Written By: Prof. Sharif al Mujahid
And, for now, the major premise is that with partition and independence, the two nations, encapsulated in the two-nation theory, have attained statehood, transforming themselves into Indian and Pakistani nations. And with reference to their respective countries and nations, their prime identification in the post-partition period is Indians and Pakistanis, and not Hindus and Muslims. Thus, in the new geo-political context, the two nations are India and Pakistan.
The two-nation theory meant that under pax Brittanica during the first half of the twentieth century, the Indian subcontinent was home to two major nations – Hindus and Muslims. And given the numerical strength of the two nations in certain specific areas/regions, it also meant that India was merely a “geographical expression”, to borrow Metternich’s (1809-48) picturesque phrase about the Italian peninsula during the first half of the nineteenth century. Further, if only as a corollary, India was also home to two polities, not one. In its final, crystalline format, the two-nation theory was most eloquently propounded and most cogently argued by none other than Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah himself, and that in his seminal Lahore (1940) address. And that, for sure, was the basis on which the demand for Pakistan was put forward, on which it garnered massive support, on which it betimes and acquired unchallenged political clout.
In his Thoughts on Pakistan (1940), Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the most outstanding Scheduled Caste leader, had argued its validity from an academic and historical angle while in the Verdict on India (1944), Beverly Nichols, a British journalist and author, from a contemporary political ground realities perspective – to name only the two most notable authors of the 1940-47 period. Since then the theory has been taken for granted, with even some enlightened Indian authors (e.g., Panikkar, Bannerjee, Bimal Prasad, and Sachin Sen, among others) acknowledging the prime rationale of the theory. As the McGill and Harvard Professor, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, an extremely perceptive observer of developments in Indian Islam and the Muslim world, has pointed out in his insightful analysis in 1969, the Indian Muslims became a self-defined, formalized, systematized, structured, reified, boundary-bound, and crystallized “religious community”, as a result of “a broad socio-ideological transformation in the 16th and especially the 17th centuries”. And by about the middle of the eighteenth century, the “religious” community of the seventeenth century seems to have assumed the role of a pro-active political community as well. Although by no means a consequence of it, this assumption coincided with the earliest major Western encroachments in the coastal regions, as underscored by Plassey (1757) and the South Indian Carnatic and Mysore wars. Interestingly, Veer Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), the foremost spokesman of Hindutva (Hindu supremacy) during the last phase of British Raj in India, traces the birth of a Hindu “political community” to the day when, as he perceives it, the erstwhile “subjugated” Hindus got even with their erstwhile Muslim “conquerors” – that is, to “the day that witnessed the forces of ‘Haribhaktas’ of Hindudom, enter Delhi in triumph and the Moslem throne and crown and standard lay hammered and rolling in dust at the feet of [General Sadashi] Bhau and Vishvas [the Maratha Peshwa’s eldest son] in 1761 [24 July 1760] . . . For, that day the Hindus won their freedom back, proved even their physical fitness to survive on equal and honourable terms in this world”, asserts Savarkar (in Hindu-Pad-Padshahi or A Review of the Hindu Empire of Maharashtra).
Muslims as a Political Community
Lord Bryce defines nationality “as an aggregate of men drawn together and linked together by certain sentiments”, chief among them being “Racial sentiment and Religious sentiment”, buttressed by “linking” sentiments such as “a common language, the possession of a common literature, the recollection of common achievements and sufferings in the past, the existence of common customs and habits of thought, common ideals and aspirations.” Sebastian de Garcia lists “religious and political beliefs” as the criteria for transforming “a group of people” into “a community”. Thus, by about the middle of the eighteenth century, the Muslims, characterized by a set of overarching religious and political values, had become a political community. But the evolution did not “stop there”, as Professor Smith contends; it culminates “in the 20th century”. And an integrative process over the centuries had seen to it that they got evolved, to quote Robert Jackson and Michael Stein (Issues in Comparative Politics), into “a population or a segment of population living within a geographic territory… that share a common set of symbols, historical experience, and, particularly, subjective feelings which bind its members to one another.” That is how a pan-Indian Muslim community consciousness came to be engendered, and the erstwhile political community progressively developed the will to live as a nation. And with their sentiments of nationality, having been charged with the perquisites and prerequisites of nationalism over long decades, they had flamed into nationalism.
