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Henry Judd

Behind the Hindu-Moslem Strife

National or Religious Question?

(December 1946)

From New International, Vol.12 No.10, December 1946, pp.296-301.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Within the colonial world, the problem of the relations between Hindu and Moslem in India has become of outstanding importance. A problem that, several years ago, might have been disposed of in the normal course of historic and nationalist development has more than redoubled in intensity and has become crucial for the cause of India’s revolutionary struggle for freedom. The 6,000 corpses in Calcutta’s streets, a result of a savage and tragic episode of communal rioting, testify to the Intensity of the feelings involved, along with the fact that, despite the entry of the Moslem League into Nehru’s Provisional India Government, the murder of Hindu by Moslem and Moslem by Hindu continues. In this issue of The New International, Henry Judd, author of India in Revolt, analyzes the content of this problem. We also reprint a resolution suggesting the revolutionary solution proposed by the Indian section of the Fourth International. — Editor.

These special features of the geography of India are reflected in her civilisation. To the variations in topography, climate, flora and fauna, and natural resources correspond wide differences in cultural patterns and social institutions, as evidenced by the richness and variety of art, literature, philosophy and religion in India. Nevertheless, the existence of facilities for communication within the greater part of the country has led to the growth of social relationships among different racial groups and created a profound cultural unity in the midst of diversity; and the comparative isolation of this great country from the rest of the world has preserved the conditions for the evolution of a civilisation that is unique and specifically Indian. — (Industrial Labour in India, published by the International Labour Office, Geneva, 1938.)

What are the basic facts of the Hindu-Moslem problem?

  1. India is a country with 6,000 known years of history, during the course of which countless migrations, conquests, assimilations, divisions, unifications, etc., have occurred. The Ethnic-racial mixture of today is the consequence of these 6,000 years of inter-marriage and social relations.
  2. The first Moslem (Mohammedan, Mussulman) invasion took place in the year 664, into North India, but large-scale migrations did not begin until the year 1200, approximately 700 years ago, after which they took place regularly, leading to the foundation of the Mogul dynasties.
  3. The Moslems mixed freely with the Aryan peoples, assimilating their culture and proselytizing for the Islamic religious system among these people. To escape the rigid, predetermining grip of the Hindu caste system, many of these Aryans became converts to Islam — that is, became Moslems. This, of course, also elevated them to the ranks of the ruling class officialdom.
  4. “Probably as many as 90 per cent of India’s 90 million [1] Moslems are descended from Hindu converts to Islam.” (Sir Frederick Puckle, The Pakistan Doctrine, Foreign Affairs Quarterly, pg. 528.) Of the 12 million Moslems in the Punjab province, 10 million are of Hindu descent, having embraced the new religion to escape caste and Hindu laws.
  5. According to the latest census figures (1940), India is divided, along religious-communal lines, as follows:



255 million


  92 million


    6 million


    6 million


  26 million


385 million

Approximately two-thirds of the Moslem population of 92 million (59 million, to be exact) live in six of India’s northern provinces. The remaining 33 million Moslems live scattered far and wide in India’s five other provinces, native states, etc., constituting enclaves within the broad Hindu population. In the six northern provinces of Moslem concentration (reading from left to right on the map: Baluchistan, Sind, Northwest Frontier, Punjab, Bengal and Assam Provinces), the 59 million Moslems constitute 56 per cent of the total six province population strength of 108 million. The other 49 million people are, of course, almost entirely Hindus, except for the six million Sikhs who live in the Punjab.

Not Traditional National Question

Such are the basic facts. Now, what are the essential differences between Hindu and Moslem, from a social standpoint? These differences fall under the general heading of religious-communal differences. That is, we are dealing with two communities, BUT communities that overlap in many fundamental respects: language, culture and tradition, racial and ethnic mixture, common conditions of life (particularly in the village-peasant areas), etc. In a word, the Hindu-Moslem problem is not a national problem in the traditional sense of the word. That is, the Moslems do not form a distinct national minority grouping, with a distinct culture, language, etc. We are dealing with a special form or expression of the national question — a problem in which the specific features of difference between the two vast communities are determined more by psychology, feelings and sentiment than by easily observable facts. The Moslem people are not a viable nation; they are an organic part of the Indian nation, but a part with viable differences and problems that cannot be dismissed.

