Lahore Resolution & Minorities

Print Friendly

A.G. Noorani*

*The author is an eminent Indian scholar and expert on constitutional issues.

 

Abstract

(History has few parallels, if any, to a document of immense consequence, such as the famous Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League. It was least understood by its supporters and opponents alike and was subjected to a close textual analysis by very few. – Author)

On 23 March 1940 the All India Muslim League adopted the Resolution at its Session in Lahore. It altered the geography of the sub-continent of India and radically diverted the direction of its history from the course it had followed till then. It demanded a partition of India into two independent States. But this fundamental is all that was noticed; applauded by some and denounced by others. Hardly any understood its implications.

The Resolution ran into five paragraphs; two prefatory and three operatives. The prefatory part explained its raison d’etre but not fully. The first para was uncontroversial. Its flat rejection of the federation embodied in the Government of India Act, 1935 was music to the ears of the League’s opponent, including the Indian National Congress. The second para made two demands: (a) that “the whole constitutional plan” be “reconsidered de novo” and (b) that “the revised plan” must be “framed with their (Muslims’) approval and consent”. They must be part of the process.

These parts of the Resolution were rooted in experience. The Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had done his best to negotiate with the Congress till as late as 1938, but was rebuffed by the Congress leaders, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The former virtually refused to meet Jinnah and referred him, in a letter on 24 February 1938, almost insultingly, to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Nehru asserted that there were only two parties, the Congress and the British. Despite the snubs at the Round Table Conference in London, Jinnah entered into a pact with the Congress President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in 1934 (Vide Marguerite Rose Dove; Forfeited Future; Delhi 1987; pp. 463-46 for the text). It was based on joint electorates. Nehru discarded the settled terms of discourse since the Lucknow Pact of 1936 when he became Congress President in 1937. He said in a statement to the press on 25 April 1937 that he rejected the very idea of “a pact or alliance with Muslims or others” (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Vol.8 p. 128). Jinnah persisted, nonetheless. He propounded the two-nation theory on 12 April 1939 and advocated and demanded Pakistan on 23 March 1940.

This is a neglected phase. But it explains the raison d’etre of the Lahore Resolution. The story is best told in Jinnah’s own words set out in Jamiluddin Ahmad’s two Volumes of Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah (Sheikh Mohammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1960 and 1964). He said on 22 March 1939, almost exactly a year before the Lahore Resolution: “I have always believed in a Hindu-Muslim Pact” (Vol.1, p. 86). But no such pact was possible unless the Muslims united and wielded clout nationally.

“No settlement with majority community is possible, as no Hindu leader speaking with any authority shows any concern or genuine desire for it. Honourable settlement can only be achieved between equals, and unless the two parties learn to respect and fear each other, there is no solid ground for any settlement. Offers of peace by the weaker party always means, confession of weakness, and an invitation to aggression. Appeals to patriotism, justice and fair-play and for goodwill fall flat.

It does not require political wisdom to realize that all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper, unless they are backed up by power. Politics means power and not relying only on cries of justice or fair-play or goodwill. (Lucknow Session of the Muslim league, 1937; Vol.1; p.30; italics mine throughout). In his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University Union on 5 February 1938 he recalled his efforts in the past “at that time there was no pride in me and I used to beg from the Congress. …Having no sanction behind me I was in the position of a beggar and received the treatment that a beggar deserves.”

He went to the heart of the problem. “We in India have been brought up in the traditions of British Parliamentary democracy. The Constitution foisted on us is also modeled more or less on the British pattern. But there is an essential difference between the body-politic of the country and that of Britain. The majority and minority parties in Britain are alterable, their complexion and strength often change. Today it is a Conservative Government, tomorrow Liberal and the day after Labour. But such is not the case with India. Here we have a permanent

Hindu majority and the rest are minorities which cannot within any conceivable period of time hope to become majorities. The majority can afford to assume a non-communal label, but it remains exclusively Hindu in its spirit and action. The only hope for minorities is to organize themselves and secure a definite share in power” Paper safeguards were no good. Power-sharing was the answer – a proposition the Congress rejected then as it did after independence. (Vol1, pp. 42-43).

