Shaheed Suhrawardy’s letter to Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman

Print edition : March 02, 2018

40, Theatre Road, Calcutta,

The 10th September, 1947

My dear Khaliquzzaman Sahib,

We are now all thinking very hard as to what should be the position of the minorities, particularly of the minority Muslims, in the Hindu-majority provinces. We had not thought about it earlier, as we did not expect Bengal to be partitioned and Muslims being reduced to a minority in any part of Bengal. I think that your move and your speech regarding the flag was a very wise one, as any hesitation in accepting it would have created indelible suspicion in the minds of the Hindus regarding our loyalty and bone fides. The good feeling between Hindus and Muslims at present existing here, and let us hope that this will be permanent, is largely due to the whole-hearted acceptance of the Indian Union flag by the Muslims and their adoption of the cry of “Jai Hind”. At the same time, we have got to think what should be the policy of the Muslims for the future. And the whole question turns on this, can we rely upon the Hindu Governments to look after the interests of the Muslims or shall we be let down at a crucial moment? We appear to have the following alternatives:

1. Continue to live as Muslims in the best Islamic tradition connected with the Muslim League and holding fast to the two-nation theory. In this alternative we shall have to be very strong and disciplined and must be ready to undergo sacrifices and must look to Pakistan for support and protection. We shall certainly get the respect of the Hindus, but equally their indignation. They will see to it that we do not become strong and I doubt very much whether Pakistan can come to our rescue and support. The theory of hostages has broken down. The fear of reprisal does not prevent a Hindu from killing us although he may be endangering his brother Hindus in Pakistan, but when a person gets mad and becomes insane then he does not think of the consequences to his co-religionists in other parts of the country. Further, in spite of the best efforts of the authorities, the rank and file of the law and order force are intensely communal. They are adopting an anti-Muslim complex and will not move an inch to prevent a Muslim being murdered or his shop looted or his property destroyed. I am, therefore, not in favour of adopting an attitude of aloofness dependent upon the two-nation theory.

2. Be a good Muslim and remain on friendly terms with your Hindu neighbours on the basis of common citizenship of the Indian Union. This obviously is the best position to take up but the snags are the following:

a) Will the Hindu accept you as an equal and as a common citizen or will he try and assert superiority in every way and humiliate the Muslims?

b) Will he treat you with cordiality? What attracts me most to Mahatma Gandhi’s mission is his insistence that the majority must not feel a sense of superiority or of domination and the minorities must not be made to feel any sense of subservience. He says that the minorities have rights for which they must fight unto death. They must not adopt an attitude of giving up rights in order to purchase the goodwill of the majorities. In order to bring the majority Hindus to a proper frame of mind it is necessary to have continuous propaganda amongst them and it is going to take time. What I fear is, will they have respect for you if you have not strength, that is to say if you give up your particular group solidarity? At the same time, any attempt to acquire solidarity and strength will raise suspicion in their minds as regards bona fides. Here the question what should be our attitude towards the Hindus is very important. Shall we treat with them as League treating with the Congress or shall we create a political party of Hindus and Muslims? They may refuse to accept you as the League treating with the Congress and in a system of joint electorate will support the breed known as the Nationalist Muslims.

c) Complete subservience and submergence in some places as in Bihar. This is the attitude of Hindus towards the Muslims. In order to prevent this there are three alternatives:

i) The Muslims should form themselves into strong pockets. In my opinion, this should be done even with the best co-operation in the world with the Hindus. It is politically desirable as well as necessary for survival and also culturally desirable.

ii) Transfer of population while the going is good. Although we have had a bad lesson in the Punjab I still that transfer of population is an impossibility. It is doubtful how many of those who have been transferred from one side to the other will survive. I think we have to take the risk and stand fast to where we live.

iii) Annihilation. This is too awful to contemplate not from the personal point of view but from the point of view of Hindus and Muslims as a whole because nothing can then stop a general carnage.

So now the question is what are we going to do next. You must have thought over these problems because these problems have been with you for a much longer time than with us. I would like to have some guidance from you. Personally I think that Pakistan has provided a homeland for the Muslims living in those majority areas, but not a homeland for the Muslims of India. The Muslims in the Indian Union have been left high and dry and must shape their own destiny and the question arises what should be our future organisation. The fact that there is a Pakistan Government of course does give a certain amount of reflected prestige to the Muslims of India but at the same time makes them a target for antagonism, and we have to choose between the two. I think that the Muslims of the minority provinces will have to chalk out their own plan. The Quaid-e-Azam and the Muslim League in general are too busy with doing nothing in Pakistan. I think the solution lies in finding some ways and means to induce all Governments whether they are Pakistan or Hindustan to accept the minorities as their own and to destroy the complex of superiority in the majority population. For this purpose an all-round effort should be made and we are extremely lucky in having Mahatma Gandhi as the spearhead of this movement, for herein lies peace with dignity and honour and also the dictates of humanity. What do you think, first of all, of a few of us meeting together and then possibly a convention of the Muslim legislators of the minority provinces and then conventions of Muslim leading men in each province?

As I said above I look to you for guidance.

Yours sincerely,

Shaheed Suhrawardy.

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