Who is responsible for two-nation theory?

August 17, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

We keep on blaming Savarkar, Hindu Mahasabha, Sir Syed, Muslim League etc. for originating the two-nation theory. But never look for its roots. Actually, if you really want to understand the origins of two nation theory in India you should look into The Quran. The development can be summarized as follows:

‘A closed exclusive nation’ to ‘Idea of special nation and separate rest of the world’ to ‘Application in India through separation’ to ‘Two nation theory’.

The Quran: I am quoting only two verses. You can find plenty more. To my mind these verses form a permanent disposition of distance, district and ill-will for all non-believers in the minds of the Muslims. And that shows world wide.

 Verse 3:118: “0 you who believe! Take not as (your) Bitanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed We have made plain to you the Aydt (proofs, evidences, verses) if you understand.”

Verse 5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliya’ (friends, protectors, helpers), they are but Auliya’ of each other. And if any amongst you takes them (as Auliya’), then surely he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are the Ztilimun (polytheists and wrong doers and unjust).”

Sirhindi (1563-1624): “The honour of Islam lies in insulting Kufr and Kafirs”, Sirhindi was aghast that idol-worshippers had places of honour, when they needed to be kept at arms length, like dogs.” (MJ Akbar, Tinderbox, page 38)

Shah Waliullah (1702-63): “Shah Waliullah proposed a theory of distance and the protection of ‘Islamic purity’ as his prescription for a community that was threatened by the cultural power and military might of the infidel. While he thanked Allah for keeping the blood in his own veins ‘pure’ and ‘Arab’, he recognized that the majority of Indian Muslims were converts from Hinduism; there was enormous cultural overlap in their habits and behaviour. He feared a lapse into Hindu practices among Indian Muslims in the absence of the religious leadership that had been preserved by political power.

Islam could survive in India, he argued, only if Muslims maintained physical, ideological and emotional distance from Hindus. He urged Muslims to live so far from Hindus that they Would not be able to see the smoke from their kitchens.” (ibid, page xii)

Sir Syed: “The English have conquered India, and all of us along with it. And just as we made the country obedient and our slave, so the English have done with us.” (Speech of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan at Meerut, 1988)

“Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations — the Mahomedans and the Hindus — could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable. At the same time you must remember that although the number of Mahomedans is less than that of the Hindus, and although they contain far fewer people who have received a high English education, yet they must not be thought insignificant or weak. Probably they would be by themselves enough to maintain their own position. But suppose they were not. Then our Mussalman brothers, the Pathans, would come out as a swarm of locusts from their mountain valleys, and make rivers of blood to flow from their frontier in the north to the extreme end of Bengal. This thing — who, after the departure of the English, would be conquerors — would rest on the will of God. But until one nation had conquered the other and made it obedient, peace could not reign in the land. This conclusion is based on proofs so absolute that no one can deny it.”

Notice the pan-Islamism and arrogance emerging out of it. If you think that the Muslim community does not have such people, who harbour same arrogance and pa-Islamism then better read and listen more to Maulanas.

Savarkar: This is the background in which Savarkar is writing.

“A Hindu then is he who feels attachment to the land that extends from Sindhu to Sindhu as the land of his forefathers – as his Fatherland; who inherits the blood of the great race whose first and discernible source could be traced from the Himalayan altitudes of the Vedic Saptasindhus and which assimilating all that  was incorporated and ennobling all that was assimilated has grown into and come to be known as the Hindu people; and who, as a consequence of the foregoing attributes has inherited and claims as his own the Hindu Sanskriti, the Hindu civilization, as represented in a common history, common heroes, a common literature, common art, a common law and a common jurisprudence, common fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments. Not that every Hindu has all these details of the Hindu Sanskriti down to each syllable common with other Hindus; but that, he has more of it common with his Hindu brothers than with, say; an Arab or an Englishman. Not that a non-Hindu does not hold any of these details in common with a Hindu but that, he differs more from a Hindu than he agrees with him. That is why Christian and Mohammedan communities. who, were but recently Hindus and in a majority of cases had been at least in their first generation most unwilling denizens of their new fold, claim though they might have a common Fatherland, and an almost pure Hindu blood and parentage with us, cannot be recognized as Hindus; as since their adoption of the new cult they had ceased to own Hindu civilization (Sanskriti) as a whole. They belong, or feel that they belong, to a cultural unit altogether different from the Hindu one. Their heroes and their hero-worship, their fairs and their festivals, their ideals and their outlook on life, have now ceased to be common with ours. Thus the presence of thit third essential of Hindutva which requires of every Hindu uncommon and loving attachment to his racial Sanskriti enables us most perfectly to determine the nature of Hindutva without any danger of using over lapping or exclusive attributes.” (Savarkar, Hindutva, page 100)

And no, we may not agree with his idea of a Hindu and certainly not with his idea of citizenship based in Hindutva (Hinduness). But to give the devil his due we have to recognize the historical background, the Muslim politics of his time, the Khilaphat movement that enhanced the Pan-Islamic consciousness and constant riots.

But he also said this: “When once the Hindu Maha Sabha not only accepts but maintains the principles of “one man one vote” and the public services to go by merit alone added to the fundamental rights and obligations to be shared by all citizens alike irrespective of any distinction of Race or Religion …. any further mention of minority rights is on the principle not only unnecessary but self-contradictory. Because it again introduces a consciousness of majority and minority on Communal basis. But as practical politics requires it and as the Hindu Sanghatanists want to relieve our non-Hindu countrymen of even a ghost of suspicion, we are prepared to emphasise that the legitimate rights of minorities with regard to their Religion, Culture, and Language will be expressly guaranteed : on one condition only that the equal rights of the majority also must not in any case be encroached upon or abrogated. Every minority may have separate schools to train up their children in their own tongue, their own religious or cultural institutions and can receive Government help also for these,—but always in proportion to the taxes they pay into the common exchequer. The same principle must of course hold good in case of the majority too.” (Quoted by Ambedkar, Pakistan, page 138)

Yes, he did want the Indian polity to be dominated by Hindu ideas and ideals. And, again, in view of a secular nation, we may disagree with thius, but we should also note that he wanted equal rights for minorities with guarantee of religious, cultural and linguistic protection. Demonizing Savarkar again and again for an evil which has many roots, and one of those roots, a very virulent one is in the Quran is not fair. Especially when there is a robust tradition among Muslim scholars and politicians of seeing themselves separate nation and a strong desire to dominate and insult the kafir Hindus.

Jawahar Lal Nehru: So, yes we do disagree with Savarkar and cannot determine our polity on the ideas of Hindutva alone, but if he was so unjustified in his misgivings about Muslims, why did Jawahar Lal Nehru, that paragon of secularism, of all people, ask the Muslim students of Aligarh Muslim University on … January 1948: “I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India. How do you feel about this past? Do you feel that you are also shares in it and inheritors of it and, therefore proud of something that belongs to you as much as to me? Or do you feel alien to it and pass it by without understanding it or feeling that strange thrill which comes from the realization that we are the trustees and inheritors of this vast treasure? I ask you these questions, because in recent years many forces have been at play diverting people’s minds into wrong channels and trying to pervert the course of history. You are Muslims and I am a Hindu.”

The present-day politics and our ideology should not blind us. We do need an answer to Nehru’s question. Yes, many open-minded Muslims have answered that question in affirmation most emphatically. But are we certain that the Muslim community as a whole has answered that question yet?


17th August 2022