The founding of Pakistan by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah so greatly dominates his political life and career that his other roles are bound to be ignored. One important role which Jinnah played in the politics of India was for the achievement of unity between the Hindus and Muslims by bringing about some understanding between the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League. In fact, for more than two decades Jinnah was known more for this role than for any other. It will be recalled that Gopal Krishna Gokhale expressed the view that Jinnah “has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.”1 Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, who compiled Jinnah’s speeches and writings in 1918 gave the volume the sub-title An Ambassador of Unity and wrote that Jinnah stood “approved and confirmed by his countrymen not merely as an ambassador, but as an embodied symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.”2 Similarly, Jawahar Lal Nehru, who strongly differed from Jinnah on several political issues, wrote in 1936 that Jinnah had been “largely responsible in the past for bringing the Moslem League nearer to the Congress.”3 The fact is that Jinnah continued to work for unity between the Hindus and Muslims until he was convinced early in 1940 that the Hindu leaders were not at all prepared for any kind of understanding. The purpose of this paper is to discuss this aspect of Jinnah’s political life.

It should be noted at the very outset that at the early age of 16 Jinnah went to England for legal education and stayed there for about four years. At that time liberalism was very much in the air in England and Jinnah, who frequently visited the British Parliament, showed particular interest in the speeches of liberal leaders like W.E. Gladstone and John Morley. Amongst the prominent Indians with whom Jinnah developed close relations in the early years of his political career were Surendranath Banerjea, Dadabhai Naoroji and Gokhale. Jinnah described Banerjea as his leader. In a speech in the Indian Legislative Assembly, Jinnah said: “… I might say that I learnt my first lessons in politics at the feet of Sir Surendranath Banerjea. I was associated with him as one of his followers and I looked up to him as a leader.”4 Jinnah’s close association with Naoroji is established by the fact that in 1906, when Naoroji was elected President of the Congress, he selected Jinnah as his honorary private secretary. Jinnah demonstrated his admiration for Gokhale by saying that it was his ambition to become a Muslim Gokhale. Similarly, speaking at a public meeting in 1915 Jinnah said: “Personally I have had the honour of being one of the colleagues of Mr. Gokhale in the Imperial Council for some years, and to me it was always a matter of pride and pleasure to listen to him and often follow his lead.”5 Surely, Jinnah’s association with such Liberal leaders could not have generated any communal feelings in him.

It is admitted that Jinnah was first elected to the Imperial Council from a constituency reserved for the Muslims of Bombay and he first established his reputation as a legislator by piloting the Muslim Wakf Validating Bill. But it should also be noted that at that time Jinnah was a member of the Congress and not of the Muslim League. In fact, as the Agha Khan has pointed out, when in 1906 the Muslim leaders asked the Governor General Lord Minto, for separate voting registers, Jinnah “was the only well-known Muslim” who “came out in bitter hostility towards all that I and my friends has done and were trying to do.”6 During the next few years, Jinnah’s thinking did not undergo any change, for at the 1910 session of the Congress Jinnah was “the prime mover” of the resolution deprecating the application or extension of the principle of separate representation to local bodies. Jinnah was also a member of the Congress delegation that was to wait upon the Governor General to place before him the Congress view-point about separate electorates.7

Jinnah’s association with the Muslim League began as late as December 1912, when the League was considering changes in its aims and objects. Without being a member of the League, Jinnah was invited to the meeting of the League Council. Speaking on the proposal that one of the aims of the League should be “the attainment of a system of self-government suitable to India”, Jinnah then said that although “he was a Congressman, yet he know that it was wrong in this matter, and he prophesied that very soon the Congress would adopt the same form as suggested by the League...”8 Jinnah attended, again as a guest, the plenary session of the League held at Lucknow in April 1913, which ratified the decisions of the Council.

It was later in the year 1913, when Jinnah was in London, that Mohammad Ali and Syed Wazir Hasan argued with him that, since the aims of the Congress and the League were similar, he should become a member of the League also. Jinnah agreed but “his two sponsors were required to make a solemn preliminary covenant that loyalty to the Muslim League and the Muslim interest would in no way and at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the larger national cause to which his life was dedicated.”9

The national cause to which Jinnah was dedicated was the freedom of India. Jinnah understood that freedom could not come overnight and, in any event, before the country got freedom, it will have to be prepared in several ways – educationally, economically, militarily – and more than anything else, the people, in spite of their religious differences, will have to confront the British Government with a united demand for freedom.