This, to repeat, was the heart of the problem. Nehru’s jibe that it took Jinnah long to realize that the parliamentary system was not suited to India was absurd. What worried Jinnah in 1938 has worried political leaders in other parts of the Third World which have a heterogeneous population. Unadulterated majority rule implies domination of the majority community; most notably Sri Lanka. The Tamils fought for an independent State of Eelam because they feared Sinhala domination. At one stage, however, they were prepared to consider “viable alternatives to Eelam” as an LTTE spokesman in Madras said on 20 December 1986. It was possible for “two nations to co-exist in one country”. Lebanon had a National Pact on power-sharing between its communities. The Belfast Agreement on Northern Ireland makes power-sharing obligatory between the Protestants and the Catholics. The Congress refused to share power. In 1937 it asked Muslim League MLAs in U.P. to dissolve the party as a price for participation in a Coalition with the Congress. Ever the tactician, Jinnah held that “if you start asking for sixteen annas in a rupee there is room for bargaining.” (Vol.1; p. 415; 13 September 1942).

The Lahore Resolution was adopted in this context. Its three operative paras read thus: “Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, 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.

“That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specially provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them and in other parts of India where the Mussalmans are in a minority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.

“The Session further authorizes 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, communications, customs and such other matters, as may be necessary.” (Source: Resolution of All-India Muslim league from December 1938 to March 1940, published by (Nawabzada) Liaquat Ali Khan, Honorary Secretary, All-India Muslim league, Delhi, pp.47-48).

That even a highly educated person like Begum Shaista Subrawardy Ikramullah imagined that, under the Resolution, Delhi could form part of Pakistan shows how little understood was the first operative para, with its contradictory terms, and particularly its reference to “territorial adjustments”. None had given the slightest hint of their location and scope.

Half a century later she wrote: “For millions of persons like myself to whom Delhi was synonymous with Muslim culture, a Pakistan without Delhi was a body without a heart, and yet this is what was going to happen. In Bengal, Calcutta, the main port, and the lifeline for East Pakistan, was also to be lost, and there was no time to do anything about it. Events had got out of control and there was a Kafka-like atmosphere about the whole thing.

“Why the Quaid accepted what he himself had earlier rejected as a moth-eaten and truncated Pakistan, is the subject for a book in itself. Here it suffices to say that he did accept it. Minorities in India seem to have been left to their fate – no provision or agreement had been reached as to what would become of them. It was the Muslim minority in India who had led the movement for Pakistan, but when Pakistan came into being they were left behind.” (Huseyn Shaheed Subrawardy; Oxford University Press, Karachi; p.59).

The second para of the Resolution envisaged “adequate effective and mandatory safeguards” for minorities … “in consultation with them” in both States. While this was linked to the first para on the partition it did not explicitly stipulate what provision for safeguards would form an integral part of the partition settlement.

Least noticed was the last para which spoke of “assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defence, external affairs, communications, customs and such other matters as may be necessary.” This clearly implied an interim set up during the transition. But safeguards for the minorities did not find a place along with defence, foreign affairs, etc. On 27 February 1944 Jinnah himself defined the transitional period. “There would be under the new constitution transitional period for settlement and adjustment during which time British authority so far as armed forces and foreign affairs are concerned, would remain paramount. The length of the transitional period would depend on the speed with which the two peoples and Great Britain adjusted themselves to the new constitution. Finally, the two Indian nations would enter into treaties with Britain, just as Egypt did when she won her independence.” (Ahmad; Vol.1; p.585). The promise in the last para of “a scheme of constitution” in accordance with these basic principles remained unfulfilled. The Congress never asked to see it either.

