The Social Background of Hindu Muslim Relationship – 1

By Anjum Altaf

Some readers of this blog are aware of my admiration for the late Dr. G.M. Mehkri (1908-1995) reflected in the 2009 tribute to him on this blog. In brief, I was impressed by Dr. Mehkri’s objectivity and the intriguing social hypotheses he explored with evidence, logic, and neutrality.

I had mentioned in the tribute that Dr. Mehkri had submitted a PhD thesis (The Social Background of Hindu Muslim Relationship) to the Department of Sociology at the University of Bombay in 1947. The subject, timing, and Dr. Mehkri’s credentials suggested this might be a manuscript worth reading and a search was launched to obtain a copy. The most likely source was the National Social Science Documentation Centre (NASSDOC) in Delhi, the archive for all doctoral dissertations completed in India. Unfortunately, the copy of Dr. Mehkri’s thesis was reported missing.

With the help of friends in India (Aakar Patel and Dr. Nasreen Fazalbhoy, retired Professor of Sociology at the University of Bombay), a copy was traced at the University of Bombay, not in the main library but at a remote location that housed fragile manuscripts. The document was not in a state that allowed photocopying but Dr. Fazalbhoy was kind enough to browse the document and communicate a synopsis of its contents. Needless to say, the entirely unnecessary hurdles placed in the way of academic exchanges between the two countries prevented anyone travelling to Bombay to pursue the matter further.

Very recently, friends in Pakistan (Kaleem Durrani, Ali Yawar and Ahmad Kamran through whose organization, Sangat, I had met Dr. Mehkri for the first time in the 1980s) located a typed copy of the thesis. It seems this was a copy Dr. Mehkri had himself acquired from the university a long time back with the intention of publishing it as a book. A look at the manuscript suggests it is the final or almost-final draft of the thesis – it has a University of Bombay seal but also includes a few hand-written corrections to the text.

Admirers of Dr. Mehkri have expressed the wish to fulfil his desire and make the thesis available as a book for wider dissemination. The task of undertaking the first reading and evaluation has fallen to me and I have decided it would be helpful to share my notes on this blog as I read each chapter. In this post I will summarize the preface and list the table of contents.

In the preface, Dr. Mehkri mentions that he became interested in sociology in 1940 and completed his thesis in the Bombay University School of Economics and Sociology under the supervision of Professor G.S. Ghurye (PhD, University of Cambridge, 1922). Dr. Mehkri mentions Dr. Clifford Manshardt, the founding director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the author of the 1935 book The Hindu Muslim Problem in India, as a member of his dissertation committee. The dissertation was financially supported by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.

Dr. Mehkri writes in the preface that in 1940 when he started his program of study “[T]he communal situation in India had by now assumed serious proportions – to the extent of forcing the British Government to withhold the application of the Federal Part of the Constitution of 1935 to the government of India. Dr. Ghurye suggested that I may attempt to study the historical and social background of what then looked to many to be mere political agitation but in which Dr. Ghurye saw a good field of study in political sociology.”

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: A General Outline of the History of Pre-Muslim India
Chapter 2: Islam’s Contact With India
Chapter 3: Rise and Decay of the Muslim Power in India: A Brief Chronological History
Chapter 4: Early Muslims’ View of India and Indians
Chapter 5: Being a Brief History of the Social Relationship between the Hindu and Muslim Rulers from Akber to Tipu Sultan
Chapter 6: The Hindus and the Muslims of India after A.D. 1800
Chapter 7: The Hindu View and Way of Life
Chapter 8: The Muslims of India, Their View and Way of Life
Chapter 9: Some of the Outstanding Leaders of Indian Muslims
Chapter 10: The Question of Language, Script and Literature
Chapter 11: Muslim Mind as Expressed through the Urdu Literature
Chapter 12: Development of National Consciousness Among the Indian Muslims
Chapter 13: Conclusion
Appendix: Bibliography


This table of contents strikes an academic of today as representing a mode of thought that has gone out of fashion. Modern approaches refrain from such broad generalizations as the Muslim mind or the Hindu or Muslim view of life which would inevitably lead to clash of cultures. Excessively chronological accounts and those based entirely on secondary sources are also not considered very rewarding.

I am anticipating what I am likely to encounter as I read the thesis but still believe there might be some details that would make the effort sufficiently rewarding. In any case, it is a rare chance to study a dissertation on this topic completed during the fateful decade of the 1940s and to understand how at least some academics approached their discipline and research at that time.

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