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Muslim Politics

Shri Prakash

By Uma Kaura
Manohar Books,New Delhi, 1977, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

This book is one among a number of recent publications dealing with various aspects of the origin and development of Muslim communal politics during the national movement. Many of these—for example, Sheila Sen’s work on Bengal, A.K. Gupta’s book on the N.W.F.P and Francis Robinson’s work on the growth of Muslim separatism in the United Provinces—deal not only with specific periods but only with given regions. Since Kaura sets out to explain ‘the emergence of the demand for India’s partition’ as such, one expects her to put forward a generalized conceptual framework that can demonstrate the in­evitability of the actual course of events rather than merely record their details. Before launching into any discursive comments, one has to reconstruct from the different chapters the author's expla­nation for the reasons that gave rise to the demand for Pakistan. Kaura locates the genesis of Muslim communal politics in the fact that, in contrast to Punjab and U.P., where Muslims in comparison to their share in the population had a disproportionately large share of landed property, facilities for education and government jobs, in Bengal, ‘they were backward both economically and educa­tionally.’ This fact was represented by the Hunter Commission as an index of the general state of Indian Muslims, and later used by the Muslim elite of U.P. ‘to wring concessions from the govern­ment’, as well as to appeal for ‘their community to keep aloof from the Cong­ress.’ Sir Syed’s vehement opposition to ‘the attempts at democratization by the Congress’ was rooted in his social posi­tion as a member of the Muslim aristocracy who wanted to ‘preserve their own privileged status as a minority.’ It was only by the beginning of the twentieth century that ‘there was a growing realization among the Muslims that they had to have a political realiza­tion of their own.’ The social reasons for this are virtually impossible to make out from Kaura’s book. She simply asserts that, in spite of ‘professed loya­lty’ to the British, and ‘their strong dislike for the Swadeshi movement’, the Muslims, ‘ever since the death of Sir Syed, were not as critical of the Congress as they used to be before.’ Not only this, ‘the younger generation of Muslims had even started thinking in terms of throwing in their lot with the ...

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