This book analyses the development of Jinnah’s relationship with India’s Muslims from his entry into politics until 1934. It seeks to establish that a dominant view of Jinnah-namely that he was an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity in the 1920s who became a communalist in the 1940s- is far from the truth.
Ian Wells shows that the ‘two Jinnahs’ approach oversimplifies the trajectory of a complex and evolving political thinker and strategist. The primary changes in Jinnah’s politics, he suggests, were the strategies Jinnah employed to achieve his goals rather than the goals themselves.
Among the facets of Jinnah’s political thought and career analysed here are various other settled perspectives on Jinnah: his ‘elitism’ and distance from mass politics; the effect on his work of an intellectual genealogy from the Liberalism of Morley on the one hand and the constitutionalism of Gokhale on the other; his view of secularism, religion and the religious community; his relations with Gandhi, Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, Willingdon, Ramsay Mac Donald and Irwin; his attitude to the Rowlatt Act, the Khilafat Movement, and non-cooperation; and his complex, troubled relations with other nationalist Muslim leaders.
This book will interest all historians of modern India and nationalist politics, as well those who find Jinnah an intriguing and fascinating contrast to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Ian Bryant Wells holds a Bachelor of Arts and First Class Honours from Flinders University of South Australia, with a double major in History and Asian Politics. He is currently Coordinator of Intelligence Studies in the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia.
The Impact of Partition on the Study of Jinnah
Among the most difficult problems that historians face arises when knowledge of events following the period they are studying leads to the unwarranted condemnation or adulation of historical figures. Some historical events are of such magnitude that their repercussions flow not only into the future but also back into the past: such repercussions affect study of the events themselves as well as the personalities involved. Indeed, it is at times difficult to divorce certain personalities from particular events when attempting to understand an earlier period. One instance of this phenomenon is the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent and subsequent studies of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948).
Jinnah's role in the negotiations leading to Partition and his advocacy of the Two Nation theory from 1940 to 1947 are well documented; the question is, however, what effect Partition and Jinnah's role in it has had on post-1947 studies of Jinnah. The events of 1947 were charged with emotion and remain so even now: families were uprooted and hundreds of thousands died as a virtual civil war raged along the proposed border regions. Muslim refugees poured into what was to become Pakistan while Hindus and Sikhs made the journey in the opposite direction. Indian politicians who had fought for a united India saw the subcontinent divided and conceded the existence of Pakistan, often only in the belief that the new state could not survive and would eventually crawl back into the Indian nation. For their part the British, and particularly Mountbatten, desired a united India as Britain's lasting legacy to the subcontinent. By contrast, for Muslim politicians who had worked towards it, the creation of Pakistan was the achievement of an ideal, an independent Muslim state; to many an 'Islamic' state.
In the centre of this melee of emotion and conflict stood Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam, seen by supporters and critics alike as the politician solely responsible for the creation of Pakis- tan, having virtually 'wrested' this new state from the British at the eleventh hour. Jinnah's role has made him the recipient of substantial criticism from some scholars, as well as adulation from others. The emotion surrounding him has been further fanned by continuing poor relations between the two independent states. Indian scholars have generally portrayed Jinnah as a vain and arrogant man whose main ambition was personal aggrandizement. They place him within the schema of the Raj's divisive tactics towards Indian nationalist politics, suggesting he was a collaborator of the British. By contrast, others examine the decision to invoke Pakistan as the political aim of most Muslims, and assess when that aim became an inevitability. They usually place Jinnah within mainstream Muslim politics to demonstrate his consistent concern with the rights of the Muslim com- munity. To a large extent, these approaches reflect the political and intellectual climate of post-Partition India and Pakistan.
Further complications arise from the apparent place of Jinnah in modern Pakistan. As its founder he has been canonized, his picture adorns Pakistan's currency, and it is difficult to travel through any of Pakistan's cities without seeing his face on billboards proclaiming the glory of Pakistan. This canonization makes any attempt at objectivity in the study of Jinnah even more difficult in modern Pakistan and can reduce the value of historical work emanating from Pakistani scholars working there. Pakistani academics are obliged to be alert to the government's preferred, if not prescribed, view on Jinnah. The most forceful example of this was the Zia government's view that Jinnah aimed to create Pakistan as a theocratic rather than secular state. In support of this approach, a number of works argued with conviction that Jinnah desired to create an 'Islamic Democracy'. This assertion is naturally open to argument. On the creation of Pakistan, it could be plausibly argued that Jinnah offered a secular state to listeners of his speech in August 1947:
You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State ... you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, nor in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.
On the other hand A.S. Ahmed uses this to support his argument for Pakistan as a state based on 'Islamic ideals'. Whatever the truth, it is quite evident that the issue is not as clear-cut as many scholars would argue, or as successive Pakistan governments may prefer us to believe.
