THE ROLE OF ULAMA IN FREEDOM STRUGGLE

Asghar Ali Engineer

(Secular Perspective April 1-15, 2003)

Togadia’s utterances have neither any truth, nor any restraint. They are full of ignorance on one hand, and of fanaticism, on the other. The other day he demanded ban on Darul ‘Uloom, Deoband, a premier institution of Islamic learning in whole of South Asia. In support of his demand Shri Togadia said that Maulana Azhar Masood, a second in command of  Osama bin Laden, Maulvi Umar, a principle accused of Godhra train arson tragedy and host of Talibani activists were all produced in Deoband. 

He further said, “If at all Muslims are secular, then their leaders should condemn these terrorists and issue ‘fatwa’ to launch jehad against them”. He also warned them that India was essentially a Hindu nation and Muslims could not think of safety without the help of Hindus. He made these utterances while speaking before a crowd of some 1000 Bajrang Dal activists at a much provocative ‘trishul diksha’ function held at Hardoi on 23rd March. 

His provocative statements continue unabated. Yesterday in Bhopal i.e. on 27th March he said referring to killings of 24 Pandits in Kashmir by terrorists and shooting dead Hiren Pandya of BJP in Ahmedabad that a Hindu army be raised equipped with AK-47s. Mr. Togadia warned Prime Minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee that an invasion of Pakistan was the compelling need of the hour to protect the Hinds from the worst. He also said that if this was beyond his capacity, the government should be mentally prepared to disburse one crore licenses to procure AK-47 guns. This would allow VHP, according to him, to raise an army of Bajrang Dal youths who would gun down terrorists on their own. “Otherwise, there will be civil war in every village.”

These utterances, in my opinion, cannot be dismissed as mere empty threats or as utterances of a fanatic. The recent history of VHP clearly shows that what they say today becomes their plan of action tomorrow. In any other country he would have been arrested for disturbing communal peace but since there is BJP-led Government at the Centre, no one can touch him. On the contrary the BJP government benefits from such utterances of VHP-Bajrang Dal and RSS leaders. The VHP is very cleverly preparing a political atmosphere for forthcoming elections in the States like M.P. and Rajasthan. It is not without significance that he made this statement of raising Hindu army in Bhopal as elections are due in November in M.P. 

The Sangh Parivar members, particularly likes of Pravin Togadia are penetrating villages and provoking Hindus there and creating communal tension. Communal violence was earlier an urban phenomenon but now RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal cadres are fast spreading in rural areas and spreading hatred between religious communities. The rural areas were earlier by and large free of communal poison. Today these organisations have plenty of funds and can easily afford to recruit large number of hate propagandists. The whole atmosphere in the country is being disturbed for electoral gains. The Sangh Parivar is playing, to say the least, very dangerous game. 

Here we want to throw some light on the role of Darul `Uloom, Deoband which Pravin Togadia wants to be disbanded as it is producing terrorists. As pointed out before, Togadia should not be dismissed as mere fanatic. There is definite method in his madness. This applies to all the leaders of Sangh Parivar. What they say today, they plan to achieve it tomorrow. 

The present generation is totally ignorant of the role played by the ‘Ulama of this premier Islamic institution in freedom struggle and in opposing creation of Pakistan. The Sangh Parivar, through its vicious propaganda, has spread the half -truth that all Muslims were responsible for creation of Pakistan. The fact is that very few Muslims were responsible for it. In fact not more than five per cent Muslims voted for Muslim League in 1946 on the basis of which the decision for partition was taken. 

It should be remembered that there was no adult franchise before India became independent. Adult franchise came into force only after independence when our Constitution was promulgated in 1950. But before independence the franchise was limited to not more than 10 per cent of the Indian population and it is these enfranchised people who voted in all elections before 1950. Of the 10 per cent Muslim population enfranchised about 60% took part in voting and of which 60% voted for Muslim League and 40% voted for the Congress and other parties. Thus not more than 3.6% Muslims voted for Muslim League in 1946. 

