The elections of 1937 were a significant event in the history of India’s struggle for independence. The Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, won a clear majority in the provincial elections held that year. The Congress formed governments in several provinces, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madras. However, the Congress rule in these provinces was not without controversy, especially for the Muslim population.
Muslims in India had been demanding separate electorates since the early 20th century. The British government had granted separate electorates to the Muslims in the 1909 Morley-Minto Reforms, but the Congress opposed this provision. In the 1937 elections, the Congress adopted a policy of “one person, one vote,” which meant that the Muslims would have to compete with other communities for seats in the provincial assemblies. This policy was opposed by the Muslim League, which called for separate electorates for the Muslims.
The Congress rule in the provinces between 1937 and 1939 was marked by several instances of discrimination against the Muslim population. The Congress governments in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar abolished the zamindari system, which had been a source of income for many Muslim landlords. The Congress government in Madras introduced measures to promote Hindi and Tamil, which were seen as a threat to the status of Urdu as a language of the Muslims. In addition, the Congress governments in several provinces did not take adequate measures to address the economic grievances of the Muslim population.
These policies and actions of the Congress government led to a growing sense of frustration and alienation among the Muslim population. This, in turn, helped in popularizing the idea of a separate Muslim state in India. The Muslim League, under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, used the Congress government’s policies as evidence of the Congress’s indifference to the interests of the Muslims. The demand for a separate Muslim state, which had been advocated by a small group of Muslim intellectuals for several years, gained wider acceptance among the Muslim population.
In conclusion, the elections of 1937 and the Congress rule in the provinces between 1937 and 1939 played a significant role in popularizing the idea of a separate Muslim state in India. The policies and actions of the Congress government led to a growing sense of alienation and frustration among the Muslim population, which was exploited by the Muslim League to advance their demand for a separate state.