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Muslims chose to stay back in India: An analysis of the mythical, unsubstantiated trope that is used to make Hindus feel guilty

If Muslims who stayed back in India and their current off-springs were genuinely so connected to the ethos of India and its Hindu majority, one will have to logically explain the rise in radicalism that India has seen

Hindus celebrated across the world as the 500-year-old battle to reclaim the Ram Janmabhoomi culminated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi doing the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ for the Bhavya Ram Mandir. The 5 century battle by Hindus to reclaim their place of worship, their dignity and their cultural heritage should have been an occasion that was celebrated regardless of religion since, in India, Hindu culture is what has kept the country what it is today. However, unsurprisingly, the ‘liberal’ ecosystem was busy not only ruining the end of their mythical “secular” nation but also furthering inane and baseless arguments to make Hindus feel guilty about reclaiming what is rightfully theirs.

One of the foremost arguments used by the apologetics of Islamism when any criticism of the barbarity heaped by invaders is mounted is that any such criticism is misplaced since the current lot of Muslims and their ancestors ‘chose to stay back in India’ even when they had the option to move to the Islamic State of Pakistan after the partition. Essentially, what they intend to say is that the Muslim citizens in India, or even their ancestors, should not be questioned about the acts of Muslim invaders because they are committed to India as much as the next Hindu.

For the most part, at least theoretically, the argument that Muslims of India cannot be held responsible for the barbarity heaped by the Muslim invaders on Hindus is correct. Unless they demolished the Ram Temple with their own hands and helped in the construction of the disputed structure that was called Babri, it is theoretically incorrect to blame them for the actions of Muslim invader thousands of years ago.

However, practically, we have seen that the rose-tinted image of the Indian Muslim does not always hold true. If Muslims were not beholden to the atrocities heaped by Muslim invaders and were indeed peace-loving citizens who acknowledged the atrocities committed, there would not have been widespread riots and systematic murder of Hindus, even in Pakistan, after the disputed structure was demolished by Karsevaks. In fact, if Indian Muslims were truly mindful of what the invaders had taken away from Hindus, they would have voluntarily given up their claim on the disputed structure, as KK Mohammad had suggested.

However, that was not the case. Till date, even after the Bhoomi Pujan, threats issued to Hindus by Islamists and general Muslims have not stopped. From the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to Muslim leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi, the threats to Hindus prove that the image of the Indian Muslim that Liberals want to paint so desperately have a few chinks, to say the least. It is to be noted that these are some of the most powerful representatives of the Muslim community in India. They have been elected by the Muslims and are revered by the Muslims. And hence, to say that their opinion does not represent the popular sentiment amongst the Muslim population could be as ludicrous as saying that PM Modi does not find resonance with Hindus of India.

When the apparent and very real reaction of Indian Muslims goes against the stated narrative, liberals then turn to bizarre arguments to ensure that the image they have created, one of eternal victimhood, doesn’t crumble to the ground.

One of the favourite arguments that are furthered by this delusional coterie is that Indian Muslims stayed back in India out of choice, allegiance and love for India and thus, casting aspersions on their patriotism or even their “tolerance” of the Hindu faith is unfair. Even as the threats by Muslims threw thick and fast, the narrative that was peddled was that “secular” India was being unfair to Muslims who chose to stay back in India. In fact, the narrative often goes a step further. Many claim that “most” Muslims chose to stay back in India and hence, the Muslim community, on the whole, is patriotic and beholden to India and Indian ethos, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

However, is that premise valid? Did “most” Muslims choose to stay back in India post-partition?

What do the numbers say?

During the provincial elections in 1946, it is an undisputed fact that Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Muslim League which had stirred up religious passions with its demand for a separate Islamic State at the time. The Muslim League asserted that Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist in the same country and thus, Muslims should have a country of their own carved out of India itself, post-independence.

In total, 87% seats were won by the Muslim League in India in 1946. A closer look at the numbers shows how the demand for a separate Islamic State bolstered the political demand for a separate state.