Jinnah's stature in modern Pakistan and its subsequent effects on scholarship connected with him are demonstrated further by the number of anecdotes which have emerged about the Quaid's career, particularly his early life. Unfortunately, nearly all of Jinnah's con- temporaries harboured a story about the Quaid, these stories being difficult to verify and often contradictory. The ability to be able to recount an anecdote about Jinnah was seen as a sign of status in Pakis-tan. One can only surmise by their number, especially of Jinnah's childhood, that he must have been extremely popular in his neighbourhood. In relation to his adulthood, to possess some of Jinnah's personal papers bestowed prestige and something akin to power on the holder. This made it difficult for the major archives to collect and collate the Quaid's papers. Fifty and more years after his death, large sections of Jinnah's correspondence remain in private hands and a quantity of his letters was actually taken from among the effects of Fatima Jinnah without permission.
Western writers have also failed to escape this web surrounding Partition. Jinnah has been largely judged by these writers for his role in 1947 and often displayed in harsh light. Stanley Wolpert's biography of Jinnah emphasizes the preoccupation of historians with his role in the creation of Pakistan by its very choice of title, Jinnah of Pakistan. Ayesha Jalal, in broadly similar vein, calls her monograph on him, The Sole Spokesman. Akbar S. Ahmed, in Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity, attempts to clarity some of the conflicting views offered by writers from both sides of the historical debate; nevertheless, his focus remains on the Pakistan-connected latter period of Jinnah's life.
The predilection of historians, Western and South Asian, to concentrate on the Partition period has naturally led to a series of studies which examine the negotiations between 1942 and 1947 in great de- tail. While informative, these studies also tend to cloud Jinnah's larger role in Indian nationalist politics and, as a consequence, a number of misconceptions about him have passed into accepted fact. By focusing on Jinnah's later career, and examining it in isolation from his early politics, scholars have often judged Jinnah harshly. This is particularly true in relation to the 1947 negotiations between Mountbatten and the various leaders of the Indian nationalist movement. Of the studies on this phase, the majority portray Jinnah as an uncooperative communalist. To a large extent this has resulted from Mount- batten's antipathy to Jinnah and his close friendship with Nehru.
Undoubtedly, Jinnah's personality and political style, in addition to his physical condition, impeded a close relationship with Mount- batten. By 1947 Jinnah was well aware he had little time left, having been informed that he was suffering from terminal tuberculosis. His obvious discomfort and pain had quite an impact on his relationship with Mountbatten and the Indian National Congress. Jinnah had always enjoyed a reputation as one who would not gladly suffer fools (more precisely those he considered fools). He did not hesitate to put down anyone putting forward views he considered worthless. His political style complemented his personality. He did not hesitate to criticize, even condemn, those he considered wrong, and while this criticism was largely devoid of malice, it brought him political enemies. With the onset of his illness this tendency was accentuated, and in tandem with his rather austere demeanour, made him even less approachable, making his relationship with Mountbatten uncomfortable.
By contrast, Mountbatten enjoyed a close friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru. Closer to Mountbatten's own age and more sociable than Jinnah, Nehru established a good rapport with the viceroy, this being enhanced by their shared aim of maintaining a united India. When the battle-lines eventually formed around the negotiating table, Mountbatten's attitude towards Jinnah was at best antipathetic, at worst hostile. British memoirs of this period reflect a similar attitude in others. Partition was opposed by the vast majority of Britons in India, and Jinnah was blamed as responsible.
Looked at in broader perspective, however, the seven years from the passing of the Pakistan Resolution in 1940 to the creation of Pakistan in 1947 represent only a small part of Jinnah's political career and indeed the history of the nationalist movement. Further, doubts persist about when precisely Jinnah decided Pakistan was his political aim, and whether the Pakistan Resolution can be regarded as being, initially at least, as little more than a bargaining counter in negotiations with the Congress and the British, a virtual 'sword of Damocles' to be held over the two parties' heads and rattled at the appropriate times. It is certainly difficult to differentiate between demands Jinnah made as either bargaining counters or to gain support within the more communal elements of his own community, and those he genuinely desired. It could also be suggested that the Pakistan Resolution provided Jinnah with a popular goal that he could offer the Muslim masses in order to gain greater support and strengthen his negotiating position with Congress. Certainly the growth of the Muslim League from 1940 until 1947 is startling and one of the contributing factors to this rise was the offering of the ideal of Pakistan. Jinnah's ability to operate on several different political levels has therefore obscured his larger role and overall position in Indian nationalist politics.
To redress this imbalance in assessments of Jinnah, this book examines his political career from 1910 until 1934.
Jinnah first appeared on the Indian political scene in 1906, when he attended the annual session of the Indian National Congress as Dadabhai Naoroji's secretary, However, it was not until 1910 that he began to rise to prominence in the nationalist movement. His election to the Imperial Legislative Council in the elections of December 1909 signals the beginning of his increased importance in Indian politics and a political career spanning four decades. Some mention certainly seems required of the pre-1910 period, given the fact that in 1910 Jinnah was at least thirty-four years of age and a relatively late starter in Indian politics. The earlier period as a source of influence on Jinnah's later political character cannot be discounted; nor should it be forgotten that in 1940 Jinnah was a man nearing seventy, with almost forty years of nationalist politics behind him.