Because of his liberal view, Jinnah thought that he was ideally suited to bring about unity between the Hindus and the Muslims. It so happened that in the early 1910s the need for unity and understanding looked urgent to several other prominent Indians also. One reason for this urgency was that the partition of Bengal had led to much estrangement between the Hindus and Muslims. In fact, for some time, the Muslims were ranged behind the Government when the Hindus were agitating against the Government and demanding the annulment of the partition. At the suggestion of the Congress President Sir William Wedderburn, a conference of Hindu and Muslim leaders was held at Allahabad in January 1911. Jinnah then worked to bring about an understanding between the Congress and the League. He is reported to be present “as a sort of ‘cross bencher’” at this conference. Unfortunately nothing resulted from it.

Muslim leaders however remained anxious for an understanding between the two communities. In November 1911, the President of the London Branch of the Muslim League Syed Ameer Ali, in a letter to Mian Muhammad Shafi, wrote: “The growing differences between Hindus and Muhammadans are filling me with the deepest concern and I have come to the conclusion that I should make some efforts to bring about a modus vivendi by which the two communities may work together for the common good.10 Soon after, when the partition of Bengal, which had been described by a number of responsible British civil servants as “a settled fact”, was undone, more and more Muslim leaders began to realize that an understanding with the Hindus was very much in the interests of the Muslims themselves. The March 1913 session of the Muslim League, which was presided over by Shafi, passed a resolution which read: “The All India Muslim League places on record its firm belief that the future development and progress of the people of India depend exclusively on the harmonious working and co-operation of the various communities; …and hopes that the leaders on both sides will periodically meet together to…find a modus operandi for joint and concerted action..”11 Pursuant to this resolution, on 28 April the Secretary of the League circulated to prominent members of the League a proposal that four representatives of each community should meet together at Lucknow in the following September.12 On 1 May, the Secretary wrote to Jinnah also in this connection. In his reply, Jinnah said: “I am one of them who firmly believe that the union of the two communities in India is absolutely necessary for the purpose of India, and also that sooner or later these communities will be united.13

Even after Jinnah had joined the League in the autumn of 1913, his activities continued on non-communal lines. It is significant that his contribution at the League session held in December 1913 was (a) to move a resolution for the reconstitution of the Council of the Secretary of State of India, and (b) to intervene in the debate on the resolution for separate representation in the local bodies by urging that the consideration of the resolution be postponed for a year. The Congress fully understood Jinnah’s position and in 1914 included him in the delegation which it sent to London to ask for the reconstitution of the Secretary of State’s Council.

The big contribution which India started making towards the war effort as soon as the Great War began led many Indian leaders to believe that India would get freedom sooner than earlier expected. In any event, at its annual session in December 1914, the Congress asked for the “recognition of India as a component part of a Federated Empire, in the full and free enjoyment of the rights belonging to that status”.14 Jinnah also thought that the demand for the transfer of power will find acceptance from the British Government only when the two major communities of India had reached an understanding about the future constitution. For bringing about such an understanding Jinnah found his opportunity in late 1915, when it became known that the Congress would hold its annual session at Bombay in December. Jinnah then played a leading role in persuading the League leader to hold the annual session of the League also at Bombay at the same time. The League leaders agreed and, largely at the initiative of Jinnah, a special effort was made to create an atmosphere of cordiality between the two communities by inviting to the League session several prominent Congress leaders, including Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mrs. Annie Basant, and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. Indeed one prominent League leader, Suleman Kassim Mitha, remarked that although the business of the session was being conducted in the name of the League, in fact it was a Congress body.15

Jinnah’s most valuable contribution at this session was his resolution “that a committee…be appointed to formulate and frame a scheme for reforms, and that the said committee is authorized to confer with political and other organizations or communities if any, appointed by such organizations as they may deem fit…”16 The resolution was approved by the session and the Congress reciprocated by naming a committee to confer with the League’s committee.

While the committee of the League and the Congress were together working to produce a joint scheme of reforms, Jinnah explained what he had in his mind: “Differences in details such as method of securing to Mahomedans their adequate share in the Council chambers, municipals and district boards, should not be allowed to create an ‘impasse’…It is not a question of a few more seats going to the Mahomedans or the Hindus. It is a question.. in the first instance of transfer of power from the bureaucracy to democracy. Let us concentrate all our attention and energy on this question alone for the present. The Hindus and the Mahomedans should stand united and use every constitutional and legitimate means to affect that transfer as soon as possible.”17

In December 1916 the League and the Congress held their annual session simultaneously at Lucknow and approved of the joint scheme prepared by their committees, which later became famous as the Lucknow Pact.

