The National Question in the Indian Union and Pakistan

A.M. Dyakov

The following analysis of the national question in India and Pakistan is part of a wider study undertaken by A.M. Dyakov on the political developments in the sub-continent in the period 1939-1949 which was published by the Institute of Orientalism of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1952. This essay represents one of the major studies of the national question in the sub-continent which were undertaken in the Soviet Union in the post-war period. They are largely unknown in the democratic movement in India as, in common with the bulk of the corpus of Soviet orientology dealing with India, they had not been translated from the Russian. This study was sent to press in December 1951 not long after the concerted critique by the CPSU(b) of the right opportunist errors in Soviet orientology which was undertaken in March and April of that year (see RD Vol. VI, No. 2, September 2000, pp. 106-115) and was prefaced by the author’s self-criticism. Within a few years the right opportunist errors made a comeback so that the later studies by A.M. Dyakov on the national question in India represent a reflection of the ideology of the 20th Congress of the CPSU. From the standpoint of the democratic movement the analysis of the national question in India has suffered from a double disability. Not only has the Soviet scholarship on this not been accessible but also the impact of the 20th Congress of the CPSU was such as to dash the developing possibilities of a Marxist historical school being established in this country devoted to the study of Indian history. The national question still remains a burning question in the subcontinent and it is to be hoped that this analysis which was made an half-century ago will prove to be of value to the contemporary democratic movement.

Vijay Singh

The National Question in the Indian Union

In the newly founded dominions, the national question has become one of the most serious problems. In the Indian Union and Pakistan the reactionary bloc of landlords, princes and the monopolistic bourgeoisie has come to power. Even during the direct rule of the British, the monopolistic groups of the Indian bourgeoisie had managed to carve out a certain position for themselves. Due to the specificities of the development of capitalism in India, the large capitalist groupings of the country are far from being fully representative of capitalists of all the nationalities of India. During the initial period of development of capitalism, the most prominent section of the national capital was the one that emerged from the comprador section of the Bombay bourgeoisie and represented the capitalists from among the Indian Gujaratis and the Parsis who had been practically assimilated with the Gujaratis. A large portion of the textile industry not only in Gujarat but also in the city of Bombay and also in the Marathi region of the Bombay Province and the Central Province as well as in the Kannada areas of the Bombay Province was in the hands of the mentioned group of capitalists.

After the First World War the capital of the Marwari moneylenders from Rajasthan began to flow into the industrial sector. From the very early period these moneylenders were active in the whole of northern India including Bengal and reached as far as the Deccan right into the south to the Tamil areas, where their expansion was brought to a halt by the rather strong Tamil usurer capital.

Almost all, with a few exceptions, monopolistic capitalist groups of Tata, Birla, Dalmia, Singhania, Bhatt and others belonged to the ranks of Gujarati or Marwari capital. Only in the Province of Madras, the Tamil capitalists and, in a lesser measure, the Telugu, Kannada and the Malayali resisted this infiltration of the monopolies from the North. These particular monopolies are most intimately linked to the Indian princes and landlords and with the British capital.

The monopolistic groups of Indian capitalists are interested in taking control of the whole of the Indian market, and the fact that the Indian capitalists belong largely to the trading and merchant castes of two national groups of India even further strengthens the resistance of the peoples of India for a more or less broad autonomy. Certainly, the Indian capitalists, with their own interests in mind, were also against the division of India along religious lines carried out by the British, supported the movement for a united (greater) India and approved the division of the country only out of fear of a revolution. They accepted the Mountbatten Plan only as a result of the refusal by the British government to grant independence to India without a prior division of the country.

Thus the National Congress, having found itself in power and as a representative of the interests of these groups along with the landowners and the princes refused to carry out its own national programme of 1920. The establishment of the so-called provinces on the basis of language was advantageous neither to the large capitalists nor to the princes and landlords. The reason for this was that the Indian monopolists were afraid of the competition from the weak national bourgeoisie of the Marathis, the Telugu, Bengalis, Oriya, Kannada and others. The big Indian bourgeoisie, princes and the landlords knew that in some of the ‘linguistic’ or in other words national provinces, the social base of its agents — the leadership of the National Congress — is narrow, as in these places the more democratic elements are stronger and that they would not carry out policies according to the interests of Tata, Birla and Co. A very strong peasant and national movement under the leadership of the workers and a broad national autonomy in a number of such provinces, doubtlessly, would create more favourable conditions here for the intensification of anti-feudal struggle.

Therefore, the Indian government immediately on coming to power, set aside the election manifesto of the National Congress published in 1945 and announced that the creation of the so-called linguistic provinces will be postponed for at least 10 years.

In July 1948, Rajendra Prasad, the chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, under the pressure of the national movement in the ‘linguistic’ provinces of Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, instituted a commission that was entrusted to study i.e. in reality bury the issue.

In December 1948, at the meeting of the National Congress in Jaipur, under pressure from the delegates of the above mentioned regions of India, a sub-committee was formed for examining the problem of ‘linguistic provinces' i.e. of restructuring the administrative division of India.

As expected, the sub-committee, in its report tabled in April 1949, decided the question of creation of national provinces in the negative. The justification of the decision, in spite of its ‘diplomatic’ form, is interesting as far as it reveals the real reason of the refusal of the government to create ‘linguistic’ i.e. national provinces in India. The sub-committee in its report pointed out that the earlier policy of the National Congress was in favour of creation of ‘linguistic’ provinces but it was justified then, as at that stage the question of implementation of this principle in practice was not on the agenda.1 The sub-committee itself recognizes that the Congress programme was just simple demagogy.

