Question of Hindu Minorities in Pakistan – Speech by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Parliament-15/11/1952

I was one of those who was against the division of India under any circumstances. I supported the partition of Bengal and the partition of the Punjab only after it was decided that the partition of India was inevitable, because then Mr. Jinnah’s claim was that the whole of Bengal and the whole of the Punjab should go into Pakistan. What we did was not to agree to the partition of India but we supported a movement which led to the partition of Pakistan itself.

Law

I need not go into the details of the history of partition of this country, They are well known to all the Members of this House. But there is one fundamental point which is to be remembered now. What was the basis of the partition of India? The basis was that minorities would continue to live in their respective territories. I was one of those who was against the division of India under any circumstances. I supported the partition of Bengal and the partition of the Punjab only after it was decided that the partition of India was inevitable, because then Mr. Jinnah’s claim was that the whole of Bengal and the whole of the Punjab should go into Pakistan. What we did was not to agree to the partition of India but we supported a movement which led to the partition of Pakistan itself.

At that time I remember I saw a number of Congress leaders and especially Gandhiji, and some of us begged of him to appreciate the real point of view, whether it will be possible for the minorities to live in Pakistan, in view of the circumstances under which that new country was taking· its birth. And we suggested a planned exchange of population and property at Governmental level as part of the partition scheme. He was not willing to accept it. The Congress leaders were not willing to accept it because their viewpoint was that what they were agreeing to was not a communal division of India but a territorial division of India.

They emphasised with all the depth of their feelings that there was no question of the minorities being compelled to leave their hearth and homes, either in the new India or in the new country to be called Pakistan. When it fell to my lot to move about among these people in East Bengal, I carried with me the message from these Congress leaders, one of whom adorns the position of Prime Minister of India today. Assurance was given to them that their case will not be forgotten, that if any real emergency came, free India would not sit idle and they would be protected, hoping at that time that perhaps the need for such protection by India of the minorities in Pakistan would not be necessary. Here one fundamental point India cannot afford to forget. There was no Hindu, no Sikh, no non-Muslim for the matter of that, who wanted the division of India.

The demand for the division of India came from a large section of Muslims who followed the directions of the Muslim League and, therefore, the minorities who laboured hard for the freedom of undivided India, who shed their life-blood, who sacrificed everything that they held dear to themselves, when they were asked to live in a country which was foreign to India, obviously, they were asked to surrender something which was extremely dear to their hearts. Appreciation of that sacrifice came from the leaders, came from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. I will read out only one sentence from the statement which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru issued on 15th August, referring to the Hindus in Pakistan, the minorities in Pakistan.

“We think also of our brothers and sisters,” he said, “who have been cut off from us by the political boundaries and who, unhappily, cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us, whatever may happen in future and we shall be sharers in good and ill fortune alike:”

And, now, I call upon Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who is the Prime Minister of India, to fulfill this pledge which he had given in such noble words to those who had suffered with him and others like him for the liberation of their motherland. A message like that came from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Of course, he went a step further and said that he still awaited for the day when this artificial partition of the country will cease and the two countries will be re-united again.

A message came from Gandhiji. Then the drama began. Blow after blow came and when people started coming out and when reports of oppression and atrocities started coming, I was a part of the Government. We considered the matter. We recognised the gravity of the situation. I went as a representative of the Government of India to Calcutta and attended the first Indo-Pakistan Conference to consider the East Bengal situation. The leader of the Delegation from Pakistan was Mr. Ghulam Mohammed, now the Governor General of Pakistan and Khwaja Nazimuddin also was there. We spent days and days together. When I ask for strong action today, I do so not in a spirit of huff. I do so not in a childish spirit. I do so not in a fantastic mood, but I refer to our experiences, our bitter and tragic experiences of failures that have taken place during the last five years and we are asking Government to adopt ‘other methods’- the expression deliberately used by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in February 1950 -‘When peaceful methods fail, other ‘methods will be adopted by Government’. And I would now ask the Prime Minister to tell us whether the time has not come to adopt other methods.

I have got the reports here. We signed agreements, pledges, promises – everything. It went on for a few months, and as usual, they were violated by Pakistan. Later, we met again here in Delhi and Mr. Ghulam Mohammed came again as the leader of the Pakistan delegation. Interpretation of the first Indo-Pakistan Conference was solemnly recorded followed by another agreement. I was a party to it. I was a party to it because even at that stage I felt that we should not leave any stone unturned for securing a peaceful and honourable solution of this problem. Undoubtedly, normally the Government will have to take charge of its people and it is for the Pakistan Government to protect its minorities. We went on that basis.

That agreement was signed. Things went on again for a few months. And then came the tragic blow of January-February 1950. I need not go into those details. But even then Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, came. He came, why? He came because he found that India’s opinion was shaken to its very root. He came because he found that there were preparations of different kind going on in India. There was pressure upon him from England and America. Millions of Muslims went out from India to Pakistan. He found that it had ceased to be one-way traffic and that the same game that he was playing, others also were capable of playing. He came: he came in a mood of outward friendliness, and there was the Peel of April 8, 1950. That has gone on for the last 2 1/2 years.

So my fundamental question to Government is this: do you believe that you have any responsibility for the protection of the minorities? Panditji had said on that occasion that “they are our concern; the protection of the minorities will be a matter which we will have to take in hand. They will be rehabilitated in their homes, if possible, or elsewhere,if necessary.” Now, if the Pakistan Government fails time after time, what is the answer that the Government of India is going to give? The passport system has been introduced. It is said that on account of the passport system, people are coming away. Our Minorities Minister, Mr. Biswas, the other day held a Press conference in Calcutta and he pointed out that passport was only a symptom, using the same language as we are using, that was not the main cause for people coming away. Something deeper was happening behind the scenes, and it might have added to the panic, to the fear. But if everything else was all right, why should the mere adoption of passports create such terrible panic in the minds of people that they should be forced out of their country?

Now, here I come to the present dangerously complacent attitude of the Government. and specially of the Prime Minister. I was amazed to hear his statement, which has been repeated many times, telling the public that the problem is practically solved, that people are not coming in large numbers, that there are no passport difficulties–they are virtually nil-and that expect the matter of rehabilitation which, of course, is undoubtedly important, for the time being there is no other trouble. I join issue with him, Sir. That is not the correct position. Undoubtedly the number of people has been reduced. An hon member said the other day that it was an inconsistent attitude. ‘You say on the one hand that these people are being squeezed out and on the other hand, they are being prevented from coning. So if Pakistan wants to drive them out, why are not people coming in larger numbers?’

(interrupted)….

The point is that Pakistan policy is that the minorities either should go or those who remain will remain as converts or serfs. It is clear. It does not intend that all should go out. People accept the kind of living which is open to them in East Pakistan, then perhaps they may continue to live there. And Pakistan does not desire that people should come out in very large numbers, because it knows that it will then immediately produce tremendous reactions in India.

Source: Lok Sabha Debates, 15th November 1952


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