There were doubts among the League leaders regarding the fate of the minorities under the Lahore Resolution. The Nawab of Chhatari, wrote to Jinnah on 16 October 1940: “even the Lahore resolution will not solve the problem because the Muslims in the minority provinces will suffer in any case”. Jinnah assured him on 22 October: “the resolution made it quite clear that we cannot leave the Muslims in the Hindu provinces to their fate” and asked him to come out “with a definite scheme of his own” which he promised to consider before making a final decision in this regard. Choudhary Khaliquzzanan was also restive despite his support to the Lahore resolution.

The Constitution Committee of the League set up in March 1939 apparently went into hibernation. The Foreign Committee did all the running. Finally on 23 December 1940, Sir Abdullah Haroon submitted its Report to Jinnah as “Chairman, Foreign Sub-Committee” of the League.

The report contained a precious nugget in paragraph 16 which read: “The Lahore resolution of the League does not look forward to the proposed regional states assuming immediately as they are formed, powers of defence, external affairs, customs etc. This argues that there should be a transitional stage during which these powers should be exercised by some agency common to them all. Such a common co-coordinating agency would be necessary even independent of the above consideration, for under the third principle of the resolution, it will be impossible to implement effectively the provision of safeguards for minorities without some organic relationship subsisting between the states under the Hindu influence. A federation is not to the taste of the Muslims, because they fear that the Hindus will, on the strength of their majority, dominate the Muslims. But since some common arrangement is essential to the fulfillment of the provisions of the resolution, an agreed formula has to be devised whereby the Muslims shall have the control at the Centre on terms of perfect equality with the Non-Muslims.”

This agency would have solved Jinnah’s dilemma of old. On relations between the two parts of India the Report said that “the subjects to be assigned to this central machinery shall be (a) External relations, (b) Defence, (c) Communications, (d) Customs, (e) Safeguards for minorities and voluntary inter migration etc. subject to the following provision in respect of defence and intermigration.” It went too far and cast an unfortunate gloss on para 16. Each State would have its own Army but, ‘the Navy will be entirely under the Centre’.

There is every reason to believe that Jinnah, the hard-headed lawyer, would have separated the wheat from the chaff and used the nugget in Para 16 of the Report constructively – if only it had been kept under wraps so as not to tie his hands. It was to be discussed by the Working Committee on 22 February 1941. On 18 February The Statesman reported the contents – an obvious leak by a scheming member. The meeting was postponed. Jinnah disowned the committee and its report. (Mohammad Aslam Malik, The Making of the Pakistan Resolution, Oxford University press, Karachi, 2001, pp. 199-200, 224-5, and 228-9. This is based on Quaid-i-Azam Papers, File 242, pp. 33-5. The texts merit close study, Vide Malik, p. 199 – vide A.G. Noorani, The Haroon Report, Criterion, Vol. III, No.4, pp. 64-75).

Prof. R. J. Moore’s works on India’s politics since 1937 are noted for their erudition. His scholarly essay Jinnah and the Pakistan Demand traces the genesis of the demand. (Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 17, 4[1983] pp. 529-561). So does Ayesha Jalal in her fine work The Sole Spokesman; (Cambridge University Press; 1984). The lead was taken by the Sind Provincial Muslim League under the leadership of Sir Abdullah Haroon. Jinnah was “disquieted” by the demand and had the resolution modified to ask for “a review.” In his famous article in Time and Tide, as late as on 19 January 1940, he wrote: “What is the remedy? (1) The British people must realize that unqualified Western democracy is totally unsuited for India and attempts to impose it must cease. (2) In India, it must be accepted that party government is not suitable and all governments, Central or provincial, must be governments that represent all sections of the people.” He wrote: “there are in India two nations which both must share the governance of their common motherland” so that “India may take its place amongst the great nations of the world”. (Ahmad; Vol. 1; pp. 123-124). This was approximately a mere two months before the Lahore resolution.

