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Dawn Delhi II: Engaging With Aligarh

Dawn newspaper covered events at Aligarh to such an extent that it practically became a university broadsheet.
Updated Sep 06, 2017 12:06pm
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with the students of Aligarh Muslim University on March 12, 1941. Mr Jinnah mobilised the students to campaign for the Muslim League in elections that were due shortly. The University served a major role during the Pakistan Movement and Dawn was an effective tool to keep it galvanised. — Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with the students of Aligarh Muslim University on March 12, 1941. Mr Jinnah mobilised the students to campaign for the Muslim League in elections that were due shortly. The University served a major role during the Pakistan Movement and Dawn was an effective tool to keep it galvanised. — Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives

The newspaper (Dawn) covered events at Aligarh to such an extent that it practically became a university broadsheet, reporting on its meetings, the activities of its staff, its sports events, as well as a special column on ‘Aligarh News’. Capturing Aligarh for the League required a special campaign and this was discussed in June, 1942, when Nawab Ismail Khan, Chaudhury Khaliquzzaman and Liaquat Ali Khan met in Delhi and urged the necessity to get pro-League members elected to the Aligarh University Court, the Executive Council and other important University organisations.

Accordingly, they set up a committee consisting of Dr Ziauddin, Zahir Hussain, who worked in Finance in the Government of India, Khaliquzzaman and Liaquat, as Liaquat explained to [Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali] Jinnah in a letter dated July 3, 1942. Over the following years the League strengthened its control of the University with Ziauddin being the most important figure at Aligarh.

Toward the end of the War, especially after the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, as it became obvious that both Japan and Germany were on the verge of defeat, all of political India knew that general elections would be held on the cessation of hostilities. As a result, Aligarh became more important as the University had not only been established as the intellectual backbone of the Pakistan Movement by the Muslim League but Aligarh students (as were the students of Punjab University) were pegged as the foot-soldiers of the party and were expected to play an important role in the forthcoming campaign.

On October 1, 1944, Dawn reported on the September 27 meeting of the Executive Council of the University of which the General Secretary of the League, Liaquat Ali Khan, was a member, Ziauddin Ahmed, a League supporter, was the pro-Vice Chancellor, and Nawab Ismail Khan, a prominent Leaguer from the United Provinces (UP), was also a member.

THE LEAGUE’S PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The same page contained a report of the activities of the UP Muslim League meeting held at Aligarh the following day as well as an article headlined, ‘Mr. Jinnah’s Interest in Aligarh Medical College’, which reported on a meeting between Dr Ziauddin and Jinnah in Bombay, when Jinnah enquired about a number of activities at Aligarh, including the progress of the medical college.

In this way, Dawn purported to be a spokesman for the University, to claim that it had a proprietary and protective relationship with the University, and to co-opt it for the Pakistan Movement. Five days later, on October 6, Dawn ran a story on the way the Muslim League began election work in the UP for municipal elections and were arranging for meetings in various divisions of the province in order to entertain applications from candidates for League tickets.

In connection with the municipal elections a ‘batch of Muslim University Union Speakers Members’ would tour the province on a ‘League propaganda campaign’ and they would be joined by members of the staff of the University. The Muslim University Muslim League also released to Dawn on October 10 the list of League speakers due to speak at the University. This included the prominent Leaguers Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, a member of the Central Legislative Assembly, Isa Khan of Balochistan and Abdur Rab Nishtar of the North-West Frontier Province.

As the intelligentsia of the AIML, Aligarh also provided the League with a cadre of skilled propagandists. A Committee of Writers of the AIML was established to spread the ideas of the League, to defend the idea of the demand for Pakistan and to establish the Islamic credentials of the League. Dawn fully publicised the activities of the Committee and promoted the publications the Committee issued.

On October 16, 1944, under the Committee of Muslim Writers’ ‘Plan of Literature Drawn Up’ headline, Dawn reported that the Committee had met at Aligarh five days earlier and approved the circular letter to Muslim writers previously drawn up and sent by the Convener, Jamiludin Ahmad, and they were gratified by the positive response.

A further list of contributors was devised by the Committee and they would be invited to contribute articles that would be vetted for publication. English articles would be scrutinized by Kazi Sududdin and Jamiludin Ahmad and Urdu ones by Syed Hasan Riaz and Moulvi Zia Ahmad.

THE PERFECT VENUE

The Committee further came out with ‘a complete plan of literature’ to be brought out by the Committee under a number of headings. They were: ‘Fundamentals of Islam’, ‘Expansion of Islam’, ‘Muslim Personages’, ‘Survey of Muslim Contributions to India’, ‘Why and wherefore of Pakistan?’, ‘Survey of Eastern and Western Pakistan’, ‘Muslims and Hindustan’, ‘Muslims and Problems of Post-War Reconstruction’ and ‘Current Affairs’. The first emphasis would be placed on modern problems under the heading of ‘Islamic Polity’, ‘Islamic Economy’ and ‘Islamic Society’. It further resolved that all the branches of the League would be co-opted to recruit writers for the Committee and to push its publications. In addition, Dawn was used to fully report on the Committee and it continually carried advertisements of its publications.

Aligarh was the perfect venue for League spokesmen to wage a war of words against the Congress and the Government and it used the University extensively for the purpose. Liaquat Ali Khan made a trip to Aligarh on a Saturday evening, October 28, 1944, in order to give an extensive response to what he described as the Gandhi-Rajagopalachari plan for constitutional development.

Liaquat’s trip to Aligarh and his speech was given front-page billing by Dawn on November 1, 1944. The speech was reported and analysed and represented the League’s formal response to the failure of the talks. Dawn made sure the League’s interpretation of the event was taken around the country and to counter any aspersion that it was the League which was preventing India from achieving independence.

