Communalism: Sieving Facts from Fiction
Vijay Rana, 20 August 2009, London
can Jinnah, the lifelong campaigner for separate communal
electorate, the advocate of two-nations theory, the opponent of
'Hindu Tyranny' and the initiator of India’s first mass
violence campaign, the Direct Action Day, be described as a
secular leader? Dr Vijay Rana tells the true story of
Indian admirers of Muhammad Ali Jinnah have long tried to put him at
par with Gandhi and Nehru. Recently, the pro-Jinnah chorus has grown
into such a crescendo that many Indians are genuinely confused and
think that partition was really the fault of Nehru and Patel.
and Nehru were secular. They believed in communal harmony. Despite
our numerous differences and mind-boggling diversities they managed
to lay the foundations of a secular and democratic India.
the other hand Jinnah’s vision was narrow and tactics
uncompromising. He used both religion and violence to achieve his
sectarian state of Pakistan. How can any leader who uses religion
and violence to divide a people be either secular or democrat?
we make Nehru and Gandhi villain and Jinnah a hero, that’s where
problem begins – the problem of an inverted and politicised
history. We Indians need to understand what Jinnah did to us and had
we followed his path where we could have ended.
Indian admirers of Jinnah need to answer, how could they respect a
man without respecting his legacy and life work. And what was
Jinnah’s legacy – that ‘Hindus and Muslims are two nations’.
And what was his life’s work – the creation of
‘the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’.
supporters of Jinnah’s secularism also need to be reminded that
Jinnah’s speeches and writings are not written in undecipherable
Indus script. They are available in print, in audio, in video and
now on google.
supporter of communal electorate
true that Jinnah began his political career as a Congressman
believing in secularism and Hindu-Muslim unity. But once he joined
the Muslim League in 1913 he shared the League’s vision of the
separation of Hindu and Muslim interests. Three years later, as the
main architect of Congress-League Lucknow pact, we find him
championing the cause of separate and communal electorate.
1937, he began using provocative language against Congress,
particularly Gandhi. We find him openly asking Indian Muslims to
‘fight and shed blood’ to achieve their political goals. We also
find him increasingly referring to the prophet, the Quran, and Islam
to polarize Muslims opinion.
Pakistani accounts of Jinnah do not hide the communal face of Jinnah.
They repeatedly quote his speeches in which he invokes the glory of
Islam to liberate Muslims from what he calls the ‘brute Hindu
what kind of democracy we would be having in India – Muslim only
voting for Muslim candidates and Hindus voting for only Hindus. In
Jinnah’s India Congress would have become a communal Hindu party
because one of his main demands was that only Muslim League could
represent Muslims and League would have the exclusive right to
Muslim ministers in any future government.
of Jinnah produced a huge body of work, particularly during June
2005 when Advani praised Jinnah’s secularim.
example, the scholarly lawyer AG Noorani writing in the Frontline
(13 June 2005), argued that Jinnah was ‘truly a great man. His
political record from 1906 to 1939 reveals a spirit of conciliation
and statesmanship, which Congress leaders did not reciprocate.’
‘Indians must begin to acknowledge, advised Noorani, ‘his
greatness and the grave injustice the Congress leaders did to
him’. Noorani skipped any mention of Jinnah’s words or actions
relating to his most active years, 1940-47. Because it was during
these years Jinnah was spreading fear among Muslims telling them in
Gandhi’s India Muslims will be ‘absolutely wiped out of
the most ingenious distortion of history came from the British
author Patrick French. He wrote in the Outlook (June 2005) that
‘Gandhi was a wily politician and Jinnah remained a secularist
till his death.’ He argued that partition occurred because the
Congress refused to accept Jinnah’s ‘justifiable demands’.
Jalal, the Pakistani professor of history at the Tufts University,
USA, also wrote in the Outlook: ‘It
was the Congress backed by the Hindu Mahasabha which plumped for a
partition of the two main Muslim-majority provinces of India, the
Punjab and Bengal, opposed by Jinnah and the League.’
