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Did Jinnah not want Partition?

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
December 25, 2020 08:37 IST
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'Jinnah developed a belief that Gandhi had stolen the tag of the leader of the Indian people from him and that he later used religion to reduce Gandhi's idea of a united India to naught was his revenge.'

IMAGE: Mahatma Gandhi leaves Muhammad Ali Jinnah's home, en route to the viceregal lodge in Delhi, November 24, 1939. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
 

American historian Stanley Wolpert in his book Jinnah of Pakistan famously wrote: 'Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-State. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three.'

The more you read about the wily politician, the more you feel that you know very little about the man.

For quite some time now, a view has been taking root in India that places the blame for Partition on the Congress, with Jinnah coming off favourably even as Jawaharlal Nehru is painted as the man who wanted to be prime minister by any means, even if it meant dividing India on religious lines.

However, a new book, Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History, authored by Swedish political scientist and author of Pakistani descent Ishtiaq Ahmed, has rubbished this claim.

In the book, Ahmed argues that Jinnah -- whose 144th birth anniversary it is today December 25 -- was adamant about partitioning India even though the Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru tried till the very last moment to change his mind and keep India united.

In his book, which has used a wealth of contemporary records and archival material, Ahmed answers questions like 'How did an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity become the inflexible votary of the two-nation theory?' and 'Did Jinnah envision Pakistan as a theocratic State?'

Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in a two-part interview, Ahmed says, "Gandhi apparently offended Jinnah a few times and by introducing religious jargon such as Ram Raj and other Hindu cultural features. Jinnah felt that the ignorant masses were being animated and religion once in politics will mean the end of parliamentary politics."

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted about your book stating that Pakistani historians and pseudo-historians have peddled the theory that Jinnah wanted a united India.
I can understand the Indian right-wing peddling this theory, but why would Pakistani historians say Jinnah wanted a united India? What was their agenda?

Two things are most important to note in this regard:

1. Mainstream Pakistani historians do not subscribe to this view that Jinnah did not want India to be partitioned to create Pakistan. On the contrary, they show with their research that Jinnah spurned all overtures from Congress leaders including Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Babu Rajendra Prasad and C Rajagopalachari to form the government for a united India. Among them I can name historians Sikandar Hayat and Farooq Ahmad Dar most notably.

The Pakistan national narrative and educational curriculum also uphold that position, portraying Jinnah as a great benefactor of Muslims who saved Muslims from being enslaved in a united India under Hindu Congress rule.

2. This idea that Jinnah did not want the partition of India and the Congress, especially Nehru, forced the partition on Jinnah is a fabrication of a section of Communists, especially Maoists who through journalistic sensationalism created the basis for the emergence of Pakistan in the class struggle between the big bourgeoisie supporting the Indian National Congress and the Muslim bourgeoisie refusing to submit to the monopoly control of the economy by the non-Muslim big bourgeoisie whose agent Congress was.

This idea of the Congress forcing partition on Jinnah was adopted by Ayesha Jalal in her book, The Sole Spokesman, in which she concludes that the Congress wanted India partitioned while Jinnah wanted to reach a power-sharing deal in a united India with the Congress.

She has managed to present such a thesis without referring or quoting even one speech, statement or message of Jinnah between March 22, 1940 and 1947 -- the exception is when on June 6, Jinnah backed out before the Cabinet Mission which had threatened him that if he could not convince them how Pakistan could be a viable State which could defend itself against aggression they would be forced to leave India united in the hands of the Congress. This happened in April 1946.

Jinnah continued to reject any compromise, but suddenly on June 6, 1946, in a meeting held in camera he advised the All-India Muslim League Council to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan because in principle it conceded Pakistan which remained the real goal of the Muslim League and it would be attained but not immediately.

It is noteworthy that while the plan rejected the idea of Pakistan, it divided India into three groups, group A for Hindu-majority provinces and groups B and C for the Muslim-majority provinces in the north-eastern and north-western zones of India.

Furthermore, after an interval of 10 years the groups or individual provinces could decide if they wanted to remain in the group or withdraw.

Another feature of the Cabinet Mission Plan was to assign only defence, foreign affairs and communications to the central and the rest all residuary powers with the provinces.

Lastly, the princely states could decide to join either India or Pakistan or to remain independent.

The Cabinet Mission Plan was accepted by the Muslim League, but it refused to take part in the Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution for India.

The Congress, on the other hand, rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan, but decided to join the Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution for a united India.

I have quoted Jinnah extensively, almost entirely during those seven years, when he again and again said that the Muslim League wanted a separate, sovereign and independent Pakistan and no formula for power-sharing was acceptable to him and the League.

On scores of occasions he rejected the suggestion as Congress propaganda that Jinnah was using Pakistan demand as a bargaining chip to achieve the maximum rights for the Muslims.

Ayesha Jalal has omitted all those speeches, statements and messages. Ayesha Jalal is supported by those liberals and leftists in Pakistan who would like to blame India for the Partition based on a questionable class analysis.

I have shown that such a class explanation is empirically flawed and theoretically untenable because the main support base of the Muslim League was the landlord class of north-western India and that is where power resided.

That the Hindu Right, Ayesha Jalal and the Maoist Left of Pakistan are on the same page is the ultimate irony.

But if it is true, then these facts contradict Maulana Azad's book India Wins Freedom where he writes that the Congress leadership was more in favour of Pakistan than Jinnah himself.
Maulana Azad blames Nehru for going and speaking to the press in July 1946 that the Cabinet Mission Plan could be changed and that was the end of united India.

One needs to read my book because I have examined in detail what happened during the negotiations with the Cabinet Mission delegation consisting of three British parliamentarians.