Further, the sub-committee states that the existing provinces of India, despite their artificiality, on the strength of their long existence have acquired a certain stability that makes the break-up of their borders undesirable.2 This argument is interesting as it literally repeats the worn-out conclusions of the incorrigible British imperialist Coupland that were once directed against the National Congress.3 However, the sub-committee did not think this argument to be the central one. The following were put forward as the main arguments against the creation of national provinces:

The division of India in itself created separatist tendencies; the creation of national provinces supposedly will strengthen these tendencies as in many national regions ‘disruptive’ forces are at work;

The sub-committee recognizes that India has not been able to achieve economic independence, but in order to preserve this limited (highlighted by me – A.D.) independence it is necessary to consolidate India;

A language is not only a means of connecting, but also an obstacle dividing one people from another and this should be kept in mind;

The creation of new provinces of Andhra, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka will result in the liquidation of number of princely states and this would be a bad precedence as the problem of princely states is being addressed in other ways. Thus a conclusion is made that the creation ‘linguistic’ provinces should be postponed for at least 10 years.4

Herein the reasons for the government’s unwillingness and that of leadership of the National Congress to restructure the administrative division of India become absolutely clear.

The reactionary alliance of the landlords, princes and the monopolistic groups is aware of the results that such a restructuring can lead to. The sub-committee makes it adequately clear that in many of the regions disruptive forces are at work i.e. there exists a strong peoples’ movement. It recognizes that India is economically dependent on British imperialism and must take it into account. From the arguments of the sub-committee it is clear that the princes, landlords and large capitalists are not interested in the existence of such provinces enjoying wide autonomy. Having come to power, they do not want any development for the people of India and are striving to enslave them. They also do not want the liquidation of feudal princely states.

A short while before the announcement of these conclusions the union of the princely states of Travancore and Cochin was accomplished. For this occasion a celebratory meeting was held in the capital of Travancore, which was attended by Sitaramaiya, chairman of the National Congress. A decision was taken here for creating a united Kerala by including the Malabar district of the province of Madras5 in the above-mentioned united princely state. Sitaramaiya never protested against such a union. But the masses of Malabar and the two princely states brought out demonstrations against such a union and demanded the creation of a united Kerala by liquidating the princely states.6

The Indian princes and the large landlords fully and completely support the national policy of the government. The creation of ‘linguistic’ provinces, inevitably, will threaten the continuation of princely states. Thus, the princes strongly oppose the implementation of these measures.

Not being satisfied with rejecting the old Congress programme, the Constituent Assembly of India accepted the American Constitution as the model for the Constitution of India by according the President extraordinary powers and right to remove the governors of the provinces, thereby reducing to nothing the autonomy of the provinces of India.

The fact that the large majority of big Indian concerns, monopolistic companies and banks belong primarily to the Gujarati and Marwari capital and that the big capitalists of India are by nationality Gujaratis and Marwaris, should not lead us to the conclusion that these elements are carriers of Gujarati and Marwari nationalism. On the contrary, they are cold towards the national interests of the Gujaratis and the Marwaris. Even in 1917, while speaking at the Gujarat conference on education, where the representatives of the Gujarati capitalists, intelligentsia and the landlords were present, Gandhi chided them for their lack of interest towards the advancement of the national culture of Gujarat and the Gujarati language and cited the example of the Telugu as patriots of their national culture. This speech is particularly interesting as Gandhi himself always propagated Hindi as the common Indian language. However, even for him the nihilism and indifference towards the destiny of their own people, which the Gujarati bourgeoisie demonstrated even in 1917 appeared to be extreme and capable of getting in the way of sustaining their influence among the masses.

The Marwari capitalists are even more indifferent towards the interests of the people of Rajasthan. By being very closely linked to the princes and the jagirdars of Rajputana, they are totally indifferent towards the well-being of their people. The Marwari capitalists have not made any attempts at reviving the literature in the various dialects of Rajasthan, even in the Marwari language.

Big capital, particularly monopoly capital, is by nature cosmopolitan. The capitalists of Gujarat and Marwar are typically cosmopolitan both in their domestic as well as in international politics.

The Gujaratis and the Marwaris are among those Indian peoples who are suffering more than others due to remnants of feudalism and feudal division of the territory among hundreds of princely states. Such a situation acts as an extreme hindrance for their cultural and economic development. If Gujarat, largely, is among the economically advanced regions of India, then Rajasthan and, in particular, Marwar, are among the most backward. The interests of the large Gujarati and Marwari capitalists lie in the industrial territories that are situated outside of Gujarat and Marwar. Bombay is the base of Gujarati capital. Marwari capital, in the full sense of the word, is cosmopolitan. Being interested in strengthening their positions in the internal market of India, the big Gujarati and Marwari capitalists, as the large capitalists of other nations, are supporters of maximum centralism. They are in favour of the Hindi language, as it has already in some measure become a common Indian language in the sphere of industry and commerce. They are not only not interested in the development of individual national groups of India, but on the contrary, on fully understandable ground, work against their development, oppose the creation of national provinces in India, are against the development of national languages and, obviously, are against regional autonomy and, more so, against the right of the Indian peoples to self determination. This group of capitalists, in particular, with great ease went along with the division of Punjab and Bengal, as the destiny of the Punjabis and the Bengalis and the development of these peoples are totally foreign to them.

Being pure ‘representatives of hard cash’ and being afraid, more than anybody else, of a revolution in India that would inevitably cast them out of existence, they are the ones most actively supporting close relations with Britain and America as well as with international monopolies. In this sense they have a great deal in common with the ‘bureaucratic capital' in China along with the band of four Chinese families. They clamour for inviting foreign capital into India; for converting India into a base for fighting against Communism; they demand suppression of all democratic movements and as representatives of monopolistic groups are interested in strengthening the politically regressive situation and the vestiges of feudalism as well. Their alienation from the majority of the Indian peoples, including their own peoples makes them, like the princes, the most trusted allies and agents of British and American imperialism in the process of enslavement of India.

