Tamil, Muslims, Indian, book, history, South Asia,

The enduring resilience of Tamil Muslims

Book Name:
How Best Do We Survive? : A Modern Political History of the Tamil Muslims
 Kenneth McPherson

The main title of the book, “How Best Do We Survive?” adequately describes the strength and resilience of the Tamil Muslims in specific and the springiness of the Indian Muslims in general.

The Tamil Muslims form a majority in the Indian southernmost state of Tamil Nadu.  Out of the 75 million total population of this Indian state, six million are Muslims. 

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The three present-day states, Gujrat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu were the first ones that were captured and settled by early Muslim Arab seafarers in the 7th century.  The Tamil Muslims claim to be the descendants of those seafaring Arab merchants. 

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The reviewed book discusses specifically the sociopolitical history of these Tamil Muslims before and after the independence of the country. 

1. The first chapter deals with the historical origin of the Madras Presidency and the arrival of Islam and Muslims in Tamil Nadu.  The famous and well-known Tamil recorded rulers and dynasties were, Pandya, Cholas, Pallavas, Cheras, Kalabhras, Vijayanagar kings, Poligar and Sultans, and European trading posts.  Covering the history, development, and origin of Tamil Muslims till the start of the 20th century it gives a chronological foothold to its readers to know the background and situation. 

2. Both Hindi and Urdu are variants of the same language, Hindustani. Hindi was written in the Devanagari script while Urdu adopted Nastaliq for itself. The British government did not permit the Hindi in Devanagari script for official use as Urdu was granted an official status.

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Which created rifts between Muslims and Hindus in the Madras Presidency in particular while in other parts of the country in general. Both Hindu and Muslim communities and their political leaders tried to uphold the ethnic and religious values of their respective languages in front of the Madras Presidency and the British government as well. 

3. The Lucknow Pact of 1916 was an entente between the All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. This was a rare phenomenon in the Indian political landscape which had neither previously nor afterward noticed any such conciliatory gestures from both sides. 

4. Montague Chelmsford Report of 1918 was the foundation of the Government of India Act 1919. The Provincial governmental setup consisted of the executive and legislature having the unique feature of Dyarchy or the rule of two.

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While the Central government consisted of the same two branches that is the executive and legislature. It was the pseudo-democratic setup having no concept of responsible government as was, and still is, exercised in Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia. 

5. The fifth chapter canvases the three turmoil years, from 1919 to 1921. The rising discontent among the Indian Muslims after the end of WW1. Their perceived grievances that the Ottomans and their Empire or Caliphate would likely be dismembered.

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The joining and breaking of the Caliphate Movement with Gandhi Ji Satyagraha or civil disobedience.  The revolt of Moplah Muslims in Kerala, the mass killings at Jallianwalah Bagh by Gen. Dyer and the passing of the Rowlatt Acts were the sociopolitical incidents that shocked the whole Indian community. 

6. Gandhi Ji’s strategy to use Satyagraha for Indian independence was premised on his successful South African passive resistance movement but the operational circumstances of both were quite different.

Withdrawal of the non-cooperation movement by Gandhi Ji resulted in the Sawaraj Party, a splintered group led by Chittaranjan Das. The other dissatisfied group, the No Changer, worked for the full independence of India.

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In the elections of 1923 Sawarajists won a heavy majority both in the provincial and central councils but with the death of Chittaranjan Das in 1925 and with the return of Motilal Nehru to the Congress Party again unofficially ended the Sawaraj Party. 

7.  In the third decade of the 20th century, the British Indian Muslims were solely focusing on their survival and identity politics in the face of rising religious and communal division between them and Hindus. 

Simon Commission,  Nehru Report,  Jinnah 14 points,  along with so many politico-religious movements like Khudai Khidmatgar Movement,  Unionist party,  Ahrar Movement, Hijra Movement and then All India Muslim League now all were haunted by only one idea, of Muslims survival, and unity on this land. Though their viewpoint and Modus Operandi differed from one another.  

8. British Indian politics was an inferno for the dousing of which the Irwin Gandhi pact, the first, second, and second Round Table Conferences, was planned and arranged.

9.  As the world was sliding towards WW2 on the international scene, the domestic politics of India was also not calm and serene. Bhagat Singh of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association along with three prison inmates was hanged on 23 March 1931.

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Congress Party were banned by the British government. Bengali Surya Kumar Sen’s execution revolutionized the masses. 1947 elections, killings, WW2, Congress leaving government, Japanese troops in Bengal and Assam border, revolt in the Indian navy, Quit India Movement. Only the names of some leading events suggest how flammable Indian politics was at that time!  

10. The final chapter focuses on ten years before the partition of the country in 1947. Pakistan Resolution,  different conferences and negotiations among British officials, Muslims, and Hindu leaders, and the participation and help given by Indians to the British Crown in this war. 

The 270-page book is part of the Routledge Series on Indian history and politics. 

The enduring resilience of Tamil Muslims

I am,

Murtaza Kaleem an educator, freelance writer, movie-watcher, melodious music listener and an avid reader about International Relations and World Politics with a decade long experience of education and teaching to students of different sociological and economic backgrounds. My social links are;


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