M A Jinnah: From ‘Nationalist’ to ‘Communalist’
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Last Updated: Monday, September 07, 2009, 18:40
M A Jinnah: From ‘Nationalist’ to ‘Communalist’Arun Chaubey

The nation had barely forgotten the episode of Advani eulogizing MA Jinnah’s secular credentials during his Pakistan visit in 2005, when Jaswant Singh’s book on Qaid-e-Azam once again stirred the pot of controversy.

The debate got another twist as former RSS chief KS Sudarshan also praised Jinnah’s secular outlook, citing his opposition of Khilafat movement in 1919, besides saying that Gandhiji’s inflexibility and soft corner for Nehru were among the reasons that offended Jinnah- making him demand for partition even more passionately.
However, if we look at Jinnah from another point of view when he- despite being nationalist to the core- started losing his political battle, toughened his stand and in post-Khilafat movement with the commencement of the politics of Communalism, we witness a change in his pattern of politics.

Although the change in the beginning was not purely communal, it certainly had its tinge which, from liberal Communalism, reached an extreme stand as he started talking about Hindus and Muslims in terms of two nationalities whose interests were different; especially after the Muslim League’s debacle in 1937 elections.

For drawing a parallel between his rise and fall with that of the growth of communalism in modern India, we need to have a look at it from the point of view of one eminent historian. Communalism begins with the “belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests, i.e., common political, economic, social and cultural interests.” The second element rests on the notion that in a multi-religious society like India, the secular interests and the social, cultural, economic and political interests of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion. It reaches its third stage: “when the interests of the followers of different religions or of different communities are witnessed to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile.”

Communal ideology in a person, party or movement starts with the first stage, citing the notion of mutual divergence or hostility of interests of different religion-based communities. The second stage represents moderate communalism and the practitioners believe in liberal, democratic, humanist and nationalist values. Most of the communalists before 1937- the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League, the Ali brothers after 1925, MA Jinnah, MM Malviya & Lajpat Rai- functioned within a liberal framework.
Nationalisn Vs Seeds of Communalism

But the British and their policy of Divide and Rule bore special responsibility for the growth of Communalism in modern India, though it is also true that it could succeed only because of internal social and political conditions. It used Communalism to counter and weaken the growing national movement, and also to protect the minorities from domination and suppression by majority.

The separate electorate was introduced in the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1907, which put Muslim voters in separate constituencies where only Muslims could stand as candidates and for which only Muslims could vote. In the beginning, leaders like Jinnah were not supportive of the Colonial regime. And that was the reason that younger Muslim intellectuals, peeved with the loyalist, anti-Hindu and slavish mentality of upper class leadership of the Muslim League, founded the Ahrar movement under the leadership of Maulana Mohammad Ali. In 1912, MA Jinnah joined the League which adopted self-governance as one of its objectives.

Till this period, Jinnah as a nationalist was demanding self-governance. The positive relation between the Congress and the Muslim League attained a new height when, with the efforts of Lokamanya Tilak and MA Jinnah both, the organizations held their sessions at Lucknow in 1916 and signed the famous Lucknow Pact. The pact had accepted separate electorates and the system of weightage and reservation of seats for the minorities in the legislatures. It was perhaps a mistake on behalf of the Congress party which somehow encouraged communal politics.

Jinnah, who had joined the Indian National Congress in 1896, initially avoided joining the All India Muslim League, founded in 1906. But in order to provide leadership to the Muslim minority, he reorganized the Muslim League in 1924, and devoted the next seven years to unite the desperate ranks of Muslims for the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity, which he always considered a pre-condition for freedom.

He broke with the Congress in 1920 when Gandhiji launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, which he disapproved of. Besides, he also criticized Gandhiji`s support of the Khilafat Movement that he considered as an endorsement of religious zealotry.
After the Non-Cooperation movement, Communalism reared its ugly head. The Muslim League once again became active and the Hindu Mahasabha was also revived in 1923 and both the organizations openly began propaganda against each other. The most vicious expressions of the propaganda were communal riots which broke out in major North Indian cities during 1923-24. The Simon Commission also stated that between 1922 and 1927 nearly 112 major communal riots took place.

