A NATION CALLING FOR A HOME
That there are factors, administrative, linguistic or cultural, which are the predisposing causes behind these demands for separation, is a fact which is admitted and understood by all. Nobody minds these demands and many are prepared to concede them. But, the Hindus say that the Muslims are going beyond the idea of separation and questions, such as what has led them to take this course, why are they asking for partition, for the annulment of the common tie by a legal divorce between Pakistan and Hindustan, are being raised.
The answer is to be found in the declaration made by the Muslim League in its Resolution that the Muslims of India are a separate nation. It is this declaration by the Muslim League, which is both resented and ridiculed by the Hindus.
The Hindu resentment is quite natural. Whether India is a nation or not, has been the subject-matter of controversy between the Anglo-Indians and the Hindu politicians ever since the Indian National Congress was founded. The Anglo-Indians were never tired of proclaiming that India was not a nation, that ‘Indians’ was only another name for the people of India. In the words of one Anglo-Indian “to know India was to forget that there is such a thing as India.” The Hindu politicians and patriots have been, on the other hand, equally persistent in their assertion that India is a nation. That the Anglo-Indians were right in their repudiation cannot be gainsaid. Even Dr. Tagore, the national poet of Bengal, agrees with them. But, the Hindus have never yielded on the point even to Dr. Tagore.
This was because of two reasons. Firstly, the Hindu felt ashamed to admit that India was not a nation. In a world where nationality and nationalism were deemed to be special virtues in a people, it was quite natural for the Hindus to feel, to use the language of Mr. H. G. Wells, that it would be as improper for India to be without a nationality as it would be for a man to be without his clothes in a crowded assembly. Secondly, he had realized that nationality had a most intimate connection with the claim for self-government. He knew that by the end of the 19th century, it had become an accepted principle that the people, who constituted a nation, were entitled on that account to self-government and that any patriot, who asked for self-government for his people, had to prove that they were a nation. The Hindu for these reasons never stopped to examine whether India was or was not a nation in fact. He never cared to reason whether nationality was merely a question of calling a people a nation or was a question of the people being a nation. He knew one thing, namely, that if he was to succeed in his demand for self-government for India, he must maintain, even if he could not prove it, that India was a nation.
In this assertion, he was never contradicted by any Indian. The thesis was so agreeable that even serious Indian students of history came forward to write propagandist literature in support of it, no doubt out of patriotic motives. The Hindu social reformers, who knew that this was a dangerous delusion, could not openly contradict this thesis. For, anyone who questioned it was at once called a tool of the British bureaucracy and enemy of the country. The Hindu politician was able to propagate his view for a long time. His opponent, the Anglo-lndian, had ceased to reply to him. His propaganda had almost succeeded. When it was about to succeed comes this declaration of the Muslim League— this rift in the lute. Just because it does not come from the Anglo-Indian, it is a deadlier blow. It destroys the work which the Hindu politician has done for years. If the Muslims in India are a separate nation, then, of course, India is not a nation. This assertion cuts the whole ground from under the feet of the Hindu politicians. It is natural that they should feel annoyed at it and call it a stab in the back.
But, stab or no stab, the point is, can the Musalmans be said to constitute a nation? Everything else is beside the point. This raises the question : What is a nation? Tomes have been written on the subject. Those who are curious may go through them and study the different basic conceptions as well as the different aspects of it. It is, however, enough to know the core of the subject and that can be set down in a few words. Nationality is a social feeling. It is a feeling of a corporate sentiment of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel that they are kith and kin. This national feeling is a double edged feeling. It is at once a feeling of fellowship for one’s own kith and kin and an anti-fellowship feeling for those who are not one’s own kith and kin. It is a feeling of “consciousness of kind” which on the one hand binds together those who have it, so strongly that it over-rides all differences arising out of economic conflicts or social gradations and, on the other, severs them from those who are not of their kind. It is a longing not to belong to any other group. This is the essence of what is called a nationality and national feeling.
