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Mainstream, VOL LI No 25, June 8, 2013

Allah Baksh: Unsung Hero of India’s Freedom Struggle

Sunday 9 June 2013, by Shamsul Islam

On May 14, 2013 was marked the 70th anni-versary of the martyrdom of one of the greatest freedom fighters of India, Allah Baksh. He lived and sacrificed his life for a free and all-inclusive India. Allah Baksh was the Premier (those days the Chief Minister was known by this designation) of Sind during the eventful days of the ‘Quit India’ Movement of 1942 as the head of the ‘Ittehad Party’ (Unity Party) which represented all sections of Sind and did not allow the Muslim League to have any foothold in that Muslim majority province. Allah Baksh and his party were not part of the Indian National Congress but when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a derogatory reference to the Indian freedom struggle and ‘Quit India’ Movement in a speech in the British Parliament, Allah Baksh renounced in protest all titles conferred by the British Government.

While announcing this renouncement he stated: “It is the cumulative result of the feeling that the British Government does not want to part with power. Mr Churchill’s speech shattered all hopes.” The British administration could not digest this dissent of Allah Baksh and he was removed from the Premier’s office by the Governor, Sir Hugh Dow, on October 10, 1942.

The fact that Nathu Ram Godse, closely associated with the Hindu Mahasabha, V.D. Savarkar and the RSS killed Gandhi on January 30, 1948 is known to all but how many of us know that Allah Baksh, a great fighter for the independence of a united India and implacable opponent of the idea of Pakistan, was murdered on May 14, 1943, in Sind by professional killers hired by the Muslim League? Allah Baksh needed to be liquidated because he was able to muster massive support of the common Muslim masses throughout India against Pakistan. Moreover, Allah Baksh, a great secularist with massive support in Sind and opposed to the formation of Pakistan, could have become the greatest stumbling block in the physical formation of Pakistan as without Sind, the ‘Islamic State’ in the west of the subcontinent could not have materialised.

It is a well-known fact that the dismissal of the Allah Baksh Government in 1942 and his murder in 1943 paved the way for the entry of the Muslim League in Sind. Many may not be familiar with the shocking fact that after the dismissal of the Allah Baksh Government in 1942 in Sind, the British Governor appointed a coalition of the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha (led by V.D. Savarkar) as the new government in Sind. In fact, the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha ran coalition governments in Bengal and NWFP also in the same period. In Sind one could see the open ganging up of the British rulers, Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha in achieving the political and physical liquidation of Allah Baksh and his kind of anti-communal politics.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of Allah Baksh against the communal and two-nation politics was when he joined hands with Muslim leaders like Mohammed Ibrahim, Hafizur Rehman, M.A. Ansari and Ishaque Sambhali in organising the lower and backward caste Muslim organisations on one platform named as Azad Muslims’ Conference (Independent Muslims’ Conference). It held its session in Delhi on April 27-30, 1940 with 1400 delegates from almost all parts of India attending it. The then British press, which was mainly pro-Muslim League, had to admit that it was the most representative gathering of Indian Muslims. This highly significant conference was presided over by Allah Baksh and passed a resolution affirming that “India would have geographical and political boundaries of an indivisible whole land and, as such, was the common whole land of all the citizens irrespective of race or religion.”

The conference also resolved that the Pakistan scheme was “impracticable and harmful to the country’s interest generally, and of Muslims in particular”. The conference called upon Muslims of India “to own equal responsibilities with other Indians for striving and making sacrifices to achieve the country’s independence”.

Muslims like Allah Baksh, who opposed the Muslim League and challenged its communal politics, had done thorough home work as is clear from the contents of the presidential address delivered by Allah Baksh at the 1940 Delhi Conference. He advanced historical facts to counter the postulates of the Muslim League and invited its leadership to respond to the ideological issues raised.

While decrying the concept of a theocratic state, he said that “it was based on a false understanding that India is inhabited by two nations, Hindu and Muslim. It is much more to the point to say that all Indian Mussalmans are proud to be Indian Nationals and they are equally proud that their spiritual level and creedal realm is Islam. As Indian nationals, Muslims and Hindus and others inhabit the land and share every inch of the motherland and all its material and cultural treasures alike according to the measure of their just and fair rights and requirements as the proud sons of the soil... It is a vicious fallacy for Hindus, Muslims and other inhabitants of India to arrogate to themselves the exclusively proprietary rights over either the whole or any particular part of India. The country as an indivisible whole and as one federated and composite unit belongs to all the inhabitants of the country alike, and is as much the inalienable and imprescriptible heritage of the Indian Muslims as of other Indians. No segregated or isolated regions, but the whole of India is the Homeland of all the Indian Muslims and no Hindu or Muslim or any other has the right to deprive them of one inch of this Homeland.”

He made it clear that communalism was the creation of ruling classes among Muslims and Hindus. “These feelings and ambitions among those who hope to constitute the ruling caste among Hindus or Muslims, as successors of the present Imperial Rulers, revive and invent excuses for popular consumption from historical or other sources, and by securing the support of groups, manoeuvre themselves into a position to play the political chess, which promises a possible prospect of success in their aim of becoming the rulers of the masses either integrally of the entire country or of a delimited region.”

He told the Muslim Leagures: “Had the imperialistic structure of society been a gua-rantee of the prosperity of the Muslim masses and had empires not carried the germs of their own decay in them, then the mighty Omaiyad, Abbasid, Sarasenic, Fatimide, Sassanic, Moghal and Turkish empires would never have crum-bled, leaving one-fifth of the human race, who live by Islamic faith, in the condition in which they find themselves today—disinterested, and destitute in the bulk. Similarly those Hindus who entertain similar dreams, and who out of tendentiously written pages of history or out of the stimulating examples of the modern imperia-lists select ingredients for the nourishment of their imperial dreams, or dreams of exploitation, imposition and domination, will be well advised to discard such ideals.” He asked the protagonists of Hindu Rashtra and Islamic Nation that if all Muslims were one nation then why were they divided in so many countries and if all Hindus were one nation why were India and Nepal two countries?

He was right in complaining to the Congress that “Indian Mussalmans have a legitimate cause of complaint against the Congress on the ground that it has not found it possible so far to confer with them [Azad Muslims] for a settlement of the communal issue”. It is true that the Congress, like the British rulers, believed that the Muslim League represented all Muslims. The Congress led by Gandhi was cold to the idea of listening and accommodating the anti-two-nation theory of the Muslims lest it offend the Muslim League. Allah Baksh in his address stoutly defended the composite Indian culture: “When they talk of Muslim culture they forget the composite culture which the impact of Hindus and Muslims has been shaping for the last 1000 years or more and in which is born a type of culture and civilisation in India in the production of which Muslims have been proud and active partners. It cannot now merely by creating artificial States be withdrawn to segregated areas. To art and literature, architecture and music, history and philosophy and to the administrative system of India, the Mussalmans have been contributing, for a thousand years, their share of coordinated, composite and syncretic culture which occupies a distinctly distinguished place in the types of civilisations which hold a prominent place in the world. It would be a disastrous loss to civilisation if it was proposed to withdraw all this to two corners of India and leave nothing behind the ruins and debris of this contribution. Such a proposal can only emanate from defeatist mentality. No, gentlemen, the whole of India is our motherland and in every possible walk of life we are co-sharers with other inhabitants of the country as brothers in the same cause, viz., the freedom of the country, and no false or defeatist sentiment can possibly persuade us to give up our proud position of being the equal sons of this great country.”

Allah Baksh, while calling upon the people to guard against communalism, declared that the goal of the anti-communal movement must be “to build up a vigorous, healthy, progressive and honoured India enjoying its well-deserved freedom”. These prophetic words of Allah Baksh hold the key to the salvation of India even today. But from people in the corridors of power to the people on the street, nobody remembers Allah Baksh nor bothers to do so.

It really needs a serious inquiry as to why political trends like the one led by Allah Baksh among Muslims got pushed into oblivion. It suited the British masters and Hindu-Muslim communalists fine. They saw India as a land of perpetual conflicts among religions, specially Hindus and Muslims. It is natural that in Pakistan Allah Baksh is treated as a pariah and an enemy of Islam. But the Indian secular state, which has the name of Sind in its National Anthem, remains totally unmindful to this legacy which stood for a secular, united and democratic India. Allah Baksh spent all his life countering the communal politics of the Muslim League and its two-nation theory. In fact he laid down his life for this cause. This great sacrifice of a Muslim leader for the freedom of the country remains unknown even today.

On the contrary it is really shocking that we have Savarkar’s picture in Parliament despite the fact that he was an ideological pal of the Muslim League; they ran coalition governments in the post-1942 period. Savarkar, who begged for mercy from British rulers and came out from the Cellular Jail only after completing one-fifth of his sentence, who championed Hindutva politics which wanted to replace the Indian Constitution with the Codes of Manu, who believed in Casteism and Racism, who organised the killing of Gandhi, has been elevated to the pantheon of great freedom fighters, but there is no place for Allah Baksh. This is only a living testimony to the communal political structure which secular India is forced to live with today. 

The author, who teaches Political Science in Satyawati College of the University of Delhi, is active in the street theatre movement in the Capital and has done extensive research in nationalism and the two-nation theory.

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