Major political Developments 1857-1918

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Major political developments from 1807 to 1918 are an important phase in the history of Muslims of India. These two dates are important 1857 was the year when there was an uprising in India against the British and in 1858 the British Govt that is the British Crown directly assumed the responsibility of India.1918 was the year when the First World War came to an end. This was an important phase a period of decline of the Muslims and then their revival. The identity formation of the Muslims and their political positioning.

The year 1857 brought decline to the Muslim rule in India. Muslims and Hindus participated in the War of Independence but the British held only Muslims responsible for the rebellion. The Muslims were persecuted ruthlessly and left at the mercy of time. The post war era was disastrous for the Muslims but some personalities emerged on the national scene and played excellent role to guide their people in this critical situation. The Central Mohammedan Association of Justice Amir Ali Syed and the Aligarh movement are very prominent in this regard. Their efforts for revival of the self-identity and political positioning in the Indian society enabled them to face any challenge in the future.

Some important issues have already been discussed in the previous pages. So a brief reference to events in historical context may be given:

  • Decline after the 1857 Uprising
  • Sir Syed and his colleagues’ efforts for revival
  • Removal of misunderstanding between the Muslims and the British
  • Educational movement or acquisition of modern knowledge and English
  • Hindi-Urdu Controversy was the issue that unearthed the hatred and enmity of Hindu community towards the Muslims.
  • Formation of the Congress was a method to incorporate the Muslims in Hinduism. It popularized the agitational politics that Muslims could not afford because they were still recovering the past gaps.
  • Hindu Revivalist movements mostly targeted the Muslims that accelerated the pace of widening the gulf between the two nations.

In the preceding space we are going to discuss the events since the beginning of the 20th century to 1918. These were the developments that influenced the Muslim interests and Muslim identity formation process.

Events since the Beginning of 20TH Century:

1. Partition of Bengal, 1905

2. Simla Deputation, 1906

3. Formation of the Muslim League, 1906

4. Changes in the Goals of the Muslim League, 1913

5. Lucknow Pact, 1916

1: Partition of Bengal: 1905:


At that time Bengal was a united province a very large province. Its area was approximately 189000 sq miles with 80 million populations. In today’s context the united Bengal meant the present day Indian state of West Bengal plus Bangladesh and you could also some up the tertiary of the Indian state of Asam. So it was a big province and unmanageable for Governor General in Calcutta. The negative impact of such a big province was mainly on Eastern regions of Bengal where Muslims were in majority.

Why partition?

Viceroy Lord Curzon decided in 1905 purely on administrative grounds that Bengal should be divided into two provinces, East Bengal and West Bengal. The East Bengal had eastern Bengal and Asam or you could say more or less, East Pakistan of 1947 or Bangladesh of today. West Bengal is more or less West Bengal of today. So in place of one two different provinces were created.

Opposition of Hindus:

The idea of partitioning Bengal was opposed by Hindu organizations. They had started opposing it before it was actually implemented and when it was implemented in 1905 they were up against this decision. A massive agitation was launched by different Hindu organizations. They describe the partition of Bengal as a conspiracy to divide and fragment Indian political forces. To them it was a division of motherland. So they opposed it and subsequently the Congress party joined this agitation. The Congress also opposed the partition of Bengal and other groups that had spearheaded this movement resorted to violence, killings and violence of all sorts.

Muslims point of view:

The Muslims were in favor of partition because it provided an opportunity to eastern regions of original Bengal to develop and Muslims were in majority in eastern part of Bengal. In the past eastern part was neglected because capital was in Calcutta and for a long time Calcutta was a seat of British Indian govt. So Calcutta was hub of activity political centre and eastern parts which were Muslim majority parts were neglected. So the Muslims were happy that now they had a province of their own.

Annulment of the partition of Bengal (Dec 1911):

However, the Hindus and the Congress opposed it. So in 1911, the British acceded to the demand of Hindus and the Congress. In 1911 King George 5th was to visit to India and the Indian govt didn’t want any trouble during his visit therefore the partition of Bengal which was introduced in 1905 was done away with in 1911.The whole episode that is first the partition of Bengal then its annulment in Dec, 1911 had a profound impact on Muslim thinking. Now they had clear evidence in front of them that their interests were in clash with the majority community. They saw during there years when violence was going on in Bengal then lines between them and other communities were developing very sharply. They realized that they will have to stand on their own feet in order to protect and promote their interests and they could not rely on the majority because the majority opposed that provided some relief, some advantage, some benefit to the Muslims living in eastern part of Bengal, the region that was neglected in the past, the region where the Muslims were suffering because the centre or the focal point of administration was Calcutta which neglected the eastern part. They thought that sooner or later they will have to stand on their feet to protect their rights and interests.

