Jinnah & Muslims of India

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By

A G. NOORANI[1]

Abstract

(Neither the British Government’s statement of 3 June 1947, the Partition Plan which, both, the League and the Indian National Congress accepted, nor the Indian Independence Act, 1947, which they had vetted, contained even a perfunctory reference to the minorities. They were confined to the consequences of the partition – the princely States, assets and liabilities and treaties etc. The gravest consequence – the presence of minorities in both States – was ignored. Surely if mere safeguards in the Constitution could protect the minorities, surgery was not necessary. No one was more aware of this than Jinnah; the record shows that before as well as after the establishment of Pakistan that awareness did not elude him. He was a lawyer with a keen understanding of political realities. “It does not require political wisdom to realize that all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper, unless they are backed by power. Politics mean power and not relying on cries of justice or fair play or goodwill,” Jinnah told the historic Lucknow session of the League on 15 October 1937. Author).

The Resolution adopted by the session of the All India Muslim League at Lahore on 23 March 1940, demanding the partition of India on the basis of religion, is one of the most consequential documents in modern history. It led to the establishment of Pakistan on 14 August 1947 a little over seven years later. Yet, it is also one of the least understood documents ever. It was either lauded or condemned but never analysed. Within Pakistan debate ranged over the issues whether it envisaged one state or two, the partition of Punjab and Bengal and federal structure at the Centre. The Congress was too indignant at the proposal to analyse it carefully. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi missed a fine opportunity of questioning Mohammed Ali Jinnah on its terms and implications when they met in Jinnah House at Mount Pleasant Road in Bombay from 9 to 27 September 1944. He asked questions like “What is your definition of ‘minorities’?” and some specific ones which Jinnah evaded or brushed aside (“does not arise by way of clarification”).

Gandhi did not persist with the queries he had raised in his letter of 15 September. But on one important point Jinnah gave an answer on 17 September whose significance escaped attention. Gandhi had referred to para 2 of the Resolution which proposed “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards” for minorities in both States.  Jinnah replied that safeguards “are a matter for negotiation and settlement with the minorities in the respective States, viz. Pakistan and Hindustan” – not between the two States as an integral part of the agreement embodying the terms for the settlement of the communal question on the basis of partition of India, a surgery which Jinnah claimed would cure the disease.[1]

Neither the British Government’s statement of 3 June 1947, the Partition Plan which, both, the League and the Indian National Congress accepted, nor the Indian Independence Act, 1947, which they had vetted, contained even a perfunctory reference to the minorities. They were confined to the consequences of the partition – the princely States, assets and liabilities and treaties etc. The gravest consequence – the presence of minorities in both States – was ignored. Surely if mere safeguards in the Constitution could protect the minorities, surgery was not necessary.

No one was more aware of this than Jinnah; the record shows that before as well as after the establishment of Pakistan that awareness did not elude him. He was a lawyer with a keen understanding of political realities. “It does not require political wisdom to realize that all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper, unless they are backed by power. Politics mean power and not relying on cries of justice or fair play or goodwill,” Jinnah told the historic Lucknow session of the League on 15 October 1937. To the Muslim University Union at Aligarh he elaborated, in a speech at the Strachey Hall on 5 February 1938 “The only hope for minorities is to organize themselves and secure a definite share in power to safeguard their rights and interests. Without such power no Constitution can work successfully in India.”[2]

In this, Jinnah was only too right. Constitutional protection alone is no solution; power or empowerment is necessary. He sought a coalition based sharing of power with the Congress but was rebuffed.[3]

Unfortunately partition led to protectionism in both states. Thus a close analysis of the Lahore Resolution is indispensable to an understanding of Jinnah’s dilemmas and the situation he faced in 1947; as, indeed, did the minorities. It had five paras. The first two were preambular; the Government of India Act, 1935 was rejected but no “revised plan” would be acceptable unless it was “framed” with the consent of the Muslims.

Para 3, popularly cited as para 1, said that no “constitutional plan” would be acceptable to them unless it was based on the “basic principle” of the partition which it defined. While para 4 on the safeguards was bandied about as a sop to the minorities, completely ignored was para 5. It authorized the Working Committee “to frame a scheme of Constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defence, external affairs, communication, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary.” Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was one of the very few to ask “what does the word ‘finally’ which occurs in the last part of the Lahore Resolution mean?”[4] But neither he nor Gandhi nor any one else asked the League to produce the “scheme” it had promised in that para. One man who was aware of the linkage between the three operative paras was Sir Abdullah Haroon. His Committee, set up by the League, drew up a Report which harmonized the principle of partition with the effectiveness of the safeguards. Jinnah repudiated the entire exercise.

Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, author of an earlier draft which was drastically and unwisely pruned a day before the Resolution was passed, boldly repudiated the Lahore Resolution in a famous speech to the Punjab Legislative Assembly on 11 March 1941. “The resolution which I drafted was radically amended by the Working Committee and there is a wide divergence in the resolution I drafted and the one that was finally passed.”[5] What he had in mind was an agency at the Centre, set up by mutual consent and with liberty to secede from it. Partition and safeguards ensuring empowerment would be linked in such a scheme Jinnah offered precisely such a proposal to the Cabinet Mission on 12 May 1946 and went on to accept its Plan of 16 May 1946. Both were based on sharing power. The Congress had other plans. Partition followed a partition that was delinked altogether from minority safeguards. It was a partition of the kind none had seen even in a wild nightmare.

That disconnect between partition and protection reflected a transformation in Jinnah’s splendid record as a champion of the rights of minorities to one who espoused the cause of Provinces in which Muslims were in a majority, even to the neglect of safeguards for Muslim minorities. That record bears recalling. It is most instructive in revealing the political compulsions which shaped the course of a man of sturdy independence, sterling integrity and keen realism like Jinnah.

Theories do not reckon with the record and lapse into denigration or adulation. Marguerite Dove deserves credit for highlighting Jinnah’s role and self-perception as a mediator between Indian nationalism and Muslim opinion and interests.[6] He asked the All Parties National Convention on the Nehru Report on 22 December 1928 “would you be content if I were to say, I am with you? Do you want or do you not want the Muslim India to go along with you?”[7] The jibe about a “nationalist” who turned “communalist” is for the ignorant and malicious, Jinnah bore in mind both the interests at all times; the country as well as the community’s. They did not conflict.

He questioned the credentials of the 35 Muslims, led by the Aga Khan who waited on a deputation to the Viceroy, Lord Minto, on 1 October 1906 in a letter which The Times of India did not publish but the Gujrati of Bombay did on 7 October. On 27 December 1906 at the Congress’ session in Calcutta he praised it for its stand against the Privy Council’s ruling on Waqf-alal-aulad (which he succeeded in overriding by Legislation). The next day he said that “there should be no reservation for any class on community.”[8]

The Muslim League was established at Dacca on 31 December 1906. The Indian Musalman Association was launched to counter it at Calcutta on 8 January 1907. Nawab Syed Mohammed was its President. Jinnah was one of its three Vice Presidents.[9] Jinnah was persuaded to join the League only on 10 October 1913. In the Congress, meanwhile, he moved a resolution against extension of separate communal electorates to local bodies but was careful to stress that those were his personal views. “I do not represent the Muhamedan Community here nor have I any mandate from the Muhammedan Community.”[10]

His outlook was revealed in a moving letter he wrote in January 1910. Hindus and Muslims should “combine in one harmonious union for the common good, where we have to live together in every district, town, and hamlet; where our daily life is interwoven with each other in every square mile of one common country.”[11]

It was in this spirit that the League led by Jinnah and the Congress led by his friend Bal Gangadhar Tilak agreed on a scheme of Reforms at a Joint Conference of the Congress and the League in Calcutta on 18 November 1916. Both parties held their annual sessions at Lucknow on 30-31 December 1916 and endorsed it; hence, the Lucknow Pact – The Congress accepted separate electorates as well as larger number of seats to the delight of Muslims in provinces where they were in a minority but Jinnah had to scale down Muslim representation in the Punjab and Bengal with lasting consequences. Thirty years later in 1946, despite a convincing victory at the polls, the Nawab of Mamdot could not command a majority in the Punjab Assembly. “Under the Congress-League scheme Muslims got over-representation in the provincial legislatures in Bihar, Bombay, Madras and the Central Provinces. Being aware of the dominant position of the Muslims in U.P., they were given 30 per cent of the seats there. The price paid for these concessions was that the principle of weightage for the minority community was also applied to Bengal and the Punjab, reducing Muslim representation in the Provincial Legislative Councils from 55 percent to 50 percent in the Punjab and to 40 percent in Bengal.

