By A.G. Noorani
02 June 2012
The youth in Pakistan today share Jinnah's vision and are determined to make it a reality notwithstanding the flaws in the concept.
THE Congress Working Committee met in New Delhi on March 6-8, 1947, and passed three major resolutions. One welcomed British Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee's declaration on February 20 of a deadline for the transfer of power: June 30, 1948. Another demanded the partition of Punjab. The reason cited was a way out that involved the least amount of compulsion. This would necessitate a division of Punjab into two provinces so that the predominantly Muslim part would be separate from the predominantly non-Muslim part. It was stated that this applied to Bengal as well.
The third resolution read thus: “In view of new developments which are leading to a swift transfer of power in India, it has become incumbent on the people of India to prepare themselves jointly and cooperatively for this change, so that it may be effected peacefully and to the advantage of all. The Working Committee, therefore, invite the All-India Muslim League to nominate representations to meet representatives of the Congress in order to consider the situation that has arisen and to devise means to meet it.”
Even as the demand for the partition of India inevitably involved partition of these two provinces, the Congress' demand for the partition of Punjab and Bengal was a tacit acceptance of the partition of India. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had always demanded that for any negotiations to be fruitful the principle of partition must first be accepted. Why then did he not respond to the invitation? Had he adopted the Carson line, the bloodshed would have been mitigated, if not averted, and Pakistan would have been established in an altogether different atmosphere.
Issue of minorities
Contradictions and confusion on territory were compounded with similar flaws on the crucial issue of the minorities. Pakistan was not to be a constitutional arrangement to secure a balance between two communities but an expression of self-determination by Muslims as one “nation” in parts, which Jinnah dubbed as their “homelands”, where they could live according to their culture. Muslims outside Pakistan and Hindus inside Pakistan were thus linked to a foreign state; parts where they had lived for centuries were no longer their “homelands”.
Islam had reached Malabar in the south well before it reached the north. Both states would, moreover, be majoritarian states, a Muslim state and a Hindu state. Jinnah's expositions served only to highlight these abused and harmful themes. There would be “freedom for Hindu India as well as Muslim India…. You will protect and safeguard our minorities in your zones and we will protect and safeguard your minorities in our zones” (Jamiluddin Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinnah, Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Volume 1, page 441, November 2, 1942). But the minorities belonged ethnically to another state in his scheme. Thus, the minorities: (a) did not live in their own ancient “homelands” but lived elsewhere and (b) they were citizens yes, but they remained part of the “nation” that was dominant in the other state. After the partition Jinnah urged them to be loyal to their own state.
The BBC was told as late as on April 3, 1946, that “these areas, like Madras, for instance, will have a Hindu government and the Muslim minorities there will have three courses open to them. They may accept citizenship in the state in which they are. They can remain there as foreigners, or they can come to Pakistan. I will welcome them. There is plenty of room” (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 282). Two years later, Indian Muslims who had taken him at his word found the doors shut in their face. Their return to India was blocked by Vallabhbhai Patel.
One wonders how serious Jinnah was for he had openly declared in Kanpur as early as on March 30, 1941, that “in order to liberate 7 crores of Muslims where they were in a majority, he was willing to perform the last ceremony of martyrdom if necessary and let two crores of Muslims be smashed” (Ahmad, Volume 1, page 246). On other occasions he would cite William Gladstone. He told the Legislators Convention: “If Britain in Gladstone's time could intervene in Armenia in the name of protection of minorities, why should it not be right for us to do so in the case of our minorities in Hindustan, if they are oppressed?” (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 286). Gladstone was leader of the most powerful country in the world then. Far more consequential was his approval of Hitler's support to the Sudetan Germans in Czechoslovakia (see Khaled Ahmad's article in Friday Times, November 1, 2002). Czechoslovakia was hostile to Pakistan at its very birth.
The Nawab of Chhatari was the first to point out to Jinnah, on October 16, 1940, that “even the Lahore Resolution will not solve the problem because the Muslims in the majority provinces will suffer in any case”. He had touched the crucial test – would it solv e the communal problem or, as Frank Moraes put it, simply bisect it?
Jinnah's reply on October 22 revealed much more than he perhaps suspected. He invited Chhatari to come out “with a definite scheme of his own” and promised that he would bear that scheme in mind while making a final decision in this regard (Muhammad Aslam Malik, The Making of the Pakistan Resolution, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2001, pages 199-200).
The “homelands” theory coupled with the two-nation theory widened the contradictions. “The Muslims should have the opportunity to have their own governments in the two zones which they considered as their homelands and develop their own culture. He wished Godspeed to the Hindus to have their own governments in the other parts and develop according to their own genius” (Ahmad, Volume 1, page 22. It is pointless to list all such quotes. See ibid. pages 233, 241, 292, 324; “the Muslim homelands to the Musalmans and the Hindu homelands to the Hindus” (page 388); “each community should manage their own homelands” (page 578)). The secular state was farthest from his ken. “Let 3/4 of India belong to Hindus where they can rule as they wish and let Muslims have 1/4 of India where they are in a majority” (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 256). Nothing was left to conjecture. “The crux of the issues are – Are you prepared to trust your minorities with us and are we prepared to trust our minorities with you and accept the position that where you are dominant, it shall be your dominant position and it shall be our dominant government where we are in a majority?” (ibid., page 166). Why would, however, the Congress trust one who distrusted it openly, completely?
