Indian Muslims and the partition vote

The following post is contributed by @saiarav from X or Yajnavalkya from Medium

The 1946 vote and the Muslim mandate for partition

The 1946 elections remains inarguably the most consequential election within the Indian Subcontinent. Jinnah’s Muslim League (ML)went into the polls with a single-point agenda of partition and the Muslim voters responded with feverish enthusiasm, delivering a crushing victory for ML across all provinces, thereby paving the way for partition. The party won an overwhelming 75% of the Muslim votes and 87% of the Muslim seats, and except for NWFP, its minimum seat share was 82% (see table below). Of note, provinces from current day India -places like Bombay and Madras, which had zero chance of being part of a future Pakistan – gave a 100% mandate to Jinnah.

(for those who are not aware, we had a communal electorate at that time which meant Muslim voters would vote exclusively for Muslim seats)

Ayesha Jalal’s Jinnah The Sole Spokesman, P.172

Facts belie claims of Muslim society non-representation in mandate

As regarding the role (culpability?) of the Indian Muslim society in facilitating partition, establishment historians put forth two arguments. One, Jinnah had kept the Pakistan promise deliberately vague and hence the voters did not realise what they were voting for. Two, the overwhelming mandate from the voters cannot be taken as representative of the sentiments the whole society as only a tiny proportion of Muslims had the right to vote. The first one is a qualitative debate and can be debated endlessly. But the second assertion is easier to examine since we have actual voting and demographic data and that is what I will endeavour to do in this post. I reference one specific claim which is quite popular in social media — that the mandate was only from 14% Muslim adult population, based on an article written by a leading X handle, Rupa Subramanya, who has a rather interesting history with respect to her ideological leanings.

The analysis that follow will show that at least one adult member (mostly male) from close to 40% of the Muslim households in British Indian provinces and at least 25% of Muslim adults were eligible to vote .

I cannot emphasize enough that this is not something which should be used to question Indian Muslims of today. The founding fathers of the modern Indian nation made a solemn promise to Muslims that they will be equal citizens of this nation and that should be unconditionally honoured. But as a society, we should have the courage and honesty to acknowledge historical facts rather than seek to build communal peace on a foundation of lies, as the left historians have done; Noble intentions are not an excuse. Talking of fake history, one cannot but marvel at the sheer degree of control over the narrative of the establishment historians that they have managed to perpetrate the claim about the 1946 vote for more than seven decades when there is hard quantitative data available on number of voters, the country’s adult population etc. One can only imagine the kind of distortions they would have done to medieval history where obfuscation would have been infinitely easier.

Some basic facts about the 1946 elections

I will start off with some facts and estimates which are broadly indisputable.

A) The 1946 provincial elections was limited only to British Indian provinces

The 1946 elections was limited to provinces directly ruled by the British which accounted for roughly 3/4 of British India’s population. While the provincial representatives in turn elected 296 members of the Constituent Assembly, the princely states nominated 93 members the constituent assembly, i.e in proportion to their respective population. With ML bagging 73 of the 78 Muslim seats in CA, the partition debate was as good as sealed.

B) 28% of the adult population of the provinces was eligible to vote

The total strength of the electorate was 41.1 million voters while the total population of Indian provinces was 299 million. Taking into account only the adult population (age of 20+, ~50% of the population), it implied 28% of the population were eligible to vote.

(data is sourced from Kuwajima, Sho, , Manohar, New Delhi, 1998, p. 47.)

C) An estimated 25% of the adult Muslim population of the provinces were eligible to vote

While I am unable to source the actual data for the percent of eligible voters within Muslim community, there is no reason to think it would be an order of magnitude lower than the overall 28% number. As I show in the Appendix, voter and turnout data indicates the number should be in the 25% range, if not higher; i.e. about 9 million Muslims out of 37 million adult Muslim population in the provinces were enfranchised.