In his speech at the Lahore session in 1940 demanding Pakistan, Jinnah argued: “There is no reason why these states should be antagonistic to each other. On the other hand, the rivalry and the natural desire and efforts on the part of one to dominate the social order and establish political supremacy over the other in the government of the country will disappear. It will lead more towards natural good-will by international pacts between them, and they can live in complete harmony with their neighbours. This will lead further to a friendly settlement all the more easily with regard to minorities by reciprocal arrangements and adjustments between Muslim India and Hindu India, which will far more adequately and effectively safeguard the rights and interests of Muslims and various other minorities.” (ibid.; p.160).

On 10 March 1941 Jinnah said at Aligarh: “As a self-respective people, we in the Muslim minority provinces say boldly that we are prepared to undergo every suffering and sacrifice for the emancipation and liberation of our brethren in regions of Muslim majority. By standing in their way and dragging them along with us into a united India we do not in any way improve our position. Instead, we reduce them also to the position of a minority. But we are determined that, whatever happens to us, we are not going to allow our brethren to be vassalised by the Hindu majority. But the fact is that the creation of these independent states will be the surest guarantee for the fair treatment of the minorities. When the time for consultation and negotiations comes the case of Muslims in the minority province will certainly not go by default.” (ibid; p.242).

But his rhetoric underwent change as he pursued the demand. He said at Kanpur on 30 March 1941 that 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. (ibid.; p.246).

He pleaded for the Muslims in the Hindu majority provinces at the Delhi Session of the Muslim League on 24 April 1943: “Do not forget the minority provinces. it is they who spread the light when there was darkness in the majority provinces. It is they who were the spearheads that the Congress wanted to crush with their overwhelming majority in the Muslim minority provinces. It is they who had suffered for you in the majority provinces, for your sake, for your benefit and for your advantage. But never mind, it is all in the role of a minority to suffer. (Cheers) We of the minority have suffered and are ready to face any consequences if we can liberate the 75 millions of our brethren in the north-western and eastern zones.” (ibid.; p.477). He spoke as one who had consistently championed the cause of Muslims in non-Muslim majority areas. Events drove him to become head of a State of the Muslim majority areas as its Governor-General of Pakistan.

The Cripps proposals of 1942 provided for the signing of a Treaty between India and Britain inter alia “for the protection of racial and religious minorities”. Para 19 of the Cabinet Mission’s Plan of 16 May 1946 provided “A preliminary meeting will be held at which the general order of business will be decided, a chairman and other officers elected and an Advisory Committee on rights of citizens, minorities and tribal and excluded areas set up. Thereafter the provincial representatives will be divided up into three sections shown under A, B and C in the Table of Representation in sub-paragraph (i) of this paragraph. …

“The Advisory Committee on the rights of citizens, minorities and tribal and excluded areas will contain due representation of the interests affected and their function will be to report to the Union Constituent Assembly upon the list of fundamental rights, clauses for protecting minorities, and a scheme for the administration, of tribal and excluded areas, and to advise whether these rights should be incorporated, in the provincial, the group or the Union constitutions.”

But, there was not a word on the minorities in the Partition Plan of 3 January 1947. Instead of a transitional period the process was rushed through leaving the minorities in the lurch. All that they got were mere assurances in a statement by the Partition Council on 22 July 1947. It said: “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 the 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.

“The guarantee of protection which both governments give to the citizens of their respective countries implies that in no circumstances will violence be tolerated in any form in either territory. The two governments wish to emphasise that they are united in this determination.” (V.P. Menon; The Transfer of Power in India; pp. 408-9).

