The spectacular feat of Asaduddin Owaisi and his All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the Bihar election has recently created a ripple effect in Indian politics. Owaisi is all set to emerge as a pan-Indian face of Muslim politics. Owaisi desperately opposes the majoritarian communalism on behalf of the minorities in the present-day India.
But his party, which was initially called the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, was an exponent of the same predatory communalism in the Nizam’s Hyderabad that was a paradise of feudalism and patrimonialism. The present party has never denounced its pre-annexation avatar. The official website of the AIMIM calls Bahadur Yar Jang, the leader who spearheaded the MIM in the Nizam era, as the party’s tallest leader.
Nawab Bahadur Yar Jang, a powerful religious preacher, played a pivotal role in the formation of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. In 1938, he was elected the president of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, a position in which he served till his death in 1944. He openly declared, “Asaf Jahi flag is not a personal flag of [the] Asaf Jahi dynasty; but an Islamic flag and a symbol of a great Islamic state. If it was considered as a personal flag, a Muslim would not lay down his life for it.”
Margrit Pernau says in her The Passing of Patrimonialism: Politics and Political Culture in Hyderabad 1911-1948 (2000) that “at the turn of the year 1940-41, Bahadur Yar Jang began to have a short statement of faith (Kalima) recited at all the meetings of the Ittehad”. It went: “We are the king of the Dekkan. H.E.H’s throne and crown are the symbols of our political and cultural domination. H.E.H. is the soul of our kingship, and we are the body of his kingship. If he were no more, we would cease to exist, and if we were no more, he would cease to be.”
Thus, Bahadur Yar Jang identified the Nizam’s autocracy with Muslim supremacism in Hyderabad. Formed in 1926, the MIM had a four-fold objective: maintain Hyderabad as an independent Islamic monarchy under the Asaf Jahi dynasty, perpetuate Muslim dominance in the bureaucracy, keep Urdu as the official language and prevent the formation of a popular, responsible government. In the Nizam’s dominion, 50% of the population spoke Telugu, 25% Marathi, 11% Kannada and merely 1.2% spoke Urdu. Muslims constituted less than 15% of the population but held 75% of positions in the bureaucracy. Bahadur Yar Jung founded the Majlis Tabligh-e-Islam in 1927 to increase the Muslim population in Hyderabad through religious conversion.
The MIM opposed secular and progressive movements like the Andhra Mahasabha and the Nizam’s Subjects League and the Hyderabad State Congress. The Andhra Mahasabha spearheaded people’s movements among the Telugu-speaking populace of the state.
The Nizam’s Subjects League was formed in 1933 due to the continued domination of “non-Mulkis” in the government (Mulki is a term used to refer to local-born Hindus or Muslims). The league came to be known as the Mulki League and was among the first to promote the idea of a responsible government in Hyderabad.
The appointment of Moin Nawaz Jang, the conscience-keeper of the MIM, as the secretary to the Nizam’s Executive Council in 1937 demonstrated the grip of the MIM over the Nizam’s government.
Clearly stood for Muslim supremacy
The MIM amended its constitution in 1938. As K.M. Munshi notes in his book End of An Era: Hyderabad Memoirs, the amended constitution said, “The position of the Muslims of the Asafia state is that the person and the throne of the king of the country are emanations of the political sovereignty and social supremacy of the community [Muslims] and shall be maintained for ever.”
Thus the MIM clearly stood for Muslim supremacy and communal hegemony. The Constitutional Reforms Commission headed by Arvamudu Aiyengar recommended the formation of an elected legislature in Hyderabad in 1938. The Commission recommended equal representation to the Muslims and Hindus in the legislature. The MIM opposed the proposal and demanded that Hyderabad should be declared as an Islamic state. Supporting Bahadur Yar Jang, Mohammad Ali Jinnah proposed that the Hindu community in Hyderabad that constituted 86% of the population should be notified as ‘statutory minority’! The MIM had strong ties with the All India Muslim League. When the All India States Muslim League was formed in 1939, Bahadur Yar Jung was made its president.
The ‘Vande Mataram’ movement was the most significant movement in the history of Hyderabad’s freedom struggle. The Nizam’s government forbade the singing of ‘Vande Matram’ all over the state, including in educational institutions and hostels. It became a symbol of nationalist agitation. The MIM supported the Nizam’s adamant action against this movement.
Mir Laiq Ali, the last prime minister of the Hyderabad state, was a strong supporter of the MIM and its financial source. When the Nizam was urged to integrate with the Indian Union after the independence, as the Ali boasted that if “the Indian government takes any action against Hyderabad, 100,000 men are ready to fight. We also have a hundred bombers in Saudi Arabia ready to bomb Bombay!”
Meanwhile, the militant Razakars led by Syed Qasim Razvi, who became the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s president in December 1946, stepped up their campaign of terrorising Hindus and whipping up religious sentiments among the Muslims. The MIM supported all these nefarious activities.
Razvi remained the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s president until Hyderabad’s annexation in 1948. The Razakars, raised by Razvi, were Muslim separatists who advocated the continuation of Nizam’s rule and tried to convince the Nizam to accede to Pakistan. After accession to Pakistan proved impossible owing to the distance of Hyderabad from Pakistan, Razvi encouraged the Nizam to take a hardline stance and ordered the Razakars to resist the accession of Hyderabad to the newly formed Government of India. He is quoted to have said, “Death with the sword in hand, is always preferable to extinction by a mere stroke of the pen.”
After Operation Polo, the MIM was banned in 1948. Qasim Razvi was jailed from 1948 to 1957, and was released on the condition that he would go to Pakistan where he was granted asylum. Before leaving, Razvi handed over the responsibility of the Ittehadul Muslimeen, to Abdul Wahid Owaisi, Asaduddin’s grandfather. Abdul Wahid Owaisi organised it into the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.
These historical examples show that the MIM practiced predatory communalism under the Nizam’s regime, the same menace that Asaduddin Owaisi and his party claim to be desperately trying to quell in today’s India. If he is sincere, he has to disown his party’s past. Else, history would haunt his party and cripple its quest for a secular and inclusive India and pan-Indian expansion.
Faisal C.K. is an independent researcher.