The Lucknow Pact signified the increasing eagerness of the Congress to win Muslim co-operation in the nationalist movement. The Hindus of UP and the Punjab had misgivings regarding the Pact as they felt that their interests had been jeopardized to win Muslim co-operation. On the Muslim side, the Punjab and Bengal were the most vociferous provinces in their condemnation of the Pact.”[12]

Prof. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi pointed out that “weightage in the minority provinces were not of much use” to the Muslims. They remained a minority, “whereas the loss of majorities in two major provinces resulted in serious handicaps. Its full effect was felt after the elections of 1937 and 1945, when the Muslim League encountered grave difficulties in forming ministries in the Punjab and Bengal.”[13]

Jinnah faced a genuine problem besides the community’s views – separate electorates were meant for a minority, not a majority. But a backward majority felt insecure in voting in joint electorates. When Sir Fazl-i-Husain opposed Jinnah’s active entry into Punjab politics in 1936 he complained “in the case of the Punjab the Muslim majority in the Provincial Assembly is nominal, and it is almost impossible to secure a Muslim majority through a separate control of elections.”[14] Hence, his preference for the secular, if Muslim dominated, Unionist Party.

This is what Jinnah said as a witness appearing before the Joint Select Committee appointed by Parliament on the Government of India Bill, 1919, in reply to question No. 3808:“The position of Bengal was this : In Bengal the Muslims are in a majority, and the argument was advanced that any section or any community which is in the majority cannot claim a separate electorate: separate electorate is to protect the minority. But the counter-argument was perfectly true that numerically we are in a majority but as voters we are in the minority in Bengal, because of poverty and backwardness and so on. It was said: Very well, then fix 40 per cent, because if you are really put to test you will not get 40 per cent, because you will not be qualified as voters. Then we had the advantage in other Provinces.”

However to some critics Jinnah sacrificed the interests of Punjab and Bengal to secure a better deal for Muslims in the Provinces where they were in a minority.

It is not necessary to trace here the subsequent course of Indian politics from the perspective of Jinnah’s efforts for a settlement and the Congress’ rebuffs. Marguerite Dove and Uma Kaura have done it with admirable succinctness and documentation.

Jinnah’s outlook was optimistic. He said at the League’s session on 31 December 1917 “Do you think that in the first instance it is possible that the Government of this country can become a Hindu Government? Do you think that the Government can be conducted merely by the ballot box? Do you think that because the Hindus are in a majority they have therefore to carry a measure in the Legislative Council and there is an end of it? If 70 million Musalmans do not approve of the measure which is carried by a ballot box, do you think that it could be enforced or administered in this country? Do you think that the Hindu statesmen with their intellect, with their past history, will ever think of enforcing measures by the ballot box when you get Self-Government? Then what is there to fear? Therefore I say to my Musalman friends: Fear not. This is a bogey, which is put before you by your enemies to frighten you, to scare you away from co-operation and unity which are essential for the establishment of self-Government. This country has not to be governed by the Hindus and, let me submit, it has not to be governed by the Musalmans either, and certainly not by the English. It is to be governed by the people and the sons of this country. I, standing here – believe I am voicing the feeling of whole of India – demand the immediate transfer of a substantial power of the Government of the country.”[15]

Over a decade later and despite his bitter experience over the Nehru Report he said in the Central Legislative Assembly on 7 March 1930, “seventy millions of Mussalmans should not be afraid of facing the issue squarely and fairly no matter what the Government do and no matter what the Hindus do. You are seventy millions. What is the good of leaning upon the Government? What is the good of your appealing to the Hindus? Do you want concessions? I do not want concessions. What is the good? You are seventy million Mussalmans. Organise yourselves in this country, and you will be a power, and you will be able to dictate not only to the Government, but to the Hindus and to every one else your just rights. Show a manly attitude.”[16]

Theorists are welcome to their sport. The record speaks for itself on the Congress’ arrogance of power when it formed ministries in the provinces of Bombay, Madras, Central Provinces, U.P., Bihar, Orissa, Assam and the N.W.F.P., Jinnah’s crie de Coeur at Aligarh on 5 February 1938 explains the change: “At that time there was pride in me and I used to beg from the Congress.”[17]

He had to devise an alternative to the federation. The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, asked him to propound an alternative. Jinnah proposed partition but with enough qualifications in the Lahore Resolution (the last para and the reference to “territorial adjustments”) to suggest that he was prepared to consider a power-sharing arrangement at the Centre. Jinnah’s article in Time and Tide of London, on 19 January 1940, said: “A constitution must be evolved that recognizes that there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland. In evolving such a Constitution, the Muslims are ready to co-operate with the British Government, the Congress or any other party so that the present enmities may cease and India may make its place amongst the great countries of the world.” That was power-sharing at the Centre in a united India, not partition. If Pakistan was proposed only two months later, it could not have been the last unalterable last word. The Lahore Resolution received a wild reaction, however; and Jinnah’s offers of compromise in May 1946 were spurned by Gandhi and the Congress.

Jinnah now began exerting every nerve to achieve Pakistan. He cut the umbilical cord between partition and safeguards for minorities and made little secret that they would have to fend for themselves. The speeches were revealing.