As the resolution on “Pakistan” (the demand of the Moslem League for recognition of the Moslems as a separate nation) adopted by the Indian Bolshevik-Leninists asserts, the real national differences within India consist of differences between peoples residing in regions, or separate provinces, of the country. That is, regional peoples such as the Punjabis, the Bengalis, the Pathans of the Northwest Frontier, the Madrasis and Tamils of South India, etc., have far greater differences and points of division, with respect to language, race, history and customs, than do the Hindus and Moslems considered as abstract categories of people! For example, a Moslem and a Hindu living in the Punjab region of India (that is, Punjabis) have far more in common with one another culturally, linguistically, etc., than they do with a Moslem and a Hindu living in, let us say, Bengal or Madras provinces. To express it differently, their common characteristics as Punjabis are more apparent and significant than their characteristics in common with, respectively, a Bengal or Madras province Hindu; or a Bengal or Madras province Moslem. But this is not to deny a common religious-communal bond between the Punjab Moslem and the Bengal or Madras Moslem; or such a bond between the Punjab Hindu and the Bengal or Madras Hindu. Such a denial would, of course, imply that the Hindu-Moslem antagonism has no reality and as such would be nonsense. At the same time, we must again call attention to the general, all-pervading Indian-ness that reaches into every region and province of India and covers each religion, sect, community, caste and class with its all-embracing national qualities. This quality of Indian-ness is revealed in common origins of language and their deep inter-connection (not to mention the fact that Hindustani, the plurality language, is spoken by one-third of the entire population); common social and economic life; common traditions and historic experiences; elaborate communications, etc.

What is the specific nature of the Moslem community of 92 millions? The vast bulk of this community (over 80 per cent) are poor, illiterate peasants — either tenant farmers or small landholders. They live within the lower scales of the socially depressed Indian population. It is wrong to think that the Moslem community is not internally divided along economic and class lines. On the contrary, its top sector is an extremely reactionary and oppressive clique. In Bengal province, with which the author is most familiar, the Moslem castes are indistinguishable from the Hindu castes who occupy the other half of the province. The Moslem landlords, princes (Nizams) and feudal aristocrats are precisely symmetrical to their class brothers in the Hindu community. In Hyderabad, the largest and one of the most oppressive of the so-called native states, a Moslem ruling class of landlords and feudalists tyrannizes over a Hindu peasant population in exactly the same manner as do the princes in Hindu native states.

William Phillips, Roosevelt’s personal envoy in India and the gentleman who was declared persona non grata by the British, declared in a report,

“... the Moslem community as a political party has only an artificial unity. Like other religious groups it comprises various classes which have been more or less welded together politically by the device of separate electorate. There is already evidence to indicate that Moslem workers and peasants are becoming increasingly aware of their unity with Hindus of the same class.” (The Voice of India, February, 1946, p.248.)

The Moslem community then consists of:

  1. A small handful of landlords, princes and feudal rulers.
  2. A small strata of petty bourgeois intellectuals, government officials, students, priests and religious teachers, unemployed college graduates.
  3. A small strata of industrial workers.
  4. A small strata of skilled handicraft workers.
  5. An overwhelming strata of peasants and small landowning farmers.

Unfortunately, we do not possess exact figures on the actual numbers of the above groups. It is important to note there are hardly any Moslem industrial bourgeois and comparatively few Moslem proletarians. In addition, since the Islamic religion frowns upon the garnering of “interest” and money-lending, the Moslems rarely are found among the commercial groups of the Indian population. The Hindu bania, the village money-lender and storekeeper, has a free field, thus providing a constant source of irritation in Moslem village communities and farming areas.

