Formation of Muslim League
Every event has a context, the peculiar situation obtaining on the ground at that particular moment in history which gives the specific causes responsible for that event greater relevance than any other point in time. Some of the peculiar features of the situation before the formation of the Muslim League were as follows
1. Start of Political Reforms
Fearing another “1857-style mutiny”, forced the new British Crown to become more liberal and democratic while dealing with the Indians and provide them with some safety valves through which they could express their grievances and channel frustration and sense of exclusion. It resulted in the first establishment of local government institutions and the municipal boards/corporations of Bombay Calcutta and Madras were created.
But this system proved futile, as from 1892 to 1906, not even a single Muslim representative could secure a seat in the legislative councils as the local bodies were also dominated by Hindus, who always voted on religious grounds. The British Indian Muslim elite was becoming acutely conscious of this political marginalization of their community in the new political governance system being introduced by the British colonialists and was thinking to create a political organization of their own.
2. Countering Religious Militancy in Indian Muslims
Although the 1857 uprising was a common struggle of the Indians with Hindus playing equally, if not more than their Muslim compatriots, it was the British Indian Muslims who were singled out, individually and collectively, by the English for retribution. This blatant discrimination against the Indian Muslims inevitably resulted in creating three types of classes in them, each a trend blazer:
- Islamists: Islamists, who ascribed the fall of the Mughal Empire to the deviation of the Muslims from their religion, advised aloofness from mainstream social and political life to Muslims and tried to revive the old Islamic spirit of jihad through religious education.
- Loyalists: Loyalists, who to gain material benefits from the victors openly sided with the British and perpetuated the strength of the empire for another 90 years.
- Moderates: Moderates who thought that the British were here to stay for long innings and the violent overthrow was impossible. They, therefore, advocated the acquisition of modern western knowledge and stressed cooperation with the British to safeguard their rights.
Fearing that the first group namely Islamists might take over the leadership of the Indian Muslims using the religious card, the British encouraged the other two groups to come forward and lead the Muslims. The Simla Delegation was the start of this policy of inducting Muslim moderates into the political stream in the same way they had done with the Hindus by forming the Indian National Congress.
3. Birth of three Separatisms
The 1857 War of independence led to several trends out of which 3 are the most important namely Indian nationalism, Indian Muslim separatism, and its offshoot Bengali Muslims separatism
- Indian Nationalism: While the Indian Muslims were still in a shell shock after the 1857 War and the revenge taken by the British, the Hindu population seized the initiative, became more educated, and gained lucrative positions in the Indian Civil Service: many ascended to the influential posts in the British government. This economic empowerment of Hindus led to their collective consciousness of being the true inheritors of Indian Civilisation which led to their intensive Indianisation
- #Indian Muslims Separatism: One of the biggest offshoots of the 1857 uprising was the increased rift between the two major communities of British India namely Hindus and Muslims. On the other side, systematic persecution of Muslims led to their subconscious development of being a separate nation, it led to the creation of Indian nationalism among the Hindus
- Origins of Muslim Bengali Separatism: Bengal was punished for its alleged pioneering role in the uprising. Not only the economic development of this region was neglected, but Bengalis in general and Bengali Muslims, in particular, were also systematically kept out of the decision-making processes in Colonial India. It led to the development of a separate Bengali Muslim nationalism.
While the Indian Hindus got their own political party namely Indian National Congress, the British Indian Muslims realized the need for a similar organization to safeguard their national interest.
4. Partisan Attitude of Indian National Congress
Although claiming to represent all Indian nationalities, Congress turned out to be a predominantly Indian Hindus organization. From the very start of its existence, the Congress had shown clear its interest to safeguard the rights of Hindus, alone. Some of the Congress leaders adopted a revolutionary policy to establish Hindu Raj in the sub-continent under the guise of a national movement. The Muslims of India were greatly disappointed by the anti-Muslim stance that Congress seemed to have adopted.
5. Partition of Bengal/Urdu-Hindi Controversy
The events following the partition of Bengal and the Urdu-Hindu controversy strengthened the desire of the Muslims to organize themselves politically as a separate community. The Urdu-Hindu controversy began with the demand of Hindus to replace Urdu with Hindi as an official language in Deva Nagari Script. Sir Anthony Macdonal, the then Governor of UP ousted Urdu from public offices. Congress sided with Hindi and supported the movement against Urdu and there was no other political party to support Urdu.
6. The Evolution of Minto Marley Reforms
The turning point came in the summer of 1906 during John Morley’s budget speech, in which he hinted at constitutional reforms. At that time Muslims did not have a political platform to demand their share. It was reasserted that they wanted a separate political platform.
7. The Success of Simla Deputation
Simla Delegation was the first formal effort by the Indian Muslim elite to safeguard the interest of their community by presenting their demands to the highest authority in British India. It became essential for Muslims to establish a political party of their own when Minto offered the fullest sympathy to the Muslim demands. The success of the Deputation compelled the Muslims to have a separate political association of their own.
A resolution to form the All-India Muslim League was passed by Nawab Salimullah Khan and was seconded by Hakim Ajmal Khan, Maulana Muhammad Ali, and Moulana Zafar Ali. The resolution was passed by the All-India Educational Conference on 30th December 1906. A committee was formed to prepare its draft constitution. Sir Agha Khan was appointed as President and Syed Hassan Balgrami was appointed as secretary, while Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk were made joint secretaries with six Vice- Presidents, and a Central Committee with forty Members was also constituted. In this way, the Muslim League was established and become the sole representative of Muslims.
The Muslim league laid the following points as its objectives.
- To create among Muslims feelings of loyalty towards the British Government and to remove misconceptions and suspicions.
- To Safeguard the political rights of the Muslims and to bring them to the notice of the Government.
- To prevent among Muslims, the rise prejudicial feelings against the other communities of India.
The first session of the all-India Muslim league was held in Karachi on 29th December 1907 and was presided over by Adamji Peer Bhai.
It was felt from the beginning that the All-India Muslim League would not achieve considerable success without winning the British Public opinion to its side. Therefore, Syed Ameer Ali organized the branch of the Muslim League in London.
1. First Formal Political Platform for British Indian Muslims
It was the first formally organized political platform representing the geographical and cross-sectional representation of the British Indian Muslims to articulate the demands of the British Muslims and present them to the higher authorities as a sole representative. Because of its high-profile leadership and mass following it was difficult for the British Government, British Indian Government, Indian and other parties to ignore what demands they were making
2. Vanguard of Pakistan Movement
Keeping in view the historical context of Hindu-Muslim rivalry in the Sub-continent, Pakistan was an inevitability but the way it was created by launching a constitutional movement, all credit goes to the Muslim League. In contrast, keep in mind the way other countries particularly in Africa got their independence. From the day the Muslim delegation won recognition of the demand for a separate electorate, the course of the Muslim freedom struggle was charted. Muslim League became a mass movement of Muslims and succeeded in achieving Pakistan in 1947.
3. Leadership Funnel
Like any other political party, the Muslim League was instrumental in the political socialization of the British Indian Muslims as well as in recruiting and training the political leadership for the running of a state. It was the Muslim League that helped in producing the bulk of the leadership which not only created Pakistan but helped it in steering the new country after its formation.