This post apart from discussing the myth of a Hindu majority shall also be a succinct critique of the two-nation theory.
The concept of Hindu Majority is a myth or in other words a fiction carefully constructed by a few upper caste Hindus especially Brahmins to belittle Muslims and to maintain their dominance & hegemony over the vast majority of Indians (whom they refer as Shudras in their holy texts). Unfortunately, Muslims hardly tried to understand & deconstruct this notion despite several attempts by many lower caste leaders like Dr. Ambedkar and Jogendra Mandal in the past.
Before the establishment of the Muslim rule in portions of India, India used to consist of (and still consists of) thousands of tribes/castes who had no interpersonal relationships amongst them and they still strictly maintain that distinction with few exceptions. They didn’t intermarry or dine with each other and still follow that rule quite diligently. Few upper castes (self-declared) used to call themselves Dwija (twice borns or pure-blooded) brutally ruled the subcontinent and made the life of non-Dwijas (Bahujans) akin to hell. They used to treat all others as impure & untouchables and refer to all of them as Shudra/Mallechha. Theirs was a rule of discrimination injustice, oppression and tyranny. Many Lower/Backward caste intellectuals have opined that these so-called Hindu upper castes are actually Aryans who came from outside India and subdued them thousands of years ago. In terms of their numbers, upper castes constitute only 10-15% of the Indian population while the majority of Indians belong to the Shudra category (now categorized as OBC, SC, ST, etc in the constitution). These groups also refer themselves as the ‘Bahujan‘ (means majority)
Noted historian Romila Thapar in her book ‘Syndicate Hinduism’ has written that Muslim rulers clubbed all castes & tribes of India as ‘Hindus’ (regardless of their socio-economic status) for the sake of administrative convenience and in doing so probably made a big mistake. Things would be different today had those Muslim rulers apart from ousting the upper castes as rulers of India would have also proactively portrayed themselves as the savior of lower & oppressed castes (which was their Islamic duty) from the tyranny of upper castes and had sincerely tried to assimilate them within the egalitarian Islamic fold.
Initially, the upper castes didn’t like being clubbed together with lower castes as ‘Hindus’ by Muslims but later they tried to leverage/use this to their advantage and against Muslims during the British rule. Since Hindu upper-caste were numerically so small, far lesser than even Muslims who made 35-40% of the population of the subcontinent, these Upper castes started using the Hindu rhetoric to appear bigger and massive in terms of numbers. And over a period of time, they were able to cleverly construct a binary notion of Hindu Majority and Muslim minority. Unfortunately, some influential Muslims never tried to break this fictional notion of Hindu majority and instead hastily opted for the Pakistan route on some communal provocations by the upper-caste Hindus during the British rule. Muslims could have easily debunked this myth by reaching out to the vast majority of backward castes who were socially & occupationally much closer to them than to the upper-caste Hindus. But Muslims (unlike Hindu upper castes) hardly tired to cajole or convince this vast community to their side even when they both were socio-occupationally on same footings and the latter were in open revolt against the upper-caste Hindus in various capacities under their leaders like Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, etc.
Even today, as far as India is concerned, there are often social & political alliances between the Muslims and these Bahujans. Hindu Upper Caste dominated Political Parties like Congress & BJP have won elections only by excessive propaganda of nationalism, Islamophobia, Pakistan-China threat, etc. Unfortunately, backward/lower-caste headed political parties of India like BSP, NCP, VBA, RLD, SP, JDU, RJD, etc or Political parties headed by Muslims like Peace Party, AIMIM, NC, PDP, AIUDF, IUML, etc don’t have any effective solutions to these purely Brahmanical rhetorics except caste-based mobilization and fake nationalist appeal and therefore, they lose to Brahmanical forces even after coming to power. Their moral, discursive, dialectal, ideological and spiritual corruption is also responsible to an extent for their failures. But things would be different were there no partition or Pakistan. In that scenario, Muslims together with the Bahujans could have easily countered/overcome the Hindu upper-caste propaganda and would be running the affairs of the whole of the subcontinent for their empowerment & advantage and they would not be a hostage to the upper caste whims and their worthless pursuits.
Therefore, Muslims who blindly went by the Two nation theory were probably restless, impatient and schizophrenic and were in a hurry to carve out a Muslim polity in the sub-continent by all means and at all costs. But the Muslims who wanted a united India were thinking in terms of the long term consequences of British withdrawal. They probably knew that Congress and the Hindu upper castes’ dominance/influence over India can be overcome within years by the Muslim-Bahujan electoral alliances.
