September 24, 2023


In line with Jinnah’s thinking the League session passed the famous Pakistan Resolution, which, inter alia, provided for the demarcation of contiguous Muslim majority regions in the north-west and east of India into autonomous states.

1940 session of the Muslim League

Quaid-e-azam _ Historical Pic

RESIDING over the 1930 session of the Muslim League at Allahabad, poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal had expressed the view that the principle of democracy (with its implication of majority rule), was inapplicable to the Indian conditions and that at least in the north-west of India Muslims should have a self governing state of their own. In 1933, Chaudhri Rahmat Ali of Cambridge had asked for a separate independent Muslim state, to be known as Pakistan, comprising of the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. In 1937 Iqbal had strongly pleaded with Jinnah for the redistribution of the country on the basis of religious, linguistic and racial affinities and had argued that the Muslims of north-western and eastern India were entitled to self-determination:

To my mind the new constitution, with its idea of a single Indian federation, is completely hopeless. A separate federation of Muslim provinces, reformed on lines I have suggested above, is the only course by which we can secure a peaceful India and save Muslims from the domination of non-Muslims. Why should not the Muslims of north-west India and Bengal be considered as nations entitled to self-determination just as other nations in India and outside India are?

In 1938 the Sind Muslim League, meeting under the presidentship of Jinnah, had passed a resolution which recorded its disapproval of the scheme of the federation as contained in the Act of 1935 and had asked the All-India Muslim League to frame a constitution which would provide for the independence of Muslim India.

But all these years Jinnah was working hard for a Hindu. Muslim understanding and hoping that the Hindu leaders would show some flexibility in their attitude to the communal issue. As late as January 1940, Jinnah had suggested in an article in a British weekly journal: “…a constitution must be evolved that recognises that there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their common motherland. In evolving such a consti tution, the Muslims are ready to cooperate with the British Government, the Congress or any party….” However, there had been no response from the Hindus and in February 1940 Jinnah came to believe that the Hindus were not prepared for any understanding with the Muslims. Jinnah then decided to demand a separate independent state for the Muslims.

At the 1940 session of the Muslim League at Lahore, Jinnah declared:

It has always been taken for granted mistakenly that the Musalmans are a minority… The Musalmans are not a minority. The Musalmans are a nation by any definition… What the unitary Government of India for 150 years had failed to achieve cannot be realised by the imposition of a central federal government… The problem in India is not of an inter-communal character but manifestly of an international character, and it must be treated as such… The Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature… they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.

Jinnah asked the British rulers, who had all the authority, to divide India into autonomous states. He impressed upon the rulers that the divided states would not be unfriendly to each other. In fact, he thought that “the rivalry and the natural desire and efforts on the part of the one (community) to dominate the social order and establish political supremacy over the other in the government of the country will disappear. It will lead more towards natural goodwill by international pacts between them (the states) and they can live in complete harmony with their neighbours.”

In making his demand Jinnah, of course, knew that it would

not in any way help the Muslim minorities in the Hindu majority

provinces. But there was nothing which he could do about this

situation except to ask the Muslims in the minority provinces not

to stand in the way of the Muslims of the majority provinces.

In line with Jinnah’s thinking the League session passed the famous Pakistan Resolution, which, inter alia, provided for the demarcation of contiguous Muslim majority regions in the north-west and east of India into autonomous states.

The demand for a separate homeland caught the imagina tion of the Indian Muslims throughout the country and from this stage onwards the popularity of the League among the masses grew very rapidly indeed. But the Hindus referred to the demand as the “vivisection of mother India” and bitterly opposed it.

The decision about the Muslim demand had to be made by the British Government, but in 1940 Britain was much more interested in getting India’s support for the war effort than in deciding about the future of India. It is understandable that for the war effort the British Government should have wanted support from all sections of the Indian population. And because the views of the two major communities about India’s future were diamet rically opposed to each other, it was in British interest to try to satisfy both. With this end in view, when the course of the war was causing much alarm in Britain, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, with the approval of the British Government, issued a statement on 8 August 1940. In it, he, inter alia, said that the Congress demand for the framing of the constitution of India by an Indian Constituent Assembly would be implemented after the war had ended and that at the same time the interests of the minorities would be safeguarded and for that reason the British Government would not accept any constitution if its authority was “denied by large and powerful elements in India’s national life”.

