Muslim Politics from Partition of Bengal to the Khilafat Movement

By the turn of the century, communal antagonism gained a great deal of momentum. Sir Syed died in 1898 and in 1900, Anthony MacDonnel (1844-1925) Lt. Governor of the U.P. (an antiMuslim mind) extended recognition to Hindi language as demanded by Hindus, undermining the position of Urdu language; this decision was condemned by the Muslim leaders, but the war against Urdu had entered a crucial phase. The Muslims were feeling much threatened and restive, their associations were now explaining to the government more zealously that the elective system did not provide them a fair chance to make progress; under the joint electorates they would be swamped by the Hindu majority; and demanded the extension of separate electorates in Councils and all local bodies. It may be noted that even in Muslim majority areas of Punjab, Hindus got themselves elected, using unfair means.

Events in the beginning of the 20th century were proving that Sir Syed’s apprehensions and reading of the Hindu mind were sound and well-founded. G.N.Curzon (1859-1925) a diehard conservative, came to India in 1898 to rule her with an iron hand; efficiency was his catchword. It was during his viceroyalty that Bengal was partitioned into two parts. Under the British, Bengal was as large as France, with a population of 78-1/2 million, nearly as populous as contemporary France and Britain combined; it included Bihar and Orissa and, until 1874, Assam. The Eastern region was notoriously under-governed; in 1892, a proposal was on the cards for the adjustment of Chittagong but was opposed by officials and Bengali leaders due to opportunistic attitudes. In February 1901, Sir Andrew Fraser (the Chief Commissioner of Central Provinces) sought the readjustments of the boundaries of Orissa; the file reached Curzon after 14 months. In 1902, Curzon had in mind to redistribute the boundaries of not only Bengal but also Bearer, the C.P. Madras, Bombay and Sind. In 1903, a plan emerged for severing the Eastern and predominantly Muslim regions of the Bengali speaking area and unifying with Assam, giving a new province with a population of 31 million, of whom 59% would be Muslims. This closely-guarded secret plan was leaked out; the new scheme was published in December 1903 and there was a hue and cry against it. The Hindu press wrote angry articles; Congress leaders like S.Banerjea, R. Tagore, N.Sen and Motilal Ghosh held demonstrations; a boycott of British goods followed. The Congress also passed a resolution condemning the partition plan. As the agitation against partition grew in force, Curzon toured Eastern Bengal to study the problem by himself on the sight.[the_ad id=”17141″]

In April 1904, Sir Andrew Fraser, Lt. Governor of Bengal wrote a note on the political aspects of partition. In December 1904, after his return from England, Curzon sent the scheme to the Secretary of State for approval; it was approved with marginal amendments and was published in July 1905, and the date for proposed adjustments was fixed as 16 October when the new province would start functioning. The new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam would have an area of 186540 sq.miles and a population of 31 million (18 m. Muslims, 12 m. Hindus); it would be consisting of Assam, Eastern and Northern Bengal, Chittagong, Dacca (Capital) and Rajshahi divisions (except 2 districts). It may be mentioned that in an undivided Bengal Muslims were lagging badly in education.

The first Governor was Sir Bampfylde Fuller who arrived when on 16 October the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam officially came into being: Fuller found him in a position of extremely difficult circumstances. Whatever might have been the reasons for the partition, the Hindus, their Press, and the Congress interpreted it as a sinister move against national unity and solidarity (vivisection of Bengali homeland), and partiality towards Muslims. Demonstrations were held; Hymns and national songs like Bande Mataram were shouted; Arya Samaj took a prominent part in preaching the Swadeshi doctrine; their preachers were touring the length and breadth of country, rousing interest in indigenous goods; Swadeshi stores were opened in many towns. Congress met under Gokhale’s leadership and held stormy proceedings condemning the partition. Poet Tagore went so far as to suggest a boycott of Calcutta University. The Hindu merchants pressurized the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to put pressure on the British Government to reverse the decision on a partition if they wished to sell their products in India. Fuller also annoyed the Hindus by his remark, that “of his two wives, the Mohammedan one was favorite”.

In the middle of Hindu agitation, Lord Minto was appointed Viceroy; John Brodrick was replaced by John Morley, for the Conservative party was defeated in the elections of 1905. Earlier Curzon had resigned due the difference of opinion with Kitchener (C-in-C in India) in which Brodrick had sided with Kitchener. Anyway, Morley’s appointment was celebrated by the Congress, hoping that he would consider their demands more wisely and sympathetically. Morley (the Liberal) was cajoled by the Hindus describing him as a man of enormous learning, a radical …. but pliable”; they admired and adhored Morley and attached high hopes that now the British Government would consider their claims patiently, wisely and sympathetically. The immediate problem which confronted the new Secretary of State and the Viceroy was the Hindu agitation on the partition of Bengal. But very sensibly, Minto in his very first letter to Morley informed him that the partition was decided after a great deal of thinking; that official opinion approved of it; that the agitation against it was due to nefarious designs; that the Muslims were satisfied; and that the Hindu agitation was settling down. Morley, therefore, made a statement that the partition was a “settled fact” and there was no question of its annulment.[the_ad id=”17142″]