A vital part of the Lahore Resolution on the minorities was ignored. After independence, none exerted himself more for the minorities than H.S. Subrawardy. He laid his heart bare in a letter to Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman on 10 September 1947 (Khaliquzzaman; Pathway to Pakistan; pp. 397-9). He wrote to Jinnah and Gandhi and proposed a Draft Declaration which reads thus: We hereby solemnly and sincerely declare that it is the aim of the Dominions of India and Pakistan to promote peace and friendship between the Dominions and its inhabitants and to cooperate for the well-being of each other and to assist each other in every possible way so that the prosperity of each may be promoted and the relationship of the two Dominions be based on neighbourliness and mutual reliance.

  1. We further declare that we consider peace and unity amongst the various communities within the two dominions essential for the preservation of independence and for reaping the full fruit thereof; that all the communities together go to make a nation, that they have to live with each other as one family within each State, pledging unstinted and unswerving loyalty to the State in which they live.
  1. It is our considered opinion that separate communal and theocratic States are undesirable and in course of time are bound to lead to a perpetual conflict; that disunity and disorder amongst the peoples make economic progress impossible and is bound to impoverish the Dominions to such an extent that they will not be able to improve the lot of the common man. The Dominions are likely, under these circumstances, to lose their independence and will stand eternally disgraced in the eyes of the world.
  1. We further declare that we renounce war for all time as the method of settling disputes between us. We deprecate the issue of provocative statements and aspersions attacking the bona fides of each other and containing charges and counter-charges which only tend to embitter feelings and give an incorrect impression that the relationship between the two Dominions are strained and may at some future time lead to an armed conflict.
  1. We further solemnly declare that it shall be our endeavour to put down disorder and lawlessness with a firm hand. We demand impartiality and a high sense of duty from the officials of both the Dominions and shall take the strongest measures against officers and other Government personnel who do not perform their duties with absolute impartiality and without fear or favour.
  1. We hereby guarantee to the minorities within our Dominions fullest protection of life, property, culture, religion, language and customs and declare that there shall be no discrimination between the communities by virtue of their caste, creed or religion, that we shall deal with all the people within our Dominions equally and justly.
  1. We call upon the people of the Dominions to shed any tendency towards militancy or violence, to rid themselves of mutual hatred and distrust, to live in friendliness with their neighbours, and for the majority to assume responsibility for protecting the minorities and their rights.
  1. We hereby call upon the press to cooperate with us in stressing the need for peace and unity, cooperation and trust, and cease to publish stories and accounts – factual or otherwise – of incidents that may tend to excite communal hatred and bitterness. Only such accounts of incidents should be printed as have had the imprimatur of a Joint Board set up by the Dominion Governments.
  2. In order to ensure cooperation between two Dominions as well as to minimize occasions for misunderstanding we have decided to set up joint committees of representatives of the two Dominions, which will be stationed in various important places in the country and whose duty it will be 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, not only between the peoples but also between the two Dominions. These representatives will be given diplomatic privileges and assured the safety of their person by the Dominion or State in which they happen to discharge their duties.
  3. In order to obviate misunderstandings and to enable us to take joint and quick decisions, and to cooperate on all matters which may promote our mutual welfare, we have decided to maintain constant contact with each other, and for this purpose the Ministers of the Dominions as well as of the Provinces of the Dominions shall meet together as often as possible and shall visit any part of any Dominion as they may deem advisable.
  4. For the purpose of instilling confidence in the minorities we have decided to ensure that the services are not exclusively manned by the personnel of one community but that we have therein an adequate mixture of all communities. This shall, as soon as possible, be made applicable to all the branches of the service including the Police and the Army.
  5. We also desire, in order to give further confidence to the minorities and to recognize their right to participate in the administration that the Ministries should include representatives of the more important minorities.
  6. The events that have occurred in both the Dominions have been a stain on civilization. We greatly regret that we have not been able to afford that protection to the people, which it is the duty of all governments to ensure, and we extend our deepest sympathies to those who have suffered. It is not easy for people who have been victims of atrocities or have lost their near and dear ones, whose lives have been scared and dislocated, to forgive and forget, but we have to urge upon them to do so, as any other alternative will lead to a continuance of untold miseries on innocent and unoffending persons who desire to live in friendship and amity with each other. We assert that there is no other alternative and we must not allow lawlessness to spread further and invade new territories. We must now proceed to establish a brighter future for the people of the two Dominions. For those who have had to leave their homes, it shall be our endeavour to re-settle them in their original homes and to protect them fully; but where such re-settlement is not desired then to rehabilitate them in new surroundings. We strongly disapprove of migrations from one part of the country to the other or of transfer of populations from one part of the country to the other or of transfer of population as being detrimental to the future welfare of the two Dominions.
  7. We strongly condemn the acts of brutality which have been perpetrated by various sections of the people against each other and in particular we condemn forcible conversion and abduction of women. We consider that forcible conversion is no conversion at all and is not sanctioned by any religion. We call upon all persons forcibly converted to go back to the religion which they professed, and the people around them to see that they are in no way molested, but are allowed the fullest liberty to practice their religion, consonant with the common law of the land and good manners. We declare that we shall take the strongest action against those who put any impediments in this way. We consider it shameful and cowardly to attack defenceless women and desire that all women abducted should be returned to the members of their community as soon as possible.
  8. For the better attainment of peace, unity, and harmony and toleration among the peoples of our Dominions, and for putting down disorder and lawlessness and ensure impartial and just administration, we consider it not only highly desirable but necessary to enlist the cooperation of the public. We urge upon them to form Peace Committees in all cities and villages which would be composed of such members of all communities as feel the urge to secure peace and harmony and are ready to make sacrifices in this cause. Such Committees should be set up as early as possible and will form a meeting ground whereby constant contact [and] mutual confidence may be restored, cooperation ensured and the forces of lawlessness and disorder effectively checked. Each of these Communities should have under their control a number of peace volunteers who will prevent miscreants from creating mischief and carry on constant propaganda in favour of peace and goodwill and toleration and brotherliness. Such peace volunteers should be drawn from members of all communities pledged to work with each other in amity and discipline. We trust that the members of the public will respond to our request, give us their cooperation and lay the foundations of peaceful and progressive States that will find an honoured place in the comity of nations.” (Jinnah Papers; First Series; Vol.6, pp. 689-738).