Enunciating the interests of this particular group of Indian capitalists, the leadership of the National Congress is toying with the chauvinistic idea of the leading role of India in Asia, propagating the idea that India should take up, in Asia, the place that has been left vacant as a consequence of the downfall of Japanese imperialism, but at the same time it is bending over backward for the creation of an international federation under the umbrella of USA and Britain while rejecting the struggle for the sovereignty of nations, in particular, the sovereignty of India.

The government of the Indian Union, being the government of Indian monopolists, landlords and princes has not only rejected the creation of the so-called linguistic provinces but has also initiated a policy of discrimination of languages, and consequently, of the nationalities of India. In the newspapers of the Unified Province of Bihar, in the publications of the Hindu Mahasabha all over India the Hindi language is being publicized as a compulsory state language. Already in 1948, in the legislative assembly in connection with the discussion on the constitution, draft legislation was introduced proclaiming Hindi and English as the state languages of India and only in exceptional cases allowing the representatives of the provinces to speak in their mother tongue. This draft generated anger even in the publications of the Congress of those provinces where Hindi is neither the spoken nor the literary language. The journal ‘Calcutta Review’7 severely criticized this draft legislation and demanded that the languages of all the provinces of India be proclaimed equal. This is how the Bengali nationalist bourgeoisie reacted to this draft. Being scared and then having agreed to a partition of Bengal the Bengali bourgeois nationalists recovered and began demanding the inclusion into West Bengal of regions of Bihar, where the Bengalis are in a majority as well also the ethnic groups of Santhals and Munda who are supposedly closer to the Bengalis than to the Biharis or the Oriya. The Bengali nationalists also demand the transfer of districts from Assam in which the Bengalis predominate (Kachar, Lushai, Manipur and Tripura) and the creation of a separate state of Purvanchal Pradesh constituting these districts.

In 1942 there were serious protests in the princely states of Khorsavan, Saraikela and Mayurbhanj against the inclusion of these princely states in the province of Orissa. These protests were led by the ‘Adivasi sangham’ i.e. the ‘the Union of Aborigines’, who demanded the inclusion of these princely states in the Chhota Nagpur district of Bihar.8

The Bengali nationalists demanded the inclusion of these princely states as also the districts of Singhbhum, Birbhum, Santhal Pargana and Purnia in West Bengal.

Particularly strong protests were provoked by the national policy of the Indian government in the south of India.

The Indian government did not immediately decide to openly declare its final refusal to fulfil the extremely popular, even among the bourgeois elements of a number of nationalities of India, demand for the creation of the so-called linguistic provinces and, in order to make this refusal easy for itself, distributed in 1948 a questionnaire meant supposedly for preparation of the administrative reforms. This questionnaire was so structured so as to guarantee a clear negative response on the question of creation of ‘linguistic’ provinces. Thus, in the Congress dominated (‘linguistic’) provinces of Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra the questionnaire was distributed, in which different economic organizations and industrialists, mainly the Gujaratis and the Marwaris were asked the question: can these provinces in case of separation balance their budgets without running into deficit? On the contrary, among the population in the Congress dominated provinces of Tamilnad and Gujarat the questionnaire distributed asked the question: will the there be a positive impact on the people of these provinces if Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra are separated from these provinces. It was presumed also that the capitalists of Gujarat and Tamilnad would respond in the negative regarding the impact of such a measure.

Characterizing these manoeuvres, the newspaper ‘People’s Age’ wrote: ‘The big bourgeoisie views the creation of new linguistic provinces of Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra etc. as increasing the number of competitors i.e. bourgeoisie of the respective districts pushing for the development of industry and markets of these national regions and that is why the big bourgeoisie is sabotaging the implementation of the given demand.

‘The leaders of the Congress and the bourgeoisie are even more afraid of the peoples of these districts. They are afraid that with the creation of separate provinces the radical and the democratic elements would considerably strengthen their influence and the local leadership will not be always able to counter them’.9

Further in the same article the newspaper ‘People’s Age’ points out that the bourgeois leadership of the national organisations want to limit the movement within the demands of the Congress programme and does not want to press forward. Albeit, despite the vacillations and opportunism of this leadership, the movement for the formation of the so-called linguistic provinces should be supported. ‘The equality of national groups', the newspaper said, 'is one of the founding principles of a genuinely democratic India and any movement on a course towards it needs to be given support; should be supported because so that it gets on a correct path in this direction. That is why we support the peoples’ demand proclaimed in Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra and in other linguistic formations for the formation of separate provinces.’10 

The Indian communists condemn the government policy of sabotaging the demands of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of India as a policy of disruption of its integrity: ‘Those who oppose the demand for self determination and equality, those who reject the existence of nationalities in India are the worst sort of destroyers and enemies of the integrity of India. They make it impossible for the peoples of India to live together and do so on the basis of equality. Obviously, the right to self determination and the real unity of India can be provided only under peoples’ power’.11

The future of the cities of Bombay and Madras also provoked serious discussions. As is well known, Bombay is situated in the territory of Maharashtra and the Marathis form the bulk of the population. The majority of workers, clerks and intellectuals of Bombay are Marathis but the Gujaratis predominate among the industrialists, traders and bankers. There is also a considerable number of Gujarati craftsmen, petty traders, intellectuals and workers.