28 December 1940: “The Muslim minorities in the Hindu provinces would put up with their fate, but they would not stand in the way of Muslim majority provinces becoming free.”[18]

10 March 1941:  “The creation of these independent states will be the surest guarantee for the fair treatment of the minorities. When the time for consultation and negotiation comes, the case of Muslims in the minority provinces will certainly not go by default.”[19]A rare, if not solitary, assurance of safeguards defined in the pact on partition.

30 March 1941: “In order to liberate 7 crores of Muslims where they were in a majority, he was willing to perform the last ceremony of martyrdom if necessary and let two crores of Muslims be smashed.”[20]

1 July 1942:  “The only way for Britain to do justice is to hand over the Muslim homelands to the Musalmans and the Hindu homelands to the Hindus.”[21]This was bad history. Islam came to Malabar in the South before it appeared in the north. Muslim “homelands” were spread all over India. The “homelands” theory, although more plausible there, played havoc in Sri Lanka with the notorious Cleghorn minute on Tamil “homelands” in the north and east. There was a yet graver flaw in Jinnah’s scheme. It was majoritarian and left no room for a composite culture or a secular setup. The winner took all – Hindu rule in one part (“Hindu India”) Muslim rule in the other (“Muslim India”). There was another and equally consequential flaw, based on the two-nation theory. Sample this speech at Aligarh on 2 November 1942: “Three fourths of India go to Hindus and only one-fourth to Muslims.” Where did this leave the minorities in both states? Worse, he added “you will protect and safeguard our minorities in your zones and we will protect and guard your minorities in ours.”[22]The implications are staggering.

November 1945: “Let 3/4ths of  India belong to Hindus where they can rule as they wish and let Muslims have 1/4th of India where they are in a majority.”[23]

3 April 1946, interview to the BBC:“If Britain in Gladstone’s time could intervene in Armenia in the name of protection of minorities, why should it not be right for us to do so in the case of our minorities in Hindustan, if they are oppressed.”[24]Britain was then the world’s strongest power.  Even in 1946 Jinnah knew that Pakistan would be militarily weaker than India.

26 November 1946: exchange of population should be considered.[25]

14 December 1946:“The differences between Hindus and Muslims are so fundamental that there is nothing that matters in life upon which we agree.”[26]

The hostage theory was not absent from Jinnah’s mind. He told Norman Cliff of the News Chronicle of London (12 April 1946) that Muslims in India were “fortunate that there would be a corresponding minority of 25,000,000 Hindus in Pakistan.”After the partition, Weldon James of Collier’s Weekly reported (25 August 1947) that Jinnah said “The minorities are in effect hostages to the requirement of mutual cooperation and good neighbourliness between the Governments of Pakistan and the Indian Union.”

In 1947 the two States did not enter into a Treaty on minority rights; but the fate of the hapless minorities depended on the state of Indo-Pak relations.

This was not unforeseen, Jinnah had told the News Chronicle of London, on 15 February 1945 that “the Hindus must trust their minorities to the Pakistan government and we must trust the Hindus with our Muslim minorities.” Trust is a far cry from the “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards” proposed in the Lahore resolution.

But trust in good behaviour by their respective States, rather than effective safeguards, were all that the minorities could hope for. At his last press conference in Delhi on 14 July 1947 Jinnah said: “Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also and they will play their part in the affairs of this State. As long as the minorities are loyal to the State and owe true allegiance and as long as I have any power, they need have no apprehension of any kind. … You cannot have a minority which is disloyal and plays the role of sabotaging the State. That minority, of course, becomes intolerable in any State. I advise Hindus and Muslims and every citizen to be loyal to his State.”[27]

On 22 July 1947 the Partition Council met with the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, in the Chair. Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan represented the future Government of Pakistan, Vallabhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad represented “the future Government of India.” Baldev Singh represented the Sikhs. A Joint Communiqué recorded “Both the Congress and the Muslim League have given assurances of fair and equitable treatment to the minorities after the transfer of power. The two future governments re-affirm these assurances. It is their intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all citizens irrespective of religion, caste, or sex. In the exercise of their normal civic rights, all citizens will be regarded as equal, and both the governments will assure to all people within their territories the exercise of liberties such as freedom of speech, the right to form associations, the right to worship in their own way, and the protection of their language and culture. Both the governments further undertake that there shall be no discrimination against those who before 15 August may have been political opponents.”[28]This fell far short of a formal agreement.

