Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book extract: Venkat Dhulipala's new book - CREATING A NEW MEDINA

NB - Venkat Dhulipala's new book; Creating A New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India; (Cambridge University Press), is shortly to appear in print. A history of ideas, this work questions the assumptions that lie behind much of the historiography of Pakistan. In part this is due to the authors departure from the high politics of partition & his meticulous use of hitherto under-used sources - DS

Here is an extract that appeared in The Hindu:
In his forthcoming book on the idea of Pakistan, the historian Venkat Dhulipala argues that Pakistan was not simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was popularly imagined as a sovereign Islamic state, a new Medina, as some called it. In this regard, it was envisaged as the harbinger of Islam’s revival and rise in the twentieth century, the new leader and protector of the global community of Muslims, and a worthy successor to the defunct Turkish Caliphate. The following article has been excerpted from the book
The basic reasoning behind the assumption that Pakistan was Jinnah’s bargaining counter and not a demand for a separate sovereign state is that such a state would have been disastrous for the Muslim minority in Hindu India. As the argument goes, Jinnah as theQaid of all of the Indian Muslims was hardly going to abandon the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims. However, his own public utterances on the matter seem to point to a different idea regarding the place of minorities. Never the abstract theoretician, the meticulous constitutional lawyer gave concrete examples to clarify what he meant by nations, sub-national groups or minorities. 

For Jinnah, Muslims in the ‘majority provinces’ were a nation with concomitant rights to self-determination and statehood since they constituted a numerical majority in a contiguous piece of territory. On the other hand, Sikhs, though distinct enough to be a nation, did not fulfill either of these criteria and hence were a sub-national group with no option but to seek minority safeguards in Pakistan. Jinnah specifically compared the position of Sikhs to that of U.P. Muslims. The U.P. Muslims, though constituting 14 per cent of the province’s population, could not be granted a separate state because “Muslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered. Therefore, in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-national group who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilized government to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear.”

The Qaid was aware that his public utterances had created not just a slippage, but a cleavage between the purported Muslim nation and Pakistan. He therefore tried to bridge this crucial gap in a few ways. To begin with he lauded the great sacrifices made by ‘minority provinces’ Muslims for selflessly demanding liberation for their 60 million majority provinces brethren from Hindu Raj. They had readily supported the Lahore Resolution since they realized that they would remain a minority ‘in perpetuity’ and therefore did not want to reduce their brethren to the same fate. 

Indeed, Jinnah would call them ‘the pioneers and first soldiers of Pakistan.’ He further pointed out that he himself belonged to a minority province and that “ a s a self-respecting people, we in the Muslim minority provinces say boldly that we are prepared to undergo every suffering and sacrifice for the emancipation and liberation of our brethren in regions of Muslim majority. By standing in their way and dragging them along with us into a united India we do not in any way improve our position. Instead, we reduce them also to the position of a minority. But we are determined that, whatever happens to us, we are not going to allow our brethren to be vassalised by the Hindu majority.”

Jinnah’s speech to the Muslim Students Federation at Kanpur a few weeks later went a little further causing a furore in the Urdu press in U.P. He declared that in order to liberate 7 crore Muslims of the majority provinces, ‘he was willing to perform the last ceremony of martyrdom if necessary, and let 2 crore Muslims of the minority provinces be smashed.’ At the same time though, Jinnah tried to soften the blow for them by arguing that Pakistan’s creation would entail a reciprocal treaty with Hindu India to safeguard rights and interests of minorities in both states. He pointed to the presence of large Hindu and Sikh minorities in Pakistan who too would require similar protection and asserted that ‘when the time for consultation and negotiations comes, the case of Muslims of the minority provinces will certainly not go by default.’ ...

Safeguards for Hindu minorities
At the same time, Jinnah assured adequate safeguards for Hindu minorities in Pakistan. He was quick to reject the argument that Hindus in Pakistan could not trust these assurances since Muslims themselves had refused to accept them at an all-India level. Such reasoning was fallacious since it assumed that the whole of India belonged to the Hindus. As Jinnah noted, “ Are the Muslim minorities in the Hindu majority provinces entitled to enforce their verdict that there should be no union of any kind just as the Congress puts forward the plea that the Muslim majority provinces should be forced into the union because of the Hindu minority verdict in these provinces? And it is quite obvious that the Muslim minorities in the Hindu provinces will be under the double yoke of Hindu raj both in Hindu majority provinces as well as in the centre under the proposed central government. Is the view or opinion of Muslim minority in the Hindu provinces to prevail? Is similarly the opinion of Hindu minorities in the Muslim provinces to prevail? In that case it will be the minority that will be dictating to the majority both in Hindustan and Pakistan which reduces the whole position to absurdity.”

