Two-Nation Theory

Two-Nation Theory a political doctrine rationalizing the division of India politically into two independent nations' India and Pakistan. The concept was propounded by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the 1940s on the eve of the winding up of the British rule in India. The doctrine has an electoral background. The separate electorate system was introduced in phases for the Muslims and Hindus under the constitutional reforms of 1909, 1919 and 1935. Under the separate electorate system, Muslims could elect their own candidate to represent them in the provincial legislative councils and legislative assemblies, political powers in the Muslim majority areas of India. Muslim Ministries were formed in Bengal and in the North Western Provinces. Being installed in power through the separate electorate system, some Muslim leaders now began to think turning the beneficial separate electorate system into a separate nationalist thought called two-nation theory asserting that the Muslims of India formed a separate nation altogether historically, culturally, intellectually, and socially. This idea was first articulated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) who first started the movement for Muslim self-awakening and identity. Sir Syed Ahmed discourged the Indian Muslim community to join the band wagon of the Congress nationalist movement. He articulated that the Indian Muslims themselves formed a nation and in their own interest should not ally themselves with the Congress-led movements for self-rule. His idea found good reception from the colonial rulers, who needed allies to manage the growing Indian nationalist movement launched by the Congress.

The congress non-co-operation of the Diarchy constitution at provincial level had alienated considerable Muslim political elements from the nationalist politics of the Congress and consequently, the Muslim League, which was moribund until 1929, became increasingly the vehicle of Muslim politics in Bengal and also in other Muslim majority provinces. Poet and philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal's presidential address at the Muslim League's conference in December 1930 laid the theoretical framework of the two nation theory. He further elaborated his viewpoint of Muslim nationhood in a rejoinder to a statement made by Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru at the London Round Table Conference stating that the attitude of the Muslim delegation was based on 'reactionarism'. Iqbal concluded his rejoinder:

'In conclusion I must put a straight question to pundit Jawhar Lal, how is India's problem to be solved if the majority community will neither concede the minimum safeguards necessary for the protection of a minority of 80 million people, nor accept the award of a third party (Communal Award of British Prime Minister McDonald); but continue to talk of a kind of nationalism which works out only to its own benefitFoodgrain This position can admit of only two alternatives. Either the Indian majority community will have to accept for itself the permanent position of an agent of British imperialism in the East, or the country will have to be redistributed on a basis of religious, historical and cultural affinities so as to do away with the question of (separate) electorates and the communal problem in its present form.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, president of the Muslim League now in power in several provinces of India including Bengal, explained his Two Nation Theory in its final form in his presidential address at Lahore on March 22'23, 1940. He explained:

'It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and litterateurs. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspect on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise, their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state.

However, the idea of 'sovereign and sovereign states' was amended in the Muslim League Conference in Calcutta in 1946 and resolved to establish a 'sovereign state of Pakistan' based on the Two Nation Theory.

Most Pakistani historians explain Muslim separatism in terms of two-nation theory. According to them there has not been ever noticed a period of Indian socio-cultural environment when the two-civilizations developed a polity of commonalities. They may have developed some cultural commonalities here and there, but on the whole the two cultures have followed separate courses throughout history. In drawing this Hindu-Muslim divide they go in the past as far back as to Al-Beruni, who made remarks in his account about the community-wise separate ways of life of the Hindus and Muslims of India. The Indian nationalist historians, however, observe the consistent Hindu-Muslim unity in Indian history until the British introduced separate electorate system to divide the Indians in communal lines. To prove the hollowness of the Two Nation Theory, the Indian nationalist historians argue that the emergence of Bangladesh through a war of liberation is the positive proof of the falsity of the Two Nation Theory. Against this argument the supporters of Two Nation theory maintain that Bangladesh did not join India and became independent according to the spirit and letters of the Two Nation Theory enshrined in the Lahore Resolution, 1940. [Sirajul Islam]

See also muhammad ali jinnah, cabinet mission, pakistan, huseyn shahid suhrawardy, abul hashim, communalism, communal relations.