The Muslim League’s members in India now thoroughly demoralized, sought Jinnah’s counsel before he left for Karachi. Mohammed Raza Khan, a prominent Leaguer from Madras ruefully recorded in his memoirs What Price Freedom (1969):“About the end of July 1947, the Muslim members of the Central Legislative Assembly met Mr. Jinnah who was also the leader of the Muslim League Party in the Assembly. It was for the last time that they met him, for he was then arranging to leave for Karachi. It was their farewell meeting. Many members expressed concern about the future of the Muslims in India. When they sought his advice about their future, and that of the Muslim League, he refrained from saying anything specific. He, however, told them they had enough experience under his leadership, and they would have to evolve their own policy and programme. They had to decide things for themselves in the new set-up, and in the changed circumstances. But he made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they should be loyal to India, and that they should not seek to ride two horses. It has, therefore, to be said in clearest terms that Mr. Jinnah did not give any positive directions or instructions to Indian Muslims as to their future.”[29]

The most revealing encounter was between Jinnah and a delegation of the Coorg Muslims at 10 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi on 25 July. He said : “Muslims in India have nothing to be afraid of. They will still be several crores in number. They have made many sacrifices along with the Muslims of the majority provinces. It is as a result of the sacrifices made by all of them in India that we have been able to achieve Pakistan. While the Musalmans of the majority provinces will be in a position to wield authority and power and mould their destinies according to their genius, the Musalmans in India have yet to go through a number of ordeals, sufferings, and sacrifices. Their future will remain dark for some years to come and thick clouds will be hanging over them. The  only way out for them will be to become much more active, much more courageous, and work harder than ever before. Trusting in God they should always be up and doing and go forward undeterred by the discouraging circumstances around them.”

“What they need first is the correct leadership. If they could find men who are possessed of high ideals and sterling character and men who could understand their difficulties and men who are above board, it will be some consolation to start with. What you have to do is to maintain your identity and your individuality in the first instance. You can adapt yourselves to the changing circumstances and environment, without sacrificing your identity and individuality… You must also avoid occasions of conflict with the majority community and show by dint of your merit and intellectual capacity that you cannot be ignored under any circumstances.”

“As regards your loyalty, you cannot but be loyal to your country. Just as I want every Hindu in Pakistan to be loyal to Pakistan, so do I want every Muslim in India to be loyal to India. There is no other alternative.”

“You can be useful citizens of your country in two ways by becoming (i) educationally forward and (ii) economically sound, and thereby making yourselves indispensable to the country. To achieve this you have to devote much of your attention to the education of your young men and see that they are well equipped. You should prepare them for technical and professional careers. … While you make progress educationally, you should at the same time continue your business activities so that you are economically strong. Without this you will not be able to keep pace with the march of events. … Worse coming to worst, you will have a homeland in Pakistan which will give you a shelter whenever you need it. What is more, there will be adjustments between the two countries and there will be territorial safeguards for the protection of minorities on either side. All that you have got to do so is to find the correct leadership in India, which will guide you and take you through your ordeals smoothly without involving you in a conflict with the powers that be and provide opportunities for you to develop educationally and economically. … So long as I am alive, I shall watch with great interest, care, and anxiety your struggles in India, your interests, and your future. I shall pray that God may come to your succour in times of your difficulties and be with you to lead you to prosperity and happiness. Your sacrifices in the making of Pakistan are great. How can we ever forget them or forget you? You and your sacrifices will always be in my thoughts and feeling. May God be with you. Goodbye!”[30]That was inspiring but not particularly helpful.

Jinnah’s historic speech on 11 August 1947 at the inauguration of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly as its President, is recalled still. It was delivered extempore and reflected sincerity and spontaneity. The fundamentals he propounded are of abiding relevance. He advised tolerance and said “We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community – because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis, and so on – will vanish. No power can hold another nation , and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; … You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state. … We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…. I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but the political sense as citizens of the State.”[31]

While this speech, notable for renunciation of the two – nation theory (“a nation of 400 million”) came too late to provide redress, its significance as an enunciation of a noble ideal cannot be under-estimated.

