Home Life Works Texts Gallery Literature Wish List
News Letters Bookshop Donations Links Mailing List Contact


Chapter 1


The Hindu-Moslem problem, as set before us in India, is not a “new” problem in the annals of the world, not a problem particular to India by nature. It is the problem which, sooner or later, has to be faced in every country where, as a result of prolonged alien domination or of successful proselytism, or of both combined, a portion of the people have since a long time adopted a cult, a tradition and, to a certain extent, a civilisation, different from those which were formerly shared by all the citizens.

A somewhat similar situation was met with at different epochs of the past in Spain, in Northern Africa, and in different parts of the Balkans. In some places the problem has been solved by the annihilation of one of the two communities under the pressure of brutal force or otherwise (expulsion of the Spanish Moors by the Catholics, total Islamisation of North Africa). In others, on the contrary, the two communities live in peace side by side. This is, for instance, the case of Bosnia, a province of Yugoslavia


with 75 % Mohammedan population, where, in the midst of the Christian world, Mohammedan religion and customs are preserved up to this very, day, within the limits and under the conditions of a growing modern state.

We must remark that the Spanish (or the North African) solution of the difficulty, — that is to say the annihilation of one of the conflicting communities, — is the only rational and desirable one wherever the two communities actually represent two nations. Two nations cannot flourish in peace within the limits of the same state. Either the state is alien to both of them, and they are both dependent, or else one of then practically rules over the other. But two living nations can never make one.

The solution finally adopted in Bosnia where Mohammedan Slavs and Christian Slavs live together in peace is by all means the best wherever it is applicable. But it presupposes the existence of one nation only, in spite of all religious and customary differences among the citizens.

* * *

The Indian communal problem mast be carefully


distinguished from any religious conflict.

Even in Europe and in the Near East, during the bitterest’ “religious” conflicts of the Middle Ages, interests and ambitions of this world added no little to men’s pious fury. Moreover the people of India have never been seriously divided on a purely religious basis. The long opposition of the Hindus to the Buddhists, in the past, had a predominant social factor at its root: the rejection of caste rules by the Buddhists. Wherever opposition thoroughly existed it was not the opposition of two “religions” — two paths to salvation, — nor even of two metaphysical systems (Indians relish to discuss metaphysics but never cared to fight for them); it was the opposition of two social orders.

The notorious Hindu-Moslem antagonism has also no serious religious basis, especially on the Hindu side. It is the antagonism of two portions of the very same population who have, to a certain extent, different ways of living; who keep up, at different times, festivities commemorating events which have nothing to do with each other; who do not worship in the same way nor in the same places; who do not call their children by the same names, etc. In one word, it starts with the opposition of many exterior signs regarded as revealing an underlying


difference of two civilizations. Much better would it be for India if this antagonism were but a religious one! And it seems rapidly growing into an antagonism between two new-born national consciousnesses.

While Hindus and Musulmans, taken individually, are far from being as different from each other as many people may think, while they do, to a great extent, share the same civilisation, at least as much as, if not more than any two Bosnians do, a clever propaganda is inciting them to look upon each other as foreigners on the sole ground and or the sole reason that A is a Hindu and B a Musulman.

Two nations cannot make one, have we said. But clever propaganda can split one nation in two.

* * *

If the Indian Hindus and the Indian Mohammedans actually were two nations, then there would be three alternatives before them:

1) Both to remain forever quarrelling under foreign yoke.

2) To separate, not only politically, (separate electorate, communal award etc.) but also territorially


(Hindu India and Pakistan).

3) To “fight it out” so that, just as in all wars, the strongest may win, and let the strongest alone build up a new India in which the other community — whichever it may be, — would be assimilated by force or annihilated.

Of the three the first alternative is undoubtedly the worst because it is a disgraceful one. The second is unpractical, and would in course of time become the source of endless war, between two discontented Indias. The third would be the only reasonable, practical and manly solution. If Hindus and Musulmans really represent, in India, two different nations, the only thing one can say to them is indeed: “Fight it out, and let the whole of India with her gigantic material, political and cultural possibilities, — her endless future, — become once for all the prize of the victors, whoever they may be.”