Source: University of Chicago

The table shows a comparison between the seats won by the Muslim League in 1937 and 1946. As one can see, the number of states that were won by the Muslim League of Jinnah went up manyfold in 1946. In every state, the rise in the popularity of Muslim League was substantial. In states like Bihar, for example, from zero seats in 1937, the Muslim League won a whopping 34 seats out of 40 seats. In Madras, the increase was from 9 to all 29 seats. The pattern holds across all states, or provinces, as they were called during that period.

It is to be remembered that though the two-nation theory itself existed for much longer, a formal political demand was made for a separate state for Muslims in 1940. It was in 1940 that Jinnah formally announced the demand in Lahore. At the 1940 Muslim League conference in Lahore Jinnah said: “Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature… It is quite clear that Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes and different episodes… To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state.”

It was in Lahore that the Muslim League formally recommitted itself to creating an independent Muslim state, including Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, the North-West Frontier Province and Bengal, that would be “wholly autonomous and sovereign”. The resolution guaranteed protection for non-Muslim religions. The Lahore Resolution moved by the sitting Chief Minister of Bengal A. K. Fazlul Huq was adopted on 23 March 1940, and its principles formed the foundation for Pakistan’s first constitution.

The formalisation of the demand in 1940 led to a huge surge in the Muslim population supporting the Muslim League and by extension, supporting the demand for a separate Islamic State called Pakistan, which would be carved out of India. It is thus intriguing when several apologists claim that most Muslims stayed back in India out of choice and that most Muslims at the time did not want a separate Islamic state. There can be no denying that there was opposition even from the Muslims at the time to the idea of a separate state, however, political statements and what counts during voting are two rather separate concepts.

If Muslims wanted a separate Islamic State and voted overwhelmingly in its favour, why did so many Muslims stay back?

The obvious argument that is presented, sans facts, to counter the overwhelming support for the creation of Pakistan is that if most Muslims at the time supported the two-nation theory, then why did so many Muslims stay back. And if they indeed did stay back, it only means that they rejected the two-nation theory.

To understand the complete context, we will need to travel back in history a little.

After partition, several leaders were in support of the full exchange of population, including leaders like BR Ambedkar. In his book on Partition, Ambedkar clearly outlines how and why he was in favour of a full population exchange between India and Pakistan, which would essentially mean that all Hindus and other religious factions other than Muslims would come back to India and all Muslims from India would go to Pakistan. In fact, he had even written a basic framework on how the issues arising out of full population exchange could be dealt with.

Sardar Patel had, even after the partition spoken extensively about how Muslims had helped create Pakistan. His famous quote from his speech in Kolkata, 1948, bears testament to the fact. He had said, “Most of the Muslims who have stayed back in Hindustan, helped in creating Pakistan. Now, I don’t understand what has changed in one night that they are asking us not to doubt their loyalty”.

Further, one has to remember that the demand for full population exchange was supported by several stalwarts at the time. A report in Sunday Guardian says, “Dr Mookerjee, accompanied by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, went to plead with Gandhi for agreeing to Jinnah’s proposal for an exchange of population, the old man’s flat reply was that partition was on a territorial basis and not on religious grounds. Hence, no question of exchanging Hindus from Pakistan with Muslims from India. This was when the division was exclusively on the criterion of religion, Hindu and Muslim”.

Further, After the partition, which was squarely based on religious lines owing to the demands of Jinnah, widespread riots had broken out in India and the newly formed Pakistan. The non-Muslim citizenry who were in Pakistan started making their way to India and the Muslim citizens in India started making their way to Pakistan. The migration is well documented and proven.

In 1950, an accord was signed between Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan where each side pledged to secure its minorities and give equality of citizenship regardless of religion. Both sides promised to help recover looted property, assist in the recovery of abducted women and not recognise conversions made during communal disturbances.