It is not necessary to recount here the fate that befell the minorities in both countries after the partition.[32] Jinnah’s anguish was sincere and deep. He was, pained and genuinely surprised at the situation that confronted him. His interview to Duncan Hooper of Reuters on 25 October 1947 reflected his dismay at the League’s decline in India. It bears quotation, in extenso : “It is also very unfortunate that the Muslims in Hindustan are told threateningly that they must abjure the leadership of the League and declare their ‘folly’ in having supported Pakistan and in believing in this ‘fantastic two-nation theory,’ also that certain tests and standards of loyalty are demanded from them… As for the two-nation theory, it is not a theory but a fact…To the Muslim minority and their leaders left in India, I have already conferred advice that they must reorganize themselves under their own chosen leadership as they have a very big part to play in safeguarding the rights and interests of many millions. They have already professed under my advice their loyalty to the Government of India and made their position clear on the very first day when they attended the Indian Dominion Constituent Assembly. In spite of this, insidious propaganda is going on that they have been let down by the Muslim League and Pakistan is indifferent to what may happen to them. The Muslim minority in India have played a magnificent part in the achievement and establishment of Pakistan. They were fully alive to the consequences that they would have to remain in Hundustan as minorities but not at the cost of their self-respect and honour. Nobody visualized that a powerful section in India was bent upon the ruthless extermination of Muslims and had prepared a well organized plan to achieve that and … I, therefore, while deeply and fully sympathising with their sufferings, urge upon Muslims in India to bear their trial with courage and fortitude and not get panicky and play into the hands of our enemies by hasty decisions or actions. They should not in their adversity be led away by mischievous propaganda of interested parties and hold the Muslim League and its leadership responsible for all their tribulations. They must hold on to their posts, and Pakistan, I can assure them, will not be a mere spectator of their sufferings. We are deeply concerned with their welfare and future, and we shall do everything in our power to avert the danger that they are facing. I sincerely hope that with the cooperation of the Indian Dominion we shall be able to secure a fair deal for them.[33]

But he made no effort whatever to seek India’s “cooperation” for a joint policy towards the minorities in India and Pakistan. On the contrary he scotched a move by H. S. Suhrawardy in that direction. That was but one of the three fateful decisions Jinnah took which harmed the interests of Indian Muslims instead of improving their lot. It was bad enough to nominate Choudhry Khaliquzzaman as leader of the League’s Party in the Constituent Assembly of India in preference to the highly respected and sternly independent Nawab Mohammed Ismail. It was worse to reproach the pliant Choudhary for not toeing Pakistan’s line on Kashmir. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Zafrullah Khan. had, in a speech at the United Nations, spoken of “the slaughter of Muslims.” Khaliquazzaman issued a statement in reply on 20 September 1947. He was being cruelly taunted in India for his past. When he met Jinnah on 5 October 1947 he was taken to task for that statement.

“Mr. Jinnah came with my rejoinder to Sir Zafrullah Khan’s statement in his hand and read it to me, expressing surprise that it had been broadcast from India for three days. I reminded him that it was the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in the Indian Constituent Assembly and India had attached great importance to it. Thereupon he said, ‘It has hurt us very much!’ I asked him how anything said by a Muslim citizen of India could bind down the Government of Pakistan or have any effect on it. Nevertheless as he was dissatisfied with my answer, I said I would not go back to India but would send in my resignation, to enable someone else who might have his confidence to replace me and serve the Indian Muslims. Thereafter Shaheed Suhrawardy gave him the document which he had shown me at Delhi, to go through it. Mr. Jinnah looked at it and returned it to Shaheed without any comment….

“What pained me most in the Quaid-e-Azam’s reception of me was the fact that he had been mainly responsible for putting the burden of the leadership of Indian Muslims on my shoulders, but at the time of my interview with him, which was the last in my life, he did not realize my responsibilities towards the Indian Muslims, who were facing a situation never before experienced in their history of a thousand years.”[34]He soon left India for Pakistan as did other League leaders like Hussain Imam and Z. H. Lari.

Khaliquzzaman’s reference to the document which Huseyn Shaheed Surawardy gave to Jinnah and which Jinnah returned “without any comment” had a sad aftermath. Khaliquzzam revealed: “Shaheed Suhrawardy came to see me one day at Rafi Qidwai’s house and showed me a document concerning the Muslim minority in India and suggesting means for their protection. On the very first page of this document there was remark in the handwriting of Gandhiji, ‘It can be abridged. The question is whether Quaid-e-Azam would abide by it.’ After examining the document I asked Shaheed whether it had been approved by Mr. Jinnah. He asked me to come with him to see Gandhiji to discuss the matter. I said I had talked with him and I did not see any point in meeting him again.”[35]

Suhrawardy, undeterred by Jinnah’s indifference on 5 October, wrote to him on 8 October setting out detailed suggestions for improving the lot of the minorities. A revealing correspondence ensued which came to light only in 2001 on the publication of Jinnah Papers 1 October – 31 December 1947.[36]Its core was a common policy towards the minorities, jointly implemented by both Governments. One has only to read some of the suggestions to realize that they would have provided substantial redress. They read: “That it is not the intention of either of the Dominions to go to war and that both the Dominions renounce war for all time as a method of settings disputes. … A declaration of guarantee to minorities of protection of life, property, etc. … Representatives ofboth the Dominions (who may be called Peace Commissioners with diplomatic privileges) will be stationed in various parts of the Dominions and will do all they can to promote peace and harmony between the communities, acquaint themselves with the difficulties and complaints of the majority and minority communities, keep themselves informed of incidents and remove all causes of suspicion and mistrust. They shall be assured safety of their persons and facilities to move wheresoever they deem it necessary to proceed for the discharge of their duties. In the services, there should be a mixture of Hindu and Muslim officers and steps should be taken for this purpose. Representatives of minorities should be included in the Ministries. … The houses and properties of refugees are being dealt with in different manners in the two Dominions. There should be a common policy.” Annexed to the letter was a draft Declaration.

