Despite facing innumerable challenges to the identity of Muslims from the British oppression and Hindu dominance in the government apparatus, the advocacy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah enlightened the Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent to strive for a separate homeland, which resulted in achieving the Islamic state of Pakistan.
Founded on the first monopoly charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 A.D., the East India Company set the stage for the British colonization of the subcontinent. Initially, the company implanted three zones of governmental presence within the subcontinent through Madras, Calcutta and Bombay presidencies. Furthermore, the British Parliament enacted the Regulating Act of 1773, which gave the British Government the authority to control the Company's operations in India. In addition to creating substantial arrangements for the Company's internal administration, it supported the selection of Warren Hastings as the first Governor-General of India. A Supreme Court of Judicature was established at Fort Williams, and provisions for its legal jurisdiction were created. Moreover, the Pitt's India Act of 1784 established a dual control arrangement that lasted until 1858, when it was superseded by the Secretary of State for India. 1857 A.D. marked the year when the English defeated Bahadur Shah Zafar and usurped the title of de facto hegemon among the various Muslim and Hindu princely states that existed in the subcontinent. The Government of India Act was introduced by the British Parliament in 1858 in order to govern the subcontinent in accordance with the proclamation, serving as colonial India's constitution for all practical intents and purposes. The territory that the Company controlled and administered was transferred to and vested in the Crown under this Act. The Secretary of State, who would serve in Parliament, was given the authority to exercise functions that the East India Company had hitherto reserved for itself.
At this time, the British also acknowledged the significance of decentralizing the power in terms of governmental administration. Therefore, they passed the Indian Councils Act in 1861 to establish rules for the Council of the Governor-General, the Local Government of the Presidencies and the Provinces of the subcontinent in order to accomplish this purpose. Five people made up the Council of the Governor-General, three of whom were to be chosen by the Secretary of State with the approval of the majority of his Council. The other two, a barrister and the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, were chosen by the Crown. The Governor-General had the authority to appoint six to twelve more people to his Council in addition to these five regular members for the purpose of passing laws and regulations. Here one must indeed acknowledge Syed Ahmad Khan's substantial contributions towards the Indian Muslims' political movement. From 1878, Syed Ahmad Khan successfully lobbied for the distinct nomination of Muslims to the Lord Rippon-instituted local self-government bodies, as a member of the Governor-General's Legislative Council himself. One of the first proponents of the Two-nation Theory, he enlightened that Muslims and Hindus couldn't both hold equal shares of authority across the subcontinent.
According to Jawaharlal Nehru's declaration in March 1937, there were only two forces in India, he argued: British imperialism and Indian nationalism as embodied by the Congress. Congress ministries promptly ordered the raising of the Congress flag on government buildings after assuming control. In the legislative bodies and educational ministries, singing ‘Vande Mataram’ had become mandatory. In colleges and schools, Hindi language was introduced. The Vidya Mandir Educational Plan was implemented in order to perplex the Muslims over their Islamic ideology.
As the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri was replaced with the British Colonial legal code, 1857 A.D. also symbolically marked a transformation of the cultural, intellectual and social structure of Indian subcontinent. This fundamental reshaping of the political hierarchy in the realm produced an age of re-enlightenment through Muslim luminaries that among many, included the names of Syed Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah was a tall, sharp-featured gentleman with aristocratic traits and a keen legal intellect. Jinnah returned to the subcontinent after qualifying at the English bar, and began what would eventually turn into a very prosperous legal practice at Bombay in 1896, entering politics as a liberal member of the Congress party.