Essentially, Jawaharlal Nehru scuttled the de facto population exchange with the 1950 Accord. After the Accord was signed, Muslims, who had left West Bengal, returned and Nehru ensured that their property was restored to them. However, the travesties heaped on the Hindus continue to this day, unabated in Islamic Nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Quoting a report from Daily Pioneer:

Syama Prasad Mukherjee resigned from the Cabinet on April 1, 1950, in protest against Nehru’s failure to take Pakistan to task for the continued suffering of his people. At a Cabinet meeting the same day, Mukherjee said, “What do you care for us Bengali Hindus? What do you care for the criminal assaults on our women?” (Soundings in Modern South Asian History, ed. DA Low) Enraged at the renewed exodus of Hindus, which he viewed as deliberate, he suggested an exchange of populations, which Nehru rejected vehemently.

Nehru, in his communication to the then West Bengal Chief Minister, had further said (as quoted in the DailyPioneer report):

“I have been quite certain right from the beginning that everything should be done to prevent Hindus in east Bengal from migrating to West Bengal…I think the Hindu leaders of East Bengal, who have come away, have done no service to their people. If as you suggest things have gone too far already, then naturally, we shall all do what we can but I shudder at the prospect and the magnitude of the human misery that will come in its train. To the last, I shall try to check migration even if there is war”.

Jawaharlal Nehru was thus, quite vehemently against population exchange and was, in fact, willing to fight a war to ensure that persecuted Hindus are not allowed to migrate back to India.

At the time of widespread riots, even those who wanted to make their way to Pakistan largely could not. And since the State, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and even MK Gandhi was vehemently against population exchange, there was hardly any facilitation for Muslims to travel to Pakistan after the accord was signed.

The Bihar conundrum

A strange argument that was furthered in the Huffington Post article also cited Bihar as an example saying that the drop in population in Bihar was a mere 2% between 1941 and 1951. Citing this example, the author says that this could not be called a “mass exodus” and hence, even if all the people who voted for the creation of Pakistan left, it stands to prove that those who stayed back did not essentially agree with the decision.

This argument would be rather hilarious if weren’t so woefully uninformed.

The interesting assumption made by the author here is that at the time, it was a free flow of people between Pakistan and India. Much like now, people could simply book their tickets via trains or flights and simply shift to the country of their preference at will. And hence, the ones who stayed back did stay back because they chose to be here. It simply assumes that it was a conscious decision. What the article does not specify, is that from zero seats in 1937, the Muslim League won 34 out of 40 seats in Bihar in 1946 after the political demand for Pakistan was formalised.

The fact remains that complete exchange of population, as discussed earlier in this article, was not exactly a proposition that was supported by the two people who were in the position to make most such decisions at the time – Jawaharlal Nehru and MK Gandhi. In fact, Nehru and Gandhi were explicitly against the idea even at the insistence of stalwarts like Ambedkar. By 1950, the Pact was signed and thus, there was hardly any facility that was actively provided by the state for a population exchange. Add to that, widespread riots had also broken out in the countries.

Perhaps the reason that far more Muslims managed to make their way from Punjab to Pakistan as compared to Bihar is the greatest proof of the logistical nightmare that people who wanted to travel to the ‘other country’ faced. Therefore, to simply assume that Muslims stayed back in India at will, is a fallacy that has long been propagated by malicious elements such as the author of the Huffington Post article.

The argument of suffrage: ‘Those who voted for Pakistan did not represent Indian Muslims’

When facts presented are overwhelming, the intelligentsia that wishes to defend the indefensible often resorts to a strawman argument. One of those arguments were made in the Huffington Post by one Rupa Subramanya. The argument made essentially said that “1946 elections, based on the Sixth Schedule of the1935 Government of India Act, had a limited franchise, which means that only a small percentage of adults—those with money and property—were eligible to vote”.