Against this backdrop, the leaders had started negotiations for future Constitution to give a befitting reply to colonial regime’s communal agenda. The Muslim leaders came out with ‘Delhi Proposals’ that included basic four demands, while the Congress proposals came in the form of the Nehru Report in 1928. The all party convention took place at Calcutta in December 1928, but it failed to approve these proposals unanimously, as there were wide differences among Muslim leaders. A section of the League and the Khilafatists were willing to accept the report, provided three amendments moved by Jinnah were accepted. But Congress leaders were not ready to accept the latter’s demand for “residuary powers” in the provinces as it would weaken the Centre.

Jinnah sided with Muslim communalists and declared that the Nehru Report represented Hindu interests. He put forth ‘Fourteen Points’ that formed the basis of all future communal propaganda in the subsequent years.

With the beginning of the Round Table Conferences in London in early 1930s, the communal leaders joined hands with the reactionary sections of the British ruling classes, but talks failed and Jinnah was thoroughly disillusioned. He returned to London to practice in the Privy Council Bar, but when leaders like Aga Khan, Choudhary Rahmat Ali and Sir Muhammad Iqbal convinced him, he returned to India in 1936 to re-organize Muslim League and contest elections under the provisions of the Act of 1935.

League`s debacle: Jinnah`s new Avataar

Ironically, the League captured a significant number of seats under the Muslim electorate, but it lost in the Muslim-majority Punjab and Sindh and the NWFP. Jinnah offered an alliance with the Congress but the latter refused it as it did not consider the League as the sole representative of India`s Muslims.

In post 1937 developments we witness Jinnah as a different man, who was personifying the extreme phase of Communalism by propagating that the interests of Hindus and Muslims are incompatible, antagonistic and hostile. He started saying that a united India would lead to the marginalization of Muslims. The League in its session in Lahore in 1940 adopted the Pakistan Resolution and termed it the main goal of the party. Jinnah supported the British effort in World War II and opposed Gandhiji’s call for Quit India Movement.

Although Gandhiji held talks fourteen times with Jinnah, it failed to bear any fruit but enhanced Jinnah’s standing as he emerged as the most towering personality among the Muslim leadership. In the elections for the Constituent Assembly in 1946, the Congress won most of the elected seats while the League won majority of Muslim electorate seats. In the same year, the British Cabinet Mission put forth two plans but the Congress rejected both fearing India`s fragmentation, while Jinnah approved both the plans.

Later, against Gandhi`s advice, the Congress accepted the May 16 plan. Jinnah rejected the British plan for transfer of power to an interim government, saying if Muslims were not granted Pakistan then he would be left with no option but to launch "Direct Action". He then gave a call for "Direct Action Day" on August 16, 1946, which triggered riots in Calcutta, in which more than 4,000 people lost their lives and 100,000 were left homeless. It spread to other regions that included Noakhali in West Bengal, Bihar, United Province (modern Uttar Pradesh), Punjab, and the North Western Frontier Province. The Indian subcontinent later witnessed the worst communal riots and, amidst ongoing violence, it had to witness Partition and the emergence of Pakistan.

Pakistan: Was it Jinnah`s bluff?

However, there is a point of view that Jinnah was not for a separate nation but wanted to protect the interests of Indian Muslims by wresting greater autonomy for provincial governments over which Muslims could hope to have greater control. In his political maneuvering with Congress and the British, his call for Pakistan was merely a bluff but, to his dismay, that bluff was addressed. The justification given is that the impulse to create Pakistan came not from Muslim League but from Congress leadership`s impatience to acquire the control of the state.

These issues would better be interpreted by historians, but one argument stands firmly here that the two states of India and Pakistan were created out of a clash of opposed views and interests. After partition, this clash had subsided as Jinnah’s language too changed while addressing the Constituent Assembly in Pakistan on August 11, 1947 he said: “You are free to go to your mosques or to your temples in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Jinnah, who did not live long to enjoy the fruits of partition, remained an enigma in the annals of history and once again he is revisiting us from past, giving new twists and turns to the world’s interpretations of himself.

What was Jinnah- a separatist or the secularist is a question which is still haunting us.

However, one fact remains that he attained his political purpose through Communal politics and utilized it so tactfully that there was no option but to create a separate nation. He aspired to ensure parity for the subcontinent’s Muslims, but subsequent history of Pakistan has shown to the world that wrong ‘means’ adopted to meet the ‘end’ can never be fruitful.

First Published: Monday, September 07, 2009, 18:40

(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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