Usually historians, analysts and experts start the struggle for independence from 1857. This year is important for it marked the grotesque failure of the First War of Independence against the East India Company (EIC) which had acquired the Indian dominions since the Battle of Plassey (1757). The British acquired dominion over most of India in easy installments through playing one Prince against another, by diplomacy and bribery – except for the Punjab, where it had to fight a bloody war with the Sikhs, the successors of Ranjit Singh. In any case, in 1857 there was a throne at Delhi to be occupied by the most powerful Prince or power or people, and the struggle for the throne began. The British made the most radical change in replacing the EIC by the British parliament for the governance of India, and the parliament laid down certain rules for governance, including consultation with the local powers at the place. The principle of representation at the consulting level irked Muslims since they were in a minority.
Meantime, the consolidation of both Hindus and Muslims was occurring at its own pace – with the Hindus organizing two Hindu Bazaars at Calcutta (Kolkata) to which only Hindus were admitted and the Banaras Hindus demanding institution of Hindi as court language in Allahabad. This Banaras demand shocked Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who at that time was trying to publish Tehzeeb-ul-Akhlaq at Cambridge on the lines of the Tatler to induce and indebt the Muslims into modernity. Sir Syed considered the Banaras Hindu demand as a parting of the ways, with little realization that the parting of the ways had taken place a long time ago. It had its beginning in the founding of the Hindu School, Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1817 which prepared them to enter British schools. It was part of this wave that produced Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the envoy of the penultimate Mughal Emperor to the British Court in London. Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj, a socio-cultural body to prepare Hindus for modernism. Roy also founded the first vernacular newspaper, the Mirat ul Akhbar, in Persian, the court language. It was also meant to induce Hindu boys into modernity by acquiring the court language. One fortuitous product of the Banaras experiment was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, who wrote the anti-Muslim vitriolic Anandamath which contains the song “Vande Mataram”, which was later adopted by the Hindus as their national anthem. Sir Syed had ignored or feigned ignorance of all this, so that he could envisage a Hindu-Muslim society on the basis of a romanticized Muslim ruled society. Sir Syed tried to institutionalize this vision but failed. He founded the All India Educational Conference to institutionalize the Aligarh Movement, and at the second session of this conference (1886-87) he called on the Muslims not to join the Indian National Congress, earlier co-founded by Sir Octavian Hume in 1885. Sir Syed mocked at Syed Badrudduja, president of the third conference of the Congress at Madras saying, “How could the Indian National Congress be ‘National’ without authentic Muslim representation.” Later, Badrudduja agreed with Sir Syed and joined Anjuman-e-Zia-ul-Islam, a progressive Muslim body of Bombay.
In any case, all this finally led to the British favoring the Hindu Banaras court demand in 1900 and the partition of Bengal in 1905. The Hindus started a pro-active movement against Bengal partition, imported Sivaji all the way from Bombay to inspire themselves to havoc and violence. The Bengal partition had for the first time recognized the importance of the Eastern part and established a local administration with Dhaka as the provisional capital. These developments inspired the Nawab of Dhaka to call a meeting of all the Muslim political elites at the Dhaka moot of the Educational Conference which passed a resolution on December 30, 1906 to form the All India Muslim League (AIML). The Agha Khan was elected President and Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk as joint secretaries. The AIML was now a rival counterpart to the Indian National Congress and it organized the Simla deputation which demanded a Muslim India within the Indian Subcontinent. The Agha Khan led the Simla deputation and fortuitously got a favourable response from Lord Minto, the Viceroy. The Agha Khan argued that Muslim India is a nation within a nation and it must be recognized as such.
For now, the political scene shifted from Bengal and North West Provinces to Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) elections to the provincial councils were held in January 1910 through separate ballots, and Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a winner from the Bombay council. However, he was aware that while he did represent the Bombay Presidency Muslims, he did not have their mandate. At Agra, Jinnah asked Muslims to postpone the separate electorate demand for another year for reasons that he knew but could not divulge in public. However, four years later, in 1914 he told the Provincial Political Conference that separate electorates was not merely a policy but the united mandate of the entire Muslim community and that it must be accepted in order to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. This argument promoted the case for separate electorate at the Lucknow meeting of the AIML and Jinnah induced Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the extremist Hindu leader to accept it. This paved the way for the Congress-League, Hindu-Muslim Lucknow Pact which conceded Congress’ acceptance of separate electorates. This in turn paved the way for the retention of separate electorate in the next installments of reforms, the Minto-Morley Reforms which was drawn up on the recommendations of the Congress-League Pact. Morley visited India and discussed the reforms with leaders of all the notable political parties, including Jinnah. He told later that he argued with Jinnah but was tied up in knots and that it was a pity that a leader of such calibre should be out of government at the time.
