By Prof. M.D. Nalapat
Good trial lawyers know that it is possible to weave bits and pieces of disconnected events together into a plausible hypothesis. This is what has happened with M.A. Jinnah, an individual whom it is no longer politically correct to damn as communal. While snatches from speeches and individual relationships may seem to show the contrary, the reality is that the founder of Pakistan was-from his youth-committed to a worldview that places the interests of a single community above those of the people as a whole.
Jinnah has been adjudged as secular mainly on the basis of a single speech given on August 11, 1947, in which he called for a policy that would permit religious freedom in Pakistan. A year earlier, through his follower Shaheed Suhrawardy, he had connived at riots in Calcutta designed to convince the British authorities as well as the Congress Party that Muslims and Hindus could never live peacefully together. These came on top of riots in Bihar and other locations, most of which were induced by Muslim League politicians.
Again, unlike in the case of the Indian leadership-including that individual whom liberals often classify as reactionary, Vallabhbhai Patel-which worked effectively to bring the communal situation in the newly-independent India under control, in Pakistan the slaughter continued, until finally the percentage of religious minorities fell from a third in 1947 to less than 5 per cent in less than a decade. The worst pogroms took place while Jinnah was still alive, in which hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and Hindus were killed. Two years earlier, Jinnah had in writing (to the Pir of Pagaro) stated that the new country would enact laws ?consistent with the Shariat?, and that all ?un-Islamic? laws would be repealed.
It needs to be remembered that in every election that he fought, Jinnah campaigned on a religious platform, including his earliest, in 1909, when he contested to the Bombay Presidency from a constituency reserved for Muslims. This was at a time, when, according to commentators in India, Jinnah was still a ?secular nationalist?. However, from the start of his political career, he concentrated on ?Muslim? issues, culminating (during the years just before Independence) in the limited-electorate elections in the still-united India, when Jinnah campaigned on a stridently religious platform.
Even as a schoolboy, Jinnah frequented the Anjuman-i-Islam, an organisation set up explicitly to ?protect the rights of Muslims?. From 1896 onwards, he played a leading role in this organisation'sactivities.
Jinnah'sAugust 11, 1947, speech is widely quoted by his apologists. A few days after Jinnah gave that speech, all language in it suggesting that the future Pakistan was to be anything other than a religious state was exorcised from official renderings of the speech. Such censorship presumably took place with the knowledge and consent of the ?secular? founder of the religious state of Pakistan.
Even as a schoolboy, Jinnah frequented the Anjuman-i-Islam, an organisation set up explicitly to ?protect the rights of Muslims?. From 1896 onwards, he played a leading role in this organisation'sactivities. As for his stint in the Legislative Council of the Bombay Presidency, the only piece of legislation that he piloted was one that related only to Muslims, the Wakf Validating Bill of 1913, with the support of the Muslim League. Seven years earlier, the Muslim League had been formed with encouragement from the Viceroy, Lord Minto. The very first of its declared objectives was ?To promote feelings of loyalty to the British Government among the Mussalmans of India?. Just four years later, in 1910, Jinnah began his formal association with the Muslim League. Despite this, for more than 10 years thereafter, historians in India have regarded him as being within the secular mainstream of Indian public life.
Although much has been made of his association with the Congress Party during the same period, a perusal of the record shows that his activity there was to promote what he regarded as ?Muslim? interests, usually done through a policy of collaboration with the colonial authorities
That Jinnah took his religion seriously from a very young age became clear when he went through the process of converting from Sunni Islam to Shia Islam in 1897, when he was barely into his 20s. Since then, he remained focussed on ?Muslim? issues, almost never venturing into questions relating to other communities. In 1919, he played a key role as a ?Muslim? interlocutor with the colonial authorities for the cause of the Turkish caliph. Jinnah sought the return to Turkish control of Thrace and Smyrna and saw the Khilafat Movement rather than Independence as ?the main factor of the (ongoing) Non-Cooperation Movement in the country. Jinnah was silent-if not complicit-in the numerous acts of violence indulged in by supporters in India of the Turkish Caliphate against Christians and Hindus, the worst of which was in Malabar in 1921. It was only the accession to power of the Kemalists in Turkey in 1922 that took the steam out of the ?Khilafat? agitation.