The Congress leaders were thus annoyed; a wave of indignation and defiance was noticed, and a full-fledged campaign against Fuller had also been initiated. Fuller’s policies were denounced by describing them as “atrocious attitude, utterly worn headedness, unfitness to hold such a high office” and demand that Fuller be remove from Governorship. In December 1905, during the Congress session, Gokhale made some critical remarks against the Government; B.K.Ghose, B.N.Dutt and some other extremist Hindus made fiery speeches and began the terrorist movement in Bengal. R. Tagore, B.C. Paul, A. Ghose were behind the Swadeshi movement in Bengal. But soon Minto had to make some moves to appease the anti-partition leaders. As a matter of fact, the Prince of Wales (later King George V) had planned to visit India in 1906; the Viceroy did not wish that the Prince’s visit to India should be made uncomfortable. Minto, therefore, consulted S.Banerjea and Gokhale and succeeded in establishing a friendly atmosphere; it looks certain that Minto would have blamed Curzon for the partition of Bengal and might have given some hope of its annulment to the Hindu leaders. Morley also tried to win Hindu support by condemning some of Fuller’s policies. It may be mentioned that it was a rare occasion when the Government did not support the Governor of a province. Fuller threatened to resign; the Viceroy would have liked to placate the anti-partition leaders and thus without having any consideration accepted Fuller’s resignation. The agitation had paid off; the Muslims were depressed, for they were let down and sacrificed. The Muslims had been benefitted due to the partition; trade, industry, education, agriculture and other walks of life were showing signs of progress. Due to communal, jealousies, the anti-partition movement gained more momentum after Fuller’s removal. The Congress was able to get the support of some British Parliamentarians like W. Wedderburn and H.Cotton who pleaded for the reunion of Bengal in order to bring peace in India. Likewise, Ramsay MacDonald (later P.M.) and K.Hardie also visited India to help the Congress on the same issue.

The Simla Deputation (1906)

The Hindu agitation against the partition and some other factors convinced the Muslims to put in more efforts to safeguard their interests. On 20 July 1906, Morley (in the House of Commons) announced that he would consider proposals for reforms; the initiative should come from the Government of India. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 had also convinced the Muslims that the Government was planning to introduce representative Government. On 4 August 1906 Mohsin-ul-Mulk (Secretary of the Aligarh College) wrote to his Principal, W.A.J.Archbold, who was vacationing in Simla. The theme was that Archbold was requested to advise whether the Muslims should send a memorial to the Viceroy and to get his permission to receive a deputation. Minto saw this letter on 8 August and sent it to Morley; on 10 August. Archbold informed Mohsin-ul-Mulk that Minto would receive a Muslim deputation. Later Mohsin-ul-Mulk directly got in touch with Minto’s private Secretary, Col. Dunlop Smith. The draft of address was written by Maj. Bilgrami (Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk) and was approved by a meeting at Lucknow. Minto was not given an advance copy of the address – not even by 19 September (1906) and was therefore unaware of the contents.[the_ad id=”17150″]

On 1 October 1906, Minto received the Muslim deputation of 35 prominent Muslim leaders from all over India in the Ballroom of Viceregal Lodge at Simla; the delegation was led by Aga Khan (only 29 years old) who had close connections with the British. The long address was also read by the Aga Khan; it was moderate in tone claiming for Muslims a fair share in such extended representation as was now being planned for India: that the Muslim share should be calculated not merely on their numerical strength but also by reference to their political importance and the contribution they had made to the defense of the British Empire; the insufficient Muslim representation on the Bench, local bodies, higher bodies of the Universities was also brought into the Viceroy’s attention. The address proposed that a fixed proportion of Muslims on Municipal and District Boards should be elected by separate electorates; that the proportion of Muslims on provincial councils should be established with due regard to the Muslim Community’s political importance, that a proportion to be returned by an electoral College composed of Muslims only; and that a similar arrangement should be adopted for the Imperial. Legislative Council, appointment by election being preferred over the appointment by nomination. The Deputation also demanded a share in case of appointment of Indians on the Viceroy’s Executive Council and sought help for establishing a Muslim University. In the end the Deputation expressed their fellings of loyalty to the British Raj.

Muslim demands and claims were examined by the Viceroy and the British Government. Minto, in his reply, welcomed the representative character of the Deputation and sympathized with the Delegation’s views and aspirations. He agreed with the Deputationists on some points and assured that their political rights and interests would be safeguarded by him. The acceptance of the Muslim demands proved to be a turning point in the history of India. The Hindu press of Calcutta started a smear campaign against the Muslim Deputationists; even Moulana Mohammad Ali called it a “Command performance”; and some other leaders gave the impression that the Simla Deputation was engineered by the British Government so as to have a check on the Indian nationalism. But it is not fair to accept such accusations and allegations. In the first place, it may be argued (in order to counter the allegations) that there is no reason or proof to suggest that Mohsin-ul-Mulk had become a puppet in British hands. Moreover, some recent writings on this subject reveal the fact that Mohsin-ul-Milk had to take a loan (a substantial amount · 4000 Rupees) from King King and Company of Bombay. The amount was advanced to Mohsin-ul-Mulk personally, and it remained unpaid for a long period of time. Money was borrowed so as to defray the expenses for the Deputation; this loan was taken at 7% interest on the personal surety of Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk. The Nawab died on 16 October 1907. The Bankers got in touch with Aga Khan, Haji Musa Khan and Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk and gave reminders and notices that the amount must be deposited.

