By A.G. Noorani
19 May 2012
Terrorism and religious intolerance prompt Pakistanis to ask, “Is this the Pakistan which Mohammad Ali Jinnah aspired to establish?”
IN the wake of a crisis, nations search their souls as painfully as individuals do. The United States was torn apart by racial riots in the late 1960s. Britain was in agony over multiculturalism after the terrorist attacks in July 2005. India agonised over Hindu revivalism after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, 20 years ago, on December 6, 1992. Terrorism and religious intolerance prompt Pakistanis to ask, “Is this the Pakistan which Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah aspired to establish?”
The question is legitimate. It has, however, two facets – the concept and the vision. There is little doubt about the vision. He envisioned Pakistan as a modern democratic state governed by the rule of law, one in which the minorities were not discriminated against, provincialism was curbed and corruption was well under control. There is less clarity on his concept of Pakistan. Contrary to popular impression, Jinnah did not have a cut-and-dried blueprint. It was work in progress. Expositions followed with time and circumstance. They were none too consistent.
When Rajendra Prasad, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress, complained that the party could express no opinion on the All India Muslim League's demand for Pakistan, Jinnah retorted on April 17, 1941, that “the principle of partitioning India must be agreed upon, then alone comes the question of what ways and means should be adopted to give effect to that decision. The question of details will arise then, and with goodwill, understanding and statesmanship, we shall, let us hope, settle them among ourselves” (Jamiluddin Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinnah, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Volumes 1 and 2, Volume 1, page 170).
In this he was less than fair. Partition was not an act of conciliation. It went against the sentiments of most non-Muslims. They did not owe any magnanimity in settling the details, especially when Jinnah's stance and rhetoric were adversarial and abrasive. Surprisingly, both adversaries and supporters overlooked the last paragraph of the League's Lahore Resolution of March 23, 1940, which embodied its demand for the partition of India. It read: “This session further authorises the Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles [partition on religious lines plus safeguards for the minorities], providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defence, external affairs, communications, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary” (emphasis added throughout). Precisely such a scheme was prepared by a committee of the League, headed by Sir Abdullah Haroon, on December 23, 1940, but it was repudiated by Jinnah, arbitrarily (see this writer's article “The Haroon Report”, Criterion, Volume III, No. 42, October-December 2008, pages 64-75). Dr B.R. Ambedkar was the only one to point out that the word “finally” implied a central authority in the interim. The scheme envisaged by the Lahore Resolution itself was never prepared. The Congress never demanded that it be prepared first.
A proposal for the partition of any country, especially one like India, had to be clear on seven points — territory of the proposed new state; the status of minorities in both states; links between the two states; exchange of population; a “corridor” between the two wings of the new state; the nature of the proposed state; and the place of the princely Indian states in the proposed set-up. There was no codified scheme covering these points. Jinnah's expositions flowed with changing times, from 1940 to 1947.
In order to appreciate them, one must ask why Jinnah thought of the partition, when and in what form. The question is easily answered. Like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, the federalist was appalled at the behaviour of the Congress Ministries in the Provinces and wondered how the Congress would behave if it were to capture power at the Centre. “There was a deal concluded between Mr Gandhi and Lord Linlithgow to implement the federal part of the Government of India Act, 1935. But providence helped and, in September 1939, war broke out,” he said in November 1945 during a tour of the North-West Frontier Province, or the NWFP, (Ahmad, Volume 2, pages 254 and 245).
Jinnah was realistic. Constitutional safeguards mattered little to a minority community unless it had a “definite share in power”. In his presidential address to the Lucknow session of the League in October 1937, he said, “All safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper, unless they are backed up by power” (Ahmad, Volume 1, pages 30 and 43). That required an accord on power sharing; the Lucknow Pact of 1916 adjusted to the situation in 1937. Inebriated with electoral success, the Congress spurned the proffered hand and opted for a monopoly on power.