If there was trust in plenty, there was no need to reject a federation surely. A representative of the Associated Press of America was assured, on November 8, 1945, that while this would be Muslim state minorities must be “made to feel that they have a hand in government and to do this they must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give this” (ibid., page 232). The contradiction is more apparent than real. Minorities will have a slice of power in the Muslim state, but they will not be allowed to come anywhere near the driving seat of power.
Based on distrust
Jinnah's plea for trust was unreal. The demand for Pakistan was itself based on distrust, an emotion that the Congress did a lot to foster. Jinnah's abrasive rhetoric not only widened the distrust but undermined his acceptability as a partner and interlocutor, something his admirers ignore. From 1945 onwards, each side sought British support against the other. Jinnah consistently gave short shrift to any suggestion of an organic relationship with India. At the last minute, clauses (d) to (g) of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan's draft were dropped from the Lahore Resolution. It envisaged a voluntary “Central agency” (Malik, page 229). So did the Haroon Report, pointing out quite astutely that without it Pakistan would not have a voice on the treatment of Muslim minorities.
Ayesha Jalal recalls: “In October 1942, that is, after the Cripps offer, Choudhry Khaliquzzaman wrote to Jinnah about the potential disadvantages of such ‘territorial readjustments'; he stressed the importance of retaining links between the Pakistan areas and the minority provinces. ‘Long and hostile distances will intervene against the cultural influences of the minority provinces on the Pakistan zone.' Moreover, one of the basic principles lying behind the Pakistan idea is that of keeping hostages in Muslim provinces as against the Muslims in the Hindu provinces. If we allow millions of Hindus to go out of our orbit of influence, the security of the Muslims in the minority provinces will greatly be minimised (see Khaliquzzaman to Jinnah, October 7, 1942, SHC/U.P. Volume IV and Choudhry Khaliquzzaman, Pathway to Pakistan, Lahore, 1961, pages 424-7). Significantly, in April 1946, the phrase about territorial readjustments was dropped from the League's revised version of the Lahore Resolution” (Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman, Cambridge University Press, 1985, page 59, footnote 54)
There were times when Jinnah virtually espoused the hostages’ theory, citing the presence of minorities in both states (Mehrunnisa Ali (ed.), Jinnah on World Affairs: (Select Documents, 1908-1948), Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, 2007, pages 296 and 519). On August 25, 1947, he said to a correspondent of Collier's weekly, now defunct, that the minorities were in effect hostages to the requirement of “mutual cooperation and good neighbourliness between the governments of Pakistan and the Indian Union”. On exchange of population, too, the expositions varied with the immediate event. December 10, 1945: “It is possible that there will have to be an exchange of population; it can be done on a purely voluntary basis” (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 263). November 15, 1946: “The exchange of populations will have to be considered seriously as far as possible, especially after this Bihar tragedy” (ibid., page 364). November 26, 1946: “The authorities, both central and provincial, should take up immediately the question of exchange of population.…” (ibid. page 371). April 30, 1947: “Sooner or later exchange of population will have to take place.” Both states will have to carry it out “whenever it may be necessary and feasible” (Mehrunnisa Ali, page 372).
On a corridor between the two wings of Pakistan, Jinnah initially spoke of an arrangement based on goodwill between India and Pakistan (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 281). “With goodwill on both sides it would be easy to fix a rail corridor” (M. Ali, page 277). Links should be “one of the terms of the treaty [on separation]. Are the Hindus going to come to an amicable settlement?” (ibid., page 286). It would be essential to have a corridor of sufficient width to be protected on the principle of the Suez Canal (ibid., page 291). Never mind that the canal was governed by an international convention. Doon Campbell's interview of May 21, 1947, created a stir because it reported Jinnah's demand for a corridor (ibid., page 378).
Years later, Dr Waheed Ahmad dug out Jinnah's letter of August 5, 1947, to Winston Churchill, which he published in Volume VI of his excellent collection of Jinnah's speeches ( The Nation's Voice, Quaid-i-Azam Academy, Karachi, 1992-2003; pages 514-15. An outstandingly able compilation, thoroughly annotated). Jinnah wrote: “In the interest of humanity, it is essential that the intermigration should be started on scientific lines. Areas in both zones be acquired and developed to accommodate refugees. The boundaries to be so adjusted as not to leave the residual population in the same percentage or proportion on both sides.