The Foundation of the All-India Muslim League

The Muslims had been pressing the Government to grant them the right to separate electorates, accepting the facts of life in India; politics in India was was already communal in character. As a matter of fact, under the joint electorates, the Muslims found it almost impossible to be elected on local bodies; no Muslim could become a member of the Senate under Curzon’s Indian Universities Act. It is interesting to note that even in predominantly Muslim areas of the Punjab, Hindus, were elected due to the leverage used by their moneylenders. The Viceroy (Minto) had therefore officially recognized a fact that the Indian Muslims formed a distinct political community. But the Muslims had until now no clear-cut programme for the future only short term planning was undertaken. Sir Syed had advised them to keep away from the political movements, but Hindu religious revivalism and hostility towards the Muslims led them to change their minds. The Congress also failed to allay Muslim tears; the Aga Khan had tried to convince Sir Feroz Shah Mehta that the Congress must accept the facts of life in India in order to make it attractive to the Muslims. But these efforts (and many more) were fruitless. The Hindus did not give in to these demands.[the_ad id=”17144″]

By 1906 the Muslim leaders were convinced that they must have their own political party which should protect and safeguards their rights; the Simla Deputation had strengthened their belief that a united force could have a tremendous impact on the Government policies. In pursuance of this belief, in November 1906, Nawab Salimullah of Dacca sent around a circular proposing the foundation of a political party under the name of All-India Muslim Confederacy for the protection and advancement of Muslim interests, combating the growing influence of the Congress, and encouraging Muslims of talent to enter public life. In the end, the circular requested all those who intended attending the forthcoming session of the Mohammadan Educational Conference to come prepared to discuss the scheme at a special meeting. The annual session of the Conference was held in the last week of December 1906 at Dacca. It was attended by 3000 delegates, so far the most representative gathering of Muslim India; Khwaja Salimullah’s proposal was discussed on 30 December, Syed’s ‘ban’ on political activities was lifted. The Nawab moved a resolution establishing a Muslim political party to be known as All-India Muslim League. Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk delivered the presidential address. The Central office of the League was an Aligarh and Aga Khan was elected its President. It is important to be noted that one of the resolutions passed at its very first meeting was the endorsement of the partition of Bengal and condemning the Hindu agitation for its annulment. The objectives were also clearly defined to be:

  • promoting feelings of loyalty to the British;
  • protecting and advancing the political rights and interests of Muslims and to represent their claims and demands to the Government;
  • preventing the rise of communal antagonism between Muslims and other communities.

In 1908, a London branch of the Muslim League was established by Syed Amir Ali, who had retired to England. The inaugural meeting was held in London on 6 May 1908 (at the Caxton Hall) presided over by Amir Ali and Ibn-i-Ahmad acted as Honorary Secretary; some eminent Englishmen also attended its session. This branch played a key role in presenting the Muslim case on many occasions before the British Government, meeting the Secretary of State, other authorities and member of the British Parliament whenever it became necessary. From its organization to 1910, the League held its meeting every year except 1909; the first session was held at Karachi (1907) and the League’s constitution was finally settled, fundamental objectives remained much the same as defined in December 1906. In 1908, the League met at Amritsar; Khan Bahadur Yousaf Shah was Chairman and Syed Ali Imam presided, the constitution of the League was formally adopted, and a campaign for achieving the right to separate electorates (as promised by Minto earlier) was also undertaken.

Morley-Minto Reforms

Even though the Government had accepted the principle of communal representation through separate electorates, as for the details, Morley took the plea that he needed some more time for finalizing the reform scheme. Morley was in touch with Minto and had appointed a committee to sort out the details. The matter was delayed due to some hurdles such as: proposal after proposal, amendments and various adjustments of claims and counter claims. In 1908, Morley came up with the idea of an Electoral College which was a complete negation of the Muslim demand for separate electorates to which both Minto and Morley were already committed. The Muslims, therefore, registered their protests; Sir Shafi also wrote letters to Col. D. Smith (P.S. to Minto); and the League in India and in London, under Syed Amir Ali also emphasized the need for separate electorates. Finally, Morley announced his reform scheme in the House of Commons on December 12,1908; in February a bill was presented by him in the House of Lords – and was passed after some marginal amendments. In April, the Bill was presented in the Commons, it was passed and became the Act of 1909.[the_ad id=”17151″]

The new Act enlarged the size and functions of the Imperial and provincial legislative councils; the Imperial council was now to be consisting of 60 more members (33 nominated and 27 elected). The provincial councils would have 50 members in big provinces and 30 in the smaller; the method of election was partly indirect and partly direct; and small non-official majorities were given at the provincial level but official majorities were given at the provincial level but official dominance was to continue at the Centre – it was thought to be essential. The new councils were not given any substantial authority. However, for the Muslims, the welcome change was the introduction of separate electorates. The Aga Khan and other Muslims appreciated it being an ideal solution of the communal problem. Eventually these communal electorates led to the creation of Pakistan. As expected the Congress and other Hindu organizations started a campaign against separate electorates; the Hindu Mahasabha also criticised and opposed. In 1910, the Congress session vehemently criticized separate representation for the Muslims and demanded its removal from the Act of 1909 The anti-separate electorates campaign continued until the creation of Pakistan in 1947; only once, in 1916, the Congress accepted this system of representation, in order to win Muslim support.

