History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2014: Q.1 (e)
Q.1 (e) “M.K Gandhi made a gross mistake in championing the Khilafat cause, an extra-territorial issue which cut at the very roots of Indian nationality.” Critically examine.
The Khilafat cause arose when victorious British in the First World War imposed severe terms on Turkish Khalifa whom many Indian Muslims considered as spritual head of all Muslims of the world.
Gandhiji felt that this was a golden opportunity to cement Hindu-Muslim unity and to bring Muslim masses into the national movement. Many consider it a wrong decision of Gandhiji to support Khilafat issue because:
(1) The Khilafat issue was mainly related to Pan-Islamism and had little to do with India and Indian National Movement. It was based on extra-territorial issues like:
(a) Turkish Khalifa must retain control of Muslim holy places,
(b) Khalifa must be left with territories upto pre-World War I level.
(c) the Arab world must not be under non-Muslim sovereignty.
(2) Many Khilafat leaders only took advantage of Gandhiji’s popular appeal but did not follow the principles of Gandhiji like non-violence as a matter of faith. Many Khilafat leaders openly propagated violence.
(3) When Turkish nationalists, led by Ataturk took over Turkish government, secularised Turkey and abolished Caliphate, the movement came to an end. But the religious sentiments aroused during the movement continued to persist among Muslims which was aroused later by Jinnah. When the alliance of convenience between Congress and Khilafat leaders died with Caliphate abolished, many Khilafat leaders joined communal politics except few like Maulana Kalam Azad who remained with Congress. This also gave fodder to Hindu communalism. Hence the Khilafat cause cut the roots of Indian nationality by creating religion based interests which finally led to the division of India.
(2) Khilafat was opposed by many secular and liberal Indian muslims. Even many religious Muslims held that the Ottoman Sultans were not legitimate Caliphs as the acceptance of the Turkish Sultan as the universal Caliph was only from the middle of 19th century.
Hence, it is argued by many that by accepting the legitimacy of Khilafat movement Gandhiji was actually strengthening the hold of an orthodox elements who had no interest in Indian nationalism. But Gandhiji’s championing the Khilafat issue also had positive outcomes. The movement saw first time involvement of Muslim masses in the movement against British and unity of Hindu and Muslims, though the unity was not enduring.
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