You need to look at the context of the historians who focused on elite politics and portrayed Jinnah as wanting to create a modern secular Republic. This context included the creation of Bangladesh, the hanging of [Pakistan Prime Minister] Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and General Zia-ul-Haq’s campaign of Islamisation of Pakistan. For Pakistani liberals, this was not the Pakistan that Jinnah wanted. They believed Jinnah was like them, a very modern figure. They started to push back against the tide of Islamisation in Zia’s Pakistan through their historiography.
In post-Independence India, the argument was that we are no longer imperial subjects, but citizens of a secular Constitutional Republic in which all have equal rights. It was, therefore, thought that there was no point in going into the messy things of the past.
All history-writing, to some extent, responds to the present. Their concern is understandable. But what I do in my book is to show that there was an intelligent, sophisticated, and wide-ranging debate on the Pakistan question between 1940 and 1947. Ours is an "argumentative society" in which everything is debated and thrashed out. The Pakistan question couldn’t have remained a vague idea. My book foregrounds a series of intra-Muslim debates on the idea of Pakistan.
There was tension between the fact that they were being asked to sacrifice themselves for Pakistan and the fact that they were not going to be part of it. They were going to be here under a bigger Hindu majority [after Partition] – and could be crushed. The hostage population theory must have been quite believable at that point in time.
If you looked at the map of India and its demography, you had substantial non-Muslim populations in the east and the west [which subsequently became Pakistan], just as you had substantial Muslim minority population in Hindustan. The Muslim League put out that in case Muslims were harassed or oppressed or deprived of their rights, retributive violence could visit the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. Balance of terror was therefore portrayed as the best guarantee for the security of minorities in both countries.
It was akin to, say, the Mutually Assured Destruction theory during the Cold War. The Muslim League emphasised the hostage population theory quite a lot in UP. It also assured supporters that there would be a treatybetween the two sovereign states as far as the security and rights of the minorities on both sides was concerned. And that despite Partition, life would go on as usual. As a local functionary of the League in Bareilly said, the creation of Pakistan did not mean someone in Allahabad couldn’t take the Frontier Mail to Peshawar any more.
They thought that the emergence of two sovereign states wouldn’t affect the normal exchanges across borders. So at one level, the hostage population theory and the idea of Pakistan seemed very practical to the Muslims in UP and Bihar. However, there was also the Muslim League propaganda that it was trying to create Pakistan as the first Islamic state in history after the Prophet’s creation of Medina 1300 years ago. Wouldn’t you want to participate in the creation of that Islamic State, the Leaguers asked their supporters.
Yes. But the metaphor of Medina was also used by Deobandi alim [scholar] Husain Ahmad Madani to point out that just as under the Prophet there existed a community of Jews and Muslims, similarly, Muslims and Hindus could be one single nationality. Please also remember Jinnah offered Muslims who would be left behind in places like UP, a few options. He told them that they could continue to live where they were, or they could migrate to Pakistan, or they could live as Pakistani citizens in India.
They could supposedly choose their nationality – but Jinnah did not elaborate on it any further.
Jinnah was upfront and made speeches in UP that he would not mind the Muslims of the minority provinces being crushed for the sake of liberating their majority provinces brethren. He made it clear that they would be sub-nationals in India, that they could only get minority rights in India. I think no one anticipated the scale of Partition violence. Also, the British cut their losses and left – they simply let India go to hell. I don’t believe Jinnah was being cynical. He wanted to create Pakistan and did have high hopes of it.
It was definitely a factor.
Yes. But I also think the Muslim League was successful in projecting that there was Hindu Raj in UP and that would be replicated on an all India basis. The Congress made terrible mistakes. Many wonder why the Congress didn’t make a coalition government with the Muslim League in UP. In hindsight, it was a bad move. What was worse, the Congress caused defections from the League. Five or six League MLAs crossed over to the Congress. One of them, Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim, was made a minister. But it must be remembered that he resigned his seat won on the Muslim League ticket, contested again on the Congress ticket and won.
The MMCP propaganda claimed that religious identity did not really matter. Class interests were what mattered. To say that religion does not matter, that people need to understand their true class interests and grow out of false consciousness as it were, was counter-productive. My book quotes a person asking, “Bhai, you say the workers of the world unite. So, what is wrong in saying, Muslims of the world unite?” I think these "progressive" ideas simply did not gel with the sensibilities of that period.
The Muslim Leaguers did say that this was an attempt to sow divisions within the community on the basis of class and that it was also a surreptitious attempt by the Congress to slot Muslims in the Hindu caste hierarchy and try to change their religion. They pointed out that the Hindus were violently opposed to Untouchables being recognised as a community separate from the Hindus, but the same Hindus were happy to poach on Muslim turf and sow dissensions in the Muslim community.
In 1937, it was about 10% of the population. In 1945-1946, it was close to 15%. It was defined by income, property, educational qualifications, service in the Army, etc.
Yes. If you look at the numbers, the Congress got around 30% of the votes and the Muslim League the remaining 70%. So they did win hands down.
It must have been definitely a factor. But remember, the Madina, a widely respected nationalist Muslim newspaper from Bijnor vigorously attacked the idea of Pakistan and the League. So arguments from both sides were available.