Muslim politics from 1906 to 1911 remained complacent, cool and unperturbed; but from 1911 to 1914 the Indian Muslims were worried and terrified. The Muslims were alienated by the Government when at the Delhi Durbar on 12 December 1911, King George V announced the annulment of the partition of Bengal. As mentioned earlier, protests against the partition were in full swing, for it was beneficial to the Muslims of Eastern Bengal, providing them considerable opportunities especially for the downtrodden. And the trouble was created by the vested interests – Hindu lawyers and the Hindu press. The Muslim cared little about the Hindu agitation, for the Government had taken a firm stand, saying on a number of occasions that the partition was a settled fact and that under no circumstances would it be revoked. The Hindu agitation, therefore, gained more momentum. Moreover, when the Act of 1909 was passed giving separate representation to the Muslims, the Hindus were enraged once again. The extremist Hindu leaders, in particular, took serious notice and did their utmost to put more pressure on the Government to cancel its decisions which according to their point of view were favoring the Muslims; some terrorist activities were also noticed. In January 1911, a Hindu member of the Imperial Legislative Council presented a resolution for the abolition of separate electorates; some Hindu leaders went so far as to criticize Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (died in 1898) for inculcating the two-nation theory. In the same year, in June (1911) John Jenkins, a member of the Viceroy’s Council. presented a proposal for the annulment of the partition of Bengal and for the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi; he suggested that these changes should be announced by the King on the occasion of the upcoming coronation Durbar at Delhi. The new Viceroy, Lord Harding, (Minto left in 1910) approved of the idea. As a follow-up, a secret plan was made and presented to the council; the plan was approved and the Viceroy got in touch with the new Secretary of State ( the Marquess of Crewe) giving him all the details. Crewe approved of the plan; the King was also informed – which pleased him.[the_ad id=”17141″]

In the meantime, the King left England in November and reached India in early December. By this time the Hindu agitation was dying out; the anti-partition leaders had given up all hopes. On 12 December 1911, the King announced (at his coronation Durbar at Delhi) that partition was annulled by a Royal proclamation. This decision put a new life in Hindus; they were excited, deeply moved, thrilled and were extremely jubilant. The cheerful Hindus now expressed their loyalty to the Raj; the Congress thanked and expressed its gratitude to the King, to Lord Harding and his Government. But for the Muslims, the annulment of the partition was sudden, startling, and a death warrant; they were now disappointed sullen and disillusioned, for the Government had been telling them that the decision on a partition would not be reconsidered. The newest situation gave Muslims the impression that the Government had bowed before the Hindus due to their terrorist activities and that the loyal attitude of Muslims and little effect on the Government. The Muslims, therefore, lost all faith in the Government and its pledges, as they had been betrayed by the British. The result was that the Government had alienated the Muslims. Khawaja Salimullah of Dacca (“the wounded soldier”) decided to retire form politics; after a great deal of frustration and depression, Nawab Salimullah died. The Nawab was convinced that the annulment of the partition of Bengal was evidence of depriving the Muslims of the benefits of the division; Viqar-ul-Mulk also protested, and Moulana Mohammad Ali also recorded his anger and bitterness later on. The theme of Muslim grievances was that the Muslims should do all they could to strengthen their political movement in order to protect their interests. The Muslim League changed its creed from loyalty to “a form of self-government suitable to India”. In the immediate aftermath of the annulment of the partition, some Muslim leaders began to think in terms of having a closer association with the Congress, now developed as a force to reckon with.

Similarly, some other developments and circumstances compelled the Muslims to have a complete overhauling of their attitude and re-orientation of their policies. The failure of the movement to establish a Muslim (Aligarh) University also provided plenty of ammunition for the Muslim resentment against the Government. The M.A.O. College was established in 1877; Sir Syed had expressed the hope that it would develop into a Muslim University in the near future. A scheme was, therefore, drawn up, and efforts began to upgrade it to the level of an affiliating University. But for the time being, it remained a dream and the scheme remained on papers only. In 1903, the Aga Khan tried to revive it during his presidential address to the Muslims Educational Conference. The Government agreed to accept the proposal in case the Muslims raised a substantial amount of 30 lakhs so as to meet the expenses; it was a huge amount to be raised by the poor Muslim community. However, efforts continued; the Aga Khan donated one lakh; old boys of Aligarh made hectic efforts. Moulana Mohammad Ali and Shoukat Ali and their press also appealed for contributions. The required amount was raised and the Government was requested to grant the charter; but in August, Raja Sahib of Mehmudabad received a letter from Harcourt Butler (Member Education, Govt. of India) saying that the proposed Muslim (Aligarh) University would not have any jurisdiction over College outside Aligarh; the Government also did not like the word Muslim University – it would be Aligarh University instead. The Muslims protested on the plea that if their University was not allowed to guide Muslim education in India, (by not affiliating) the main object of the scheme and the Aligarh movement would not materialize. Sir Shafi demanded that the movement must continue; Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain also decided to press on, accusing the Government of lack of sympathy with the Muslims. As a matter of fact, the Government feared that such an all-India Muslim highest seat of learning would propagate the pan-Islamic ideas and would become a tool of the Muslim youth; Lord Crewe had, therefore, (on this assumption) disapproved of the scheme. It may also be noted that some other influential Englishmen had also used the plea that the Muslim University would be undesirable because of its “Communal teachings”: Hindu extremist leaders had also been opposed to the demand warning the Government that the proposed institution would be propagating Pan-Islamism in the future.

