to the taunt embodied in that propaganda word-communalism-expressly devised to exploit what the Prime Minister calls British democratic sentiments and to mislead England into assuming a State of things which does not really exist in India. Great interests are at stake we are seventy millions and far more homogeneous than any other people in India. Indeed the Muslims of India are the only People who can fitly be described as a nation in the modern sense of tile word. The Hindus, though ahead of us in almost all respects, have not yet been able to achieve the kind of homogeneity, which is necessary for a nation, and which Islam has given you as a free gift. No doubt they are anxious to become a nation, but the process of becoming a nation is a kind of travail, and in the case of Hindu India, involves a complete overhauling of her social structure. Nor should the Muslim leaders and politicians allow themselves to be carried away by the subtle but fallacious argument that Turkey and Persia and other Muslim countries are progressing on national, i.e. territorial, lines. The Muslims of India are differently situated. The countries of Islam outside India are practically wholly Muslim in population. The minorities there belong, in the language of the Quran, to the people of the book. There are no social barriers between Muslims and the "People of the Book". A Jew or a Christian or a Zoroastrian does not pollute the food of a Muslim by touching it, and the law of Islam allows inter-marriage with the "people of the Book". Indeed the first practical step that Islam took towards the realization of a final combination of humanity was to call upon people possessing practically the same ethical ideal to come forward and combine. The Quran declares, "O people of the Book; Come, let us join together on the "word" (Unity of God), that is common to us all". The word of Islam and Christianity, and European arression in its various forms, could not allow the infinite meaning of this verse, to work itself out in the world of Islam. Today it is being gradually realized in the countries of Islam in the shape of what is called Muslim Nationalism.

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