D) Close to 40% of Muslim households had members eligible to vote

The 28%/25% voter ratio discussed above is skewed by the fact that very few women were allowed to vote. Only 9% of adult females had voting rights which in turn implied that 46% of adult males had voting rights. (Source: Kuwajima, Sho). If we assume the same proportion for Muslim females, that would imply little over 40% of Muslim adult males were enfranchised.

E) 75% of the 6 million Muslim votes went to ML

4.5 million Muslims voted for Muslim League out of a total 6 million Muslim votes cast from an electorate size of 9.2 million. Of note, there is no major urban-rural divide — the figure for rural areas is 74% vs 79% for urban areas.

Muslim mandate way more broadbased than projected in mainstream narrative

Based on the above data, at the very least, one has to concede that 25% of the Muslim society had a say on the issue of Pakistan and three-quarters of that group did vote for creation of an independent Muslim State. This severely undercuts the claim that only a tiny elite voted for Pakistan — Rupa’s 14% figure, for example, is clearly wrong **. But even the argument that the bottom 75% had no say on the issue is inaccurate because the voting rights were not just based on class, but also on gender. As noted above, close to 40% of adult male Muslims were enfranchised — in other words, 40% of Muslim households had an adult member who could vote. And of this 40%, three-fourths or 30% chose to vote for Pakistan. That clearly means that a much larger cross-section of the Muslim society had a say than just a tiny elite or the educated middle classes (or the salariat class as Ayesha Jalal calls it). This appears to be a more reasonable interpretation of a mandate given the context of the time when universal for women was still a new or evolving concept in many advanced democracies.

** The error that Rupa makes in arriving at the 14% figure is two-fold. One, she takes the adult Muslim population for entire British India (~44 million) whereas the elections were held only for provinces (~37 million). Second, she uses actual voter turnout (6 million) instead of the total size of the Muslim electorate (~9.2 million).

What are some of the counterarguments to the above interpretation?

A) What about the fact that the Muslims in princely states had no vote?

This argument, on the face of it, is not without merit. But one needs to be honest about framing it — this is not a case of a vertical class divide in enfranchisement but a horizontal regional divide. Therefore, the proponents of the non-representative nature of the mandate will have to make the case that the Muslim subjects of the princely states would have taken a significantly different view on Pakistan versus the ones in the provinces, just harping on the class divide will just not cut it.

Let us look at what the data can tell us. The adult Muslim population from the princely states would be another 8 million. Based on 1941 census data nearly 60% would be from three large states — Hyderabad (17%), Punjab (18%) and Kashmir (24%). Is there any reason to believe that the Muslims of Hyderabad or Punjab would have voted very differently versus their neighbor provinces of Madras Presidency or Punjab province? A debate on this issue is beyond the scope of this post but I would say that the burden is on those making the “non-representative mandate” argument to make that case.

For the record, if we take total Muslim population figure, then the proportion of adult and male adult enfranchisement of Muslim community would go down to 21% and 34% respectively

B) Muslim women were largely excluded

As noted earlier only about 9% of adult women were enfranchised. Assuming a similar (or lower) figure for Muslim women, indeed they had little say on the matter. One interesting aspect is that even among the Muslim women eligible to vote, very few seem to have turned up to vote. Only 15K of them voted which would be a turnout in the low single digits at best! But among those who did vote, more than 50% voted for ML, which is admittedly well below the overall support of 75%. But still, the fact is that a slim majority of Muslim women too voted for Pakistan. Also, electoral mandates need to be interpreted based on the context of that time and broadbased women suffrage was still at a relatively early stage even in more advanced democracies.

C) Hey! only 4.5 million out 37 million Muslim adults voted for ML

This would mean only 12% of adult Muslims expressed support for Pakistan. In a very narrow mathematical sense, this is, of course. right. But this is just not how electoral mandates are interpreted in any democracy. If one uses this yardstick, it would mean Presidents in one of the world’s oldest democracies, have been consistently elected with support of just a quarter of the electorate because voter turnout in US has generally been around 50%. The ones who had the right to vote but chose not to exercise it will need to be excluded from any interpretation of the mandate.