But the question is: “Are there really but these three alternatives of which merciless war is by far the best?” that is to say: “Are the Indian Hindus and the Indian Musulmans actually two nations?”


* * *

An impartial study of the inter-communal relations in India, not merely now, but also a few years ago, before the present stage was reached, will convince one that the Hindus and Musulmans of India are not two nations yet. They are not one nation yet, either. They were until now and they are still merely two huge flocks, one more homogeneous than the other, but undoubtedly two flocks of the same population, which systematical training in mutual hatred can organise into two distinct and antagonistic nations, but which a no less systematical training in love and service of the same motherland can definitely amalgamate into one.

The problem is not; “The Indian Musulmans and the Hindus are two nations; how should they deal with, each other?” But: “The Indians have been since a long time and are still two main flocks namely the Musulmans and Hindus; do they desire to become two nations or one?”

* * *

To those among the few communally minded Indians who sincerely desire to see two nations grow on this soil we have nothing to say. Nothing except that the Hindus and Musulmans are distributed


in such a way, in the different parts of India, that territorial separation of the two communities will not be an easy job. How to establish, for instance, the constant contact of East Bengal, — that stronghold of Indian Islam, — with Punjab, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Sindh etc. . . , the other and more extensive bloc of the same would-be Mohammedan “nation” through the undisputedly Hindu territories of Bihar, United Provinces, Rajputana etc. . . ? Or are these unfortunate Moslems of North and East Bengal, — half the population of Moslem India, without counting the States, — to remain isolated or to emigrate? And there are many other difficulties in that well-known “Pakistan scheme,” difficulties which the practically minded Musulman leaders were the first ones to point out. It would be better to drop the idea altogether and urge each one of the two communities to prepare for a tough fight with the other, as soon as possible. Sooner the better. Only the fight will have to be a tough one. The Hindus know it is not easy to silence the voice of more than eight crores of Musulmans. It is difficult to convert them all, especially when most Hindus themselves still resent the idea of conversion; difficult also to expel them all from India. They are not a few thousands, not a few hundreds of thousands, but eight crores,


— equal in number to the population of Germany in 1939, greater than the whole population of Japan; greater than the population of the main Musulman countries of the world: Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan rolled in one. But the Mohammedans who desire two distinct nations to grow out of the two present Hindu and Moslem groups, and who are therefore seeking a clash, should also not forget that it will not be easy to overcome definitely twenty-eight crores of Hindus, once these are united in one national consciousness and organised.

To “fight it out,” which is the only ultimate solution we will sooner or later have to face, if we must become two nations — is not even so simple as it looks. The fight would be hard. It would perhaps also last a long time, provided the outside world does not put a stop to it.

But why desire at all to become two nations when it is yet possible to become only one? Why not try to build up one compact Indian nation out of the two or more communal groups?

* * *

The non-Hindu Indians, whether Musulmans or others, should never forget that their ancestors


and those of the present day Hindus were the same; that they are not the children of a foreign land, not conquerors, not raiders of India, not settled foes, but Indians. In fact, they seldom do forget it, unless they are systematically taught to. Their unconscious mind, if not silenced by false knowledge, always remembers it.

If in India less stress was put, in daily life, upon communal distinctions, it would take time to make out who is a Hindu and who is not. It is still difficult for a Northern Indian travelling in the South, where the strongest minority is composed of Christians, to distinguish at first sight who is a Hindu and who is a Christian. Same language, same dress, same conception of family and even of society (many South Indian Christians continue to observe caste rules among themselves, as if they were Hindus still), same habits of hospitality, same domestic art (identical alpanas drawn before the threshold) same style of public processions; it is only the deities who differ, and their respective places of worship — typically Dravidian-style temples and, on the other hand, pseudo-Gothic and pseudo-Norman churches, like spots of Western Europe clumsily stuck into an Indian setting. His personal name also differentiates at once a Dravidian Christian from a Hindu.