Now apply this test to the Muslim claim. Is it or is it not a fact that the Muslims of India are an exclusive group? Is it or is it not a fact that they have a consciousness of kind? Is it or is not a fact that every Muslim is possessed by a longing to belong to his own group and not to any non-Muslim group?
If the answer to these questions is in the affirmative, then the controversy must end and the Muslim claim that they are a nation must be accepted without cavil.
What the Hindus must show is that notwithstanding some differences, there are enough affinities between Hindus and Musalmans to constitute them into one nation, or, to use plain language, which make Muslims and Hindus long to belong together.
Hindus, who disagree with the Muslim view that the Muslims are a separate nation by themselves, rely upon certain features of Indian social life which seem to form the bonds of integration between Muslim society and Hindu society.
In the first place, it is said that there is no difference of race between the Hindus and the Muslims. That the Punjabi Musalman and the Punjabi Hindu, the U. P. Musalman and the U. P. Hindu, the Bihar Musalman and the Bihar Hindu, the Bengal Musalman and the Bengal Hindu, the Madras Musalman and the Madras Hindu, and the Bombay Musalman and the Bombay Hindu are racially of one stock. Indeed there is more racial affinity between the Madras Musalman and the Madras Brahmin than there is between the Madras Brahmin and the Punjab Brahmin. In the second place, reliance is placed upon linguistic unity between Hindus and Muslims. It is said that the Musalmans have no common language of their own which can mark them off as a linguistic group separate from the Hindus. On the contrary, there is a complete linguistic unity between the two. In the Punjab, both Hindus and Muslims speak Punjabi. In Sind, both speak Sindhi. In Bengal, both speak Bengali. In Gujarat, both speak Gujarati. In Maharashtra, both speak Marathi. So in every province. It is only in towns that the Musalmans speak Urdu and the Hindus the language of the province. But outside, in the mofussil, there is complete linguistic unity between Hindus and Musalmans. Thirdly, it is pointed out that India is the land which the Hindus and Musalmans have now inhabited together for centuries. It is not exclusively the land of the Hindus, nor is it exclusively the land of the Mahomedans.
Reliance is placed not only upon racial unity but also upon certain common features in the social and cultural life of the two communities. It is pointed out that the social life of many Muslim groups is honeycombed with Hindu customs. For instance, the Avans of the Punjab, though they are nearly all Muslims, retain Hindu names and keep their genealogies in the Brahmanic fashion. Hindu surnames are found among Muslims. For instance, the surname Chaudhari is a Hindu surname but is common among the Musalmans of U.P. and Northern India. In the matter of marriage, certain groups of Muslims are Muslims in name only. They either follow the Hindu form of the ceremony alone, or perform the ceremony first by the Hindu rites and then call the Kazi and have it performed in the Muslim form. In some sections of Muslims, the law applied is the Hindu Law in the matter of marriage, guardianship and inheritance. Before the Shariat Act was passed, this was true even in the Punjab and the N. W. F. P. In the social sphere the caste system is alleged to be as much a part of Muslim society as it is of Hindu society. In the religious sphere, it is pointed out that many Muslim pirs had Hindu disciples; and similarly some Hindu yogis have had Muslim chelas. Reliance is placed on instances of friendship between saints of the rival creeds. At Girot, in the Punjab, the tombs of two ascetics, Jamali Sultan and Diyal Bhawan, who lived in close amity during the early part of the nineteenth century, stand close to one another, and are reverenced by Hindus and Musalmans alike. Bawa Fathu, a Muslim saint, who lived about 1700 A.D. and whose tomb is at Ranital in the Kangra District, received the title of prophet by the blessing of a Hindu saint, Sodhi Guru Gulab Singh. On the other
hand, Baba Shahana, a Hindu saint whose cult is observed in the Jang District, is said to have been the chela of a Muslim pir who changed the original name (Mihra), of his Hindu follower, into Mir Shah.