Gandhi wrote to Jinnah on 11 October 1947 after he had heard Suhrawardy’s report on his talks with Jinnah. He suggested “In paragraph 2(4) of his letter dated the 8th October to you, I would add ‘and will submit to a tribunal of permanent arbitration selected from Indians alone (i.e., from the members of the two Dominions). In paragraph 2(8) or in any other suitable place, I would like the following idea to be brought out: ‘Each State will induce the refugees to return and occupy their respective homes.’”

Apparently a misunderstanding crept up. Suhrawardy had told Jinnah, when they met on 8 October that Gandhi had made “endorsements in pencil” on his draft suggestions. Jinnah wrote to Suhrawardy on 16 October asking for that document, which was an exchange between two other persons. A day earlier Suhrawardy had written to Jinnah conveying Gandhi’s “regret at the interpretation of the endorsement which in any event was his reaction but was not meant as a message to you” Gandhi had however accepted Suhrawardy’s draft with two changes. So had Nehru, who mattered more as Prime Minister. Liaquat Ali Khan also agreed. “You are the only one who can save the situation,” Suhrawardy pleaded with Jinnah.[37]To Jinnah’s request he replied on 17 October to say that the first draft with the penciled comments had been destroyed. In any case Jinnah had the finalized text which Gandhi “had endorsed.” Jinnah’s rejoined on 18 October that Gandhi’s letter to him of 11 October seemed to refer an earlier draft. But that hardly mattered. What mattered was the final draft endorsed by Gandhi and Nehru. Jinnah could have suggested changes. He ignored the draft. He insinuated that the earlier draft was destroyed deliberately (“in such a hurry”). Given the stakes – the interest of a minority whose cause he had fought for all his life, it is a pity that Jinnah’s distrust beclouded his vision.

Suhrawardy wrote to him, once again, on 28 October from Delhi, to point out that they were Gandhi’s “immediate reactions and were not meant as a message to you … The final suggestions are now before you, and wait your approval or reactions … I beg this of you with folded hands. Please do not leave us in the lurch … we only want you to cooperate, with the Indian Union so that the minorities conditions improve.[38]

Far worse followed when the Council of the All India Muslim League met in Karachi on 14 and 15 December 1947 for its last session to split up the Party, Jinnah insisted, against the opposition of the Leaguers from India, that the Muslim League re-establish itself in India. Jinnah said “There must be a Muslim League in Hindustan. If you are thinking of anything else, you are finished. If you want to wind up the League you can do so; but I think it would be a great mistake. I know there is an attempt. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others are trying to break the identity of Muslims in India. Do not allow it. Do not do it.”

Hussain Imam then moved his amendment: “In the resolution, ‘… in place of the All-India Muslim league, there shall be separate League organizations for Pakistan and the Indian Union,’ the word ‘shall’ should be replaced by ‘may.’” He said, ‘People here do not know the difficulties the Muslims are facing in India. They should be left free to decide their future according to the circumstances.” No one supported his amendment.

Jinnah said, “I sympathize with Mr. Hussain Imam. He has not read the resolution properly. You should constitute the Muslim League in India. If you do not, you would go back to 1906. You are forty million; you can have a leader – if not one, then two or more. We cannot give directives to you. When you are strong and Pakistan is developed, the settlement will come.”

Speaking next, Mr. Suhrawardy added: “I oppose this resolution. I am amongst those who had proposed some time ago that the League should be split. So, some might be surprised at my opposition. But before we split, my concern is to do something practical about the protection of minorities. I say when our objective is achieved, then why should we not organize ourselves in such a manner that the minorities are given the opportunity, on a national basis, to join us in the same organization? If you do that in Pakistan, it would help us in the Indian Union. If you form a national body here it would strengthen the hands of Nehru and Gandhi. The AICC passed a very good resolution. We should also have passed a similar resolution.”

Abdur Rab Nishtar said, “Our two friends want to finish the League. I say if the League exists, Islam exists, Musalmans exist. We shall never allow the League to be wound up. The protection of minorities in India depends on the strength of Pakistan. We shall do all to protect them.”