It should be noted that the Pact was not satisfactory from the Muslim view-point because, although it had provided for “weighted” representation for the Muslims in the Councils of the five Muslim minority provinces (Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces, Madras, and the United Provinces), they still could not influence decision-making in these provinces but their position suffered much damage in the only two Muslim majority provinces. In the Punjab, against a population of 54.8%, they were reduced to equality with the non-Muslims in the Council, whereas in Bengal, where their population was 52.7%, they were reduced to a minority of only 40%.

Jinnah however felt satisfied with the Pact because it had brought about the understanding for which he had been so anxious. Concerning matters which the Hindus or the Muslims considered as their special interests, Jinnah must have felt that a good arrangement had been reached by including in the Pact the double vote clause which read: “…no Bill, nor any clause thereof, nor a resolution introduced by a non-official member affecting one or the other community, which question is to be determined by the members of that community in the legislative council concerned, shall be proceeded with, if three-fourths of the members of that community in the particular council, Imperial or provincial, oppose the Bill, or any clause thereof, or the resolution.”18

It is of the particular interest to note that even though the basis of the Pact was separate representation for the Muslims, Jinnah did not believe that the Muslims had any special interests which could be safeguarded by this device. His own view was that, compared with the Hindus, the Muslims were backward and therefore needed some kind of a crutch to come up to the level of the Hindus. As he put it, “the demand for separate electorates is not a matter of policy but of necessity to the Mahomedans who require to be roused fom the coma and torpor into which they had fallen so long.”19 But he was accepting separate representation because it had become “a mandate of the community”. Jinnah clarified his stand in the presidential address which he delivered at the League session which approved of the joint scheme. “I have been a staunch Congressman throughout my public life and have been no lover of sectarian cries, but it appears to me that the reproach of ‘separatism’ sometimes levelled at Musalmans is singularly inept and wide off the mark, when I see this great communal organization rapidly growing into a powerful factor for the birth of united India. A minority must, above everything else, have a complete sense of security before its broader political sense can be evoked for co-operation and united endeavour in the national tasks. To the Musalmans of India that security can come only through adequate and effective safeguards as regards their political existence as a community. Whatever my individual opinion may be, I am here to interpret and express the sense of the overwhelming body of the Moslem opinion…”20

The unity which had been achieved at the level of the leaders in the Lucknow Pact was achieved, largely through the efforts of Gandhi, at the level of masses in the non-cooperation movement organised for the double purpose of the restoration of the caliphate and the freedom of India. But Jinnah kept aloof from it because he was convinced that religious frenzy and not reason was the force behind it. Jinnah also disagreed with the Programme of the movement suggested by Gandhi. For instance, Jinnah could not understand how the State-sponsored educational institutions could be boycotted when the country had no national institutions where the boycotting students could be enrolled. Jinnah also believed that it was just not possible to have a non-co-operation movement in India which would also remain non-violent, as Gandhi had planned. Jinnah’s thinking proved correct and, inter alia, the movement led to the burning alive of 22 policemen, when it was suddenly called off. It is significant that while the movement could achieve neither of its objectives, it left the vast majority of the Congressmen as well as the Khalifatists, particularly the latter, bewildered and resentful of Gandhi, and what is worse, the relations between the Hindus and the Muslims became very strained.

Jinnah however continued his efforts to achieve some understanding between the Hindu and Muslim Leaders. Early in 1922 he played a leading role in convening an all parties conference, which asked for a round table meeting between the Government and the Congress on Khilafat, self-government and other issues.

By 1924 a new development had taken place. Partly because of the failure of the non-co-operation movement to produce results and partly because of the Congress boycott of the elections to the assemblies set up under the Act of 1919, the Hindu Mahasabha was becoming popular with the Hindu masses. Largely because of this development, the Hindus started denouncing the principle of separate representations, although the Muslims (and not the Hindus) had good reasons to be dissatisfied with the Lucknow Pact (for the reasons already stated) as well as with the new Act, because while the allocation of seats to the Muslims in the assemblies had been made on the basis of the Pact, the vital double vote clause had not been incorporated in it and the regulations under it had been so framed that Muslim representation in the Punjab Assembly was further reduced to 40% and in the Bengal Assembly to only 30%.21

