The landscape of Partition is littered with various stories some of them heartwarming and some of them gut-wrenching. Whether partition was Jinnah’s insistence or Nehru’s effort, there are various stories linked to partition. Even 70 years after the cataclysmic event new stories keep popping up. Some incidents are such that the deeper you dig the more you unearth. Some incidents remain buried. Some incidents are known but not discussed or talked about at all.
Today is an opportunity to talk about a personality whom the Congress government of that time ignored and who was brought into the public eye by that person. In the initial phase of architecting the Constitution, there were about 296 members but Dr Ambedkar did not even find a place in that committee. However, this personality we are talking about gave support to Ambedkar and thus was instrumental in making history. Ambedkar went on to become the architect of India’s Constitution.
This individual we are talking about was so against the policies created by Nehru, Gandhi and Congress that he willingly chose Pakistan and went on to live there. However, Pakistan, to put it mildly, proved to be traumatic and he was stabbed in the back. Ultimately he had to return to India and make it his home.
This person who we are talking about today is none other than Jogendra Nath Mandal. He supported Ambedkar and was one of the greatest Dalit leaders of undivided India. He was trusted confidant of Jinnah and he was Pakistan’s first Law Minister. That speaks a lot about Mandal.
Mandal and Muslim League
Jogendra Nath Mandal belonged to one of the backward communities. His politics revolved around such communities, especially in Bengal where he exerted considerable influence. He was quite impressed by Subhash Chandra Bose but, at the same time, the innate desire to do something for the backward communities led him to develop an affinity with the Congress party. However, time and experience with the Congress taught him that upliftment of the backward communities never really figured on the agenda of that party. There was no hope in that direction.
Disappointed with the Congress he then turned to the next biggest party at that time, the Muslim League. He joined the League. Jinnah and leaders of the Muslim League hoped that by roping in Mandal their influence over the Dalits would increase. Jinnah had a different view as to how to leverage the Mandal connection for his Pakistan movement. He cultivated Mandal and both came closer to each other and Mandal got into the ranks of the leaders of the League. Mandal openly supported Jinnah’s policies. This had far-reaching echoes into the future and even today the Dalit-Muslim alliance continues.
Mandal and Ambedkar
Ambedkar is back in the news for the way in which the Indian Government is bent on restructuring the Constitution to suit its ends. However, it is moot whether Ambedkar would be a known person at all were it not for the personal support that Mandal gave him. Ambedkar was older but in matters of polities, Mandal was a seasoned player. This is amplified by the fact that when Congress tried to keep Ambedkar away it was Mandal who got Ambedkar elected through the Bengal assembly and nominated him for the committee in charge of framing the Constitution.
The Congress did all it could to make sure that Ambedkar never really ever got the credit for framing the Constitution. Sardar Patel even went so far as to say, “Not only doors but also the windows of the Committee for the Constitution are closed to Dr Ambedkar. We will watch how he will gain entry.”
Of the 296 members of the committee, 31 were Dalit. These 31 were elected from local assemblies. However, Bombay Presidency, to which Ambedkar belonged, did not choose him. He lost the election. Still, he did not admit defeat and went to Calcutta where he tried to obtain membership of the Bengal Vidhan Sabha by getting the consent of its members but they too rejected him. Disappointed, he returned to Delhi.
Mandal already admired Ambedkar for his writings and his knowledge. He became aware of the situation and immediately took steps to invite Ambedkar to stand for elections from Jeysore-Khulna constituency of Bengal.
However, Congress played a dirty game and gifted these constituencies to Pakistan.
It was agreed at the time of partition that those areas where Hindus had a majority of about 51% should go to India and those areas where Muslims had a majority of 51% should go to Pakistan. However, Congress put its reputation and pride above the interests of the country. Ambedkar won at the polls but it proved to be a pyrrhic victory. Despite the constituencies having a 71% Hindu majority the Congress gifted these areas to Pakistan just to deny Ambedkar entry to the government and Constitution committee. It was Nehru’s way of punishing residents of these constituencies for having voted for Ambedkar.
This handing over of the constituencies to Pakistan technically made Ambedkar a member of Pakistan’s Parliament under the Pakistani Constitution and his membership under the Indian Constitution was cancelled. At the time of Partition, a part of Bengal turned into East Bengal, a part of Pakistan. New elections were announced in West Bengal that belonged to India. Ambedkar objected and made a statement that he would make it a political issue. In the face of this threat, Congress deemed it expedient to accommodate him.