Essentially, the argument depends on the principles of suffrage saying that since only a percentage of people had the right to vote, the overwhelming support for the creation of Pakistan was not representative of the common Muslim sentiment. In fact, it goes a step further to quote “anecdotal evidence” to counter the actual evidence. The article says, “Anecdotally, there are many stories of upper-middle-class and upper-class Indian Muslims, including erstwhile princes, who decamped for Pakistan in 1947 to land up in senior positions in the government, military, and corporate sectors. Such people, whom one might charitably call carpetbaggers, voted with their feet and chose Pakistan”.

Depending on “anecdotal evidence” to counter numbers is a straw man that is often used by those who wish to lodge their names in the Liberal roster. However, the straw man argument itself, when extended, hardly represents the truth.

To provide further “proof” of this strawman argument, Rupa in Huffington Post extends the argument to Nehru and Congress. She says that Nehru himself was an elitist and hence, did not represent the entire Indian community due to limited suffrage. In fact, she even blames the new age critics of Congress and therefore, Nehru saying that most of the new age critics essentially say that they were elitist and did not represent the interest of wishes of The Hindu community at large back then, and if that argument holds true, it also has to be true that the Muslim League did not represent to wishes of the Muslim population for the same reasons (limited suffrage).

This argument is deeply flawed, to say the least. If one extends the limited suffrage argument, then one will have to almost concede that there was no freedom struggle in India, to begin with, or that at least the struggle may not have had the consensus of the masses. The struggle itself was not put to vote and certainly, did not take the collective consensus of the masses by any electoral method. Is that to say that the freedom struggle had no universal acceptance?

Further, the argument being extended to Congress is also deeply flawed. Even the staunchest critics of Congress do not say that they did not have popular consensus or were acting in a manner that did not have the will of the people included. The criticism has always revolved around how the people, Hindus specifically, were misled by Congress and by extension, by Nehru into believing principles that were against the very basics of Hinduism or even what India was meant to stand for. That the interests of Hindus were compromised is a fact. But it is also a fact that Hindus did support Congress. The criticism is about how the people were fooled by him to toe their line to their own detriment.

Talking about Nehru in isolation to say that Nehru did not have consensus of the people, for the purpose of this argument is flawed too. While Nehru certainly needed the help of MK Gandhi to be catapulted to his political position, it also needs to be understood that at the time, it was not a presidential election that would hinge on the personality himself. It was about the idea that was being presented by the party – Congress, and the idea being presented by the Muslim League. That we criticise those very ideas and how the leaders of Congress fooled the people at the time is a separate debate, however, one cannot possibly argue that the consensus at the time was not with Congress by any means.

This strawman argument can be extended to suit ones narrative as much as one wants. For example, in today’s day and age, this same argument is used to discredit the election of PM Narendra Modi even when universal suffrage is granted. Often, one hears Leftists say that PM Modi was only elected by 33% of the population and hence, he is not the representative voice of the people.

This argument truly has no end. However, even at the time of limited suffrage, the limited voting rights given to Muslims were the exact same limited rights given to Hindus. However, it was not the Hindus demanding a separate state or even asking for separate electoral rights for Hindus and Muslims during the time.

It was Pocker Sahib Bahadur, Muslim member from Madras who had moved the following amendment after the partition of India: “That on a consideration of the report of the Advisory Committee on minorities, fundamental right etc., on minority rights this meeting of the Constituent Assembly resolves that all elections to the Central and Provincial Legislatures should, as far as Muslims are concerned, be held on the basis of separate electorates”.

Sardar Patel at the time had given a scathing speech that decimated the premise of this. He repeatedly argued that it was the Muslims who spearheaded the demand for Pakistan and now that they got their demand, they want to divide India on the basis of religion. Patel made remarks questioning the forked tongue of the Muslims at the time too, saying that sweet words will not compensate for actions.

While this proposition was rejected after a heated debate in the constituent assembly, it was, in fact, a widely popular suggestion in the Muslim community and Patel’s remarks during the debate also stand testament to that fact.