The origins of Jinnah's Pakistan lie in his parleys with Viceroy Lord Linlithgow in 1939 whose reports to the Secretary of State for India, the Marquess of Zetland, reveal how Jinnah struggled first with the idea of a federation. In one, of February 28, 1939, he recorded the talks held a couple of days earlier. “I asked him [Jinnah] what suggestions he had to make, to which he replied that, while he did not reject the federal idea, it must be a federation which would ensure an adequate equipoise between Muslim and Hindu votes, and in which there should be an appropriate balance between the communities. I asked him how he contemplated securing this, to which he replied that he had in his mind the manipulation of territorial votes and the adjustments of territorial divisions as to bring it about. He blushed a little as I pressed the implication of these suggestions upon him, but in the end maintained that at any rate his project for the carving up of this country was a better one than Sikandar's [Sikandar Hayat Khan, Prime Minister of Punjab]. He admitted coyly that it might possibly prove very difficult in that event; and I asked him whether in fact he wanted us to stay. He again admitted with some reluctance that it looked very much as though that was the position that was going to emerge; but he added that many were losing faith in us” (Mushirul Hasan (ed.), Towards Freedom 1939, Part 2, Indian Council of Historical Research and Oxford University Press, New Delhi, page 1,760).
Congress alienation from Muslims
In this he was not alone. The Communist leader B.T. Ranadive wrote in National Front of March 12, 1939: “No amount of cultural guarantees, negotiations or special representation will solve the communal problem unless the Congress identifies itself with the woes and difficulties of the minorities in their day to day life. So long as this does not take place, the Congress will continue to move in a vicious circle and be at the mercy of the communal leaders. The present line, which not only neglects economic struggles but also fails to approach the minorities in civic and other elections, which looks upon communal identities as sacrosanct, and divulges a guilty conscience in its outlook towards the minority masses, must immediately end.
“It must be followed by a thoroughgoing change in the methods and outlook of the Congress. Years of isolation from the Muslim masses have invested the Congress with a peculiar Hindu atmosphere. Congress celebrations partake of the nature of Hindu festivals. Political speeches extolled Hindu ideology. Congress members in legislatures and municipalities do not make any special effort to serve the Muslim community. Congress Committees neglect the Muslims in their districts and taluks and approach only the majority community. Unless every Congressman makes a conscious effort to get rid of these shortcomings, unless the annual session gives a mandate to every Congressman to live up to his national convictions, no swing in favour of the Congress is possible” (ibid., page 1,764).
Linlithgow reported on March 28, 1939, on another talk with Jinnah. “The main interest of our talk was that, after a certain amount of discussion of the general political position, he turned to me and said that he would frankly confess that he saw no solution and that he did not now believe that this country was competent to run a democracy, and he and others who had advocated a reformed system of government had, he felt in the light of practical experience, formed a wrong judgment of the capacity of India to run such a system; that they had been carried away by their patriotic and nationalistic feelings into a wrong estimate of difficulties involved in the establishment and conduct of such a system; and that such a view was not confined to the Muslims. On the Hindu side equally, more especially among the propertied people, it existed, and we were, he thought, coming to a point which Hindus of that type would be prepared to admit it, even as he was admitting it now. He was clear, that ‘none of us' who had pressed for reforms had really thought the thing out at the time. They had been carried away by their natural desire for home rule and by their equally natural objection – an objection which any man must have – to government by aliens. But he was satisfied now, he thought, that the present system would not work and that a mistake has been made by going so far” (ibid., pages 1,764-1,765). By then Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru had also formed the same opinion on the prospects of democracy in India. Linlithgow pressed Jinnah to come up with an alternative to the federation; “constructive policy” as a riposte to the Congress' demand for a Constituent Assembly (for details see Gowher Rizvi, Linlithgow and India: A Study of British Policy and the Political Impasse in India , 1936-43, London, 1978).
By then there were proposals for partition floating aplenty. It is important to note that Jinnah did not adopt Iqbal's approach. In his presidential address to the Allahabad Session of the League, the poet advocated “the creation of a Muslim India within India”, but confined to Sind, Punjab, the NWFP and Baluchistan and excluding the Ambala Division and some districts “where non-Muslims predominate”. Among other things, such a state would provide “for Islam, an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism was forced to give it” and thus to forge “closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times” (Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan: All India Muslim League Documents: 1906-1947, National Publishing House, Karachi, 1970, Volume 2, pages 159-160).
