The All India Muslim-Majlis-e-Mushawarat had lost its relevance in Muslim politics within a few years of its formation. A revival is being noticed now after the golden Jubilee celebration on August 31 this year on the initiative of Syed Sahabuddin.
Background of Mushawarat:
To understand the Mushawarat which claims to be an apolitical body, we should look to its background and history to understand the organisation.
One would have thought that the identity politics which was encouraged by the British would die a natural death after partition and emergence of two countries. However what happened in India was that the minority community which was given special constitutional protection continued to seek a separate identity that was encouraged by political parties for their own benefit.
Post Chinese aggression in 1962 when the charisma of Prime Minister Nehru had taken a beating, there was a spurt in communal violence on a large scale in a number of states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
Concerned with the increasing communal divide resulting from the riots and the widening gap of mistrust between the two major religious communities, the Muslim leaders including members of Parliament and representatives of almost all the Islamic organisations assembled under the leadership of Dr. Sayed Mahmood who was known to be a disgruntled Congress leader in a conference at Lucknow (8-9 August 1964). After detailed deliberations, they felt the need for coexistence of all communities and thus emerged the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat as an umbrella organisation of various Muslim organisations.
The Mushawarat was then a federation of various Muslim organisations in the country which included Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Jamiat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind (JUH), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH), Tamir-i-Millat, All India Muslim Majlis-e- Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen, Ahl-e-Hadith, Muslim members of Parliament, representative of Barelwi school, representative of Shia community and some prominent Muslim dignitaries (Muslims in Free India by Moin Shakir, 1972, page 56).
Objectives of Mushawarat made out in the First Conference:
The objectives of the movement were:
1. To enable Muslims to live in accordance with the ‘lofty ideals of Islam’ and make them participate in the national life in a manner commensurate with their status being the Khar-e-Ummat (Welfare of Muslims),
2. to forge unity among all sections of Muslims,
3. to make all out efforts to eradicate communal and other petty prejudices and to promote an atmosphere of mutual amity and understanding,
4. to promote goodwill and integrity among different communities and groups in India, and to help the aggressed and the oppressed,
5. to lend support to all attempts at retaining and promoting the secular character of the state,
6. to promote Muslims to unhesitatingly contribute to the solution of various national problems. (Ibid. 57)
These were lofty ideals worthy of implementation and the Mushawarat—a federation of both the radical and ‘liberal’ Muslim organisations—generated a ray of hope that at last there could emerge a decommunalised society.
It had the blessings of the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Union Home Minister Gulzari Lal Nanda and a host of non-Muslim leaders like JayaPrakash Narayan, R.R.Diwakar among others.
The First Objective was a double-edged sword:
However, the very first objective of the organisation was a double-edged sword capable of being interpreted both in a benign and in a communal way. In a strict sense there is nothing wrong in following the lofty ideals of Islam and at the same time work for the welfare of the community- but it turned out that this very clause was used to seek a separate identity.
The Mushawarat held its extended meeting in September 1964 which was also attended by both the Muslim and Hindu leaders like Abul Lais of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JeIH), Maulana Asad Madani of Jamiyat-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), and Jaiprakash Narayan.
Both the Muslim and the Hindu leaders while making joint efforts to resolve the communal problem drafted a joint appeal for communal harmony and decided that the leaders of both the communities would undertake tours to appeal for integrity and solidarity of the nation.
The Negative Role of JeIH:
Sensing the positive response of the people irrespective of their faith, the fundamentalists within Mushawarat particularly the JeIH expressed reservations against the participation of other leaders in a predominantly Muslim platform.
Accordingly, Abul Lais issued a signed statement in reference to the joint appeal drafted in the meeting. He declared: ‘I would like to take the first opportunity to declare that the portion of the appeal which speaks of a joint platform of leaders belonging to different religions is contrary to the principles and policies of the Jamaat. (Indian Muslims, H. E. Hasnain, 1968, page 75-76).
There was then a general feeling among the ‘liberal’ Muslim intelligentsia that from the very beginning of its formation Mushawarat came under the stranglehold of the JeIH, which did not favour the status of equality between Muslims and the Hindus. It was only favouring the status of a protected minority for the Muslims.
Prof A.A.K.Soze in his article in Radiance, an organ of JeIH observed: ‘To me at least it seems that the conditions of Indian Muslims will be much better if they are treated as a protected minority (Ibid. Page 85).