Finally, if these assurances were not enough, Jinnah held out further hope for the Muslim minority in Hindu India by declaring that they could yet belong to Pakistan since they had the option of migrating to the new nation state. As he noted soon after the Lahore resolution, ‘exchange of population, on the physical division of India as far as practicable would have to be considered.’ It was a theme that he repeated over the next few years. In a later interview, he spelled out three courses available to the Muslim minorities in Hindu India. 

‘They may accept the citizenship in the state in which they are. They can remain there as foreigners; or they can come to Pakistan. I will welcome them. There is plenty of room. But it is for them to decide. Jinnah however recognized the limits of such a scheme which still entailed a substantial number of these Muslims being excluded from Pakistan. He therefore made it a point to repeatedly laud sacrifices made by the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims and their selfless support for Pakistan. As he declared in his Presidential Address to the annual session of the AIML held at Karachi in 1943, “ Don’t forget the minority provinces. It is they who have spread the light when there was darkness in the majority provinces. It is they who were the spearheads that the Congress wanted to crush with their overwhelming majority in the Muslim minority provinces, for your sake, for your benefit, and for your advantage. But never mind, it is all in the role of a minority to suffer.”

Defence and economic concerns
If the creation of Pakistan was to provide the ‘authoritative sanction’ for the fulfilment of Muslim minority rights in Hindu India, Pakistan needed to be a viable and powerful entity. Jinnah squarely addressed questions regarding Pakistan’s feasibility in terms of its defence capabilities as well as economic sustainability echoing the arguments adduced by ML propaganda. He first repudiated the charge that creating Pakistan would lead to a worsening security environment in the subcontinent, declaring that on the contrary it would improve the situation as Hindus and Muslims would settle down in their respective national states. He also rejected the argument that if Pakistan were to become a separate sovereign state it would soon overrun all of India. He found it ridiculous that a country of 200 million could fear being overrun by their neighbour with a population of 70 million. Jinnah also tried to damp down on fears of a pan-Islamic threat to Hindu India due to an alliance of Pakistan and Muslim states of the Middle East by rejecting the idea that Pakistan would harbour such extra-territorial affinities...

On sovereignty
Jinnah’s unequivocal stance on Pakistan’s sovereignty is brought out in his exchange with the Mahatma in 1942. Gandhi in response to a question as to whether he regarded the Andhra bid for separation from Madras province in the same light as Pakistan declared that “ t here can be no comparison between Pakistan and Andhra separation. The Andhra separation is a re-distribution on a linguistic basis. The Andhras do not claim to be a separate nation claiming nothing in common with the rest of India. Pakistan on the other hand is a demand for carving out of India a portion to be treated as a wholly independent state. Thus, there seems to be nothing in common between the two.”

Jinnah in response declared that Gandhi ‘has himself put the Muslim demand in a nutshell.’ The Qaid therefore had no difficulty in dismissing the plural ‘states’ in the Lahore Resolution as a typographical error when the convention of ML legislators was held in 1946. Even during the 1945-46 elections, he clearly stated that “ g eographically, Pakistan will embrace all of NWFP, Baluchistan, Sind, and Punjab provinces in northwestern India. On the eastern side would be the other portion of Pakistan comprising Bengal and Assam…. [The provinces would] have all the autonomy that you will find in the constitutions of U.S., Canada, and Australia. But certain vital powers will remain vested in the central government such as the monetary system, national defence, and other federal responsibilities.”

A separate territorial entity
To emphasize Pakistan’s separate territorial entity, Jinnah repeatedly dismissed the idea that India constituted a geographical unity. India, he insisted, was divided and partitioned by nature and Muslim India and Hindu existed on the ‘physical map of India.’ Besides, ‘geography had been altered in the case of the Suez canal, the Panama canal, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Ulster in Eire, and Sudan in Egypt’ and there was no reason why the same could not be done in the case of British India. There was thus no unified country that was being divided, no nation that was being denationalized, for India was composed of different nationalities and the singular nation existed only in the imagination of Congress leaders who were ‘recklessly indulging in such mental luxuries.’ It was only such critics, he derisively observed, who called Pakistan an impractical idea. Pakistan on the contrary, was indeed more practical than Ram Raj or Swaraj that Gandhi was advocating for India. Jinnah therefore had no trouble in dismissing Gandhi’s warning about a civil war breaking out in India in the event of a Partition. He insisted that there would be no conflict unless the Congress and its peace-loving Mahatma desired it.

