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Safar 10, 1440

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The parting of the ways

Mohandas K. Gandhi (left) and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right)


As the two "movements", the Hindu and the Muslim, began to shape gradually into mass movements having displayed their respective sparks and potential in the Khilafat Movement and the mobilisation against the Simon Commission, the divergence amongest the two communities, had begun to increase by the the advent of the 1930's. It was at this crucial juncture that the poet Mohammad Iqbal, who was by now the most prominent political ideologue of the Muslim community, came forth with his proposal for separate autonomous federating units of Muslim majority areas of the Sub-continent. Addressing an all-India Muslim League session at Allahabad in 1930, the poet-philosopher presented his formula. He repudiated the idea of a united Sub-continent. "To base a constitution on the concept of homogeneous India or to apply to India principles dictated by British democratic sentiments is unwittingly to prepare her for a civil war," he asserted. His ultimate objective was "to see the Punjab, North-Western Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan into a single state". Iqbal even speculated, though as yet no more than that, of a status beyond the British empire as he continued: "Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of the consolidated North-Western Indian Muslim state appeats to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.

Controversy continues to rage whether Iqbal wanted Pakistan to be ruled by a democratic regime, or solely by religious parties regardless of the elecoral standing. Iqbal's thoughts, have come to us in substantial volume and written material. But since much of it is in the form of poetic expression, there is always room for varied interpretations. Yet he was not short of expression in highly philosophical prose. His Lectures on the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, and his Presidential Address at the Allahabad Session of the All India Muslim League in 1930, provide ample and abiding guidelines to his thought.

Iqbal's Presidential Address is the more significant. It was the first articulate expression of the concept of a state, or states, for the Muslims of the Sub-continent. But was Iqbal talking of a Muslim, or an Islamic state? That is the question that must arise. This distinction ought, perhaps, to be drawn as many of our present-day conundrums may find some possible solutions if we address ourselves to the question with this distinction in mind.

Iqbal's address has been variedly interpretted, and most often as recommending a state based on the application of religion as expounded in the Islamic Sharia. Now there may be some indications of this thought, but the proponents of such interpretations usually skip over some significant passages in the address to which I wish to allude. If these portions are also read, even within the totality of the argument, it would appear that Iqbal did not envisage a state ruled by religion, and a fortiori, by religious parties.

The issue before Iqbal, in 1930, was to protect the interests of the minority Muslim community in India. The fear was of Hindu hegemony and dominance. If Muslims could be guaranteed protection within India, the issue could have, perhaps, been resolved, according to Iqbal, in other ways. He said:

"And as far as I have been able to read the Muslim mind, I have no hesitation in declaring that if the principle that the Indian Muslim is entitled to full and free development on the lines of his own culture and tradition in his own Indian homelands is recognised as the basis of a permament communal settlement, he will be ready to stake his all for the freedom of India."

Now what did this significant observation imply? It implied, it seems, that if the government of a United India could guarantee the component communities their rights, there would be no need for a separate state, though Iqbal did not seem to appear hopeful of such an eventuality. Subsequent events, of course, and more recent events in particular, have established that this was not possible. But the point is that had Iqbal not thereby envisaged a government that was not composed exclusively of Muslim, nor strictly Islamic?

Even with respect to the prospective state itself, Iqbal had also reassured, the other communites (as Jinnah would later):

"Nor should the Hindus fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim States will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such States."

These are Iqbal's own words. The object seems to have been the establishment of the Muslim state (and Iqbal refers to it always as a Muslim state, not an Islamic State), in order to protect the economic, cultural, religious and social rights of the Muslims of India. Iqbal seems, in fact, to have gone even further in some respects. While elucidating a concept of the Muslim state in the Allahabad address itself, he said:

"The character of a Muslim State can be judged from what the Times of India pointed out sometime ago in a leader on the Indian Banking Inquiry Committee: 'In ancient India', the paper points out, 'the state framed laws regulating the rates of interest; but in Muslim times, although Islam clearly forbids the realisation of interest on money loaned, Indian Muslim States imposed no restriction on such rates '."

Again, these are Iqbal's own words. It was on this premise, therefore that Iqbal proceeded to "demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim State."

In addition Iqbal spelt out another vital attribute of the state he had in mind. He spoke thus of "purely territorial electorates":

"The Muslims of India can have no objection to the purely territorial electorates if provinces are demarcated so as to secure comparatively homogenous communities possessing linguistic, racial, cultural and religious unity."

Religion, it would seem, was thus, only one of the composite package of four attributes. It is mentioned as a separate item distinct from the others. And, as we have noticed, Iqbal had clearly assured that the proposed Muslim State would not be ruled by religion.