Unfortunately Subrawardy had goofed in mentioning to Jinnah, Gandhi’s endorsement in an earlier draft which he did not provide to Jinnah for reasons which he explained in his memoirs. “While staying with Mahatma Gandhi I busied myself drawing up a charter of minority rights which would be useful for the Muslims in India and for the Hindus in Pakistan. During this period I was traveling continuously between Delhi, Lahore, Karachi and Calcutta. After discussing the matter with Mahatma Gandhi I approached Jinnah for his opinion and approval. his immediate reaction was that I should get the acceptance of the Indian leaders. Mahatmaji agreed to my draft as did Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel. When I again saw Jinnah he wanted the written acceptance of Mahatma Gandhi before he would consider it, although he agreed that such a charter would be a useful document. Mahatma Gandhi thereupon endorsed my draft which, to the best of my recollection, was to the effect that he agreed with the draft though he considered it somewhat prolix, but doubted that Jinnah sincerely meant to abide by it.

“I made the mistake of showing the endorsement of Gandhiji to Jinnah who flared up upon seeing it; he refused to consider the document and handed it back to me. The next day Jinnah wanted the document back and said he wanted particularly to see the endorsement of Mahatma Gandhi. I could see that if Jinnah had the document in his possession he would work himself up into a tearing rage and start another feud with Mahatma Gandhi which would destroy all hope of any agreement on this important issue and might further complicate matters between India and Pakistan and increase the tension that already existed between the two leaders. I begged leave of Jinnah not to hand over the document to him and left Karachi. For this Jinnah never forgave me.” (Mohammad H. R. Talukdar (Ed.) Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Subrawardy; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2009; p.109).