The Congress organization of Maharashtra demanded that Bombay be included in the province of Maharashtra. The leadership of the Congress made it into a special province – City of Bombay, neither a part of Maharashtra nor of Gujarat. When the question of the creation of linguistic provinces surfaced, the leadership of the Congress unit of Bombay, the strongest and most influential in the country, put forward the demand that Bombay should be proclaimed a free city without being included in any other province. On this grounds a serious quarrel erupted between the Congress Committee of Bombay where the Gujarati and the Parsi capitalists dominate and the Maharashtra Congress organization.

The Communists took the side of the Marathis in this debate as the workers of Bombay are predominantly Marathis. In the above-mentioned edition of the newspaper, ‘Peoples Age’, regarding this question, wrote: ‘We also support the demand for the inclusion of the city of Bombay in Maharashtra, as Bombay is a part of Maharashtra. Making Bombay into an autonomous province is being proposed in order to placate the Gujarati and other capitalists. It would be just as justified to make Calcutta an autonomous province for the sake of a few Marwari capitalists. The Congress is pitting the Marathi population of Bombay against the non-Marathis in the interests of the bourgeoisie.'12

The question of Madras was also projected by the Government of India as an obstacle in creating the so-called linguistic provinces in south India. Madras is located on the border of areas inhabited by the Tamils and the Telugu, and both of them inhabit the city. On this basis the government announced that the creation of autonomous provinces Tamilnad and Andhra will necessarily result in making Madras into an autonomous province or a ‘free city’.13

The national movement in South India specially intensified in connection with the destiny of Hyderabad. The Congress organization of this princely state, even prior to the division of India, comprised of three national organizations – the Andhra Conference, the Maharashtra Conference and the Conference of Karnataka. At a time when the leadership of the Congress was struggling with reforms in the princely state, the constituent national organizations were moving towards the autonomy of the respective regions, and in the final analysis, towards inclusion of these region into the provinces which were inhabited by the same nationality which was not possible without the liquidation of the princely state of Hyderabad.

According to the reports of the American journalist Andrew Rott, Padmaja Naidu, one of the leading personalities from the Congress in the state said that if the Congress party in the princely state supports the division of the state into national regions, then the Nizam cannot stay in power; but the Congress supposedly waited for a signal from Nehru.14 Apart from this, the largest and the most influential section of the bourgeoisie of the princely state, connected to the state enterprises and purchases by the Nizam also did not want the division of the state. It is well known that Nehru never gave the signal for the division as the Congress government rejected the creation of linguistic provinces. But this does not mean that the movement for their creation came to a halt. In the end of 1948 this movement became so widespread that it became a threat to the unity of the Congress. The Andhra Mahasabha, of which the Andhra Conference of Hyderabad is a constituent part, expanded tremendously in the Congress-dominated province of Andhra. The Andhra Mahasabha was under the strong influence of the communists and it supported the rebellion in Telengana. This organization was created in 1911 and in the beginning it was just a cultural and educational society in which the landlords played the leading role. Only after the First World War and specially just before the Second World War, when the movement for self determination of the nationalities of India took on an intense and mass character, did the Mahasabha begin to transform into a more democratic organization. The petty bourgeois elements began to play the leading role in it and after the Second World War it transformed into a predominantly peasant organization and the influence of the communists grew. The National Congress of Andhra Pradesh became a narrow bourgeois party and to a great extent lost its influence among the masses.

In 1945, i.e. during the period of elections to the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra the organization under the name of Maharashtra Conference was established. Its leader was a little-known Marathi advocate. However when the Indian government began to put brakes on the creation of linguistic provinces, the Maharashtra Conference that had as its main aim the struggle for the unification of all the Marathi districts of India into a unified province strengthened its position among the Marathis. In the end of 1948, after the occupation of Hyderabad by the Indian armed forces, this organization put forward the demand of inclusion of a part of Hyderabad into a unified province of Maharashtra.

From the 16 to 17 of October 1948 a session of the Maharashtra Conference was held in Bombay at which the demand was put forward for the inclusion of all Marathi lands in Maharashtra, both belonging to the Indian Union as well as those forming a part of princely states. The Congress members also participated in this Conference and tried to limit its influence and make the entry of democratic forces into the organization more difficult. For this purpose they proposed the entry payment to be 5 rupees and a yearly payment of 1 rupee. The Conference rejected this demand and as a compromise set up the entry fee as 1 rupee.15

The Maharashtra Conference was even a more heterogeneous organization than the Andhra Mahasabha. It included a large number of not only petty bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois intellectuals but also Marathi bourgeoisie i.e. a variety of petty capitalists of Poona and other towns of Maharashtra. On a number of issues this organization supported the National Congress, however, on the question of creation of linguistic provinces it stood in uncompromising opposition to the policy of the Congress leadership and the Indian government.

In Kerala the local organizations of the Congress aligned themselves with the princes of Travancore and Cochin. They supported the aspirations of the princes to retain their power through unification of the Travancore and Cochin and the establishment of the princely state of ‘Union of Kerala’.

