A. G. Noorani*
(In all the annals of predictions of dire consequences which came true there is scarcely any parallel to Azad’s in its wealth of detail all of which came true and haunt us to this day. Only a truly great intellect and a man whose erudition gave him those insights could have spoken thus.
Dr. Zakir Hussain considered him the most intelligent man he had ever met (interview to the writer in July 1967). Even after Azad’s faults and failings are reckoned in a fair balance, his greatness stands out. It was left to Zakir Hussain to strike that balance in his funeral oration as Azad was laid to rest near the Jamia Masjid in Delhi: Unki Khamia hum sub men hai, unki khoobian hum kisi mey nahi – “We all have his failings; none of us has his qualities.”).
“Maulana Azad was in the Congress and with it throughout his political career, but he never thought it a moral obligation to agree with the Congress as a party. Particularly in the years after independence he stood out as one who could be relied upon for absolute impartiality of judgement and for an unimpeachable integrity. He was too aloof to concern himself with persons, too intellectual to relish political small talk, too proud to think in terms of alliance, affiliation or opposition. He was a statesman who would not accept the normal functions of a politician, and he was so engrossed in principles that he could not become an efficient administrator. He had to be taken for what he was, with no credentials other than his personality.” – M. Mujeeb; The Indian Muslims; George Allens & Unwin; 1967; p. 442.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was one of the most complex personalities India produced in the last century. He was a truly learned man, a devout Muslim, a consistent champion of freedom from British rule and an advocate of Hindu Muslim unity. Both as a man of learning and a politician he had grave failings and his contradictions in each field did not make it easier to understand him.
In perhaps the only definitive study in English of this towering figure, Ian Henderson Douglas, an English Christian missionary who served in Lahore and as Director of the Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies, now at Hyderabad, in India,- has struggled to grapple with his personality and writings (Abul Kalam Azad: An Intellectual and Religious Biography, Oxford University Press; 1988). It is edited by Gails Minault, and an erudite missionary Christian W. Troll, S. J., who wrote an able work on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. (Sayyid Ahmed Khan: A Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology; Vikas, New Delhi; 1978). To him is owed credit for presenting to English readers his translation of Azad’s essay on Sarmad the Martyr which he wrote in 1910. It reveals a lot of Azad (Christopher Shackle (ed.) Urdu and Muslim k; South Asia; SOAS, London, 1989; pp. 113-128).
Besides Douglas’ book, there are many works in English on Azad’s writings on Islam including translations of his magnum opus Tarjuman al-Qur’an by Syed Abdul Latif; (Asia, Bombay, 1962 and 1967, Vols.1 and 2; Vide a critical essay by S.A. Kamali of the Institute of Islamic Studies, Montreal entitled Abul KIalam Azad’s Commentary on the Qur’an; The Muslim World; Vol. XLIX, 1959; pp. 5-18).
Ali Ashraf and a few others contributed refreshingly original papers, at a conference in New Delhi in 1989, which are published in Islam and Indian Nationalism, (edited by Mushirul Hasan, Manohar, 1992). Ali Ashraf held that the Tarjuman “remained incomplete. The third volume was not published, even though there is definite evidence (mostly in his correspondence) to show that the translation and commentary had been completed. Part of it was even calligraphed” Azad suppressed it. (ibid; p. 116).
The first volume was published in 1931 covering Surahs 1 – 6 including his magnificent commentary on Surat-al-Fatiha which Azad considered as the epitome of the entire Qur’an. Volume 2 concerning Surahs 2 – 23, was published in 1936. In prison (1942-45); Asaf Ali and Syed Mahmud begged of him to complete the work; unaware of its suppression apparently. (Douglas; 201).
Azad’s personality has been the subject of much comment and he provided considerable grist to the mills of detractors. Read this from his Preface to the First Edition of the Tarjuman which he wrote in District Jail, Meerat on 16 November 1930. “The subject has engaged my mind seriously over a long period of 27 years. Every chapter of the Qur’an, every part of it, and indeed every verse and every word of it has obliged me to traverse innumerable valleys and to counter numerous obstacles.
there is not, I believe, any corner of the Qur’anic knowledge and of all that has been written so far on the problems which it raises, which I have left unsearched and unnoticed. Distinction is, no doubt, usually made between the old and the new learning. But, in my search for truth, this distinction has never counted with me. The old I have received as my heritage, and the new is as familiar to me as the old, and I have delved in both: “I have been in life a libertine and a man of piety too. One by one, I can easily recognize – alike the pious and the libertine.
“What my family traditions, my education and my social environment had offered me in the making of my mind, I was from the very beginning of my life, reluctant to rest content with. The bonds of inherited dependence on the past could not hold me under. The zest of search for truth never forsook me. There is hardly a single conviction in me which has not had to bear the stings of doubt, or a single belief which has not faced the test of denial. I have gulped in poison, mixed with every draught applied to my lips, and have also administered to myself Elixir coming forth from every quarter. Whenever I felt thirsty, my parched lips did not resemble the lips of others who were equally thirsty, and when I quenched my thirst, it was not from the same fountain as others did.” (Vol. 1; pp. xlii – xliii) This is of a piece with Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s claim that he was a “cold blooded logician” implying that emotions which swayed lesser mortals left him alone. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vanity and arrogance are legendary. M. K. Gandhi’ professions of humility were deceptive. He revelled and relished being called a Mahatma “Let them not put up with it because I am Mahatma (Collect Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG); Vol. p. 89 p. 458 and 238) and his intolerance of dissent wrecked democratic functioning of the Indian National Congress.
Azad’s monumental ego was little different from that of his contemporaries. In consequence South Asia suffered a lot. His gravitas was as belatedly acquired as that of the very clubbable Jinnah once he became the Quaid-e-Azam. Azad “was apparently in social relationships, jovial and good humoured.” His talent in giving persons apt nicknames suggests that. Nehru, an admirer, noted mischievously that he had “specially cultivated a look of venerable age to give a suitable background to his great learning” (Autobiography; Oxford University Press; p. 175).
Nehru’s assessment of Azad recorded in his Prison Diary on Christmas Day 1942 is a delight to read: “How different we are from each other – a varied assortment of Indian types! Maulana is in many ways an astonishing person. His fund of knowledge is truly vast. His mind is keen as a razor’s edge and his commonsense strong. He and I are in some ways – in outlook, approach on life &c – as the poles apart. Yet I get on very well with him and there are very few persons whose opinion & advice on public or private matters I would value more. He is difficult to get into, and has a thick superficial covering which conceals the inner contents. Glimpses of the inner person surprise one continually. He is a curious combination of the old & the new. Perfectly familiar with the new world, in so far as one can be so through books, his background is still eighteenth century or thereabouts. He adopts that to modern conditions, and does so remarkably well, but that background remains. There is something big in him – both as a scholar and man of action – Still there is something lacking which prevents him from bearing rich fruit as he should. Fine thinker and magnificent writer as he is, with vast stores of information at his disposal, he should have turned out a host of splendid books. Yet his record is a very limited one. As a man of action also his record would have been a far more dominating one but for that lack of something. Is he too philosophical or too cynical or too sensitive? He is all that and yet the lack is of something else. I do not quite know what “Perhaps it is a certain vital energy, the force of life that must out, that Maulana lacks. Perhaps he grew up too soon and was much too precocious. He is not old now by any means and yet there has always been a ripe maturity about him and it is difficult to think of him as a wild and passionate youth. When he was fourteen he was considered an accomplished scholar and, I think, he delivered lectures on logic & philosophy at that age! His intellect grew at the expense of other aspects of his nature. Not that he is at all austere or stoically indifferent to the world’s ways. He is human & full of humour.“It is passion that he lacks. He is too intellectual, too cultured, to be carried away. Life must become rather a tame affair without passion.” (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, First Series; Vol. 13, pp. 38-39). If Nehru had read Azad’s Tazkira he would not have found it difficult to think of him as a passionate youth. Azad almost revelled in confessing to his pursuit of carnal pleasures.
Azad was against launching the Quit India Movement. Yet went along with the party. Events proved Gandhi’s folly. Nehru wrote: “During all this period how splendidly Maulana has behaved, like the perfect and very gallant gentleman he is – and that is more than can be said about myself. He has never complained, never found fault with others and always tried to cheer up people. Having taken a step deliberately, he is fully prepared to accept all the consequences that flow from it, without murmur or complaint, even though that step was, in some ways, against his own judgment. Later happenings have justified him. Every criticism he made, during our long deliberations from May to August last, is now seen to have been correct. Yet he never points this out or even refers to it.” (ibid. pp. 89-90). Traits such as these influence conduct. This is not an essay on Azad’s outlook on Islam. One point is in order. It is submitted that in the last century there was a remarkable surge of global interest in Islam. Iqbal received more attention than anyone else from South Asia. Azad did not receive much. (However, vide J.M.S. Baljon; Modern Muslim Koran Interpretation, (1880-1960); E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1968 and Kenneth Cragg, The Pen and the Faith : Eight modern Muslim writers and the Qur’an; George Allen & Unwin, 1985; pp. 14-32 on Azad).