For Jinnah, the only villains were secular politicians.He laid the blame for the rash of Hindu-Muslim riots in the early part of the 1920s to ?the Hindu leaders in the Congress Party?, especially Gandhi. Then, as throughout his political career, Jinnah focussed near-exclusively on ?Muslim? issues, rejecting calls to see the peple of India as one. By the middle of the 1920s,he began to agitate for separate electorates for the two communities in all bodies where positions were filled through the ballot,and spoke of Hindus and Musims as two separate peoples. It was Jinnah who was among the first political thinkers to craft the pernicious theory that Muslims would be unable to peacefully exist in a polity not controlled them without diluting the requirements of their faith
It has been argued by Indian historians that the personal habits and culinary preferences of Jinnah ?proved? that he was no fundamentalist. In like manner, perhaps neither are several ISI generals,who too enjoy their whiskey and the company of blondesyher Any judgement on Jinnah needs to be based on the effect of Jinnah'sactions, not on how often he took ham and eggs for breakfast, or the number of glasses of alchohol he quaffed each evening. The founder of the religious state of Pakistan worked all his adult life in ?Muslim? causes, and by the end of the 1920s, edged towards the conviction that India needed to be vivisected. This led the Ali brothers (who led the Khilafat agitation) to oppose him on the grounds that he was fomenting a division in the national movement.Jinnah became steadily more vitriolic against ?Hindus? and ?the Hindu Congress?. The colonial authorities tacitly backed this policy
In every election that he fought, Jinnah campaigned on a religious platform, including his earliest, in 1909, when he contested to the Bombay Presidency from a constituency reserved for Muslims. This was at a time, when, according to commentators in India, Jinnah was still a ?secular nationalist?.
Of course, it is a fact that Jawaharlal Nehru was almost as responsible for Partition as Jinnah.1925 was the year when the arrogance of Nehru resulted in Jinnah'sbreakaway from even sporadic efforts to ensure the unity of India. Hopefully, the records in the possesion of the British authorities,as well as in India, will be examined at some future date, when they become available. The indulgent Gandhi and the arrogant, quixotic Jawaharlal Nehru made it easy for Jinnah to curry favour with the British authorities. Recent reports indicate that he was even in touch with that contemptous foe of the Indian pople and their aspirations,Winston Churchill,in the years preceding Independence. Churchill guided Jinnah from his vantage position as Leader of the Opposition in ensuring vivisection .Indeed, from 1922 onwards the policy of the Muslim League had been to tout the benefits of British rule, and seek the support of the colonial power against the ?traitorous? Hindus. British officials in India, reluctant to cede any power, worked through Jinnah to convince liberal British statesmen that the people of India were too divided to deserve representation in any representative institution dealing with the running of their own country. If it was Malcolm Hailey at the time of Lord Irwin'sviceroyalty, it was Conrad Corfield during the tenure of Lord Ismay. In London, Winston Churchill backed these machinations, in which Jinnah was an eager catspaw.In 1928, Jinnah got the Muslim League to boycott the All-Parties Conference called by Indian leaders to discuss ways of securing more rights, on the grounds that Muslims ?could not trust those Hindus?
The ?secular? Jinnah did not regard a minimum of 25% representation for Muslims in the Central services as acceptable,nor a policy based on the creation of a representative government at the centre that would be able to look at issues nationally.Rejecting the All-Parties Conference proposals, Jinnah convened a ?Muslim Conference? that – once again – sought to create a chasm between Hindu and Muslim.From that time onwards, Jinnah was open about his objective of separating Muslim from Hindu.Oddly,despite this transparent record, many Indians still see Jinnah as ?basically? secular.He was as much so as the Taliban leader Mullah Omar was ?basically? pacifist
The consistent insistence of Jinnah on a separate electorate for the Muslims ought to have given the lie to any suggestion that the founder of the religious state of Pakistan was secular. Even from within the Congress Party, Jinnah argued for such a division in the mandate,as for example in his speech at the Bombay Provincial Congress Conference in 1916, where he said that there should be ?no resistance? to this demand. That the Congress Party had itself backed this pernicious scheme since 1909 is a separate,but related, matter. Motilal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru were the two Congress leaders who were in the vanguard of those (successfully) pressing the party to accept Jinnah'sproposal
Had Germany been India'scolonial master and not Britain,had it been Hitler who was calling the shots from home rather than Macdonald, Chamberlain and even Churchill, there is little doubt that Gandhi would have ben executed together with millions of fellow-countrymen.That the British had a strong leaven of humanism and liberalism cannot be denied. Unfortunately, by choosing to go against the Allied war effort at a time when Britain was in danger of herself getting colonised,Gandhi ensured that the British establishment would overwhelmingly swing Jinnah'sway, which is what happened. The Quit India Movement did little to get the British to leave India at a time when Japan was at the gates of Assam, though it ensured that Pakistan got conceded. The final years before freedom are a litany of Congress mistakes juxtaposed with shrewd tactics by Jinnah, including the use of mob violence on innocents. The motivation behind all such actions by the ?Qaid-e-Azam? was the separation of Muslims into a religious state.Is this to be the new definition of ?secularism?? Judging by the numerous laudatory references to the ?secular? Jinah, it would appear so.