Seven years later, in a letter to Jinnah dated June 21, 1937, Iqbal proposed “a separate federation of Muslim provinces” including Bengal, as “nations entitled to self-determination”. Muslims in those provinces “ ought at present to ignore Muslim minority provinces” ( Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, 1942, page 34). Jinnah would have committed political suicide had he written off the Muslims in non-Muslim majority provinces from whom he drew his strength and also if he had written off the non-Muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal. His supporters from these areas would have fled the Muslim League. Eventually, both happened. Muslims in India were all but written off (see this writer's article “Jinnah and Muslims of India”, Criterion, Volume III, No. 4, October-December 2008). The partition of Punjab and Bengal followed inexorably, inescapably from the partition of India. Figures of the 1941 Census stared in the face of any who cared to have a look at them. The non-Muslim majority areas comprised whole districts that were contiguous to one another and formed large and compact areas.
Given these harsh realities and the background against which Jinnah proposed the partition, was it then a bargaining chip? At a press conference in New Delhi on September 13, 1942, he was pointedly asked “if there was any change of [or?] the modifications of the Muslim demands”. The answer was revealing. “If you start asking for sixteen annas in a rupee there is room for bargaining” (Ahmad, Volume 1, page 415)
Jinnah's famous article on the “Constitutional Maladies of India” appeared in Time and Tide of London on January 19, 1940, just two months before the Lahore Resolution. The British, he wrote, must not force on India “the Western system of democracy without the qualifications and limitations to which the system must be subject to make it at all suitable for Indian conditions”. Would he have accepted it if those “qualifications and limitations” were added? At the end he wrote of “two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland” so that “India may take its place amongst the great nations of the world” (Ahmad, Volume 1, pages 117 and 124).
Prof. R.J. Moore mentions that “the Cripps Mission file (802) in the Quaid-i-Azam Papers contains correspondence between Jinnah and [Richard Stafford] Cripps regarding the creation of a new Indian Union but it is ‘embargoed'”. On January 17, 1942, Jinnah disclosed to Prof. Reginald Coupland, Cripps' adviser, his readiness for Punjab to cede Ambala Division to the United Provinces and for Bengal to cede its Hindu western districts to Bihar, provided it acquired Assam (Coupland's diary, page 65; Moore, Escape from Empire, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983, page 54, footnote 117). At all stages, Jinnah kept his options open and his cards close to his chest. Jinnah's own proposals to the Cabinet Mission on May 12, 1946, were for an Indian confederation. He accepted the federation proposed by the Cabinet Mission on May 16, 1946, though it did not provide for secession from the Union. The Congress wrecked the proposals. Withdrawing the acceptance, Jinnah told the League Council in Bombay on July 29, 1946, that the League had “sacrificed the full sovereign state of Pakistan at the altar of the Congress for securing the independence of the whole of India. They voluntarily delegated three subjects to the Union…” (ibid., page 315). Little did he know that the Congress leaders preferred partition of India to sharing power with the League. They miscalculated and thought that Pakistan would not survive but return to India in sackcloth and ashes.
Ayesha Jalal's classic The Sole Spokesman (Cambridge University Press, 1985) records statements by ranking League leaders, which suggest their preference for a loose federation, for example, Mumtaz Daultana (page 202, footnote 81). A Note by I.I. Chundrigar in April 1940 entitled “Must Face Facts” said that the aim of the Lahore Resolution was not to create “Ulsters” but to achieve “two nations… wedded into united India on the basis of equality” (ibid., page 70, footnote 100).
Jinnah's refusal to provide the details stemmed from the dilemmas he had acquired once he abandoned the federation. He had to rope in the Muslims in the Hindu majority provinces, keep his followers in east Punjab and West Bengal securely on his side, and assure the provinces of Pakistan not only of autonomy but “sovereignty”. His expositions over seven years did not square the circle. No wonder that when Pakistan became a reality it was greeted with shock and dismay by very many of his followers. Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, who was in the forefront of the women's wing of the Pakistan Movement, was married to M. Ikramullah of the Indian Civil Service. If even a person so well educated as she reacted as she did, one can imagine the reactions of common Muslims to the partition.
