Kemal Pasha. Nationalism In Asia. Iqbal


Kemal Pasha was naturally popular in India with Muslims and Hindus alike. He had not only rescued Turkey from foreign domination and disruption but had foiled the machinations of European imperialist powers, especially England. But as the Ataturk’s policy unfolded itself—his lack of religion, his abolition of the Sultanate and Khilafat, the building up of a secular state, and his disbandment of religious orders—that popularity waned so far as the more orthodox Muslims were concerned and a silent resentment against his modernist policy rose among them. This very policy, however, made him more popular among the younger generation of both Hindus and Muslims. The Ataturk partly destroyed the dream structure that had gradually grown up in the Indian Muslim mind ever since the days of the Mutiny. Again a kind of vacuum was created. Many Muslims filled this vacuum by joining the nationalist movement, many had of course already joined it previously; others stood aloof, hesitant and doubtful. The real conflict was between feudal modes of thought and modern tendencies. The feudal leadership had for the moment been swept away by the mass Khilafat movement, but that movement itself had no solid basis in social and economic conditions or in the needs of the masses. It had its centre elsewhere, and when the core itself was eliminated by the Ataturk the superstructure collapsed, leaving the Muslim masses bewildered and disinclined to any political action. The old feudal leaders, who had lain low, crept back into prominence, helped by British policy, which had always supported them. But they could not come back to their old position of unquestioned leadership for conditions had changed. The Muslims were also throwing up, rather belatedly, a middle class, and the very experience of a mass political movement, under the leadership of the National Congress, had made a vital difference.

Though the mentality of the Muslim masses and the new growing middle class was shaped essentially by events, Sir Mohammad Iqbal played an important part in influencing the latter and especially the younger generation. The masses were hardly affected by him. Iqbal had begun by writing powerful nationalist poems in Urdu which had become popular. During the Balkan Wars he turned to Islamic subjects. He was influenced by the circumstances then prevailing and the mass feeling among the Muslims, and he himself influenced and added to the intensity of these sentiments. Yet he was very far from being a mass leader; he was a poet, an intellectual and a philosopher with affiliations to the old feudal order; he came from Kashmiri Brahmin stock. He supplied in fine poetry, which was written both in Persian and Urdu, a philosophic background to the Muslim intelligentsia and thus diverted its mind in a separatist direction. His popularity was no doubt due to the quality of his poetry, but even more so it was due to his having fulfilled a need when the Muslim mind was searching for some anchor to hold on to. The old pan-Islamic ideal had ceased to have any meaning; there was no Khilafat and every Islamic country, Turkey most of all, was intensely nationalist, caring little for other Islamic peoples. Nationalism was in fact the dominant force in Asia as elsewhere, and in India the nationalist movement had grown powerful and challenged British rule repeatedly. That nationalism had a strong appeal to the Muslim mind in India, and large numbers of Muslims had played a leading part in the struggle for freedom. Yet Indian nationalism was dominated by Hindus and had a Hinduised look. So a conflict arose in the Muslim mind; many accepted that nationalism, trying to influence it in the direction of their choice; many sympathised with it and yet remained aloof, uncertain; and yet many others began to drift in a separatist direction for which Iqbal’s poetic and philosophic approach had prepared them.

This, I imagine, was the background out of which, in recent years, arose the cry for a division of India. There were many reasons, many contributory causes, errors and mistakes on every side, and especially the deliberate separatist policy of the British Government. But behind all these was this psychological background, which itself was produced, apart from certain historical causes, by the delay in the development of a Muslim middle class in India. Essentially the internal conflict in India, apart from the nationalist struggle against foreign domination, is between the remnants of the feudal order and modernist ideas and institutions. That conflict exists on the national plane as well as within each major group, Hindu, Muslim, and others. The national movement, as represented essentially by the National Congress, undoubtedly represents the historic process of growth towards these new ideas and institutions, though it tries to adapt these to some of the old foundations. Because of this, it has attracted to its fold all manner of people, differing widely among themselves. On the Hindu side, an exclusive and rigid social order has come in the way of growth, and what is more, frightened other groups. But this social order itself has been undermined and is fast losing its rigidity and, in any event, is not strong enough to obstruct the growth of the national movement in its widest political and social sense, which has developed enough impetus to go ahead in spite of obstacles. On the Muslim side, feudal elements have continued to be strong and have usually succeeded in imposing their leadership on their masses. There has been a difference of a generation or more in the development of the Hindu and Muslim middle classes, and that difference continues to show itself in many directions, political, economic, and other. It is this lag which produces a psychology of fear among the Muslims.

Pakistan, the proposal to divide India, however much it may appeal emotionally to some, is of course no solution for this backwardness, and it is much more likely to strengthen the hold of feudal elements for some time longer and delay the economic progress of the Muslims. Iqbal was one of the early advocates of Pakistan and yet he appears to have realized its inherent danger and absurdity. Edward Thompson has written that, in the course of a conversation, Iqbal told him that he had advocated Pakistan because of his position as president of the Muslim League session, but he felt sure that it would be injurious to India as a whole and to Muslims specially. Probably he had changed his mind, or he had not given much thought to the question previously, as it had assumed no importance then. His whole outlook on life does not fit in with the subsequent developments of the idea of Pakistan or division of India.

During his last years Iqbal turned more and more towards socialism. The great progress that Soviet Russia had made attracted him. Even his poetry took a different turn. A few months before his death, as he lay on his sick-bed, he sent for me and I gladly obeyed the summons. As I talked to him about many things I felt that how much we had in common, in spite of differences, and how easy it would be to get on with him. He was in reminiscent mood and wandered .from one subject to another, and I listened to him, talking little myself. I admired him and his poetry, and it pleased me greatly to feel that he liked me and had a good opinion of me. A little before I left him he said to me: ‘What is there in common between Jinnah and you? He is a politician, you are a patriot.’ I hope there is still much in common between Mr. Jinnah and me. As for my being a patriot I do not know that this is a particular qualification in these days at least in the limited sense of the word. Greatly attached as I am to India, I have long felt that something more than national attachment is necessary for us in order to understand and solve even our own problems, and much more so those of the world as a whole. But Iqbal was certainly right in holding that I was not much of a politician, although politics had seized me and made me its victim.

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

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