The Government of India also regarded the M.A.O. College as ‘the seat of trouble. But the Muslims were annoyed as their request of a Muslim University was turned down. As for the funds of the University, Mohammad Ali tried to divert the money of the purchase of Turkish bonds; some wished to spend it on establishing more Schools and Colleges; Sahibzada Aftab Ahmed (Secretary of the Muslim Educational Conference) however rejected these ideas out of hand. He insisted that the funds must be spent on the very project, the Muslims had in mind originally, and that the Aligarh University could be raised to the status of an affiliating University with the passage of time, Moulana Azad differed with this idea; he argued that the longterm aim of the Muslims must be the promotion of pan-Islamism and blamed that the Aligarh movement had paralyzed the Indian Muslims.

Furthermore, the Government also collided with the Muslim opinion in July and August of 1913 on the issue of a religious incident, the Cawnpore mosque affair. What happened was that as a road-widening scheme, the Cawnpore municipal authority proposed to dismantle a washing place attached to the side of the mosque; it was decided to run a metalled road through Machelli Bazar. The trustees of the mosque agreed but other Muslims protested and got in touch with the Governor of the U.P., Meston. In the meantime the demolition work started; the Muslims protested but the Government took no notice, which led to the agitation and the police opened fire. In the ensuing riots at least 33 people were killed and more than 30 seriously wounded. The Muslims were deeply hurt. Raja Sahib of Mehmoodabad requested Harding to intervene. For Metson was determined to crush the Muslims. The Viceroy was also adviced by Whitehall to take notice of the agitation personally. Harding, therefore, visited Cawnpore along with Sir Ali Imam (a member of the Viceroy’s Council) ordered the release of the 106 prisoners awaiting trial. This small gesture was appreciated by the Muslims; the Muslim community of Cawnpore expressed confidence in the Viceroy’s intervention and hoped for a judicious decision. An arcade was to be built over the public road to make up for the lost accommodation. This compromise, however, infuriated the autocratic Governor and his staff; Meston did not forget this episode and tried to take revenge later on.[the_ad id=”17142″]

The Khilafat Movement in British India

Khilafat was one of the most important institutions so far as Muslims were concerned; Hazrat Abu Bakar was the first Caliph and after him Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Usman, and Hazrat Ali were appointed Caliphs. Amir Muawiyah changed the institution of Khilafat into Mulukiat (Badshahat) by nominating his son Yazid as his successor, which led to the tragedy of Karbala. However, the Umayyads were replaced by the Abbasids. After the sack of Baghdad (1258) the Khilafat passed into the hands of the Fatimid rulers of Egypt and finally to the Ottoman sultans of Turkey in the first half of the 16th century. The Mughal rulers did not recognize the Ottoman sultanate as their spiritual leaders; the Khutbah was read in their (Mughal) own name. However, with the decline of the Mughal Empire, the name of the Ottoman Caliph was mentioned in the Friday (Juma) prayers; the Sunni Muslims renewed their allegiance to the Khalifa and invoked Allah’s blessings on him. And therefore for the Indian Muslims the world Khalifa had a special significance. The Ottoman Empire was the Muslim power which had maintained a semblance of authority; the Indian Muslim looked upon it as the bastion of Islam. In the Balkan wars, Turkey was reduced in Europe to Eastern Thrace, Constantinople and the Straits. The Muslims believed that the Western powers had been involved in a war against Islam. Eminent Muslim leaders like Moulana Mohammad Ali and Moulana Zafar Ali tried to help Turkey; Zafar Ali went to Constantinople in 1912 to give some financial help. A medical mission was also despatched to Turkey under the leadership of Dr.M.A.Ansari. Some other leaders like Moulana Azad, Mushir Hussain Qidwai, Moulana Shoukat Ali, Shibli Noumani also gave support to Turkey.