Hasnain, however, observed: ‘Under the evil influence of the JeIH, the Mushawarat has tried to solve many issues in such a wrong way that far from solving the issues, it has only led to a deterioration of the communal situation instead of helping to improve it (Ibid. Page 90). While a majority thought that the Mushawarat by giving equal berths to all communities would help solve the communal divide, the JeIH thought other wise that their community would need special protection!
Some sinister Statements of the leaders of Mushawarat:
Dr. Sayed Mahmood, despite his less affectionate attitude towards Hindus, was projected in the media as a nationalist Muslim. He was convinced that Hindus were not capable of ruling India. After the Chinese aggression in 1962, Hamid Dalwai, a noted secular Muslim writer held an interview with Mahmood and the latter said, ‘It is quite well known that Hindus are incapable of ruling a country. This is what History has proved adequately. We are going down the drain as a nation because Muslims in this country have no share in power. Muslims should develop initiative and participate in the government of this nation. Only Muslims can save this nation from doom’ (Muslim Politics in India by Hamid Dalwai, Page 63).
Another ‘nationalist Muslim’, Maulana Hussain Asad Madani was of the view that ‘if Dara had triumphed, Muslims would have stayed in India but not Islam. Since Aurangazeb triumphed, both Muslims and Islam were here to stay’ (Ibid.). Such medieval attitude, which the so-called nationalist Muslim leaders had inherited since the collapse of Islamic power suggests that they too were obsessed with a dream to restore their lost political identity, and this in turn I suspect prevented most of community from modernisation.
Khalilullah Husaini, the then chief of Tamir-e-Millat, a constituent of Mushawarat remarked in his write up in Irshad (November 1963) following the Chinese aggression of 1962: ‘This defeat has proved that our present rulers have no capacity to rule! The only alternative this nation has is to hand over all powers to those who ruled this country for one thousand years.’(Ibid.)
Abul Hasan Nadvi alias Ali Mian, another prominent leader of Mushawarat stated: ‘The main programme of Mushawarat is to carry the message of Allah to all the people boldly’ (Muslims in Free India by Moin Shakir, Page 70).
These statements also suggest that there was much uniformity in the attitudes of Dr. Sayed Mahmood, Asad Madni, Ali Mian and the leaders of the JeIH or Tamir-e-Millat. This was not as much a coincidence as one would like to make it!
Mushawarat Ignored to Examine the Causes of Communal Riots:
The immediate causes of communal riots in India are often linked with issues like festivals, eve teasing, personal enmities, cow slaughter, desecration of places of worship, processions passing through the roads near temple or mosque and dispute over cemetery grounds. Similarly, suspicion against Indian Muslims for their alleged loyalty to Pakistan, their attitude towards Article 370 of Indian constitution and infiltration from Bangladesh were also sparks that ignited communal hostilities.
One would have expected the Mushawarat to discuss these relevant issues that endangered communal harmony and work out solutions. After all, these were its objectives. Instead of discussing ways to diffuse tensions that led to communal confrontation, the self-serving leaders of the Mushawarat joined hands with the exploitative political leadership as well as the media to blow up issues out of proportion the differences and thus added fuel to the fire.
It is said that Dr Mahmood was known to be very close to Nehru, but when he did not get any share in the power structure of the country, he became a disgruntled Congress leader and floated the Mushawarat only to defeat Congress in elections. Similarly, Madani was more interested for sharing power than to guide the fellow members of his community in joining the national mainstream.
Chasing for Identity and Ignoring the original objectives:
Thus, deviating from the main issue to resolve communal ism, the Mushawarat diverted its energies in the 1967 general election to defeat the Congress. It prepared a manifesto in July 1966 for this election that aimed at the restoration of the political status of Muslims in British India. Some points in the manifesto would reveal the true intentions of the leaders of the Mushawarat.
1.Reform of the educational system: They did not discuss modernisation of madrasas.
2. System of proportional representation in Legislative Assemblies and Parliament: It was a repetition of the pre-partition demand of the Muslim League.
3. Personal Law of different communities should not be interfered with by the state;
5. Urdu should be the second official language in U.P., Bihar, M.P., Rajasthan, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Mysore;
6. Minority Boards should be established to look after the interest of the minorities in the country;
7. Minority character of institutions in the country should not be disturbed;
8. Religious trusts should be managed solely by the members of the respective religious communities without any interference of the government, etc.
