-Prof. DD Pattanaik
Gandhiji had inaugurated the Khilafat-Non-cooperation
movement on August 1, 1920 from Bombay
Khilafat movement is watershed in modern Indian history with far-reaching consequences so much so that it became the potential trendsetter of distorted secular agenda detrimental to veritable Indian genius.
In the year 1918 World War I came to a close. The vanquished Turkey, like Germany, was imposed peace term by victorious Great Britain. As a measure, the Khalifa, the religious head of the Muslims, was dethroned from his extra-constitutional peak position. He was supposed to have occupied space next after the Prophet mandated by the theological tradition to turn the whole world as ‘darul Islam’ even launching ‘jehad’ if needed. He used to exert phenomenal influence over erstwhile Ottoman Empire centred in Turkey.
PFI: Chronology of Violence
The Union Home Minister had sought information from all states about cases registered against PFI activists from November 2016 to November 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and other cases on December 4, 2019.
- 2 PFI leaders, Animul Haque, PFI state president, and Muzamil Haque were arrested for violent anti-CAA protests in Assam. The State government said PFI with more than 20,000 members is active in 22 of 33 districts. PFI members tried to damage the Assam secretariat on December 12
- The UP Police arrested 108 activists of PFI across 13 districts recently. In December 2019, police arrested 25 PFI members for violent anti-CAA protests. The police said PFI was getting funded from West Asia and its parent body in Kerala
- Rajasthan Police had filed six cases against members of PFI between November 2016 and November 2019
- Kerala tops the list States which registered cases against the radical Islamist outfit. Between November 2016 and November 2019, Kerala Police had filed 104 cases. A majority of cases were filed for stoking communal tension, violent clashes, attempt to murder, provocative sloganeering, possession of arms, illegal assembly, sedition and murder
- ABVP activist Shyama Prasad was murdered in Kommeri in Kannur. In 2018 June, Abhimanyu, a SFI leader, was stabbed to death. In 2019 July, a Congress worker, P Noushad, was stabbed to death in Chavakkad near Thrissur and six PFI workers were arrested
- In Tamil Nadu, PFI men allegedly killed a man in Thanjavur district for opposing their religious propaganda in August 2019
- Though PFI is active in Bengal no cases were registered against it between 2016 and 2019
To the Muslims, the stamp of religion and pan-Islamism were indelibly marked on the ‘khalifa’ factor. The Indian Muslims were no exception to it. All over the country, they became resilient to swing back and forth between pan-Islamism and native political appeals. PC Bamford analyses the then Islamic sentiment thus: “The only Muslim power which could deal with those of Europe then as equal was Turkey, and pan-Islamism everywhere inculcated the doctrine that Turkey should be strengthened and supported; and thus the Indian Muslims were easily swept by the pan-Islamic tide; and the doctrine of ‘Khilafat’ (literally means protest) found a hearing in India”. Large part of the Muslims did not know what ‘khilafat’ was. They simply comprehended it as something by which Islam was in danger. With the introduction of khilafat question in Indian politics, conscious Muslims became acute religious fanatics. The ‘Ulemas’ (the Muslim theological scholars) occupied the pivotal position.
In the words of Prof. Balraj Madhok, appeasement of Muslims as a community which had begun with Lucknow Pact of 1916 as a matter of temporary strategy became part of the Congress creed. He further views that the “anglicised Congress” began to play the game of the British when they accepted the British view that Indian was not a nation, and Hindus were just a religious community at par with the Muslim community, and that new Indian tnation could be constructed only on the basis of bargain and settlement with the Muslims of India.
Mahatma Gandhi appeased the Muslims reciting Quran in Hindu religious congregations. His favourite song was “Ishavara Allah tera naam....” which was recited only by the Hindus with few exceptions of Muslims. Gandhiji observed, "To the Muslims Swaraj means, as it must, India’s ability to deal with the Khilafat question. It is impossible not to sympathise with this attitude.....I would gladly ask for the postponement of the Swaraj activity if we could advance the interest of the Khilafat”. He further declared that Hindu Muslim unity was of an utmost imperative than the achievement of Swaraj.