In this situation Jinnah thought that it was necessary to make the League more active so that it could become a representative body of the Muslims. But his passion for Hindu-Muslim unity did not subside. Speaking at the annual session of the League in May 1924, Jinnah repeated his usual argument: “…we must not forget that one essential requisite condition to achieve Swaraj is political unity between the Hindus and the Mahomedans; for the advent of foreign rule, and its continuance in India, is primarily due to the fact that the people of India, particularly the Hindus and Mahomedans are not united and do not sufficiently trust each other….I am almost inclined to say that India will get Dominion Responsible Government the day the Hindus and Mahomedans are united. Swaraj is an almost interchangeable term with Hindu-Muslim unity.”22

In December 1924, at the Bombay session of the League, Jinnah and other Muslim leaders tried to recreate the atmosphere of 1915. Prominent Hindus leaders, including Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Gandhi were invited to this session. But the Hindu leaders did not make any move to win the confidence of the Muslims and in 1926 Jinnah had to complain that the Congress position with regard to the Muslim demands was “far from reassuring”.23 Even so, at the League session held in December, Jinnah moved a resolution which, inter alia, provided for the appointment of the committee “to formulate a scheme, so far as possible, in consultation with a committee or committees that may be appointed by other political organizations…for submission to the Royal Commission when it is appointed.”24 In moving the resolution Jinnah said: “We desire nothing but justice and fairness and I assure you that if we, the two communities, can settle our differences, it will be more than half the battle for responsible government won.”25

In March 1927 Jinnah made a new move for bringing about an understanding between the Hindus and the Muslims. He then persuaded a number of Muslim leaders to be flexible on the issue of separate electorates. Meeting at Delhi, the Muslim leaders agreed to a formula which provided for joint electorates on certain conditions. This formula looked so reasonable to the Congress leaders that the All India Congress Committee which met in May approved of it and later in the year the plenary session of the Congress ratified it.

Jinnah’s reaction to the appointment of the Simon Commission was similar to that of the Congress. Jinnah had also earlier suggested that the Indian political parties should put up an agreed constitutional plan. He therefore decided that the League, like the Congress, should boycott the Commission. Shafi, who had earlier disagreed with Jinnah on his new approach to the system of election, was strongly opposed to the boycott decision. He therefore left the League and formed his own parallel League. But, because Jinnah believed that the cause of India’s freedom could not be advanced without Hindu-Muslim co-operation, he did not bother about the split in the League and, in line with his earlier stand, also decided that the League would co-operate with the Congress and the other non-co-operating parties in framing a constitution by the Indians.

But the constitution framed by the committee appointed by the non-co-operating parties (known as the Nehru Report) was not satisfactory from Jinnah’s viewpoint. In a bid to make the Report acceptable to the Muslims, Jinnah proposed certain amendments to it at the convention of the parties which was held at Calcutta in December 1928. Jinnah then pleaded: “What we want is that the Hindus and Musalmans should march together until our objective is obtained. Therefore, it is essential that you must get not only the Muslim League but the Musalmans of India., and here I am not speaking as a Musalman but as an Indian. And it is my desire to see that we get seven crores of Musalmans to march along with us in the struggle for freedom. Would you be content with a few? Would you be content if I were to say, I am with you? Do you want or do you not want the Muslim India to go along with you? You must remember the two major communities of India… are the Hindus and Musalmans and naturally, therefore, these two communities have got to be reconciled and united and made to feel that their interests are common and they are marching together for a common goal.”26 But Jinnah’s pleading was in vain. The convention, preponderantly composed as it was of Hindus, most of whom were under the influence of the Mahasabha, which was then extremely popular with the Hindus, rejected Jinnah’s amendments. Indeed one Hindu leader even said that Jinnah represented nobody.

The Hindu attitude at the convention left no alternative for Jinnah about to identify himself with the views of other Muslim leaders. This he did by framing in March 1929 his famous fourteen points. Jinnah had no doubt hoped that his new stand would enable all the different Muslim parties and groups to unite under the banner of the League. This hope, however, did not materialise.

At the first round table conference held in London in the winter of 1930-31, Jinnah clearly explained what he wanted – self-government for India and security for the minorities. Speaking at the fifth plenary meeting Jinnah said that “there is not one section in India that has not emphatically declared that India must have a full measure of self-government”27 and that “unless you create that sense of security among the minorities, which will secure a willing co-operation and allegiance to the State, no constitution that you may frame will work successfully.”28 But the Indian delegates could not reach any understanding either at this conference or at the second conference which was held in late 1931. Incredible thought it seems, at the first conference where prominent Hindu leaders, many of them communal, were present but the Congress was not represented, the Hindu-Muslim problem looked close to solution, but at the second conference, where Gandhi was also present as the sole spokesman of the Congress there was a complete deadlock on the communal issue. Gandhi took the stand that he represented all sections of the Indian population. This stand was strongly challenged by almost all the leaders of the minorities. In the result, the communal issue had ultimately to be decided by the Prime Minister who gave his award in 1932.