The manifesto however, did not mention anything about the mechanism for preventing communal confrontation in the country. Strangely after all these efforts, the Mushawarat did not field its candidates in the 1967 general election, but appealed to the community to vote only for the candidates, who subscribed to the viewpoints raised in its manifesto. By and large the community voted against the Congress, which helped the opposition.
Mushawarat in Wilderness:
In the absence of a positive guidance from any effective secular leader in their community, the Indian Muslims continued to look upon Mushawarat just as a collective platform and a monolithic political body for them to voice their real problems. Despite being the representative body of all political Muslim organisations, it soon developed into a body that had no interest in resolving the communal conflicts. They used the Mushawarat only to bargain with the ruling party for sharing political power. What started as a body with the lofty objective of de-communalising, it soon degenerated into one that was bent upon continuing the communal divide. Their attempts were to perpetuate a separate identity quite different from the ideals for which the organisation was started. The ideological burden of ‘ Umma’ (Pan- Islam) soon overtook and destroyed whatever good intentions the sponsors of the organisation had in the beginning.
It is conceded that there is no easy solution to the communal problems in India. Mushawarat by itself could not have solved the problem but could have been the precursor to social and other religious organisations to continue with the lofty ideals with which the organisation was created. There was only one way- that, both the Hindus and the Muslims have to sit together and shed their selfish design if they have the common welfare of the Indian society at heart. The majority community should also take the blame for not dealing with it seriously.
But the attitude of the JeIH within the Mushawarat had shown that bringing communal harmony is not an easy task! . Some of the members of the Mushawarat were more interested in hijacking the organisation to promote the Mawdoodi version of Islam which favoured a subordinate status to nonMuslims.
The Mushawarat failed to formulate any coherent national political philosophy due to inherent contradictions among its leaders. Its biggest flaw was that it wanted Islamic solution to the communal problem in a non-Muslim majority Indian society, which is committed to democracy, socialism and secularism.
Syed Sahabuddin revives Mushawarat:
When Mushawarat became irrelevant for a few decades in the contemporary politics, Syed Sahabuddin, a prominent ‘Muslim Indian’ of academic brilliance claims to have revived it in June 2002. His argument was based on the premise that Mushawarat was conceived as a deliberative body among Muslim leaders on matters of common concern and for protection of the religious identity of the Muslim community. He overlooked the focus of the objectives which included eradication of communal and other petty prejudices, promotion of goodwill and integrity among different communities and groups in India. He may claim that Mushawarat was not a political organization, but its manifesto issued on the eve of 1967 election exposed the political intention of its leaders. He perhaps ignored the background of Mushawarat, which was formed for de-communalisation of Indian society and not for the cause of Muslim identity. For a rational thinker every individual has his distinct identity within the broader frame of identities like national, religious, sectarian, linguistic and regional.
The two-nation theory enunciated by Iqbal and executed by Jinnah has no relevance for Indian Muslims after the creation of Pakistan. But the ghost of that theory is still haunting the Islamists of India. Indian Muslim society therefore needs a leadership to face the challenge of religious orthodoxy in collaboration with other liberal forces within Indian society. The Indian (non Muslim) society has a long list of effective liberal leaders, who believed in secular nationalism but ‘the only leadership Indian Muslims have is basically communalist’(Muslim Politics in secular India by Hamid Delwai).
Give up the mind set of Shah Waliullah:
In fact liberal Muslim leaders like former President A.P.J.Kalam had no place in Indian Muslim society which is still under the command of the followers of Shah Waliullah. For them Kalam was ‘more a Hindu than a Muslim’. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a widely known Islamic scholar observed, ‘If there is any danger to Muslims in this country (India), it is only from our so-called leadership buoyed up as it is by paranoid journalism. There is no other real danger to Muslims (Indian Muslims : The need for a positive outlook by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, 2000, page 89’).
The Indian Muslim society does not face any challenge to its identity but needs a leader of enlightened liberal intellect with persuasive powers who can destroy the hold of the Islamic orthodoxy over the masses.
Since Sahabuddin has revived Mushawarat, he may perhaps go back to the principles and the reasons for which Mushawarat was founded. He could work sincerely and make some positive contribution to the society if he decides to follow the objectives declared in their first conference.
If he does so, it will be a lasting contribution not only to his community but to the nation as well.