(Editor’s Note: This story was first published on 9 December 2019 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives in the light of Home Minister Amit Shah reiterating at Times Now Summit that the Congress divided the country on religious lines.)
On Monday, 9 December, Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha. While introducing the Bill, the home minister claimed that it is the Congress party that was responsible for India’s partition on religious lines.
Shah’s statement came amid constant uproar and clashes in the Lok Sabha creating quite a stir, both inside and outside the House.
What Are Historians Saying?
On 3 June 1947, in a joint conference with the Congress and the Muslim League, Viceroy Louis Mountbatten, announced the partition of India. While the role of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the British has been discussed in history textbooks very often, multiple historians are now studying the role of Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha leaders.
Noted Historian Srinath Raghavan took to Twitter to refute Amit Shah’s claims. Raghavan in his tweet said, “Congress did accept the division of the country, but not the two-nation theory. This was central to their acceptance of the partition plan. The plan stipulated that Punjab and Bengal would be partitioned if the representatives of either the Muslim-majority districts or the rest of the province voted for it. Sind's Assembly would decide which state to join. Referenda would be held in NWFP & Sylhet district of Assam (sic).”
Srinath Raghavan is Senior Fellow at Carnegie India and has authored several publications including War and Peace in Modern India: A Strategic History of the Nehru Years and India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia.
Shah claims in Parliament that "It was the Congress that divided the country on religious lines, not us". Congress did accept the division of the country, but not the two-nation theory. This was central to their acceptance of the partition plan. (1/7) https://t.co/8Gbq6yz6gW— Srinath Raghavan (@srinathraghava3) December 9, 2019
Several other historians including S Irfan Habib called out Amit Shah for his remarks claiming that this reflects Shah’s lack of understanding of history based on facts.
You say such things on the floor of the house because you never ever cared to read or understand history based on facts. https://t.co/bKQsPmdSKb— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) December 9, 2019
Hindu Right and Its Contribution to Partition
Ram Manohar Lohia in his book The Guilty men of India’s Partition has explained the contribution of the Hindu Right to the partition of India.
"“The opposition of fanatical Hinduism to partition did not and could not make any sense, for one of the forces that partitioned the country was precisely this Hindu fanaticism. It was like the murderer recoiling from his crime, after it had been done.”" - Ram Manohar Lohia in The Guilty men of India’s Partition
He also mentions in the book that the present Jana Sangh and its predecessors have helped Britain and the Muslim League partition the country.
"“To espouse the philosophy of estrangement and, at the same time, the concept of Akhand Bharat is an act of grievous self-deception, only if we assume that those who do so are honest men.”" - Ram Manohar Lohia in The Guilty men of India’s PartitionCongress Responds to Shah’s Claims
Responding to Amit Shah’s claims, Congress’ Manish Tewari said, “Today, Home Minister said that Congress is responsible for Partition on basis of religion. I want to make it clear that the foundation for the two-nation theory was laid in 1935 in Ahmedabad by Savarkar in a Hindu Mahasabha session and not Congress.”
Hence, while blaming the Congress party for the partition of India, the home minister might be missing out on key observations by historians and crucial facts from the history textbooks which explain the role played by other key players including Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Hindu Right.
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