Hamid Dalwai

   A colleague of Prof. Shah in the Indian Secular Society was the well known social activist Mr. Hamid Dalwai [29 September 1932- 3 May 1977]. Dalwai, who was a member of the Seva Dal, was also a noted writer in Marathi, and a rare, enlightened Muslim who was deeply conscious of his society’s shortcomings. He formed an organisation called Muslim Satyashodhak Samaj for modernizing Muslims. As is to be expected, his movement encountered stiff resistance from the orthodoxy. Unfortunately, Dalwai died at a young age of 44 due to kidney failure and his movement lost its impetus although some followers are trying to carry this work forward. His wife continued his work (with very little success, it must be added). She passed away in June 2017 at the age of 88.

   Hamid Dalwai has written a small book, ‘Muslim Politics in India’.4 Although he has carefully refrained from criticizing the basic tenets of Islam, he is quite forthright in condemning the behavior of Indian Muslims. One may regard his contribution as a significant beginning in the assertion of a liberal Muslim. At the same time, one must conclude that he has not been very effective in changing the attitudes of his co-religionists who have offered a stiff and sometimes violent resistance to his mission. Hindu organizations will do well to study his writings (mostly in Marathi) on this subject in detail so that they can effectively use them when required as will be seen from the quotations below.

   Mr. Dalwai is clear that Hindu communalism is a product of Muslim fundamentalism. “I come from the Muslim community and yet I can not entirely blame the extremist Hindu communalists. Whereas the extremist Muslim communalists have aggressive plans to destroy the Hindu community, the extremist Hindus, in reaction to them, want to eliminate the Muslims in self-defense. Thus I view extremist Hindu communalism as a reaction to Muslim communalism. Unless Muslim communalism is eliminated, Hindu communalism will not disappear… It is no fault of the Hindus that the Indian Muslims embraced this theory of a separate Muslim nationalism, nor is it the fault of Hindus that Indian Muslims regarded Hindus in Pakistan as hostages ensuring their own security in India” (P. 30).

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   Mr. Dalwai then analyses the psyche of the Indian Muslims. He repeats many comments given elsewhere and hence are not reproduced [to read those, open this link]. But his analysis of the problem as a Muslim is interesting. He says:

   “It is an old habit of Muslims to blame Hindus for their woes. However, the Indian Muslim intelligentsia has never been critically introspective. It has not sought to relate its problems to its own attitudes. It has not developed a self-searching, self-critical attitude….. Muslims remained backward because they were religion bound revivalists who refused to modernize themselves….. The foundation of Muslim nationalism is the postulate that Hindu and Muslim societies are autonomous and parallel social structures…… It is a tragic fact that there does not yet exist a class of critically introspective young Muslims in India….. Their idea of religious freedom is merely that the structure of the Muslim society in India should remain unaltered….. There is a curious collusion between these Indian Muslims and the others who envisage the conversion of India to Islam…… The only effective answer to the problems of Indian Muslims would involve on their part a total rejection of the prejudices of history….. Pakistan was not the last demand of the Muslims of this subcontinent. Even today, both among Indian Muslims and among the rulers of Pakistan, there are influential groups whose ‘last demand’ would be the conversion of the whole of India to Islam.” (P. 32-36).

   He however considers suicidal “the Hindu communalist attempt to answer Muslim communalism by obscurantist Hindu revivalism. Muslim communalism will be defeated only when the Hindu achieves a greater degree of social progress and modernizes himself….. the Hindus have slid backward only because of their religious obscurantism. Mahmud Ghazanvi could defeat Hindu armies simply by using herds of cows as a shield for his own army!…… Hindus must discard all those religious beliefs which hindered their progress and deprived them of their freedom….. When Indian Muslims are shocked out of their slumber by the advancement and modernization of Hindu society, a similar process will start in Muslim society” (P. 37).

   Unfortunately, “there is a kind of Hindu who is always terrified when he thinks of Muslims. This is no doubt a shameful state of affairs. At every critical moment this Hindu pretends to be more of a Muslim than a Muslim himself, and thwarts the attempts of those who are trying to make the average Muslim less of a fanatic.” (P. 45).

   Mr. Dalwai has written about the need for a new generation of secular Muslim leaders. He gives the example of George Fernandes (3 June 1930 – 29 January 2019), a Catholic, and would like the secular Muslim leaders to emulate him. (P. 48) He also envisaged such leadership to develop in the next two decades [i.e. from 1968 to 1988] which unfortunately has not happened, except perhaps Ahmed Patel of the Congress who appears to be relatively moderate from the outside.