Conclusion — acknowledge history and move on

Partition has a cast a long shadow on Hindu-Muslim relationship and perhaps it was a wise decision in the immediate aftermath to underplay the Indian Muslim community’s role in it. But a fiction cannot be the basis for a permanent peace. At some point, we will all have to collectively acknowledge the historical facts and have the maturity to move on. One additional problem also is that this fictional narrative about the mandate further feeds into the Muslim victimhood that they had chosen a secular India over a Islamic Pakistan and have been betrayed by rising Hindu majoritarianism. A honest appraisal of history might perhaps lead to a more constructive political strategy.

Appendix — estimate of eligible voter percent within Muslim community

A) The Muslim population in the provinces was 79.4 million. Given higher birth rate among Muslims, the adult population is lower than the national average — using Pakistan’s 1951 census data as a proxy, I estimate the adult Muslim population to be 47% or 37 million.

B) Total number of Muslim votes cast was 6 million (Ayesha Jalal)

C) Average turnout across communities was around 65%

D) If one assumes a similar turnout for Muslims, then the total electoral size for Muslims comes to 9.2 million which implies 25% of adult Muslim population was eligible to vote. It is quite likely that the turnout was much lower because the turnout amongst Muslim women was abysmally low (Ayesha Jalal)

So it is reasonable to conclude that at least 25% of the adult Muslim population living in the provinces were enfranchised in 1946.

Vivek Ramaswamy and Hinduism

Vivek Ramaswamy Leans Into His Hindu Faith to Court Christian Voters:

Swami Vivekananda, who represented Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, took pains to depict his faith as monotheistic, in contrast to the stereotypes of its followers as “heathen” polytheists. Although the faith has many deities, they are generally subordinate to one ultimate “reality.” Many Hindus and scholars say its theology is too complex to be described as either wholly monotheistic or wholly polytheistic.

“The polytheism hurdle is the first thing that has to be addressed” for many American Christian audiences, Mr. Altman said. He sees Mr. Ramaswamy’s pitch against “wokeism” as a way to counter stereotypes associating Hinduism with hippies, yoga and vegetarianism.

Browncast with J Sai Deepak

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

The podcast was a good experience – a free flowing discussion without much structure. Retrospectively I felt I could have intervened more on some points or countered some of the answers, but I am overall happy with the discussion.

I hope I have this opportunity again to discuss a few more things with Sai.


Hinduism will die, and Hinduism will live

Cham Hindus

Sometimes in these comments or on social media, I see Hindus bemoan the passivity and weakness of their religion in the face of faiths with greater vigor and asabiyyah. This is such a common occurrence that I don’t often comment on it. But I have to say ironically that these sorts of comments exhibit a narrowness of perception, and a broader cultural involution, that typifies so many Hindus and is why they are often caught flatfooted against the partisans of other religions, usually Christianity and Islam.

First, there are 1.2 billion Hindus in the world. There is no near-term future where Hinduism will go extinct. And this number of Hindus is the very source of the religion’s likely rebirth: evolution operates upon heritable variation to drive adaptation and change. In a cultural sense, Hinduism has a great deal of variation, whether it be obscure ethnicities like the Cham Hindus of Vietnam, or the expansion of ISKCON around the world.

ISKCON itself is interesting because its reactions illustrate the weakness and likely end of some forms of Hinduism in the Diaspora, and likely ultimately in India itself. Though from what I can tell ISKCON does exhibit a level of unpalatable cultishness, some of its orthodox Indian Hindu critics exhibit a literal reactionary mindset that illustrates why many forms of this religion are not long for this world. After the hammer blow of Islam in the Indian subcontinent around 1200 AD Indian religious traditions, what we call Hinduism, nevertheless preserved and survived. This very fact illustrates a robustness that was lacking in Near Eastern Christianity and Zoroastrianism. But that survival likely depended upon particular Indian institutions, like jati-varna, that were decentralized and flexible in a manner that allowed Hinduism not to be decapitated in the same manner that Persian Christianity and Zoroastrianism were in the centuries after the Islamic conquest.