This is an essay on Azad’s politics. His personality and, indeed, his worldview are relevant only in so far as they explain his politics. The essay on Sarmad reveals a traditional background, a rebel and a romanticist; a poet at heart blessed with a keen intellect. Read this on Sarmad: “Throughout the thirteen centuries of Islam the pen of the jurists has been an unsheathed sword and the blood of thousands of truthful persons stains their verdicts (fatwa). From whichever angle you study the history of Islam, countless examples will illustrate how whenever a ruler came to the point of shedding blood, the pen of a mufti and the sword of a general rendered him equal service. This was not confined to the Sufis and nobles for those ulema who were close to the seers of the mysteries of truth and reality also had to suffer misfortunes from the hands of the jurists and in the end obtained deliverance in giving their lives. Sarmad, too, was martyred by this same sword. ….”
He was summoned before the ulema and asked to recite the kalmia. “The emperor (Aurangzeb) said this because it had been brought to his notice that one of Sarmad’s strange habits was to pronounce, in reciting the kalima only the first half of it: la ilaha. So, when the ulema asked Sarmad to recite the kalima, he recited, as usual with him, only la ilaha, which is a negative statement. When the ‘ulema became excited over this, he said: ‘I am still absorbed in negation. I have not yet reached the stage of affirmation. If I pronounce illa llah, it will be as lie, and how can what is not in the heart pass on the tongue?”
On this Azad makes the perfect comment “Witness (shahadat) in the true sense is the appearance of Truth itself. That had not yet been granted to Sarmad. So why should he have declared ‘it exists’ concerning
something he had not yet seen. All those who are on their way to this realm have to traverse this station. Sarmad’s crime was that he drank that cup in public which others drink in private. This earned him the censor’s whip “Deeper reflection shows that this public declaration was necessary. Since the final station on this journey was martyrdom, it was the duty of the camel-rider to direct the camel which might go astray anywhere in that very direction:“When they gave Mansur the permission to declare (the Truth), It was on condition of punishment and harsh imprisonment.” (Shackle; pp.124-125).
Jinnah and Azad began their political journeys from opposite poles. They met mid-way in the mid-twenties but parted company a decade later. Jinnah began with the Congress and went on to lead the Muslim League. Azad began with the Muslim League and twice became President of the Congress; but never led it. Neither in his writings on Islam nor in his politics was Azad free from contradictions, except on two fundamental on which he never wavered. One was uncompromising opposition to British rule; the other was Hindu-Muslim unity.
For quite some time, Azad’s journal Al-Hilal shunned politics. The fifth issue of 8 September 1912 carried a long article entitled “Reply to a Letter Concerning The Objections and Political Teachings of Al Hilal.” It stated: “You observe that political questions should be kept separate from religion. But if they are separated what will remain with us? We have learnt our political ideas also from religion. .. We believe that every idea which is derived from any source other than the Qur’an is sheer heresy, and this includes also politics … Islam has given to man a complete and comprehensive law, and there is no problem of human life for which it does not provide a solution… According to our belief, a Muslim who is in his practice and faith accepts any party or teaching other than the Qur’an as his guide, is a heretic and not Muslim…”
Earlier in January 1904 while editing Lisan-al-Sidq he had dubbed the Congress a Hindu body (Ali Ashraf, Mushirul Hasan, pp. 105 and110). This was the Pan-Islamist phase “No movement confined to a country, no local movement can today benefit Islam; (or) the Muslim… nation, which is spread from the deserts of Arabia to the Chinese Wall. In fact whatever ‘local endeavours are being made today whether in Egypt or Turkey, or in this land of darkness that is India, are all according to my belief made under the spell of that great sorcerer, the Satan.’” (ibid. p. 107).
Ali Ashraf records “Carried away by the spell of his own words, Azad had proposed that the three million rupees collected for the (Aligarh Muslim) University Fund be diverted in aid of the victims of Italian aggression in the War of Tripoli.” (ibid., p. 107). He advocated establishment of an Imarat (leader of the State). He held “The Book (i.e., the Qur’an) and the Traditions of the Prophet teach us three fundamental principles of collective life:
1. All should unanimously agree on a learned and enterprising Musalman to make him their Imam;
2. They should truly and sincerely accept all his teachings;
3. They should unquestioningly obey and implement all his directives based on the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Traditions.
“The tongues of all should be speechless, only he, the Imam, should be speaking. The minds of all should be closed, only his mind should operate. The people should have neither tongues, nor minds, but only hearts which should accept (what is told) and hands and feet to toil and work and run about.” (ibid., p. 111, citing Khutbat-e-Azad, Malik Ram d(ed.); Sahitya Academy, New Delhi; 1974; pp. 130-131). But this consolidation had a purpose not dissimilar to Jinnah’s efforts after 1937 to organize the Muslim League in order to forge a pact with the Congress in emulation of the Lucknow Pact 1916 which he had co-authored with Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Even when he dubbed the Congress a Hindu body this very goal was very much present in Azad’s mind. (Douglas; p. 60 and 141).With the lack of realism, characteristic of his politics at this stage, Azad encouraged moves to install him as Imam al-Hind ignoring the presence on the scene of ulema far more senior to him. He appointed provisional khalifas to accept baiat (pledges of loyalty) on his behalf. (Douglas, p. 171).
The demagogy had unfortunate consequences. Mohammed Sarwar, biographer of Ubaidullah Sindhi and a staunch critic of Abul Ala Maudoodi bemoaned the fact that Azad’s writings during this phase had strengthened the Jamaat’s ideas. (Mushirul Hasan, p. 117; citing Mohammad Sarwar, Maulana Maudoodi ki Tahreek-e-Islami; Sind Sagar Academy, Lahore; vide the Chapter on Azad).In later years Azad’s writings acquired a vogue in Pakistan where critics denied his claim that he was always an Indian nationalist. (Douglas; p. 142). In truth, consistency was not his forte; as Douglas remarks “The fact is that, during the al-Hilal period, Azad tried to have it both ways” (ibid., p. 151).He was present at the Muslim League’s foundation meeting at Dacca on 31 December 1906. His name first occurs in the record of the proceedings of the League’s Fifth Session at Calcutta in March 1912 when he spoke in support of a motion that sought to accept G. K. Gokhale’s Elementary Education Bill, which Mohammed Shafi opposed. He objected to Azad’s remark that “only title-holders and members of the Council were opposing the Bill in order to show their loyalty.” Azad’s heart was in the right place; not so, his tongue. (Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan; National Publishing House; 1969; Vol. I p. 254).At the League’s Agra Session in 1913 Azad made a strong speech in Urdu demanding the immediate repeal of the Press Act. He is described as “Editor of al-Hilal” (ibid., p. 314). Jinnah participated in the proceedings though he formally joined the League only in 1913. The famous Lucknow session held in 1916 criticized orders of internment against Azad.in a speech by Abdul Latif Ahmad as Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Calcutta Session of the League in January 1918. “Like his father of revered memory, the Maulana also had devoted himself solely to the life of a teacher and preacher of Islam. For politics he never cared, and so far as I am aware, he never allowed himself to be dragged into it. His activities were mainly confined to the compilation of works on religion and imparting religious instruction to his disciples. But the all-knowing C.I.D. suddenly discovered that his presence here in Calcutta was dangerous. A memorial signed by over 70,000 Musalmans of Bengal was sent to the Government for the cancellation of the order.” (ibid., p. 403).When he next actively participated in the League’s Session he had acquired greater fame. In December 1913, when the Congress met in Karachi, Azad criticized the Muslims for their past aloofness from it. He commended the previous year’s League session in Bombay and urged Muslims to cooperate with Hindus (Douglas; p. 145). Till 1936, the Congress permitted dual membership of the members of the League and the Hindu Mahasabha.