Turkey had not able to recuperate the losses of the Balkan wars when the first world war began. The British declared war (4 August 1914) against the Central Powers. The British India also inevitably became involved. In November Turkey made a fateful decision deciding to fight against the Allies. With a view to neutralizing the Muslims, Sir Edward Grey (the British Foreign Secretary) promised that the status of Caliph and the Holy places of Islam would be protected. More promises were made; point twelve of Wilson’s “Fourteen points” had proclaimed that “the Turkish portions of the present Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty”. On January 1918 Lloyd George (British Prime Minister) declared that the British were not fighting the war to deprive Turkey of its capital or of the rich and renowned lands of Thrace which were predominantly Turkish in race. But the fact of the matter was that during the war, the Allies had signed four secret agreements dividing the Turkish Empire:

  • The Constantinople agreement (18 March 1915) between Britain, France, and Russia;
  • The secret Treaty of London (26 April 1915) between the same three powers;
  • The Sykes-Picot Agreement (16 May 1916) between Britain and France

The St. Jean de Mourience Agreement (17 April 1917) between Britain, France and Italy. Later on, Lloyd George and the French Prime Minister, Clemenceau gave their fullest support to the Greek Prime Minister to capture Turkish territories.[the_ad id=”17150″]

In the meantime, the Ali brothers, Moulana Azad and Moulana Zafar Ali Khan wrote articles and editorials in their press, supporting the Turkish cause; Al-Hilal, Zamindar. Comrade, and Hamdard, should be appreciated for propagating the pro-Turkish feelings. In 1915, the Muslim League and the Congress held their sessions at Bombay. A resolution was presented by Jinnah that a committee be formed to draft a scheme of reforms in collaboration with the Congress. The joint deliberations of the League and Congress resulted in the famous Lucknow Pact (to be discussed in details, later on). In 1916 linniah appreciated the Lucknow accord; he also warned the British Government against the implications of its interference with the future of the Khilafat. Jinnah also requested the Government to consider the feelings of the Indian Muslims while taking any decision against Turkey, reminding the Government that the Muslim loyalty to the Government should be appreciated. In 1918, the League held it session at Delhi; A.K.Fazl-ul-Haq, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Dr.M.A.Ansari once again urged the Government to have a soft corner for the Turks. In October 1918 Turkey was defeated by General Allenby’s armies; his tactics offered poor Turks only a choice between rout and surrender. It was within two months after the conquest of Baka, the Ottoman government sued for peace and armistice. The Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918 between Turkey and the Entente powers; the armistice with Germany followed on 11 November.

The aftermath of the peace settlement also agitated the Turkish mind and also troubled the Muslim World. Constantinople was occupied by the Allied forces; the British forces marched into Mosul, and the Supreme Allied Council authorized Greece to occupy Smyrna and the Adjacent region. The Greeks landed on 15 ay 1919; it was a blessing in disguise, for the Turks considered the Greeks a subject race and could not tolerate their superior position. It was a great challenge which acted as a powerful stimulant for the Turkish nation. At this moment the Turks were blessed by the God in the shape of a great leader Mustafa Kamal Pasha. On 19 May Kamal reached Samsun to organize the resistance movement declaring that they would not submit to foreign rule. On 22 June, at Amasya, Kamal declared that efforts would be made to protect the Territorial Integrity of the fatherland; that the Sultan’s government was incapable of carrying out its duties. On 23 June, the Ministry of Interior issued a circular that Kamal had been dismissed. Kamal Ataturk and his associates, however, continued their struggle without any fears.

These anti-Turkish developments were extremely shocking for the Indian Muslims – a matter of sadness and pain. In May 1919, Muslims in Britain urged the Government to be sympathetic to Turkey, honoring its pledges. In June, Seth Yaqub Hasan (secretary of the League’s deputation) presented a petition to the Prime Minister, dealing with issues such as the future of Constantinople, the integrity of Turkey and the issue of Khilafat. Sir Theodore Morison also helped the Muslim point of view by writing articles. The Government was not prepared to accommodate these views; all section of Muslim opinion in India were enraged. In December 1918, some leading Ulema like Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal became active and along with Hakim Ajmal and Dr. M.A. Ansari formed the All-India Khilafat Committee at Bombay, and its branches were established in all provinces; on 17 October 1919 the Committee observed the Khilafat day – a complete Hartal (strike) was observed, Muslims kept fast and offered prayers. Umar Hayat Khan Tiwana, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan, A.K.Fazlul Haq, Abdul Aziz Ansari, Hasrat Mohani and Abdul Bari became extremely active. In November 1919, the Ulema from Deoband and Farangi Mahal established Jamiat-i-Ulamai Hind holding a meeting in Amritsar in the same month. At the same, the Khilafat Conference also held its meeting at Delhi, chaired by A.K.Fazlul Haq, appealing to the Muslims to abstain from participating in the official celebrations of victory.