Dr. Ambedkar in fact considered Muslims a potential ally for a long time. He thought that if Muslims and Bahujans were to act jointly, they could balance the political clout of upper-caste Hindus. He was, however, disappointed and disillusioned at the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940 that put forth the demand for a separate Muslim state. He thought that if the Muslim League succeeded in gaining Pakistan, it would drastically undermine the clout of Muslims in Indian politics and give upper-caste Hindus a free hand in running the country. Influential Muslim League elites or Jinnah hardly paid heed to such considerations though they helped and supported Ambedkar in getting elected to the constituent assembly.
Even after the creation of Pakistan, the remaining Muslims of India and a majority of lower caste intellectuals have been trying to achieve that sort of unity amongst them. They have been successful also to an extent on many occasions in uprooting Hindu upper-caste based governments from various big states of India such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, etc. And quite recently, a lower-caste tribal party JMM won the Assembly elections in Jharkhand and ousted/defeated the ruling BJP using the formula of Muslim-Bahujan alliance against the Hindu upper castes.
The problem with the Two nation theory is that it is based on myths and fiction of the Hindu majority that never existed. If those Muslims had been more deliberative and patient they would be having the whole of Hindustan at their disposal and not just moth-eaten Pakistan and Bangladesh. Also, I believe Muslims are engrained in all towns and cities and most villages of India. So it is impossible to segregate them from non-Muslims into a different nation altogether. The better approach is that Muslims intellectuals & influencers sincerely turn back to the great Islamic ideals and try to assimilate the non-Muslims into their fold and have the whole of the nation for themselves rather than going for unnecessary divisions and discords. Islam is an ideal and the most egalitarian melting pot of cultures & civilizations. It sanctions unity & assimilation and not division, especially of nations and civilizations. Holy Quran provides for a rule based on mutual consultation & agreements and not on discord. If the prevalence of Islam didn’t divide Arabia, Syria, Spain, Rome, Persia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc then why ask for a division of India in the name of Islam or Muslims? I believe any support of division or partition is tantamount to a great disservice to Islam and its sublime principles.
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).Al-Quran 49:13
Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance; And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves. The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong.Al-Quran 42:38-40
One of the advantages of the Two-nation theory is that it got some Indian Muslims at least a Muslim State in the form of Pakistan (even if small) within the confines of the Indian subcontinent. But its greater disadvantage is that it foolishly made them lose the whole of Hindustan and made a few Hindu upper castes the political masters of India.
To conclude, there is no such thing as a ‘Hindu’ Majority. It’s a pure myth/fiction first created by Muslim rulers and scholars for their administrative and religious convenience & then appropriated/usurped by a few Hindu upper castes in various forms (social, religious, legal and constitutional) during and after the British rule to terrify Muslims and provide legitimacy to their Brahmanical dominance over Bahujans or the majority/greater Indians. But the larger question lost/forgotten in the midst of all of this is if 10-15% upper-caste Hindus of the subcontinent can claim their fiefdom all over India, what has stopped the 85-90% Bahujan-Muslims from owning up the affairs of the whole of India?
And last but not least, let bygones be bygone. We should strive to correct our mistakes and not let the dead hand of the past haunt our present or influence our future negatively. Muslims (public, scholars, and leaders) on both sides of the border need to stop criticizing each other and should instead work in tandem & coordination with other oppressed classes, tribes and castes of India who make the numerical majority in order to make things better for all and to secure justice and welfare to the most deserving and needy ones living on both sides of the borders in the subcontinent. That’s not only their moral duty as a human being but also the mandate of the Holy Quran that provides-
“And why should you not fight in the cause of the Almighty and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect, and raise for us from thee one who will help!” [Holy Quran 4:75]
Things can still change to their advantage if they do a serious cost-benefit analysis keeping in mind the totality of facts and circumstances.
May justice, equity, and righteousness prevail in our majestic subcontinent. Ameen!
- Mohammad Ayyub, Lessons from Ambedkar (The Hindu)
- Muhammad Reza Kazimi, Jinnah: the man, the myth and the vision (The Dawn)
- Romila Thapar, Syndicate Hinduism
- Aditya Nigam: A Text without Author (EPW)
- D. Raja, Ambedkar’s Legacy (The Hindu)
- Anand Teltumbde, The Radical Ambedkar