Muslims in India�s Freedom Movement

The history of Indian national movement would be incomplete and biased without the presentation of the actual role of Indian Muslims in it.

Many historians tried to prove that Indian Muslim leaders preached the gospel of separation right from the Revolt of 1857 to the day of independence in 1947, and the Muslim antagonism to the Freedom Movement dates back to its beginning itself and that Religion can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland.

There is also a propaganda that this tendency was ultimately the reason for partition of the country in 1947 and the ideology of separatism has influenced the Muslim masses so intensely that they were not satisfied by the concessions granted to them by the majority community which resulted in fresh demands for a separate homeland.

This propaganda has been resulted in the campaign of hatred against the Muslims.

After the attainment of independence it was hoped that our intellectuals would say good-bye to the British historiography of infusing communal politics and sowing the seeds of dissension between the two communities in India and usher in the golden age of freedom.

No adequate coverage But contrary to the expectations, the role of Indian Muslims in the national movement has not been given adequate coverage in the press or books. It has either been sidetracked or referred to here and there by scholars. Instead of factual and secular historiography it has been communalized.

The contribution of Muslim revolutionaries, poets and writers is not known today. Similarly scarcely is known about the contribution of Muhammad Ashfaq Ullah Khan of Shahjehanpur who conspired and looted the British treasury at Kakori (Lucknow) to cripple the administration and who, when asked for his last will, before execution, desired:

"No desire is left except one that some one may put a little soil of my motherland in my winding sheet".

Likewise present generation of students do not know about Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, a great nationalist who had passed 45 years of his 95 years of life in jail for the freedom of India; Barakatullah of Bhopal, one of the founders of the Ghadar party who created a network of anti-British organization and who died penniless in Germany in l927; Syed Rahmat Shah of the Ghadar party who worked as an underground revolutionary in France and was hanged for his part in unsuccessful Ghadar uprising in 1915; Ali Ahmad Siddiqui of Faizabad (UP) who planned the Indian Mutiny in Malaya and Burma along with Syed Mujtaba Hussain of Jaunpur and who was hanged In 1917; Umar Subhani, an industrialist and a millionaire of Bombay who presented a blank check to Gandhiji for congress expenses and who ultimately gave his life for the cause of independence, Muhammad Basheer, Khuda Baksh, A. Zakaria, Zafar Hasan, Allah Nawaz, Abdul Aziz and tens of thousands of revolutionaries are ignored.

There is no doubt about that the Muslims have contributed massively to the national movement. Their struggle started since the advent of British rule in India. In the annals of archives Qaiser-ul-Tawarikh mentioned that the number of Muslims executed only in Delhi during 1857-58 was 27,000, not to speak of those killed in the general massacre. This shows the great sacrifices they made for the emancipation of their country from British rule.

In all the national uprisings from Sanyasi Movement to independence, the files of the Home Department are replete with their immense sacrifices that finally led to the withdrawal of British from India in 1947. What surprises one is the thing that even during the celebration of 50 years of Independence, their role was not properly taken care of by the press which led the All-India Milli Council, a body of Muslims to launch a Karavan-e-Azadi Rally, one from Srirangapatnam where the mausoleum of Tipu Sultan is located and the other from Silchar (Assam) to educate people about the role of Muslims in the countrys freedom struggle.

What further pains one is the fate of Sultan Tipu s epitaph, put on the memorable place where he fell fighting with the British in defense of his metropolis his country which had been made a cricket wicket by the youngsters for their cricket practice during the World Cup 1999. No one, not even the local administration prevented this. This shows the ignorance of Indians of their greatest patriots who laid their lives for India s freedom.

There is no dearth of books on the Indian National Movement but only passing references have been made in them about the role of Muslims. So much so that in her book entitled Women In India s Freedom Movement Manmohan Kaur makes reference to only Begum Hazrat Mahel and Bi-Amma out of the hundreds of women who fought the battle of freedom with their men folk against the British Raj.

