Nationality In India: Changing Patterns Of Narratives – OpEd


The notion of nationality in India is a dynamic tapestry woven from diverse cultural threads, historical legacies, and contemporary socio-political dynamics. Rooted in a rich heritage that spans millennia, India’s concept of nationality has evolved significantly over time, reflecting the complexities of its pluralistic society.

Traditionally, India’s nationality narrative has been intricately linked to its ancient civilization, where the idea of Bharat Mata (Mother India) symbolized a collective identity transcending linguistic, regional, and religious boundaries. However, with the advent of colonialism and the subsequent struggle for independence, the discourse around nationality underwent profound transformations.

Post-independence, the Indian state adopted a pluralistic approach to nationality, enshrined in its constitution, which recognizes diversity as a cornerstone of national unity. This inclusive vision sought to accommodate various ethnic, linguistic, and religious identities within the overarching framework of Indian nationalism.

In recent years, India has witnessed shifting patterns in the narratives surrounding nationality, influenced by globalization, economic reforms, and sociopolitical movements. Issues such as regionalism, linguistic identity, religious pluralism, and cultural autonomy have gained prominence, challenging the conventional understanding of Indian nationality. Furthermore, debates over citizenship laws, migration, and ethnic tensions have added layers of complexity to the discourse, highlighting the need for a nuanced understanding of nationality in contemporary India. As the country continues to navigate these evolving narratives, the concept of Indian nationality remains a dynamic and multifaceted phenomenon, reflecting the ongoing complexities of its diverse society.

Recently, it has become increasingly common to hear the dissent against the Muslim minority whenever an individual criticizes the India’s socio-economic and political landscape. This phrase is often used by politicians, who are typically perceived as leaning towards the center or right, when Muslim politicians or celebrities express dissenting opinions and try to minimize the achievements of India as a nation. The question arises: is this refrain born out of genuine concern for national unity and patriotism, or does it originate from a more sinister agenda of fundamentalist bigotry targeting India’s approximately one-fifth Muslim population?

This article aims to delve into the origins of this sentiment, questioning its novelty and exploring the underlying foundations. By examining these occurrences, we seek to unravel the complex dynamics at play and shed light on the implications of such rhetoric in contemporary Indian society. 

Origins and Evolution of the Demand for Partition: A Historical Perspective

To understand where this sentiment originated, we need to go back to the 1930s, a crucial time when the first demand for Pakistan emerged. This idea, championed by Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, gained momentum through the strong advocacy of figures like MA Jinnah and his cohorts. Rehmat Ali’s vision of Pakistan included areas of present-day Delhi, Northern U.P., Western Bihar, the entire Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bhopal, Calicut, the northern part of Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, alongside the territories of present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh.

However, the Pakistan that came into existence in 1947 didn’t match the original concept proposed by this group. In January 1946, the final provincial election of British India took place. A total of 1585 seats were up for election. Of these, 492 seats were reserved exclusively for Muslim candidates, where only Muslims could contest or vote, and the voting rights were not universal. The All-India Muslim League, leading the pro-partition faction, secured 429 seats out of the 492 reserved seats for Muslims, which were allocated under the provision of separate electorates introduced by the Indian Councils Act of 1909. In Bengal, there were a maximum of 119 seats reserved for Muslims, out of which the League won 113 seats, accounting for 95% of the total. Similarly, in the Punjab, there were 86 seats reserved for Muslims, of which the League secured 74 seats, amounting to 86%. 

The Role of Political Parties in Partition

It’s important to note that the League contested this election with the sole agenda of Partition. Muslim candidates who ran on the Congress ticket from the reserved seats, opposing the League and its partition ideology, performed poorly. Despite Congress’s efforts, it failed to persuade the Muslim-majority regions to reject the idea of partition.

To gain a deeper understanding, let’s analyze the composition of British India- There were eleven provinces, namely- Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Central Province, Madras, NWFP, Orissa, Punjab, Sind, and United Provinces. From these eleven provinces, Pakistan was created by taking the areas from the four provinces: Punjab, Bengal, North-West Frontier Province, and Sindh. This indicates that the pro-partition faction succeeded over the anti-partition group in these four provinces. However, it’s crucial to note that the League did not lack support in other provinces. Interestingly, in three provinces—Bombay, Madras, and Orissa—where they won all seats, did not become the part of the region of which Pakistan was formed, and these provinces remained the part of India. Notably, Jinnah himself contested from ‘Byculla’ in Bombay.

Unveiling the Dynamics of Muslim Factions Post-Partition

Following the Partition in 1947, India saw the emergence of two major Muslim factions inside the country: those who chose to remain in India, and the others who opted for Pakistan, aligning them with the Muslim League but their region was not merged with Pakistan. The latter group often termed as ‘Jinnah Muslims’, who played a pivotal role in shaping the subcontinent’s political landscape. This term refers to individuals who actively supported Pakistan’s creation, both financially and electorally. They championed the notion of separation from India on religious grounds, driven by sentiments of ‘Hindu phobia’ and the perception that Islam was under threat.

Leveraging the opportunities presented by the non-universal franchise system, the Muslim League succeeded in mobilizing a significant segment of the Muslim community, particularly the privileged class, towards the vision of a separate nation based on religion. Indeed, reality presents a striking disparity. Many of those who advocated for the creation of Pakistan did not ultimately become citizens of the newly formed nation. This divergence arose from a desire to maintain affiliation with Pakistan while keeping their homes and ties in the Indian land.

The data underscores a notable phenomenon where members, who had secured seats reserved for Muslims, representing the Muslim League, chose to join the Constituent Assembly of India instead of Pakistan. In June 1947, a pivotal moment in history unfolded as delegations from Sindh, East Bengal, Baluchistan, West Punjab, and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) convened to establish the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. However, amidst this significant development, a notable divergence occurred as twenty-eight members of the Muslim League opted to join the Indian Assembly because their constituency was not becoming the part of Pakistan.

Echoes of Collective Sentiments

A segment of Indian society who opposes the idea of partition of a nation based on religion, fearing that those who desired and voted for Pakistan are more numerous in India than in present-day Pakistan, especially considering the Muslim League’s poor performance in areas like the NWFP where it won only 47 percent seats, but it became the part of Pakistan.

The dissent originates from the realization among certain segments of this population that there were individuals within India who once strongly desired to be separated from the nation. This sentiment resonates on a subconscious level, reflecting the complexities of historical narratives and the evolving dynamics of national identity. Hence, slogans like these serve as echoes of collective sentiments, encapsulating the underlying tensions and aspirations of a diverse populace.

Understanding that regions like Bihar, Assam, or Tamil Nadu have significant populations whose parents desired to become the part of Pakistan. Additionally, it’s crucial to acknowledge the effective presence of another group of Muslims who strongly opposed the idea of partition and remained steadfastly committed to being integral parts of India. Their contributions to the nation are undeniable and serve as a testament to their unwavering dedication.


  • Anil, Pratinav (2023). Another India: The making of the world’s largest Muslim Minority 1947-77. C Hurst & co.
  • Wolpert, S. (2006). Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India. Oxford University Press.
  • Khan, Y. A. (2019). The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan. Yale University Press.
  • Jalal, A. (2002). Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850. Routledge.
  • Cohen, S. P. (2004). The Idea of Pakistan. Brookings Institution Press.

This article has been updated

Lucky Sharma

Lucky Sharma is an Assistant Professor at IMS UNISON University, Dehradun

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