It was early, in 1930, for someone to talk of separate state, or states, of Muslims in the Sub-continent. But the vision was prophetic. And the visionary was looking ahead. The Muslim community, however, was not. It was not yet prepared for the parting of the ways. And that stage may not have come at all had Congress shown greater accommodation to the League's claim of being alone entitled to represent the Muslims. All that this would have entailed was the and some further consequent concession taking League nominees into the provincial Governments formed in 1937.

The Congress displayed unnecessary impatience with, and lack of accomodation for the League. The League was looked upon as irritable and self- styled political organisation. Gandhi had apparently tied up the Ahmedabad and Calcutta industrial bourgeosie with the peasantry of Central and southern India in a powerful multi-class allaince. A vast range of ideas and communities were indeed represented in the Congress. It seemed to envelope the entire spectrum of " Akhund Bharat." From the Khuda-i-Khidmatgars (the Red Shirts) of the NWFP and the Brahmins of Kashmir in the north, down to the Hari-jansA name made current by Gandhi and applied by him to the untouchables, literally meaning
children of the god Hari of the south, a vast cross-section of the peoples were either Congressites or Congress allies. With the neo-feudals supporting the British, the Congress was able to win the allegiance of the peasantry. And Gandhi's Khadi-image (course cotton apparel), and his the idyllic, fairy tale concept of the self-governing, self-sufficient village, made the Congress widely popular in the villages. His spinning wheel became the symbol of India. The Congress leadership believed that the muslims who supported the Muslim League would soon be swamped by Congress successes and would come back into its fold. It was only a question of time. The Congress policy ignoring the League, leaving it isolated and out of mainstream politics would break its ranks.

Even though the Congress assessment of the then leadership of the League may not have been inaccurate, but in coming to this conclusion it, no doubt, failed to assess correctly the growth and development of the Muslim community and its consciousness. The Hindu bourgeoisie had, of course, developed in full measure. In particular, and in other urban and rural areas in general, it had overshadowed the princes and the feudal nobility in its leadership of the Indian peoples. The Indian National Congress was an almost entirely bourgeois movement supported by the broad masses of the Hindu peasantry. The Hindu feudal was to remain isolated and removed from the nationalist struggle, apprehensive as much of British commerce as of its Indian counterpart. Little wonder that he became the first target of Congress reforms after Independence.

In comparison, the Muslim bourgeoisie was quite feeble. And it had many weaknesses. First it had no committed and courageous leadership of the quality of the leadership available to the Hindu bourgeoisie in the persons of Gandhi and the Nehrus. This it finally obtained in the person of the Bombay-based lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But that final compact between the leader and the community was yet to take effect.

At this time there was also another impediment to the development and progress of the Muslim bourgeoisie. So far it had remained a predominantly rural and agro-based bourgeoisie confined to the economy of "mandi" townsRural market towns and "mufassil" citiesOutlying cities, larger than the mandi towns. Its ranks drew from the middle-classes comprising of teachers, journalists, advocates, of small towns and markets of northern India. To come into its own it had to win the support of the feudal gentry commanding the rural hinterland of the Muslim majority areas. The feudals, on the other hand, kept the King's peace in these areas and could alone aid the skimming and expropriation of the peasant's surplus produce. In a short-term separatist struggle, the support of the land-owners was crucial for the nascent Muslim bourgeoisie. This feudal backing alone would open up (later in the 1940's) the larger parts of the Punjab, NWFP, and Sindh to the vanguard of this bourgeoisie, the crusading and zealous Aligarh Students.

But the land-owner was not willing to chip in with the Muslim League (and later with the Pakistan Movement), unless the League first established its popular base and demonstrated its strength among the masses. Nos this was a Catch-22 situation. The League was inhibited in displaying mass support in the areas that today form Pakistan without the umbrella of the landlords. And the landlords would not come to its side unless the League first manifested such mass support. It appeared to be an impossible situation. It was an awkward gridlock. How could it be broken?

This gridlock would finally broken, not by the land-owners, nor by any initiative taken by the muslim masses themselves. It was broken by the determined and single-minded pursuit by Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, of the cause that the League had espoused. He would reach out to the masses directly and over the shoulders of the feudals.


By this time Mr. M. A. Jinnah, of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn Barrister-at-Law, had acquired a name for himself. He was one of the well knowm persons throughout the Sub-continent and the British Isles. He had come into prominence on account of his several historic, and principled speeches in the Central Legislative Assembly of India. He had always spoken fearlessly and with clarity. He had an amzing facility in the King's English. But his mind and sould were rooted in his native land. Despite a lucrative practice in London, he was never wanting in words and sentiments when it came to issues that affected the people of the Sub-continent.

