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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - Congress ‘Raj’, riots and Muslim mass contacts

Summary

If every difference of opinion is to be labelled as communal, none but those who belong to the majority community will be safe from the attack of being communalist. I call this tyranny of the majority

(Khaliquzzaman).

Historians of the subcontinent are agreed that, after the provincial elections of 1937 and the subsequent formation of ministries, UP politics were polarised between the Congress and the Muslim League. After 1937 party politics in the province were more clearly divided along communal lines when compared with the rest of the decade. Most historical interpretations of these pivotal years have emphasised the importance of negotiations between Hindu and Muslim elites and their subsequent influence on a malleable electorate. The Congress–Muslim League cooperation in 1936 and during the elections is contrasted with the situation in 1938 and 1939 in which Congress and League competed for the Muslim ‘masses’, the latter party using communal propaganda. The breaking point between League and Congress is explained in terms of the collapse of negotiations shortly after the elections – the League request (headed by Khaliquzzaman) for inclusion in the ministry being rejected by Nehru and the Congress after the failure of the League to agree to absorption into the Congress as a whole. The analyses of this break emphasise competition between UP elites and the degeneration of this competition into communal polarisation.

These interpretations of the years 1936–9 include a number of assumptions and omissions that open up fresh questions regarding the Congress–League antipathy.

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