The transformation of a political community into a nation is, however, never a one-go affair. As Ambedkar points out on the authority of Professors Toynbee and Barker, “it is possible for nations to exist . . . even for centuries, in unreflective silence, although there exists that spiritual essence of national life of which many of its members are not aware”. As Disraeli once said, a nation is a work of art and a work of time. Thus, by the late 1930s the Muslims had acquired (what Lord Bryce calls) “a sentiment of intellectual or moral unity”, and had developed a “consciousness of kind”, a collective ego, indeed a national consciousness of their own which, to quote F. K. Khan Durrani (The Meaning of Pakistan), forthwith sought “to assert its sovereign self... The birth of national consciousness and the desire to live an independent sovereign life are concomitant . . . . For a nation is a body ‘corporate’, . . ., it has a soul, a will, of its own, and this collective soul reacts almost in the same manner as the individual soul: it refuses to coalesce with any other.”
Significance of the Lahore Resolution (1940)
Yet, the year 1940 becomes a turning point, a monumental watershed – if only because the self-perceived nationhood and the self-developed will to live as a nation were first proclaimed in that year, and the political expression to that will was, moreover, given in the Lahore Resolution. To borrow Lord Acton’s words:
The demand for Pakistan was entwined with the two-nation theory. Without that theory, the Pakistan demand would have been bereft of any intellectual base and political clout, nor justified on those grounds.
"Thenceforward there was a nation demanding to be united in a State – a soul, as it were, wandering in search of a body in which to begin life again; and, for the first time, a cry was heard that the arrangement of States was unjust – that their limits were unnatural, and that a whole people was deprived of its right to constitute an independent community."
Fortunately for Muslims, nature had provided them with a territory which they could occupy and transform into a state as well as a cultural home for the newly proclaimed nation. Without such a territory, nationalism, to use Lord Acton’s phrase, would have been “a soul, as it were, wandering in search of a body in which to begin life over again and dies out finding none”.
All told, it were these two prerequisites – the will to live as a nation and a territory where they were demographically dominant, as laid down by Ernest Renan, that had provided the intellectual and political justification for the Muslim claim to a distinct nationalism of their own. In consequence, when, finally, they broke their unreflective silence and gave meticulous articulation to their demands, they spoke in terms of a separate Muslim nationhood. Hence Jinnah could claim in the 1940s that “by all cannons of international law, we are a nation”.
However, contrary to what is usually assumed, Jinnah’s two-nation theory was not based on religion, pure and simple, although it does figure as one of the critical attributes in his definition of separate Muslim nationhood. For instance, in his epochal March 22, 1940 Lahore address, he chose to spell it out in sociological and political terms, and argue it out on the cultural and civilizational dimensions:
"Islam and Hinduism . . . are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are … different and distinct social orders; [that] the Hidnus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literature, to two different civilizations, [that they] derive their inspiration from different sources of history … [with] different epics, different heroes and different episodes. We wish our people [he declared], to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best in consonance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our people." (italics added)
Likewise, in his letter to Gandhi ji on 16 September 1944, he stressed the civilizational aspect: "We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, were are a nation."
A mere political community, placed as the Muslims were within India’s body politic, could not claim an equitable share in power, as a matter of right especially because the Westphalian Model (1648) of sovereignty of “nations” and “sanctity” of borders, still dominant in the international system (e.g., consider Eritrea being tagged on to Ethiopia in the postwar settlement of the former Italian colonies in Africa under the UN auspices), had not come to be eroded as it has since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1990 (e.g., in the case of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia). In contrast, a “nation”, if also dominant in a specified territory, as the Muslims were in northeastern and northwestern India, can. Thus, the nationhood claim gave the Muslim quest for an equitable share in power, a shot in the arm; it made the quest meaningful; it endowed it with a chance of success.
Islam as the Cultural Metaphor
The Pakistan demand was raised on the premise that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations. More specifically, that Muslims were a self-contained nation in their own right in the sub-continental context, and were, therefore, entitled to the right of self-determination. Raised in ideological and political terms for the most part, the demand was argued at the macro level, with Islam as the cultural metaphor.