Azad met reverses on several fronts. The Khilafat Movement fizzled out and was sunk in scandals of financial irregularities. His project for imamat got nowhere. In his presidential address to the Jamiat ul-Ulema- e-Hind he urged the ulema as a body to fulfill the functions of a union. But he was not elevated Imam ul-Hind. All that the Jamiat did was to appoint a sub-committee to consider the election of an Amir al-Hind. (Douglas; p. 172). He had toyed with ideas of jihad, an armed rebellion which never left him even in 1942 – as well as hijrat, migration to Afghanistan.As with Gandhi’s trial and imprisonment in 1922 after a foolish prosecution, Azad’s trial and imprisonment in 1922 added cubits to his stature. (Vide A.G. Noorani; Indian Political Trials; Oxford University Press, New Delhi; 2005, for accounts of both trials, respectively at 223-237 and 213-222).on 1 and 15 July 1921 and was sentenced, on 9 February 1922 to a year’s imprisonment. Azad’s written statement was not made in defence to the charge but in defiance of the regime he detested. Published in Urdu under the title Qaul-e-Faisal (The Last Word) even in an English translation, imperfectly attempted by this writer, the magnificence of this neglected masterpiece, one of the best ever by any accused in a political trial, stands out, as these excerpts show. “History bears witness that whenever the ruling powers took up arms against truth and justice, the Court-rooms served as the most convenient and plausible weapons. The authority of courts of law is a force which can be used for both justice and injustice. In the hands of a just government it becomes the best instrument for attaining right and justice. But, for tyrannical and repressive government, there is no better weapon for wreaking vengeance and perpetrating injustice.“Next to battlefields it is in the court-rooms that some of the greatest acts of injustice in the history of the world have taken place. From the holy founders of religions to inventors and pioneers of science, there is no movement for piety or truth which was not arraigned before criminal courts. Doubtless, the revolution which time has brought about ended any excesses. I accept that in modern times we have none of the terrible outrages of 2 AD in the Courts of Rome or the tortures perpetrated during the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. But I am not prepared to accept that our times are free from the emotions which moved those courts. Fort sure, their edifices have been pulled down here were preserved dreadful weapons of torture. But who can change those hearts in which are buried the fearful secrets of human selfishness and injustice? “The list of injustices committed by courts is a very long one. History continues to mourn them to this day. In that list we find a holy personage like Jesus Christ who was made to stand with thieves before a strange Court of his times. We find it in Socrates who was sentenced to drink a cup of poison for no other reason than that he was the most truthful person in his country. We find also the name of the great martyr to truth of Florence, Galileo, who refused to belie what he knew and the court of his time. ”Islam enjoined rejection even of a Muslim government which is not brand or the will of the people. “I finish my statement in the words of Gardino Brono, the famous martyr of Italy, who was also made to stand before the court like me: ‘Give me the maximum punishment that can be awarded without hesitation. I assure you that the pain that your heart will feel while writing the order, not a hundredth part of it will be felt by me while hearing the judgment.’ “Mr. Magistrate, I will not take any more time of the Court. It is an interesting and instructive chapter of history in which both of us are together engaged. The dock has fallen to our lot and to yours the magistrate’s chair. I admit that this chair is as much necessary for this task as this dock. Let us finish this memorable job. The historian waiting for us and the future has long been waiting for us. Allow us to come here often and you may also continue to write your judgments. This will go on for days till the doors of another court are flung open. It will be the Court of the Law of God. Time will be its judge and will write its judgment. And its verdict will be final.” (Noorani; pp. 217-220). By then he had cast his lot with the Congress leaders Gandhi and Nehru. After a year in prison he accepted an invitation to preside over the Congress’ special session in Delhi on 15 December 1923; the youngest to preside over that body. In his presidential address Azad made a stirring appeal and a false claim; neither the first nor the last of its kind. He said: “Today, if an angel were to descend from the heaven and declare from the top of the Qutab Minar, that India will get Swaraj within twenty-four hours, provided she relinquishes Hindu-Muslim unity, I will relinquish Swaraj rather than give up Hindu-Muslim unity. Delay in the attainment of Swaraj will be a loss to India, but if our unity is lost, it will be a loss for entire mankind.” But referring the Muslims’ aloofness from the Congress he claimed: “Those of you who have been studying changes in Muslim corporate life during the last twelve years know that mine was the first voice raised in to the fact that by persisting in the policy of aloofness they were making themselves an impediment to the freedom of the country. I said, they should trust their Hindu brothers, abandon the policy of communalism, join Congress, and make the country’s freedom their ultimate goal. At that time my message was not well received by my Muslim brethren. I found strong opposition to my views. But not long after that the Muslims recognized the truth. In 1916, when I was interned at Ranchi, I heard that a large number of Muslims were entering the fold of Congress.” (Syeda Saizzyidain Hameed; India’s Maulana, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Vikas Publishers 1990; Vol. 1 pp. 145-146). Significantly there was not a word about Jinnah’s role in this transformation. “He found it hard to tolerate Muslim rivals,” Douglas records (p. 258), a trait which lasted all his life. Saifuddin Kitchlew resented it as did Dr. Zakir Husain. Douglas adds “His response to Jinnah’s growing political success was to try and ignore him” (p. 258).
Douglas makes a valid point about the change such as it was. Its seeds very much lay in Azad’s earlier outlook. He was always opposed to British rule and as relentlessly advocated Hindu-Muslim cooperation. Yet the shift was unmistakable. “Co-operation with Hindus had always been a part of Azad’s political thought, but it only entered the realm of action after 1920. His readiness in 1923 to take his place in the Congress political machinery represented a distancing of himself from his former desire to become the Imam of Indian Muslims, and a new awareness of the significance before God of daily participation in political affairs. Azad was accepted in the councils of the Congress as a devout Muslim, not because he had any large block of supporters, but because of his personal wisdom, moral courage and integrity. This was religion in politics in a new sense, not the claim of al-Hilal that the Qur’an gives specific guidance for all political decisions, but contribution to political life by a man who was deeply motivated by religion.” (Douglas; p. 192). Within the Congress, Azad cut a vastly diminished figure in comparison to the highly respected Dr. M .A. Ansari. The Ali Brothers,though estranged from the Congress, nevertheless counted for a lot in Muslim affairs. Not till the mid-thirties did Azad acquire a political role of any significance. In the crucial debate on the Nehru Report, he did not count for much. Meanwhile he had continued to participate in the League’s deliberations even after he had become the Congress’ President; but even more actively in the Congress whose leaders gave him greater prominence. He toured extensively with Congress leaders. On 31 July1926 Azad and Motilal Nehru issued a Manifesto which proposed the establishment of an “Indian National Union” (S.A.l Tirmizi; Maulana Azad, Commonwealth Publishers, Delhi, 1991; p. 16). In 1930 he published a Manifesto jointly with Dr. M. A. Ansari on behalf of the “Nationalist Muslim Party” (Mushirul Hasan (ed.) Muslims and the Congress; Manohar, 1979; p. 91).
The Muslim League was not neglected; though. Azad was a nominated member of a Committee “to formulate the Muslim demand” regarding representation in the legislature and public services. The resolution was proposed by Jinnah and adopted unanimously. Among those who were present on the dais were Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, Annie Besant, Vallabhai Patel, Justice Shah Mohammad Suleman Sharif Devji Canji was Chairman of the Reception Committee (Pirzada; Vol. II; pp. 1 and 28). At the Calcutta Session of the League in December 1917, Barkat Ali, who was close to Jinnah, moved a resolution to authorize the Council to set up a sub-committee to confer with the Working Committee of the Congress on the basis of certain proposals set out in the resolution. It may be recalled that, to secure a better deal for Muslims in the minority Provinces, the Lucknow Pact had reduced their representation in Punjab and Bengal. Azad delivered a speech which bears recalling. The records reads: “Maulana Abul kalam Azad declared that by the Lucknow Pact they had sold away their interests. The Delhi proposals of last March opened the door for the first time to the recognition of the real rights of Musalmans ensured Muslim representation, but what was vital for the existence of the community was the recognition of its numerical strength. Delhi opened the way to the creation of such a state of affairs as would guarantee them a proper share in the future of India. Their existing small majority in Bengal and the Punjab was only a census figure; but the Delhi proposals, for the first time, gave them five provinces of which no less than three (Sind, the Frontier Province and Baluchistan) contained a real overwhelming Muslim majority. If the Muslims did not recognize this great step, they were not fit to live. There would now be nine Hindus provinces against five Muslim provinces; and whatever treatment Hindus accorded Muslims in the nine provinces, Muslims would accord the same treatment to Hindus in the five provinces. Was not this a great gain? Was not a new weapon gained for the assertion of Muslim rights? ”Jinnah also supported the resolution as did Sarojini Naidu. (ibid.; p.122). Azad’s support to the Nehru Report widened the divide between him and the League which had become weaker after the split in 1927. Two Volumes of the Tarjuman were published in 1930 and 1936. When on 10 May 1936 Dr. Ansari breathed his last, Azad became the principal spokesman of Congress Muslims. The Government of India Act, 1935, which conferred autonomy and responsible government on the Provinces, came into force on 1 April 1937. General Elections followed and the Congress assumed power in most of the major Provinces. Douglas is not the only one to note that Azad began to play a “conspicuous role in politics” after 1937. (p. 196).From that year till 1946 his energies were directed towards breaking up the Muslim League – besides, of course, his opposition to foreign rule and by means which were far from lofty. There are two major errors of recollection in his posthumously published memoir India Wins Freedom (Orient Longmans; 1959; pp. 160-161). Both concern the Congress’ arrogance of power; in 1937, when it refused to share power with the League in the U.P. and in 1946 when it acted likewise in wrecking the Cabinet Mission’s Plan. For both Azad blamed Nehru (pp. 160-161). On both, he was privy to the decision. on The Constitutional Problem in India (Oxford University Press, 1946, Vol. II; p. 111) which establishes that inebriation with power did not spare the Maulana, accustomed famously to other potent intoxicants. The document is reproduced in full with Coupland’s comments: “The League, it appeared, would be admitted to the Ministry only on terms, and, after lengthy discussion behind the scenes and in the Press, these terms were communicated to the Provincial League leader, Mr. Khaliq- uz-zaman, not by the presumptive Premier, Pandit Pant, but by Maulana A.K. Azad, a Bengali Moslem member of the Congress Parliamentary Sub-Committee. They were as follows:
‘The Moslem League group in the United Provinces Legislature shall cease to function as a separate group.‘The existing members of the Moslem League Party in the United Provinces Assembly shall become part of the Congress Party, and will fully share with other members of the Party their privileges and obligations as members of the Congress Party. They will similarly be empowered to participate in the deliberations of the Party. They will likewise be subject to the control and discipline of the Congress Party in an equal measure with other members, and the decisions of the Congress Party as regards work in the legislature and general behaviour of its members shall be binding on them. All matters shall be decided by a majority vote of the Party; each individual member having one vote.
‘The policy laid down by the Congress Working Committee for their members in the legislatures along with the instructions issued by the competent Congress bodies pertaining to their work in such legislatures shall be faithfully carried out by all members of the Congress Party including these members.
‘The Moslem League Parliamentary Board in the United provinces will be dissolved, and no candidates will thereafter be set up by the said Board at any by-election. All members of the Party shall actively support any candidate that may be nominated by the Congress to fill up a vacancy occurring hereafter.