2: The Simla Deputation (1906):


The next important development that we would discuss is the Simla Deputation. In fact Simla Deputation (SD) is in line with the kind of thinking which was developing among the Muslims during that time that is they have certain interests and they must stand up to protect their rights and unless they do that the objective will not be achieved. The SD was the first systemic attempt on the part of the Muslims to present their demands to the British govt and to seek their acceptance. The SD comprised 35 prominent Muslims from all over India. It was a galaxy of Muslim leaders from all over India from one end of India to the other and you have Muslims of all backgrounds. Therefore in 1906 when this deputation called on the Viceroy Lord Minto, it was the most representative delegation of the Muslims.


This delegation or what was known as the Simla deputation was led by Sir Agha Khan and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk served as its secretary and these 35 Muslim personalities met the Viceroy Lord Minto in Simla that’s why it is called as the Simla Deputation. The memorandum which they presented to the British govt was a kind of the demands which were the upper most in the minds of the Muslims at that time. The delegation emphasized that Muslims should not be viewed simply in numerical terms but they should take into account their historical importance and the kinds of contribution the Muslims have made to British India and keeping in view that importance they should work towards accommodating their demands.


The delegation emphasized that the democratic principle or the principle of election should be introduced keeping in view the peculiar conditions and circumstances of India. The diversity and the fact that there are different kinds of people living here, the fact that the Muslims consider themselves to be a separate identity. All these things have to taken into account because India was not a homogeneous, amalgamated or monolithic political identity. It was a political identity comprising diversity, divergence in views and outlook and when you introduce some kind of system then these realities have to be accommodated.


In view of these submissions they presented some demands.

Representation more:

  • Representation more than their population because of their importance. So that that representation have some significance, some importance and the representatives are able to play an important role.

Separate electorate:

  • They demanded the introduction of Separate electorate in India. The principle of Separate Electorate in India implied as demanded by the Muslims in 1906 that the Muslims should elect the Muslim representatives that is for electing Muslim representatives only Muslims should vote and for electing others those communities should vote. So that Muslims should be in a position to elect their own representatives that will go to the different institutions of India and represent their point of view. This demand of the Separate Electorate was the key demand the most significant demand the Muslims made at that time and this demand was accepted by the British in 1909.Three year later the principle of Separate Electorate was introduced in British India and it remained effective there until 1947.

Share in jobs:

  • Reservations of Muslims seats in government jobs.

Muslim representation:

  • Special share in Municipal or district boards University senates and syndicates. Reservation of seats mean that you make sure that Muslims are represented that certain no. of Muslims would be sitting in these institutions in order to represent their point of view.

Muslim representation in Viceroy Executive Council:

  • They also demanded that they should have Muslim representation in Viceroy Executive Council. The British Viceroy had an Executive Council and the Indians were its representatives but the Muslim demand was that they should also be accommodated in that Viceroy, Council so that they could represent their demands.

Muslim university at Aligarh:

  • The last significant demand made was that the college at Aligarh should be elevated to the status of Muslim University at Aligarh. This was the demand which the Muslims were advocating for the last several years and this appeared even in this demand list here.


Now if you look at the content of the demands of the Muslims here to the Viceroy at Simla you will find that this is a very clear manifestation of realization amongst the educated Muslims that there are certain special interests and special concerns of the Muslims which have to be protected and in order to protect those interests they will have to get together organize and present those demands to the authority for consideration.

The Viceroy was sympathetic towards the demands. It encouraged the Muslims to launch struggle for their rights parallel to the Indian National Congress but it required an organized platform.

