Was Savarkar really an advocate of Two-Nation Theory?

Was Savarkar really an advocate of Two-Nation Theory?

Savarkar and his politics continue to be a contentious issue even today. Interestingly, in the last couple of decades, the attacks against Savarkar in general and his politics in particular have escalated. While constructive criticism is without a doubt necessary, much of the criticism of Savarkar’s, however, constitutes ad hominem attacks and unfair denigration. Today, in addition to being tagged a “British apologist”, he is also branded as the “proponent” of the Two-Nation Theory and consequently blamed for partition by most of his critics. This article seeks to assess the veracity of the aforesaid claim.

The first evidence that the critics produce in support of their claim is the following excerpt from Savarkar’s Presidential Address of the Hindu Mahasabha in Ahmedabad in 1937:

India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary, there are two nations in the main; the Hindus and the Moslems, in India. [1]

Upon reading this quote, on the face of it at least, Savarkar appears to have supported the idea of two nations. The common argument of the critics is that Savarkar advocated the Two-Nation Theory nearly three years before Jinnah’s Muslim League officially proclaimed its demand of a separate State. If there is any truth to this claim, it would essentially vindicate Jinnah of the blemish of sowing the seeds of partition. And therefore, it becomes important to investigate this quote further, owing to which it is necessary to read further from the same speech:

As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India; several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. These, our well-meaning but unthinking friends, take their dreams for realities. That is why they are impatient of communal tangles and attribute them to communal organizations. But the solid fact is that the so-called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of a cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and the Moslems. When time is ripe you can solve them; but you cannot suppress them by merely refusing recognition of them. It is safer to diagnose and treat deep-seated disease than to ignore it. Let us bravely face unpleasant facts as they are. [2]

Here, Savarkar evidently wishes to draw attention to the persistently inimical relationship between the Hindus and the Muslims and thereupon urges the political leadership to acknowledge the actuality of the issue and to not brush it under the rug. It is in this context that he talks about the existence of two parallel nations or a nation within a nation. But does he really advocate partition? The subsequent portion of the same speech sheds light on this:

And as it has happened in many countries under similar situation in the world the utmost that we can do under the circumstances is to form an Indian State in which none is allowed any special weightage of representation and none is paid an extra-price to buy his loyalty to the State. Mercenaries are paid and bought off, not sons of the Motherland to fight in her defence. The Hindus as a nation are willing to discharge their duty to a common Indian State on equal footing. [3]

It becomes clear from the excerpt quoted above that even though Savarkar acknowledges the existence of two parallel nations, he maintains at the same time that there would be no partition and that a “common Indian State” would be established which would not entertain any demands of special privileges for any community. Dr Ambedkar, after a careful scrutiny of Savarkar’s stance with regard to the Two-Nation Theory, reaches the same conclusion. He writes thus in his magnum opus Pakistan or Partition of India:

Strange as it may appear, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India—one the Muslim nation and the other the Hindu nation. They differ only as regards the terms and conditions on which the two nations should live. Mr. Jinnah says India should be cut up into two Pakistan and Hindustan, the Muslim nation to occupy Pakistan and the Hindu nation to occupy Hindustan. Mr. Savarkar on the other hand insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for Muslims and the other for the Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution; that the constitution shall be such that the Hindu nation will be enabled to occupy a predominant position that is due to it and the Muslim nation made to live in the position of subordinate co-operation with the Hindu Nation. [4]

And Dr Ambedkar further adds:

In the struggle for political power between the two nations the rule of the game, which Mr. Savarkar prescribes, is to be one man one vote, be the man Hindu or Muslim. In his scheme a Muslim is to have no advantage which a Hindu does not have. Minority is to be no justification for privilege and majority is to be no ground for penalty. The State will guarantee the Muslims any defined measure of political power in the form of Muslim religion and Muslim culture. But the State will not guarantee secured seats in the Legislature or in the Administration and, if such guarantee is insisted upon by the Muslims, such guaranteed quota is not to exceed their proportion to the general population. [5]

As Dr Ambedkar himself observes, Savarkar, while conceding that the Muslims are a separate nation, denies the grant of a separate statehood to the Muslims and advocates the formulation of one unified State under one constitution, thereby rejecting straightaway the demand of the partition put forth by the Muslim League.