A few years later, he also became a member of the Muslim League in an effort to influence Muslim opinion in favor of the cause of Indian independence from British rule. Throughout the next two decades, Jinnah served as one of the nationalist movement's most successful spokespersons. He strongly opposed the communal tendencies among the Muslims and only mentioned one foe: the foreign oppressor. His greatest achievement during this initial stage of his political career was the Lucknow Pact in 1916 between Congress and the Muslim League. Congress agreed to separate electorates for Muslims in electing representatives to the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils. Although the Muslims were given this right in the Indian Council Act of 1909, the Indian National Congress had previously opposed it. The Congress also agreed to the idea of one-third seats for the Muslims in the Councils despite the fact that the Muslim population represented less than a third. Apart from that, the Congress agreed that no act affecting a community should be passed unless three-quarters of that community's members on the council supported it. The pact served as a declaration of collaboration and maybe the pinnacle of Hindu-Muslim harmony during the British Raj. In response, the British Parliament established the Government of India Act 1919 with royal approval. It was passed to increase Indians' involvement in the government. The Viceroy, Chelmsford, and Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, advocated reforms in their report, which were included in the Act. The Act covered ten years from 1919 to 1929, at the end of which the Simon Commission was tasked with reviewing it.
What occurred between 1937 and 1940 was an eye-opener for Muslims in Indian subcontinent. The workings of the Congress ministries in various provinces had Muslims convinced that they had to struggle for a separate homeland. This new-found resolve culminated into the Lahore Resolution in March of 1940.
The 1919 Act introduced the form of a diarchy, that is, dual government. The executive of the provinces was divided into two parts, one responsible to the legislature and the other responsible to the British Parliament through the Governor and the Governor-General. The Act required the creation of two different lists, one including central subjects and the other provincial ones. Defense, foreign and political relations, public debts, tariffs and customs, posts and telegraphs, patents and copyrights, currency and coinage, communications including railroads, aircraft, waterways, commerce and shipping, civil and criminal law and procedure, major courts, quarantine, and other topics were all included in the main list. Local self-government, public health, sanitation, and medical administration, education, public works, water supplies, and irrigation, land revenue administration, famine relief, agriculture, forests, cooperative societies, and law and order, including justice, police, and jails, were all included in the provincial list. There was no concurrent list and in cases of uncertainty, the Governor-General, not the courts, made the decision about whether or not a specific topic belonged to a province.
It was these reforms that ultimately led to the Simon Commission’s report published in May of 1930. This was thoroughly boycotted by the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Muslim League, with both providing their answers, which resulted in the Nehru Report and the fourteen points of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
It was during this time that however, due to the loss of his wife, turmoil in his personal life and the overall stagnation in the Indian political movement, Jinnah sailed to England in October 1930 and decided not to come back. He established a commitment to the Muslim cause as something totally apart from the Congress movement during these years of seclusion. Motivated by Iqbal’s Allahabad Address of 1930, his speeches started to reflect his newly adopted opinion that Muslim interests needed to be defended against the rapidly expanding Hindu-dominated nationalism of the INC under Gandhi. Jinnah also vehemently supported the cause of federal from of government and equal rights of minorities in subcontinent during the Round Table Conferences (1930-1932) he attended in London. As a result, he returned to India in 1934 at the request of his colleague, Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
Jinnah said that binding various nationalities "forcibly together by unnatural and artificial means of British legislative statutes" would not cause them to unite into a single nation as their differences are as great today as they ever were.
It was during this time that the English passed the Government of India Act 1935. It was a comprehensive statute comprising a total of 321 sections and two schedules. It was in practicality a written Constitution given to subcontinent by its colonial masters. Under the statute, the state's polity was reorganized on a federal basis. New institutions including the Federal Court, Federal Railway Authority, the Reserve Bank of India (the Central Bank), and the Public Service Commissions for the federation and the provinces were created under the statute. Most notably, the Act provided a method whereby a state could join the federation and also provided for the legal consequences which followed from such an accession. The ruler of a state desiring to federate could execute an instrument of accession on behalf of himself, his heirs and his successors.
