Should all Muslims have left India in 1947?



“Should all Muslims have left India when Pakistan came into being in 1947?” This question has been coming up a lot these days, especially in the wake of the Delhi Riots. The answer in the light of the vision of those who created Pakistan is, no.

Soon after his Allahabad Address in 1930, where he presented the idea of the state which is now Pakistan, Iqbal explained that his scheme does not involve transfer of population.

Also in the Pakistan Resolution adopted by the All-India Muslim League in March 1940, where the demand for partition was formally made, safeguards for the rights of the religious minorities in both the proposed countries were mentioned. Hence, it was understood that a large number of Muslims would remain in India, and a large number of non-Muslims in Pakistan.

This clause was also incorporated into the final resolution adopted by the elected legislators of the Muslim League in April 1946, after the landslide victory in the recent election. The majority of the Muslims from the regions which are now in India had also voted in favour of Pakistan in that election, and they did so with a clear understanding that most of them would not be migrating to the new country.

After the birth of Pakistan, when things became difficult for the Muslims in India, the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was asked in a press conference in Karachi whether he would demand more territory from India if all Muslims had to be pulled out of that country. The answer of Liaquat was in the affirmative, but he also hoped that such an event would not happen.

Hence, it is quite clear that all Muslims were not supposed to leave India after the birth of Pakistan (and neither were all non-Muslims expected to leave Pakistan). Those Muslims who chose to stay back in India did not betray the ideal of Pakistan.


The question arises whether the creators of Pakistan, and for that matter the Indian Muslims who voted for the creation of Pakistan in spite of having no plans of migrating to the new country, had thought of anything for those Muslims who were going to be left behind in India.

The answer is yes, and what they had thought about those Muslims was the same as what the German government thinks today for the Germans who are residing in Britain or what the French government thinks today for the French living in Germany. Nobody is shamed for what happened during the two world wars.

The reason is that in spite of having fought two world wars, the countries of Europe have now formed the European Union (and the Britain leaving the Union still does not mean that it is going at war against the other European countries).

Two things have made it possible for those countries to become united so soon after having killed millions of each others’ peoples, and both of those things happen to be part of the idea of Pakistan.

The first thing that has ensured peace in Europe is the principle that in the case of a disputed territory, the people of that territory should be asked which state they want to join. One of the major causes of both world wars that certain powerful countries had failed to recognize this principle. This principle, incidentally, happens to be the crux of the demand of Pakistan, for what was that demand except that this principle be applied in South Asia?

The second thing that has brought peace to Europe is the fact of having a common civilization. “The contribution which an organized and vital Europe can bring to civilization” happens to be one of the foundational principles mentioned in the Treaty of Paris 1951, which is now regarded as a forerunner of the European Union.

In the case of Asia, including the South Asia, the same role can be played by the Muslim civilization, because it is commonly shared by such a large number of citizens across so many states. This point was mentioned quite explicitly by Iqbal in his Allahabad Address, even making a direct comparison with those trends of European thought which would eventually lead to the birth of the European Union at a much later date. As could have been expected, the point was repeated on numerous occasions by Jinnah and may also be found in the already mentioned Delhi Resolution of 1946.


Hence, the vision of Jinnah and his school of thought for the Muslims of India was tied with their vision of peace and unity of South Asia. We fail to understand this when we fail to see that the idea of Pakistan is not just about one country. It is a vision for peace and unity for the world in general, and for South Asia in particular.

The obvious reason why there has been perpetual conflict in the region since 1947 is the predominance of the Indian nationalism in the region, whether through the media and academic discourse or whether through brute force.

Because, just as the idea of Pakistan comprises of the same principles which have eventually brought peace and unity in Europe, the Indian nationalism embodies the principles that had been causing perpetual conflicts in Europe and had led to the two world wars.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *