Discuss the circumstances leading to alliance between Khilafat and Congress during Non-cooperation Movement. Do you think that it was a politically wise move of Congress to associate with Khilafat? Substantiate.

Published: February 19, 2017

The circumstances that led to this alliance can be divided into domestic front and foreign front. At domestic front, the 1916 Lucknow Pact had gained strength as the war drew to a close. Indians had cooperated British in their war effort {WW-I} expecting constitutional reforms in post-war scenario. However, what they got were Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala etc. Thus, there was mass discontent. However, mass mobilization of Muslims was yet not possible in India. At foreign front, the Treaty of Sevres and fear of Ottoman Sultan losing independence, and subsequent removal of Caliph as head of Islamic world stimulated first mass movement among Muslims. With this, all kinds of “Indian Muslims” from conservative Deobandis to Western-educated Aligarh graduates get closest ever to Gandhi, who had condemned the British treatment of Turkey.
The Congress had made alliance with the Khilafat with a nationalist, secular and positive mind, so that Indian Muslim could be pulled into the fold of Anti-British struggle and the unity forged on emotional issue of prestige of caliph would be everlasting. The political objective of Congress was to convert anti-British sentiment into a nationalist awakening. However, I don’t consider this move a politically wise move because of the below reasons:

  • This alliance gave Muslim clergy a centre-place in modern political history of India in the form of a political organisation called Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind. Thus, introduction of religious idiom in the politics of Indian Muslims was not because of Muslim League but because of Khilafat.
  • The alliance did not result in mass membership of Muslims in INC with a common and exclusive question of Swaraj. Rather, a handful of Muslims created the All-India Khilafat Committee, which although coordinated its activities closely with Gandhi, but always remained a separate body; and its vision of India’s future was no less utopian than that of Gandhi himself. Despite its anti-colonial stance, they dreamed of an Indian Muslims living in, as far as possible, a kind of self-imposed isolation.

Thus, in my view, this alliance actually killed the spirit of the Lucknow Pact and resulted in considerable retrogressive ideological influence on the modern Indian Muslim mind.

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