Congress Party and offer their full and genuine co-operation with a view to promoting the interests and prestige of the Congress.‘In the event of the Congress Party deciding on resignation from the ministry or from the legislature the members of the above-mentioned group will also be bound by that decision.’To the published statement of these terms Maulana Azad appended a short note‘It was hoped that, if these terms were agreed to and the Moslem League group of members joined the Congress Party as full members, that group would cease to exist as a separate group. In the formation of the provincial Cabinet it was considered proper that they should have representatives.’ ” Chaudhry Khaliquzzam’s memoirs belie Azad’s claims. (Pathway to Pakistan; Longman, Pakistan, 1961; pp. 160-3).Azad next tried to wean away Punjab’s Premier, Sikandar Hyat Khan and others from the League. In July 1940 this formed the subject of an acrimonious correspondence between Jinnah and Sir Sikandar. The League’s executive had decided on 16 June that no member should hold discussions with any Congress leader without the permission of the President. Jinnah wired to the Premier at Delhi on 7 July that he could not agree to his seeing V.D. Savarkar “as a go-between.” This was published in the press. On 8 July Sir Sikandar wrote “Your telegram, to put it mildly, shows an utter lack of decency and sense of proportion.” Jinnah replied on 1 August citing repeated disclosures by “Mr. (sic.) Abul Kalam Azad” about his talks with Sir Sikandar. (S.Qaim Hussain Jafri (Ed.) Quaid-i-Azam; Correspondence with Punjab Muslim League; Aziz Publishers, Lahore, 1977, pp. 366-369).
Azad was disturbing an already rudely disturbed hornet’s nest when he wired to Jinnah on 12 July 1940 and received a savagely insulting reply, which no provocation can justify. “Confidential. Your July 19 statement ; The Congress Delhi resolution definitely means by National Government a composite Cabinet not limited to any single party.
But arrangement not based on the two-nation scheme? If so, please clarify by wire.” Jinnah replied “Your telegram. Cannot reciprocate confidence. I refuse to discuss with you, by correspondence or otherwise, as you have completely forfeited the confidence of Muslim India. Can’t you realize you are made a Muslim ‘show-boy’ Congress President to give it colour that it is national and deceive foreign countries. You represent neither Muslims nor Hindus. The Congress is a Hindu body. If you have self-respect resign at once. You have done your worst against the League so far. You know you have hopelessly failed. Give it up.” (S.S. Pirzada (ed.) Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s Correspondence; East and West Publishing Companys, Karachi, 1977; p. 33).
Jinnah’s instant publication of the wire ensured swift assassination of character – the epithet “showboy” stuck – and diminished Azad’s standing in the eyes of his admirers in the League.To his great credit, Azad never retaliated. The Congress made him President a second time and he delivered a Presidential address at the Ramgarh session in March 1940 – around the same time as the League’s historic session at Lahore where it demanded Pakistan. It was, as one might expect, an oratorical tour de force. Politically it carried little weight. The president attributed to his party principles it had rejected after the 1916 pact; most notably on the Nehru Report. Azad could not have been unaware of the fact. He, nonetheless, claimed: “Congress has always stood by two basic principles, and every step it has taken has accorded to them, clearly and categorically. 1. Any constitution that is framed in future for India, must contain the fullest guarantees for the protection of the rights and interests of the minorities. 2. What are the necessary safeguards for the protection of the rights and interest of the minorities? This judgement rests with the minorities and not the majority. The safeguards must, therefore, be formulated by their consent, and not by majority vote.” (Hameed; p. 156.).
Azad opposed Gandhi’s Quit India movement, in 1942 but, incorrigibly romantic, advocated that as “the British army withdrew towards Bihar, the Congress should step in and take over the control of the country … to oppose the new enemy (Japan) and gain our freedom” (Azad; p. 73).Common to the pleas of both Gandhi and Azad was the relegation of the League to an irrelevance. Once in power, the Congress would decide what to offer to the minorities.
Prison life and personal proximity brought home to Azad and colleagues like Asaf Ali and Syed Mahmud that Vallabhbhai Patel distrusted them profoundly and had no use for them. In 1942, Azad joined Nehru in opposing any talks with Jinnah (For details vide M. Asaf Ali; Memoirs: The Emergence of Modern India edited by G.M.S. Raghavan; Ajanta, 1994; p. 315). Once out of prison in 1945, Azad made a bold move; not for talks with Jinnah, but for a unilateral declaration by the Congress which should undercut Jinnah’s position. In doing so he showed an appalling lack of realism in two respects; the Congress leaders would have no truck with his proposals and Jinnah was too securely established as the Quaid-e-Azam to be weakened by anything the Congress or Azad said or did. One encroaches on the reader’s – and the editor’s – patience in reproducing those revealing documents; but for reasons not hard to understand, they have received little publicity. They are reproduced in full here with prefaces and the rest.
Sir Evan Jenkins was the Viceroy Lord Wavell’s Private Secretary. George Abell was his deputy who succeeded him as Private Secretary after his appointment as Governor Punjab. On 25 August 1945 Jenkins wired to Abell “I have just seen copy of intercepted scheme for Hindu-Muslim compromise sent by Azad to Gandhi on 2nd August. In covering letter Azad says Congress must find means to remove Muslim suspicious and must have definite policy on Muslim question. He thinks an Arbitration Committee feasible, but as a preliminary “all the Muslim organizations that are outside the Muslim League should fully organize themselves and come to a decision about the future constitution.” The Congress should then accept this decision and with these Muslim organizations should stand firmly by it. Azad encloses a memorandum in which he sets out his own ideas emphasizing that he gives them in his personal capacity and not (repeat not) as Congress President.
communal problem and say that it is useless to enter into the causes of it or to apportion the blame for it. The Muslims are afraid and their fears can be removed only by devising a scheme under which they will feel secure. Any attempt to form a unitary government will fail. Partition will also fail and is against the interests of the Muslims themselves.” As an Indian Muslim Azad regards partition as a defeatist policy and cannot accept it.
The memorandum then gives the following “rough outline”:- Begins.
(a) The future constitution of India must be federal with fully autonomous units in which the Central subjects must be only of an all-India nature and agreed upon by the constituent units.
(b) The units must be given the right of secession.
(c) There must be joint electorates in both the Centre and the Provinces with reservation of seats at such differential franchise as may be needed to make the electorates reflect the strength of population of the communities.
(d) There must parity of Hindus and Muslims in the Central Legislature and the Central Executive till such time as communal suspicion disappears and parties are formed on economic and political lines.
(e) There should be a convention by which the Head of the Indian federation should in the initial period be Hindu and Muslim by turn. Ends.
“With reference to this outline, memorandum observes that belief in strong Centre as essential for unity is no longer tenable as example of Soviet Union shows. Joint electorates would probably be accepted both by Hindus and Muslims in the Provinces as the majority community has nothing to fear and the minority community is able to influence the decision of the majority. Muslims might be afraid of joint electorate at the Centre, but with parity in the Central Legislature and Executive and the grant to Provinces of the right of secession, their fears would be groundless. Azad expresses the belief that on careful consideration, Muslims would accept his scheme.
“Memorandum ends with appeal to Azad’s Hindu friends “to leave entirely to Muslims the questions of their status in the future constitution of India.” If Muslims are satisfied that a decision is not (repeat not) being imposed upon them by non-Muslim agency, they will drop partition and realize that their interests are best served “by a federated and united India.” Azad adds that once Indians acquire power, economic, political and class interests will oust communal interests.
I am sending copy of papers by tomorrow’s bag. Azad is clearly uneasy and perhaps fears that unless Hindu Congress leaders take a new line, nationalist Muslims will desert them. The suggestion which appears both in the letter and in the memorandum that the status of Muslims in the future constitution of India must be left to Muslims is a version of Jinnah’s claim for self-determination. I am sure that in the present state of communal feeling Muslims would not accept joint electorates at the Centre or in the Provinces. Otherwise Azad’s scheme goes a long way to meet Muslim demands though it will not satisfy Jinnah or the League.”
On 28 August Jenkins wired to Abell, Gandhi’s reply: “Following is text of intercepted letter dated August 16th from Gandhi to Azad.
Begins. On receipt of your letter today I sent you the following wire: “Your letter I think should not be published. Writing fully.”
“I do not infer from your letter that you are writing about my Hindus. Whatever you have in your heart has not appeared in your writing. But don’t worry, we will talk the matter over when next we meet, if you so desire. Whatever you want to say about the communal problems should not be said without consulting the Working Committee. I also am of the opinion it would be better to keep quiet. The party can give its opinion after consultations with you. They have the right to do so. Besides it is their duty. My opinion differs from your (sic). I cannot say if I attach any importance to the Hindu and Muslim (convention). What the Congress may do is another matter. I don’t like the idea of a Hindu and a Muslim alternately (acting as Head of the State). It means that members of other communities will be barred. All this needs careful pondering over. I do not feel the urge to do anything hastily. Ends. Copy follows by bag. This is not very encouraging for Azad.” (Transfer of Power 1942-1947; Vol. VI; pp. 155-157 and 172).