The more democratic section split away from the Congress and established a new party under the name of Socialist Party of Kerala. This party supported the demand of the communists for the liquidation of the princely state and creation of a unified and democratic Kerala, which would include both the Malayali princely states, as well as the Malayali regions of the Madras province.16

In the north of the India the national movement did not have such a strong presence as in the south. This is explained to a large extent by the fact that, apart from the Bengalis and the Gujaratis, there are no such fully-formed nations as in south India. In Gujarat the influence of the big bourgeoisie is very strong and it is interested not so much about the cultural development or the destiny of its nation as gaining control over the Indian market. That is why it does not support the demand of making Gujarat into a separate province and of unification of all Gujarati territories within its borders. But the movement for the creation of a unified Gujarat, nonetheless, exists.17

The partitioning of Bengal between India and Pakistan was a big blow to the national movement in Bengal. The mistrust between the Muslims and the Hindus sown by the British was still too great for any organization to demand the unification of Bengal either within the Indian Union or Pakistan. But the yearning for unification exists as much in the Pakistan part of Bengal as in the Indian. Thus, in August 1949, even Roy, the ex-Chief Minister of West Bengal, whom the Bengali newspapers call the protégé of the Marwaris, declared that there are substantial differences between the Bengali people and the Government of India and that the Bengali people aspire for unification. Earlier Suhrawardy, the ex-chief minister of Bengal before its partition, supported the unification of Bengal within the borders of Pakistan. The declarations of these politicians are interesting in the sense that they reflect the aspirations of the Bengali people to achieve the unification of Bengal.

The immense scale of the national movement of the Telugu people forced the government of India to declare its agreement to the creation of the province of Andhra comprising of 11 districts from the Madras province in November 1949. But in 1950 this decision was not implemented. In the new Constitution there is no mention of this province.

In the Constitution of the Indian Union approved in January 1950, it is stated that the Hindi language is the official language of India and for the next 15 years English would also have the same status. More so, Article 343 of the Constitution empowers the Indian government to ‘promote Hindi language and develop it so that it becomes the means of expression of all the elements of the complex culture of India’. Put simply, the Constitution of India is forcing Hindi upon all the peoples of India and makes it compelling for the central government to take measures to erode the role of other languages from the sphere of State and public life. This article of the Constitution drew objections even from among the ministers. Thus, Gadgil, a Marathi and minister for energy spoke against as also S.P. Mukerjee a Bengali and the then minister of supply.

In the draft programme of the Communist Party of India the following assessment of the national policy of the government of India is given: ‘the partition of the country and the religious strife were used in order to drown the demands of the various nationalities of India regarding their free development and the transformation of the previously heterogeneous British provinces and the princely states into autonomous in linguistic sense provinces of Unified India. Under the pretext of the unifying the country, the language of one province, specifically Hindi, was declared as the compulsory state language for all the nationalities of State to the detriment of their own mother tongue. Vast regions and millions of people of one nationality are forced to live under the rule of bureaucrats and governments that are dominated by other nationalities. Vast regions inhabited by tribals with their own economy and cultures have been surrendered to landlords and financial sharks of one or the other non-tribal group. In this way the aspiration of the masses for unity of the country is being used in reality for sowing discord and disunity among the people’.18

On the issue of the national question there are serious contradictions between the monopolistic Indian bourgeoisie, landlords and princes, on the one hand, and the mass of the population of the Indian Union including the bourgeoisie of a number of nationalities, particularly the Telugu, Bengalis, Kannada, Malayali and Marathi, on the other. At a time when the big bourgeoisie, princes and the landlords are aspiring to transform the Indian Union into a bureaucratic state and retain feudal princely states, the workers, peasants and the national bourgeoisie choose the creation of linguistic i.e. national provinces, in getting wide autonomy and liquidation of the princely states. At a time when the central government and the leadership of the National Congress is interested in retaining the princely states, is creating unions of princely states and in retaining the powers of the princes as the stronghold of reactionary forces in the country, the bourgeoisie of a number of nationalities is supporting the demand of the workers and the peasants for the liquidation of the princely states and the creation of unified national provinces embracing all the territory of a given nationality. At a time when the central government and the leadership of the National Congress aspire to preserve the medieval-bureaucratic administrative division established by the British colonizers, the working masses and the bourgeoisie of a number of nationalities aspire towards its elimination and replacement by a division along national lines.

In this manner, the bourgeoisie of a number of nationalities of India, particularly the Telugu, Malayali, Kannada, Marathi, and the Bengali, in their struggle against the reactionary national policy of the central government and the leadership of the National Congress is, though not a very persistent, but still an ally of the working masses and it should not be thrown out of reckoning in spite of its weakness and indecisiveness. But this bourgeoisie is not the main motive force of the national movements in India. The main core of these movements is the peasantry that is much more than the bourgeoisie interested in the complete liquidation of the feudal vestiges.

Precisely the scale of the peasant anti-feudal movement explains the importance that the national question has gained after the partition of India. The national movements of the peoples of India even before its partition were anti-feudal and anti-imperialist in nature. But before 1945 bourgeois reformists and even liberal landlords headed these movements. The movement was directed by them on a reformist path, they moved not towards the liquidation of the princely states and feudal land ownership but only towards reforms in these princely states and towards creation of provinces on the basis of language. The actions of the peasants, which in a number of areas were directed by the workers, changed the nature of the national movements. To the extent that the reformist elements were eased out of leadership these movements acquired a well-defined anti-feudal character and became one of the significant factors in the post-war surge of the national liberation movement. Therefore the national movements are a crucial reserve for the proletariat of India in its struggle for peoples’ democracy.

The government of the Indian Union, the Congress and the princes want to turn the national movements back onto the reactionary path, use them in the interests of individual princely dynasties. In 1948, with this aim in mind one of the officials of the princely state of Mysore put forward the slogan of a united Karnataka under the rule of the maharaja of Mysore. In the spring of 1949, the princes of Travancore and Cochin united their states under the rule of the maharaja of Travancore.