“In order to meet with the above, the boundaries of Bengal and Punjab to be kept as before, a corridor through U.P. [United Provinces] and Bihar be provided through [the] Tarai belt. It should be of sufficient depth. Lucknow and districts of Gorakhpur and Chapra be linked with the corridor to serve as strong points in the long link of communication. This corridor will absorb the Muslim population of U.P. and Bihar. A corridor will be provided for Hyderabad State as well. It will give contiguity to Pakistan through sea. The state will absorb the Muslim population of Madras and Bombay. The above could be accounted in section 9 of June 3 Plan under ‘other factors'. The boundary on the above lines between Hindustan and Pakistan will prevent cramping which is bound to happen if the division is carried out on purely communal lines.”
The flaws in the proposal are self-evident. Britain had neither the desire nor the power to impose those territorial curbs on India, and India would have rejected the proposal summarily. Churchill was in the opposition and was in no position to help his correspondent. Jinnah ran a grave risk in approaching him. Had Churchill's adversary, Prime Minister Attlee, come to know of Jinnah's move, he would have become even more hostile to Jinnah than he was already. It was written in despair.
Thus, on every single point, Jinnah was less than precise and consistent. The flaws were noted.
Dr B.R. Ambedkar pointed out: “One need not quarrel over the question whether the Muslims are a nation or a community. But one finds it extremely difficult to understand how the mere fact that the Muslims are a nation makes political isolation a safe and sound policy? Unfortunately, Muslims do not realise what disservice Mr Jinnah has done to them by this policy. But let Muslims consider what Mr Jinnah has achieved by making the Muslim League the only organisation for the Musalmans. It may be that it has helped him to avoid the possibility of having to play the second fiddle. For inside the Muslim camp he can always be sure of the first place for himself. But how does the League hope to save by this plan of isolation the Muslims from Hindu Raj? Will Pakistan obviate the establishment of Hindu Raj in provinces in which the Musalmans are in a minority? Obviously it cannot. This is what would happen in the Muslim-minority provinces if Pakistan came. Take an all-India view. Can Pakistan prevent the establishment of Hindu Raj at the centre over Muslim minorities that will remain in Hindustan? It is plain that it cannot. What good is Pakistan then? Only to prevent Hindu Raj in provinces in which the Muslims are in a majority and in which there could never be Hindu Raj!! To put it differently Pakistan is unnecessary to Muslims where they are in a majority because there, there is no fear of Hindu Raj. It is worse than useless to Muslims where they are in a minority, because Pakistan or no Pakistan they will have to face a Hindu Raj. Can politics be more futile than the politics of the Muslim League? The Muslim League started to help minority Muslims and has ended by espousing the cause of majority Muslims. What a perversion in the original aim of the Muslim League! What a fall from the sublime to the ridiculous! Partition as a remedy against Hindu Raj is worse than useless” ( Pakistan or the Partition of India, Thacker & Co., Bombay, 1946, page 358).
Ambedkar was a critic, not an adversary. Jinnah commended his work Thoughts on Pakistan (1940) to Gandhi in his letter of September 17, 1944 (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 102).
In the aftermath of the tragedies that overtook the process of the partition, criticism became sharper but was not well focussed. A decade later, Wilfred Cantwell Smith asked: “Is it not perhaps time to bring into question his statesmanship, his political sagacity, in view of his apparent failure to foresee – apparently even to try to foresee – the concrete outworking of his proposals? One is left with the impression that he had never studied a map of the Punjab or Bengal; let alone envisaged the former's canal system” ( Islam in Modern History, Princeton University Press, page 273, footnote 22). The questions raised in the first part of his assessment are pertinent. The impression he set out in the latter half is wrong. Jinnah was well aware of the non-Muslim areas and hinted to Reginald Coupland as early as in 1942 that they were negotiable.
The harsh truth is that the concept of Pakistan was inherently flawed. It was evolved in response to queries as to what Jinnah had to offer as an alternative to a federation. Jinnah hoped to negotiate. The Congress was in no mood to negotiate and was prepared to concede Pakistan rather than share power (this writer's Jinnah and Tilak; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2010). Jinnah might have pulled it off if Pakistan had been established by a willing accord with the Congress.
Jinnah's rhetoric and tactics, no less than the two-nation theory, rendered that difficult, if not impossible. In March 1947, he rejected the Congress' offer of talks. An arrogant reliance on his tactical skills led him astray. The exodus of the minorities in West Punjab and the travel curbs imposed by India in 1948 robbed the basics of his scheme of real content. The concept of Pakistan was gravely and inherently flawed. But its architect's vision of the new state was not. Jinnah was deeply committed to a democratic state, governed by the rule of law, in which the minorities were not only protected against discrimination but had a share of power. Pakistan flourished despite the terrible flaws in the concept. This was thanks entirely to its people. The role of the very forces of bigotry that were opposed to Pakistan and whom Jinnah detested blighted the vision, but not irreparably. Today, the young share Jinnah's vision and are determined to make it real. The concept of Pakistan lies miles behind them, historically. The vision of its founder moves them today. And they are certain to succeed.