Azad wrote to Patel as well, on the same lines on 13 August 1945 – concede the right to secede from the Union. He intended to place the idea before the public and the Congress executive. Patel asked him to desist from doing so and convene a meeting of the Working Committee. Azad told Patel: “time has now come when the Muslim nationalists should reorganize themselves and place their point of view before the Muslims in general. This, however, they will be able to do only when this point is made absolutely clear.” He cited the Congress 1942 resolution in his support. (G.M. Nandurkar (Ed.); Sardar’s Letters – Mostly Unknown-I, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Nidhi; 1977, pp. 171-2).
The move could not have failed to deepen the distrust which Gandhi and Patel had for him. Party discipline scotched the President’s move. Note that he did not urge conciliation with Jinnah but an appeal to Muslims over his head. Azad was largely responsible for drumming up the opportunistic Congress-Unionist – Akali Coalition in Punjab in 1946 which Nehru found distasteful. (Ian Talbot, Khizr Tiwana; Curzon 1996; p. 148). The League was the largest single party with 75 seats in a House of 175. A League Ministry could not have lasted. The best course was Governor’s Rule. It would have avoided the deep bitterness created by Azad’s coalition and controlled the carnage in 1947 much better.
Azad resented Jinnah’s ascendency, as if he had deprived him of his leadership. He resented Gandhi calling him Quaid-e-Azam and was out to defeat Jinnah by wooing the Muslims over his head; not to settle with him which was the only way to avert partition. Azad had persisted cautiously. This time he went public. In a statement issued on 15 April1946 he criticized the two-nation theory and the demand for Pakistan, focusing on Muslims in the minority provinces. “They have had their homelands in these regions for almost a thousand years and built up well-known centres of Muslim culture and civilization there. They will awaken overnight and discover that they have become aliens and foreigners. Backward industrially, educationally and economically they will be left to the mercies of what would then become an unadulterated Hindu raj.“On the other hand, their position within the Pakistan State will be vulnerable and weak. Nowhere in Pakistan will their majority be comparable to the Hindu majority in the Hindustan State. In fact, their majority will be so slight that it will be offset by the economical, educational and political lead enjoyed by non-Muslims in these areas. Even if this were not so and Pakistan were overwhelmingly Muslim in population, it still could hardly solve the problem of Muslims in Hindustan.” He offered his recipe “full autonomy to the provincial units and vesting all residuary power in the provinces. It has also provided for two lists of Central subjects, one compulsory and one optional, so that if any provincial unit so wants, it can administer all subjects itself except a minimum delegated to the Centre.” (Azad; pp. 143-144). The Congress’ stand in the parleys with the Cabinet Mission and on its Plan of 16 May 1946 belies his assurance. But the Maulana’s greatest disservice to history lies in fathering the legend that it was Nehru’s famous outburst on 10 July 1946 which led to the collapse of the Cabinet Mission’s scheme. A gullible public has come to accept this, abetted by indolent students of the period. But the Maulana presided over the Working Committee which passed a resolution on 24 May 1946 placing its disingenuous interpretation of the grouping formula of the Mission’s scheme. The letter of 24 June conveying to the Mission the Congress’ acceptance of the scheme, but as interpreted by itself, went over his signature. Finally, on 26 June the Maulana publicly and defiantly declared, “I am convinced that the collapse to Nehru’s statement is to falsify history. Much before that, both the Cabinet Mission (25 May) and Jinnah (27 June) had taken exception to the Congress interpretation. (Vide P.M. Chopra (Ed.) Maulana Azad: Selected Speeches and Statements 1940-1947, Reliance Publishing House, New Delhi; 1990, p. 154-7 for the text of his statement of 27 June 1946 in support of the Congress’ “interpretation”. Vide also Papers Relating to the Cabinet Mission to India 1946, Manager of Publications, Delhi for texts of the other documents).
Azad’s ire was at the loss of his Congress Presidency which he tried to retrieve later but was stopped by Gandhi. The collapse of the Mission’s Plan led inevitably to the partition of India which Azad dreaded and Jinnah tried to avert. But Azad unwisely lent himself to a stratagem in concert with Nehru which affected his standing. Gandhi’s Secretary Pyarelal wrote a series of articles in Indian Express (12 August 1967) entitled “The Mahatma’s emissary – a rejoinder”). It was a reply to one Sudhir Ghosh.
Pyarelal all but accused Azad of deception. “It would appear that even before the Cabinet Mission’s letter of invitation (to the Simla Conference in 1946) had come up before the Working Committee, Maulana Saheb, whom they had consulted, had on his own and without the knowledge of his colleagues sent off a letter to the Cabinet Mission in which he said that he was confident of being able to carry the Congress Working Committee with him in regard to the proposal (an embryo of their Plan). And to this they had also replied in writing.“Taking it for granted that Maulana Azad’s colleagues must know about it, they mentioned casually to Gandhiji that it was only after receiving Maulana Azad’s letter that they had issued their invitation. Early on the morning of April 29, Gandhiji wrote a letter to Maulana Saheb which he said: “Last night I heard from Pethick Lawrence that you had written to them suggesting some changes in their letter and that they had also sent you their written reply. What is this? …” He then went on to the question of the Congress Presidentship for which no election had been held since Maulana Saheb had presided over the session at Ramgarh in 1940. Someone had sent Gandhiji a press clipping in which it had been hinted that the Maulana Saheb was bent upon continuing as Congress President but that he (Gandhiji) stood in the way. Enclosing it to Maulana Saheb, as early as April 20, Gandhiji had written to him that though he had not made public his opinion, he had told a couple of members of the Working Committee who had asked him about it that he did not consider it desirable that the same person should continue as President so long “But Maulana Saheb, it would appear, wanted on his own authority to extend the life of the existing Working Committee with himself as President, till the following November. Referring to it Gandhiji wrote: “Even if you have to continue (as President) it would be improper to do so by a ruling. To carry on by a ruling is dangerous. If to continue (as President) becomes a duty, a fresh election will be necessary. This is a matter for deep thought.”The truth was revealed only in 2002 when Peter Clarke published his biography The Cripps Version The Life of Sir Stafford Cripps, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press). He wrote “Azad called to admit that he had not shown the Working Committee his first reply to the invitation to Simla; nor, therefore, could he show them the Delegation’s subsequent response to him on the proposed agenda without revealing his earlier omission. His (Cripps) own unguarded references at the round pool to a correspondence with Azad had alerted Gandhi to its very existence letters which Azad then solemnly told the Mahatma he had never written. Gandhi was naturally upset at this discrepancy. .. Cripps now determined to reveal all – whatever the embarrassment to Azad. Cripps acceded, moreover, to Gandhi’s request to be shown the correspondence with Azad. … This letter from Azad has survived in Cripps’s papers. It is handwritten – by Nehru, as Cripps must immediately have recognized, though signed by Azad. By the same token, it must also have dawned on Cripps that, if Azad had been acting behind the back of Gandhi and the Working Committee, so too had Nehru, at least to the extent of trying to cover up for his friend.“Not the least revelation for Gandhi, for whom Nehru had often acted as amanuensis, must have been this demonstration of his protégé’s complicity in the process. Little wonder that Nehru was out of sorts …” (pp. 421-2).
In retrospect, Azad tried desperately, if vainly, to get the Congress to accept some alternative to partition, but failed. As late as in April 1947 he begged Viceroy Mountbatten to revive the Mission’s Plan. It “could be made to work” but “a truncated Pakistan would spell disaster for the Musalmans” (ToP; Vol. X, p. 215).
It was not Gandhi but Azad who was the most consistent and ardent opponent of the partition of India. On 24 July 1947 Gandhi gave vent to his pent up resentments and urged Nehru to exclude Azad from the first Cabinet of free India, adding, as if it fortified his view, “Sardar is decidedly against his membership.” So, “name another Muslim for the Cabinet.” Nehru wisely rejected this advice (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 88, p. 408). Nehru used Azad but did not heed his advice. As H.M. Seervai records by mid 1946. “Azad ceased to have an effective voice in shaping Congress policy.” (Partition of India; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2005; p. 64). It is doubtful if he ever did.
India was partitioned and its two parts, India and Pakistan, won independence not only amidst strife and bloodshed but with dire prospects of continued estrangement. This could have been averted had the Congress led by Gandhi not sabotaged the Cabinet Missions Plan. This is not to say that Jinnah was blameless (Vide the writer’s Jinnah and Tilak; Oxford University Press; Karachi; 2010 for a detailed appraisal).
The record shows that Azad’s main exertions since 1940 lay in undermining the League. He was against a rapprochement with it. In the negotiations with the Mission, he, with Nehru’s support, sought in April1946, just prior to the Simla Conference, to by-pass the rest and press on for its nascent formula. But he still did not support the crucial element, the grouping of Muslim provinces. There is nothing to suggest that he did so even within the Congress leadership. The formula he put forth in April 1946 stood no chance and he asserted that the Congress’ dishonest now been even more marginalized. All the same, he never, even for once, pleaded for a settlement with the League. When the consequences of the Congress’ arrogant folly became apparent, he turned to Mountbatten in desperation, hoping against hope, that the partition, now imminent, could be stalled.
It is important to remember all this in any fair appraisal of Azad’s politics. Critics and admirers have no use for nuances. But no student of his politics should ignore them. It is not an easy task to strike a fair balance. How does one explain this record of the one person who saw it all coming? Do not the deep insights render the inaction more culpable? And there was more than inaction; he supported the Congress stand. The attempt in his memoirs to pin the blame on Nehru alone is disingenuous.