However, these measures draw protests of the democratic forces participating in the movement. After 1949 there were mass demonstrations in Kerala against intensification of the power of the princes. The demonstration held on 1 June put forward the following demand: ‘Death to the princely regimes from Kashmir to Cape Comorin!’, ‘Confiscation without compensation of the property of the princes, their ministers and cronies!’, ‘Criminal cases against the officials suppressing the democratic movement’ and ‘Creation of national provinces and creation of a unified democratic Kerala in democratic India’.19

The National Question in Pakistan

The national question in Pakistan has no lesser importance than in the Indian union. Already during the creation of Pakistan a sharp contradiction emerged between the Muslim League and the other political organizations of the Afghans on the question of inclusion of the Afghan territories of India. As it was mentioned above, the Red Shirts and its allied organizations were against the inclusion of their territories in Pakistan and demanded the creation of an independent Pathan state – Pushtunistan or Pathanistan – out of the Afghan territories of India.

Consequently the Afghan organizations boycotted the referendum held in 1947 on the question of inclusion of the territories of the North West border province in Pakistan, as the British government refused to include in the list of questions also the question of creation of Pathanistan. The demand for an independent Afghan state was popular in the border strip inhabited by the tribes of Vazirs, the Afridi and others. In spite of all the manoeuvering of the British government and the Muslim League and subsequently the government of Pakistan, the movement for the creation of Pathanistan did not stop even after the formation of new dominions. This movement got overt support from the government of Afghanistan, which protested particularly strongly against the inclusion of the border tribes in Pakistan. There are no doubts that the movement of the Pathans was partly used by the British and American imperialists for forcing the Pakistan government to give its permission for the Anglo-American army to control the strip inhabited by border tribes. But this movement in the main was a peoples movement directed against both the British plan of partitioning India as well as against Pakistan as a stooge of the British.

The Anti-British movement in the North-Western Frontier Province and in the Afghan princely states under Indian jurisdiction and particularly in the strip of the so-called independent tribes never stopped since the time of their inclusion in the British Indian Empire. Independence from British domination was always the end, though maybe one not always clearly recognized, aim of the struggle of the Afghans of India. In 1919, during the Afghan war for independence against the British, sympathy for Afghanistan swelled among the Afghans of India, but after the formation in 1929 of a reactionary regime in Afghanistan that was looking for accord with the British imperialists, the Afghans of India began to look for other allies in their struggle against colonial oppression. Specifically, the anti-British course of the national movement of the Afghans of India, and not sympathy for Indian bourgeois nationalism or, more so, for Gandhism, explains the relations between the Afghan national movement and the National Congress.

Only the top layer among the leadership of the Red Shirts, mainly the landlords – Abdul Ghafoor Khan, Khan Sahib and others were genuine Congressists and followers of Gandhi. The major part of Red Shirts who followed them had very little in common with the National Congress and even less with Gandhism. These were Afghan peasants aspiring for freedom from the British and allying with the National Congress only because the latter declared full independence of India as its final goal.

The Muslim League, always closely linked to the British government, for this very reason was never popular among such fanatical Muslims as the Indian Afghans-Pathans. And when the question of inclusion of the Afghan territories of India into Pakistan surfaced, the majority of the Afghans came out against it.

A party with Abdul Ghaffar Khan as its leader was set up in Pakistan, which declared it goal as transformation of Pakistan into a federation of ‘socialist republics’. This programme was clearly pure demagogy. Abdul Ghaffar Khan never had anything in common with socialism. However, he continued the struggle against the government of Pakistan and soon he and his followers – the Afghan nationalists – were thrown in jail. Even after this the movement for Pathanistan carried on, but as a result of the repression the centre of the movement shifted to the strip of land of the border tribes specially Vaziristan. The well-known Fakir Ipi actively worked for the creation of Pathanistan. In 1951 the Pathan problem remained one of the serious problems in Pakistan.

In 1948 in Pakistan the Sindh problem surfaced. The city of Karachi was made the temporary capital of Pakistan, and later the decision was taken to make it the permanent capital. Lahore the largest city of Pakistan and the historical centre of Punjab suffered greatly during the riots in August-September 1947 and was a very volatile place. Declaration of Karachi as the capital city of Pakistan and its separation from the province of Sindh into an autonomous administrative unit drew the anger of the population of Sindh as the Sindhis considered Karachi as their national capital. The Sindhis were always very sensitive to all sorts of projects to include Sindh in Punjab because they considered that such a move will be detrimental to their national aspiration and will put them in a position of dependency on the Punjabis.

In Pakistan the Sindhis are not very influential and among their leadership either the Muslim migrants from the Indian Union or the Punjabis dominate. The working masses of Sindh are not well organized, the class of workers is miniscule, and the peasantry is backward and oppressed by the feudal landlords who do not want any conflict with the government of Pakistan. The merchant bourgeoisie of Sindh, mainly Hindus, is afraid of raising its voice though earlier it had strongly opposed the integration of Sindh into Punjab.

The Bengal problem has great importance for Pakistan. The Bengalis constitute more than half the population of Pakistan. They are the most advanced of the nationalities of Pakistan. The Bengalis of East Pakistan have no links, neither economic nor cultural, with West Pakistan. That is why the government of Pakistan wanted to bind Bengal to Pakistan by introducing in Pakistan, including Bengal, Urdu as the single state language and by escalating pan-Islamic propaganda. A common religion and a common language, according to the government of Pakistan, should have been able to unite East Bengal with West Pakistan. But the reactionary endeavour at assimilation through forcing an alien language on the population failed. Already in Jinnah’s lifetime, in the beginning of 1948, the decision of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to declare Urdu as the mandatory state language of all of Pakistan resulted in serious disturbances in Dhaka amongst the government employees and specially the students. They demanded that Bengali be the state language in East Pakistan, that the teaching in universities and official work in state and provincial departments be conducted in Bengali etc.20

Demonstrations and protest meetings were held and there were even clashes with the police against the policy of forcing Urdu as the mandatory state language on the Bengalis. These disturbances forced Jinnah to go to East Bengal and talk to the students to convince them to accept Urdu as the language of all of Pakistan. In doing so, Jinnah declared that this would not be to the detriment of the Bengali language that would be considered as the official language of the province.