Possibly, there is a commonality between the class interests of the electorate and the Muslim League. But remember it was also a very polarised moment in Indian history. Both the Muslim League and Congress ulama were going at each other in the Urdu press. It must have been read by literate Muslims. To what extent this would have filtered downward is debatable. [Historian] Chris Bayly, for instance, says that while India has fairly low levels of literacy, there exist fairly high levels of political awareness and intelligence. And that this does not in any way correspond to the socio-economic status of the people. Even now, the poor and the illiterate in India are very aware and vote in maximum numbers.
It is a good question, but difficult to answer. I wonder what, if a general plebiscite under universal adult franchise had been held in Bengal and Punjab and people had been asked [whether they wanted Partition], the result would have been. I am not a specialist on Punjab or Bengal, but it could have gone either way. After all, nearly 85% of the population was excluded from the 1945-46 election.
There was a convenient congruence of interests between Indian nationalist historians and liberal historians in Pakistan. The Congress could claim that the Deobandi ulama opposed whole-scale the idea of Pakistan and stood up heroically for the idea of muttahida qaumiyat[composite nationalism] in India. For them Pakistan was a fraud committed by a communal League leadership in connivance with the British. Liberal Pakistani historians on the other hand could claim that Pakistan was meant to be a secular state since the ulama, men of religion, were its biggest opponents.
The ulama aligned with the Congress – for example, Husain Ahmad Madani, who was the principal alim [scholar] of this side – came up with sophisticated and wide-ranging critiques of the idea of Pakistan. Madani is well known. So in my book, I have tried to foreground others who are either relatively less known or forgotten.
Maulana Sajjad died before Partition, but his family was butchered in the Partition riots. That was what the current Nazim of Patna’s Imarat-i- Shariah told me. In that sense, the nationalist Muslims lost out on both sides – they were abused and derided by those supporting Pakistan, and they suffered post-Partition as well.
Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani – the man who was responsible for the Objectives Resolution’s passage in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and was Pakistan’s first and last Sheikhul Islam – and who also presided over Jinnah’s funeral ceremony – hailed Pakistan as the first Islamic State after the Prophet’s Medina, and indeed used the phrase new Medina to describe Pakistan.
I haven’t come across evidence of Jinnah using the Medina metaphor. But he did use other Islamic metaphors. A Jamaat-i-Islami functionary once asked Jinnah to describe his idea of Pakistan. Jinnah said that currently they were agitating for a piece of land. Once the Muslims had acquired it, they were free to build their mosque on it. That gladdened the Jamaat functionary. But important Muslim League leaders did use the metaphor of Medina.
My take is that Jinnah’s statement was made primarily keeping in mind the tremendous violence that was going on. It was, therefore, a statement directed at protecting Muslims from even greater violence in areas where they were vulnerable. It was pragmatism. After all, a few months later, when asked to open the doors of the Muslim League to all Pakistanis irrespective of their religion or creed, the same Jinnah refused saying that Pakistan was not ready for it.
I saw this very intriguing letter in the Hector Bolitho files. Bolitho was commissioned by the Pakistan government to write Jinnah’s biography. Francis Mudie, the governor of West Punjab, in a letter to Bolitho described an incident in which he quoted Jinnah saying, “This [Partition] is tragic – but very thrilling.” The American journalist Margaret Bourke-White, noted that Jinnah’s “deep sunken eyes were points of excitement” when he described Pakistan as the largest Islamic State in the world. He uses the word Islamic, not Muslim.
On the Partition issue, Jinnah and Ambedkar were on the same page. Both thought it was a good remedy to resolve the communal problem in India. Both also agreed that transfer or exchanges of populations was inevitable and necessary. They don’t seem to have considered the horrific consequences of uprooting people from their hearths and homes, or pondered over how people have a deep sense of belonging to a place and couldn’t just be transferred or exchanged like objects. Most historians of Partition have ignored this critical aspect of their ideas on Pakistan. We need to also remember that Mahatma Gandhi stood steadfastly against transfers or exchanges of population.
My reading of Ambedkar is that he believed the creation of Pakistan was good riddance. He cited several reasons. The main one was that communal virus had entered the Army, of which Muslims comprised a substantial section. He said their number was in excess of their percentage of the total population. Since most of these Muslims came from the NWFP and Punjab, Ambedkar thought their loyalty couldn’t be depended upon to protect India if it were to go to war with, say, Afghanistan.
Yes, but also as a hardheaded realist. He believed the Muslim League wanted to convert the minority status of Muslims into equivalence with the majority. After all the League demanded equal share with the majority Hindus in the executive, legislatures, the judiciary, services etc. Ambedkar thought these extravagant demands adversely affected the interests of other minorities as well the Depressed Classes. Ambedkar took a similarly hardline on Kashmir and Hyderabad.
He may have seen it so. But primarily Ambedkar was a very modern figure. He believed that the Muslim League’s communal propaganda would militate against the rise of secular, interest-based politics in India. He, therefore, thought it was better to concede the demand for Pakistan.
Frankly, I haven’t examined closely the process leading Ambedkar to convert to Buddhism. From 1935, Ambedkar was talking to all groups in an attempt to find out what kind of space Dalits could carve out. People like [Hindu Mahasabha leader] BS Moonje, in fact, told him it was best for Dalits to get out and convert to Sikhism.
Even Ambedkar briefly toyed with that idea. I am not sure what Achhutistan was going to look like or where it was to be located, but I have seen documents in which he is reported to have briefly supported it.