Azad’s assessments were truly deep and they were expressed in a notable interview with brilliance and prophetic insights. It was in a long interview to Shorish Kashmiri which Covert magazine (Delhi) published in an English translation and Friday Times (Lahore) reproduced under a wrong date April 1946. We owe it to Rajendra Sareen, an Indian journalist from Lahore, who knew Azad, for first drawing attention to the document in an article in The Tribune of 20 August 1990. He records three meetings. The first was in March or April 1946 at Faletti’s Hotel in Lahore. Azad listened to a group of “non-League Muslim admirers” who mentioned the Muslims’ grievances which were the rationale of the two-nation theory. He replied “What you have said makes it clear that there is absence of communal understanding, but the question that must be faced is whether it is desirable or not.” (Apne jo farmaya us se zahir hai ki Hindu-Musalman ittehad mafqood hai. Magar ap ne yeh nahin farmaya keyeh maqsood hai ya nahin). His interlocutors had no answer. Second, a group of Ahrar leaders led by Shorish Kashmiri called on the Maulana at New Delhi in late June 1947, after the decision to partition India had been finalized. They asked what would be the result. The Maulana said: “Muslims would suffer a social and political setback in India; Islam, as it has grown in India over the last so many centuries, would lose its character in Pakistan. (Hindustan main mussalman aur Pakistan main Islam ka Ganga Jamuni dhara majrooh hoga)
“On the point that partition had become inevitable given the hostility among the Hindus and Muslims, the Maulana observed that all that the partition would achieve is that the domestic antagonisms would acquire an international character. International animosities become long lasting and turn fatal. It was his view that the situation would be tailor made to attract expansionist powers to intervene and aggravate tensions between India and Pakistan. (Taqseem se sirf yeh hoga ki adavaten jo aj dakhli hai kal bainul aqwami ho jayengi. Beinul aqwami adavaten bahut muhlak aur der pa hoti hain. Is halat mein Hindustan aur Pakistan istaimari taqton ki amajgah ban jayenge).“It was in May 1948 or thereabout that I asked Maulana Azad as to why he decided to go along with partition, given his firm conviction that it was wrong. His answer was that his being right would have lost all meaning if it were to become instrumental in disrupting the cohesion and unity of the national leadership. He recalled that he had equally strong feelings on Gandhiji’s view of the Second World War as India’s opportunity and Pandit Nehru also had agreed with him. But they would not let that create a cleavage in the national movement.”That explains his efforts with Nehru in April 1946 and his acquiescence in Gandhi’s gamble in 1942. Excerpts from the June 1947 interview bear recalling today – I list the predictions for good reason.
1. “If we use the Muslim League terminology, this new India will be a Hindu state both practically and temperamentally. This will not happen as a result of any conscious decision, but will be a logical consequence of its social realities. How can you expect a society that consists 90 percent of Hindus, who have lived with their ethos and values since prehistoric times, to grow differently? The factors that laid the foundation of Islam in Indian society and created a powerful following have become victim of the politics of partition. The communal hatred it has generated has completely extinguished all possibilities of spreading and preaching Islam. This communal politics has hurt the religion they had taken their lessons from the Qur’an and the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and had not forged communal politics in the name of religion then Islam’s growth would not have halted. By the time of the decline of the Mughal rule, the Muslims in India were a little over 22.5 million, that is, about 65 percent of the present numbers. Since then the numbers kept increasing. If the Muslim politicians had not used the offensive language that embittered communal relations, and the other section acting as agents of British interests had not worked to widen the Hindu- Muslim breach, the number of Muslims in India would have grown higher. The political disputes we created in the name of religion have projected Islam as an instrument of political power and not what it is – a value system meant for the transformation of human soul.
2. “The way the leadership of Muslim League is conducting itself will ensure that Islam will become a rare commodity in Pakistan and Muslims in India.” (He was wont to say Muslims will become exiles in India and Islam will become an exile in Pakistan). “You will see that despite the increased role of Ulema, the religion will lose its sheen in Pakistan.”
3. “Pakistan, when it comes into existence, will face conflicts of religious nature. As far as I can see, the people who will hold the reins of power will cause serious damage to Islam.”
4. “Now as I gather from the attitude of my own colleagues in the working committee, the division of India appears to be certain. But I must warn that the evil consequences of partition will not affect India alone, Pakistan will be equally haunted by them.”
5. “This hatred will overwhelm the relations between India and Pakistan. In this situation it will not be possible for India and Pakistan to become friends and live amicably unless some catastrophic event takes place. The politics of partition itself will act as a barrier between the two countries. It will not be possible for Pakistan to accommodate all the Muslims of India, a task beyond her territorial capability. On the other hand, it will not be possible for the Hindus to stay especially in West Pakistan. They will be thrown out or leave on their own.”
6. “The prominent Muslims who are supporters of Muslim League will leave for Pakistan. The wealthy Muslims will take over the industry and business and monopolize the economy of Pakistan. But more than 30 million Muslims will be left behind in India. What promise does Pakistan hold for them? The situation that will arise after the expulsion of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan will be still more dangerous for them.”
7. “Pakistan itself will be afflicted by many serious problems. The greatest danger will come from international powers who will seek to control the new country, and with the passage of time this control will become tight. India will have no problem with this outside interference as it will sense danger and hostility from Pakistan.”
8. “The other important point that has escaped Mr. Jinnah’s attention is Bengal. He does not know that Bengal disdains outside leadership and rejects it sooner or later. During World War II, Mr. Fazlul Haq revolted against Jinnah and was thrown out of the Muslim League. Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy does not hold Jinnah in high esteem. Why only Muslim League, look at the history of Congress. The revolt of Subhas Chandra Bose is known to all. … The environment of Bengal is such that it disfavours leadership from outside and rises in revolt when it senses danger to its rights and interests. The confidence of East Pakistan will not erode as long as Jinnah and Liaquat Ali are alive. But after them any small incident will create resentment and disaffection. I feel that it will not be possible for East Pakistan to stay with West Pakistan for any considerable period of time.”
9. “The language, customs and way of life of East Pakistan are of Pakistan cools down, the contradictions will emerge and will acquire assertive overtones. These will be fuelled by the clash of interests of international powers and consequently both wings will separate. After the separation of East Pakistan, whenever it happens, West Pakistan will become the battleground of regional contradictions and disputes. The assertion of sub- national identities of Punjab, Sind, Frontier and Balochistan will open the doors for outside interference.”
10. “The incompetent political leadership will pave way for military dictatorship as it has happened in many Muslim countries.”
11. “By demanding Pakistan we are turning our eyes away from the history of the last 1,000 years and, if I may use the League terminology, throwing more than 30 million Muslims into the lap of “Hindu Raj.” The Hindu Muslim problem that has created political tension between Congress and League will become a source of dispute between the two states and with the aid of international powers this may erupt into full scale war anytime in future.”
12. Azad told a group of Muslims from UP who were about to leave for Pakistan: “You are going away from your motherland. Have you reflected on its consequences? Your fleeing from here will weaken the Muslims of India and a day might well come when the present people of Pakistan will rise to assert their individual identities. Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch, and Pathan will claim separate nationalities. Will not your status in Pakistan then become precarious and helpless as that of uninvited guests?” (Wattan, Delhi, March 1948; reproduced in Kamalistan (Delhi), Special issue on Maulana Azad; March 1986).
Twelve precise predictions all of which came true. This says a lot for Azad’s wisdom, surely. He admitted that Muslims alone were not to blame and paid a tribute to Jinnah publicly for the first line. “Muslims alone are not responsible for it. This strategy was first adopted by the British government and then endorsed by the political minds of Aligarh. Later, Hindu short-sightedness made matters worse and now freedom has become contingent on the partition of India.“Mr. Jinnah himself was an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. In one Congress session Sarojini Naidu had commended him with this title. He was a disciple of Dadabhai Naoroji. He had refused to join the 1906 deputation of Muslims that initiated communal politics in India. In 1919 he stood firmly as a nationalist and opposed Muslim demands before the Joint Select Committee. On 3 October 1925, in a letter to the Times of India he rubbished the suggestion that Congress is a Hindu outfit. In the All Parties Conferences of 1925 and 1928, he strongly favoured a joint electorate. While speaking at the National Assembly in 1925, he said, “I am a nationalist first and a nationalist last” and exhorted his colleagues, be they Hindus or Muslims, “not to raise communal issues in the House and help make the Assembly a national institution in the truest sense of the term.”In 1928, Jinnah supported the Congress call to boycott Simon Commission. Till 1937, he did not favour the demand to partition India. In his message to various student bodies he stressed the need to work for Hindu Muslim unity. But he felt aggrieved when the Congress formed governments in seven states and ignored the Muslim League. In 1940 he decided to pursue the partition demand to check Muslim political decline. In short, the demand for Pakistan is his response to his own political experiences. Mr. Jinnah has every right to his opinion about me, but I have no doubts about his intelligence. As a politician he has worked overtime to fortify Muslim communalism and the demand for Pakistan. Now it has become a matter of prestige for him and he will not give it up at any cost.”
Azad always had a healthy contempt for the mullah and his exploitation of religion. “Strictly speaking, Muslims in India are not one community; they are divided among many well-entrenched sects. You can unite them by arousing their anti-Hindu sentiment but you cannot unite them in the name of Islam. To them Islam means undiluted loyalty to their own sect. Apart from Wahabi, Sunni and Shia there are Small issues like raising hands during the prayer and saying Amen loudly have created disputes that defy solution. The Ulema have used the instrument of takfeer (fatwas declaring someone as infidel) liberally. Earlier, they used to take Islam to the disbelievers; now they take away Islam from the believers. Islamic history is full of instances of how good and pious Muslims were branded kafirs.”