The attitude of the Hindu leaders at the round table conferences completely shocked Jinnah. As he told a students’ gathering at Aligarh in 1938: “…I received the shock of my life at the meeting of the Round Table Conference. In the face of danger the Hindu sentiment, the Hindu mind, the Hindu attitude led me to the conclusion that there was no hope for unity. I felt very pessimistic about my country.”29 Jinnah himself could not make any contribution towards resolving the communal problem because his views were not shared by other delegates. He disclosed his solution of the problem at a public meeting at Allahabad: “…I honestly believe that the Hindus should concede to the Muslims a majority in the Punjab and Bengal, and if that is conceded, I think a settlement can be arrived at in a very short time…if a majority is conceded in the Punjab and Bengal, I would personally prefer a settlement on the basis of joint electorate. But I also know that there is a large body of Muslims…and I believe a majority of Muslims…who are holding on the separate electorate. My position is that I would rather have a settlement even on the footing of separate electorate, hoping and trusting that when we work out new constitution and when both Hindus and Muslims get rid of distrust, suspicion and fears, and when they get their freedom, we would rise to the occasion and probably separate electorate will go sooner than most of us think.”30

After the constitutional proposals had been published in the form of a White Paper and almost all Indian leaders had found them most unsatisfactory, Jinnah again pleaded for unity. Speaking at the Council of the League in April 1934, Jinnah said: “India looks forward to a real, solid, united front. Can we even at this eleventh hour bury the hatchet, and forget the past in the presence of imminent danger, and close our ranks to get sufficient strength to resist what is being hatched both at Downing Street and in Delhi? It is up to the leaders to put their heads together, and nothing will give me greater happiness than to bring about complete co-operation and friendship between Hindus and Muslims…”31

But the Congress and the League could not agree on any modifications that could be suggested to the constitutional proposals. Early in 1935 the Congress President Rajendra Prasad and Jinnah held talks to evolve a formula which would be acceptable to both the communities and could take the place of the British Prime Minister’s award. Jinnah then offered to accept joint electorates provided the franchise was so adjusted that the Muslim population in the Punjab and Bengal would be reflected in the Muslim voting strength in the two provinces. But this proposals was not acceptable to the Hindus of the Punjab and Bengal and therefore the talks ended without any results.32

The new Act was passed in August 1935. Many Indian leaders felt that the Act was more objectionable than the White Paper itself. In any event, both the Congress and the League strongly criticised the Act but, with the difference that while the Congress rejected the entire Act, the League, in spite of its serious objections to the provincial part of the Act, showed willingness to utilize it “for what it is worth”.

In March 1936 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the Congress. At the Congress session in April, Nehru put forward his thesis that the real problem in India was the apalling poverty of the people and that it could only be resolved by socialist methods, which he greatly favoured. He also very strongly opposed the new Act and said that it was a “new charter of slavery”. Nehru advised Congressmen that, except for taking part in the elections, they should have nothing to do with the Act. In line with Nehru’s thinking, the Congres decided to fight the elections to combat the Act. However, a number of prominent Congressmen disagreed with his decision.

Jinnah continued to plead for a Hindu-Muslim understanding. In August 1936 he declared: “Remember India cannot make any progress and India’s salvation lies in the unity of all communities, especially the Hindus and Muslims.”33

At the time of election campaign in late 1936, it seemed almost certain that, in spite of the official Congress policy to wreck the constitution, the Congress and the League were going to co-operate in working the Act. The Congress had not taken any final decision on the issue of office acceptance but had postponed it till after the elections. The election manifestoes of the two parties were similar. Further, even though the Congress was not prepared to let down those Muslims who had cast their lot with it, it seemed that it was not claiming to represent the Muslim community. For, in 1936, out of a total of 143 members in the All India Congress Committee, only 6 members were Muslims and the Congres had decided to contest only 58 seats out of 482 seats reserved for the Muslims (excluding women’s seats). It was also considered significant that in the Central Assembly, the Independent Party, which consisted of 22 members, most of whom were Muslims, and was led by Jinnah, had been co-operating a great deal with the Congress Party which had 44 members.

