‘Unlike the Congress, the Muslim League failed to create a social and economic programme, or rural-urban alliances’
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Maya Tudor, a lecturer in government and public policy at Oxford University, recently published 'The Promise of Power', investigating the origins of India and Pakistan's regime divergence in the aftermath of independence. In Delhi for a lecture tour, she spoke to Yamini Lohia. Excerpts:
In your book, you identified the leading political parties, the Congress and the Muslim League, as the major difference between India and Pakistan at the time of Partition. How do you think their leadership contributed to the divergent paths?
I wouldn't say it was leadership. One question I get over and over again is how can you talk about democracy in India without talking about Gandhi and Nehru, and how can you discuss the lack of democracy in Pakistan without Jinnah and his autocratic politics. But the parties were more than their leaders, at least in India, and that was the difference. It was just leaders in the case of Pakistan. There wasn't much of a party organisation in terms of real representation in rural areas and a real programme. So on issues like what kind of programme of economic governance India was going to pursue, what kind of social programme and what the ideology of citizenship was — what made the Indian citizen an Indian citizen — on all these questions, India's nationalist movement did more to develop a clear programme. They weren't addressed in Pakistan until much later. India also built a movement that had substantial support in the countryside. That's what made a difference.
To a certain degree the movement was the same movement in India and Pakistan, in that it shared a common enemy, the British. At what point do you see the trajectory splitting?
You see the trajectory really beginning to change in the period starting in 1920, which was the starting point of the Congress's drive towards mass mobilisation. But a couple of historical things made 1920 possible. When the story of mass mobilisation and Gandhi's experiments is told, it will be clear that there were structural changes before which made it possible. For instance, the 1905 Bengal partition. There was mass mobilisation after, in many cases non-violent mobilisation like the burning of British cloth, which led to its successful reversal. So it was shown that mass mobilisation was possible. The moderate wing of the Congress was de-legitimised in 1909 and again in 1919 when the colonial reforms they had been waiting for didn't do much in the way of reform. It is true that Gandhi's leadership was incredibly important, but there were people that undertook mass mobilisation before him and he, in a sense, was the right man at the right time.