He made, of course, many a monumental speech such as the one, in 1918 on Mr. G.S. Khaparde's resolution concerning the role of the press, or the one, again in 1918, on the infamous Rowlett Act. In 1919, defending Mr. B.G. Horniman, the editor of The Bombay Chronicle, Jinnah had spelt out the essence of his life: "Sir Iam not one of those men who encourage any crime or any offence, but I do maintain, and I have drunk deep at the fountain of constitutional law, that the liberty of a man is the dearest thing in the law of any Constitution and it should not be taken away in this fashion." In 1924 he had spoken with passion on Diwan Bahadur T. Rangachariar's resolution demanding self-governing Dominion status for India. In 1926 Mr. Jinnah forcefully advocated the extension of the constitutional reforms to the N.W.F.P. In September 1929 when some Punjab prisoners, charged of waging war against the King, were not produced before the court because they had gone on hunger-strike, Mr. Jinnah was outraged by the concept of trial in absentia, even during only a part of the proceedings. In the same year he held forth on the Sarda Bill, to which we will revert later. But the two speeches that need special mention, and which indicate his liberalism and inflexibility on questions of principle were his speeches on the Rowlett Committee's report and on political prisoners.

The Home Member had explained the reasons of the appointment of the Sedition Committee of which Mr. Justice Rowlatt, a judge of the High Court of Judicature in England, was the President. "At the time of that appointment, the Government of India were faced with this position. We were aware of the existence of a widespread conspiracy extending over India and beyond teh borders which was aimed at the overthrow of the British Government. I do not refer to the open manifestations of which we had instances at Singapore, in hte Punjab, and elsewhere, ot to the prevalence of revolutionary outrages in Bengal, but I refer also to persistent underground workingwith ramifications throughout India, by which constant attempts were made to seduce loyal subjects of His Majesty from their allegience." The Committee's report had proposed stringent legislation, and the delegation of extensive powers to the executive. Mr. Khaparde had moved a resolution on the report seeking that the report be kept in abeyance and another inquiry be initiated into the working of the Criminal Investigation Department.

Jinnah's views on the proposed measures were clear.

"My Lord, to any man who believes in law and justtice, these measures seem abhorrent and shocking ........ You say these powers can be effective, and so they can be. But guarantee is there for the innocent? Then you will ask, do not you trust the executive? My answer is that I certainly cannot trust the executive, because I am a firm believer -- I do not care how many Rowlatt Committees will decide and recommend --, I am a firm believer that no man's liberty should be taken away for a singly minute without a proper judicial inquiry ............ It imperils the liberty of the subject and fundamental right of the citizen and, my Lord, standing here as I do, I say that no man who loves fair play, who loves justice and who believes in the freedom and the liberty of the people can possibly give his consent to a measure of this character."For the Test of the Speech see: Mohammad Jafar, I. A. Rahman and Ghani Jafar: 'Jinnah as a
Parliamentarian', Azfar Associates, Islamabad, p. 27 ff

Jinnah was true to his word. When the Rowlatt proposals were adopted by the Imperial Legislative Council he resigned from its membership.

The young Bhagat Singh was no follower or supporter of Jinnah. In fact he repudiated the manner and style of politics adopted by men like Jinnah. He was accused of several terrorist acts. He was being tried in the Lahore Conspiracy Case when, protesting ill-treatement he and his comrades decided to go on hungerstrike.See article by Professor Khawaja Masud entitled: 'When Quaid-e-Azam defended Bhagat
Singh', The Muslim Magazine, Friday, March 29, 1991 (Islamabad) To break their will the Government decided not to present them before the tribunal trying them and moved an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure to provide for trial in absentia. Jinnah vociferously opposed the measure.

Mr Jinnah first defended the right of a prisoner to protest against ill-treatment. He then proceeded to state that a government meting out such treatment upon prisoners had, in fact, made a declaration of war upon them.

"As far as the Punjab government are concerned, they do not merely wish to bring these men to trial and get them convicted by a judicial tribunal, but to go to war against these men. The seem to be in this frame of mind: We will pursue every possible method but we will see that you are sent either to the gallows or transported for life, and in the meantime we will not treat you as decent men."