It is true that Nehru had been sounding discordant notes. Apart from what he had stated at the Congress session, he had also expressed the view that the communal question in India had no importance because it was “the creation of a third party”.34 But Nehru’s thinking was not shared by many Congress leaders. More importantly, in the policy making Congress Working Committee itself, the number of members who agreed with Nehru’s socialist views, constituted a small minority.35 In fact, no less a person than Rajendra Prasad had strongly disagreed with Nehru and had said: “We have got many difficulties and problems which baffle solution. The country has not yet found a solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem in spite of the greatest efforts.” Prasad had also asked Nehru if, in such a situation, “is it practical politics to say that all our communal and international differences will vanish in no time if we can concentrate our attention on economic problems and solve them on socialistic lines?”36

On the eve of elections it became apparent that, because the Muslims were divided between a large number of parties and groups, the League was not going to come out as a strong party in the assemblies. This must have been one important reason which led Nehru to remark that there are only two parties in the country…the British Government and the Indian Congress. Jinnah was amazed at this statement and immediately replied: “There is a third party, namely the Muslims…We are not going to be camp-followers of any party. We are ready to work as equal partners for the welfare of India.”37

Shortly after the election results were known Jinnah once again offered to co-operate with the Congress by saying: “We are free and ready to co-operate with any group or party if the basic principles are determined by common consent.”38 In March 1937 when the Congres decided to accept office, Jinnah strongly urged for Congress-League co-operation: There is really no substantial difference now at any rate between the League and the Congress as plan of the wrecking of the constitution has disappeared from the Congress programme….We shall always be glad to co-operate with the Congress in their constructive programme… Let us now concentrate on these causes which stand in the way of a united front.”39

The election results however had shown that even though the Congress had won less than half of the total seats in the assemblies (716 out of 1585), it was in a position to form by itself ministries in all the Hindu majority provinces while the Muslim League could not form government even in one Muslim majority province. It is true that the League was the only all India Muslim body and its share of the Muslim seats was much larger than that of the Congress…109 against 26 (of which 15 were in the small North-West Frontier Province where the Red Shirt Leaders Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Dr Khan Sahib, who were extremely popular with the Pathans, had made common cause with the Congress). But the hard fact remained that the Congress did not need the co-operation of the Muslim League in any province. To consolidate its position amongst the Muslims, the Congress also decided to launch a Muslim mass contact programme on the understanding that its programme of agrarian reforms will appeal to the Muslim peasants and therefore they will be happy to join the Congress. In this situation, Jinnah turned to Gandhi and asked him to use his great influence with the Congress to bring about an understanding between the Congress and the League. Gandhi, however, replied: “I wish I could do something but I am utterly helpless. My faith in unity is bright as ever; only I see no daylight out of the impenetrable darkness and in such distress I cry out to God for light.”40

The Congress, it should be added, at one stage, did offer to have the co-operation of the League in government-making, but it was on impossible terms. In the United Provinces, for instance, where the League had won 27 seats and Congress only one seat, two nominees of the League would be taken in the Ministry, provided the League Party in the Assembly would merge with the Congress Assembly Party, the League Parliamentary Board would be dissolved, the League nominees would follow the instructions issued by the Congress Working Committee and other competent bodies, and in case the Congress Party decided on resignation, the League nominated Ministers would also resign. It was obvious that one important purpose behind these terms was to absorb the Muslim League into the Congress Party.

The Congress Ministries also adopted certain measures which the Muslims found offensive from the point of view of their religion and culture. For Instance, the idolatrous Bande Mataram song was sung before the Assembly proceedings began. In the United Provinces, special efforts were made to popularize Hindi at the expense of Urdu. The Muslims also resented the decision of the Congress Governments to hoist the Congress Party flag on public buildings.

It was in March 1937 that Dr. Muhammad Iqbal had written to Jinnah: “From the Muslim point of view the cultural problem is of much greater consequence to most Indian Muslims .At any rate it is not less important than the economic problem.”41 But it seems that it was the Congress rule in the provinces more than anything else which convinced Jinnah that the Muslims had special interests of their own and these must be safeguarded.