Thus few elite Muslims – Zamindars, top civil servants, high ranking police and military officials were behind the Pakistan movement. The vast number of Muslim masses who had no voting right and had no interest in creation of Pakistan, could not influence the decision one way or the other. So was the case with the Hindu masses. They too had no voting right and remained mere spectators. If the Indian masses – both Hindus and Muslims – had right to vote, perhaps Pakistan would not have come into existence. 

It should be clearly remembered that partition was brought about by the power elite from both sides. It was failure of power sharing arrangement between the elite of two communities, which brought about partition, not religion. Thus Pakistan was not creation of Islam but of vested interests of Muslim elite. Had Pakistan been creation of Islam the movement for Pakistan would have been led by Ulama like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani and others and not by Jinnah. But we find that Maulana Azad and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani were staunch opponents of Pakistan and a modern educated and highly westernised person like Jinnah led the Pakistan movement. 

It is interesting to note that Jinnah found it very difficult to enlist support of Muslim ‘Ulama of great repute. They were all for composite nationalism. Maulana Husain Ahmed Madani, a great ‘alim of his time and Nazim al-Umur (Vice Chancellor) of Darul ‘Ulum Deoband, was great opponent of Pakistan movement. He wrote a book Muttahidah Qaumiyyat Aur Islam i.e. Composite nationalism and Islam in which he opposed two nation theory and justified composite nation on the basis of Qur’anic verses and Prophet’s sunna (sayings and doings). 

The Maulana was a great champion of composite nationalism and he toured whole of India after two nation theory resolution was adopted on 23rd March 1940 at Lahore and appealed to the Muslims not to be misled by the Muslim League propaganda. He was repeatedly attacked by the Muslim League volunteers and his meetings were sought to be disturbed. But the Maulana remained firm and continued to oppose two- nation theory and creation of Pakistan. 

In fact there is a long history of the ‘ulama' making great sacrifices for the cause of Indian freedom since the British rule was established in India. They were also in the forefront of 1857 war of independence and many of them were exiled to Andaman-Nicobar (then known as kalapani). Most of them could never return and died there. They never apologised to the British rulers. Hundreds of them were executed by the British rulers after 1857 mutiny. 

Maulana Qasim Ahmad Nanotvi, a very eminent ‘alim of 19th century issued a fatwa urging Muslims to join Indian National Congress when it was formed in 1885 and said it was their religious duty to drive out Britishers from India. He also collected about 100 fatwas from other prominent ‘ulama' of his time to this effect and published them under the title of Nusratul Ahrar  (i.e. for helping the freedom fighters). It was Maulana Qasim Ahmad Naotvi and others who founded the Darul ‘Uloom, in Deoband, a small town near Saharanpur in U.P. 

This Darul ‘Ulum became not only the centre of Islamic learning but also a centre of activities for freedom movement. It is these ‘ulama' who supported the Khilafat Movement and came very close to the Indian National Congress. Even after the failure of the Khilafat movement (in fact Kamal Pasha of Turkey abolished Khilafat itself) these ‘ulama' continued to support Indian National Congress and secular nationalism and do so even today. 

It is this glorious history of Darul ‘Uloom which, has to be kept in mind. It is absurd to demand ban on this important institution, which played such key role in freedom struggle. It is unfortunate that it is being attacked today by those who do not believe in composite and secular nationalism and want to create Hindu Rashtra. These ‘Ulama' never supported a theocratic state and opposed vehemently creation of Islamic Rashtra as shown above. They supported and continue to support secular nationalism until today.  

The Sangh Parivar believes in two-nation theory. The founder of Hindutva concept Veer Savarkar propounded two-nation theory much before Jinnah did. They never participated in the freedom struggle. Savarkar did participate in his earlier phase and won the title of veer (man of courage) but later on (i.e. after 1921) he not only apologised to the Britshers to obtain his release from Andaman jail but also became propounded of Hindu Rashtra which ultimately resulted in partition of the country.  

And Savarkar’s descendants like Togadia are once again destroying the unity of the country by attacking secular nationalism and playing majoritarian card which is totally undemocratic. The secularists should not underestimate the challenge of Hindutva today. 

Centre for Study of Society and Secularism  Mumbai:- 400 055  E-mail: csss@vsnl.com