In the meanwhile M R Jaykar, an expert in law from Bombay resigned from the Constitution Committee. Ambedkar filled the gap. It was their intention to have Mavlankar function at a Central level from 15th August 1947 but they then decided to use Ambedkar instead.
One must conclude that were it not for Mandal’s initial support Ambedkar would never have progressed and the Constitution of India, of which we are so proud, would have a very different face to it.
Partition and Mandal
Surprising or not in retrospect, Congress allied itself with Mandal and the Muslim League. Jinnah understood the ramifications of this move and was peeved. This led to changes in political equations and alliances. The outcome, however, was that Mandal and his followers believed that Jinnah was more deserving of their support rather than the Congress that played expedient games all the time. Mandal may have been wrong but he suffered a delusion that he believed Jinnah to be secular and that under him a secular Pakistan would be a better place for the Dalits and the backward communities. Therefore, he openly supported the Pakistan Movement and brought along with him his followers.
However, the Muslim League’s goal at that time was to get maximum territories to go to Pakistan and expediently supported Mandal. The founding fathers of Pakistan knew very well that with only a Muslim majority goal Pakistan would not be able to enlarge territories and change its map and that using Dalits was a useful ploy.
However, Ambedkar strongly opposed the very concept of Muslim and Dalit Pakistan. He was dead against the very idea of Partition and he was of the opinion that India was the best place for Dalits. He opined once, “If India’s partition is going to be on religious and sectarian grounds then it is necessary that there should not be a single Mussalman in India and that all Hindus in Pakistan should move to India otherwise there will be grave problems.”
Mandal and Ambedkar parted ways because of this way of thinking and other things.
Mandal went on to play a key role on behalf of the Muslim League in the partition process. He initiated elections for those regions of Bengal where Hindus (in which Dalits are also counted) and Muslims were in equal proportion. The elections would decide whether such regions would become part of Pakistan or India.
If these areas were to go to Pakistan it was necessary for the Dalits to switch sides and vote for Pakistan. Jinnah delegated this task to Mandal.
Mandal went about preaching that Dalits would get the best treatment in Pakistan and the Dalits voted for Pakistan. This led to one of the biggest regions of India going the Pakistan way.
Jinnah’s Pakistan an alias for Mandal’s Pakistan
The Muslim League made a pawn of Mandal by offering him temptations but then they showed their true colors once the partition was complete. Mandal migrated with a sizeable group of Dalits to Pakistan and an indebted Jinnah made Mandal the first Law Minister. Mandal believed that times were changing for the Dalits and that they would have a better future but his hopes were belied.
The orthodox and fanatic Muslims of Pakistan never really accepted the Dalits in Pakistan. They did not distinguish between Dalits and Hindus.
Jinnah changes his stance
At the outset, Jinnah played an astute card of advocating Pakistan as land for Dalits and Muslims. However, it did not take long for him to shed this slogan and adopt the slogan of Pakistan only for Muslims to stand.
Meanwhile, atrocities on Dalits in Pakistan kept on increasing. Mandal’s importance diminished. Dalits were brutally assaulted and killed and forcibly converted. Their properties were attached and women were rapted. This became a common thing so much so that no one really ever gave it any importance.
Mandal raised this issue with Jinnah and other leaders but they simply turned a deaf ear.
Those Dalits who remained in Pakistan after partition were either killed off mercilessly or forcibly converted to Islam. The Dalits raised their voices but there was no one to hear. The Pakistan government simply ignored the atrocities.
Mandal watched all these goings-on and felt terribly guilty and ashamed of having supported Jinnah and the Muslims but it was of little use.
Mandal resigns and returns to India as a refugee
Mandal was anguished at the plight of a decimated Dalit community in Pakistan and since no one in the government took any note of his protests then he began to realize where his loyalties were. On 8th October 1950 Mandal resigned from the cabinet of Liaquat Ali Khan and returned to India.
He went to Pakistan with a sizeable contingent of Dalits but returned alone as a refugee. He left behind Dalits without caring for their plight, Dalits who had forsaken India on his say. It was a traitorous act that bears no forgiveness. Dalits in Pakistan still pay the price even today. It was a fate worse than death and their condition is the worst one can imagine.
