Partition of India and the Creation of Pakistan

Mohammad Omar Farooq, PhD
July 2001


Two Things Left a Bad Taste
The FIRST SEED of Partition
The bad British habit
The rise of Muslim League and Quaid-e-Azam
Jinnah plays the communal card
The Historical Opportunity LOST
[This presentation of the pertinent history is based on the autobiographical account of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom. Maulana Azad was the President of the Congress party during some of the most eventful and pivotal years in the modern history of the subcontinent. This series originally appeared in Shetubondhon, a distinctive, Bangladesh-focused e-forum that promotes seeking common grounds and building bridges. This series is a response to Dr. Sukhamaya Bain's recent stereotypical, biased and inaccurate statements regarding the genesis of Pakistan and subsequently of Bangladesh. In reality, the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, as presented by Maulana Azad, a staunch opponent of Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement, were the outcomes of an interplay of multiple forces, and not of any one-sided hatred of Pakistan-seeking Muslims, as Dr. Bain erroneously claimed. The comments of Dr. Bain were made in the context of the alleged communalism in Bangladesh. This series, based on Maulana Azad's book, has special relevance to understanding the history of Bangladesh too.]

I: Introduction

The dominion of India officially transitioned from the Mughal to the British India in 1757. Nearly two hundred years later, in 1947 the British colonial rule ended, but the new India built and influenced by both the Mughals and the British became partitioned into India and Pakistan. While the post-1947 India continues undivided, albeit over the occasional flurries of internecine resistance from some citizens, Pakistan became further divided in 1971. The people of Bangladesh earned their independence by powering through a civil war and suffering a genocide master-minded by the ruling elite and meted out by the Pakistani Army.

Despite these fundamental changes, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan remain intricately linked in multiple ways. We are increasingly being pulled asunder against each other for reasons that are both internal and external. Our history, heritage and identity are intertwined. Just as our past is intermingled, so are the present and the future. It is critical, ever more, to re-learn our history in a non-partisan manner and develop a vision, perspective and orientation that help us to forge ahead with a positive attitude of bridge building.

Dr. Bain recently took a stab at flinging some insults upon Bangladeshi Muslims. He decided that the naming of a navy ship after Sheikh Mujib was an "insult to Islam"; next, he proceeded to make hasty generalizations about the history of this subcontinent, especially the partition of India. I propose that Dr. Bain’s approach could serve as a poignant reason for us to endeavor to better understand the difficulties in building a better relationship. When people are biased and prejudiced, they might delude themselves with (rephrasing Tagore) "Nodir epar chaare shostir proshshash, joto dosh oparete amar bishshash," and fail to recognize their own follies and wrongdoings.

When someone makes a hasty generalization, as Dr. Bain did in "Re: Why are we a least developed country" that Pakistan was based upon mostly hatred." he also chisels a marked impression not only of his observation that India was partitioned but, also, of his conjecture that Pakistan was formed due to a one-sided hatred, campaign and demand of Muslim Pakistan-seekers. From such perspective, "Bangladesh has a lot of false glory. Is it rooted in the FALSEHOOD of the concept of Pakistan that was responsible for the Bangladesh that we have now?" [emphasis is mine;]

This probably is not an uncommon view among the Indians and a sizable number of Bangladeshis, especially among the post-1971 generation. But is his an informed and accurate, unbiased and objective view of the pertinent history? It is to test that turbid water that I posed the question to Dr. Bain to help us understand his views about Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. His response seems to indicate that he is familiar with Maulana Azad, his life and works. Indeed, he quoted from Maulana Azad's autobiography "India Wins Freedom" in support of his own view that how Maulana was totally opposed to the concept of Pakistan. It appears that he has very high respect for Maulana Azad and his autobiography to the extent that recognizes him as a key player in the history of India's independence struggle, Dr. Bain wrote: "I am sure, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's role as an Indian leader can be an eye opener to much of the intelligentsia of Bangladesh." []