The provincial portion of the Constitution went into effect on April 1, 1937, but the federal portion was not fully implemented. The Congress Party had gained the majority of seats in eight provinces in the provincial elections. Though they initially resisted creating the governments, later, however, after receiving a guarantee that the Governors wouldn't exercise their unique powers, the Congress established ministries in the provinces where the Party received majority of the votes. In these elections, the Muslim League did relatively poorly, winning just 51 out of the 482 seats designated for Muslims. The Muslim League proposed, but on honorable terms, to join the Congress ministries. The Congress found this intolerable and insisted that the Muslim League quit operating in the legislative as a distinct entity and submit to the authority of the Congress’ high leadership. The Muslim League rejected the degrading conditions that a party intoxicated with power offered. From July 1937 to October 1939, the Congress ministries were in operation.
The Congress leaders, who were now inebriated in their triumph, argued that their body was the only political party in existence and denied the existence of any other organizations. This amounted to a formal demand for their “right” to be acknowledged as the British Empires’ successor and inheritor of power. According to Jawaharlal Nehru's declaration in March 1937, there were only two forces in the subcontinent, he argued: British imperialism and Indian nationalism as embodied by the Congress. Congress ministries promptly ordered the raising of the Congress flag on government buildings after assuming control. In the legislative bodies and educational ministries, singing ‘Vande Mataram’ had become mandatory. In colleges and schools, Hindi language was introduced. The Vidya Mandir Educational Plan was implemented in order to perplex the Muslims over their Islamic ideology. The Congress began to effectively impose its will on Muslim minorities of the subcontinent.
What occurred between 1937 and 1940 was an eye-opener for Muslims in Indian subcontinent. The workings of the Congress ministries in various provinces had Muslims convinced that they had to struggle for a separate homeland. This new-found resolve culminated into the Lahore Resolution in March of 1940. It declared that any future political proposal for the subcontinent must necessarily “…be designed on the following basic principles, viz., 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.”
Hinduism and Islam, Jinnah argued, were two different social structures. Hindus and Muslims have different epics and heroes, and they do not intermarry or interdine. The hero of one is frequently the enemy of the other, and one's success is the other's defeat. He insisted that Muslims are not a minority in the subcontinent, but rather a distinct nation that requires a territory and state of its own. Jinnah said that binding various nationalities "forcibly together by unnatural and artificial means of British legislative statutes" would not cause them to unite into a single nation as their differences are as great today as they ever were.
Pakistan Movement attained a high peak of emotional intensity within the Muslim community. Muslim teachers in government schools started teaching their pupils the ideology of Pakistan without the consent of the administration. Due to the end of the Second World War, the British Government in 1946 under the then viceroy Lord Wavell, sent a special mission to consult the Indian leadership on constitutional issues. However, Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah also rejected the recommendations provided under the Cabinet Mission Plan due to its failure in adequately providing the Muslims of the subcontinent a separate homeland in the shape of a Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Finally, by June 3, 1947, the British government under the Mountbatten Plan accepted the reality of the partition of subcontinent by undertaking to surrender the dominion to the successor governments with the implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, the Indian Independence Bill on July 18, 1947 received the royal assent. Therefore, two independent dominions of India and Pakistan were born as a result of the Indian Independence Act 1947. Lord Mountbatten formally went to Karachi on August 14, 1947 to inaugurate the new Muslim-majority nation of Pakistan with Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as its first Governor General. In addition to this, the provisions of the Government of India Act 1935 and the Indian Independence Act of 1947, with certain adaptations, became the working constitution of Pakistan. The Pakistan (Provisional Constitutional) Order of 1947 established the federation of Pakistan.
On September 11, 1948, Muhammad Ali Jinnah left the people of an independent Pakistan with the gift of freedom, honor and unity under the flag of a Muslim-majority nation he had so tirelessly fought for in the political arena of colonial and post-colonial Indian subcontinent.
The writer is a partner at Syed Law Associates and Arbitrators. Currently a legislative council at the National Assembly of Pakistan, he has also co-authored a book titled “Manual of Maritime Laws”.
E-mail: [email protected]
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