Reflections on Jinnah – Part 10

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 10

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‘The Partition Plan was announced on the 3rd of June 1947, which entailed the division of British India into two separate dominions. The Muslim majority provinces were to form a federation which would be called ‘Pakistan’, while the Hindu majority provinces were to form India, with the Princely States given the choice of accession to either of the dominions or complete independence.

The Plan was followed by the creation of the Radcliffe Commission which was tasked with carving out the borders of the new states. Despite the sweeping victory of the Muslim League in the 1945-46 elections in all Muslim majority provinces of India, the Radcliffe Commission felt it necessary to divide the provinces of Punjab and Bengal in order to cater to their non-Muslim minorities. Fair enough, but a point of contention arises when one considers the significant Muslim populations that had lived in Kerala, Bihar, Assam, UP (then the United Provinces), Madhya and Madras for generations. No such arrangement of partition was made in those provinces for the Muslims. Such was the constitutional problem of India.

The politically motivated partition robbed Pakistan of many crucial districts in both Punjab and Bengal, most of which not only carried military importance (i.e. Murshidabad in Bengal, Ferozepur and Pathankot in Punjab) but also formed significant natural boundaries (i.e. Gurdaspur, Fazilka, Kapurthala in Punjab, Malda in Bengal). It also swelled the flow of refugees into the new state. Even after Independence, India continued to press its unjustified claims on East Pakistani districts (i.e. Lakshmipur, Chittagong, Khulna, Hilli etc). Additionally, a referendum was ordered in the Muslim majority North West Frontier Province, and also in the Assamese district of Sylhet. Both referendums resulted overwhelmingly in favor of accession to Pakistan.

The Princely States of Kashmir, along with Junagadh, Manavadar and Hyderabad had Muslim majority populations as well. While Junagadh and Manavadar opted for accession to Pakistan, Kashmir was signed over to India by its Maharaja, and Hyderabad opted for independence on the same footing as India and Pakistan. The aforementioned states had a common fate, whereby all of them were forcibly annexed by India via military conquest.

Pathan tribesmen, on the call of the Kashmiri rebellion leaders descended on the valley soon after and managed to resist complete annexation by Indian occupying forces. The Pakistani Army did not enter the conflict until early 1948, when the Quaid e Azam’s orders of defending Pakistani territory were finally accepted by its British commanding officers. The Indian Army was pushed out of Rawalakot, Bagh, Poonch and Neelum. Further north, the Balti people of Gilgit, Skardu and Ghanche overthrew the Indian political establishment and forced Indian troops out of the area.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 9

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 9

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‘Coinciding with the years of WWII, Jinnah would embark on the arduous task of reorganizing the Muslim League which was by then gaining prominence in India due to its lobbying in the interests of the Muslims.

Jinnah’s greatest struggle would be to reconcile the divisions that existed within the Muslim communities of India. When the British crushed the 1857 uprising and spread their rule across India, many Muslims withdrew into obscurity because of the apparent disintegration of their ‘beloved’ Mughal Empire.

New, ‘westernized’ methods of governance were introduced which were readily embraced by many Muslims, Hindus and other communities. There was however an orthodox reformist group of Muslims that called for a return to the ‘puritanical’ roots of their faith, which they perceived to be in contradiction to western ideals of society and politics. Over the years, this group grew larger, attracting people due of its ‘anti-western’ rhetoric.

These people shut themselves away from ‘western’ education, decried interaction with the ‘firangis’ and subsequently the other communities of India, and also advocated non-indulgence in politics. When Jinnah emerged as a leading member of the Congress Party in the early 1900’s, they branded him as an impostor and a stooge of the British. This was the same group of people that was easily lured into the Khilafat Movement/Civil-disobedience by Gandhi due to his appeal to communalism.

Jinnah maintained a dignified stature in the face of their criticism, and continued his realistic political work. Their fundamentalism inspired a young man to talk his way into Jinnah’s home and attack him with a knife in July 1943. Jinnah would survive the attack thanks to his Pathan driver who subdued the attacker. Sharifuddin Pirzada reports that Jinnah immediately instructed him to issue a press statement clarifying that the attacker was indeed a Muslim, lest the aftermath of the incident be marred by communal violence and rioting.

The incident is also significant because it moved Jinnah’s daughter Dina to visit him at his home. They had not spoken or met in person since Dina married Neville Wadia, a Parsi businessman who resided in Bombay.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 8

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 8

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‘The independence movement had weathered many a storm by the time the Mountbattens would arrive. Mr. Jinnah was by then regarded as the sole spokesperson of the Muslims in India, unchallenged in his political struggle and unwavering to pressure from his rivals.