Jalal must belong to the fictional school of history, dreaming Nehru
and Patel conspiring with Hindu Mahasabha to achieve partition. Can
anyone really believe this?
none of these protectors of Jinnah’s secularism mentioned, for
once, the Direct Action Day, 16 August 1946, when Jinnah unleashed
an unprecedented wave of communal killings in the human history.
towards communalism and partition
conversion from a secularist to communalist was quick and
continuous. After finishing his studies in England, Jinnah returned
to India in 1896. In December 1906, he joined the Congress as the
personal secretary of the party president Dadabhai Naoroji.
believed in Hindu-Muslim unity and vigorously opposed the Muslim
League demand of separate Muslim electorate as divisive, soon
winning praise from poetess Sarojini Naidu as ‘the ambassador of
years after he entered into politics Jinnah unwittingly took his
first step towards communalism. In 1910, he contested and won
election for the central legislature assembly as a Muslim member
under the newly introduced system of separate electorate.
1913, he joined the Muslim League, a party whose leadership was
avowedly communal and staunchly anti-Congress. Within seven years of
his entry into politics, a secular Jinnah has become, as Prof. Bipin
Chandra puts it, ‘a communal nationalist’.
was one of the main driving forces behind the Congress-League pact
of 1916. But we must also look at the price our ambassador of
Hindu-Muslim unity was demanding. He managed to persuade the
Congress party, now led by Tilak, to accept separate electorate,
communal weightage and one-third representation for Muslims in the
sources describe Lucknow Pact as a major milestone on the road to
acceptance of the notion of separate electorates was later
interpreted as its approval of ‘Two-Nation Theory.’
1936, Jinnah himself asked: “When the Hindus accepted a separate
identity for the Muslims through the Lucknow Pact in 1916, how can
they now object to Pakistan?”
many history books, taught in our schools, describe the Lucknow Pact
as a major triumph of Hindu-Muslim unity.
admirers believe that in 1920 he resigned from the Congress due to
Gandhi’s support for Khilafat movement for retaining the pre-war
status of the Ottoman Caliph. But the real reason was his opposition
of Gandian politics of mass civil disobedience. He considered Gandhi
a pseudo-religious upstart.
Gandhi launched non-cooperation movement in 1920, Jinnah, until now
a member of both parties, walked out of the Congress, telling his
friend, journalist Durga Das that in Gandhi’s Congress there was
no place for him as ‘Gandhi worships cow and I eat it’, an
argument he later repeated in many public speeches.
continued to pay lip service to notion of Hindu-Muslin Indian unity.
But he always insisted that in a united India a separation of Hindus
and Muslims was needed to safeguard Muslims interest. According to
Prof Chandra Jinnha had now transformed ‘from a nationalist into
communal nationalist and then into liberal communalist’.
the year 1930, both the Congress and the League redefined their
political objectives. Congress launched civil disobedience for ‘poorn
swaraj’ or complete independence. And the League’s vision
was expounded by another ex-ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity poet
Muhammad Iqbal, the author of Tatana-e-Hindi - ‘Saare Jahan se
Achcha Hindustan hamaara…’ Iqbal proposed that the Muslim
majority provinces of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan should be
converted into one province as a ‘self governing unit’. He said
that was the only way to stop recurring Hindu-Muslim riots.
Meanwhile, the communal relations were deteriorating fast due to the
aggressive anti-Muslim stance of the groups like the Hindu Mahasabha
and the RSS.
the League largely remained a party of feudal elite and it wasn’t
growing as Jinnah wished. So frustrated was he that in 1931he left
Indian politics and decided to set up his legal practice in London.
But then in 1935 he moved back to Bombay.
the 1937 elections the League performed poorly, only getting 4.6
percent of the Muslim votes, whereas the Congress was able to form
governments in seven of the eleven British Indian provinces.
it was Maulana Azad, our great icon of secularism, who initially
blamed Nehru for the partition of India. Had Nehru agreed to give a
couple of seats to the League while forming a ministry in UP in
1937, argued Maulana Azad, the League could have been pacified and
could have renounced its separatist path.
