Reflections on Jinnah – Part 11

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 11

Finally found the time to get this one up. DO comment and share!

‘Jinnah’s life-long struggle for the resolution of India’s constitutional question bore fruit in the form of a new state being carved out in the subcontinent.

He gave his time, health and eventually his life for the acquisition of Pakistan and envisioned it to be a modern and democratic Muslim state that would be tolerant and accepting to all communities.

He envisioned the enshrining of the golden principles of Islam into Pakistan’s constitution, which called for the strengthening of the legal system and the protection of minorities, among other things.

The post-partition history of Pakistan is another story, whereby many people either knowingly or out of plain ignorance misinterpreted the ideological inclinations of Jinnah.

My inspiration for retracing the history of the Independence struggle came from exposing myself to the barrage of false narratives that are constantly being fed to the public. The current Indian Government has embarked on a campaign to internationally isolate Pakistan and is using different platforms to further its ‘narrative propaganda’, bankrolling authors to produce research which vilifies Pakistan’s ideological roots. The idea is to present the founders of Pakistan as fundamentalists and erase their true identities.

They amplify the global fears of terrorism by terming Pakistan as a hub of terrorism, a term which was popularized by former Indian PM Manmohan Singh in his address to the UNGA. It is vital to counter such propaganda because the complexity of Partition is being exploited by those opposed to the idea of Pakistan.

I have tried to present my case with facts and evidence, and have used this biopic of Jinnah to illustrate my research.

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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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 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 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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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 4

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 4

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‘One of the reasons that I am very fond of this movie is its ability to precisely describe the state of affairs in India under the Raj. The following scene depicts the years of the Great War (WWI), when the British recruited thousands of Indian soldiers to fight in Europe against the Axis powers.

Pertinent to note here is that the British had shifted all military recruitment from Bengal, Madras and Bombay to the Northern and Western regions of India (i.e. Punjab, Kashmir, Himachal, Baluchistan, NWF) after the 1857 War of Independence.

Despite countless services by Indians in the defense of Britain (e.g Khudadad Khan – Victoria Cross at the First Battle of Ypres – British equivalent to Nishan e Haider & Vir Chakra), the British would never allow Indians to join the Army as Officers.

Jinnah was one of the few Indian lawyers at the time who advocated equality for Indians who were laying down theirs lives for the Empire. Jinnah’s advocacy continued through out the period, as a member of the Indian National Congress Party.

The British responded by delaying matters until the war ended, and later in 1923 introduced the ‘Indianisation reforms’, which were supposed to create quotas for Indians applying as Officers to government services. This was of course just to be done on paper, as British officers and civil servants alike resented the idea of Indians being their superiors.

The Indianisation reforms did however initiate the process which was in 1938 to result in the formation of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun, and in 1948 as the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Kakul.

(Note: I believe this scene was shot in one of the halls of the King Edward Medical College, Lahore.)

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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Reflections on Jinnah – Part 3

Reflections on Jinnah – Part 3

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‘By 1946, the political landscape of India had changed quite dramatically. The Muslim League, which had only a decade earlier descended into obscurity after continuous internal rifts and political estrangement, had risen under the leadership of Jinnah to become the 2nd largest party of India. Jinnah had assumed its leadership after his return from a self-imposed political exile in England, and was determined to safeguard the rights of the Indian Muslims at all costs.

What, one might ask, had lead to Jinnah’s fierce conviction that Muslims in a United India would be reduced to 2nd class citizens? For starters, the Muslim representatives in the various political parties of India at the time were by no means popular leaders. They were too few and too powerless, in terms of both political acumen and vision, to claim to represent the 2nd largest religious community of India. The Muslims in the Congress were no different, overshadowed and silenced by their Hindu superiors.

Jinnah’s political ideology had always been opposed to communal differences (which was evident in his years of advocacy for Hindu Muslim unity), but due to the persistent projection of an ancient Hindu civilization that had been ravaged and destroyed by the ‘invaders’ and its convenient acceptance by Congress leaders, and also due to the symbolism that adorned all of the political initiatives undertaken by the Congress, Jinnah had come to conclude that the Muslims of India would sooner or later be forced to assimilate into the fold, being unable to resist against the massive majority group.

Secondly, when the Cabinet Mission was sent to India after the end of WWII to discuss transfer of power with a proposition of grouping together Muslim majority provinces in the East and West of India at par with the Hindu majority provinces and the remaining Princely States, Nehru cited a vicious disagreement with the idea of giving Muslim majority provinces an equal status of representation in the Central government.

Jinnah agreed initially, aware of the fact that the plan dismissed the creation of a separate Muslim state, but insisted on the ‘safeguards and assurances’ that were to be provided to the groupings in terms of Provincial Autonomy. This should be taken as proof of his commitment to securing the rights of Indian Muslims even in a United India after all that had transpired (e.g. 1937 Congress Ministries etc), and is enough to debunk the claims that he was a communally charged opportunist.

Realizing that the Muslim League had now come at par with the Congress, and that Jinnah’s claims of representing ALL the Muslims of India had been justified, the Congress rejected both proposals and did not draft any resolutions in their working committee regarding them. The Viceroy still invited Congress members to join the interim coalition government. Jinnah’s patience had run out by that time, and he had realized that the Congress would never accept the logical and just demands of the Muslim community. He subsequently rejected all plans for a coalition government or any type of system that denied an independent Muslim country.

After the League’s boycott, the Congress readily joined the interim government, all the while conveniently neglecting the demands of the second largest political party of India and the minority community that it represented.’

Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed

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