In the meantime, M.K.Gandhi had intervened; Gandhi, Motilal Nehru and Pandit Malaviya were present in the Khilafat Conference of 1919. The Hindu leaders wished to give a tough time to the Government and therefore advised that Indians must adopt non-cooperation and boycott during their struggle against the British. In December 1919, the Khilafat Committee and the Congress met at Amritsar. There was much fraternization between the two bodies. The Conference decided to send a deputation to the Viceroy and the British Prime Minister to present their views. The publication of the Rowlatt Bill, giving the British Indian executive a wide range of repressive powers against sedition and the Amritsar Massacre of April 1919, when General R.E.H.Dyer fired on a crowd of demonstrators killing at least 375 and wounding at least 1200, had inflammed almost all sections of Indian opinion irrespective of community. In February 1920 Gandhi formally launched a non-cooperation movement, and in June 1920, after an all-parties Hindu-Muslim Conference at Allahabad, joined with Moulana Azad, the Ali brothers, Moulana Hasrat Mohani and some others to formulate a detailed programme of non-coperation with the Government. In September 1920, the Congress met at Calcutta and formally adopted non-coperation as its creed. In July 1921 at Karachi as decided by the Khilafat committee, on 19 January 1920 a deputation under the leadership of M.A. Ansari, consisting of prominent Khilafatists and Congress leaders met the Viceroy (Lord Chelmsford). They demanded the preservation of the Turkish Empire and of the sovereignty of the Sultan as the Caliph of Muslims. The Viceroy told the delegation that he sympathized with them and was in touch with London, also pointing out the fact that the matter was before the peace conference to be decided jointly by the Allies rather than the British alone. Chelmsford reminded that the fact of the matter was that Turkey was an enemy of the British and therefore could expect little help; he, however, promised help for the deputation which was to proceed to London to lay their demands before the Government. The deputation led by Moulana Mohammad Ali left for Europe – the places also to be visited were: Hijaz, Nejd, Syria, Yemen, ‘Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq). In March 1920, the deputation presented their demands in London; Lloyd George rudely replied that all defeated states would be treated at par; the Turks must also bear the brunt and consequence of the defeat. The delegation tried their utmost to argue their case in Britain, France, and Italy but with little success and a lot of failures.[the_ad id=”17144″]

After the failure of the deputation, there was a great deal of resentment in India. On 15 May 1920, the Government published the peace terms offered to Turkey; there was a complete disintegration of Turkey. Gandhi protested; the Central Khilafat Committee held a public protest and decided to adopt noncooperation. In June 1920, a meeting of Hindus and Muslims was held at Allahabad to put pressure on the Government. In July, Azad and other Ulema issued a fatwa declaring India Darul-Harb; there were two alternatives for Muslims, Hijrat or Jihad – Hijrat (Migration) was the only alternative due to the weak conditions of Muslims. Hijrat Committees were formed in all cities, persuading Muslims to emigrate to Afghanistan. It is recorded that about 18000 Muslims left India to settle in Afghanistan. But there were plenty of problems for the refugees and for the host country. Eventually, due to a lot of hardships, looting of caravans on the way, killings and deaths due to illness, the Hijrat movement had to be given up.

On 11 August 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed between Turkey and the Allies; it deprived Turkey of all rights in Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan, transferred the Arab areas of Turkey to British and French mandate, gave some Aegean Islands to Italy and allowed Greece to administer Izmir for five years. Italy was given special rights in Anatolia and Adalia and France in Cilicia and western Kurdistan. Mecca and Medina were to be given to Sharif Husain of Mecca, an ally of the British. The sultan had become a British puppet and therefore he had signed the treaty. But the treaty was not put to effect; Mustafa Kamal Pasha (Ataturk) came to the rescue. However, in October 1920, the Khilafat deputation returned to India. Moulana Mohammad Ali pressured the Aligarh College to join in the revolt against the British; he also laid the foundation of a national University, Jamia Millia at Aligarh (later shifted to Delhi). In 1921 the movement gained further momentum; in November the Prince of Wales visited India, a complete strike was observed in Bombay. Gandhi was in touch with the Viceroy and pressurizing him by putting various demands, but the Viceroy refused to give in to these demands.

In the meantime, an incident happened which proved to be a great setback for the Khilafat movement. Of a sudden, on February 1922, a clash took place between the police and the stragglers of a procession at Chaura Chauri (a village of Gorakhpur, U.P.). The police officers opened fire and then returned to their police station. The angry mob set fire to the police station burning alive 22 constables. After consulting the Congress Committee – but not taking the Khilafat Conference into confidence – Gandhi called off the anti-Government movement. He observed a 5-day fast and made a pathetic confession of his mistakes in Young India of February 16. The grand structure of Hindu- Muslim unity which Gandhi had so assiduously built was damaged. In 1913, the Muslims had changed their policy, committing to the achievement of self-government for India, the repudiation of the policy laid down by the Aligarh school of thought. However, the Khilafat Conference and Jamiat-ul-Ulema had no choice but to accept the decision of Gandhi making the Muslims more vulnerable.

