Hindu-Muslim Unity of Munshi Premchand

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Hindu-Muslim Unity of Munshi Premchand

Hindu-Muslim Unity

If there were a being in the world whose eyes could look into other people’s hearts, very Few men or women would be able to Face up to it.

Munshi Premchand had a passion for Hindu-Muslim unity, and was, therefore, critical of the fanatically inclined, be they the Muslim mullahs or Brahmin priests. It was from this angle that he viewed the policies pursued by the political parties. Because of his advocacy of Hindu-Muslim unity, Premchand was bitterly critical of the movement for conversion from one religion to the other.

The article, entitled “Malkana Rajput Mussalmanon ki Shuddhi,” was published in Zamana of May 1923. Herein Premchand took up cudgels on behalf of the Muslims who deprecated the shuddhi movement launched by the Bharatiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha, formed by several sections of the Hindu society, including the Sanatanists, the Arya Samajists, the Jains and the Sikhs.

While Premchand agreed that the shuddhi movement had been originally started by the Muslims, the launching of the shuddhi movement by all sections of Hindu opinion to him signified a grave danger to the Muslims. They had not been afraid of the movement carried on by the Arya Samajists, he said, but apprehended danger in the combined opposition by all sections of the Hindus.

There were many among the Muslims, said Premchand, who were leaving the Congress fold because, according to their thinking, Congress raj would now be synonymous with Hindu raj. This trend, Premchand thought, would, therefore, weaken the movement for swaraj. This being so, the movement which gave spiritual satisfaction to a few individuals, but hurt a large section of the people, should be called off.

The Hindus, he added, were better educated, were politically more conscious, and were greater patriots. Propagation by them of the shuddhi movement, when they had earlier opposed the movement launched by Muslims, was regrettable. Their policy in effect amounted to one of “retaliation.”

While the conversion movements during the Moghul rule were motivated by religious objectives, this shuddhi movement was basically political in character. It was indeed sad, he maintained, that people viewed problems from the communal angle rather than from the national angle: “Hindus thought of themselves as Hindus first and Indians next.”

One of the aims of the movement was to ensure an increase in the Hindu population and a consequent reduction in the number of Muslims. “But numbers never prove anything. Wasn’t England with a smaller population ruling the millions of India?” All that it might lead to was a few more seats for the Hindus in the legislative councils. This gain was hardly worth endangering Hindu-Muslim unity and the prospects of swaraj. Hindu Muslim unity was the foundation of the movement for swaraj. It was a sad thing that the obsession of a few misguided religious bigots was posing a great danger to that foundation.

Premchand posed a few questions to the advocates of shuddhi, e.g. why didn’t they win over these sections of the Hindu society, the untouchables, who were being gradually converted to Christianity, and thus strengthen themselves?

The contention of the advocates of shuddhi that the Malkana Rajput Muslims (from Tonk) had the same traditions, bore Hindu names, observed the same customs, worshipped the same deities, called Brahmin priests for the ceremonies, and did everything that the Malkana Rajput Hindus did—except burying their dead—meant nothing; what was more important was the entry in the old records.

In conclusion, Premchand emphasised that Hindus’ sense of tolerance was proverbial. “Now is the time for showing such tolerance; otherwise, it would be too late.”