Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 8): ‘Pakistan or the Partition of India’
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956), was a scholar, social reformer, powerful advocate of the rights of Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.
In 1976, the government of Maharashtra set up the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee to compile Dr. Ambedkar’s complete works. The Committee consisted of the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978, when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined the Committee, it decided to procure and publish Dr. Ambedkar’s unpublished writings too.
The state’s Education Department started to publish a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches in 1979, and it brought out this eighth volume in 1990. The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in January 2014
The eighth volume contains a reprint of the third edition of his book Pakistan or the Partition of India, published in 1946 by Thacker and Company, Bombay.
In March 1940, the All India Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution for the creation of ‘Independent States’ from the predominantly Muslim areas of India, once the British ended their rule. Immediately after the Resolution was passed, the Executive Council of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) – formed in 1936 under Dr. Ambedkar’s leadership – met to consider their stance on the ‘project of Pakistan’. The Council appointed a committee to study the issue and produce a report, with Dr. Ambedkar as its chairperson. This five-part book is based on the committee’s report.
Part 1: Muslim Case for Pakistan
This part discusses the Muslim League’s demand that “…the Punjab, the North-Western Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sind in the North-West and Bengal in the East instead of remaining as the provinces of British India shall be incorporated as independent States outside of British India.”
The Resolution is ambiguous about whether these States shall be independent of each other or form a confederation. Dr. Ambedkar states that “The League has only enlarged the original scheme of Pakistan. It has sought to create one more Muslim State in the East to include the Muslims in Bengal and Assam.” He discusses whether Indian Muslims constitute a nation, and the reasons that gave rise to the demand for Pakistan.
Part 2: Hindu Case against Pakistan
Dr. Ambedkar explores arguments made by Hindus against the formation of Pakistan. The first is that this would mean the ‘destruction of the unity of India’. “The most important thing that has happened [in India’s history] is the invasion of India by the Muslim hordes from the north-west,” he notes. In Dr. Ambedkar’s opinion, these invasions have “…profoundly altered the culture and character of the northern areas, which it is now proposed to be included in a Pakistan.” Not only is there no unity between those areas and the rest of India, but there is “a real antipathy” between the two.
The second argument is that the partition will lead to the weakening of India’s defences. Dr. Ambedkar observes that India’s resources are far greater than that of Pakistan, in terms of area, population and revenue. He states that if India remains politically whole and the ‘two-nation mentality’ continues to be fostered, “…the Hindus will find themselves between the devil and the deep sea so far as the defence of India is concerned.”
Dr. Ambedkar considers whether creating Pakistan will solve the ‘Communal Question’, which relates to the representation of Hindus and Muslims in the legislatures and the creation of separate Muslim Provinces. Hindus have rejected these demands right from the start, he says, and have insisted on joint electorates in all parliamentary elections.
Part 3: What if not Pakistan?
Commenting on those Hindus who believe that people in frontier states, which are predominantly Muslim, should be converted to Hinduism, Dr. Ambedkar says that Hinduism has not been a proselytising religion since the caste system came to exist. He further states that Muhammad Ali Jinnah and V. D. Savarkar appear to be opposed to each other, but actually agree about the “one nation versus two nations issue.” Both insist that India has two nations, one Muslim and another Hindu.
Dr. Ambedkar writes: “Mr. Jinnah says India should be cut up into two, Pakistan and Hindustan, the Muslim nation to occupy Pakistan and the Hindu nation to occupy Hindustan. Mr. Savarkar on the other hand insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for Muslims and the other for the Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution; that the constitution shall be such that the Hindu nation will be enabled to occupy a predominant position that is due to it and the Muslim nation made to live in the position of subordinate co-operation with the Hindu nation."
Part 4: Pakistan and the Malaise
The book states that Muslim society in India is afflicted by the same social evils as the Hindus, such as child marriage, the degraded position of women and the caste system. “But far more distressing is the fact that there is no organized movement of social reform among the Musalmans of India on a scale sufficient to bring about their eradication,” says Dr. Ambedkar.
The reason for this is that the social environment is predominantly Hindu, and the Muslim community’s “…energies are directed to maintaining a constant struggle against the Hindus for seats and posts in which there is no time, no thought and no room for questions relating to social reform. And if there is any, it is all overweighed and suppressed by the desire, generated by pressure of communal tension, to close the ranks and offer a united front to the menace of the Hindus and Hinduism by maintaining their socio-religious unity at any cost.” The creation of Pakistan could enable Muslims carry out social reforms in their communities.
Part 5: Conclusion
According to Dr. Ambedkar, the “principal problem of Pakistan” is who can decide whether it shall exist. He states: “The issue of Pakistan being one of self- determination must be decided by the wishes of the people.” Keeping this in mind, he puts forth the ‘The Government of India (Preliminary Provisions) Act’.
Dr. Ambedkar says that separate polls for Muslims and non-Muslims should be conducted in the predominantly Muslim provinces. If most Muslims favour and most non-Muslims disfavour the separation, steps must be taken – and wherever possible, provincial boundaries shall be redrawn – to separate the Muslim majority districts from the others.
If the Muslims are not satisfied with such delimitation, they may have two options: live under a common central government with India for 10 years before deciding to create Pakistan, or live under a separate government for 10 years and then decide whether they want to re-join the Indian Union. Dr. Ambedkar’s proposed legislation provides for both possibilities.
He writes: “It is necessary to maintain live contact between Pakistan and Hindustan so as to prevent any estrangement growing up and preventing the chances of reunion."
Focus by Vedika Inamdar.
First edition compiled and edited by Vasant Moon
Second edition edited by Hari Narke
The first edition was published by the Education Department, government of Maharashtra, in 1990. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.