Jinnah was also being accorded titles such as Quaid e Azam (The Greatest Leader), Baba e Qaum (Father of the Nation) etc. by the public. Gandhi had started referring to him as ‘Quaid e Azam’ as well. Jinnah had insisted on being known only as Mr. Jinnah and nothing else, lest he be accorded the same God like status that Gandhi enjoyed. He had a dislike for personality cults, which was evident from his refusal to accept British Knighthood in 1925.

The Mountbattens had been to India previously during WWII, when Lord Mountbatten served as the Allied Commander fighting the Japanese in Burma. After the war ended, his reassignment as Viceroy raised many eyebrows as he was primarily a military leader unaware of the political and religious fault lines in India.

Upon his arrival, he was accorded a royal welcome and was immediately drawn into a personal friendship by the leader of Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru was to be the future ‘Prince’ of India and Mountbatten looked for ways with which to share some of his glory.

Mountbatten had been known to desire a similar relationship with Jinnah, but was always put off by Jinnah’s principled stance on justice and fair play. Jinnah’s refusal to acquiesce to the Congress’s demands for a United India lead to more antagonism from Mountbatten. Despite Mountbatten’s uncivilized behavior and unprofessional demeanor, Jinnah accorded him the respect befitting a Viceroy.

When the plan to partition the Subcontinent was finally announced, Lord Mountbatten felt it necessary to change its date in order to ‘prevent massacres and loss of life’. He also personally oversaw the division of land, military and government assets, and monetary funds between the two new countries. It was also under his supervision that the newly formed Indian Government took the matter of Kashmir to the United Nations.

While Gandhi would fast against the many injustices being done to Pakistan by the Indian government after independence, Nehru and Mountbatten readied their troops to forcibly annex the rebellious Kashmir which had erupted in protest after its Dogra Maharaja signed the state over to India. The British Officers who had volunteered to serve in the new Pakistan Army would also refuse to obey the Quaid e Azam’s orders to defend Pakistani territory.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 7

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 7

It is such a shame that this movie was never shown to a mass audience in the West, like the Gandhi biopic of 1982, in an age when media plays a major role in shaping narratives. Sir Christopher Lee himself has credited his portrayal of Jinnah as the best role he had ever played. He also lamented the fact that the West’s censure of the movie was due to it being a positive portrayal of a Muslim leader.

During his time in exile, Jinnah was constantly visited by Muslim leaders who begged him to return to India and continue his political struggle for their cause. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali and his group of friends met Jinnah during this time as well, and proposed to him a radical idea of a Muslim state comprising the western provinces of India which were majority Muslim. The Eastern provinces which were also Muslim majority were conveniently left out.

Upon his return to India, Jinnah assumed the leadership of the Muslim League, although he still looked favorably towards some sort of accommodation of Muslims in a United India. Jinnah’s aspirations for settlement were shattered when the Congress (maintaining its claim of representing all Indians) swept the 1937 elections and formed governments in the Center and the Provinces. Nehru and his party felt no need to consider a minority party in the formation of their government.

Many incidents of maltreatment, provocation and rioting were reported in the Muslim majority provinces, which disillusioned the Muslim populations from the party which claimed to represent all Indians. In one of his speeches before the outbreak of WWII, Nehru insisted that there were only two powers in India, the British and the Congress. Mr. Jinnah retorted and said that there was a third power as well, namely the Muslims.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 6

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 6

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‘WWI was in its concluding phases when a new yet tragic chapter of Jinnah’s life began. He was already an influential member of the Indian National Congress Party and had championed nationalist efforts like the Lucknow Pact and the Home Rule League, both of which demanded constitutional reforms from the British. He had also founded his own practice, which required him to travel a lot more than usual. Jinnah was also fighting a battle within the Congress because of the religious symbolism creeping into its roots.

Jinnah resided in Bombay which was in the very sense of the word, the ‘first city’ of India. It was a cosmopolitan metropolis, where Indians of all hue and color worked in the service of the British Empire. Jinnah’s political success had endeared him to many influential businessmen of Bombay, including Sir Dinshaw Petit. Sir Dinshaw was a Parsi who admired Jinnah’s nationalist ideology in comparison to Gandhi’s appeals to communal sentiments. Jinnah had earlier been associated with the Moderates of the Congress Party (i.e. Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Naoroji) and had developed respect for the Parsi community because of their cosmopolitanism. It was during one of Jinnah’s dine inn’s at Sir Dinshaw’s home that he saw his daughter, Ruttie. This would be the only time in his life that he would fall in love.

