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MUSLIM MAJLIS MUSHAWARAT – An opportunity to de-communalise Indian society-missed.

Paper No. 702                                               02/06/2003

by R.Upadhyay

De-communalisation of Indian society has all along before and after partition been a prominent agenda of all the rational forces political, social or religious of this sub-continent. Formation of Muslim Majlish-e-Mushawarat in 1964 was one such attempt in this direction.  The movement failed, in  the absence of an honest and rational initiative on the part of its leadership.  

 The Partition and its Aftermath

In the backdrop of communal balkanisation of India, imposition of secularism in Indian polity  was an irritant  to a large number of Hindus and that too after the  holocaust of partition for while, the Muslim Community remained on the defensive. 

The basic problem of then Indian Muslims was how to co-exist in the contemporary political situation. The Muslim leadership on the other hand never made any sincere attempt to assess the mood and temper of the majority community in a democratic set up. In the last 55 years since Independence, the  Muslim leadership in India failed to develop any mechanism for a lasting solution to Hindu-Muslim problem. Ironically, the Muslims in free India though constitute over twelve percent of population have not yet produced any leader capable to mobilise the community unitedly and challenge the two-nation theory of Jinnah and Iqbal effectively. In the absence of such a leader the Indian Muslim community failed to develop a sense of realism and commitment to nation building. Muslim masses in free India could hardly think beyond the movement of separatism, which they inherited from the partition of the country.   

Emergence of Mushawarat 

With the waning charisma of Pandit Nehru particularly after Indo-China War of 1962 and spurt of large-scale communal violence in the country the Muslim politics of this country took a different turn. Concerned with the communal outbursts in Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country, in which Muslims suffered more prompted the then Muslim leaders to come together and discuss the issue. Accordingly, at the instance of Dr. Sayed Mahmood, a disgruntled Congressite the Muslim leaders of almost all the Muslim organisations and Muslim Members of Parliament assembled in a conference at Lucknow (August 8-9,1964).  They deliberated on issues of Muslim concern and thought in term of strategic retreat. They felt the need to formulate some mechanism for the co-existence of Muslim masses with the majority of the country and formed Muslim Majlish-e- Mushawarat. Thus Mushawarat emerged as an United Front composed of various Muslim organisations and a representative body of various Islamic schools likes:

* Indian Union Muslim League (IUML);

*  Jamiat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind (JUH);

* Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH);

* Tamir-i-Millat;

* Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen;

* Muslim Majlis;

* Muslim Block (Members of Parliament);

* Ahl-iHadith;

* Representative of Shia community;

* Representative of Barelwi scchool;

*Some prominent Muslim dignitaries.

(Muslims in Free India by Moin Shakir, 1972, page 56). 

The formation of Mushawarat particularly after the death of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was a big event in the history of Indian Muslims in post-colonial India. The Muslim masses with high hopes on this federation of all the Muslim bodies were quite responsive to their leaders. The objective of the movement was:

* 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);

* To forge unity among all sections of Muslims;

* To make all out efforts to eradicate communal and other petty prejudices and to promote an atmosphere of mutual amity and understanding:

* To promote goodwill and integrity among different communities and groups in India, and to help the aggressed and the oppressed;

* To lend support to all attempts at retaining and promoting the secular character of the state;

* To promote Muslims to unhesitatingly contribute to the solution of various national problems.

            (Muslims in Free India by Moin Shakir, May 1972, page57). 

Muslim politics in India took a different turn with the formation of Mushawarat as it was a federation of the various Muslim organisations of both the fundamentalist and liberal approach. Its leaders traveled different parts of the country with a message for communal peace. The blessing of the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shstri, Union Home Minister Guljari Lal Nanda and host of non-Muslim leaders like Jaiprakash Narayan, R.R.Diwakar and others generated a ray of hope among the Indian Muslims, who were anxiously in favour of de-communalisation of Indian society. They were quite optimistic, when they found their leaders from both the fundamentalists and 'liberal' groups joining together to resolve the communal problem of the country.  

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 (JEI), Maulana Asad Madani of Jamiyat - Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), and Jaiprakash Narayan. It was a joint effort of both the Muslim and Hindu leaders to resolve the communal problem in the country. The meeting drafted a joint appeal for communal harmony and decided that the leaders of both the communities would undertake tours of the different parts of the country with goodwill and peace message for integrity and solidarity of the nation.  

 The Fundamentalists oppose.