The second evidence cited by the critics is Savarkar’s statement on 15th August 1943: “I have no quarrel with Mr. Jinnah’s two nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations” [6]. However, the critics conveniently overlook what Savarkar said thereafter. Savarkar had added that the Hindu Mahasabha was willing to ally with everyone who would accept the four principles that he subsequently laid out, the first of which was the “territorial integrity of India” [7]. Moreover, Savarkar himself had issued a clarification a few days later, in an interview given to a weekly Aadesh, vis-a-vis the aforementioned statement:

It is a historic truth that the Mussulmans are a nation.. I had clarified the historical and racial background of this theory in Nagpur. Islam is a theocratic nation based on the Koran right from its inception. This nation never had geographical boundaries. Wherever the Mussulmans went, they went as a nation. They also came to Hindusthan as a nation.. [8]

Although the above statement, especially the hypothesis of the Muslim nation without any geographical boundaries i.e. the Muslim brotherhood, may be deemed “communal” by some, many observers of history have reached a similar conclusion. Dr M. Naeem Qureshi writes in his elaborate study of the Khilafat Movement:

To Muslims the concept of the universality of the Islamic polity, in spite of the apparent contradiction between the ideal and the real, is inherent in the faith. ‘The Believers are but a single Brotherhood’, is invariably cited by them as the Qur’anic endorsement for the inevitable sense of belonging that they have for their community. But an appeal for the political union of the widely dispersed Muslims of the world, especially after Islam had lost its former power and prestige, was found to be much more attractive. [9]

Dr Ambedkar too talks about the same in his work Thoughts on Pakistan:

Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast Islam is said to bind people together. But this is only a half truth. For Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and Non-Muslims is a very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is a brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity, but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation there is nothing but contempt and enmity. [10]

Savarkar further clarified that his acknowledging the presence of the Muslim nation within the Indian territory did not imply his assent to the proposal of partition:

People still do not understand the important thing that stating the fact of Mussulman and Hindu nations being present in Hindusthan is not to accept the Pakistani adamancy of carving a country of the Mussalmans. [11]

In addition, it is worth noting here that the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar had rejected the Cripps’ Proposal precisely on the grounds that it endangered the integrity of India. Sir Reginald Coupland, who was a part of Sir Stafford Cripps’ staff on his Mission, subsequently wrote in his account narrating the Cripps Mission:

Militant Hinduism, true to form, was more outspoken. ‘The basic principle of the Hindu Mahasabha,’ said its Working Committee, ‘is that India is one and individual’ and it ‘cannot be true to itself or to the best interests of Hindustan if it is a party to any proposal which involves the political partition of India in any shape or form.’ [12]

It is also worth mentioning that Savarkar sent a cablegram, on 7th April 1942, to the Editor of the New York Times, where he cited the Hindu Mahasabha’s commitment to maintaining India’s unity and integrity as the prime reason for rejecting the Cripps’ Scheme:

The impression that the Hindumahasabha, the pan-Hindu organization, was uncompromising in rejecting Sir Cripps’ scheme is misinformed. The Hindu Mahasabha accepted it partially. Welcomed the promised grant of equal co-partnership with Britain but the scheme made it all conditional on granting freedom to provinces to secede and break up India into a number of independent states with no central Indian government. To us Hindus unity and integrity of India, our motherland and holy land, is an article of faith. Indian government of today does also imply that the political and administrative unity of Hindusthan is an accomplished fact. But Sir Cripps insisted on accepting or rejecting the scheme in toto. Hindus consequently could not but reject it altogether. Americans in particular who went to war even with their kith and kin on question of secession and saved the integrity of their union cannot fail to appreciate and uphold the Hindu opposition to vivisection of India. Hindus are prepared to guarantee legitimate safeguards to minorities but can never tolerate their efforts to create a State within a State as the League of Nations puts it. [13]

Lastly, the critics should also find it interesting to note that Savarkar had formed an Anti-Pakistan front in the early 1940s. The Hindu Mahasabha and some other Hindu organisations had organised, under the leadership of Savarkar, numerous meetings and conferences all over India in opposition to the then speculated vivisection of India. The following is an excerpt from one of Savarkar’s statements in 1944 regarding the Anti-Pakistan movement:

The storm of anti-Pakistan protests raised from one end of India to the other by the Hindu Sanghatanists forces could alone shake the vivisectionists in their hearts and drop their ‘Talks’. Like hares whom hounds pursue, they panted back into their party holes waiting for more favourable time and tide. [14]

It is therefore safe to conclude that Savarkar was unreservedly opposed to the proposal of the partition. Despite acknowledging the presence of the Muslim nation, which for him was a mere matter of fact, he asseverated all through the territorial integrity of India.

