By Amaresh Misra
As was evident during the recent debate in Parliament, ‘who broke India’ is a question that Hindutva zealots throw at every given/grabbed/taken opportunity against Muslims and liberals. They are of course blind to the fact that much before Mohammad Ali Jinnah or any Muslim, the basis of India’s partition was laid by the British Viceroy Lord Curzon (the partition of Bengal in 1905) and British backed Hindutva personalities.
But, crucially, the flag-bearers of the Hindutva ideology subtract two personalities–Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Hussein Ahmad Madani–from the answer to the query: ‘who saved India’!
This might come as a surprise to many that Jinnah’s ‘two-nation’ theory was opposed not just by Nehru but also Maulana Hussein Ahmad Madani. Born and brought up in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Madani became one of the most illustrious Presidents of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind and played a decisive role in the fight against making religion the basis of a nation-state.
In a 1938 book, ‘Islam and Composite Nationalism’, Hussein Ahmad Madani, the disciple of Rashid Gangohi, one of the illustrious founders of the Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband , proved how, as per Islam, nations cannot be formed on the basis of religion. Since the Muslim League was making Islam the basis of a nation-State, this was an extremely important thing to say back then.
Rashid Gangohi, Maulana’s mentor, was not just a scholar, but he also fought actively against the British in 1857, India’s first Independence war. Along with Maulana Nanatawi, Gangohi was a major figure in the 1857 episode called ‘Jihad-e-Shamli’, whence, from Shamli to Thana Bhavan, in the Muzaffarnagar-Saharanpur belt, a major section of Muslims, Jats, Rajputs, Brahmins, Gujjars and Jatavs formed a liberated zone of support to Bahadur Shah Zafar’s anti-British regime in Delhi.
In the 1910s, during World War I, inspired by 1857, overseas Sikhs, Punjabis, Muslims, and other sections, organised the ‘Ghadar uprising’. Though nipped by the British, the Ghadar uprising trigerred a series of ‘mutinies’ in British Indian Army regiments, notably the rebellion of 5th Light Infantry at Singapore in February 1915.
Parallel to the Ghadar movement, efforts to free India while the British were engaged in World War I, took the form of the Reshmi Roomal Tehrik, or the ‘Silk Letter Conspiracy’, and the setting up of India’s first, post-1857, provisional-revolutionary government under Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, the Marxist-Jat Prince of Mursan, Hathras, in Kabul.
Several Deoband personalities, like Ubaidullah Sindhi, and Maulana Mehmud Hasan, or ‘Shaikh-al-Hind’, were imprisoned by the British in the island of Malta, for playing a leading role in the Reshmi Roomal Tehrik.
Maulana Hussein Ahmad Madani was not sentenced per se. But such was his nationalist zeal, that he volunteered to serve time.
After his release in the 1920s, Maulana Madani devoted himself whole-heartedly in educational activities and the Indian freedom movement. Maulana Madani was one of the founding members of Jamia Millia University. He was close to Maulana Azad and provided crucial Muslim support to Congress in UP and Bihar.
Maulana Madani was against the inception of Pakistan. He was of the view that in the present times, nations are formed on the basis of homeland (geographic basis) and not on ethnicity and religion.
On the issue of whether the identity of a nation depended upon its land or religion, there was an interesting debate between Husain Ahmad Madani and Allama Iqbal. The latter had to recognise Maulana’s position. In the 1940s, Maulana Madani fought both against the British and Muslim League. He staved off several violent attacks organised by the Muslim League.
At the time when India was burning with communal frenzy, Hussein Ahmad Madani wrote: “All should endeavor jointly for such a DEMOCRATIC government in which Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis are included. Such a freedom is in accordance with Islam…that Muslims could live as observant Muslims in a religiously plural society where they would be full citizens of an independent, secular India.”
[Amaresh Misra is a well-known political analyst film-maker and freelance journalist. He is based in Delhi.]