Sensing the positive response of the people irrespective of their faith, the Muslim fundamentalists within Mushawarat particularly the JEI expressed their reservation against the participation of Hindu leaders in a 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 by H.E.Hasnain, 1968,page 75-76). 

There was no mechanism for implementing communal harmony 

Contrary to it's avowed goal to bring communal harmony in the country Mushawarat simply philosophised this problem as seen in its objectives. In fact it did not formulate any meaningful mechanism to achieve its cherished goal.  Mushawarat was first expected to dilute the religion-centric ideology of Muslim separatism and then join the movement of Indian secularism, which continued to struggle with the communal challenges in the country.  

The immediate cause of communal riot often related to issues like festivals, women teasing, personal enmity, cow slaughter, desecration of places of worship, processions passing through the roads near temple or mosque and dispute over cemetery ground. Without developing a meaningful mechanism of dealing with such trifling issues, the Mushawarat leaders joined hands with the same exploitative political leadership as well as the media that were responsible to blow up such issues out of proportion and added fuel to the fire. Instead of discussing the issues that led to communal confrontation its self-serving Muslim leaders discussed the never-ending demands and grievances of the community. Deviating from the main issue they diverted their whole energy to in the 1967 general election to defeat the Congress. They prepared a manifesto, (July 1966)) for this election which they expected would bring back the old political status of Muslims in British India. The following nine-point manifesto only reveals the political intention of the Muslim leaders: 

* Reform of educational system:

* System of proportional representation in Legislative Assemblies and Parliament;

* Fundamentals of welfare state should be the guiding principles in formulating the internal policy of the country; 

* Personal Law of different communities should not be interfered with by the state;

* Urdu should be the second official language in U.P., Bihar, M.P., Rajasthan, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Mysore;

* Minority Boards should be established to look after the interest of the minorities in the country;

* Minority character of institutions in the country should not be disturbed;

* Religious trusts should be managed solely by the members of the respective religious communities without any interference of the Government;

* Steps to reform the society; 

Indian Muslims looked upon Mushawarat as a collective platform and a monolithic political body for them to voice their real problems effectively, which however, was proved to be a myth. Mushawarat started with the lofty ideals to de-communalise Indian society but inherent communal psyche of its leaders got exposed , when they gave communal colour to academic issues like Urdu, and minority character to Aligarh Muslim University by raising the bogey of  'Islam is in danger'. 

Mushawarat did not field its candidate in 1967 general election but it appealed to the Muslims to vote for the candidates, who subscribed to the view points raised in its manifesto. Syed Mahmood, a disgruntled Congress leader though known as a  nationalist Muslim while used Mushawarat to defeat the Congress. The communal organisations in Mushawarat wanted their own control to accelerate their separatist movement. Muslims voted against the Congress, which lost its governments in a number of states but the communal problem of the country remained unresolved. The outcome of election was however, not satisfactory from the Muslim point of view. Gradually its leaders due to their self-seeking political ambition moved out in different directions and the very purpose for which Mushawarat was formed was completely lost. 

It is a well-known fact that solution to communal problem does not lie with any single community. Both the Hindus and Muslims have to shed their selfish design if they want the common welfare of the Indian society. But the attitude of the JEI was an indication that it did not like the control of Mushawarat under the liberal Muslims in co-operation with Hindus. It was interested to hijack this organisation to promote its fundamentalist ideology, which is contrary to the secular and democratic polity of the India.  

Mushawarat under the stranglehold of JEI

There is a general feeling among the 'liberal' Muslim intelligentsia that from the very beginning of its formation Mushawarat came under the stranglehold of the JEI, which does not favour the status of equality between the Muslims and the Hindus. It is only favouring the status of a protected minority for the Muslims. Prof. A.A.K.Soze in his article in Radiance, an organ of JEI 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" (Indian Muslims by H.E.Hasnain, 1968, page 85). Such an attitude of JEI leaders was an indication that they were never serious to resolve the communal problem in the country. Hasnain a noted Muslim writer rightly observed that "Under the evil influence of the JEI, 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 in stead of helping to improve it" (Ibid, page90).  

Mushawarat did not discuss Article 370 of Indian constitution that is related to Kashmir as JEI did not consider Kashmir as an integral part of India. Not only JEI but even Dr.Sayed Mahmood, who was the main guiding force behind formation of Mushawarat had a contempt against the Hindus. He was obsessed with his view that Hindus were not capable to rule this country. Hamid Dalwai quoted him in his book (Muslim Politics in India, page 63):

"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 intelligentsia projected Sayed Mahmood as a nationalist Muslim but  it was not so. 

