updated on March 23rd, 2019
Formation of Muslim League
- As the radical movement grew stronger the British began to look for ways and means to break the unity among Indian.
- They tried to do this through the partition of Bengal and by sowing the seed of communalism among Indian people.
- They motivated Muslims to form a permanent political association of their own.
- In December 1906, during the Muhammadan Educational conference in Dacca, Nawab Salim Ullah Khan raised the idea of establishing a Central Muhammadan Association to take care of Muslim interests.
- Accordingly, on 30th December 1906, the All India Muslim League was founded. Another prominent person, Aga Khan was chosen as its president.
- The main objective of the league was to protect and advance the rights of Muslims in India and represent their needs to the government.
- By encouraging the issue of separate electorates, the government sowed the seed of communalism and separatism among Indians.
- The formation of the Muslim League is considered to be the first fruit of the British master strategy of ‘Divide and Rule’. Mohammad Ali Jinnah later joined the League.
Role Of Muslim League In Indian Freedom Struggle
The seeds of Muslim communalism were sown in the 1880s when Syed Ahmed Khan sought to use it as a counterpoise to the national movement, that had emerged under the Congress. He believed that the Muslim share in administrative posts and in various professions could be released only by professing loyalty to the British. The Muslims had turned to modern education, trade, and industry late, So they needed the special protection of the British were also projected as safeguard the Muslim minority’s interests. The Hindus in India, because they were a majority, would have dominated Muslims and totally overruled their interests. Syed Ahmed knew that British authorities, at the time, frowned upon any attempts at the politicization of the Indian people Thus, instead of creating a counter communal political organization, he asked the Muslims to shun all politics and remain politically passive.
The British authorities, quick to see the inherent advantage of communalism and the theory of official protection of the minorities, from the very’ beginning, actively promoted and supported communalism.
However, the attempt to keep the growing Muslim intelligentsia politically passive was not wholly successful.
When Badruddin Tyabji presided over the Congress session in 1887, the number of Muslim delegates to the Congress increased in the succeeding year R M Sayani, A Bhimji, Mir Musharaff Husain, I Iamid All Khan and numerous other Muslim intellectuals from Bombay. Bengal and northern India joined the Congress. Abdul Rasul and a large number of other Bengali Muslim intellectuals gave support to the Swadeshi agitation against the partition of Bengal.
However, it cannot be denied that there was a certain Hindu tinge in the political work and ideas of the militant nationalists. This proved to be harmful to the National Movement as British and pro-British communal propagandists took advantage of its Hindu colouring to poison the minds of the Muslims. The result was that a large number of educated muslims remained either aloof from the rising National Movement or became hostile to it, thus falling an easy prey to the separatist outlook.
The communalists, as also their official supporters, felt that they had to abandon the policy of political passivity and enter the political arena At the end of 1906, the All India Muslim League was founded in Dacca by a group of big zamindars, ex-bureaucrats and upper class Muslims like Aga Khan, the Nawab of Dacca and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk. It supported the partition of Bengal, raised the slogan of separate Muslim interests, and demanded special safeguards for the Muslims in government services. Later, with the help of Lord Minto, it secured acceptance of the demand for separate electorates for the Muslims. A branch of Muslim League was set up in London in 1908 by Amir All.
The Muslim League devoted itself to the task of keeping the emerging intelligentsia among the Muslims from joining the Congress. Its activities were against the National Congress and the Hindus and not against the British. It, thus, played into the hands of the British and became one of the main instruments with which the British hoped to fight the rising National Movement.
The Muslim political elite got a rude shock in December 1911 with the annulment of the partition, announced by George V at the Delhi Durbar. The continuing revolutionary terrorism in Bengal worried the authorities. They felt that until we get rid of the partition ulcer, we shall have no peace.
‘ Simultaneously, a transfer of the capital to Delhi was decided upon, both as a sop to the muslim sentiments and, more importantly, to insulate the Vieeregal authority from provincial pressures which would ultimately lead to ‘a larger measure of self-governance in the provinces’.
However, Muslim opinion was not mollified but was, in fact, further alienated by Britain’s refusal to help Turkey in the Italian and Balkan wars (1911-12). The Turkish ruler, at that time, was acknowledged as the Caliph or religious head of all the Muslims. Moreover, nearly all the Muslim holy places were situated within the Turkish empire. The younger Muslim intellectuals, the so-called Young Party, got dissatisfied with the loyalist and slavish mentality of the upper-class leadership of Muslim League. They captured the League in 1912 and began steering it towards greater militancy, some kind of accommodation with the nationalist Hindus, and pan-Islamism. Its leaders included Wazir Hassan, T A K Sherwani, the radical All brothers (Muhammad and Shaukat), and I lasart Mohani in UP. ZafarAli Khan in Punjab, and Fazlul Huq in Bengal.
In their social composition, they tended to be very much like the radical Hindu nationalists, insofar as they were seldom titled Zamindars, occasionally had a small pittance in rents from land, and mostly had to find employment in government service or the professions. In 1912. the brilliant Congress leader MA Jinnah was invited to join the League which adopted setting up of self-government as one of its objectives. In the same year,
Aga Khan resigned as the President of the League.
The militantly nationalist Ahrar Movement was founded at this time under the leadership of Maulana Mohammad Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan. Hasan Imam. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and Mazhar-ul-Haq. In their efforts, they got support from the section of orthodox Ulema (scholars), especially those belonging to the Deoband school. Another orthodox scholar to be attracted to the national movement was the young Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was educated at the famous AlAzharUniversity-at Cairo and propagated his rationalist and nationalist ideas in his newspaper Al Ililal, which he brought out first in 1912.
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