It was on this basis that the Viceroy sought the cooperation of both the Congress and the League in the reconstitution of his Executive Council and the formation of some new bodies. Jimnal sought clarifications of the Viceroy’s offer. Although Jinnah was not wholly satisfied with the clarifications given to him, he accepted the offer. But the Viceroy was not willing to give effective repre sentation to the Muslim League in his Council and Jinnah had to decline the offer. So far as the Congress was concerned, it rejected the offer outright on the ground that its demand for the immediate setting up of a national government had not been conceded.

Nevertheless, on Jinnah’s advice, the League did not create any difficulties in the way of the war effort. Jinnah had taken the view that it was in the interest of Indians themselves that they should participate in the defence of their country. Accordingly. in the Muslim majority provinces the ministries also helped in the Government’s war efforts.

Jinnah busied himself with propagating the ideology and aims of the Muslim League. In March and April 1941 he addressed several large gatherings. In one of his addresses to students, Jinnah said: “It is as clear as daylight that we are not a minority. We are a nation. And a nation must have territory. What is the use of merely saying that we are a nation. A nation does not live in the air. It lives on land, it must govern land and it must have a territorial state and that is what you want to get.” Addressing the Madras session of the League, Jinnah declared that “the ideology of the Muslim League is based upon the fundamental principle that the Muslims of India are an independent nationality and that any attempt to get them to merge their national and political identity and unity will not only be resisted but, in my opinion, it will be futile for any one to attempt it.”

Some weeks later Jinnah was able to demonstrate that the League had in fact become a powerful body. Linlithgow, it seems, wanted to give Jinnah the impression that the League could be taken for granted. Without consulting the League leadership. he nominated Muslim chief ministers and some other prominent members of the Muslim League to his newly created National Defence Council. Jinnah considered the Viceroy’s action in making the appointments behind the back of the League Executive as “deplorable”. Jinnah was then able to obtain the resignations of the chief ministers as well as some other Muslim Leaguers.

By early 1942 the Japanese had over-run all of Southeast Asia and it was widely believed that their next target would be India. The British Government then sent to India a prominent member of the War Cabinet, Sir Stafford Cripps, with a draft declaration for discussion with the Indian leaders, in which the Government undertook to give effect to any constitution framed by an elected. Indian constituent assembly to be set up at the end of the war, subject to the proviso that if such a constitution was not acceptable to any province or state, it could opt out of the Indian Union, retain its present constitutional position, and later frame its own constitution. On this basis Indian leaders were invited to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council to cooperate in the war effort.

Both the Congress and the League rejected this draft declara tion. The Congress took the view that the declaration amounted to recognition of the principle of Pakistan and it did not provide. for an immediate de facto transfer of power. The League’s objection I was that the declaration had not conceded the Muslim demand. unequivocally. Congress leaders soon came to believe that Japan was shortly going to over-run India. They, therefore, demanded that British power should be immediately withdrawn from India. In the pursuit of this demand the Congress also launched its “Quit India” Movement which led to serious and widespread disorders in many parts of India. The League leadership thought that the Congress movement was also aimed at dealing a mortal blow to the goal of Pakistan. Jinnah, therefore, advised the Muslims to keep aloof from the movement. Jinnah then asked the British Govern ment to “Divide and Quit”.

By 1943 Jinnah had good reasons to be satisfied with the results of his work to consolidate and vitalise the League. Apart from the very large following among the Muslim masses, the League then also controlled ministries in four provinces, Assam, Bengal, Sind, and the Punjab. The goal of Pakistan looked nearer and Jinnah then gave expression to some of his views on the proposed Muslim state.

The most important before the Muslims, in Jinnah’s view, was the framing a constitution, which, he said, must reflect the wishes of the people the millat. asked people give thought to the constitution choose representatives for this task. He personally visualised that constitution-making body should “based on low franchise”. Jinnah also that the constitution framed should ensure democratic govern- ment and justice. “Democracy”, he said, blood. It in your marrows. Only centuries of made the circulation that blood cold.”

Jinnah was emphatic about social justice. He wanted the richer classes think the poor. Jinnah, fact, thought that rich owed duty to poor. therefore, them to adjust their thinking changed circumstances. and industrialists, Jinnah

“The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the Islam. Greed. and selfishness have made these people subordinate the interests others order themselves… There are millions and millions people who hardly get one meal a civilization? this the aim of Pakistan? are they will have adjust themselves to the modern conditions of life. they don’t, God help them: shall not them.”

Latif Ahmed Sherwani

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