Several monographs in which Santimay Ray s Freedom Movement and Indian Muslims or P.N. Chopra s Role of Indian Muslims in the Struggle for Freedom; Kamta Chaubey s Muslims and Freedom Movement in India and a few regional studies like Muzaffar Imam s Role of Muslims in the National Movement and Hasan Imam s Indian National Movement regarding the role of Muslims have been published.

But the subject is wide and needs a comprehensive study. Such a study is essential to help eradicating prejudices and many misconceptions against the Muslims grown in the absence of fair historiography.

Shan Muhammad s book:
Aligarh University professor Shan Muhammad s book Muslims and India s Freedom Movement that he dedicated to those who suffered for the cause of India s Independence, is a marvelous work in this regard. It was Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, which extended due encouragement to bring this work in its present shape. This project was to be released on the 50th anniversary of our independence but got released last year.

An objective study of the national movement reveals that Muslims have never been wanting in nationalist upsurge. Shoulder to shoulder they have fought with the other communities for the Independence of India. No single political party could have driver the British and it was with the indefatigable struggle of all that the British were forced to quit. The Faraizi and the Wahhabi Movements had disturbed the pace of British plan in the initial stages of its expansion in India. These movements may rightly be called as the most organized struggle to oust the British. The Wahhabis with their network all over India obstructed the smooth sailing of the British and fought gallantly against them. It is in this sense that they are said to be the early fighters for India s freedom. They resisted their fresh masters, gave them a befitting reply and convinced them that their stay in India was momentary.

It is a pity that their role in the struggle for freedom has not been adequately presented in the national history. What is more surprising is the fact that the role and contribution of Muslim women in the war of independence and the subsequent movement have been totally ignored by the historians.

Along with their counterparts they fought gallantly and suffered heavily. In the revolt of 1857 Asghari Begum (mother of Qazi Abdur Rahim, the revolutionary of Thana Bhawan, Muzaffarnagar) fought the British and was burnt alive when defeated. Similarly Habiba and Rahimi who obstructed the advance of English forces were caught and hanged. It is estimated that about 225 Muslim women gave their lives in the revolt.

The history of the national movement would be incomplete without mentioning the services of Abadi Begum (mother of Maulana Muhammad Ali), Amjadi Begum (wife of Maulana Muhammad Ali), Nishat-un-Nisa (Begum Hasrat Mohani), Saadat Bano Kitchlew (wife of Dr Saifuddin Kichlew), Begum Khursheed Khwaja (wife of M.A. Khwaja), Zulekha Begum (wife of Maulana Azad), Khadeja Begum and Khursheed Sahiba of frontier, Mehr Taj (daughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan), Zubaida Begum Daoodi (wife of Shafi Daoodi, the reputed nationalist of Bihar), Kaneez Sajida Begum (Bihar), Muneera Begum (wife of Maulana Mazhar-ul-Haq), Asmat Ara Begum Sughra Khatoon (Lucknow), Amina Tyabji (wife of Abbas Tyabji), Begum Sakina Luqmani (wife of Dr Luqmani and daughter of Badruddin Tyabji), Rehana Tyabji, (daughter of Abbas Tyabji), Hamida Tyabji (granddaughter of Shamsuddin Tyabji), Fatima Taib Ali, Safia Saad Khan, Shafaat-un-Nisa Bibi (wife of Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman, Ludhiana), Kulsoom Siyani (wife of Dr Jan Muhammad Siyani, nephew of Rahmtoo They participated in all the political movements from partition of Bengal to the partition of India with Congress banners in their hands. They were imprisoned, fined, baton-charged and suffered for a cause. Their life story itself is a part of the national movement, which cannot be denied and obliterated.

The Collected Works of Gandhi speaks of their magnificent contribution to India s struggle for freedom.

By: Ashraf A. Shah

Acknowledgements: Information in this page taken from website.


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