Now, it would also be interesting to probe the actual cause of the partition without straying too far afield from the topic in hand. To understand the root cause of what one may refer to as the “partition mentality”, a study of the history of medieval India is essential. The partition mentality can be traced back to the 18th century, i.e. a couple of centuries before the partition itself. The Islamic invasions of India began in the 7th century, and the conquest of Sindh by Bin Qasim in the 8th century was the first definite foothold of the Muslim rule in India. It was followed by numerous invasions like the Turkish, Persian and the Afghan invasions and various rulerships like the Delhi Sultanate, Deccan sultanates and the Mogal empire. However, the 18th century witnessed a rapid decline of the Mogal empire, following the death of Aurangzeb, and at the same time a rise of the Hindu powers, especially the Marathas, who began recapturing the territories previously under the Muslim rule. This meant that the erstwhile rulers were now mere subjects. Peshwa Bajirao famously said: “Now is our time to drive strangers from the land of Hindoos, and to acquire immortal renown. By directing our efforts to Hindoostan, the Mahratta flag in your [Shahu’s] reign shall fly from the Kistna to the Attock” [15]. And the Marathas indeed planted their saffron flag atop the Attock fort (now in Pakistan) in 1758 under the rulership of Peshwa Nanasaheb (son of Bajirao). Raghunathrao, who led the Attock campaign, wrote in a letter to Nanasaheb on 4th May 1758, following the success of the campaign:

We have already brought Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on this side of Attock under our rule for the most part, and places which have not come under our rule we shall soon bring under us. Ahmad Khan Abdali’s son Taimur Sultan and Jahan Khan have been pursued by our troops, and their troops completely looted. Both of them have now reached Peshawar with a few broken troops… We have decided to establish our rule upto Kandhar. [16]

And this was necessarily the trigger point of what later transmuted into partition mentality. The reason being is that many Muslim scholars and leaders of the 18th century had increasingly felt threatened, or rather insecure, due to the rise of the non-Muslim powers and the demise of the Muslim rule. To give an example, Shah Walliullah, the famous Muslim scholar, went to the extent of writing to the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali, inviting him to invade India to reestablish the Islamic rule. The following is an excerpt from Shah Walliullah’s letter to Abdali:

In this age there exists no king, apart from His Majesty [Ahmad Shah], who is a master of means and power, potent for the smashing of the unbelievers’ army, far-sighted and battle-tested. Consequently, a prime obligation upon His Majesty is to wage an Indian campaign, break the sway of the unbelieving Marathas and Jats, and rescue the weaknesses of the Muslims who are captive in the hand of the unbelievers. [17]

This line of thought continued amongst the Muslim intellectual circles even as the reins of power transferred to the British. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the celebrated Muslim intellectual, contended in his speech in March 1888 that the Muslims and the Hindus could never remain “equal in power”:

Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations- the Mohammedans and the Hindus- could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable… But until one nation has conquered the other and made obedient, peace cannot reign in the land. [18]

The eminent poet Muhammad Iqbal, best known for his 1904 composition Taranah-e-Hindi (“Saare Jahaan se Achha”), wrote in 1910: “China and Arabia are ours, Hindustan is ours- We are Muslims, our homeland is the whole world” [19].

And therefore, it is incontrovertible that the seeds of partition were sowed centuries before Savarkar was even born and that an elaborate study of the cause of partition is necessary. Blaming Savarkar for the partition reeks of intellectual dishonesty which undoubtedly stems from the ideological enmity that Savarkar’s opponents harbour.


[1] Hindu Rashtra Darshan, p.14

[2] Ibid., pp.13-14

[3] Ibid., p.14

[4] B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, pp.131-32

[5] Ibid., p.132

[6] The Indian Annual Register 1943: Vol 2, p.10

[7] Ibid.

[8] Savarkar’s interview by a weekly Aadesh, translated and quoted in

[9] M. Naeem Qureshi, Pan-Islam in British Indian politics: a study of the Khilafat movement, 1918–1924, p.9

[10] B. R. Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, p.332

[11] Savarkar’s interview by a weekly Aadesh

[12] Sir Reginald Coupland, The Cripps Mission

[13] Historic Statements by Savarkar, p.7 

[14] Ibid., p.88

[15] James Grant Duff, A History of the Mahrattas: Volume 1, p.401

[16] Kaushik Roy, India’s Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil, pp.80-81

[17] Pritchett et al., Sources of Indian Traditions: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, p.7

[18] Dilip Hiro, The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan, p.6

[19] Pritchett et al., p.321

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Mangesh Joshi

Mangesh Joshi, a Mechanical Engineer by training, is currently working for Garuda Prakashan as a developmental editor.