Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pakistan Resolution in retrospect(23rd March 1940)

By Prof Sharif al Mujahid

Pakistan owes her emergence to four outstanding leaders – Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98), Maulana Mohammad Ali (1878-1931), Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), and Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938). These leaders provided intellectual and political leadership to Indian Muslims during the ninety years (1858-1947) of the British imperial dominance.

Surprisingly though, all of them were thorough-bred nationalists at one time or another. But, betimes, they got disillusioned and shied away willy-nilly from their Hindu compatriots, either because of Hindu ethnocentrism in the late 19th century or Congress's rather exclusive, unitary nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s. That makes Pakistan, in part, a product of these Hindu, myopic approaches, asymmetrical with the prime dictates of the ground realities in a multi-nation and multi-cultured subcontinent. In part it was, of course, a product of the Muslims' quest for an equitable share in power, a quest designed primarily to organise their society on the basis of their pristine value structure.

Interestingly, three of these four leaders – Sir Syed, Iqbal and Jinnah – had initially started out as full blooded nationalists, but were obliged to end up, finally, at threshold of Muslim "separatism". And that, of course, after a good deal of traumatised reappraisals. So did Maulana Mohammad Ali, who joined mainstream nationalist politics midway through his career. But he was the foremost "nationalist" leader along with Gandhi during the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), and he also presided over the subsequent Cocanada Congress session (1923), a unique honour for a Muslim, an honour that was inexplicably denied to Jinnah, though he occupied the top echelon of Congress leadership for several years and was considered the embodied symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Yet, within seven years, Mohammad Ali would vehemently denounce Gandhi's much-trumpeted Civil Disobedience Movement, launched in April 1930. In his presidential address to the All India Muslim Conference at Bombay on April 23, 1930, he declared, "We refuse to join Mr Gandhi, because his movement is not a movement for the complete independence of India but for making the seventy millions of Indian Musalmans dependents of the Hindu Mahasabha". And he was cheered by over 20,000 Muslims that had gathered on the occasion (Times of India, April 24, 1930).

Jinnah's postures and predilections during his long political life (1904-48) were a microcosm of Muslim India's during the period.
For some seventeen years (1904-20), he had stood on the Congress's platform, pleading the Congress cause and envisioning a truly nationalist destiny for India. For another sixteen years (1921-37), though out of Congress for good, he was still working for a nationalist destiny; he was still striving for a Hindu-Muslim settlement and he was still collaborating with the Congress and its leadership. In pursuit of his mission, he devised several constitutional formulae, but all to no avail.

At the Congress-sponsored All Parties National Convention at Calcutta in December 1928, called to consider and ratify the Nehru Report (1928) as the blueprint of India's future constitution, Jinnah had put forward the six minimum Muslim demands for acceptance. But all of them were outvoted one by one. In vain did Jinnah argue: "... what we want is that the Hindus and Muslims should march together until our object is obtained... I want you ... to rise to that statesmanship which Sir Tej Bahadur describes. Minorities cannot give anything to the majority... If they are small points, why not concede? It is up to the majority and majority alone can give."

In aggregate terms, the most acrimonious and acerbic controversy in Indian politics in the late 1920s (since the Nehru Report) and all through the 1930s had hinged around the basic issue of Hindu "Unitarianism" vs Muslim Federalism. The difference in the approaches was sharply reflected in the formation of ministries in the Hindu and Muslim majority provinces in mid 1937. While the Muslim provinces went for coalition governments, the Hindu provinces under the Congress's aegis opted for exclusive, one party government.

Till early 1937, however, Jinnah was still his "nationalist" self; preaching his credo eloquently; trying to unite Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

But, alas, Jinnah came to be caught on the wrong wicket. For one thing, at about this time, Pandit Nehru, the Congress Rashtrapathi (1936-38), began expounding his controversial "two-forces" formula, which counted Muslims out of India's politic body as a religio-political entity. He fired his first salvo in that direction on September 18, 1936, saying that ". . . the real contest is between two forces - the Congress representing the will for freedom of the nation and the British Government in India and its supporters who oppose this urge and try to suppress it. Intermediate groups, whatever virtue they may possess, fade out or line up with one of the principal forces. The issue for India is that of independence. He who is for it must be with the Congress and if he talks in terms of communalism he is not keen on independence."

To this formula Nehru returned, on January 10, 1937. Shorn of its sophistry and anti-imperialist tone, this represented a challenge to Muslim individuality in Indian politics, an individuality which they had nurtured and claimed since the times of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. It also represented not only a challenge to the continued existence of the Muslim League (AIML), but also a moment of truth for Jinnah who had led that body continuously since 1919, except for his three years of self-exile (1931-34) in England.

Yet Jinnah's response was surprisingly conciliatory, if only because he still hoped for a rapprochement with the Congress. In his speech at Calcutta's Muhammad Ali Park, on January 4, 1937, he said "I refuse to line up with the Congress. I refuse to accept this proposition. There is a third party in this country and that is Muslim India.... We are not going to be camp followers of any party". (Italics for emphasis) Despite this timely rebuttal, he held out the olive branch, saying, "We are willing as equal partners to come to a settlement with our sister communities in the interest of India." And Jinnah reaffirmed this stance repeatedly for the next six months.

