CREATING A NEW MEDINA

Sat 09 Aug 2014


The basic reasoning behind the assumption that Pakistan was Jinnah’s bargaining counter and not a demand for a separate sovereign state is that such a state would have been disastrous for the Muslim minority in Hindu India. As the argument goes, Jinnah as the Qaid of all of the Indian Muslims was hardly going to abandon the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims. However, his own public utterances on the matter seem to point to a different idea regarding the place of minorities. Never the abstract theoretician, the meticulous constitutional lawyer gave concrete examples to clarify what he meant by nations, sub-national groups or minorities. For Jinnah, Muslims in the ‘majority provinces’ were a nation with concomitant rights to self-determination and statehood since they constituted a numerical majority in a contiguous piece of territory. On the other hand, Sikhs, though distinct enough to be a nation, did not fulfill either of these criteria and hence were a sub-national group with no option but to seek minority safeguards in Pakistan. Jinnah specifically compared the position of Sikhs to that of U.P. Muslims. The U.P. Muslims, though constituting 14 per cent of the province’s population, could not be granted a separate state because

“Muslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered. Therefore, in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-national group who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilized government to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear.”

The Qaid was aware that his public utterances had created not just a slippage, but a cleavage between the purported Muslim nation and Pakistan. He therefore tried to bridge this crucial gap in a few ways. To begin with he lauded the great sacrifices made by ‘minority provinces’ Muslims for selflessly demanding liberation for their 60 million majority provinces brethren from Hindu Raj. They had readily supported the Lahore Resolution since they realized that they would remain a minority ‘in perpetuity’ and therefore did not want to reduce their brethren to the same fate. Indeed, Jinnah would call them ‘the pioneers and first soldiers of Pakistan.’ He further pointed out that he himself belonged to a minority province and that “ a s a self-respecting people, we in the Muslim minority provinces say boldly that we are prepared to undergo every suffering and sacrifice for the emancipation and liberation of our brethren in regions of Muslim majority. By standing in their way and dragging them along with us into a united India we do not in any way improve our position. Instead, we reduce them also to the position of a minority. But we are determined that, whatever happens to us, we are not going to allow our brethren to be vassalised by the Hindu majority.”

Jinnah’s speech to the Muslim Students Federation at Kanpur a few weeks later went a little further causing a furore in the Urdu press in U.P. He declared that in order to liberate 7 crore Muslims of the majority provinces, ‘he was willing to perform the last ceremony of martyrdom if necessary, and let 2 crore Muslims of the minority provinces be smashed.’ At the same time though, Jinnah tried to soften the blow for them by arguing that Pakistan’s creation would entail a reciprocal treaty with Hindu India to safeguard rights and interests of minorities in both states. He pointed to the presence of large Hindu and Sikh minorities in Pakistan who too would require similar protection and asserted that ‘when the time for consultation and negotiations comes, the case of Muslims of the minority provinces will certainly not go by default.’ ...

Safeguards for Hindu minorities

At the same time, Jinnah assured adequate safeguards for Hindu minorities in Pakistan. He was quick to reject the argument that Hindus in Pakistan could not trust these assurances since Muslims themselves had refused to accept them at an all-India level. Such reasoning was fallacious since it assumed that the whole of India belonged to the Hindus. As Jinnah noted, “ Are the Muslim minorities in the Hindu majority provinces entitled to enforce their verdict that there should be no union of any kind just as the Congress puts forward the plea that the Muslim majority provinces should be forced into the union because of the Hindu minority verdict in these provinces? And it is quite obvious that the Muslim minorities in the Hindu provinces will be under the double yoke of Hindu raj both in Hindu majority provinces as well as in the centre under the proposed central government. Is the view or opinion of Muslim minority in the Hindu provinces to prevail? Is similarly the opinion of Hindu minorities in the Muslim provinces to prevail? In that case it will be the minority that will be dictating to the majority both in Hindustan and Pakistan which reduces the whole position to absurdity.”

Finally, if these assurances were not enough, Jinnah held out further hope for the Muslim minority in Hindu India by declaring that they could yet belong to Pakistan since they had the option of migrating to the new nation state. As he noted soon after the Lahore resolution, ‘exchange of population, on the physical division of India as far as practicable would have to be considered.’ It was a theme that he repeated over the next few years. In a later interview, he spelled out three courses available to the Muslim minorities in Hindu India. ‘They may accept the citizenship in the state in which they are. They can remain there as foreigners; or they can come to Pakistan. I will welcome them. There is plenty of room. But it is for them to decide. Jinnah however recognized the limits of such a scheme which still entailed a substantial number of these Muslims being excluded from Pakistan. He therefore made it a point to repeatedly laud sacrifices made by the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims and their selfless support for Pakistan. As he declared in his Presidential Address to the annual session of the AIML held at Karachi in 1943, “ Don’t forget the minority provinces. It is they who have spread the light when there was darkness in the majority provinces. It is they who were the spearheads that the Congress wanted to crush with their overwhelming majority in the Muslim minority provinces, for your sake, for your benefit, and for your advantage. But never mind, it is all in the role of a minority to suffer.”

