‘Partition consequence of riots, not vice versa’

Updated February 08, 2018

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Dr Mohammad Reza Kazimi speaks at the event.—White Star
Dr Mohammad Reza Kazimi speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: Introducing his book M.A. Jinnah, the Outside View to the audience, Dr Mohammad Reza Kazimi said that there have been some recent developments that give the impression that riots were a consequence of partition whereas partition had been the consequence of riots.

The author was speaking at the Prof Riazul Islam Audio-Visual Centre at Karachi University’s Department of General History here on Wednesday.

“And behind all these imputations is the accusation that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was an inordinately proud man who in order to punish the Congress, deliberately had India partitioned, single-mindedly without thinking of, or caring for the consequences,” he said.

“With Pakistani writers displaying their freedom of expression, I thought it best to bring before you a book in which the literature produced on the Quaid-i-Azam by mainly Western and Indian writers has been surveyed. Since those critical of the establishment of Pakistan have compared him mainly to three South Asian leaders — Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulvi Fazlul Haq — I have included studies of these leaders as well so that the basis of comparison is complete,” he added.

In Peter Clarke’s 2008 book The Last 1,000 Days of the British Empire, it was said about Gandhi that he did not seem to care whether two or three million people died.

There is also the account of the Viceroy Lord Wavell in Panderel Moon’s Wavell The Viceroy Journal (1974) that when in Aug 1946 he asked Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru to conform to the Cabinet delegation’s interpretation of its own plan, Nehru got very heated. “Gandhi said if a bloodbath was necessary, it would come about in spite of non-violence.”

In Leonard Mosley’s 1962 book The Last Days of the British Raj, Jawaharlal Nehru had said that he would rather have every village in India put to the flames than keep the British army in India after Aug 15.

And lastly, in The Transfer of Power Papers, Mohammad Ali Jinnah has said that he does not care whether they shoot Muslims or not, this has to stop.

Dr Kazimi explained that all the reactions discussed were in the backdrop of the Cabinet Mission Plan of May 16, 1946 in which partition was to be avoided.

The All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress had agreed, meaning that Jinnah had agreed to a plan for the transfer of power in which there would be no partition, only three groups of provinces with a common centre dealing only with foreign affairs, defence and communications.

When Sir Stafford Cripps learnt that Congress had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan he wrote in his diary: “I hope they have not filled it up with qualifications and reservations so that it really amounts to a rejection.”

And that is what happened. On July 10, Nehru went back on his agreement, leading Sardar Patel to call it Nehru’s ‘emotional insanity’.

“Now who was uncompromising, M.A. Jinnah or Nehru? Jinnah accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan although Liaquat Ali Khan had sent in written objections on May 21, 1946 the sum of which was that the coercive apparatus of the state, the armed forces and the police would remain with the Congress. It clearly implies that Liaquat Ali Khan must have also objected to the May 12 proposals,” said Dr Kazimi.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s Jan 27, 1946 letter to Sir Stafford Cripps, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s proposals to Sir Stafford Cripps on April 28, 1946 and the Muslim League proposals on May 12 all had a common centre with powers concentrated in the provinces.

“When Jinnah had made a concession of sovereignty and agreed to a common centre between Hindu-majority provinces and Muslim-majority provinces, then why did Congress resile? Because of the grouping of provinces? Even then Group ‘A’ consisting of Hindu-majority provinces would have 19 members against 106 members of Group ‘B’ and ‘C’ taken together. Who then was uncompromising?” the author asked.

He also reminded that under the May 12 proposals, Jinnah would have held no office. But Dr Ayesha Jalal has written a paper on the governor generalship issue. “That Quaid-i-Azam did not want Lord Mountbatten as the governor-general of Pakistan is clear, but he had asked the Nawab of Bhopal to become the governor general.

“What happened was that on June 29, the All India Muslim League Council was to consider the Mountbatten Plan when Mr Jinnah said that when a general wins a battle on the field he gives back power to the civilian authorities. Hearing this Maulana Hasrat Mohani started shouting that no one other than the Quaid-i-Azam could become the governor general of Pakistan. And the proposal was carried by acclaim,” Dr Kazimi explained.

He added that he has also written in his book that Pakistan was not a perfect solution, but it does not mean that a perfect solution existed.

Meanwhile, ex-director of Karachi University’s Pakistan Study Centre, Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, observed that Dr Kazimi, when writing the book, has been mainly concerned with the major political dynamics of India and how one party was concerned with another party.

“In doing so he has provided deep insights on Jinnah and Gandhi. Also what the leaders’ regional concerns were, though Kazimi Sahib had not indulged into the people’s history,” he said.

“Still he has a very sharp eye towards the paradoxes such as the paradoxes of individuals, what they have said at one time and at other times. Also of parties. What they have said at a particular time and at others,” he added.

Dr Moonis Ahmar of the Department of International Relations said that exploring the truth is an ongoing process, which should never end.

He said that the generation which experienced partition has more or less passed. But he would be interested in hearing what Dr Kazimi’s counterparts in India have to say about his book.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2018