The centuries of dhimmitude transformed Hinduism into a far more Indian religion than it was in 500 AD. This may sound strange, but the genetic and cultural evidence are clear that a massive cultural extension of Hindu Indian civilization existed in Southeast Asia during this period. If Islam had not interposed itself, and India itself become part of the Dar-ul-Islam during the medieval period, it is quite plausible that a Hindu-Buddhism dharmic condominium may have emerged from the Indus to the Gulf of Tonkin over the last few thousand years.

But that is not what happened. At the same time as the Turco-Muslims invaded India maritime Southeast Asia began to realign itself with the Islamic international, a trade network that was beginning to dominate the Indian ocean. After 1500 most of the Hindu kingdoms collapsed and turned to Islam (with Bali and Champa being the exceptions). The geographic purview of the religions that ultimately drew from the Vedic traditions became constrained, and within India cultural adaptations emerged that allowed the religion to resist the stress tests of Islam.

The centuries after the fall of the Mughals the rise of the British, and now the rise to political domination by Hindutva, are creating new cultural configurations. Many Hindus retain the cultural mindset of the past, denying that Hinduism proselytizes when the very faces of the Balinese illustrate that this was not so in the past. These traditionalists assert jati-varna in a time when even within India inter-caste marriage is eroding the power of this communalism gradually but inevitably. They also deny that non-Indians can ever be genuinely authentically Hindu, even when those non-Indians oftentimes show a vigor of belief and practice that put Indians to the same.

Those who value purity above all else will slowly fade and diminish as they look back to the past. A new future comes, and we don’t know what it will be, but cultures are resilient.

Being anti-Brown is anti-Hindu

In one section of the Washington Post piece Cal State banned caste discrimination. Two Hindu professors sued an activist professor states:

Sundaram, who supports making caste a protected characteristic, said critiquing Hinduism — even in a country where Hindus are a minority — is not akin to promoting Hinduphobia. She said most discrimination against Hindus is based on the fact that many are South Asian, rather than on their religion, and that Hinduphobia is not a widespread problem.

There are two issues I have with this assertion.

As a person of non-Hindu background and upbringing, I can tell you that prejudice against the Hindu religion is tightly coupled with “anti-South Asian” bigotry. The number of times people made fun of me for “worshipping cows” or “elephants” and “monkeys” was frequent. I actually learned about Ganesh and Hanuman due to this mockery as I had to look up what people were making fun of.

If someone screams “go back to Mecca” at a bunch of Hindu Indian Americans is that not Islamophobia because they’re not Muslim and they are being targeted for being vaguely brown? Similarly, non-Hindu brown people are bracketed into the same category and subject to discrimination because of widespread prejudices against Hinduism. In fact, despite my clear Bengali non-ashraf appearance online Indian Leftists now call me an “upper caste Muslim” to insult me. Bangladesh, unlike Pakistan, does not have caste-like stratification (look at my genetics, my ancestors were clearly from many castes), so that’s wrong, and I’m not a Muslim by belief or frankly even much upbringing (I’ve always been an atheist or agnostic and was not raised in a Musim community). But even these secular online Indian Leftists deploy tropes and insults that draw on our South Asian ancestral culture, which is broadly Hindu, even if not always orthodox Brahmanically sanctioned Hinduism.

Second, it’s pretty apparent there is an anti-Hindu streak in American society simply because of its Christian (and Abrahamic)  cultural basis. Sometimes it is hateful, sometimes it is mean. Many conservative Christians, including some Hindu converts to Christianity, believe that Hindu gods do exist, but that they’re devils and demons. I once asked a friend who is from a Hindu background but converted to Christianity in college if he believed his ancestors worshipped the devil, and he pretty much admitted he believed this to be the case. Some of the same apply to Islam, but most Christians outside of the fundamentalist fringe generally concede that Allah (Arab Christians use this word for God) is the same God that they worship.