Ruttie was 16 at the time, but her love for Jinnah blossomed in the hustle and bustle of suburban Bombay. They both shared the nationalistic fervor of an India free from imperial rule. Jinnah’s marriage proposal for her was rejected by Sir Dinshaw who forbade Ruttie from seeing him. Ruttie left her home and family the day she turned 18 and was subsequently married to Jinnah at his Bombay home. She converted to Islam before the marriage and was given the name Maryam, tho records indicate that she never used the name. Jinnah never asked her to either.

Ruttie and Jinnah were regarded as the most glamorous couple of Bombay. Ruttie was young, charming and exceptionally intelligent, which won her the jealousy of quite a few baronets and ladies of the city. Jinnah was by nature an uncompromising man, and when his wife would complain to him about the behavior of some of the socialites, he would openly reprimand the culprits and defend her. The principled manner in which Jinnah lived his life was projected onto his political dealings as well, as after the Great War ended he openly opposed the populist calls for quick self-government by Gandhi and his followers.

Gandhi was leading the civil disobedience movement, and had already patronized Jinnah as a ‘Muhammadan’, or Muslim. Gandhi then started appealing to the pan-Islamic sentiments of the 1920’s after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Jinnah told his Muslim League comrades that the Khilafat Movement styled out of populist politics would never work. He was right, as when the Muslims foolishly vacated their homes to travel to Turkey, Gandhi called off the disobedience movement for several reasons, and told his followers to occupy the homes of those who had left. In Turkey, the Caliphate was dissolved by Ataturk, and the Allies divided the remaining lands among themselves. Indian Muslims were left stranded in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

Jinnah’s principles finally pushed him to fringes of Indian politics and he was estranged from his party, eventually forced to leave it. S. S. Pirzada has said that Jinnah’s break with the Congress was the first step towards Pakistan. Jinnah’s political strides affected his personal life in very adverse ways. The isolation for Jinnah grew stronger when his marriage started to falter. Ruttie took to mysticism to compensate for her own loneliness, and it was then that she developed cancer.

Her death was inevitable, and she tried her best to cover up her illness for as long as she could. Jinnah was in Delhi when she died. At her funeral, a man who was never known to show emotion broke down into tears. He withdrew afterwards into his work. Such was the impact of her death that he never remarried. No one could have imagined at the time, not even Jinnah himself perhaps, that in just a few years he would deliver an independent homeland for the Muslims of India.

Jinnah resolved to move to Britain with his infant daughter to understandably take some time off. His love for Ruttie never faded however, as he was known to have kept her belongings in a trunk somewhere in his house. As per one of his chauffeurs, Jinnah would often tell one of the servants in the late hours of the night to open the trunk for him, which he would stare into in a trance like condition.

The only other time that Jinnah is known to have shown emotion is when he saw the misery and sufferings of the people during Partition.’

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 5

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 5

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‘The following scenes accurately describe the difference between the political ideologies of Jinnah and Gandhi.

Gandhi, a lawyer who had been subjected to racial discrimination whilst in South Africa had given up his Court Dress in favor of the historical Dhoti and had radically deviated from his ideals of activism in favor of populist politics.

Jinnah, also a lawyer, (who by no means was a favorite of the British) had stood his ground and maintained a constitutional struggle for the Independence of India, rejecting symbolism and soothsaying. Jinnah joined the Congress in 1905, and was a respected member of its moderate faction which was lead by Dadabhai Naoroji, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He was opposed to the disruptive and provocative politics of his factional rivals in the Congress, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai who advocated quick and violent measures to kick the British out of India.

Jinnah’s political acumen can be estimated from the fact that by 1913 he was a member of both the Congress and the Muslim League, and was instrumental in the signing of the Lucknow Pact. Jinnah was also a founding member of the Home Rule League, which (whilst supporting the British War effort in hopes of political reforms in India in return) was to become the foundation for future independence demands. His detestation of communal politics can be understood from his denouncement of the formation of the Khilafat Movement (influenced by Gandhi’s Ahmisa and Satyagraha), which was based on Gandhi’s conviction that India was a Dar ul Harb (Land of War) for the Muslims and therefore must return to their original home, (i.e. anywhere but India).

