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B R Ambedkar’s ’transfer of population as solution’ to minority issues - extract from his book on Pakistan

29 September 2012

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Posted below is an extract from: BR Ambedkar’s Pakistan or the Partition of India

Some scoff at the idea of the shifting and exchange of population. But those who scoff can hardly be aware of the complications, which a minority problem gives rise to and the failures attendant upon almost all the efforts made to protect them. The constitutions of the post-war states, as well as of the older states in Europe which had a minority problem, proceeded on the assumption that constitutional safeguards for minorities should suffice for their protection and so the constitutions of most of the new states with majorities and minorities were studded with long lists of fundamental rights and safeguards to see that they were not violated by the majorities. What was the experience ? Experience showed that safeguards did not save the minorities. Experience showed that even a ruthless war on the minorities did not solve the problem. The states then agreed that the best way to solve it was for each to exchange its alien minorities within its border, for its own which was without its border, with a view to bring about homogeneous States. This is what happened in Turky, Greece and Bulgaria. Those, who scoff at the idea of transfer of population, will do well to study the history of the minority problem, as it arose between Turky, Greece and Bulgaria. If they do, they will find that these countries found that the only effective way of solving the minorities problem lay in exchange of population. The task undertaken by the three countries was by no means a minor operation. It involved the transfer of some 20 million people from one habitat to another. But undaunted, the three shouldered the task and carried it to a successful end because they felt that the considerations of communal peace must outweigh every other consideration.

That the transfer of minorities is the only lasting remedy for communal peace is beyond doubt. If that is so, there is no reason why the Hindus and the Muslims should keep on trading in safeguards which have proved so unsafe. If small countries, with limited resources like Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, were capable of such an undertaking, there is no reason to suppose that what they did cannot be accomplished by Indians. After all, the population involved is inconsiderable and because some obstacles require to be removed, it would be the height of folly to give up so sure a way to communal peace.

There is one point of criticism to which no reference has been made so far. As it is likely to be urged, I propose to deal with it here. It is sure to be asked, how will Pakistan affect the position of the Muslims that will be left in Hindustan ? The question is natural because the scheme of Pakistan does seem to concern itself with the Muslim majorities who do not need protection arid abandons the Muslim minorities who do. But the point is : who can raise it ? Surely not the Hindus. Only the Muslims of Pakistan or the Muslims of Hindustan can raise it. The question was put to Mr. Rehmat Ali, the protagonist of Pakistan and this is the answer given by him :—

"How will it affect the position of the forty five million Muslims in Hindustan proper ?

" The truth is that in this struggle their thought has been more than a wrench to me. They are the flesh of our flesh and the soul of our soul. We can never forget them ; nor they, us. Their present position and future security is, and shall ever be, a mailer of great importance to us. As things are at present, Pakistan will not adversely affect their position in Hindustan. On the basis of population (one Muslim to four Hindus), they will still be entitled to the same representation in legislative as well as administrative fields which they possess now. As to the future, the only effective guarantee we can offer is that of reciprocity, and, therefore, we solemnly undertake to give all those safeguards to non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan which will be conceded to our Muslim minority in Hindustan. " But what sustains us most is the fact that they know we are proclaiming Pakistan in the highest interest of the’ Millet’. It is as much theirs as it is ours. While for us it is a national citadel, for them it will ever be a moral anchor. So long as the anchor holds, everything is or can be made safe. But once it gives way, all will be lost ". The answer given by the Muslims of Hindustan is equally clear. They say, " We are not weakened by the separation of Muslims into Pakistan and Hindustan. We are better protected by the existence of separate Islamic States on the Eastern and Western borders of Hindustan than we are by their submersion in Hindustan. " Who can say that they are wrong ? Has it not been shown that Germany as an outside state was better able to protect the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia than the Sudetens were able to do themselves ? 41[f.41]

Be that as it may, the question does not concern the Hindus. The question that concerns the Hindus is : How far does the creation of Pakistan remove the communal question from Hindustan ? That is a very legitimate question and must be considered. It must be admitted that by the creation of Pakistan, Hindustan is not freed of the communal question. While Pakistan can be made a homogeneous state by redrawing its boundaries, Hindustan must remain a composite state. The Musalmans are scattered all over Hindustan—though they are mostly congregated in towns—and no ingenuity in the matter of redrawing of boundaries can make it homogeneous. The only way to make Hindustan homogeneous is to arrange for exchange of population. Until that is done, it must be admitted that even with the creation of Pakistan, the problem of majority vs. minority will remain in Hindustan as before and will continue to produce disharmony in the body politic of Hindustan..


BR Ambedkar Pakistan or the Partition of India