3: Formation of All India Muslim League (AIML):


The Formation of the Muslim League is the logical step from the Simla Deputation. The Muslim leaders thought that time had come to formally organize the Muslims after the success of the Simla Deputation. Just 3 months later on 30th December the Muslim leaders desired to create a permanent political forum or the Muslim League. The Muslim League was established in Dhaka on 30th December in 1906.It was set up after the meeting of the Mohammedan Educational Conference, which was meeting in the same city, the Muslim leaders had gathered there to set up the All India Muslim League. It was a historical step taken by the Muslim leaders that was the formation of the Muslim League .Wiqar-ul-Mulk chaired the meeting for setting the ML and the idea of setting up of a political organization was proposed by Nawab Salimullah of Dhaka and Hakim Ajmal Khan and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan seconded. All these Muslim leaders discussed their issues and problems and decided to set up this organization that is the Muslim League.They argued that time has come that they should have a political organization of their own.


During the 19th century Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had advised that during the situation prevailing at that time they should focus on education rather than any other policy. By the turn of the century and by 1906 you had a generation of Muslims who had acquired modern knowledge; modern education, English Language and some of them had been educated in England. It is this group of conspicuous and dedicated Muslims who decided to set up this organization. The encouragement for setting up of this organization also came from the success of the Simla Deputation where they gather together and presented their demands and here they thought that the next logical step is to have an organization on a permanent base that would pursue the demands which they had presented to the Viceroy. So it was a change of strategy on the part of the Muslims they thought that now they had a generation of educated people, conditions have changed where they aught to have a forum of their own which they created.

Further developments:

One year later in the Karachi session Dec. 1907 its constitution was approved and in March 1908 at Aligarh, Agha Khan was formally elected as the president of ML.In this way from Dec 1906 to 1908 ML came into existence as an autonomous political organization as a body that began to represent the Muslim interests and work for the Muslims of the Sub-Continent

London Branch: May 1908:

Justice Amir Ali Syed organized a branch of Muslim League at London and responded effectively to the misunderstandings and conspiracies of the Hindus against the Muslims.


It had 3 broad objectives:


  • Protection and promotion of political rights and interests of the Muslims.


  • Cooperation with other communities without prejudice to the above goal.

Promotion of loyalty:

  • Promotion of loyalty, among the Muslims and towards the British government.

If you look at these 3 broad objectives I think that 3 basic things are very clear here.

Political platform:

  • In the light of the SD now the Muslims had established a political platform that was to carry forward what they had presented at Simla to the Viceroy.


  • They were for working together with other communities; they were willing to cooperate to prepare their programs in consultation with others to discuss the issues with others however they asserted here and also subsequently that their cooperation will be aiming at protection and promotion of their interests. So they were for cooperation not for conflict.

Peaceful Policies:

  • The 3rd thing which emerges out of these goals is that the Muslims in 1906 were not for agitational politics. The objective was to create a political forum within which they could articulate their demands and then present them in a logical, coherent and persuasive manner to the British govt. So agitational politics was not part of their strategy at that time. They believed that negotiations, dialogue and persuasion are the way through which they can achieve their objectives, in their interaction with the British govt and also with the majority community in India.

4: Change in the Goals of the Muslim League 1913:


You would recall that when ML was established in had 3 major objectives, but by 1913 these objectives were some what modified. The changes in the ML objective reflected a change in the outlook and strategies of the Muslim leaders as well as it brought the 2 major political parties that ML and the Congress closer to each other. During 7 years several changes took place in India and outside. Important developments occurred during the first decade of the 20th century like annulment of the Partition of Bengal and there were several developments in the Muslim world which affected the Muslims in British India. Western aggression towards Muslim countries, Balkan wars started Libya was in war with-Italy, Italy had also a war with Turkey and during these days when the Balkan Wars were going on the general Muslim sympathies were for the Muslims. Other important developments that changed the Muslim thinking’s were Demolition of the mosque in Kanpur (1913), another factor was a realization in the 2 leading political parties ML and Congress to work together for achievement of certain political objectives and they thought they have to share certain goals and the most significant factor was the role and contribution of Quaid-e-Azam who enjoyed respect with both political parties. Though he joined the ML in 1913 but before that he had contacts and interaction with the ML and Congress. In 1910 and 1911 the ML Council in its meeting underlined the need of changing the objectives or revising the objectives in the light of the situation. This led to a major drift in the Muslim League’s policy. In 1913, the League changed its goals: Quaid-e-Azam attended the ML session in 1912 he emphasized on not only on changing the objectives but also the need for working together with the Congress for achieving certain defined goals and objectives. One year later that is 1913 Quaid-e-Azam formally joined the ML and from 1913 to 1920 Quaid-e-Azam was the member of the ML as well as the Congress. It is the 1920 that he left the Congress and stayed completely with the ML.