Jinnah was also extremely critical of Gandhi’s cherry picked words and his provocative actions, which were aimed at the religious sensitivities of the Hindus. Gandhi returned to India after the 1918 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and was intent on inciting disobedience against the British. The ‘non-violence’ was restricted to Gandhi’s speeches only, as all across the country religiously charged groups would agitate at the flicker of his fingers.

The symbolism was toxic as per Jinnah, who foresaw the desolate conditions of minorities that currently prevail in India. Gandhi’s intentions may have been different (which is highly unlikely considering how calculating and sharp his mind was) but the results were always going to be the same: a religiously charged Hindu majority group that saw all others as ‘invaders’ and ‘outsiders’, and would stop at nothing to kick everyone else out.

If Jinnah had at that time submitted to the wishes of the majority that dominated not only the Congress but also the entire Indian Subcontinent, the fate of the Muslims of India would have had been very different. One could draw parallels with the apartheid regime that currently runs Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Pakistan Cricket’s resilient resurgence and India – CT 2017

Pakistan Cricket’s resilient resurgence and India – CT 2017

It would be an understatement to say that Pakistan’s decisive victory over India the other day made me happy. I’ll admit that I was ecstatic bordering on euphoric, not only because I had been constantly praying for them to make a ridiculously impossible comeback in the tournament, but also because it was the first time in almost 15 years that I saw the team playing with such energy and determination. It was heartening to see them diving all over the place, attacking the wickets and taking jabs at every other ball. This tournament brought out the side in them that I had been longing to see!

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The team which once ruled the Cricketing world in all formats of the game had been reduced to whipping boys in the mid 2000’s, and could be counted on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Mired in fixing scandals, administrative ineptitude and politicization, cricket in Pakistan was dying a slow death. The situation was intensified by the menace of terrorism which had been haunting the country since 2006 and which lead to every international team refusing to play in Pakistan.

I was happy to see the unifying force of sport that made everyone forget about the plethora of social and political ills that have for so long been plaguing the country. I was also pleased to see many Indians congratulating Pakistanis on the win and hoping for a revival of the team.

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I write this post not to take jabs at the Indian team, neither is it an attempt to undermine their achievements. I would however like the people of India to take a practical step in exercising their democratic powers and request their authorities to restore Cricketing ties with Pakistan. Restoration of India-Pakistan cricket (including home series) would go a long way in restoring faith between the two countries, and would also make it easier to convince international teams to return to Pakistan. India is after all one of the most influential members of the ICC and has a major stake in all of its decisions. It is a known fact that India has been refusing to play bilateral cricket with Pakistan for over 5 years now, and has lobbied internationally to ensure that Cricket doesn’t return to Pakistan any time soon. The idea of isolating Pakistan is not new, and has been around for over 10 years.

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While many disagree, there is indeed a major group of hardliners in India that influences the policies of the BCCI and the Indian government when it comes to ties with Pakistan. This was evident during the years leading up to the 2011 Cricket World Cup, which was scheduled to be hosted collectively between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s hosting rights were taken away after the Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore, and international players including those from India cited security concerns about playing in Pakistan. I sincerely believe that had Pakistan been allowed to host that world cup, Cricket would have returned much earlier to the country. Similar was the case of the 2009 Champions Trophy, which was stripped away from Pakistan after several countries withdrew their diplomatic support. It was in these moments that Pakistan needed India’s support the most, which it withheld.

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The Indian Premier League bans Pakistani players from participating in it, which has had an obvious impact on the physical and psychological state of our players. Whether this is due to political reasons is debatable, but there have been incidents involving Pakistani commentators as well who were told to leave India due to pressure and threats by hardline groups. And while the cricketing world evolved with the annual T20 event, Pakistan was conveniently left out of the fray, ensuring that its team would be unable to keep up. It would be a major step at creating goodwill if Pakistani players are included in the next IPL tournament.

Despite everything, the international boycott, the labels, the lack of adequate training regimes and public disapproval, the Pakistani team still manages to somehow defy the odds and produce a memorable performance.

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I’ve read quite a few ‘odes’ to Pakistan’s ‘unbelievable’ victories recently, calling for ‘more power’ to the team and thanking them for restoring the faith of people in ‘underdogs’. I’m sure it was well received.

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But voicing disapproval would go a longer way rather than conveniently playing the role of silent observers when hardliners and hate mongers demonize Pakistan in the name of ideology.