The Bengal problem was not limited only to the issue of language. In March 1949, the representatives of East Bengal in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan during the discussions on the budget strongly opposed the policy of the central government of Pakistan which declared that it views East Bengal only as place from where it can extract resources but is not interested in its development.

The Bengali national development that was artificially weakened by incitement of Hindu-Muslim pogroms over a period of 40 years, is again beginning to gain momentum both in the West as well as in the East Pakistani Bengal. The intensification of the national and peasants’ movement in Bengal can explain the provocation of Hindu-Muslim pogroms in both parts in February 1950. The ruling groups of the Indian Union and Pakistan, following the example set by their British mentor, are trying to drown the peoples’ movement of the Bengalis in blood.

The ruling grouping of Pakistan is trying to counter the demands for autonomy of the national provinces as well as the liberation movement of the Pathans and the Bengalis with the propaganda of pan-Islamism and the Shariat, the unity of all Muslims and forcing of Urdu as the state language of all of Pakistan. However, if the pan-Islamic propaganda still makes some impact among the nationalities of Pakistan, then the attempt to make Urdu as the state language of all of Pakistan only strengthens the national movement.

The absence of cultural and economic links between East Bengal and West Pakistan makes Pakistan an extremely unstable state. This situation is extensively exploited by British imperialism. However, the progression of the national-liberation movement in South-East Asia, particularly in Pakistan’s neighbour Burma, may become a signal for the intensification of the national-liberation peoples’ movement in Bengal.

Therefore, both in the Indian Union and Pakistan after the partition of India the national question has become one of the most crucial questions of political life.

An examination of the national movement that is gaining momentum and increasing in scale both in the Indian Union as well as in Pakistan allows us to reach the following conclusions:

The national movement is growing unevenly. In the territories of the Marathis, Malayali and particularly in Andhra wide sections of the working people are participating in the movement and it has taken on very strong proportions. This movement is a bit weaker in Bengal, Karnataka, and in Tamilnad; it is even weaker in Gujarat. Therefore, the movement is most active in regions where the remnants of feudal relations in the countryside are greater but where capitalism is on the rise at the same time.

The experience of India also demonstrates that fully and almost fully formed nations with a developed national movement having well-defined national demands do not always have their own strong national bourgeoisie. Precisely the national movement assumes the most active forms among peoples, like the Telugu and the Marathi, whose national bourgeoisie is weak and has not been able to link up economically or politically with the British imperialists. Consequently, the competition between the bourgeoisies of various nations in the national movement in the period of the general crisis of capitalism plays a secondary role and the national movement is an expression of the struggle of the masses of workers, the peasantry and the petty bourgeois layers of the towns against the oppression of foreign imperialists, feudal landlords and the dominant monopolistic bourgeoisie in India. In 1925, J.V. Stalin in response to Semich’s article on the national question in Yugoslavia wrote: 

The essence of the national question today lies in the struggle that the masses of the people of the colonies and dependent nationalities are waging against financial exploitation, against the political enslavement and cultural effacement of those colonies and nationalities by the imperialist bourgeoisie of the ruling nationality. What significance can the competitive struggle between the bourgeoisies of different nationalities have when the national question is presented in that way? Certainly not decisive significance, and, in certain cases, not even important significance. It is quite evident that the main point here is not that the bourgeoisie of one nationality is beating, or may beat, the bourgeoisie of another nationality in the competitive struggle, but that the imperialist group of the ruling nationality is exploiting and oppressing the bulk of the masses, above all the peasant masses, of the colonies and dependent nationalities and that, by oppressing and exploiting them, it is drawing them into the struggle against imperialism, converting them into allies of the proletarian revolution.21

The struggle of the peasant masses against the feudal vestiges dominant in the Indian countryside – against feudal land ownership, the rule of the princes and usurer enslavement – forms the main content of the national movements of the Indian Union and Pakistan. The national bourgeoisie also participated in the national movement fairly actively but only in regions where this movement assumed extremely acute form it was not the motive force.

It is in this light that the role of such national organizations as Andhra Mahasabha, Maharashtra Conference and others must be assessed. These organisations are an important ally of the proletariat in a democratic revolution. They mainly consist of peasants, the democratic layer of intellectuals and the urban poor, but, in them, there are also representatives of the top layer of tenants and the national bourgeoisie. In this light, these organisations must not be equated with peasants’ unions, workers’ unions etc., that are more homogenous regarding their class content than the above-mentioned organisations. These organisations while fighting against the national policy of the central government of the Indian Union and Pakistan play a certain progressive role and even, as in Telengana, participated actively in the peasant uprising. But under increasing repression of the reactionary forces they can always be splintered and the bourgeois-kulak section of the leadership can betray the movement.

The reactionary national policy of the governments of India and Pakistan is a result of the fact that they are governments of landlords, princes and large capitalists that are put on the leash by British imperialism.

Comrade Stalin wrote in 1917 about the reasons of national oppression in Russia:

This is to be explained chiefly by the fact that, owing to its very position, the landed aristocracy is (cannot but be!) the most determined and implacable foe of all liberty, national liberty included; that liberty in general, and national liberty in particular, undermines (cannot but undermine!) the very foundations of the political rule of the landed aristocracy.