But in Bengal and in the North, Christians call themselves more and more by Indian names, and the apparent distinction, at least in educated society, seems to, be growing lesser and lesser.

But the strong minority in India at large, the minority which has created a problem, is that one represented by the Mohammedans. How about them?

It is easy, nowadays, to speak of the “anti-national” feelings of the Indian Mohammedans; easy, but not always fair. We are not considering here the religion, but the people. There seems to be scarcely more foreign consciousness among the thousands of average Indian Musulmans than genuine Indian consciousness among the thousands of average Hindus. May be they are two nations in theory, that is to say that an infinitesimal number of people on each side, — and mostly people of foreign education and outlook, — may have good reasons for wishing them to form two nations and for inciting them to hate each other. But they certainly are not two nations in fact.

To those who say they are we would ask to show us in what way there is, between a Hindu Bengali fisherman and a Musulman Bengali fisherman the same difference as between a German and a French fisherman; or between two Bengali peasants, one a


Hindu and the other a Musulman, the same difference as between a German and a French peasant. They speak the same language, — just as the Christian and Musulman Slavs of Bosnia do, in Europe, — and live the same life. Only a few exterior details differ, and that not always. Their superstitions naturally differ, but to the extent to which they have any real religious experience, any intuition of God, that experience, that intuition, is of the same nature, for the essence of religion is always the same. And as for the main thing which is, everywhere, the basis of nationality, namely national consciousness, what to say about it since it does not exist, apparently, among the Indian masses, whether Hindu or Mohammedan? An average Indian Mohammedan knows he is a Mohammedan. But if Islam, historically speaking, is a culture, it is certainly not a nation. And was it even a culture, distinct from that of the other Indians, to the eyes of the humble Indian Musulman, before he was told so by his foreign-educated leaders?

The average Hindu is still worse, for far from feeling himself an Indian, he does not even feel himself a Hindu, but a member of some narrow group of families connected by their unrestricted interdining and intermarriage, of some caste. And a


caste is anything but a nationality.

It is therefore distorting facts to parallel a Hindu and a Musulman of India with two men of different nationalities. It would be more correct to say that they are both men without any nationality yet, as we have already said.

And even their religious and social antagonism is often farfetched. We still see numbers of low caste Hindus taking an active part in the rejoicings of their Mohammedan comrades at the time of Mohurrum. Why not? Hinduism, being no “religion” in the ordinary sense of the word, forces no fanaticism whatsoever upon its followers. But there is more to say; though Islam is a religion, and a very exclusive one too, in all matters where “idolatry” is concerned, we often used to see Musulmans taking an active part in widespread Hindu festivities such as the Durga Puja in Bengal, or the Jagannath Chariot festival. We can see them still do so wherever intensive communal propaganda has not poisoned their minds. We have seen ourselves, in Midnapur, in 1939, Musulmans pulling the Jagannath Chariots through the streets, along with their Hindu brothers. They were not doing so as Musulmans but simply as Bengalis, sharing in public processions and rejoicings as old as India itself.


In the fratricidal propaganda of a few Hindus and Mohammedans, more interested in government jobs for their relatives and friends than in either Hindu “culture” or Mohammedan “faith,” and in the constant encouragement of such propaganda by those outsiders who have interest to maintain India constantly divided, lie the roots of the so-called irremediable Hindu-Moslem antagonism and the origin of the idea of two Indias.

In the spontaneous fraternity of Hindus and Musulmans, — and Christians, wherever they are in notable numbers; as in the South, — who share the same dreary life, the same popular rejoicings, the same sunshine and the same soil, lies the unconscious answer of real living India to those who are about to misguide her people. And as an echo of that great voice of the land, rises the voice of the few who love India more than seats in any Assembly, more than money, titles and influence under any government, nay, more than their personal souls; “Nation first, religion afterwards. No god is worth the sacrifice of reborn India before his altar.”

That is also what we believe. We know India is not yet a nation. But we intensely want her to become one as soon as possible, so that she may claim, in the world, the place that she should have, — and back her claims by force if necessary.

But before that can happen, all Indians must be made to realise that they are one heart and one will.