Suhrawardy’s folly and Jinnah’s wrath fall in one part. The deplorable part is Gandhi’s mean and petty comment on one whom he would publicly praise as Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah faced an apparent contradiction which was inherent in the situation but was resolvable. It was to reject strong Centre and yet have a say on the minorities in the non-Muslim majority areas to which he initially owned his rise. It could have been resolved in one of two ways – a limited Centre which gave the minority’s protection plus a voice on their behalf to their co-religionists elsewhere or a treaty with proper “adequate effective and mandatory safeguards” as envisaged in the Lahore Resolution.

Having rejected the Act of 1935 Jinnah had to evolve an alternative. If not the Act, “precisely what alternative did Jinnah propose”, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, kept asking. He reported to the Secretary of State, Lord Zetland, on 28 February 1939 on his meeting with Jinnah: “a couple of days ago … I asked him what suggestions he had to make, to which he replied that, while he did not reject the federal idea, it must be a federation which would ensure an adequate equipoise between Muslim and Hindu votes, and in which there should be an appropriate balance between the communities. I asked him how he contemplated securing this, to which he replied that he had in his mind the manipulation of territorial votes and the adjustments of territorial divisions as to bring it about. He blushed a little as I pressed the implication of these suggestions upon him, but in the end maintained that at any rate his project for the carving up of this country was a better one than Sikandar’s.” In plain words, a sharing of power on the basis of equality.

As Ayesh Jalal notes: “There were contradictions between Muslim interests in majority and minority provinces, and between an apparently separatist demand for autonomous Muslim states and the need for a centre capable of ensuring the interests of Muslims in the rest of India. At no point was Jinnah able to reconcile these contradictions. He came away from Lahore not with a coherent demand which squared the circle of these difficulties, but simply with the right to negotiate for Muslims on a completely new basis.” (pp. 59-69). She writes: “In October, 1942, that is after the Cripps offer, Choudhry Khaliquzzaman wrote to Jinnah about the potential disadvantages of such ‘territorial readjustments’; he stressed the importance of retaining links between the Pakistan areas and the minority provinces; ‘Long and hostile distances will intervene against the cultural influences of the minority provinces on the Pakistan Zone.’ Moreover, ‘one of the basic principles lying behind the Pakistan idea is that of keeping hostages in Muslim Provinces as against the Muslims in the Hindu provinces. If we allow millions of Hindus to go out of our orbit of influence, the security of the Muslims in the minority Provinces will greatly be minimized.’ ” (See Khaliquzzaman to Jinnah, 7 October 1942, SCH/U.P. vol. IV and Choudhry Khaliquzzaman, Pathway to Pakistan (Lahore, 1961), pp. 424-7).

On 6 and 25 April 1948 the Cabinet Mission offered Jinnah a choice between a limited Centre and Pakistan with its present boundaries. He preferred the former. It is little noted that the proposals which Jinnah gave to the Mission on 12 May 1946 provided for a Centre. “The six Muslim provinces (Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan, Sindh, Bengal and Assam) shall be grouped together as one group and will deal with all other subjects and matters except Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communications necessary for Defence, which may be dealt with by the Constitution-making bodies of the two groups of provinces-Muslim Provinces (hereinafter named Pakistan Group) and Hindu Province – sitting together. … In Group and Provincial Constitution fundamental rights and safeguards concerning religion, culture and other matters affecting the different communities will be provided for.” (Papers Relative to the Cabinet Mission and India, 1946, Government of India Press, 1946, pp. 20-3).

That explains why he accepted the Mission’s Plan of 16 May 1946. Gandhi wrecked it single handedly the very next day. The Congress obediently followed him. Mountbatten pushed through the partition of India with frenetic speed. Two crucial paras of the Lahore Resolution were ignored – on the minorities and a transition (the last 2 paras). The minorities question was not raised. They have suffered a lot.