Jinnah adamantly refused to accept that the Congress can nominate an Indian Muslim to the interim government which (then viceroy General Archibald) Wavell wanted to establish. The Congress would not budge on it saying that to agree to it would mean Jinnah succeeding in projecting the Congress as a Hindu organsation, which was unacceptable.

At one point, Maulana Azad was willing to let Jinnah have his way, but Gandhi, Nehru and others refused to concede that. All this happened in the wake of bitter bickering and the atmosphere was most uncongenial.

Azad wanted to keep India united even as a loose entity with the Centre virtually reduced to ineffective coordinator of affairs. For him, a united India meant that the Muslims would not be divided.

For other Congress leaders, India would be unworkable without an effective centre and they were not willing to let Jinnah have his way all the way. But this happened at the end of protracted and bitter negotiations.

Azad blaming Nehru for an intemperate press conference in Mumbai in July 1946 is a greatly exaggerated way of blaming Nehru. But unless the book is read it is impossible to explain why I argue that.

What about Jinnah's famous missing speech addressing the Pakistan constituent assembly where he said Hindus are free to go to temples in Pakistan? Did he make this speech or not where he called on Pakistan to be liberal, inclusive and secular?

The apparent language does suggest that, but remember, Shakespeare said incisively, 'One sparrow does not make a summer'.

A more popular form of it is, 'One sunny day does not make a summer'.

This is a solitary speech of its kind without anything like that being said before it or after it.

In fact, on January 25, 1948, Jinnah, while addressing the Karachi Bar Association, was asked what the future constitution of Pakistan would be like. He found such a question annoying. He said that the constitution of Pakistan was given 1300 years ago in Islam and the Sharia will be the main source of the constitution.

On several other occasions, he said the same, later describing Pakistan as an ideological Islamic State, sometimes as a modern State, on other occasions as a Muslim democracy.

The word 'secular' was never used by Jinnah before the speech or in the speech of August 11, 1947, or even afterwards.

Why did Indian Muslims not trust Maulana Azad when he said that if Partition took place, then Indian Muslims would be at the mercy of unadulterated Hindu Raj? Why didn't his words make sense to them at that point in history?

Well, at least one-third did (35 million) who stayed on in India. Also, only from East Punjab were the six million Muslims forced to leave and at least 5,00,000 were killed.

In the rest of India, the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha and others did attack Muslims, but the Indian government brought the situation under control and so they stayed.

Only some three per cent of Muslims migrated to Pakistan and most of them were looking for better prospects in a State without the more educated Hindus and Sikhs.

Remember, those who voted for Partition and the creation of Pakistan even from the Hindu majority provinces belonged to the 11 per cent of the population who had the right to vote. Among them the appeal to help Pakistan come into being to counter a Hindu-dominated India had an appeal.

Not all, however, migrated to Pakistan because they owned land and so on. In the north-western and north-eastern zones of India the attraction of a Muslim State without competition from Hindus and Sikhs held an attraction though I have shown that there was strong opposition to the partition scheme even in those provinces, but the British wanted a partitioned India.

This conclusion they arrived at very late although the idea of dividing India to suit British imperialist interests existed already in the 1920s. In the end that lobby in favour of partitioning India to create Pakistan, which they hoped would be a loyal ally against Soviet Communism, prevailed; hence Partition.

At what point in his life did the feeling of being the other creep into Jinnah's mind? And what were the circumstances that led him to assert his Muslim identity, which was not his trait as he used to eat pork and drink wine?

The idea might have been fermenting for a long time, but after the Congress decided not to include Muslim Leaguers in the Uttar Pradesh government after the 1937 election, that feeling must have strengthened and a number of events which followed gave him the opportunity to start mobilising Muslims to adopt Muslim nationalism as their ideology.

In 1937, at the Lucknow session of the Muslim League, Jinnah for the first time appeared on stage in a sherwani-achkan and karakuli cap amid shouts of 'Allah ho Akbar';. Jinnah had now become a Muslim leader wearing the attire of Muslim nobility or north-western India.

How did Jinnah view the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the Khilafat? Was his Muslim identity shaken then due to this development or was he indifferent to the collapse of Ottoman empire?

Contrary to the propaganda in both India and Pakistan, Jinnah joined other Muslims in condemning the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire and issued a statement that the British had first captured Muslim lands and now they want to destroy Muslim identity.

Regarding the Khilafat movement, he belonged to that section of the Muslim League which decided not to take part in it because it meant mobilisation of the masses.

Jinnah was extremely wary of mass politics until he began to champion a separate Pakistan.

One section of the Muslim League did join the Khilafat movement and another decided to support the British government.

Jinnah was in the middle because he did recognise that the abolition of the Ottoman mpire meant that the last symbol of Muslim power was extinguished.

Did Jinnah see the Congress party changing under Gandhi to a more Hinduised party? What was his take on inclusion of religion in politics when Gandhi became India's freedom movement leader?

Jinnah considered himself a senior of Gandhi in the freedom movement. He joined the Congress in 1906 and became a prominent leader with support of both Hindus and Muslims. The Lucknow Pact of 1916 is testimony to that.

However, Gandhi apparently offended him a few times and by introducing religious jargon such as Ram Raj and other Hindu cultural features.

Jinnah felt that the ignorant masses were being animated and religion once in politics will mean the end of parliamentary politics in which he excelled as a very active member of the Central Legislative Assembly.

Jinnah developed a belief that Gandhi had stolen the tag of the leader of the Indian people from him. That Jinnah later used religion to reduce Gandhi's idea of a united India to naught was his revenge against Gandhi.

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