Meantime, Turkey began to figure in British-India talks and the Ali Brothers, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali were in the Chhindwara jail. On the proclamation of the end of the Second World War, on June 15, 1919 the Ali Brothers were released. They straight away went to the Khilafat Conference at Delhi and were accepted as leaders. In the acceptance of separate electorate in the Morley Reforms, separate electorates were no more a live issue and they concentrated on the Khilafat issue – namely the restoration of the erstwhile Caliphate territories to the Turkish caliph and Sultan. The Khilafat delegation saw the Viceroy and subsequently went to Europe to see the Secretary of State and other British and European leaders to plead the Turkish cause. Maulana Muhammad Ali headed that delegation and saw the British and European officials but to no avail. Meantime, Mahatma Gandhi was induced to join the Khilafat Movement, he supported the movement on the basis that in serving the Muslim cause he was promoting Hindu-Muslim unity. On August 1, 1920, the Khilafat Movement was initiated and took India by storm. Some 30,000 officials resigned from their posts and thousands offered to court jail in this charged atmosphere, Muhammad Ali returned to India and plunged into the moment. He toured the length and breadth of India with his ailing mother, with the slogan “Boli amma Muhammad Ali ki, jaan beta khilafat pe do” and Muhammad Ali was finally locked up. On February 4, 1922 there occurred an exploding incident at Chauri Chaura where dozens of policemen were burnt to death in a police station with the protestors dancing around the police station. Gandhi was shocked beyond his wits that violence had been introduced to the peaceful movement and this led him to call off the Khilafat Movement. People laid down their arms and merely courted arrest. All this time Jinnah had kept himself away and when the frenzy died he called a meeting of the Swaraja Committee of which C. R. Das of Bengal was the leader. The Swaraja Committee upheld what had already happened but ruled out any revival of the civil disobedience movement. One year later, Jinnah called a meeting of the AIML at Lahore with the help of Sir Mian Fazli Hussain, an old guard and leader of Punjabi Muslims. Here, Maulana Muhammad Ali tried to hijack the Muslim League, but because of Fazli Hussain he could not succeed. So, while Muhammad Ali returned to his Khilafat conference, Jinnah now doubled his efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity. He called a meeting of twenty representative Muslim leaders at Delhi on January 20, 1920, wherein he presented the Delhi Muslim Proposals. The Delhi Proposals were initially welcomed by one and all and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) also endorsed it at as the best way to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity. The Nehru Committee had met and adopted its charter while Jinnah was away in Europe. Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal Nehru and the leader of the Swaraj Party tried to catch-up with Jinnah and get his approval for the Nehru Report but Jinnah was intelligent enough not to commit himself all the way. Finally, Jinnah presented four amendments to the Nehru Report at a meeting of the AIML and he was authorized to present them to the All Parties National Convention in Calcutta in 1928. The amendments proposed were burried in boos while Tej Bahadur Sapru called him a ‘spoilt child’ and M.R. Jayakar questioned his representative status. Jinnah frankly told them, “Would you be satisfied if I say that I go along with you? Would it not be better if I could bring along the Muslims with me?”
The next day Jinnah remarked to Ranjitsinhji that this was the parting of the ways, but to be frank the parting had not become permanent. In subsequent weeks and months Jinnah did travel to Sabarmati Ashram to see Gandhi and discuss the Irwin Proposals. In any case, Jinnah’s efforts at a national consensus came to an end at this stage. From here, Jinnah concentrated himself on consolidating a Muslim consensus. Jinnah was in touch with Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, and he did his best to get the Irwin proposals to become the basis of Round Table Conference (RTC), 1930, at London. Agha Khan was the leader of the Muslim group and he nominated Jinnah as the leader on separate electorates and separation of Sindh. The first RTC was boycotted by the Congress and the second RTC included the presence of Gandhi. Both the RTCs disappointed Jinnah and he opted to live in exile at Heathrow Road. He began practicing at a Privy Council. In subsequent years, the AIML was bifurcated once or twice and finally on January 1, 1935, the AIML requested Jinnah to return and unite the AIML into an effective organization. Jinnah formally returned on January 1, 1935. Several members offered to vacate their seat in the Imperial Council for him but he said he would await the next central assembly elections, when he was elected to the Imperial Council.
