IN the overall context of Indian independence movement, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s successful espousal of the demand for Pakistan is a remarkable feat in many ways. He was just seven days old when Queen Victoria was proclaimed ‘Kaiser-i-Hind’ in Delhi Durbar on January 1, 1877, and Imperial India was created. It was to be his destiny to negotiate its partition and deliverance from British colonial rule with one of her 87 great grandchildren, Admiral of the Fleet, First Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Jinnah was the youngest Indian student to be called to Lincoln Inn. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, an independence era social activist, wrote of Jinnah at one time that it seems a pity that so fine an intelligence should have denied itself the hallmark of university education. Jinnah apparently withstood the temptation of literature, art and even history. His mind seldom dotted on the past. He neither dissipated his energies with hobbies, nor his strengths with dalliance. His chief passions were to become a brilliant advocate and to carte a nation from scattered patches of Muslims in the subcontinent.
In an address to Karachi Bar Association, Jinnah recalled that he joined Lincoln Inn because on its main entrance, the name of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was included in the list of great law-givers of the world. It was probably at Lincoln Inn that his political conscience as a Muslim began to stir. This may have coincided with other changes in his life such as giving up his boyhood surname of Jinnahbhai and becoming Mr. Jinnah and abandoning the traditional long coat worn by Khoja community. He also started using a monocle, probably influenced by Joseph Chamberlain, ironically a leading imperialist of that era, which he continued right till the end of his life.
He began his political career as a member of Indian National Congress, under protégé of such senior congress leaders as Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian to be elected to Imperial British parliament. But after announcement of Minto-Morley Reforms in 1909, he saw an opportunity to serve the cause of Muslims in Hindustan who had been leading a life of oppression under weight of majority Hindus. These reforms, also known as Indian Councils Act of 1909, gave people of India a ‘potential voice’ in governance of their country for the first time. He joined Muslim League in 1913, eventually becoming its president in 1916, while already being a member of congress as it was permissible at the time.
Despite overwhelming odds, Jinnah stitched together a nation from scattered patches of Muslims and emerged on the stage at Lahore in 1940 for his final conquest — the demand for the creation of Pakistan.
He was dubbed as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity because of his firm belief that the two communities could co-exit peacefully as they had done for centuries. At what point of time exactly he lost hope in co-habitation with majority Hindus, has been a subject of considerable interest amongst historians. But, it is generally agreed that it was in 1920 that he parted way with congress after it launched a movement of non-cooperation to boycott all aspects of British rule.
That moment has been narrated in his biography ‘Jinnah Creator of Pakistan’ by Hector Bolitho by Diwan Chaman Lal, a distinguished barrister who later became a close friend of Jinnah in these words, “During a session of congress in Nagpur, 14,000 delegates met and agreed under Gandhi’s spell, almost to a man, except Jinnah, to employ weapons of non-cooperation and abandon all compromises and demand absolute freedom for India”. Jinnah protested against Gandhi’s extreme measures and said: “Your way is the wrong way, mine is the right way — the constitutional way is the right way”.
At this, Maulana Mohammad Ali, leapt up and said: “You talk too much of the constitutional way, it reminds me of a story of a young Tory who came out of Carlton Club in London one evening and walked up to Piccadilly Circus, where there was a Salvation Army meeting in progress. The speaker was saying, ‘Come this way – it is God’s way’. The young Tory interrupted and said, ‘how long have you been preaching this? ‘Twenty years, said the Salvationist. ‘Well, if it’s only got you as far as Piccadilly, I don’t think much of it.’” The jibe hurt Jinnah who not only resigned from membership of congress but also from all offices of the Muslim League.
It took many years to settle the tangled political argument of whether Jinnah was a stubborn individual or a brilliant strategist who was content to bid his time. Describing the contrast between these two stalwarts, Dr. Annie Besant, a British socialist and an ardent supporter of Indian self-rule, felt Gandhi believed ‘in suffering’ and was ‘not happy’ if he achieved his objective ‘through normal’ evolutionary methods which explains his dress code and travel mode. But Jinnah was just the opposite and remained so right till the end.
Jinnah faced opposition and vicious character assassination attempts at the hands of clergy who unabashedly spread lies about his private life from the pulpits of mosques all over India every Friday. His political career was in dark confusion after a string of incidents like Nagpur moot, Moti Lal’s report in 1928 where his amendments safeguarding interest of Muslims in any future governance model were declined and doubts raised by his opponents on Jinnah’s representing Muslims across the board during the three Round Table Conferences in London.
As if this was not enough for his frail physique, his private life was in deep crisis. In 1928, Jinnah and Ruttie sailed separately for London and Paris. When his close friend Chaman Lal came to see her in her Paris Hotel, she was in bed with high fever and holding a book opened at a poem presenting contrasting images of the nature of love. Passing the book to Chaman Lal, she whispered, ‘Read it to me Cham’. When he reached the last lines, she had drifted into comma. Jinnah rushed from London to her bedside and she recovered from her illness.
After a few weeks, Jinnah was alone again. As he put it sternly, ‘We quarrelled’ leaving no doubts that Jinnah and Ruttie’s singular opportunity of private happiness was wrecked forever. As Sheela Reedy explained: “Jinnah believed his social and political persona was the whole of him, and the real man was so deep within him that even Ruttie, could not break down those fortressed walls, as deeply in love as they were”.
Fortunately, it was his companionship with daughter Dina Jinnah, which had become a delight for both of them. On one occasion during her vacations, he handed her down a copy of Kemal Ataturk’s biography ‘Grey Wolf’, whom Jinnah held in high esteem. Dina alone could tease her father, a fond treatment he had lacked all his life. Only she could extend her hand to Jinnah, slim and expressive as his, and cajole him into pleas such as, “Come on, Grey Wolf take me to the pantomime”. It is said that Jinnah saw some similarities of his life and struggle with Ataturk since he too had inherited demoralised Turks after WWI but successfully gelled them into a great nation. But there were glaring dissimilarities – Jinnah was a puritan while Kemal Ataturk had plunged headlong into unclean life of Constantinople.
There was no such thing as grudge in Jinnah’s personality. In 1925, he was appointed to a committee to render advice on ‘Indianisation’ of army and establishment of a training facility on the pattern of Royal Military Academy Sadhurst. During his visit there, the conducting officer Captain Douglas Gracey was less than polite to Jinnah’s probing questions. But when his name, by then Sir General Douglas Gracey came up for consideration as Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, Jinnah accepted and welcomed him with good grace. Narrating the incident years later, Gracey was sure that Jinnah couldn’t have forgotten the incident at Sadhurst but showed no resentment whatsoever – a far cry from today’s Pakistan.
It was from this chaos of Imperial India and his private life in tatters that Jinnah emerged on the stage at Lahore in 1940 for his final conquest during All India Muslim League moot. He had succeeded in stitching together a nation from patches of Muslims in Indian subcontinent and made an unmistakable pitch for Pakistan, an independent homeland for Muslims. The onstage banner appropriately emblazoned with Allama Iqbal’s verse from his famous poem, ‘Taloo-e-Islam’ , Jahan mein ahle-e-iman soorat e khurshid jeetay hein, idhar doobey, udhar nikley, udher doobey idhar nikley. (The faithful in this universe live like Suns, they set here to rise there, to set there to rise here).
The writer is a retired Vice Admiral.