He explained the change that came over to him. “Al-Hilal had served its purpose and a new age was dawning. Based on my experiences, I made a reappraisal of the situation and decided to devote all my time and energy for the attainment of our national freedom. I was firm in my belief that freedom of Asia and Africa largely depends on India’s freedom and Hindu Muslim unity is key to India’s freedom. Even before the First World War, I had realized that India was destined to attain freedom, and no power on earth would be able to deny it. I was also clear in my mind about the role of Muslims. I ardently wished that Muslims would learn to walk together with their countrymen and not give an opportunity to history to say that when Indians were fighting for their independence, Muslims were looking on as spectators.”
Azad had left Pan-Islamism behind him but his commitment to the faith survived as deep as ever. “Islam is a universal call to establish peace on the basis of human equality. They know that Islam is the proclamation of a Messenger who calls to the worship of God and not his own worship. Islam means freedom from all social and economic discriminations and reorganization of society on three basic principles of God-consciousness, righteous action and knowledge. In fact, it is we Muslims and our extremist behaviour that has created an aversion among non-Muslims for Islam. If we had not allowed our selfish ambitions to soil the purity of Islam then many seekers of truth would have found comfort in the bosom of Islam. Pakistan has nothing to do with Islam; it is a political demand that is projected by Muslim League as the national goal of Indian Muslims. I feel it is not the solution to the problems of Muslims are facing. In fact it is bound to create more problems.”
Amarnath Jha, the scholar, wrote of Maulana Hasrat Mohani that he gave to politics what was meant for poetry. Would it be right to say of Azad that he gave to politics what was meant for the faith? Had he chosen that path, Indian politics would have been the poorer for his absence. But a thought does arise. What if he had opted out of the Congress and spoken as “truth to power” to both parties? In all probability, neither would have listened to him, for Azad’s besetting weakness was lack of a mass base compounded by his own lack of qualities of political leadership and a narcissism that verged on the pathetic.
Lovers of Urdu acclaim Azad’s oration to the Muslims of Delhi at the Jamia Masjid on 23 October 1947. No leader taunts a demoralized people who depend on him to show a way out of their plight. Azad could not resist the temptation. “Do you remember? I hailed you, you cut off my tongue; I picked my pen, you severed my hand; I wanted to move forward, you broke my legs; I tried to turn over, and you injured my back. When the bitter political games of the last seven years were at their peak, I tried to wake you up at every danger signal. You not only ignored my call but revived all the past traditions of neglect and denial. As a result, the same perils surround you today, whose onset had previously diverted you from the righteous path.
“Today, mine is no more than an inert existence or a forlorn cry; I am an orphan in my own motherland. This does not mean that I feel trapped in the original choice that I had made for myself, nor do I feel that there is no room left for my aashiana (nest). What it means is that my cloak is weary of your impudent grabbing hands. My sensitivities are injured, my heart is heavy. Think for one moment. What course did you adopt? Where have you reached, and where do you stand now? Haven’t your senses become torpid? Aren’t you living in a constant state of fear? This fear is your own creation, a fruit of your own deeds.” Self-indulgence in excess is. No real leader speaks thus.So he went on in this strain. His language was often florid. “Today, you fear the earth’s tremors; once you were virtually the earthquake itself. Today, you fear the darkness; once your existence was the epicenter of radiance. Clouds have poured dirty waters and you have hitched up your trousers. Those were none but your forefathers who not only plunged headlong into the seas, but trampled the mountains, laughed at the bolts of lighting, turned away the tornados, challenged the tempests and made them alter their course. It is a sure sign of a dying faith that those who had once grabbed the collars of emperors, are today clutching at their own throats. They have become oblivious of the existence of God as if they had never believed in Him.“Brothers! I do not have a new prescription for you. I have the same old prescription that was revealed to the greatest benefactor of mankind, the prescription of the Holy Qur’an: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve. If you possess true faith, you will gain the upper hand.’” (Vide A.G. Noorani, The Muslims of India : A Documentary Record 1947-2000; Oxford University Press; New Delhi; 2000; pp 52-55 for the text). He was clearly not cut out for political leadership.Presiding over the Indian Union Muslim Conference at Lucknow on 27 December 1947 he urged Muslims to dissolve the Muslim League and asked the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind to abjure politics as well. (ibid; pp.63-4). On 29 February 1948 the Muslim League Party in the Constituent Assembly met under Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan’s presidentship and decided to dissolve itself. (ibid., p. 69).
Azad withdrew from active politics. His credentials were impugned by both sides. The All India Muslim League met in Karachi for the last time on 14 December 1947 and decided to split itself into two bodies, over the protests of Leaguers from India. Hussain Imam from Bihar, 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 him.A member interrupted and asked the Quaid-i-Azam if he would, once again, be prepared to take over the leadership of the Muslims of India in the present hour of trial. The Quaid-i-Azam replied that he was quite willing to do so if the Council gave its verdict in favour of such a proposal. He recalled his statement at the time of the achievement of Pakistan that his job had been done, and with the achievement of Pakistan, the cherished goal of the Muslim nation, he wanted to lead a retired life. But if called upon, he was quite ready to leave Pakistan and share the difficulties of the Muslims in the Indian Union and to lead them. This defies belief.
But he urged: “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.” ibid., p. 56).
In India Vallabhbhai Patel addressing a meeting at Lucknow on 6January 1948 attacked Azad. “I want to ask the Indian Muslims only one question. In the recent All-India Muslim Conference why did you not open your mouth on the Kashmir issue? Why did you not condemn the action of Pakistan? These things create doubt in the minds of the people. So I want to say a word as a friend of Muslims because it is the duty of a good friend to speak frankly. It is your duty now to sail in the same boat and sink or swim together. I want to tell you very clearly that you cannot ride on two horses. You select one horse whichever you like best.” (ibid., p. 67).
Azad protested to Gandhi who, predictably, backed Patel. “I can testify that his heart is not like his tongue” adding “Let them (the League Muslims) prove that they can be trusted” (CWMG.; Vol. 90; L. 416).
Only one man relied on Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Azad stood by him S. Gopal records that “Nehru could not rely on the unqualified support of his Cabinet. Some of the members, such as Azad, John Matthai, Kidwai and Amrit Kaur, were with him; but they carried little influence with the masses. The old stalwarts of the Congress, however, such as Patel and Rajendra Prasad, with the backing of the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, (now in the Cabinet) believed not so much in a theocratic state as in a state which symbolized the interests of the Hindu majority. Patel assumed that Muslim officials, even if they had opted for India, were bound to be disloyal and should be dismissed; and to him the Muslims in India were hostages to be held as security for the fair treatment of Hindus in Pakistan. He, therefore, resisted Nehru’s efforts to reserve certain residential areas in Delhi for Muslims and to employ Muslims to deal with Muslim refugees. Even more non-secular in outlook than Patel was Rajendra Prasad, the meek follower of Gandhi but untouched in any real sense by the spirit of Gandhi’s teachings. One sided action, he wrote to his Prime Minister, could not bring the desired results but would in fact lead to most undesirable and unexpected consequences. There was no use in bringing in the army to protect the Muslim citizens of Delhi, if the Hindus and Sikhs were expelled from the cities of Pakistan. Our action today is driving the people away from us.” This is the situation which Azad faced – as did Nehru for which Nehru has received little credit. (Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru; Oxford University Press, Delhi; 1979; Vol. 2, pp. 15-16).
Azad, whom Jinnah painted as an enemy of Muslims out “to break the identity of Muslims in India,” continued to serve, as best as he could, as a tribune of the people. He would write letters on their behalf urging redressal of their grievances on matters of employment in public service, education, Urdu, forcible occupation of mosques and the like. One such letter is particularly relevant. It was addressed to Jagjiwan Ram, Minister for Communication. “As many as 53 persons from Jammu and Kashmir apply for a clerical post, only one is appointed; the rest are from outside the state. This baffles me. Obviously those in charge of recruitment are not sensitive to the fact that such instances complicate our stand on the question of Kashmir. Of the three subjects, communications and defence have been transferred to the Centre. We are asked mockingly if this is the way Kashmir Muslims are going to be treated by the communications and defence ministries, then what hope will there be for these people if other departments are transferred to the Centre? How do we respond to this charge? In another letter to Jagjivan Ram, he repeats his complaint: “You should know how important it is to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people in favour of the Government of India. By our actions we should remove from their minds whatever doubts they may have about us. But unfortunately, no attention is paid to this important fact: steps are taken which become problems in Kashmir and which strain our relations with that part of the country. Communications is the Union subject. The Kashmir state Posts and Telegraphs department therefore is the responsibility of the Centre. The state government has been complaining repeatedly that Kashmir Muslims are not recruited by the state Posts and Telegraphs department. Jobs are given only to non-Muslims. Recently an examination was held for the recruitment of clerks in the northern circle. There were 73 non-Muslims and six Muslims who applied. After this examination, 60 non-Muslims were recruited and only three Muslims.
