Hindu–Muslim unity is a religiopolitical concept in the Indian subcontinent which stresses members of the two largest faith groups there, Hindus and Muslims working together for the common good. The concept was championed by various kings of India, such as Akbar, leaders in the Indian independence movement, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, as well as by political parties and movements, such as the Indian National Congress, Khudai Khidmatgar and All India Azad Muslim Conference.
In Mughal India, the emperor Akbar advocated for Hindu–Muslim unity, appointing both Hindus and Muslims as officials in his court. Akbar participated and promoted festivals of both Hinduism and Islam, he also created feasts such as Phool Walon Ki Sair (although this festival is said to have been started much later in the nineteenth century under Akbar II) to be celebrated by citizens of all faiths.
In the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the Hindus and Muslims of India mobilized to fight the British. Reflecting on this in 2007, Manmohan Singh stated that these events "stood as a great testimony to the traditions of Hindu–Muslim unity that held out as an example for subsequent generations".
The Lucknow Pact of 1916 was seen as an "important step forward in achieving Hindu–Muslim unity" during the era of the Indian independence movement. Muhammad Ali Jinnah advocated Hindu–Muslim unity in early years of his political career. Gopal Krishna Gokhale stated that Jinnah "has true stuff in him, and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu–Muslim Unity".
Threats to Hindu–Muslim unity
In the First War of Indian Independence (also known as the Indian Rebellion) in 1857, Hindus and Muslims in India joined together as Indians to fight the British. The British became concerned about this rise in Indian nationalism and therefore tried to stir up communalistic feelings among Hindus and Muslims so that they might not again unite to try and overthrow crown rule. For example, Theodore Beck, the principal of Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, had told Syed Ahmad Khan that Muslims should have no sympathy with the objectives of the Indian National Congress and "that Anglo-Muslims unity was possible, but Hindu–Muslims unity was impossible".
The author of Composite Nationalism and Islam, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, a Deobandi Muslim scholar and proponent of a united India, argued that the British were attempting to "scare Muslims into imagining that in a free India Muslims would lose their separate identity, and be absorbed into the Hindu fold", a threat that "aim[ed] at depoliticizing the Muslims, weaning them away from struggle for independence." In the eyes of Madani, support for a two-nation theory resulted in the entrenchment of British imperialism.
Up to 1857, there were no communal problems in India; all communal riots and animosity began after 1857. No doubt even before 1857, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, the Hindus going to temples and the Muslims going to mosques, but there was no animosity. In fact, the Hindus and Muslims used to help each other; Hindus used to participate in Eid celebrations, and Muslims in Holi and Diwali. The Muslim rulers like the Mughals, Nawab of Awadh and Murshidabad, Tipu Sultan, etc were totally secular; they organised Ramlilas, participated in Holi, Diwali, etc. Ghalib’s affectionate letters to his Hindu friends like Munshi Shiv Naraln Aram, Har Gopal Tofta, etc attest to the affection between Hindus and Muslims at that time. In 1857, the ‘Great Mutiny’ broke out in which the Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. This shocked the British government so much that after suppressing the Mutiny, they decided to start the policy of divide and rule (see online “History in the Service of Imperialism” by B.N. Pande). All communal riots began after 1857, artificially engineered by the British authorities. The British collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus. This communal poison was injected into our body politic year after year and decade after decade.
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An important step forward in achieving Hindu–Muslim unity was the Lucknow Pact, 1916.
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