Only the legacy remains

The Ail-India Muslim League was formed in Dhaka in 1906 as a political platform for Muslims in British India. Eventually, under the leadership of finnah, the Urdu-speaking elite-dominated Muslim League succeeded in carving out the Muslim homelands of East and West Pakistan. The following two articles, written by Lahore journalist Asha'ar Rehman, and Delhi-based writer Irfan Ahmed, look at how the party has fared in post-1947 Pakistan and India.

After 1947, the Muslim League in India was caught in the Shakespearean dilemma of to be or not to be. Following Gandhi´s assassination, Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly led by Nawab Ismail Khan decided to dissolve it. However, leaders from South India disagreed, and in 1948 with Mohammad Ismaile as president and Mahebob Beg as general secretary it was renamed Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Nawab Ismail Khan´s and Mohammad Ismaile´s rather opposite views reflected the different conditions in North and South. North India had to undergo the trauma of Partition through the flight of its well-off sections which had earlier provided the League with most of the leadership. Partition did not affect the South as it remained peaceful; and the altogether different conditions provided a favourable atmosphere for the League to survive.

In the India after 1947, thus, Madras became the centre of IUML´s politics. In the 1951 parliamentary elections, it won one seat from Madras; in 1957 and in 1971 also the party managed to capture a seat in parliament. It had some base in West Bengal where in the 1969 state elections it won three seats, and the tally rose to seven seats in 1971.

The IUML was able to strengthen itself when the state of Kerala was formed in 1956. The party played a decisive role in the state´s politics and was included in coalition governments headed by both the Left parties and the Congress. Since 1957, it has consistently maintained a strong presence in the state assembly, although it has never held more than 20 seats. In the 1962 Lok Sabha elections it won two seats, and since then it has been unfailingly sending two members to the Parliament. Malappuram, a separate district carved out for a Muslim-majority population, is the main centre of the League´s activism in the state.

After the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, the party split on the issue of alliance with the Congress. Sulaiman Saith, then one of the IUML MPs, was against any truck with the Congress blaming it for the demolition. G.M. Banatwala, the other IUML MP, took a moderate stand. In protest, Saith in 1994 floated his own party, the Indian National League.

In retrospect, it is ironical that, as the only platform for Indian Muslims as the iuml claims to be, the party has no base in Jammu and Kashmir or Lakshwadeep, the only two Muslim-majority areas of the country. Nor does it have any following in North India. Ninety-two years after its birth and 50 years after Partition, in India, with its Muslim population of around 100 million, the party which began with the clarion call to represent all Muslims of the Subcontinent is today reduced to a tiny district in the south of India.

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