Interestingly, Dr. Bain did not include the Indians in his list of those whose eyes might be opened by his role. The recommendation was primarily for "the intelligentsia of Bangladesh." Could it not also be an eye-opener for the intelligentsia of India, including Dr. Bain himself? He also urged the "good writers who have the time to do this, to educate us more with Maulana Azad's wisdom." Well, Dr. Bain, if Maulana Azad's wisdom really has any value, and if you have read Maulana's India Wins Freedom, then you should reconsider your opinion that "Muhammad Ali Jinnah fits the title of 'founder of Indian partition' the most." []

As you agreed with me, Dr. Bain, Maulana Azad throughout his entire life was bitterly opposed to the partition of India, to Pakistan Movement, to Muslim League, and to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, but he did not think that Jinnah "fits the title ... the most." The partition of India and the creation of Pakistan were complex historical developments that involved the interplay of so many people - key people. Thus, one can't quite identify a single person as "the founder of Indian partition." Yet, Maulana Azad did, and if we, especially "the intelligentsia of Bangladesh" are to benefit from his "wisdom," then it is not Jinnah, but someone else. According to Maulana Azad, "It would not perhaps be unfair to say that Vallabhbhai Patel was the founder of Indian partition." [India Wins Freedom, Orient Longman, p. 198]

Dr. Bain also mentioned: "The 'Two Nations Theory' was indeed a one-sided thing from the Pakistan-seekers, unless if you argue about facts like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ...." Mr. N. Bhattacharyya has already quite capably pointed out the inaccuracy and unhistoric nature of this "one-sided thing" argument. But since such (mis)perception or (mis)understanding as exemplified in the statements of Dr. Bain might be quite common, I would like to take this opportunity to turn to the person about whom he wrote: "There is a lot more to learn from Maulana Azad."

Yes, there is a lot to learn from Maulana Azad and his works. In this series, drawing primarily from the work of Maulana Azad (India Wins Freedom), I would like to offer the synopsis of his account that repudiates such naive, prejudiced, uninformed and ahistoric view that Pakistan is based on "one-sided" "two-nations theory", showcasing Pakistan-seeker Muslims' "hatred." Actually, the partition of India AND the creation of Pakistan were due to an interplay of three separate forces: the Muslims, the Hindus and the British. A proposition of any one group's hatred and "one-sided thing", whether the Hindus, the Muslims or the British, is simply untenable. And, indeed, that might serve as an important foundation to rise above our partisan frame of reference and to seek common ground with an emphasis on building bridges.

I hope to present this account of Maulana Azad without adding anything substantive from myself and I intend to do so in a non-partisan spirit and with a goal of self-education. I may have certain questions, which I will identify and hopefully others can help fill those gaps.

I also hereby clarify that my presentation of Maulana Azad's account does not necessarily indicate that I agree with his particular viewpoints and perspective on any specific topic, subject or issue.


II. Two Things Left a Bad Taste

Maulana Azad closes the introduction to his book India Wins Freedom (IWF hereafter) with the following comments:

"In 1935, the Government of India Act was passed which provided for provincial autonomy and a federal Government at the Centre. It is here that the story I wish to tell in the present volume begins." [p. 13]

That is the context in 1935 wherein Maulana Azad begins his analysis. [All emphases are mine, unless otherwise noted.]

"In the first elections held after the introduction of provincial autonomy the Congress won an overwhelming victory. It secured absolute majority in five of the majors provinces and was the single largest party in four. ... The victory of the Congress has to be judged against the Congress' early reluctance to contest the elections at all. The Government of India Act 1935 provided for complete provincial autonomy but there was a fly in the ointment. Special powers were reserved to the Governors to declare a state of emergency and assume all powers to himself. Democracy in the provinces could therefore function only so long as the Governors permitted it. The position was even worse so far as the Central Government was concerned. Here there was an attempt to reintroduce the principle of diarchy which has already been discredited in the provinces. Not only was the Central Government to be a weak federation but it was also overweighted in favour of the princess and other vested interests. Those could be generally expected to side with the British rulers of the country." [p. 14]

Almost invariably, the decisions made by the British colonial rule were in line with its own interests. Congress was against this type of British arrangement of diarchy. Differences of opinion existed within Congress regarding participation in election. The difference persisted even after the election whether Congress should assume office accepting the current restrictive arrangements. Internal discussions as well as further negotiations with the colonial government in India ultimately paved the way to form government wherever it was possible.

