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Muslim rule was established across northern India between the 7th century and the 14th centuries. The Muslim Mughal Empire ruled most of India from Delhi from the early 16th century until its power was broken by the British in the 19th century. This left a disempowered and discontented Muslim minority, afraid of being swamped by the Hindu majority. Muslims were about 23% of the population of British India, and were the majority of the population in Baluchistan, Bengal, Kashmir, North-West Frontier Province, Punjab and the Sindh region of the Bombay Presidency.
In the late 19th century an Indian nationalist movement developed, with the Indian National Congress being founded in 1885. Although the Congress made genuine efforts to enlist the Muslim community in its struggle for Indian independence, it was inevitably a Hindu-dominated organisation, and Muslims knew that an independent united India would inevitably be ruled by Hindus. Although some Muslims were active in the Congress, the majority of Muslim leaders did not trust the Hindu majority.
A turning point came in 1900 when the British administration in the largest Indian state, the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), acceded to Hindu demands and made Hindi, written in the Devanagari script, the official language, in place of Persian, which had been the court language under the Mughal Emperors. This seemed to confirm Muslim fears that the Hindu majority would seek to suppress Muslim culture and religion in an independent India. A British official, Sir Percival Griffiths, wrote of "the Muslim belief that their interest must be regarded as completely separate from those of the Hindus, and that no fusion of the two communities was possible."
During this period the unofficial leader of the Indian Muslim community was Sir Sayed Ahmed, head of the Aligarh movement (a cultural organisation based in the Muslim University at Aligarh), but following his death in 1898 a more militant leadership emerged, under the slogan "Islam is in danger." In October 1906 35 leading members of the Indian Muslim community gathered at Simla under the leadership of Sultan Mohammed Shah (the third Aga Khan), to present an address to the Viceroy, Lord Minto. They demanded proportionate representation of Muslims in all government jobs and the appointment of Muslim judges to the High Courts and members in Viceroy's Council.