On the other hand, in July 1919 and in August (1919) Kamal and the nationalists became more powerful and demanded the resignation of the Turkish Cabinet, giving them ultimately. In October the Grand Vazir had to resign (“for reasons of health”); on 11 April 1920 the Sultan dissolved the Chamber of Deputies. On 23 April 1920, the Grand National Assembly began its session; Mustafa Kamal was elected president of the Assembly. Kamal then launched an intensive movement appealing to the national pride of the Turks and succeeded in arousing his nation. In fact, Kamal had to face five armies: Armenians in the East; the French in Cilicia; the Italians in Adalia, the Greeks in Smyrna; and the British in Constantinople. In 1920, Kemal was able to eject the French – towards Aleppo.[the_ad id=”17151″]

He also settled important problems of foreign relations by undertaking a reorientation of foreign policy. On 13 March 1921, he concluded an agreement with Italy based on economic concessions; the Italians, therefore, left Turkey. On 16 March 1921, Kemal signed a treaty with Russia, settling some boundary disputes; Soviet Russia was now a friendly nation. On 20 October 1921, Kamal struck a deal with France (the Franklin-Bouillon agreement). After securing Russian help and neutralizing the French and Italians, Kamal concentrated all his strength on defeating the Greeks. From 24 August to 10 September, the battle of Sakaria turned the tide in favour of the Turks; Greeks were driven back to the Mediterranean sea. Lloyd George (15 September) appealed to the Allies to defend the Straits; the response from France and Italy was negative. On 19 September, Harrington’s French and Italian troops discreetly withdrew. The Turks now moved closer to the British troops. But the armistice was signed at Mudanya on 11 October 1922 which represented a complete surrender to the demands of the Turkish Nationalists. Lloyd George was deeply humiliated due to his policy of encouraging Greece’s imperialist adventures in Asia Minor; a week after the Mudanya Armistice he handed in his resignation.

After the Mudanya accord, the road was paved for a comprehensive discussion of all peace problems; on 27 October 1922, invitations to a peace conference at Lausanne were sent both to the Grand National Assembly (GNA) and to the Sultan. This ill-considered action precipitated the end of Sultanate; on 1 November 1922, a long and heated discussion took place in the G.N.A; and the obvious move was to depose the Sultan and appoint his successor as Sultan-Caliph. But Kamal declared that the Sultanate should be abolished and the Caliphate alone should be conferred on Wahid-ud-Din’s successor. On 16 November the Sultan requested the Commander of the Allied forces to help him save his life; the next morning he stole out of his Palace and boarded a British warship which took him to Malta. Wahid-ud-Din toyed with the idea of going to the Hijaz and establishing himself as Caliph; but the Arab world was extremely busy, dividing itself into nationalist states and therefore did not bother about the living symbol of unity of Islam. The 26th Sultan of the House of Osman died at San Remo in 1929. On 18 November 1922, the G.N.A. proclaimed the exSultan’s cousin, Abdul Majid, Caliph with the clear instructions that his duties would be confined to spiritual matters only.[the_ad id=”17141″]

In the meantime, the peace conference opened at Lausanne on 21 November 1922; Turkey’s Chief representative was Ismet Pasha whereas Curzon was the head of the British delegation. Ismet Pasha did not accept Curzon’s dictation and therefore for two months the conference was suspended, but in April 1923 it was resumed – Curzon had been replaced. On 24 July 1923, the parties signed the Treaty of Lausanne, embodying virtually all of Turkey’s demands; it was a victory for Kamal Ataturk and his associates. Kamal’s government had been recognized internationally and Turkey had regained her independence and secured the unity of her ethnic territory and national pride restored. But at home, the new Caliph (Abdul Majid) did not hesitate to defy Kamal Ataturk and took his duties seriously. On 24 November 1923, the Aga Khan and Syed Ameer Ali (a privy councillor) wrote to Ismet Pasha urging the imminent necessity for maintaining the religious and moral solidarity of Islam by placing the Caliph-imamte on a basis which would command the confidence and esteem of the Muslim nations, and thus impart to the Turkish State unique strength and dignity. This letter was published in Turkish newspapers; Journalists responsible were arraigned before a Tribunal for high treason but were acquited on 2 January 1924. On 3 March, the G.N.A, accurately reflecting the feelings of the country voted for the deposition of Abdul Majid, the abolition of the Caliphate and the banishment from Turkey of all members of the Imperial family. A deputy (member of the G.N.A.) who had visited India and Egypt declared that a number of representative Muslim bodies in these countries had authorized him to offer the Caliphate to Mustafa Kamal Pasha. But Kamal was unmoved saying that he would not accept, for “those who were offering had no powers to execute my orders – they were subjects of a King.” Kamal later abolished religious courts; the ministry of Shariat and Auqaf was established. Ataturk had rejected the idea of Pan-Islamism by calling it a nefarious movement which not only retarded the modern secular development of Turkey but also entangled her in adventures and responsibilities that were no concern to the people of Turkey. He also held the view that Pan-Islamism had been a chronic source of friction with foreign powers.

In conclusion, the Khilafat movement failed to achieve its true objectives. As a matter of fact, this movement had little to do with India; it was not realized by the Khilafatists that their objectives were neither practicable nor wholly justifiable. Perhaps it was due to these factors, Muslim leaders like M.AJinnah (later to become the Quaid-i-Azam) Sir Wazir Hassan, Raja Sahib Mehmoodabad, Mian Fazl-i-Husain and Sir Mohammad Shafi who had been more pragmatic did not actively participate in this movement. It may also be pointed out that allegations were made by some that the Khilafat Fund had been embezzled; accusations were also made that large sums of money had been unaccounted for; the treasurer of the organization.

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