For Muslims in prepartition India, with their deep horizontal, vertical, regional and linguistic cleavages, Islam alone could serve as a broad political platform a la Karl Deutsch (Nationalism and Social Communication)’s typology. A comprehensive, all-inclusive framework, a broad-based platform, so that all the ninety million Muslims in the subcontinent could be gathered incrementally under the all-embracing Pakistan canopy. Moreover, a platform not only transcending effectively their intracommunal cleavages, but also enshrining a cluster of shared beliefs, ideals and concepts that had lain deeply ingrained in their social consciousness over time, that had become enmeshed with the subterranean vagaries of their ancestral heritage and ethos, and that, moreover, was charged and saturated with emotions. Hence the choice of Islam as the rallying cry.
Jinnah’s choice of this metaphor was also determined by the overriding fact that Islam, to quote Iqbal, had not only furnished the Indian Muslims with “those basic emotions and loyalties which gradually unify scattered individuals and groups”, but had also worked as “a people-building force”, transforming them progressively into “a well-defined people”. The unity of Indian Islam, so far as it had achieved unity, may first and foremost be attributed to (what Montgomery Watt calls) “a dynamic image, the image or idea of . . . the charismatic community”. This explains how, scattered though they were across the length and breadth of the subcontinent in varying proportions, they had yet developed the will to live as a nation, and this on the basis of their “social heritage”, to borrow a Toynbeean concept. This “national will” in turn provided the Indian Muslims with the intellectual justification and the political rationale for claiming a distinct nationalism (apart from the pseudo-Indian or Hindu nationalism) for themselves.
Thus, the demand for Pakistan was entwined with the two-nation theory. Without that theory, the Pakistan demand would have been bereft of any intellectual base and political clout, nor justified on those grounds.
Two Nation Theory after Partition – Morphed into Two Nation States Theory
Even so, the two-nation theory was a paradigm, a conceptual framework, and a political construct, although bristling with ideological overtones, relevant only to the pre-1947 subcontinental context, in which the Muslims were denied an equitable share in power. The rise to statehood of the pre-1947, Muslim nation, in August 1947 has changed the substratum in Renan’s nationality framework – that is, the field of battle and the field of work, which were provided by geography and the political developments over the previous six decades. And with this change, the geo-political context, in which the two-nation theory was propounded, in which it had become functional and had, moreover, held forth the promise of a Muslim homeland, had obviously been rendered a little irrelevant and obsolete. And this for the obvious reason that the Muslims had acquired a homeland of their own and had attained nationhood. Hence, given the shift in the substratum, the two-nation theory had also undergone a paradigmatic shift. Since August 14-15, 1947, therefore, it has been replaced by a new, post-partition, India-Pakistan paradigm, or the Two Nation States theory.
This basic change in the loyalties and emotional attachment of the erstwhile Indian Muslim nation was, first, recognized, and called attention to, by Jinnah himself, a statesman that he was, while most other top Indian leaders (including Gandhi ji) were calling on the Muslim minority in India to make the “loyalty” tests. On the eve of his departure from New Delhi on August 7, 1947, Jinnah gave the call for forgetting the (immediate) past, burying the hatchet, and starting “afresh as two independent sovereign States of Hindustan and Pakistan”. The same message was repeated in his 11 August 1947 address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. He also called upon both the Muslims in post-partition India and the Hindus in Pakistan to give unreserved loyalty to their respective dominions.
And, for now, the major premise is that with partition and independence, the two nations, encapsulated in the two-nation theory, have attained statehood, transforming themselves into Indian and Pakistani nations. And with reference to their respective countries and nations, their prime identification in the post-partition period is Indians and Pakistanis, and not Hindus and Muslims. Thus, in the new geo-political context, the two nations are Indian and Pakistan, and not Hindus and Muslim.
Thus, an integral nation, comprising one and all inhabiting Pakistani territories, without reference to race, religion, language and ethnicity, came into being on 14-15 August 1947. Pakistani nationhood, both as a concept or a ground reality, was never in dispute. Of course, because of certain obvious reasons, East Pakistani diversity gathered momentum since the early 1950s and developed into a crystallized sub-nationalism, with its litany of grievances and demands. Subsequently, the Karachi rioters sought to accommodate its major grievances during 1955-58, and Pakistan was well in its way to developing a viable federal polity.
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.