Anyway, resignation letter of Jogendra Nath Mandal was more or less worded like this:
“Muslims and Dalits in Bengal were in the same situation. Both were backward, illiterate and oppressed. I was assured that by associating with the Muslim League steps would be taken for the betterment of the conditions of Dalits and Muslims. We would take steps that would lead to harmony and communal peace. This is why I supported the League.
“The League celebrated Direct Action Day in 1946. This led to terrible riots in Bengal. Dalits and backward Hindus in Noakhali-Narshaar areas of Calcutta were killed and hundreds converted to Islam. Hindu women were kidnapped and raped. I undertook a journey through the riot-affected areas and witnessed the miserable conditions of people but still, I continued to support the League with a positive hope in my heart.
“I was admitted to the council of Ministers after 14 August 1947 when Pakistan came into being. I talked with Khwaja Nazimuddin and requested him to include backward class members in the cabinet of east Bengal and he promised. However, he never kept the promise and that disappointed me.
“On the false complaint of a Muslim, several people belonging to the local Namoshudray community in Didharkul in Gopalganj had to suffer atrocities. The Muslims joined hands with the police to thrash people of the Namoshudray community, enter their homes and they even beat up a pregnant woman so badly that she had an abortion. The police and the League Muslims committed heinous atrocities on the backward community. Residents of Sialhet and Habibgadh were thrashed viciously.
“They not only thrashed people but Hindu men were forced to send their women to the army camps to satisfy the lust of the army men. I called this to the attention of the administrators and called for a report but there was no outcome.
“The police, army and Muslim goons combined together with arms to attack a small village in Khulna Jilla. Women were raped. I undertook a journey of Kalshera and nearby villages on 28th February 1950 and saw ruined settlements. About 350 homes were razed to the ground. I reported the facts.
“I toured regions of affected areas in Dhaka. I was shocked to see bodies of slain Hindus lying on the tracks of Dhaka-Narayanganj and Dhaka-Chantgaon.
“I met the chief minister of East Bengal and requested him to take steps to stop the riots.
“I reached Barisaal on 20th February 1950 and was shocked to know of the incidents in this area. Hindus in large numbers were burnt alive. I walked through almost all the riot-affected areas and it was the same story: Mass killings of Hindus. One zamindar in Maghapasha had 200 of his householders killed and 40 were injured. It was living hell that I saw. In one place 300 Hindus were massacred. I saw mounds of skeletons. Dogs and vultures were feasting on rotting corpses. After killing the men the mobs had distributed the women among themselves to do as they pleased.
“60 people were killed in Rajapur. All Hindu shops were looted and razed inBabuganj. About 10000 Hindus were killed in the communal riots in East Bengal. What happened to the women and children is horrifying and brings up tears.
“I asked myself if I had come to Pakistan in the name of Islam.
“He further wrote in his letter: What is the status in East Bengal? After partition 5 lakh Hindus left Pakistan. Hindu doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers and businessmen were all forced to leave their homes and belongings due to communal riots and fears.
“Incidents have come to light of rape by Muslims on women of backward communities. Hindus selling properties to Muslims did not receive full value. Fact is, there is no justice or Fairplay in Pakistan. There is no rule of law. Hindus are worried.
“It is the same situation in West Pakistan. There were about 1 lakh backward community people in Pakistani Punjab. The majority were forcibly converted to Islam. I have a list in which 363 Temples and Gurudwaras are under the control of Muslims. Of these, some have been turned into shops, slaughterhouses and hotels. I have received news that a large number of backward community people in Sindh have been forcibly converted to Islam. Their fault is that they were Hindus and had to suffer atrocities.
“Putting aside all that has been happening in East and West Pakistan, my personal experience is painful. You used the Prime Minister’s office and the parliamentary party to make use of me. I had no inkling that you would exploit me in this way of untruth and injustice. It was difficult for me to refuse your directives so long as I was a minister in your cabinet. However, I cannot tolerate or bear the lies, deceit and injustice. I have decided to resign from the post of Minister in your cabinet. I hope you will accept my resignation forthwith. You are free to assign the post to the person you think fit to further your Islamic state.”