Defence and economic concerns

If the creation of Pakistan was to provide the ‘authoritative sanction’ for the fulfilment of Muslim minority rights in Hindu India, Pakistan needed to be a viable and powerful entity. Jinnah squarely addressed questions regarding Pakistan’s feasibility in terms of its defence capabilities as well as economic sustainability echoing the arguments adduced by ML propaganda. He first repudiated the charge that creating Pakistan would lead to a worsening security environment in the subcontinent, declaring that on the contrary it would improve the situation as Hindus and Muslims would settle down in their respective national states. He also rejected the argument that if Pakistan were to become a separate sovereign state it would soon overrun all of India. He found it ridiculous that a country of 200 million could fear being overrun by their neighbour with a population of 70 million. Jinnah also tried to damp down on fears of a pan-Islamic threat to Hindu India due to an alliance of Pakistan and Muslim states of the Middle East by rejecting the idea that Pakistan would harbour such extra-territorial affinities...

On sovereignty

Jinnah’s unequivocal stance on Pakistan’s sovereignty is brought out in his exchange with the Mahatma in 1942. Gandhi in response to a question as to whether he regarded the Andhra bid for separation from Madras province in the same light as Pakistan declared that “ t here can be no comparison between Pakistan and Andhra separation. The Andhra separation is a re-distribution on a linguistic basis. The Andhras do not claim to be a separate nation claiming nothing in common with the rest of India. Pakistan on the other hand is a demand for carving out of India a portion to be treated as a wholly independent state. Thus, there seems to be nothing in common between the two.”

Jinnah in response declared that Gandhi ‘has himself put the Muslim demand in a nutshell.’ The Qaid therefore had no difficulty in dismissing the plural ‘states’ in the Lahore Resolution as a typographical error when the convention of ML legislators was held in 1946. Even during the 1945-46 elections, he clearly stated that “ g eographically, Pakistan will embrace all of NWFP, Baluchistan, Sind, and Punjab provinces in northwestern India. On the eastern side would be the other portion of Pakistan comprising Bengal and Assam…. [The provinces would] have all the autonomy that you will find in the constitutions of U.S., Canada, and Australia. But certain vital powers will remain vested in the central government such as the monetary system, national defence, and other federal responsibilities.”

A separate territorial entity

To emphasize Pakistan’s separate territorial entity, Jinnah repeatedly dismissed the idea that India constituted a geographical unity. India, he insisted, was divided and partitioned by nature and Muslim India and Hindu existed on the ‘physical map of India.’ Besides, ‘geography had been altered in the case of the Suez canal, the Panama canal, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Ulster in Eire, and Sudan in Egypt’ and there was no reason why the same could not be done in the case of British India. There was thus no unified country that was being divided, no nation that was being denationalized, for India was composed of different nationalities and the singular nation existed only in the imagination of Congress leaders who were ‘recklessly indulging in such mental luxuries.’ It was only such critics, he derisively observed, who called Pakistan an impractical idea. Pakistan on the contrary, was indeed more practical than Ram Raj or Swaraj that Gandhi was advocating for India. Jinnah therefore had no trouble in dismissing Gandhi’s warning about a civil war breaking out in India in the event of a Partition. He insisted that there would be no conflict unless the Congress and its peace-loving Mahatma desired it.

Jinnah also quelled any talk of a loose federation or a confederation between Pakistan and Hindu India. As he noted, the question had been put forth by some constitutional pundits as to “why there cannot be some sort of loose federation or confederation? People talk like that. I shall read out to you what I have written on this point, because it is important. There are people who talk of some sort of loose federation. There are people who talk of giving the widest freedom to the federating units and residuary powers resting with the units. But they forget the entire constitutional history of the various parts of the world. Federation in whatever terms it is described and in whatever terms it is put, must ultimately deprive the federating units of authority in all vital matters. The units despite themselves, would be compelled to grant more and more powers to the central authority, until in the end the strong central government will have been established by the units themselves- they will be driven to do so by absolute necessity, if the basis of federal government is accepted. Taking for instance the United States and her history, the Dominion of Canada and Australia, the Union of South Africa and Germany, and of other lands where federal or confederal systems have been in existence, necessity has driven the component members and obliged them to increase and delegate their power and authority to the connecting link, namely the central government. These ideas are based entirely on a wrong footing… Therefore remove from your mind any idea of some form of such loose federation.”

The only solution to India’s problem, he asserted, was ‘to partition India so that both the communities could develop freely and fully according to their own genius.’

(Venkat Dhulipala’s book , Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India , will be published by Cambridge University Press.)

[source:TheHindu]

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