Changes made in constitution:

In 1913 when the ML met it decided to change its objectives and bring about or add new things to its goals

  • One significant change was Self government under the British was declared as one of the important goal of this political party that the Ml would work for establishing a self govt in India keeping in view the peculiar conditions in India.
  • It will have good relations with other communities’ cooperation with any party working for similar goals.


This change brought the ML and Congress closer because the Congress had adopted a similar goal n 1906 that is self govt.This resulted in a very significant development between ML and the congress that we will be discussing very soon. However going back to the change of objectives one has to keep in mind that it reflected the change of method, change of strategy but the goals remained the same. The goals were protection and promotion of Muslims rights and concerns. In 1906 they were as a basic organization that would petition the British govt for certain concessions and favours.In 1913 the goals were the same but now they were demanding self govt in India and also they were prepare to work with other political parties with similar goals and objectives. In this way the era of cooperation between Hindus and Muslims set in. The role of the Quaid-i-Azam is highly noteworthy to bring the Congress and the Muslim League to the table. He joined the Muslim League in 1913.This takes me to the 5th important phase of the lecture which I want to discuss with you and that is the Lucknow Pact.

5: Lucknow Pact, 1916


The Luck now pact was a political arrangement between the ML and the Congress party about the future political and constitutional arrangements. Why this agreement became possible because in 1913 the ML and the Congress developed one common objective that was self govt. 2nd is that by that time the British were talking about the constitutional changes in India in a couple of years time, therefore both parties in their own way were thinking that what kind of proposals should they prepare. Another reason was that Quaid-e-Azam who was the member of both the political parties was playing a decisive role. He was trying to bring both the political parties closer to each other for the achievement of certain objective. It was because of his role that he was describe as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. In December 1915, the ML and Congress met separately in Bombay and held separate sessions in Bombay on their own discuss the political agenda which they want to pursue and also both parties agreed to work together for evolving a constitutional formula. That is an agreement on certain political arrangements. A joint committee of both Congress and ML was set up to prepare a scheme for constitutional changes. This scheme was presented to the both the political parties in Luck now in 1916 and both the parties accepted that and that’s why this scheme of constitutional changes is called as Luck now Pact because it was in that city that they agreed on certain constitutional arrangements.

Role of the Quaid-i-Azam:

Jinnah did a lot to unite the two nations along with the recognition of the rights of Muslims. Meeting of both parties held at Luck now in 1916. The constitutional proposals were approved: The major features of this pact which the ML and the Congress agreed were:

Imperial Legislative Council:

· One Third seats for Muslims in the Imperial Legislative Council that was the highest legislative body at that time in India.

Separate Electorate:

· The Congress party for the first time accepted the principle of Separate for the Muslims. In the past it was not accepted by the Congress but now through this agreement they had agreed to that.

Representation in Viceroy’s council:

· It was also decided that the Muslims would be given representation in the Viceroy’s council. Half members of the Executive Council to be elected by the Imperial Legislative Council.

Commission in army:

· Commissioned ranks of the army for Indians.

Provincial Legislative Council:

· Expansion of Provincial Legislative Councils.

Muslim representation:

Similarly they agreed that at the provincial level in the provincial legislative council and in governor’s council Muslims would be given representation. Half members of the Governor’s Executive Council be elected by Provincial Legislative Council

They also agreed that minorities would be given Weight age in the provinces. It meant that the minorities would be given more representation in the provinces than warranted by their numerical strength. In other words the majority community will surrender some of its representation and minority will get that representation. For example if minority has 25 % population they may get representation 26 or 27%, it mean that the representation of the majority will be reduced.


This Lucknow Pact is very significant because in this pact for the 1st time Congress accepted SE for the Muslims and the Muslim representation in the imperial and provincial legislative councils and in this way the congress accepted the distinct and separate character of the Muslims of this region

Gains from Muslim Point-of-view

  • Separate Electorate
  • One Third Muslim seats in Central Legislature.
  • Unofficial bill, if opposed by three-fourth members of a community, it will not be passed.

August 20, 1917 Announcement by British Government

Secretary of State Montagu promised for:

  • Greater association of Indian in all branches of government.
  • Responsible government
  • Induction of Indians in the commissioned ranks.


The historical struggle of the Muslims confirmed their identity. They organized their political party to address the demands. They also got recognition by the Hindus as a separate nation. The British accepted their role in the political domain.


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