Rule of Congress Ministries
The Government of India Act of 1935 was practically implemented in 1937. The provincial elections were held in the winter of 1936-37. There were two major political parties in the Sub-continent at that time, the Congress and the Muslim League. Both parties did their best to persuade the masses before these elections and put before them their manifesto. The political manifestos of both parties were almost identical, although there were two major differences. Congress stood for joint electorate and the League for separate electorates; Congress wanted Hindi as official language with Deva Nagri script of writing while the League wanted Urdu with Persian script.
According to the results of the elections, Congress, as the oldest, richest and best-organized political party, emerged as the single largest representative in the Legislative Assembles. Yet it failed to secure even 40 percent of the total number of seats. Out of the 1,771 total seats in the 11 provinces, Congress was only able to win slightly more then 750. Thus the results clearly disapproved Gandhi’s claim that his party represented 95 percent of the population of India. Its success, moreover, was mainly confined to the Hindu constituencies. Out of the 491 Muslim seats, Congress could only capture 26. Muslim Leagues’ condition was also bad as it could only win 106 Muslim seats. The party only managed to win two seats from the Muslim majority province of Punjab.
The final results of the elections were declared in February 1937. The Indian National Congress had a clear majority in Madras, U. P., C. P., Bihar and Orrisa. It was also able to form a coalition government in Bombay and N. W. F. P. Congress was also able to secure political importance in Sindh and Assam, where they joined the ruling coalition. Thus directly or indirectly, Congress was in power in nine out of eleven provinces. The Unionist Party of Sir Fazl-i-Hussain and Praja Krishak Party of Maulvi Fazl-i-Haq were able to form governments in Punjab and Bengal respectively, without the interference of Congress. Muslim League failed to form government in any province. Quaid-i-Azam offered Congress to form a coalition government with the League but the Congress rejected his offer.
The Congress refused to set up its government until the British agreed to their demand that the Governor would not use his powers in legislative affairs. Many discussions took place between the Congress and the British Government and at last the British Government consented, although it was only a verbal commitment and no amendment was made in the Act of 1935. Eventually, after a four-month delay, Congress formed their ministries in July 1937.
The Congress proved to be a pure Hindu party and worked during its reign only for the betterment of the Hindus. Twenty-seven months of the Congress rule were like a nightmare for the Muslims of South Asia. Some of the Congress leaders even stated that they would take revenge from the Muslims for the last 700 years of their slavery. Even before the formation of government, the Congress started a Muslim Mass Contact Movement, with the aim to convince Muslims that there were only two political parties in India, i.e. the British and the Congress. The aim was to decrease the importance of the Muslim League for the Muslims. After taking charge in July 1937, Congress declared Hindi as the national language and Deva Nagri as the official script. The Congress flag was given the status of national flag, slaughtering of cows was prohibited and it was made compulsory for the children to worship the picture of Gandhi at school. Band-i-Mataram, an anti-Muslim song taken from Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s novel Ananda Math, was made the national anthem of the country. Religious intolerance was the order of the day. Muslims were not allowed to construct new mosques. Hindus would play drums in front of mosques when Muslims were praying.
The Congress government introduced a new educational policy in the provinces under their rule known as the Warda Taleemi Scheme. The main plan was to sway Muslim children against their ideology and to tell them that all the people living in India were Indian and thus belonged to one nation. In Bihar and C. P. the Vidya Mandar Scheme was introduced according to which Mandar education was made compulsory at elementary level. The purpose of the scheme was to obliterate the cultural traditions of the Muslims and to inculcate into the minds of Muslim children the superiority of the Hindu culture.
The Congress ministries did their best to weaken the economy of Muslims. They closed the doors of government offices for them, which was one of the main sources of income for the Muslims in the region. They also harmed Muslim trade and agriculture. When Hindu-Muslim riots broke out due to these biased policies of the Congress ministries, the government pressured the judges; decisions were made in favor of Hindus and Muslims were sent behind bars.
To investigate Muslim grievances, the Muslim League formulated the “Pirpur Report” under the chairmanship of Raja Syed Muhammad Mehdi of Pirpur. Other reports concerning Muslim grievances in Congress run provinces were A. K. Fazl-ul-Haq’s “Muslim Sufferings Under Congress Rule”, and “The Sharif Report”.
The allegation that Congress was representing Hindus only was voiced also by eminent British personalities. The Marquees of Lothian in April 1938 termed the Congress rule as a “rising tide of Hindu rule”. Sir William Barton writing in the “National Review” in June 1939 also termed the Congress rule as “the rising tide of political Hinduism”.
At the outbreak of the World War II, the Viceroy proclaimed India’s involvement without prior consultations with the main political parties. When Congress demanded an immediate transfer of power in return for cooperation of the war efforts, the British government refused. As a result Congress resigned from power. Quaid-i-Azam asked the Muslims to celebrate December 22, 1939 as a day of deliverance and thanksgiving in token of relief from the tyranny and oppression of the Congress rule.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003