The Indian Union Muslim League is the successor party to the erstwhile All India Muslim League, which was founded in 1906, and was a decidedly pro-British party with the following objectives: to create among Muslims the feelings of loyalty towards the British Government and to safeguard the political rights of the Muslims, and to convey the same to the government and to prevent the rise of prejudice against other communities of India among the Muslims. The party’s formation in 1906 was bitterly criticized by none other than Jinnah himself, then a Congressman, as British perfidy. In 1913, however Jinnah managed to convince the Muslim League to modify its creed to self government for India and subsequently joined the party in addition to the Congress. Thus, as a member of both Congress and the Muslim League, Jinnah hammered out the famous Lucknow Pact, cementing his reputation as the “Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity.” In the first 34 years of its existence, the Muslim League remained committed to Hindu Muslim unity and the cause of a united India. The eventual break came with the Lahore Resolution in 1940, which called for an autonomous Muslim majority state in the subcontinent. Impartial historians have since shown that the Muslim majority state or Pakistan, as postulated by the Muslim League, was congruent to an All India Federation and not necessarily in opposition to the idea of a united India. It was many mansions in one compound idea – a consociational counterpoise to Hindu majoritarianism that Muslims were afraid of.
Impartial historians have since shown that the Muslim majority state or Pakistan, as postulated by the Muslim League, was congruent to an All India Federation and not necessarily in opposition to the idea of a united India. It was many mansions in one compound idea – a consociational counterpoise to Hindu majoritarianism that Muslims were afraid of.
The demand was shorn of any religious content. Muslim Leaguers were not interested in creating a theocracy, but were from the modernist school of thought who wanted to reconcile Islam with modernity. Indeed, religious and sectarian Muslim parties such as Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam sided with the Congress and opposed the Muslim League as comprising secular liberals and Kemalists amongst the Muslim Community. Majlis-e-Ahrar especially attacked the Muslim League for not discriminating against Ahmadis, who the Majlis-e-Ahrar considered heretical and un-Islamic. One of Majlis-e-Ahrar’s famous leaders declared that Jinnah was kafir-e-azam or the great infidel, because he was too westernized and a Shia to boot. The Muslim League as a big tent party included all shades of Muslim opinion, including the Communists. The Communist Party of India was a major supporter of the Pakistan movement, an inconvenient fact that is often swept under the rug. Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamic revivalist movement started by Maulana Maududi, opposed the Muslim League and the creation of Pakistan, fearing that their Pakistan would necessarily be a secular enterprise that will only weaken their efforts to convert the entire subcontinent to Islam.
Minority parties by definition are secular.
Eventually, Pakistan became a separate sovereign state instead of a semi autonomous Muslim majority region within an Indian Union, because the Congress Party, including Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather Nehru, felt that an autonomous Muslim majority area within India was too high a price to pay for Indian unity. Upon the creation of Pakistan, the All India Muslim League was divided into two parties, the Pakistan Muslim League and the Indian Union Muslim League. Consistency demanded of course that Muslim League should have been disbanded in Pakistan because it had achieved its purpose and Jinnah in particular promised a polity that would not discriminate on the basis of faith. Nevertheless, political expediency did not allow that to happen. In Bangladesh, the same Muslim League slowly transformed into the Jinnah Awami Muslim League and eventually Shaikh Mujib’s Awami League. Arguably, Awami League is the most secular Muslim majority party in the subcontinent today. In India, the Indian Union Muslim League played its part in Constitution making and its contributions to that exercise are readily available in the Constituent Assembly debates. The purpose of the Indian Union Muslim League in independent India was very similar to the original purpose of the All India Muslim League, i.e. to secure adequate representation for the Muslim minority in the country.
Minority parties by definition are secular. For example, in Pakistan you have the Christian Democratic Party and a slew of other minority parties that work towards an inclusive – dare I say, a secular - Pakistan. An exclusively communal party becomes a problem only when such a community is in the majority. This is what separates, say a Pakistan Hindu Panchayat from the RSS in India. This is precisely the argument as to why there should not be any Muslim League in Pakistan.
Even if all of this is put aside, on a long enough timeline, political parties do very often flip creeds. For example, in the 1860s, Republicans were at the forefront of the abolition movement in the US and the Democrats stood for white supremacy. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan was born out of the Democratic party. Today, those roles have been reversed. The Republican Party of today mirrors many of the positions that Democrats held during the American Civil War and Democrats are precisely where the Republican Party of the 1860s was. The evolution of political parties is a fascinating phenomenon. Regardless of the baggage of history, the Indian Union Muslim League of today is a bastion of secularism in Kerala and stands for a secular India unwaveringly.