All this, no doubt, is true. That a large majority of the Muslims belong to the same race as the Hindus is beyond question. That all Mahomedans do not speak a common tongue, that many speak the same language as the Hindus cannot be denied. That there are certain social customs which are common to both cannot be gainsaid. That certain religious rites and practices are common to both is also a matter of fact. But the question is: can all this support the conclusion that the Hindus and the Mahomedans on account of them constitute one nation or these things have fostered in them a feeling that they long to belong to each other?
There are many flaws in the Hindu argument. In the first place, what are pointed out as common features are not the result of a conscious attempt to adopt and adapt to each other’s ways and manners to bring about social fusion. On the other hand, this uniformity is the result of certain purely mechanical causes. They are partly due to incomplete conversions. In a land like India, where the majority of the Muslim population has been recruited from caste and out-caste Hindus, the Muslimization of the convert was neither complete nor effectual, either from fear of revolt or because of the method of persuasion or insufficiency of preaching due to insufficiency of priests. There is, therefore, little wonder if great sections of the Muslim community here and there reveal their Hindu origin in their religious and social life. Partly it is to be explained as the effect of common environment to which both Hindus and Muslims have been subjected for centuries. A common environment is bound to produce common reactions, and reacting constantly in the same way to the same environment is bound to produce a common type. Partly are these common features to be explained as the remnants of a period of religious amalgamation between the Hindus and the Muslims inaugurated by the Emperor Akbar, the result of a dead past which has no present and no future.
As to the argument based on unity of race, unity of language and inhabiting a common country, the matter stands on a different footing. If these considerations were decisive in making or unmaking a nation, the Hindus would be right in saying that by reason of race, community of language and habitat the Hindus and Musalmans form one nation. As a matter of historical experience, neither race, nor language, nor country has sufficed to mould a people into a nation. The argument is so well put by Renan that it is impossible to improve upon his language. Long ago in his famous essay on Nationality, Renan observed :—
“that race must not be confounded with nation. The truth is that . there is no pure race; and that making politics depend upon ethnographical analysis, is allowing it to be borne upon a chimera . . . .Racial facts, important as they are in the beginning, have a constant tendency to lose their importance. Human history is essentially different from zoology. Race is not everything, as it is in the sense of rodents and felines.”
Speaking about language, Renan points out that :—
“Language invites re-union; it does not force it. The United States and England, Spanish America and Spain speak the same languages and do not form single nations. On the contrary, Switzerland which owes her stability to the fact that she was founded by the assent of her several parts counts three or four languages. In man there is something superior to language, —will. The will of Switzerland to be united, in spite of the variety of her languages, is a much more important fact than a similarity of language, often obtained by persecution.”
As to common country, Renan argued that :—
“It is no more the land than the race that makes a nation. The land provides a substratum, the field of battle and work; man provides the soul ; man is everything in the formation of that sacred thing which is called a people. Nothing of material nature suffices for it”
Having shown, that race, language, and country do not suffice to create a nation, Renan raises in a pointed manner the question, what more, then, is necessary to constitute a nation? His answer may be given in his own words :—
“A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories; the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance which has been handed down. Man does not improvise. The nation, like the individual, is the outcome of a long past of efforts, and sacrifices, and devotion. Ancestor-worship is therefore, all the more legitimate; for our ancestors have made us what we are. A heroic past, great men, glory,—1 mean glory of the genuine kind,—these form the social capital, upon which a national idea may be founded. To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present; to have done great things together, to will to do the like again,—such are the essential conditions for the making of a people. We love in proportion to the sacrifices we have consented to make, to the sufferings we have endured. We love the house that we have built, and will hand down to our descendant. The Spartan hymn, ‘We are what you were; we shall be what you are,’ is in its simplicity the national anthem of every land.”In the past an inheritance of glory and regrets to be shared, in the future a like ideal to be realised; to have suffered, and rejoiced, and hoped together; all these things are worth more than custom houses in common, and frontiers in accordance with strategical ideas; all these can be understood in spite of diversities of race and language. I said just now, ‘to have suffered together’ for indeed, suffering in common is a greater bond of union than joy. As regards national memories, mournings are worth more than triumphs; for they impose duties, they demand common effort.”