Sources of Moslem Communalism

The sources of Moslem communalism are not hard to uncover, once we grasp the basic facts outlined above. In general, the Moslem people occupy a lower place in the all-India community than other groups. They do not share proportionally in the general production or distribution of social wealth; nor do they occupy social positions commensurate with their numbers and significance. They therefore feel discriminated against. The ruling ranks of the Moslemic community likewise strive to share places with the corresponding ruling ranks of the Hindus. Moslem landlords and princes wish to retain their class privileges and powers; Moslems wish to become capitalists and share the profits of the Hindu textile, steel, iron and coal industrial magnates; Moslem intellectuals are in violent competition with the Hindu intellectuals and college graduates over jobs in the British civil service and administration, etc.

Resolution Evades Issue

And here, in conclusion, we come to the program and resolution on Pakistan offered by the Indian Bolshevik-Leninists, the Indian section of the Fourth International. Insofar as it goes, this resolution — which we are publishing — proceeds along the correct line but, in our opinion, does not go far enough and, in a sense, evades the Moslem issue.

The resolution correctly describes the character of the Moslem League and its separatism, as well as the hopelessly retrogressive nature of Pakistan. It places India’s national problem on a realistic level by pointing to the fact that regional divisions, according to nationalities (Punjabis, Bengalis, etc.), constitute the real problem. A united, socialist, federal India is the solution proposed, similar to the Leninist plan for the solution of Russia’s national question. To quote from the original constitution of Soviet Russia,

“The workers and peasants of each nation are free to decide independently at their own plenipotentiary Soviet congresses whether they desire, and if so, on what conditions, to take part in the federal government and other federal Soviet institutions.” (Part II, Chapter 5)

The principle of socialist federalism assumes, of course, the right of secession from any Federated Indian state. As the program of the Indian Trotskyism states, only a democratically-elected Constituent Assembly can decide these questions of Indian independence, and create the broad outlines of the future nation. But the proposal of socialist federations is undoubtedly the correct answer to the basic aspects of the national problem.

But the Moslem problem and relations between the two major communities overlaps the national, or regional problem! In the present tense situation, it even tends to dominate the former and replace it. Moslems live everywhere in India, regardless of nationality, and form enclaves within the body of India itself, including the predominantly Hindu sections. And, since it evades this question, the resolution we publish can be considered satisfactory only insofar as it goes. It does not go far enough. It is not sufficient to characterize the reactionary Moslem League, nor lay bare its class motives, since behind the League stands the dispossessed and degraded Moslem mass, with its deep and justified suspicions against the Congress party and its leadership. This cannot be ignored without the charge of “pro-Hinduism” being leveled against the resolution and its authors.

It Lenin could consider that the Russian anarchists had the right to found a state, or community, of their own; if Lenin could believe that, in general, any group of people with a common set of beliefs and ideas, had separatist rights-then we cannot deny this same right to a group of people such as the Moslems. Not, indeed, merely because Lenin said so, but because we revolutionary socialists stand for the utmost of democracy, above all at a time when the entire bourgeois, Stalinist and reactionary world has discredited itself. The very tenacity with which the Congress bourgeois leadership opposes Pakistan and demands that the Moslem people subject itself to its tender graces, this alone would almost suffice to make us hold an opposite opinion, lest we be identified with Gandhi, Nehru, et al. Thus, we must clearly state that the Moslem people shall have the right to form independent states, including enclaves within Hindu territory, if they so wish and so decide for themselves. We will point out the general economic disadvantages of such separation and the greater advantages that lie in regional affiliation to a Federated India, but we cannot deny the right of the Moslem masses to attempt such a separatist experience, if they so wish. Above all, the Indian Trotskyists must openly proclaim the right of the Moslem people to vote on such a proposal. Everybody, the British government, the Moslem League, the Congress party — literally everybody denies the Moslem people the right to vote, to express their sentiments. Shall we be among these opponents of elementary democracy? No, in a free India the Moslem masses must have the right to vote, after democratic consideration and discussion, on the issue of separatism. In our opinion, the program of the Indian Fourth Internationalists will not be correct or complete until this is added, in unambiguous form, to the resolution.



1. The 1940 India census records 93 million Moslems, rather than Buckle’s figure.

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