Mahatma Gandhi was made the President of All India Khilafat Congress at Madras in 1919. When the Lucknow Pact was materialised in 1916 Lokmanya Tilak was confident of persuading and keep in the fold the Muslim leadership in the national mainstream. But the situation was reversed by 1920. Gandhiji involved the Syed Brothers (Mahammed Ali and Saukat Ali) of Bombay who were rank ‘jehadis’. It is evident that they approached the Amir (King) of Afganistan to invade India under the banner of Khilafat. When the Syed Brothers were arrested Gandhiji appealed to the Muslims that they were Muslims first and everything else thereafter. This kind of scenario obviously created an atmosphere by which pan-Islamism supplanted the cause of Indian nationalism.
Gandhiji dismissed the Moplah incident as well as the assassination of Swami Shraddhananda in 1926 by Abdul Rashid as mere expressions of religious commitment
Gandhiji had inaugurated the Khilafat-Non-cooperation movement on August 1, 1920 from Bombay—on which day Lokmanya Tilak passed away. Gandhiji lifted the casket of Tilak’s mortal remains symbolising passing away of one era and ushering another era. Khilafat-Non-cooperation resolution was passed in the Congress session at Calcutta in September 192O, and received seal of approval in its annual session at Nagpur in December 1920; where Dr Hedgewar acted as a successful co-organiser. Dr Hedgewar, albeit a junior figure at time, ventured to query Gandhiji if intermingling of the Khilafat factor with the nationalist movement would encourage the communal passion of the Muslims, Gandhiji did not appreciate this kind of apprehension. But the subsequent events vindicated Dr Hedgewar’s contention to the extent of cent per cent.
In spite of the call of non-violence of Gandhiji, the Moplah carnage broke out in 1921 whereby 15,000 Hindus were killed, and 20,000 were converted beside plundering of property worth 3 crores. Explaining the genesis of the Moplah rebellion, a Confidential Report of the British Government read, “The Moplah rebellion broke out in August 1921 after the Khilafat agitation including Abul Kalam Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan had been making violent speeches. Ever since the Majlis-Ulema Conference was held in April, the feelings of the Moplahs had been steadily strong with respect to Khilafat, while the non-cooperation movement was receding more and more into background”. Historians of all shades do concede that Moplah episode was direct fall out of the Khilafat agitation.
The non-cooperation movement was suspended following the Chauri Chara incident of 4 February 1922 in order to uphold the creed of nonviolence. But the Muslims felt that their cause was deceived, and they went berserk in largely Muslim populated areas. The Simon Commission estimated as many as 27 major communal riots in between 1922 and 1927. But they were not to be interpreted as Hindu Muslim encounters; but it would be befitting to contemplate the clashes of nationalist and extra-nationalist forces.
Ironically by 1922, the Khilafat Movement eroded in international level including Turkey where from it had ignited. But the Syed Brothers approached the King of Saudi Arabia Abdul Azecbin to assume the seat of Khalifa. Interestingly the King instead of accepting the offer, admonished the Brothers if they were acting as British agents!
Gandhiji dismissed the Moplah incident as well as the assassination of Swami Shraddhananda in 1926 by Abdul Rashid as mere expressions of religious commitment. But Rabindra Nath Tagore reacted otherwise. In an interrogation to a Bengali paper in 1924 he said, “I have very frankly asked many Mohammedans whether in the event of any Mohammedan power invading India, they would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. But I could not be satisfied with the reply from them”.