Indian scholars have supported this theory. They rather naively
believe that a substantial movement like Muslim League could be
rolled back through a power sharing arrangement in a province of
Iqbal and Jinnah were deliberating on the future direction of the
League. In 1937, Iqbal wrote eight letters to Jinnah telling him
that he was the ‘only Muslim in India’ who could ‘safely guide
the community through the storm’. He advised Jinnah to turn the
League ‘into a body representing the Muslim masses’ and to
demand the creation of ‘a free Muslim state or states’. Iqbal
died shortly after writing these letters.
scholar Prof. Akbar Ahmed writes, ‘Until now, Jinnah had spoken of
separate electorates, minority representation and constitutional
safeguards. Now he would use Islamic symbolism to represent
Pakistan. The moon of Pakistan is rising, he would say. He would
choose the crescent for the flag of Pakistan. Something had clearly
changed in the way Jinnah was looking at the world.’
the years a great myth had been created that Jinnah really didn’t
ask for Pakistan. That the word ‘Pakistan’ does not figure in
the famous 1940 Lahore resolution and that the resolution was just a
let’s look at the speech Jinnah made accompanying this resolution.
He traced the history of ‘mutually separate’ cultural and
religious traditions of Hindus and Muslims. ‘The cow that Hindus
worship, Muslims eat, the villains that Hindus malign, Muslims
idolize and so on … The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different
religious philosophies, social customs, literatures,’ Jinnah
the 1940s his tone, language and argument, while opposing Gandhi,
Congress and Hindus, was brimming with anger and even abuse. The
liberal communalist had now graduated to become a full-fledged
speeches were remarkably similar to the speeches of Hindu
fundamentalists like Savarkar and Golwalkar. If Jinnah’s Islam was
in danger of Hindu raj, so was Golwalkar’s Hindutva in danger of
Islam. The only difference was that Jinnah drew crowds much bigger
than Golwalkar or Savarkar ever did.
In March 1940,
Jinnah in a speech at Aligarh Muslim University accused Gandhi ‘to
subjugate and vassalize the Muslims under a Hindu Raj’. Similarly,
in a scathing attack on Gandhi, the RSS chief MS Golwalkar said:
“Those who declare ‘no Swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity’ have
thus perpetrated the greatest treason on our society.”
Golwalkar blamed Gandhi for asking ‘Hindus to submit meekly to the
vandalism and atrocities of the Muslims’, Jinnah in his
presidential address to the League, in April 1941, said, in a united
India ‘Muslims will be absolutely wiped out of existence.’ He
said Pakistan was essential ‘to save Islam from complete
annihilation in this country.’
March 1944, addressing the students of the Ailgarh Muslim University
Jinnah declared: “Pakistan was born when the first Muslim landed
in India in 712 A. D.” He asked the students to be prepared to
shed their blood, if necessary, for achieving Pakistan.
for Jinnah’s Pakistan
preparing for ‘shedding the blood’ Jinnah was still officially
negotiating with the Congress. Though the British pretended to be
the honest brokers, every time they put forward a proposal for
transfer of power, Jinnah’s goal of Pakistan looked increasingly
the August offer of 1939, the British resolved not to leave India
unless the minorities approved of any future constitutional
arrangement. This was described as ‘communal veto’. Indian
freedom was now subjected to Jinnah’s endorsement.
1942 Cripps proposals offered ‘provincial option’, allowing
provinces to opt out of the future Indian federation. That’s what
exactly Jinnah was fighting for, the Muslim provinces’ right to
opt out of India.
the 1945 Simla Conference, Jinnah fought for Hindu-Muslim parity in
any future government. He also insisted that in any interim
government all the Muslim ministers would have to be nominated by
the League. Jinnah personally abused the Congress president Maulana
Azad by refusing to shake hands with him and also by calling him a
‘Congress show boy’.
the 1946 elections Jinnah openly used Islam to garner votes for
Pakistan. ‘League meetings were often held in mosques after Friday
prayers’, writes Prof Bipin Chandra. ‘Pakistan, it was promised,
would be ruled under the Sharia… The Quran was widely used as the
League’s symbol and the Leauge’s fight with the Congress was
portrayed as a fight between Islam and Kufr (infidelity).’