   He is of course quite critical of the Marxist-Muslims who ‘pollute public life with religious interests’. He traces their intimacy to the similarity in the two dogmas. Here it would be pertinent to note that Allama Iqbal had described Islam as ‘Communism plus Allah’.

   “There are significant resemblances between the Communist movement and the Muslim communalist movement. First, both movements are international in scope and character. Both aim at establishing an ideological state and neither cares for the means employed in achieving its end. However their purpose and the processes by which they achieve their objectives are different. As regards the Communists, first there is the emergence of the Communist international movement in a country. This movement seeks to establish a state. Once the state is established, the movement is directed towards creating the ideal, that is, the Marxist society. In the case of Muslims the process is just the reverse. A Muslim society already exists. This society seeks to establish its own state. Pakistan is an example of this. In the absence of a Muslim society, a Muslim state cannot be brought into existence …

   …the Communists believe that Islam was the first religion to bring about social equality. In fact, it is the claim to social equality that links both these doctrines…. When Communists are not in power, they are internationalists; when Muslims are in a minority in any country they lack a nationalistic spirit and have an internationalistic, that is, pan-Islamic attitude….Both Muslims and Communists regard their own concept of social structure as perfect. Both reject freedom of thought. What is even more significant is the fact that both employ strikingly similar methods of propaganda against their opponents….. As soon as they come to power, Communists suddenly change from internationalism to extreme nationalism….. the same happens within the course of the Islamic movement…… Communists purge their opponents no sooner than they come to power. Muslim nationalistic movements, wherever there is a Muslim majority, do not allow non-Muslims to exist freely and equally….. In fact, Arab nationalism is not even Islamic nationalism. It is racist….. When the CPI accepted the Ranadive policy of nation-wide subversion and uprising, many eminent Muslim league leaders throughout India suddenly became Communists!’’ (P. 80-83)

   Another significant fact of Islamic society has been brought out by Mr. Dalwai. He says that although the Muslim community has sometimes been enslaved by aggressors, its religion has never been threatened. The western conquerors of Mecca and Medina did not inflict any changes like the Turks tearing down the church in Constantinople and building a mosque. In India, Shivaji “pushed back aggressors, and yet he made grants for the preservation of Pirs and Dargahs… Muslims have been destroyed and Muslims have been ruled by others, but Muslim society has not been destroyed. When a society survives, it can free itself from the shackles of alien domination. It can reestablish a state of its own.” (P. 75)

   It will be interesting to note Dalwai’s analysis of the Hindu mind.

   “The Hindu wears many masks. In a sense, Hindu society is a multi-headed organism. Sometimes this creates great complications. It also explains the indecision and ambivalence of the Hindu mind. It postpones decisions and avoids frankness. At the same time, it tries to obtain full credit for its independence of mind…… I must observe that the Hindu society lacks the dynamism without which no national challenge can be faced. For centuries it has been in the doldrums. It is yet to find a direction [emphasis ours, this was written in 1968]… Today, India is a shrinking nation in this sense and this points to the lack of dynamism in a majority of Indians. It is not leadership alone which is responsible for this waning of influence… even in periods of difficulty we have been unable to overthrow our weak leadership. Our leadership is merely a symbol of the weakness of Indian society as a whole… The Hindu is conservative. He would not transcend self-imposed limitations. This habit of the Hindu is sometimes expressed in an absurd form. He decides not to enter Kashmir which is a part of his own nation. [This was so until Article 370 was finally abrogated in effect in August 2019 by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah] He refuses to allow everyone, including himself, to enter Naga territory. These are symptoms of decadence…….

   …I believe that if the Hindus were sufficiently dynamic, the Hindu-Muslim problem would be solved. For if the Hindus were dynamic, they would subject the Indian Muslims to several shocks which history has spared them. Muslims would be left with one stark alternative to perish if they would not wish to change. And any society prefers change to extinction… Unfortunately, the Hindu mind lacks balance. Even those Hindus who have accepted modernity, justice and brotherhood as their guiding principles sometimes support Muslim communalism. Some avoid speaking against it and some even indirectly encourage it…… The secularism of such Hindus encourages the anti-secularism of the Muslims.” (P. 92-94)

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Mr. Dalwai in the end outlines several steps for national rejuvenation which may have salutary lessons for all of us.

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