What happened to Iqbal ( 1877-1938 ) ?
By Justice Markandey Katju
The renowned Urdu poet Iqbal ( known as Allama Iqbal ) was secular and a nationalist in his youth. In 1904 he wrote his famous song ‘Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamaara‘.
He also wrote nationalist poems supporting Hindu-Muslim unity e.g. Himalaya in which he celebrates the sacred geography of India in which the Himalayas occupy pride of place, Naya Shivala, which depicts the composite culture of India, Hindustani Bachchon Ka Qaumi Geet, etc.
But in 1905 he went to Cambridge University in England on a scholarship, where he remained for 3 years. On his return to India in 1908, he was totally transformed, and became strongly communal, preaching pan Islamic nonsense e.g. in his poem ‘Shikwa’ written in 1909.
He started supporting Jinnah’s bogus two-nation theory i.e. that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations, and presided over the Allahabad Session of the Muslim League in 1930 where he gave a speech advocating a separate country for Indian Muslims.
How did this transformation happen ?
One can only speculate, and my guess is that while in England he was told by the security agencies there that if he persisted in his path of secularism and nationalism he would face dire consequences, but if he became a British agent and furthered their nefarious divide and rule policy he would be rewarded.
This threat and inducement evidently worked, as is apparent from his poem ‘Shikwa’ written in 1909.
In 1910, Iqbal wrote another song , “Tarana-e-Milli” (Anthem of the Religious Community), which was composed in the same metre and rhyme scheme as “Saare Jahan Se Achcha”, but which renounced the sentiment of the earlier song. The sixth stanza of “Saare Jahan Se Achcha” (1904), which is often quoted as proof of Iqbal’s secular outlook, reads :
Maẕhab nahīṉ sikhātā āpas meṉ bair rakhnā
Hindī haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai Hindūstāṉ hamārā
Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will among ourselves
We are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan.
This contrasted significantly with the first stanza of Tarana-e-Milli (1910) which reads:
Chīn o-ʿArab hamārā, Hindūstāṉ hamārā
Muslim haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai sārā jahāṉ hamārā
Central Asia and Arabia are ours, Hindustan is ours
We are Muslims, the whole world is our homeland.
Iqbal’s world view had now changed; it had become both global and Islamic. Instead of singing of Hindustan, “our homeland,” the new song proclaimed that “our homeland is the whole Islamic world.”
He wrote many more poems preaching such nonsense e.g. The Muslim, Jawab-e-Shikwa, Tulu-e-Islam ( The rise of Islam ), etc.
Two decades later, in his presidential address to the Muslim League annual conference in Allahabad in 1930, he supported a separate nation-state in the Muslim majority areas of the sub-continent, an idea that inspired the creation of Pakistan.
The same happened to ‘Veer’ Savarkar ( see my article on him on my blog Satyam Bruyat ). Savarkar was a patriot and nationalist in his youth till 1910 when he was arrested by the British authorities. He was then sent to Andaman Islands where he was kept in Cellular Jail for 10 years. There he was told by the authorities that he would rot in jail for the rest of his life unless he becomes a British agent. He agreed, and became a British collaborator. On being set free, he started spouting venom against the Muslims, and wanted to raise a Hindu army, obviously to combat the Muslims.
The same happened to several persons e.g. Tilak, who were earlier nationalist and secular, but later became British agents and communal.
The British were clever rulers, who knew that divide and rule was central to their domination over India ( see BN Pandey’s speech ‘History in the service of Imperialism’ and my article ‘The Truth about Pakistan’ online )