Are there any common historical antecedents which the Hindus and Muslims can be said to share together as matters of pride or as matters of sorrow? That is the crux of the question. That is the question which the Hindus must answer, if they wish to maintain that Hindus and Musalmans together form a nation. So far as this aspect of their relationship is concerned, they have been just two armed battalions warring against each other. There was no common cycle of participation for a common achievement. Their past is a past of mutual destruction—a past of mutual animosities, both in the political as well as in the religious fields. As Bhai Parmanand points out in his pamphlet called “The Hindu National Movement”:—”In history the Hindus revere the memory of Prithvi Raj, Partap, Shivaji and, Beragi Bir, who fought for the honour and freedom of this land (against the Muslims), while the Mahomedans look upon the invaders of India, like Muhammad Bin Qasim and rulers like Aurangzeb as their national heroes” In the religious field, the Hindus draw their inspiration from the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, and the Geeta. The Musalmans, on the other hand, derive their inspiration from the Quran and the Hadis. Thus, the things that divide are far more vital than the things which unite. In depending upon certain common features of Hindu and Mahomedan social life, in relying upon common language, common race and common country, the Hindu is mistaking what is accidental and superficial for what is essential and fundamental. The political and religious antagonisms divide the Hindus and the Musalmans far more deeply than the so-called common things are able to bind them together. The prospects might perhaps be different if the past of the two communities can be forgotten by both, Renan points out the importance of forgetfulness as a factor in building up a nation :—
“Forgetfulness, and I shall even say historical error, form an essential factor in the creation of a nation; and thus it is that the progress of historical studies may often be dangerous to the nationality. Historical research, in fact, brings back to light the deeds of violence that have taken place at the commencement of all political formations, even of those the consequences of which have been most beneficial. Unity is ever achieved by brutality. The union of Northern and Southern France was the result of an extermination, and of a reign of terror that lasted for nearly a hundred years. The king of France who was, if I may say so, the ideal type of a secular crystalliser, the king of France who made the most perfect national unity in existence, lost his prestige when seen at too close a distance. The nation that he had formed cursed him; and today the knowledge of what he was worth, and what he did, belongs only to the cultured.”It is by contrast that these great laws of the history of Western Europe become apparent. In the undertaking which the king of France, in part by his justice, achieved so admirably, many countries came to disaster. Under the crown of St. Stephen, Magyars and Slavs have remained as distinct as they were eight hundred years ago. Far from combining the different elements in its dominions, the house of Hapsburg has held them apart and often opposed to one another. In Bohemia, the Czech element and the German element are superimposed like oil and water in a glass. The Turkish policy of separation of nationalities according to religion has had much graver results. It has brought about the ruin of the East. Take a town like Smyrna or Salonica; you will find there five or six communities each with its own memories, and possessing among them scarcely anything in common. But the essence of the nation is, that all its individual members should have things in common; and also, that all of them should hold many things in oblivion. No French citizen knows whether he is a Burgundian, an Alan, or a Visigoth; every French citizen ought to have forgotten St. Bartholomew, and the massacres of the South in the thirteenth century. There are not ten families in France able to furnish proof of a French origin; and yet, even if such a proof were given it would be essentially defective, in consequence of a thousand unknown crosses, capable of deranging all genealogical systems.”
The pity of it is that the two communities can never forget or obliterate their past. Their past is imbedded in their religion, and for each to give up its past is to give up its religion. To hope for this is to hope in vain.