It was a bold and courageous Mr. Jinnah who insisted that these men, even though accused of terrorist activity against the imperial government, were political prisoners. He asserted this despite the fact that Bhagat Singh had already been convicted for having lobbed the bomb in the Legislative Assembly itself. Jinnah argued:

"So far as the Lahore Conspiracy Case prisoners are concerned, they are political prisoners. You ask me, what is a political prisoner? It is very difficult to lay down any particular definition. But if you use your common sense, if you use your intelligence, surely you come to the conclusion with regard to a particular case. Do you wish to prosecute them or persecute them? ........ You know perfectly well that these men are prepared to die. It is not a joke. I ask the Hon'ble Law Minister ro realise that it is not everybody who can go on starving himself to death. The man who goes on hunger-strike has a soul. He is moved by that soul and he believes in the justice of his cause."

Jinnah was a constitutionalist to the bone. He did not approve of terrorism. But he was committed also to human dignity and the rule of law.

"Mind you, Sir, I do not approve of the action of Bhagat Singh, and I say on the floor of this House. I regret that, rightlly or wrongly youth today in India is stirred up, and you cannot, when you have three hundred odd millions of people, you cannot prevent such crimes being committed, however much you may deplore them and however much you may say that they are misguided. It is the system, this damnable system of Government, which is resented by the people. You may be a cold blooded logician: I am a patient cool-headed man and can calmly go on making speeches here, pursuading and influencing the Treasyry Benc. But, remember, there are thousands of young me outside. This is not the only country where such actions are resorted to. It has happened in other countries, not youghs, but grey-bearded men have committed serious offences, moved by patriotic impulses. What happened to Mr. Congrave, the Prime Minister of Ireland? He was under sentence of death a fortnight before he got an invitation from His Majesty's Government to go and settle terms? Was he a youth? Was he a young man? What about Collins? So what good of your putting forward this argument? You have got a situation which you have got to meet, not be introducing and enacting measures which go to the root of the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence, and lightly, saying: 'Oh! but it is common sense!' Law is common sense; it is not common sense of one individual."'Jinnah As A Parliamenarian', ibid., p. 195 ff

This was the Jinnah who stood for the oppressed regardless of the colour, caste, or creed, and irrespective of his status in life. This was the Jinnah who determined his position on issues without reference to any benefit or opportunist advantage to be obtained by that position. This was the Jinnah of whose integrity even his adversaries testified. Jawaharlal Nehru, while bitterly criticising him for what he stood for, is compelled to concede that Jinnah was "widely but distantly respected" and that about "his ability as a politician there is no doubt". Reluctantly, he also admits that Mr. Jinnah "shines as a lawyer-politician, as a tactician, as one who thinks that he holds the balance between nationalist India and the British power."Nehru: 'Discovery of India', p. 413 Wavell, wrote on October 5, 1948, sometime after Jinnah's death, that "I never liked Jinnah", and yet is compelled to admit that he "had a certain reluctant admiration for him".'Wavell, The Viceroy's Journal', Edited by Penderal Moon, Oxford, p. 442

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah

How much history generally, and the creation of Pakistan in particular, owes to Mr. Jinnah is noted aptly by Hodson. "Of all the personalities in the last act of the great drama of India's re-birth to independence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah is at once the most enigmatic and the most important. One can imagine any of the other principal actors (not counting Mahatama Gandhi, who makes by fitful and inconclusive appearances from the wings) replaced by a substitute in the same role - a different congress leader, a different Secretary of State, a different representative of this or that interest or community, even a different Viceroy -- without thereby implying any radical change in the final denouement. But it is barely conceivable that events would have taken the same course, that the last struggle would have been a struggle of three, not two, well-balanced adversaries, and that a new nation State of Pakistan would have been created, but for the personality of one man, Mr. Jinnah........ Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price."H.V. Hodson: 'The Great Divide', Hutchinson of London, pp. 37, 38, 39

This was the Jinnah who faced the daunting task of leading the Muslim masses despite the active hostility of the powerful Muslim feudals and the vocal Muslim fundamentalists.

Mr. Jinnah would, in the first instance, ignore the Muslim feudals. And he would be undterred of the Muslim fundamentalist opinion. He knew his goal, and his eyes were set upon it. He would focuss his sights towards the agro-based muslim bourgeoisie of northern India. He would assuage its fears, and gave it confidence and self-assurance. When it would finally came forward to join his ranks, and to undertake political activity without reference to the feudals, it would create a widespread movement among the muslim masses. Jinnah would then be able to demonstrate his mass support. And the feudals would then fall into Mr. Jinnah's lap at the last moment. The stage for the final act would thus be set just before the elections of 1946.

To get to that final point of the elections of 1946, many an single step had to be taken. To those we must revert.


The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan
Aitzaz Ahsan



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