“East Punjab and west Bengal were to be incorporated in the Indian Union. Muslims were shocked and disturbed at this turn of events. The borders of Pakistan had never been clearly defined. Many in the rank and file of the Muslim League had continued to hope that some last minute agreement would ensure for them a position in an independent India without partition, and if partition came it should certainly mean the whole of Bengal and Punjab, and that in the Punjab, the line would be drawn just below Delhi where there was a 52 per cent overall majority of Muslims. For millions of persons like myself to whom Delhi was synonymous with Muslim culture, a Pakistan without Delhi was a body without a heart, and yet this is what was going to happen. In Bengal, Calcutta, the main port and the lifeline for East Pakistan, was also to be lost, and there was no time to do anything about it. Events had got out of control and there was a Kafka-like atmosphere about the whole thing.
“Why the Quaid accepted what he himself had earlier rejected as a moth-eaten and truncated Pakistan is the subject for a book in itself. Here it suffices to say that he did accept it. Minorities in India seem to have been left to their fate – no provision or agreement had been reached as to what would become of them. It was the Muslim minority in India who had led the movement for Pakistan, but when Pakistan came into being they were left behind” (Begum Ikramullah, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1991, page 59).
A.R. Siddiqi, a Dehlavi and an ardent follower of Jinnah, was then a young journalist. His memoir vividly describes the shock which the establishment of Pakistan administered to him and others like him, not excluding scholars who ought to have known better. He records the shock and trauma that Muslims felt in the historic city, as the implications of Pakistan emerged from the realm of slogan to the world of reality. If scholars and their students felt disoriented, one can imagine the pain of ordinary Muslims. He writes: “Our history teacher, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, was quite a political activist, unflinchingly committed to the Pakistan movement, although he saw the emergence of Pakistan neither as a parting of the ways nor exactly as a partition of the country – it would be more of a ‘political redefinition' of India than anything else. The making of Pakistan was, to his mind, the best way for the two largest communities of the subcontinent, the Hindus and the Muslims, to live in peace and harmony and according to their own rights.
“On which side of the divide would Delhi be, though? We believed that in all fairness it ought to become the joint capital of both countries, for it was utterly inconceivable to have a Pakistan without Delhi and its Delhiwallas….”
There was gloom in the office of Dawn, the Muslim League's organ, at Daryaganj in Old Delhi, when the Partition Plan of June 3, 1947, was announced. The League's Council accepted it at a meeting held in the Imperial Hotel at Janpath (then Queensway) in New Delhi. “The mere thought of leaving the city for good was like a stab in my heart. At the India Coffee House, New Delhi, our daily haunt, I had heated arguments with a group of Hindu friends. Modest and quite on the defensive before the Partition Plan, they were becoming increasingly assertive, even aggressive. They would taunt me, saying, ‘So your Mr Jinnah had to eat his words and accept his moth-eaten and truncated Pakistan? Why?' ‘You just wait and see.… Nobody can beat Mr Jinnah on the political chessboard,' I would snap back.…”
Siddiqi describes the culture of Old Delhi, the travails of the Mohajirs and their culture shock when they settled in Pakistan. “The hope of projecting 100 million Indian Muslims as one nation under the magic spell of the Pakistan Movement was shattered on first contact with the harsh realities of provincialism. The emergence of the state of Pakistan saw the melting away of incipient nationalism, or nationhood, among Indian Muslims, and what had been a supreme achievement in reality was only a partial success.”
He adds: “Through many centuries of coexistence and interaction with the Hindus, the Muslims of the Ganga-Yamuna belt had evolved a cultural, linguistic, and dietary mix which was an exotic patchwork of Hindu-Muslim India. Over the years the matrix assumed an all-India complexion vis-a-vis the essentially local-provincial cultures and languages.”
It is this composite culture that suffered the most, Urdu particularly. No one anticipated the imposition of travel barriers between India and Pakistan after the carnage. There was no air of triumph or achievement but a feeling of despair and a sense of shock.
Clearly, any understanding of the territorial limits of Pakistan had eluded one and all because the leadership at the top for its own reasons – tactical or other – had left them tantalisingly vague.