He was the same Mahammed Ali who stepped down from the presidential podium of the Congress session at Kakinada in 1923 when Pandit Pulaskar started reciting ‘Vande Mataram....”. Mahammed Ali stated at Aligarh and Ajmer in 1924 and at Lucknow in 1925 that even a notorious Muslim embedded to Sheriat was better than Mahatma Gandhi. But ironically Mahatma Gandhi after being released from jail in 1924 undertook 21 days atonement fasting at the residence of Mohammed Ali and that too to restore communal peace! Two aspects of Congress politics became clearly exposed with the recession of the Khilafat cause, viz., considerable power of the Muslims over Gandhiji and Congress, and then ascendancy within the Muslim bloc of the ‘jehadi’ elements. In order to assuage the Muslim feeling Syed Abdulla Brelvi, the editor of Bombay Chronicle, founded one Congress Muslim Party within the shade of Congress. But the Ali Brothers and their followers opposed it lest the Muslim leadership would fall apart from their narrative.
Lord Minto had stated in 1906 that the Muslims were the ‘suo rani’ (favourite wife) of the British. With increasing support of Mahatma Gandhi in particular and the Congress, in general, the Muslim leadership was emboldened in the bargaining table; and it sought it in 1932 in the form of Communal Award, a crude extension of the provision of Separate Electorate of 1909. Finally, Gandhiji’s hope to bring about Muslim goodwill towards freedom struggle did not gain momentum; rather it buttressed the ‘jehadi’ elements on one hand; and taught lesson to the Congress politics that they must appease the Muslims every here and then which produced a kind of secularism eating into the vitals of Indiana nationalism. It directly caused the demand of Pakistan and it was materialised. But the phobia of Khilafat continued unabated in post-independence India that every measure of the political processing must take care of the feeling of the Muslims—reads ‘jehadis’. ‘Sahinbagh demonstration’ (2020) is the latest demonstration and more significantly it earned the support of certain political parties embedded to pseudo-secularism.
Well, to conclude the discourse—Bipin Chandra Pal, Annie Besant, Madan Mohan Malavia and the entire spectrum of nationalist forces opposed the Khilafat movement in India. Sri Aurobindo Ghose from Pondicherry termed the Congress in 1922 as UnIndian Unnational; Congress. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was a nationalist then, opposing it stated, “How does it matter to us if Khalifa is removed from his seat ?”
The Khilafat movement ended the Tilak era engaged in discovering the pristine past of India with a rejuvenated spirit sprouted since mid-nineteenth century renaissance particularly with Bankim-Dayananda-Vivekananda thought structure; and it was replaced by Gandhian era which paid the least attention to identify Indian nationhood and vainly buttressed a manufactured scheme to bring about Hindu Muslim unity with no crystal objective. Let us envision the paradigm shift: the Swadeshi Movement 1905 tried to reinforce the Indian identity emerging out of pristine past, whereas the Khilafat Movement ventured to reinforce the composite culture theory, multinationalism and Islamic cognisance to construct a new India.
The Swadeshi Movement 1905 tried to reinforce the Indian identity emerging out of pristine past, whereas the Khilafat Movement ventured to reinforce the composite culture theory
But the net result was that those who used to oppose the Khilafat cause were sidelined and marginalised from the mainstream of the nationalist movement led by Mahatma Gandhi which cost the nation too much. Khilafat agitation no doubt failed; but it manufactured a new narrative of Indian politics where ancient Indian ideals were pushed behind and a new India was imagined keeping the medieval invaders at high esteem. Tarik Fateh calls it absurd, and this absurdity is an Indian breed of secularism unparalleled in global perspective. It gave rise to a false notion that the Indian Constitution centred around secularism, and secularism (tilted towards the jehadis) constitutes the foundation pillar of Indian nationalism. The left-liberal nexus gave credence to this aberration as a doctrine and masquerading themselves as scholars of scientific reasoning.
The legacy of Khilafat is yet alive evident that the Indian Muslims ransacked in October 2020 when the French President Immanuel Macron launched an onslaught on the Islamist terrorists in spite of the fact that France is a friendly country of India confirming the constitutional provision restricting the provision of right to express under Article 19. Further, it is noteworthy that the ghost of pan-Islamism is yet testing Indian nationalism when the 57-Member strong Organisation of Islamic Cooperation passed a resolution on 29 November 2020 ridiculing abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Trial by impartial tribunal of history would vindicate veritable Indian position.
(The writer is a Member of Indian Council of Social Science Research)