There is no doubt that Jinnah was austere and aloof, and to a degree lonely. This is especially true after he separated from his young wife in the mid 1920s (she died in 1929). He was, however, by no means isolated. He attracted a hard core of supporters, including Mahommed Yakub and Abdul Marin Chaudhury, who kept him well informed of political events. As President of the Muslim League during much of the 1920s he also examined the correspondence that came to the all-India organization from the provincial leagues. He continually absorbed the opinions and views he received from through- out India and was by no means inhibited in his thinking. Believing that the masses should be mobilized through the widespread dissemination of political propaganda, he could also effectively claim to be a mass politician in the pre-1934 period, despite his abhorrence of Gandhi's approach to mass politics. He opposed Gandhi's initial call to the streets in pursuit of swaraj, as well as mobilization in response to 'pseudo-religious' appeals. But he showed in the demonstration against Willingdon in 1918 that he was prepared to take to the streets provided the people he led were aware of the issues. He was also a political realist who saw no point in making mass political calls un- less there was a strong chance of success.
Opinions of Jinnah among his contemporaries are very mixed. Nehru saw him as 'a rather solitary figure in Indian politics'. By contrast, Jinnah's compatriots in the Legislative Assembly saw his role as something akin to the 'Prince of Denmark' in Hamlet. In Bombay, at one stage, he was portrayed as the 'Sir John Simon of India'. Britons mostly saw Jinnah as unapproachable. or shared Hailey's view of him as a 'perfect little bounder'. This may have had some- thing to do with the effectiveness with which Jinnah emulated the British politician. He had observed the debating style of British politicians in the Commons during his years as a student in London and brought the same approach to the Indian legislature. His barbed, and often witty, comments were seen by the British as unacceptable from an Indian, and by Indians as personal attacks.
Jinnah's complex politics, personality and persona are highlighted by the divergent scholarly opinions of these aspects. Wolpert portrays him as increasingly isolated from mainstream Indian politics and flags Gandhi's rise as the catalyst for Jinnah’s fall from grace. Akbar S. Ahmed takes a broader approach, acknowledging the rise of Gandhi but flagging other factors that contributed to Jinnah's fall. For the crucial period 1921 to 1923 both Wolpert and Mujahid concentrate on Jinnah's political differences with Gandhi as the reason for his withdrawal from the political platform during the non- cooperation period, and avoid the more vexed question of his attitude towards the Khilafat. Mujahid argues that Jinnah did not involve himself with the Khilafat Movement 'because of his distrust, not of the Khilafat cause, bur of the methods adopted to promote that cause'. Wolpert also argues that during this period Jinnah de-voted himself to his legal career and did not actively participate in politics. Ahmed attempts to set out Jinnah's movement away from Congress and his conversion to the Muslim political cause during these years.
In her study of Jinnah, Ayesha Jalal attacks the idea that Jinnah was a communalist and presents him rather as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity throughout his career. She argues that his original concept of Pakistan was a Muslim homeland within a federal union of India with a weak central government. Ahmed seeks to analyse Jinnah as a latter-day Saladin, arguing that 'Jinnah's conversion' came about as a result of a range of factors, including a generational change in the leadership of the Muslim community; the rise of Hindu nationalism with a contrasting stirring of Muslim resistance; and Jinnah's personal crisis following the death of his wife in 1929. However, Ahmed also refers to Jinnah's inability to respond to the Khilafat issue and his consequent isolation from the Muslim community. Robin Moore portrays Jinnah as a synthesizer of ideas rather than as an original thinker. This seems an accurate assessment of Jinnah in the years from 1910 until 1934. Jinnah's strength lay in his power of advocacy, his ability to consolidate other people's ideas into a work- able scheme: in 1916 his powers of argument were crucial in formalizing the Lucknow Pact. Jinnah's abilities as an advocate and negotiator are again apparent in the Fourteen Points, essentially a series of com- promises and counter-compromises designed to gain acceptance among all Muslims.
Was Jinnah mercurial or was he consistent? It is necessary to look closely at his early career in order to ascertain whether there are in- consistencies in his positions at this time which are also reflected in later years. A popular concept is the existence of 'two Jinnahs', one for the period leading up to 1934 as ambassador of Hindu- Muslim unity, the other of the late 1930s and 1940s as the father of Pakistan. Mujahid takes this a step further and identifies three Jinnahs. Either way, it is usually concluded from the more apparent evidence that Jinnah was an ambassador of unity in the 1920s who became a communalist in the 1940s. To integrate the validity of this, we need to look more carefully at Jinnah's attitude to the Muslim community. If indeed there was a dramatic change in Jinnah's approach to Indian nationalist politics, an examination of this and related issues is crucial.
This book also addresses the issue of Jinnah's attitude towards mass politics, and criticism of his elitism. It has been rather too commonly accepted that Jinnah was an ardent elitist. It was this elitism which supposedly precluded Jinnah's participation in Gandhi's satyagraha campaigns. Nehru suggested of Jinnah that-
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