The operative paragraph of the Lahore Resolution read: “That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.” In glaring contrast was the resolution adopted a mere six years later, on April 9, 1946, at the Muslim League Legislators' Convention in New Delhi. It read: “That the zones comprising Bengal and Assam in the north-east and the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan in the north-west of India, namely, Pakistan zones, where the Muslims are in a dominant majority, be constituted into a sovereign independent state….”
A comparison of the two resolutions explains why neither conduced to clarity – or realism. The Lahore Resolution spoke of units, itself a vague term unlike districts or tehsils. The units were to be formed into regions, a wider group, which should be so constituted that “the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped together….” Thus, “units” would form parts of “regions” in such manner that Muslim-majority “areas” of those “regions” would be grouped together. The phrase “with such territorial adjustments as may be necessary” qualifies the process of setting up of the regions so that it yields “areas” in which Muslims are in a majority. Those areas will thus be carved out of the “regions” formed by contiguous units. Tersely put, group “units” into “regions” and cull out from the “regions” Muslim-majority “areas”. Given the realities of the communal composition of their compact districts in both provinces, their partition on religious lines was, on any fair reading, implicit in the Lahore Resolution itself. It could have named the provinces. It studiously did not.
Next, the areas so grouped will constitute “independent States”. (In a letter to Gandhi on September 1, 1944, Jinnah said, “They will form units of Pakistan”) Besides, the constituent units “shall be autonomous and sovereign”.
The two-nation theory was set out in the Sind Muslim League's resolution of 1938. The Lahore Resolution did not refer to the two-nation theory at all. That of the Legislators' Convention did and referred to Hindus in five paragraphs in offensive terms. On the territorial aspect, it named the provinces specifically as members of the “Pakistan zones” to form a sovereign independent State. But there was a vital qualification. The zones must comprise areas where “Muslims are in a dominant majority”. It was drafted by eminent lawyers who did not speak of a simple majority. In his talks with Gandhi in 1944, Jinnah had objected to his insistence on an “absolute majority” (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 131). Dominant is a stronger word.
Mohammad Aslam Malik's work The Making of the Pakistan (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2001) draws extensively on the archives to record the deliberations that preceded the adoption of the Lahore Resolution in the Subjects Committee of the League's session at its second sitting on March 23, 1940. “Among the amendments introduced in the second sitting, three are noteworthy: (1) Substitution of the word provinces with areas, (2) addition of the words territorial adjustments, and (3) addition of the words in consultation with. The first two amendments are, in fact interconnected. As the provinces with their existing boundaries were not intended to be included in Pakistan, it was replaced with the word areas. The term areas, which had an undefined meaning, needed a qualifying clause like the one deployed, i.e., territorial adjustments” (page 150).
In a statement on October 4, 1944, after the collapse of his talks with Gandhi, Jinnah clarified that “territorial adjustment” applied to both sides and could be tackled once the two governments were set up (Ahmad, Volume 2, page 135). But the division should be “on the basis of the present boundaries of the six provinces… subject to territorial adjustments that might be necessary” (ibid. page 135).
On December 10, 1945, in an interview to the Associated Press of India, he said: “There will also, doubtless, have to be frontier adjustments where primarily Hindu and Muslim lands are contiguous to the Hindustan or Pakistan states” (ibid. page 263).
All this was a far, far cry from Jinnah's emphatic statement in public on April 30, 1947 – as the partition of India became inevitable and demands were raised for the partition of Punjab and Bengal – rejecting those demands (Mehrunnisa Ali (ed.); Jinnah on World Affairs: (Select Documents, 1908-1948 ),; Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, 2007, page 370). In an interview to Doon Campbell of Reuters published on May 21, 1947, a fortnight before the June 3, 1947, plan on the partition, he said: “I am deadly against the partition of Bengal and the Punjab and we shall fight every inch against it” (ibid., page 378).
It was a most unfortunate statement, reflecting a most disastrous stand. It sent a misleading message to Muslims of East Punjab and West Bengal and conveyed a threat to the Sikhs, particularly, that, whether they liked it or not, they would be yoked to a Muslim state. They perceived it to be an existential threat to be averted by recourse to violence. It was, moreover, utterly lacking in candour for right then Jinnah was negotiating with the Viceroy on the terms of reference of the proposed Boundary Commissions for partitioned Punjab and Bengal.