Rajagopalachari posed a great threat to the demand for Pakistan in his constant demands that the Congress reach an agreement with the League for ending the political deadlock. On July 17, 1944, Jinnah accepted Gandhi’s invitation for one-on-one negotiations to discuss the political situation. Gandhi travelled to Jinnah’s home in Bombay and from September 9 until September 29, the two engaged in negotiations.

Gandhi’s aim was to reach an agreement on the basis of the Rajagopalachari formula which the two had discussed the previous year in March. This was a ploy whereby a plebiscite of all voters would be held in the north-west and the north-east of India where Muslims were in the majority to decide whether India should be divided. Gandhi was well aware that the Punjab Unionist Party was opposed to partition and the voters in the north-east would come under the full pressure of officialdom to vote no.

THE GANDHI TRAP

The discussions caught the imagination of the British and political India and occupied a huge number of column inches in the nation’s newspapers. It seemed as though a breakthrough was imminent and all India could breathe a sigh of relief. The breakdown of negotiations as Jinnah held firm to the demand for Pakistan meant that the League needed to defend the League position to demonstrate that it was not an obstruction on the path of independence and merely a tool of British imperialism. Hence, Liaquat’s trip to Aligarh and his speech was given front-page billing by Dawn on November 1, 1944. With the headline of ‘How Jinnah Escaped C.R.-Gandhi Trap’ and ‘Formula Aimed to Thwart Self-Determination Right’, Liaquat , Dawn reported, gave a long speech in which he characterised the whole plan of C.R. and Gandhi as a ‘fraud’.

Mr. Pothan Joseph Editor Dawn Delhi 1942 - 1945
Mr. Pothan Joseph Editor Dawn Delhi 1942 - 1945

The speech was reported and analysed and represented the League’s formal response to the failure of the talks. Dawn made sure the League’s interpretation of the event was taken around the country and to counter any aspersion that it was the League which was preventing India from achieving independence.

This was followed up on November 11, 1944, when the League held a public meeting in Delhi at Urdu Park with Hussain Imam, Leader of the Muslim League party in the Council of State, in the chair (Dawn November 13, 1944). Under the title of ‘Delhi Muslims Affirm Faith In Mr. Jinnah’, Dawn reported that the meeting passed a unanimous resolution supporting the stand taken by Jinnah in his talks with Gandhi in Bombay.

Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, one of the founders of the AIML in 1906, led off the remarks lending his religious authority as a stalwart of the Khilafat Movement in the Punjab and the founder and president of the Majlis-e-Ittehad-e-Millat in 1935 by stating his firm belief that the problem of Indian freedom would not be solved unless there was a settlement between the Hindus and the Muslims and that Congress would never achieve independence without the support of the Muslim League.

THE DEFENDER OF ISLAM

He was followed up by Nawab Siddiq Ali Khan, a League member of the Central Legislative Assembly from the Central Provinces, who recounted the activities of the League in the Assembly showing how the League had defended the rights of Muslims to offer prayers in government bungalows in New Delhi and claimed that it was only due to the League that Haj traffic was open in 1944.

Dawn, therefore, played an important part in spreading stories that the League was the defender of Islam and the Muslim way of life in India and the article achieved two aims with one story, that of confirming Jinnah as the great leader of the League and the Muslims of South Asia, and the League as the protector of Islam in India.

An advertisement for Dawn Delhi in the Morning News, a Calcutta-based English-language newspaper. Dawn Delhi was founded by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1941. In September, 1947, the offices of the newspaper were burnt down by the Jan Sang and it ceased publication shortly afterwards. — Photo: The Nighat Mir Collection
An advertisement for Dawn Delhi in the Morning News, a Calcutta-based English-language newspaper. Dawn Delhi was founded by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1941. In September, 1947, the offices of the newspaper were burnt down by the Jan Sang and it ceased publication shortly afterwards. — Photo: The Nighat Mir Collection

Dawn was also used to publicise the activities of League committees. The League created a Planning Committee in 1944 that would plan for the economic activities of Pakistan once it had been established. Its meeting of November 5, 1944, was reported in Dawn two days later and on the following day the newspaper reported on Jinnah’s address to the Committee on November 6, saying that while the League was a political organisation and had done “fairly well” in organising Muslims politically, in economic matters Muslims had, in Bombay, a city he knew well, over the previous 40 years, fallen behind the Hindu and British businessmen. It was incumbent for the League, therefore, to encourage the establishment of Muslim chambers of commerce around the country and they had done so under the Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

The resolutions and proceedings, he assured the Committee, would go to the press, meaning Dawn, and be fully reported. The Planning Committee met from time to time but did little constructive work apart from networking but it did help to give the impression that the League was planning the future economy of Pakistan. It was one more way for Dawn to fill its columns of League activities and to demonstrate the strength and validity of the demand for Pakistan.

On November 19, 1944, Dawn in a half-page story in all five columns reported on the note on the basic policies of the Committee as it had been drawn up the previous week at a meeting held at the Anglo-Arabic College, a frequent host of League events as the President of the Anglo-Arabic Society was the League General Secretary Liaquat Ali Khan. The Committee report covered a number of topics such as the alleviation of poverty, the development of rural industries, mechanisation and the question of state control. Concrete plans for development would be discussed once the sub-committees assigned to these areas reported. Jinnah had promised that Dawn would fully cover the Planning Committee’s activities and it had.


This is the second of a four-part series on Dawn Delhi. Read the first part here.

Excerpted from ‘Dawn & the Creation of Pakistan’, Media History 2009, SOAS, London.

The writer is Professor of History, Eastern Michigan University, USA


This article is part of a series of 16 special reports under the banner of ‘70 years of Pakistan and Dawn’. Read the complete first report, second report and third report, or visit the archive for more.