During the rest of the 1930s, Jinnah went on tours trying to consolidate the AIML branches and centres, but he met undue resistance. During his campaign, he was not bitter of the Congress but offered it an olive branch, saying that they would together promote progressive nationalist forces to win the elections. The Congress was still aggressive and in October 1936 Nehru thundered that there were only “two forces” in India – British imperialism on the one hand and Indian nationalism represented by the Congress and its allies on the other. He also declared that other forces should line up behind them. To which Jinnah’s effective riposte was: “No, there is a third force, namely the Muslims”. He also added categorically that the Muslims would not bow to Anand Bhawan, the Congress headquarters at Allahabad, nor to Whitehall, the seat of the British government in London. From then on Jinnah went on stressing the enforcement of the ‘third force’ in the Indian political triangle, culminating finally in 1946-47 with the acceptance of Pakistan. The first salvo in that triangle was the Sindh Provincial Muslim conference held in the 1930s which were rife with partition proposals, with Allama Iqbal’s Presidential Address at the AIML session at Allahabad being of course, occupying the top place. In his address, Iqbal declared that “Islam is destiny and it shall not suffer or destroy”. Iqbal recommended the amalgamation of the North Western Province regions into consolidated North West Province or State, with or without the Ambala division which would yield a 75% Muslim demography to enable Muslims to run their affairs according to Muslim laws and cultural norms. Iqbal continued his argument in a series of letters to Jinnah in 1936-1937 after the latter had returned to India to lead the Muslims and reorganised the AIML. Why can’t the Muslims in the North West India opt for their right of self-determination over their regions? By the same token, why not the Muslims in Bengal and Assam invoke their rights of self determination and rule their regions? Thus, Iqbal influenced Jinnah largely in favour of Partition and Jinnah acknowledged it universally in the “Letters of Iqbal and Jinnah” published in 1937. “Think a hundred times before you decide, but once you decide stick to it come what may!!” Jinnah had told his supporters at Lucknow in 1937. And the dice had been finally cast in favour of Partition. But before Jinnah opened his hand to the media and public, a series of preparatory steps had to be taken. Two critical conferences at Karachi and Meerut should be taken in the nature of such preparatory steps. The Sindh Provincial Muslim League held an important conference in early October 1938 and passed a resolution describing both Hindus and Muslims as “distinct nations” each one entitled to political self determination. This conference sponsored by Seth Abdullah Haroon, was epochal in nature since it talked of Hindus and Muslims as “two separate nations”. The conference was first presided over by Jinnah and addressed by all the important League leaders across the country, including the Punjab premier Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, Fazlul Haq the Bengal premier, and Sir Saadullah Khan, the Assam premier. The resolution was diluted at the subjects committee level but retained enough of its clout and clammer.
Likewise, at the Patna session of AIML, a resolution was passed setting up a committee to examine the partition schemes and recommend to the AIML the one that is free and fairest and best to represent Muslims. Thus, the Lahore Resolution was prepared on the basis of the Sindh and the Patna resolution had represented the combined wishes of all the Muslims of both the majority and minority provinces. A serious incident occurred before the Lahore session, the Khaksar Organisation clashed with the police on March 19, 1940. The Khaksar were agitating. Jinnah, however, resisted all attempts to postpone the Lahore Resolution, which he thought was important to promote Muslim representation and Muslim way of life.
The post-Lahore scenario was marked by several important happenings. The British alternative to Pakistan came in the Cripps Proposals of April 1942 and the Congress alternative in the C.R. Formula based on the Jagat Narayan Lal Resolution. The Cripps Offer was rejected because it did not provide a second center or alternate center while C.R. Formula was rejected because it did not conform to a plebiscite of Muslims in their majority areas. C.R. Formula, however, became the basis of the marathon Jinnah-Gandhi talks in Bombay in September 1949, but were finally terminated because Gandhi would speak of Muslims as no other than a group of a “body of converts”. It is in one of his letters to Gandhi that Jinnah’s famous definition of Muslim nationhood occurs which begins with the words, “We as a Nation with our own culture and civilization laws and codes...” In all these negotiations, Jinnah’s adroit skills in negotiating facility and ability paid huge dividends and he was able to get an electoral verdict of over 75% electoral and over 83% seats representation in the legislative councils of India. At the peak of the election campaign Jinnah promised that he would step down if the verdict goes against Pakistan and that he wanted a verdict which is in consonance with the laws governing at the time. Thus, it may be seen he rode to electoral victory as the head of a democratic party, observing democratic norms and democratic laws. It is this aspect of his leadership that makes it unique and that makes it spectacular.
Once Pakistan was obtained, he dedicated this nation on its birth to a democratic framework, to all those who live within its borders, without reference to caste, ethnicity, language, religion and other affiliations; he told them that they were free to go to their temples, to their churches, to their gurdwaras and to their mosques. Pakistan was created not for a specific section of society but for all of us who inhabit these four corners of our country.
The writer is HEC Distinguished National Professor, who has recently co-edited UNESCO’s History of Humanity, vol. VI, and The Jinnah Anthology (2010) and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007); the only oral history on Pakistan’s Founding Father.