These developments were reviewed by Jinnah at the Lucknow session of the League which was held in October 1937. Convinced as he was the Congress was taking the League for granted because it did not have the Muslim masses behind it, Jinnah then laid special stress on the need to strengthen the League. Jinnah asked the Muslims to “realize that the time has come when they should concentrate and devote their energies to self-organisation and the full development of their power, to the exclusion of every other considerations.”42 This was necessary, Jinnah said, for reaching a settlement with the Congress. “An honourable settlement can only be achieved between equals; and unless the two parties learn to respect and fear each other, there is no solid ground for any settlement. Offers of peace by the weaker party always means a confession of weakness, and an invitation to aggression.”43 Jinnah also emphasized that for all practical purposes the Congress was a Hindu body and it could not look after the special interests of the Muslims. “On the very threshold of what little power and responsibility is given, the majority community have clearly shown their hand: that Hindustan is for the Hindus.”44 Jinnah also said that “since they have formed Governments in the six provinces where they are in a majority, they have by their words, deeds and programme shown, more and more, that the Musalmans cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands.”45

Meanwhile, it had also become apparent to the Chief Ministers in the non-Congress provinces, who were heading coalition Ministries, that the Congress was determined to topple their Governments. They had also realized that the disruptive tactics of the Congress could be resisted only if they had the support of the Muslim League. In the result, three of them, Sir Sikhandar Hayat Khan (Punjab), A.K. Fazlul Haq (Bengal) and Muhammad Saadullah (Assam) announced their support to the League in all-India matters. They also said that they were asking their Muslim followers in the Assemblies to join the League. Leaders of smaller parties also decided to join the League because they realized that soon the League would become so popular with Muslims that their followers would desert their parties in favour of the League.

As was expected, Muslims responded to Jinnah’s calls to strengthen the League in a big way and branches of the League were soon established even in smaller towns. But Jinnah’s sole purpose in having a powerful League was to suggest to the Congress leaders that they should settle the Hindu-Muslim problem on some reasonable terms. Accordingly, in November 1937, Jinnah appealed to the Congress leadership to settle with the League the various issues which then confronted India.46

Congress leaders, understandably, got concerned at the fast growing popularity of the League with the Muslim masses and made some moves to pacify the Muslims. In February 1938 the Congress passed a resolution which said that “it regards it as its primary duty and fundamental policy to protect the religious, linguistic, cultural and other rights of the minorities in India…”47 But, the resolution also said, the minorities should seek their protection within the fold of the Congress.

Earlier Gandhi had written to Jinnah and described his Lucknow speech as “a declaration of war”. Gandhi had also offered to serve as a “bridge”.48 Jinnah’s reaction was that he regretted Gandhi’s interpretation of his speech which he had made “purely in self-defence.”49 Jinnah assured Gandhi that he was still working for a Hindu-Muslim settlement. Jinnah and Gandhi exchanged several other letters also. Jinnah also negotiated with Nehru and later with the new Congress President, Subhas Chandra Bose, but no settlement could be reached because the Congress leaders were not prepared to accept the Muslim view-point that Muslims had special interests and that the League could be regarded as the spokesman of the Muslims.

But Jinnah did not give up his efforts to bring about an understanding between the Congress and the League. In January 1939, when he visited Allahabad, he appealed to the Congress leaders to co-operate with the League and settle the Hindu-Muslim problem so that India could advance politically.50 Later in September, in a speech at the dinner of the old boys of Osmania University, Jinnah said:”…Within the honest meaning of the term I still remain nationalist. I have always believed in a Hindu-Muslim pact. But such a pact can only be an honourable one and not a pact which will mean the destruction of one and the survival of the other…. One does not see much light at present but you never can say when the two communities would unite.”51 On 1 January 1940 Jinnah wrote to Gandhi: “More than anyone else, you happen to be the man today who commands the confidence of Hindu India and are in a position to deliver the goods on their behalf. Is it too much to hope and expect that you might play your legitimate role…?...I believe that you might still rise to your stature in the service of our country and make your proper contribution towards leading India to contentment and happiness.”52

It would seem that Jinnah was thinking of a Hindu-Muslim settlement on the lines of the Lucknow Pact. The Congress, on the other hand, had taken the stand that a constitution framed by a popularly elected constituent assembly should be acceptable to the Muslims also. But because the principle of decision by majority was already in operation in India and the Congress had not said that any other principle (such as the one provided in the double vote colause in the Lucknow Pact) could apply to constitution-making, the Congress stand was not acceptable to Jinnah. More importantly, the experiment of provincial autonomy had convinced Jinnah that the Western system of democracy, even with the modifications introduced by the Government of India Act of 1935 in the form of special responsibilities of the Governors, was wholly unsuited to the Indian conditions. Jinnah, therefore, strongly felt that this system should not be made applicable to India.