In the absence of common historical antecedents, the Hindu view that Hindus and Musalmans form one nation falls to the ground. To maintain it is to keep up a hallucination. There is no such longing between the Hindus and Musalmans to belong together as there is among the Musalmans of India.
It is no use saying that this claim of the Musalmans being a nation is an after-thought of their leaders. As an accusation, it is true. The Muslims were hitherto quite content to call themselves a community. It is only recently that they have begun to style themselves a nation. But an accusation, attacking the motives of a person, does not amount to a refutation of his thesis. To say that because the Muslims once called themselves a community, they are, therefore, now debarred from calling themselves a nation is to misunderstand the mysterious working of the psychology of national feeling. Such an argument presupposes that wherever there exist a people, who possess the elements that go to the making up of a nation, there must be manifested that sentiment of nationality which is their natural consequence and that if they fail to manifest it for sometime, then that failure is to be used as evidence showing the unreality of the claim of being a nation, if made afterwards. There is no historical support for such a contention. As Prof. Toynbee points out :—
“It is impossible to argue a priori from the presence of one or even several of these factors to the existence of a nationality; they may have been there for ages and kindled no response and if is impossible to argue from one case to another; precisely the same group of factors may produce nationality here, and there have no effect.”
This is probably due to the fact, as pointed out by Prof. Barker, that it is possible for nations to exist and even for centuries, in unreflective silence, although there exists that spiritual essence of a national life of which many of its members are not aware. Some such thing has no doubt happened in the case of the Musalmans. They were not aware of the fact that there existed for them the spiritual essence of a national life. This explains why their claim to separate nationality was made by them so late. But, it does not mean that the spiritual essence of a national life had no existence at all.
It is no use contending that there are cases where a sense of nationality exists but there is no desire for a separate national existence. Cases of the French in Canada and of the English in South Africa, may be cited as cases in point. It must be admitted that there do exist cases, where people are aware of their nationality, but this awareness does not produce in them that passion which is called nationalism. In other words, there may be nations conscious of themselves without being charged with nationalism. On the basis of this reasoning, it may be argued that the Musalmans may hold that they are a nation but they need not on that account demand a separate national existence; why can they not be content with the position which the French occupy in Canada and the English occupy in South Africa? Such a position is quite a sound position. It must, however, be remembered that such a position can only be taken by way of pleading with the Muslims not to insist on partition. It is no argument against their claim for partition, if they insist upon it.
Lest pleading should be mistaken for refutation, it is necessary to draw attention to two things. First, there is a difference between nationality and nationalism. They are two different psychological states of the human mind. Nationality means “consciousness of kind, awareness of the existence of that tie of kinship.” Nationalism means “the desire for a separate national existence for those who are bound by this tie of kinship.” Secondly, it is true that there cannot be nationalism without the feeling of nationality being in existence. But, it is important to bear in mind that the converse is not always true. The feeling of nationality may be present and yet the feeling of nationalism may be quite absent. That is to say, nationality does not in all cases produce nationalism. For nationality to flame into nationalism two conditions must exist. First, there must arise the “will to live as a nation.” Nationalism is the dynamic expression of that desire. Secondly, there must be a territory which nationalism could occupy and make it a state, as well as a cultural home of the nation. Without such a territory, nationalism, to use Lord Acton’s phrase, would be a “soul as it. were wandering in search of a body in which to begin life over again and dies out finding none.” The Muslims have developed a “will to live as a nation.” For them nature has found a territory which they can occupy and make it a state as well as a cultural home for the new-born Muslim nation. Given these favourable conditions, there should be no wonder, if the Muslims say that they are not content to occupy the position which the French choose to occupy in Canada or the English choose to occupy in South Africa, and that they shall have a national home which they can call their own.
This Excerpt has been taken from Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. 8 (Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1990). The work was first published by Thacker and Co., Bombay, December 1940. Second edition: February 1945. Third edition: 1946. The Government of Maharashtra’s text is that of the third edition.