This Hinduphobia is broad, but shallow. It doesn’t effect most peoples’ lives deeply, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Many, though not all, Indian American Hindus are clearly embarrassed by their religion because of the mockery. This is obvious when I hear young Indian Americans emphasize that “actually our religion is monotheistic just like yours.” This is the Hindu version of Muslims saying “actually Jesus is a prophet.” Both of these assertions might be true, but the impulse behind them is to mitigate marginalization and pull themselves back to the center and normalcy.

Note: I dislike terms like “Hindophobia” and “Islamophobia,” and the stance of becoming a victim to win an argument. But this is how the game is played in America now.

Episode 14: The Delhi Sultanate


Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode of the history podcast, Omar and Jay discuss the period of Delhi Sultanate with Jay and Gaurav. We go over all the major dynasties and also discuss the religious, economic aspects of this time.

As Omar Ali puts it, the legacy of Delhi Sultanate is the legacy of Islam in the subcontinent.


1. The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 by Sunil Kumar
2. The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 6: The Delhi Sultanate
3. India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard M. Eaton
4. Medieval India – Vol. 1 by Satish Chandra
5. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India: Volume I by J L Mehta
6. A Comprehensive History of India: The Delhi Sultanat (A.D. 1206-1526), ed. by Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami

Khalid Baig on Indian Nationalism and Islam


Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode Gaurav chats with Khalid Baig – an Indian Nationalist on a wide range of topics – Indian nationalism, Hindu-Muslim relations, Hindutva and bright future of India. Khalid Baig and Amana Ansari Begam also run a very popular Youtube show called India This Week By Amana & Khalid – YouTube.

We also chatted to his co-host Amana Ansari Begam a few months back – Amana Begam Ansari on Muslims and Women in India – Brown Pundits


Episode 11: Palas, Prathiharas and early Islamic invasions

Tripartite struggle between the Palas, the Rashtrakutas and the Pratiharas

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

By Print from 1425 CE, AfghanistanPhotographer: Worchester Museum – Worchester Museum

In this episode Maneesh and Gaurav chat with Jay and Omar Ali and they discuss North Indian politics and power struggles for a vast period from 700 CE to 1200 CE. We touch upon the origins of the Imperial Pratiharas and Palas and discuss the tripartrite struggle for domination of Kannauj between the 3 great kingdoms of Indian subcontinent while a storm brewed up in the west. We also talk about the earlier Arab invasions of Sindh and Punjab and the later Turkic invasions by the Ghaznavids and Ghurids which laid the foundation of Islamicate rule in India.

By Hiroki Ogawa, CC BY 3.0,

We will cover the Cultural changes of this period in another episode.

Another Map of the era or







Some Links to stuff discussed in this episode:

Al Beruni, Kitab ul Hind

Al Baladhuri: Early Islamic Conquests.


Episode 10: North India – before and after Harsha



Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

The history podcast returns to North India. Gaurav and Jay are in conversation with Maneesh about the changes in the North Indian landscape before and after the times of Harsha – generally considered as the last Emperor of “Ancient India”. We touch upon political splintering that followed the fall of the imperial Guptas, the political Game of thrones that followed, the Kumbha Mela and the decline of trade. 玄奘  (Xuanzang) and Banabhatta make appearances as prolific storytellers along with the stories of contested Urban decay and decline of Buddhism in the Indian heartland.

References for the episode:

A Comprehensive History of India – Vol III
The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 3. The Classical Age
Imagining the Urban – Sanskrit and the City in Early India by Shonaleeka Kaul
Urban Decay in India (c. 300-c. 1000) by Ram Sharan Sharma
Upinder Singh – Ancient India.
Upinder Singh – Political violence in Ancient India
Upinder Singh – Culture of Contradictions.
Romila Thapar – Ancient History
Romila Thapar – Past before us
RS Sharma- India’s Ancient Past

Live History India (Paid + unpaid)

The History of India Podcast – Kit Patrick
Echoes of India Podcast – Aniruddha Kanasetti


Brown Pundits