Liaquat Ali Khan supported Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar. The resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority. Some ten members, including Suhrawardy and Mian Iftikharuddin, voted against it.

Liaquat Ali Khan and Mohammed Ismail, President of the Madras Provincial Muslim League, were elected as convenors for the Pakistan Muslim League and the Indian Muslim League, respectively. It was decided to hold their sessions shortly at Karachi and Madras.”[39]

Mohammed Ismail was not even a member of the League’s Working Committee. Jinnah and his colleagues did not heed the interests of Indian Muslims voiced by their representatives. It was the State interests of Pakistan that moved them. Even those interests should have prompted a positive response to Suhrawardy’s draft. Sadly, rhetoric apart, Jinnah did nothing to protect the interests of Indian Muslims.

The safeguards envisaged in the Lahore Resolution were not stipulated or negotiated with India at the time of the partition. The Lahore Resolution was torn apart at the very moment of its fulfillment. As the record shows, it followed inexorably from a conscious separation of its two vital paras in 1940 no sooner the Resolution was adopted. A promising draft Declaration as basis for an Indo-Pak accord was ignored. Khaliquzzam was reproached for not following Pakistan’s line and the Muslim League was foisted on Indian Muslims against the wishes of the Leaguers from India.


[1] A.G.Noorani is an eminent Indian scholar, legal expert and noted columnist.


[1] Vide Jinnah-Gandhi Talks;S. Shamsul Hasan, Central Office, All India Muslim League, Daryaganj, Delhi; 1944. Pp. 18 and 24; underlining mine, throughout.

[2] Ahmed, Jamiluddin; Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah; Shaikh Mohammad Ashraf, Lahore; Vol. I; pp. 30 and 43, respectively.

[3] Kaura, Uma; Muslims and Indian Nationalism; Manohar, Delhi; 1977 and Dove, Marguerite; Fortified Future: The Conflict over Congress Ministries in British India; Chanakya Publications, Delhi, 1987, an excellent but neglected work.

[4] Pakistan or the Partition of India; Thacker & Co., Ltd., Bombay; 1946; p.411

[5] Menon, V.P.: The Transfer of Power in India; Orient Longmans; 1957; p.444.

[6] Dove p. 398.

[7] Pirzada, Sharifuddin, Syed; The Collected Works of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah; Vol. III; p.321.

[8] Pirzada; Vol I, pp. 1 and 4.

[9] Zakaria, Rafiq; Rise of Muslims in Indian Politics; p. 111.

[10] Pirzada; Vol. I, p. 17.

[11] Ibid.; p. 15.

[12] Kaura; pp. 20 -21.

[13] Qureshi; Hussain, Ishtiaq; The Struggle for Pakistan; University of Karachi, 1969; p. 47.

[14] Husain, Azim; Fazl-i-Hussain: A Political Biography; Longmans, Green & Co., 1946; p.308.

[15] Pirzada; Vol. I, p.252.

[16] Pirzada, Vol. III, p.439.

[17] J. Ahmad; Vol, I, p. 39.

[18] J. Ahmad; Vol !, p. 216.

[19] Ibid., p. 242.

[20] Ibid., p. 246.

[21] Ibid., p.388.

[22] Ibid.; p.441.

[23] Ahmad; p. 256.

[24] Ibid.; p.286.

[25] Ibid.; p.371.

[26] Ibid.; p.389.

[27] Jinnah: Speechs and Statements 1947 -1948; Oxford University Press, Karachi; p.13.

[28] Noorani, A.G.; Muslims of India: A Documentary Record 1947-2000; Oxford University Press, New Delhi; 2003; p.35.

[29] Khan, Raza Mohammed; What Price Freedom, 1969; pp.321-2.

[30] Jinnah Papers; First Series, Vol. III; pp.694-7.

[31] Jinnah: Speeches and Statements 1947-48; pp.28-29.

[32] Vide an excellent account  in Vazira Fazile – Yaqoobali Zamindar; The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries and Histories; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008.

[33] Selected Speeches and Statements of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah; Research Society of Pakistan; Lahore; pp. 439-441.

[34] Khaliquzzaman, Chaudhry; Pathway to Pakistan; Longmans, Pakistan Branch; 1961; pp.410-412.

[35] Ibid., pp.409-10.

[36] Jinnah Papers 1October – 31 December 1947;First series; Vol VI, Government of Pakistan; pp.689-738.

[37] Ibid., p.712.

[38] Ibid., p.716.

[39] Pirzada; Foundations of Pakistan, All India Muslim League Documents 1906-1947; Vol. II pp.570-6.