1946, the British government sent a mission of three cabinet
ministers for a final rapprochement between the Congress and the
League. The Cabinet Mission plan provided for a loose center
controlling only defence, foreign affairs and communications.
Provinces were to be divided in three groups. Group A comprised of
Hindu majority provinces of UP, Bihar, CP, Orissa, Madras and
Bombay. Group B included the Muslim majority Punjab, Sind and NWFP
and Group C consisted of the Muslim majority Bengal and Assam. Each
group was to have its own constitution. The provinces were allowed
to opt out of these groups after the first general election. And
after ten years a province could ask for the reconsideration of its
group as well as the union.
the Congress and the League both accepted the plan. Many believed,
and some still rather deludingly believe, that Jinnah had thus
abandoned the idea of Pakistan.
let’s not fool ourselves and have a look at the League’s
acceptance document drafted by Jinnah. The League had accepted the
plan with its own spin, ‘inasmuch as the basis of and the
foundation of Pakistan are inherent in the Mission’s plan by
virtue of the compulsory grouping.’
this acceptance was hastily withdrawn after Nehru pointed out that
it would be the newly formed constituent assembly that would finally
decide the composition of provincial groups.
was really farsighted to reject the Cabinet Mission plan. An India
with a week center and provinces hopping from one group to another
was a recipe for disaster. Such an India could not have lasted for
more than five years.
why Jinnah admirers blame Nehru for wrecking this final bid to save
India from partition. They argue that for Jinnah the demand of
Pakistan was just a bargaining counter and he was actually prepared
to settle for a lot less.
the idea of Pakistan was just a bargaining counter then Jinnah comes
out as a duplicitous figure instigating his followers to fight
against the Hindu domination at one hand and negotiating power
sharing deals with the same Hindu Congress on the other hand.
few moths later he breached another boundary of sober politics. The
one time advocate of constitutional propriety now espoused violence
and even terror.
16 August 1946, Jinnah made his final bid for Pakistan by launching
the Direct Action Day: “This day we bid good-bye to constitutional
methods…We have forged a pistol and we are prepared to use it.”
Jinnah threatened, “We
shall have India divided or we shall have India destroyed.”
League mobs rampaged Hindu neighbourhoods in Calcutta. Ten thousand
innocent lives were lost in just five days in the Great Calcutta
Killings. Hindu communal groups retaliated with equal brutality.
Quickly the fires of communal hatred spread from Bengal to Punjab
consuming millions of lives.
Direct Action Day any hopes of Indian unity were dead and buried
forever. Nehru, Patel and many other Congress leaders were by now
convinced that it was impossible to create a secular and democratic
India as long as Jinnah and Muslim League were there and that
partition, painful though it might be, was the only way ahead.
Jinnah got his ‘Islamic state of Pakistan’ he made a dramatic
u-turn. On 11 August 1947 in a virtual denial of his two-nations
theory he advised the Muslims in Pakistan to live peacefully with
their Hindu neighbours. Pakistani’s were confused and wondered if
it was not possible for them to live with Hindus in India, how could
they allow Hindus to live Pakistan. They never listened to him.
in India Nehru government fought hard to protect Muslim lives from
the frenzied Hindu and Sikh mobs, ethnic cleansing continued in
Jinnah’s Pakistan. When Pakistan was born in August 1947, Hindus,
Sikhs and Christians formed 26 percent of its population. Today less
then three percent of them are left in Pakistan.
is not ancient history buried under the multiple layers of
unexcavated earth. Any honest historian with elementary knowledge of
research methods can find this evidence. If Jinnah’s admirers like
Jaswant Singh still think that Jinnah was not communal and was not
responsible for India’s partition, what else one can say, it’s
history written with head and mind both deeply buried in the sand.
Rana is the editor of www.nrifm.com.
He made a special study of the British proposals for transfer of
power in India during the 1940s, while doing his D Phil from