The leaders of Mushawarat, appeared to follow the same exploitative nature of self-seeking Muslim leaders on so called persecution of their co-religionists. They never allowed the Indian Muslims to think in positive direction.  Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a widely known Islamic scholar rightly pointed out in his book (Indian Muslims, 2002, page89): "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". 

Carrying the burden of the ideological legacy of  'Umma' Mushawarat leaders were not ready to join the movement of Indian secularism, which is still struggling to challenge the Muslim communalism, which some believe is the root cause of Hindu communalism. There is no easy solution to communal problem in India because of its deep-rooted link with ideology. 

"All along, before and after partition, the Muslims have been a demanding group, and history has shown, time and time again, that no individual or nation can be both giver and taker at one and the same time. It is because the Muslims have become a taker and not a giver group that they have failed to figure prominently in the task of national reconstruction" (Indian Muslims - The Need For A Positive Outlook by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, 2000, page 30). 

A close look of the resolutions adopted in the meetings of Muslim Majlish Moshawarat shows that its failure - a greatest tragedy for Indian Muslims - was all due to what the writer of above quote said. After partition the Muslims, who stayed back in India lost their old status of political safeguards of separate electorates and reservation of seats in state assemblies, which they used to enjoy during British colonial rule. The agony of this psychological defeat continues haunting them, which often erupts in form of their communal confrontation with Hindus.

Mushawarat failed to formulate a coherent strategy:

 Unconcerned with the basic value of democracy and socialism, Mushawarat also turned its agenda into the same separatist movement Abul Hasan Nadvi @Ali Mian a 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,1972, page 70). 

Due to inherent contradictions, Mushawarat failed to formulate any coherent and nationalist political policy. 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. Deviating from the real issue, Mushawarat therefore aggravated the prevailing confusion in Muslim society. The outcome of 1967 election was a failure from the Muslim point of view. If the leaders failed to secularise themselves, how could they secularise their community? 

Whether formation of Mushawarat was a ploy to change the course of Muslim politics in free India may be a debatable issue but it was an opportunity for Indian Muslims to develop some meaningful mechanism to de-communalise Indian society. In stead of raising the issues like Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University and Muslim Personal Law Mushawarat should have taken concrete steps to challenge the communalism, that had  taken deep root in the country. 

Indian Muslims are required to settle their minds in hard and frozen reality of secular, democratic and nationalist polity of this country. For this the Mushawarat leaders should have taken a lead and transformed the Umma (Pan-Muslim) mindset of the community to a national mindset. They should have appealed to the fellow Muslims to launch a movement jointly with Hindus with a vibrant slogan that they are proud of their common Indian root than in turn a demanding group. They should understand that had there been discrimination against Muslims, Fakhruddin Ahmad, Dr. Zakir Hussain and A.P.J.Kalam would not have occupied Rashrapati Bhawan as first citizens of the country. Had equal opportunity not been made available to Indian Muslims, Amir Subhani would not have topped the list of Indian Civil Services Examination of 1986-87. The grudge of Indian Muslims against their poor representation in government jobs is not due to lack of opportunity to them but it is due to their indifference towards modern education.  

Failure of Mushawarat was mainly due to personal agenda and ego problem of its leaders, which caused a major setback to the socio-political life of Indian Muslims. Had the Mushawarat leaders been honest in leading the Indian Muslims to the movement of Indian secularism, they might have become the major contributors for de-comunalisation of India society. In stead of taking steps to resolve the communal problem they gave communal colour to the issues like Urdu, minority character of Aligarh Muslim University and Muslim Personal Law, which are linked with the movement of Muslim separatism. Paradoxically, this federation of fundamentalist and so-called liberal leaders of Muslims became a platform to promote enlightened communalism. Due to such negative attitude of its leaders, Mushawarat not only failed to win the goodwill of non-Muslims but also lost the support of leaders like Jaiprakash Narayan. 


Formation of Mushawarat was the first attempt with a cherished goal of ending communal riots in the country and to create an atmosphere of communal harmony. Though, Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat is no more relevant in the contemporary political situation , the communal problem between the two major religious communities in this country continues to be the social bane. Rational thinkers within the Muslim community may therefore think of reviving Mushawarat with honest intention and discuss the real problem of their community in the contemporary situation. This would be a great step indeed . 

(R.Upadhyay.. E-mail<>)