In an article in the Time and Tide of London published on 19 January 1940, Jinnah expressed the view that “a constitution must be evolved that recognizes that there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland” and it was on this basis that “the Muslims were ready to co-operate with the British Government and the congress or any other party…”53 In other words, according to Jinnah, a Hindu-Muslim settlement was possible only on the basis that there were two nations in India. But the two-nation theory was not acceptable to the Congress. Jinnah was therefore left with no option except to discard the concept of “our country” and “common motherland” and to demand that the two nations should have their own separate states. Jinnah’s role as ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity thus spans a long period of three decades.

By Latif Ahmed Sherwani (Dr. Sherwani has been Director of the Institute of International Affairs, Karachi.)

  1. Quoted in Sarojini Naidu, Mahomed Ali Jinnah, Madras, 1918, p. I.
  2. Ibid., p. 20.
  3. An Autobiography, London, 1936, p. 67.
  4. Quoted in A.A. Rauoof, Meet Mr. Jinnah, Lahore, 1965, p. 35.
  5. Sarojini Naidu, op. cit., p. 116.
  6. The Memoirs of Agha Khan, London, 1954, p. 94.
  7. Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, op. cit., p. 37.
  8. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada Foundations of Pakistan, Karachi, 1969, p. 259.
  9. Sarojini Naidu, op. cit., p. II. (See article No. 8 for another new. –ed.),
  10. Quoted in Muhammad Shafi’s appeal for Inter-Communal Unity and Co-operation, Archives of Freedom Movement, Karachi University Library, File No. 115 (Hindu-Muslim Unity), p. 5.
  11. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, op. cit., p. 281.
  12. Archives of Freedom Movement, File No. 115, cited, p. 7.
  13. Ibid., p. 19.
  14. D. Chakrabarty and C. Bhattacharya, Congress in Evolution, Calcutta, 1935, p. 16.
  15. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, op. cit., p. 351.
  16. Ibid., p. 353.
  17. Sarojini Naidu, op. cit., pp. 100-101.
  18. Jagdish Sharma (Ed.) India’s Struggle for Freedom, vol. I, Delhi, 1962, p. 216.
  19. Sarojini Naidu, op. cit., p. 99.
  20. Ibid., pp. 45-46.
  21. Ram Gopal, Indian Muslims, Bombay, 1964, p. 171.
  22. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, op. cit., p. 577.
  23. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan, Vol. II, Karachi, 1970, p. 104.
  24. Ibid., p. 102.
  25. Ibid., p. 104.
  26. M. Rafique Afzal, op. cit., pp. 294-95.
  27. Indian Round Table Conference, Proceedings, Calcutta, 1931, p. 137.
  28. Ibid., p. 139.
  29. Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad op. cit., Vol. I. p. 39.
  30. Quoted in Ram Gopal, op. cit., p. 234.
  31. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, op. cit., Vol. II, cited, p. 233.
  32. Stanley Reed and Francis Low, The Indian Yearbook 1936-37, Bombay, p. 743.
  33. Quoted in C.H. Philips. The Partition of India, London, 1970, p. 251, f.n.
  34. Ibid., p. 254.
  35. Frank Moraes, Jawaharlal Nehru, New York, 1956, p. 256.
  36. Quoted in C.H. Philips, op. cit, p. 255.
  37. Quoted in Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, op. cit., p. 252.
  38. Quoted in C.H. Philips, op. cit., p. 255.
  39. Quoted in Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, op. cit., p. 253.
  40. Ibid., p. 256.
  41. Struggle for Independence 1958-1947, Karachi, 1958, Appendices, p. 32.
  42. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 268.
  43. Ibid., p. 269.
  44. Ibid., p. 268.
  45. Ibid., p. 267.
  46. Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, op. cit., p. 272.
  47. Quoted in R. Coupland, Indian politics 1936-1942, London, 1943, p. 183.
  48. Nehru-Jinnah Correspondence: Including Gandhi-Jinnah and Nehru-Nawab Ismail Correspondence, Allahabad, p. 81
  49. Ibid., p. 82.
  50. Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, op. cit., p. 276.
  51. Jamiluddin Ahmad, Vol. I, op. cit., p. 86.
  52. Quoted in Matlubul Hasan Saiyid op. cit., pp. 311-12.
  53. Jamiluddin Ahmad, op. cit., pp. 123-24.

Source: World Scholars on Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Edited By: Ahmad Hasan Dani - Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, 1979.


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