Thus the way to put an end to national oppression and to create the actual conditions necessary for national liberty is to drive the feudal aristocracy from the political stage, to wrest the power from its hands.22

The landlords, princes and the monopolistic bourgeoisie of India and the British and American imperialists are the carriers of national oppression. This ensures the important role of the national movements in the struggle for genuinely independent and democratic India and Pakistan.

The national and the peasants movements in India and Pakistan confirms the fact that the revolutionary potential of the national movement in these countries has not been totally eliminated and that it can become a strong ally of the proletariat in the struggle for people’s democracy. Speaking about the tasks of the revolution in China, J.V. Stalin, basing himself on the tactical principles of Leninism, wrote:

I have in mind such tactical principles of Leninism as:

a) the principle that the nationally peculiar and nationally specific features in each separate country must unfailingly be taken into account by the Comintern when drawing up guiding directives for the working-class movement of the country concerned;

b) the principle that the Communist Party of each country must unfailingly avail itself of even the smallest opportunity of gaining a mass ally for the proletariat, even if a temporary, vacillating, unstable and unreliable ally;

c) the principle that unfailing regard must be paid to the truth that propaganda and agitation alone are not enough for the political education of the vast masses, that what is required for that is the political experience of the masses themselves.23

These tasks, put up by comrade Stalin are fully applicable for India and Pakistan.


1 Hindustan Times, 6 April 1949.
Coupland. The Future of India, London, 1945, p. 40
Hindustan Times, 6 April 1949.
Ibid., 2 April 1949.
Crossroads, 15 April 1949.
Calcutta Review, September, 1948
Modern Review, January 1948.
People’s Age, 5 September 1948
People's Age, 5 September 1948
People’s Age, 5 September, 1948
Hindustan Times, 6 April 1949.
Modern Review, August 1947.
People’s Age, 31 October 1948.
Ibid, 17 October 1948.
Modern Review, June 1948.
Pravda, 12 May 1951.
Crossroads, 15 September 1949.
People’s Age, 28 March 1948.
J.V. Stalin, Works, vol. 7, p. 224-225.
J.V. Stalin, Works, vol. 3, p. 18.
J.V. Stalin, Works, vol. 9, p. 337-338.

From: A.M. D"yakov, ‘Indiya vo bremya i posle vtoroi mirovoi voiny 1939-1949’, Izdatel"stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, Moscow, 1952, pp. 208-222.

Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar


From: The Memorandum of the Communist Party of India to the British Cabinet Mission

4. Constituent Assembly:

It is the right of the Indian people to frame their own constitution, and it is in the Indian people alone that full sovereignty is vested.

The Constitution-making body envisaged by the British Government is undemocratic, as it will be formed by election of delegates by the members of the Provincial Assemblies, on the basis of indirect election. The existing Provisional Assemblies based on a narrow franchise keep the vast majority of the people out of power.

The Provisional Government, shall, therefore, convene the Constituent Assembly on the basis of adult franchise and of the recognition of the right of self-determination for provinces, reconstituted as new national units (as explained below).


The acute differences between the Congress and the League on the issue of Constituent Assembly can only be settled by the just application of the principle of self-determination.

We suggest that the Provisional Government should be charged with the task of setting up a Boundaries Commission to redraw the boundaries on the basis of natural ancient homelands of every people, so that demarcated provinces become, as far as possible, linguistically and culturally homogeneous national units, e.g., Sind , Pathanland, Western Punjab.* The people of each such unit should have the unfettered right of self-determination, i.e., the right to decide freely whether they will join the Indian Union or form a separate sovereign state or another Indian Union.

The Communist Party stands for a free, voluntary, democratic Indian Union, in a common brotherhood to defend the freedom and solve the problems of poverty which require the co-operation of all. It is only on the basis of the application of the principle of self-determination, as indicated above, that the Indian unity can be preserved.

* The following are the national units that will come into existence after demarcation of the boundaries, as suggested above, and after the dissolution of the Indian states, as contemplated under Section 6: Tamilnad, Andhradesha, Kerala, Karnatak, Maharashtra, Gujerat, Rajasthan, Sind, Baluchistan, Pathanland, Kashmir, Western Punjab, Central Punjab, Hindustan, Bihar, Assam, Bengal, Orissa.

Indian States

The Indian people are determined to put an end to the Princes’s autocracy which holds sway over one-third of India. Indian freedom and Indian democracy will have no meaning – in fact, they will be constantly endangered – if one-third of India is allowed to remain under the yoke of these medieval autocrats. The Princes of the British Government; they have been in the past, and are even today, maintained by British bayonets as a useful prop to British rule. India regards the so-called treaties and obligations of the British Government as merely a conspiracy against Indian democracy. There should be, therefore, no question of inviting the Princes to share power in the Interim Government or of allowing them any share in determining the decisions of the Constituent Assembly.

The peoples of the Indian States should, therefore, have the same rights and franchise as the rest of the Indian people. The people of each should have the full right to decide through a freely elected Constituent Assembly whether they should join the Indian Union as a separate province or join any particular reconstituted province, inhabited by people of the same nationality…


The Communist Party is of the opinion that only if the British Government proceeds along the lines laid down in this Memorandum, will it be able to achieve a stable, democratic settlement between the Indian people and the British people on the basis of equality – thus solving one of the knottiest problems of world security and peace among peoples.

Any attempt, however, to exploit the differences among the Indian people, to impose an arbitrary partition, and to retain the Princes in order to perpetuate British domination, will be resisted by the Indian people with all the strength at their command.

15th April, 1946

From: (Edited) G. Adhikari, ‘Marxist Miscellany’, Volume Eight, People’s Publishing House, Bombay, 1946, pp.120-24.

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