The existence and formation of IUML proves that the Muslims who stayed back in India had no special allegiance towards India

Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which claims to be born after Indian Independence in 1948, is actually an off-shoot of Pakistan founder and Islamist Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s All India Muslim League (AIML). The All India Muslim League was succeeded by the Muslim League in Pakistan and the Indian Union Muslim League in India. In its website, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) claims that its motto is secularism and communal harmony but has often openly indulged in carrying out those objectives which are contrary to its own motto.

The Muslim League had strongly advocated for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state, Pakistan successfully led to the partition of British India in 1947 by the British Empire. The birth of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in December 1947 was a part of that intention to keep these spirit of the All India Muslim League.

Muhammad Ismail, the first President of the Indian Union Muslim League after it split up from the Jinnah’s Muslim League, had actively participated in the partition movement of the country and was an ardent supporter of the creation of Pakistan. Interestingly, Muhammad Ismail, who claimed IUML was a secular outfit had, in fact, supported the retaining of Sharia law for Indian Muslims in the Constituent Assembly after India’s independence.

Mohammad Ismail, the founder President of IUML, the first political party of Muslims in the new state of India even bargained with Congress to “recognise the League as the sole representative of Muslims”, similar to the policies of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had always asserted he and his party AIML was the sole representative of the Muslims in undivided India.

In fact, it is widely accepted that IUML was formed on the advice of Jinnah just before he left the country post partition. According to historians, Jinnah had even said that “There must be a Muslim league in Hindustan”. The AIML had also observed that the protection of minorities in India depended upon the strength of Pakistan and had promised that they “would do all to protect them”.

Essentially, while the Muslims who could travel to Pakistan went to the “promised land of the pure” and the ones who did not, reposed their faith largely in IUML and allied organisations that essentially were created to ensure that Jinnah’s vision in India was preserved.

How then can it be argued that those who stayed back in India post-partition did so by some lofty idea of allegiance to India and the Indian ethos? How then can it be said, time and time again, that the Muslims who stayed back in India at the time rejected the concept of the two-nation theory?


Every factual argument and statistic points to the fact that Muslims who stayed back in India, did not primarily do so out of their innate love for mother India. At least a vast majority of them did not. There are exceptions, however, those exceptions cannot be used to make generic arguments.

The ones who further this strawman argument essentially aim to tell the world that the Muslims who stayed back in India are not as “radical” as the ones who chose to move to Pakistan or even fought for the creation of an Islamic nation. Even if we keep all the historical evidence aside, how would the proponents of this theory explain the exponential rise in radicalism and the unwavering faith in the ideology of Jinnah amongst the Indian Muslims?

One cannot argue that radical Islam and the propensity towards Jinnah has only increased over the years. One recalls the Jinnah Waali Azadi slogans and the calls to break India up yet again. One also remembers the ruckus that was created over one portrait of Jinnah in AMU. And if that is not enough, one recalls the innumerable riots that were initiated by Muslims against the Hindu majority of India.

Essentially, if Muslims who stayed back in India and their current off-springs were genuinely so connected to the ethos of India and its Hindu majority, one will have to logically explain the rise in radicalism that India has seen. This explanation will also have to be plausible and not depend on strawman arguments like the ones in the Huffington Post and other emotional outbursts that form the basis of the propaganda by Islamists and their allies.

Nobody denies the existence of good Muslims. Nobody can ever say with certainty that there are no Muslims in India who still pledge allegiance to the sacred soil of India. Who genuinely embrace Hindu ethos while being Muslims. After all, we have had stalwarts like Dr APJ Kalam and KK Mohammad, who was an integral part of Hindus reclaiming their Ram Mandir legally. However, exceptions are just that – exceptions. They cannot be used to discredit the norm. Facts cannot be brushed under the carpet with emotional wails and the truth cannot be buried with strawman arguments – not forever, anyway, and certainly not with the sole purpose of making Hindus feel perennially guilty.

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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