THE period between 1935 and 1947 for the subcontinent was full of watershed events. History was altered and freshly written. The conception of a Muslim homeland, which had been brewing since the early 1930s, was mentioned for the first time in a public session of the All-India Muslim League. However, there was no mention of the name ‘Pakistan’ in the title of the resolution. And the person at Cambridge then — Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, who famously coined the name of the emerging Muslim territory as Pakistan — was not even present at the Lahore session in March 1940. This day was not celebrated in the initial years post-independence. It was only from 1956 onwards that we started observing March 23 as the Pakistan Day.
Moments present facts. These facts are recorded — both at the time they happen and later as well. The recorded events are then pasted on the wall of time, where each historian comes and adds a brush and stroke of his own imagination to the actual fact, leading to fictionalised facts, which then yield to us a distorted history.
At best, since times immemorial, we have been accustomed to and fascinated by fictionalised history, where facts are twisted and converted through imagination. We create a history of what might have never happened. But fiction cannot be history.
The history of the subcontinent, particularly in relation to its partition, is also a victim of false and deceitful imagination on both sides of the divide where people write and accept what suits them.
Fertile imagination has prevailed on both sides of the divide when it comes to dealing with matters related to partition.
The pages of human history are soaked in blood — a fluid that has no variations in colour, and yet the blood spilt is determined by historians as being either of a martyr or that of a traitor, depending on whose side they are.
No wonder the rather ‘recent’ history surrounding the creation of Pakistan is also filled with loads of untruthfulness and we continue to see blatant abuse of pen and imagination. For developing a fair and truthful assessment, it is imperative to examine the period between 1935 and 1947 during which time, the rift between the Muslim League and Congress — or, more appropriately, between Muslims and Hindus — was widening slowly but surely.
Many writers from across the border have written about this period as the time when, in their opinion, the plan for the creation of Pakistan was ‘insidiously germinating’ in the minds of Muslims and even non-Muslims.
Many have written that the concept was then being financed by the British intelligence, which is far from the truth, as it was actually the growing communal mindset of the Congress leadership that was pushing the Muslim community to the wall. Towards the end of the 1930s, the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had revived the Muslim League and was seen as the ‘sole spokesman’.
It was in late 1937 that Jinnah launched his concept of a separate homeland at a Lucknow session of the League, declaring Congress as a Hindu party. On his part, Jawaharlal Nehru kept provoking Jinnah by calling the League an important ‘communal’ organisation and not as the sole representative of Indian Muslims.
Jinnah was infuriated by Nehru’s impetuosity and arrogance. While delivering his presidential address at a League session in 1938, he roared that Nehru’s claim of only two forces — the Congress and the British — being at play was flawed to the core. He emphatically pointed out that there were four parties; the British, the princes, the Hindus, and the Muslims. Jinnah’s stand was soon vindicated by the invitation the viceroy sent to Mahatma Gandhi, Jinnah and the chancellor of the Chamber of Princes for talks aimed at garnering support for the War effort.
The gulf between the two communities only widened further. For Congress, India was indivisible. However, the presence of seven Muslim members in a council of 14 was a matter of strength for Jinnah.
In the view of many, until the beginning of 1940, Jinnah was still a nationalist even though he described Abul Kalam Azad as the “show boy of Congress” when Gandhi and Nehru named Azad as the president of the Congress party for its annual moot at Ramgarh.
Jinnah met the viceroy on March 13, 1940, where he was assured that no political settlement with Congress would be undertaken without the League’s involvement. Within 10 days of the meeting came the resolution at the famed Lahore session of the Muslim League where Jinnah thundered that no constitutional plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it was built on the basic premise and principle “that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial adjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in the majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent will be autonomous and sovereign”.
Eminent journalist Durga Das claimed that after six meetings with the new viceroy, spanning 14 hours, he and Devadas called on Gandhi who said his followers had let him down badly. As neither Nehru nor Jinnah would commit to taking second place in a government at the centre, both had agreed to partition. Until the last opportunity, Gandhi tried to thwart the partition plan.
During the entire seven years from 1940 to 1947, Gandhi worked overtime to woo Jinnah who stood like the Rock of Gibraltar.
The politics of the provinces, the diabolical intrigues within Muslims, the hatred fanned by the Hindu Congress, and the imperialist attitude of the British cabinet were all handled by him with unflinching commitment and unwavering resoluteness for the creation of Pakistan.
The prestigious Life magazine of the United States carried a picture of Jinnah on the cover of its January 1948 issue, but in the write-up it used very unkind words in describing the struggle, and questioned the very survival of Pakistan thus: “... Pakistan desperately needed India’s textile mills to process its cotton … India’s capital to develop its resources and India’s industrial know-how to supplement its faith in Allah and the leadership of Jinnah. Powerful though that faith might be, it would not provide Pakistan with a workable economic system. Last week as the tragic division between Pakistan and India increased and as the 72-year-old Jinnah grew sicker, it became apparent that Pakistan not only might lose its battle for survival, but might also lose its leader as well.” All one can say is that the readers might see shades of Islamophobia even as far back as in 1948!
The editorial board of Life magazine of 1948 must be turning in their eternal abodes. Pakistan has not only survived but is a nuclear state.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance contributor