“SheikhAbdullah and his colleagues inform me that an overwhelming majority of educated Kashmiri Muslims are unemployed and there is nothing that the state can do to find work for them. If these clerical posts had been properly advertised, then 200 or 300 Kashmiri Muslims would have applied and not just six. But the Government of India probably made the announcement in the official gazette or it devised such ways as to be able to entertain the applications of 73 non-Muslims and the Muslims did not even know that these vacancies had arisen. The result is that 60 non-Muslims from Kashmir and only three Muslims were given employment. If this is the result of a department having been transferred to the Centre, then how will Kashmir even have the confidence that its future is secure with India?” (R.K. Parti; Asar-e-Azad; National Archives of India; 1990; pp. 102 and 131).
Azad faced many such obstacles and defeats; most notably on Urdu. He poured his heart out in a speech in the Constituent Assembly. He said “So far as language is concerned, this has been admitted on all hands that the language spoken in northern India can only be made the lingua franca. But it has got three names – Urdu, Hindi, and Hindustani. Now, the point of dispute is as to what name should be given to it. … the language spoken all over northern India is one and the same, but in its literary style it has got two names – a style resplendent with Persian is called Urdu and a style leaning towards Sanskrit is known as Hindi. The term ‘Hindustani’ has developed a wider connotation; it embraces all forms of the language spoken in northern India. It includes ‘Hindi’ as well as ‘Urdu By adopting the name of ‘Hindustani’ we have tried to do away with the differences that separated Urdu and Hindi, because when we try to speak in or write easy Hindi and easy Urdu, both become identical, and the distinction of Hindi and Urdu disappears.
“As you are aware, in the party meeting this question was thrashed out for several days, but they could not arrive at any conclusion… At last, the question was left to the Drafting Committee… I attended the first meeting of the Committee, but I felt that the majority of members had a particular type of preconceived notion and they could not agree to adopt ‘Hindustani’ in place of ‘Hindi,’ nor were they prepared to accept any such interpretation which can widen the scope of ‘Hindi.’ In the circumstances, I could not associate myself with this Committee. Therefore, I resigned and severed my connection with the Committee.“Of all the arguments employed against ‘Hindustani,’ greatest emphasis has been laid on the point that if ‘Hindustani’ is accepted, Urdu also will have to be accommodated. But I would like to tell you that by accommodating Urdu, the heavens will not come down. After all Urdu is one of the Indian languages. It was born and brought up in India and it is the mother tongue of millions of Hindus and Muslims of this country…Today you will decide that the national language of the Indian Union will be ‘Hindi.’ You may decide that. There is nothing substantial in the name of ‘Hindi.’ The real problem is the question of the characteristics of the language. We wanted to keep it in its real form by calling it ‘Hindustani.’ Your majority did not agree to it.” A Sanskritised Hindi became the official language while Urdu was subjected in the entire north to linguistic genocide.Worse was in store for him – a snub from Nehru. On 15 February1954, a deputation of the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Urdu led by Dr. Zakir Husain and comprising men of the eminence of Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru and Krishen Chander, met President Rajendra Prasad and presented a memorandum signed by over 2,700,000 persons. They invoked Article 347 of the Constitution of India which reads thus: “On a demand being made in that behalf the President may, if he is satisfied that a substantial proportion of the population of a state desire the use of any language spoken by them to be recognized by that State, direct that such language shall also be officially recognized throughout that state or any part thereof for such purpose as he may specify.”
However, the president can issue a directive under Article 347 only on the advice of his Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. Nehru’s letter to Azad dated 12 March 1954 reveals that he was against exercising the power not because it would ‘create some kind of constitutional crisis,’ by a perfectly valid exercise of power which the Constitution conferred on the Union, but because Nehru did not wish to alienate Uttar Pradesh and create a political crisis. He wrote: “This collection of signatures on behalf of Urdu has been going on for many months past, or possibly a year or two. I spoke about this matter to the chief minister of UP. At his instance, I asked some of the sponsors of this memorial to go and see him and discuss the matter, but apparently they never thought it worthwhile to do so. This is rather surprising, because the proper course would have been for them to approach the local government or the chief minister, discuss the matter with him, and then come up to the president.
“It is, of course, a serious matter to suggest that the president should issue any directive, as suggested. That might well create some kind of a constitutional crisis, and, in addition, it would make the controversy even more acute and bitter, and thus actually injure the prospects of Urdu. It seems to me that the right way to tackle this question is in a friendly, cooperative way.” He softened the blow by seeking his advice. (Noorani, The Muslims of India; p. 305).
Azad’s counsel was sought and sometimes offered unsought but effectively; such as resignation of a delinquent Minister. On Kashmir his was not a sage counsel. He was privy to the fraud perpetrated on Sheikh Abdullah when the agreed provision guaranteeing the State’s autonomy (Article 370) was adopted with a unilateral amendment. He was also privy to the Sheikh’s arrest and dismissal on 8 August 1953. (Vide the writer’s essay Article 370: Law and Politics, in Citizens’ Rights, Judges and State Accountability; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002; pp. 371-384).
Azad’s constant affirmations of consistency reflected a deep consciousness of the change. Jinnah could easily explain his transformation by citing changed circumstances and the Congress’ policies under Gandhi. Azad had a more difficult task because he always justified his policies in Islamic terms even citing the Qur’an. He tended at times to be extreme, unrealistic and impractical. In the issue of Al- Hilal of 29 December 1912 he remarked in reply to a correspondent that; “…. I regret to say that people like you have never studied Islam in its real greatness. Otherwise, it would not have been necessary either to knock at the door of the Government or to follow the Hindu line … We consider it a great political blunder of the Muslims that they have always kept two ideals before them: either to rely on the Government or to join the Congress and Hindus.”
Earlier; in the issue of 9 October 1912 he wrote: “There can be nothing more degrading and disgraceful for the Muslims than to bow down before the political preachings of other people. They need not join any other party. They are ordained to invite the world to join their party and to lead the world…”
He suggested that the Muslim League too should adopt the same straight way that he had shown. In an interview to The Statesman of 19 February 1940, he advised Muslims not to mistrust the Congress because “their rights are safe in the hands of the Congress” and in his Presidential address to the Congress’ Ramgarh Session in 1940 he said: “… I am addressing them (Muslims) from the same place where I addressed them in 1912…”
Hafeez Malik, a Pakistani Scholar based in the United States, made a sympathetic analysis of Abul Kalam Azad’s Theory of Nationalism in The Muslim World (Vol. L III, No. 1, January 1963). He ably explained, both, Azad’s transformation and his decline in the esteem of the Muslim masses. “Mawlana Azad’s influence was considerable and he remained quite popular with certain segments of Muslim society, such as that represented by the Deoband school and Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind. However, he became decidedly unpopular among the multitude of the Muslim nation. Muslims who had looked upon him at the turn of the century as a beacon of hope and a savior turned away from him disillusioned in the forties. Jawaharlal Nehru, who knew him intimately, put the matter in a nutshell when he observed that “he (Azad) is essentially the scholar whom circumstances have forced into a life of action.”
“Azad maintained a scholar’s indifference to the opinions of the common men, yet he hoped that the Muslim nation would harken to him as it had before the Caliphate Movement. He did not try to feel the pulse of the nation that had developed intense feelings of Pakistani nationalism. While Muslims, under the leadership of Jinnah, passed the Pakistan Resolution in 1940 at Lahore, Azad, in his presidential address to the Ramgarh session of the All India National Congress in the same year, reiterated his pride in being an Indian. “I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality,” declared Azad. “I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am an essential element which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.”
“Azad was unjustly accused by many Muslims of hypocrisy; this was unjust because there was no dichotomy in his pronouncements and actions at any given time. Azad was guilty only of expecting the Muslim nation to follow his change of heart. The pathos of the situation lies in the fact that after the 1920’s he and the Muslim nation ceased to recognize each other.”
The breach was not healed even in 1947 as the Muslims of India lay helpless in the trauma of the partition. Azad proved unequal to the challenge which was political and ideological. He helped them whenever he could but made no effort at reaching out to them sympathetically to uplift their spirits by building up a group of Muslims within and outside Congress who could galvanize them on the social and economic front and infuse an Islamic ideology relevant to the time. For all the shifts and contradictions throughout his career, Azad consistently held a noble vision. He stood out for sagacity on strategy, on the tactics he was like any other politician, shortsighted and opportunistic; veering from romantic impracticality to the convenient gambit, baffling admirer and critic alike and rendering a balanced assessment none too easy to make.
It is not easy to sum up so complex a personality which had so varied a career, a career that ended in a tragedy whose pains were writ all over his face. Amidst the festivities on Independence Day 1947, Leonard Mosley wrote “only the sad, sad face of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to whom this occasion was something of a tragedy, sticking out from the sea of happy faces like a gaunt and ravaged rock” (Last Days of the British Raj; p. 240).
In all the annals of predictions of dire consequences which came true there is scarcely any parallel to Azad’s in its wealth of detail all of which came true and haunt us to this day. Only a truly great intellect and a man whose erudition gave him those insights could have spoken thus. The same insight was in evidence when, in reply to Chaudhry Muhammad Ali’s question about what he thought of Pakistan, he said: “Pakistan is an experiment, make it succeed.”
Dr. Zakir Hussain considered him the most intelligent man he had ever met (interview to the writer in July 1967). Even after Azad’s faults and failings are reckoned in a fair balance, his greatness stands out. It was left to Zakir Hussain to strike that balance in his funeral oration as Azad was laid to rest near the Jamia Masjid in Delhi: Unki Khamia hum sub men hai, unki khoobian hum kisi mey nahi (We all have his failings; none of us has his qualities).