The deep divergence that characterised the Hindu-Muslim, Congress-League, thinking in 1937 stemmed from the basic dichotomy between Hindu "Unitarianism", a la the Nehru Report, and Muslim federalism, a la Jinnah's Fourteen Points (1929). In essence, it centered on the issue that whether India was uni-national or bi-national, whether it was uni-cultured or bi-cultured. In denying the "intermediate groups" the right to existence and in denying "all third parties' in the historical sense, Nehru was not only denying the AIML the right to exist or its due importance; more important: he was denying the Muslims the right to organize themselves politically on a platform of their own or on a platform other than that of the Congress. In other words, he was denying them their distinct individuality in India's body politic as a religio-political entity.

Jinnah, as opposed to this, felt that India was multi-national and multi-cultured; that Muslims had the right to maintain their separate entity; that Muslim India represented the "third party" in India's body politic; that they should refuse to be "camp followers of any party" and that, above all, Muslims should organise themselves politically to make the third party claim a fait accompli. As a corollary to this claim, he demanded equality of status for Muslims. Of course, he repeatedly offered to coalesce with the Congress in the struggle for freedom, but only if the Muslims were "assured of their political freedom".

Thus, he told a meeting at the residence of Syed Ali Zaheer, presided over by the pro-Congress Syed Wazir Hasan, on May 9, 1937, "While we shall not knock at the Government House, we shall not also bow before Anand Bhawan", the Congress headquarters at Allahabad. Six weeks earlier, in late March 1937, he had told the AIML Council in categorical terms why he considered the Muslims' merger with the Hindus, and the AIML's with the Congress, almost impossible. It was impossible for Muslims to merge with Hindus because "their language, culture and civilization are quite different", he argued. National self-government, he said, was his creed; but Muslims "must unite as a nation and then live or die as a nation" (italics for emphasis).

The Muslims were considered a minority at this stage of India's political evolution. But "minorities", argued Jinnah in the Indian Legislative Assembly on February 7, 1935, while speaking on the Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Indian Constitutional Reforms, "means a combination of things. It may be that a minority has a different religion from the other citizens of a country. Their language may be different, their race may be different, their culture may be different, and the combination of all these various elements – religion, culture, race, language, arts, music, and so forth – makes the minority a separate entity in the State, and the separate entity as an entity wants safeguards. Surely, therefore, we must face this question as a political problem; we must solve it and not evade it…"

Thus, what was at issue in the Congress-League, Nehru-Jinnah, controversy was, above all, the status of Muslims in Indian politics. Their status, in turn, depended upon whether India was uni-national or bi-national. The Congress's political conduct in 1937, remarked Penderel Moon in his Divide and Quit, meant that "there would be no room on the throne of India, save for Congress and Congress stooges". The developing Congress's policy, thus, gave Muslims a foretaste of what the Hindu un-remitted centralism and homogenic ambitions meant. Under the sort of nationalist dispensation envisaged by the Congress, Muslims would surely be relegated to a back seat. Their values would be at a discount, their cultural identity in jeopardy. Above all, they would have no hope of shaping their spiritual, social, and cultural life according to their own ethos. All this meant culturicide, pure and simple. The Congress's conduct and rule were thus, in gross violation of 'minority' rights, civil society, and of adequate, if not good, governance – issues which, under the prevalent Westphalian Model (1648), with its overriding credo of the sovereignty of 'nations' and the 'sanctity' of borders, had not acquired the measure of importance and criticality which they have had since the demise of the Soviet Union (1991), the prime anti-Human Rights paradigm in the twentieth century. All this obviously posed a new and serious challenge to Muslims as a religio-cultural entity.

In immediate terms, it was this situation, at once despairing and agonising, that turned Muslim thinking towards Pakistan. If the Islamic way of life could not be preserved in an all-India set up, it should be saved wherever it was possible. Pakistan, or more accurately the demand for it, was thus a last-ditch attempt: an attempt to centralise, to quote Iqbal, "the life of Islam as a cultural force" in a specified territory, so that "the most living portion of the Muslims of India" could develop to the fullest in that territory, their "spiritual, cultural, economic and social life according to their own genius", to quote Jinnah, – a development which was practically impossible under the sort of dispensation envisaged by the Hindu-dominated Congress. Such, in short, were the urges and motivations that, in immediate terms, led to the formulation of the demand for Pakistan.

At another level, with the grim prospect of having been denied a place on the throne of India, what alternative did the Muslims have except for forging a throne for themselves in their majority provinces? And Pakistan simply meant only that much - and nothing more. Hence, in 1940, Muslims had no choice but to go to the Pakistan platform – unless they were prepared to be decimated as a religio-political entity in India's body politic.

– (The writer was Founder-Director of the Quaid-i-Azam Academy (1976-89), and authored Jinnah: Studies in Interpretation (1981), the only work to qualify for the President's Award for Best Books on Quaid-i-Azam.)

Thx for jang.com.pk/thenews/spedition/23march2007

No comments:

Post a Comment