Friday, August 11, 2017

Some Portrayals of Jinnah: A Critique by Anil Nauriya

From: Minority Identities and the Nation-State
by D.L.Sheth and Gurpreet Mahajan (eds) Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999. Pages 73-112

The rise of Hindutva, particularly since the eighties, is paralleled by strenuous contemporaneous attempts by writers like Ayesha Jalal and H.M. Seervai to present a sanitized version of the politics of M.A. Jinnah. Such accounts have had an appreciable circulation. Some of the conceptual questions arising on the above basis and having implications for the notion of ‘minority’ and ‘minority politics’ are dealt with in this paper.

Part I of the essay sets out the idea of community-for-itself, a conception which lies at the core of the later politics of both Savarkar and Jinnah. Part II examines the extent to which such politics may be seen as nationalist politics; while Part III discusses the parity theory—that is, the notion that Jinnah wanted parity rather than partition. Part IV examines the claim that League politics involved an espousal of ‘civil rights’ or ‘minority rights’ as against communalist demands. Parts V and VI are concerned with two occasionally conflicting explanations and descriptions of Muslim League politics that are currently in circulation. The first depicts this politics as a reaction to the pre-freedom Congress; the second seeks to set out League demands as being ‘secular’ in nature. This usage is ostensibly in the sense of ‘being of this world’, but is loaded with other implications which are also critically examined.

Essentially, it is argued that, as with Savarkar, few of Jinnah’s political positions till the partition of India and formation of Pakistan can find a natural place in a secular constitution. Some of these may even serve to legitimize a Hindutva framework. In fact, many of Jinnah’s ideological positions are comparable to, where they are not drawn from, Hindutva. It is, therefore, not logically possible to counter Hindutva from a Jinnahesque political stance. 

Those who have been reproducing the standard Jalal-Seervai arguments are, we submit, on a mistaken track. Without an upright critique of the politics of the Muslim League, it will not be possible logically or adequately to counter Hindutva. The notion that Jinnah represented the position of the Muslims at large prior to 1947 tends to be accepted without question, As a consequence writers tend to go soft on Jinnah and his politics lest they be understood as having been harsh to Muslims as a whole; also, with the exception of a few prominent ones, those Muslims who struggled for Indian freedom unconditionally, or as plain Indian nationalists, tend to be ignored in such writings.

I. The Community-for-Itself Idea
The 1928 All Parties Conference at which the Nehru Report on framing a constitution for India was discussed is sometimes presented as marking a ‘parting of the ways’ between Jinnah and the Congress [1]. In fact, matters were more complicated and there was more than one turning point. The important issue at this stage was to obtain an agreement that would command wide support. A crucial event that occurred immediately after was the meeting of the Council of the All India Muslim League, which took place in March 1929 at Delhi. This meeting has perhaps not received from historians and other writers the attention that it deserves [2].

The Council of the League met in Delhi on 29 March 1929, on the eve of the open session of the League. The 20th Session of the All India Muslim League began on 30 March 1929 with Jinnah in the Chair. On the previous day, the Council of the ‘Jinnah faction’ of the League had appointed a Committee to consider Jinnah’s draft resolution and to report upon it the next day. This Committee consisted of Jinnah, Maulana Azad, Maulana Mohamed Ali, Malik Barkat Ali, Nawab Ismail Khan, Dr Shafaat Ahmed Khan and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew.

The open session of the Muslim League was attended by Maulana Azad, T.A.K. Sherwani and S.A. Brelvi. Their participation and the passage of an agreed resolution moved by Abdul Rahman Ghazi, in the subjects committee was a development of great significance. The resolution accepted the Nehru Report, subject to five modifications, one of which was proposed by Brelvi. Dr Mohd. Alam was also present at this session. The resolution which was passed in the subjects committee was also passed in the open session but in the absence of Jinnah. Having been based on approval also by Azad, Sherwani and Brelvi, the Ghazi resolution signalled the possible evolution of a position between that of the Congress and the League.

The notion that the Congress was set against all modifications in the Nehru Report and that the All Parties Conference in December 1928 was the turning point is put somewhat into question by the adoption of this resolution by the Muslim League in the presence of Azad, Brelvi and Sherwani… read more:

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