Jinnah also quelled any talk of a loose federation or a confederation between Pakistan and Hindu India. As he noted, the question had been put forth by some constitutional pundits as to “why there cannot be some sort of loose federation or confederation? People talk like that. I shall read out to you what I have written on this point, because it is important. There are people who talk of some sort of loose federation. There are people who talk of giving the widest freedom to the federating units and residuary powers resting with the units. But they forget the entire constitutional history of the various parts of the world. Federation in whatever terms it is described and in whatever terms it is put, must ultimately deprive the federating units of authority in all vital matters. The units despite themselves, would be compelled to grant more and more powers to the central authority, until in the end the strong central government will have been established by the units themselves- they will be driven to do so by absolute necessity, if the basis of federal government is accepted. Taking for instance the United States and her history, the Dominion of Canada and Australia, the Union of South Africa and Germany, and of other lands where federal or confederal systems have been in existence, necessity has driven the component members and obliged them to increase and delegate their power and authority to the connecting link, namely the central government. These ideas are based entirely on a wrong footing… Therefore remove from your mind any idea of some form of such loose federation.”

The only solution to India’s problem, he asserted, was ‘to partition India so that both the communities could develop freely and fully according to their own genius.’

Creating A New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India

Dhulipala's impressively-researched, lucidly written, and intelligently argued book comes as a sharp but welcome corrective to the tendency to see Pakistan as a country created accidentally in a fit of popular enthusiasm and elite indirection in the final, confusing years of British rule in India. Dhulipala shows, with particular focus on north India, how rich the 1940s were with public debates in English and Urdu over the meaning of Pakistan. This is an exciting, significant, and challenging contribution to South Asian history. 
Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago)

This is a path breaking book, indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand the emergence of Pakistan. It persuasively challenges dominant understandings of Pakistan as the creation of a ‘sole spokesman’ or of ‘secular elites’ and demonstrates a long-standing relationship between the Muslim League leadership and an important set of Deobandi ulama. It shows how preparations for creating an Islamic state in Pakistan began in the early 1940s, and explores the conflation in people's minds between the creation of Pakistan and the fashioning of a ‘New Medina’. It thus brings Islam back into the debate on Pakistan’s birth and offers a new perspective for its subsequent development. It should be read not just by specialists working on India's Partition and modern Pakistan, but by scholars in Middle Eastern history and politics and those interested in 20th century Islamic movements.
Francis Robinson (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Dhulipalas’ monograph breaks new ground in studies of the birth of the Pakistan idea in Northern India. In place of the conventional focus on political negotiations and communal violence, he explores its cultural and religious dimensions and traces the roots of the concept in Indian as well as in early Islamic traditions. Based on meticulous research into a massive corpus of Urdu journals and religious treatises, it looks at the role of the Deoband clergy in very new ways. It is a valuable and important addition to the historical field.  
Sumit Sarkar (University of Delhi)

Dhulipala’s magisterial book is one of the first to carefully examine a broad range of debates on the idea of Pakistan both in English and in Urdu that illuminated the public sphere in the decade before Partition, particularly within the context of politics in U.P.  His book powerfully illustrates that understandings of Pakistan were not so vague or ill-formed as many historians have previously argued.  Supporters (and opponents) of Pakistan were deeply engaged both with contemporary ideas about the modern nation-state and with conceptions of the state rooted in Islamic history.  This is a significant story for understanding Pakistan's intellectual and political heritage.
David Gilmartin (North Carolina State University)

I read Creating a New Medina not as a slice of Indian history but as a brilliant, elegantly written study of some of the crucial subjectivities that led to the partitioning of British India. Refusing to wear glasses well-meaning liberal historians often love to wear, Dhulipala takes a hard look at styles of mobilisation deployed by the Pakistan movement and explores how they radically changed the nature of politics in mid-twentieth-century British India--to ultimately shape the future of public life in post-colonial South Asia. 
Ashis Nandy (Centre for Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi)

Chapter titles
List of photographs and maps 
List of abbreviations
1. Nationalists, communalists and the 1937 provincial elections
2. Muslim mass contacts and the rise of the Muslim League
3. Two constitutional lawyers from Bombay and the debate over Pakistan in the public sphere
4. Muslim League and the idea of Pakistan in the United Provinces
5. Ulama at the forefront of politics
6. Urdu press, public opinion and controversies over Pakistan
7. Fusing Islam and state power
8. The referendum on Pakistan
Select bibliography 
Also see
Venkat Dhulipala's lectures on the Muslim League in the 1940's
Venkat Dhulipala is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. His published essays include Rallying the Qaum: The Muslim League in the United Provinces 1937-1939 (Modern Asian Studies- May 2010); and A Nation-State Insufficiently Imagined? Debating Pakistan in Late Colonial North India, (IESHR July/Sept 2011). (Click here for a link to these articles)

B.R. Ambedkar's Pakistan or the Partition of India (Bombay, 1940,1945)