"That was the first occasion that Congress was taking up the responsibility of administration. It was thus a trial for the Congress and people watched how the organization would live up to its national character. The Muslim League's main propaganda against Congress had been that it was national only in name. Not content with defamation of Congress in general terms, the League also gave out that the Congress Ministries were carrying out atrocities against the minorities. ....

Stories of atrocities circulated by the Muslim League was pure invention but two things happened at the time which left a bad impression about the attitude of the Provincial Congress Committees. I have to admit with regret that both in Bihar and Bombay, the Congress did not come out fully successful in its test of nationalism." [p. 16]

 a. The Case of a Parsee, Mr. Nariman in Bombay

 The first was the case of Mr. Nariman, a Parsee and an acknowledged leader of the local Congress in Bombay, who was generally expected to lead the provincial government. Sardar Patel and his colleagues could not reconcile with such a leadership of non-Hindu Chief Minister where "the majority of members in the Congress Assembly Party were Hindus." [p. 16] Thus, a Hindu leader was presented, instead of Mr. Nariman.

"Mr. Nariman was naturally upset about the decision. He raised the question before the Congress Working Committee. Jawaharlal was then President and many hoped that in view of his complete freedom from communal bias; he would rectify the injustice to Nariman. Unfortunately this did not happen. ... He [Jawaharlal] sought to placate Patel and rejected Nariman's appeal. ... Nariman was surprised at Jawaharlal's attitude, especially as Jawaharlal treated him harshly and tried to shout him down in the meeting of the Working Committee." [p. 16-17]

Nariman decided to take the case to Gandhiji. But the ploy and cunning of Sardar Patel and his colleagues were such that:

"Nariman had lost the case even before the enquiry began. It was finally held that nothing was proven against Sardar Patel. None who knew the inner story was satisfied with this verdict. We all know that truth has been sacrificed in order to satisfy Sardar Patel's communal demands. Poor Nariman was heart broken and his public life came to an end." [p. 17]

 b.      The Case of a Muslim: Dr. Syed Mahmud in Bihar

 "A similar development took place in Bihar. Dr. Syed Mahmud was the top leader of the province when the elections were held. He was also a General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee and as such he had a position both inside and outside the province. When the Congress secured an absolute majority, it was taken for granted that Dr. Syed Mahmud would be elected the leader and become the first Chief Minister of Bihar under Provincial Autonomy. Instead, Sri Krishna Sinha and Anugraha Narayan Sinha who were members of the Central Assembly, were called back to Bihar and groomed for the Chief Ministership. Dr. Rajendra Prasad played the same role in Bihar as Sardar Patel did in Bombay." [p. 17]

"These two instances left a bad taste at the time. Looking back, I cannot help feeling that the Congress did not live up to its professed ideals. One has to admit with regret that the nationalism of the Congress had not then reached a stage where it could ignore communal considerations and select leaders on the basis of merit without regard to majority or minority." [p. 18]

Muslim League was already doing its part, purportedly on behalf of the Muslims. It is noteworthy that Muslim League and the majority of Muslim mass of India were not quite closely identified with each other at that point. But those two above mentioned cases set the backdrop of Azad's account in IWF, where certain powerful elements in the Congress contributed their due communal part in gradually alienating the Muslim mass and their opinion.


III. The FIRST SEED of Partition

a. C. R. Das: An Example of Non-Communal Leadership

"As I reflect on the treatment meted out to Mr. Nariman and Dr. Syed Mahmud, my mind goes back to Mr. C. R. Das, one of the most powerful personalities thrown up by the non-cooperation movement. Mr. Das occupies a very special position in the history of our national struggle. He was a man of great vision and breadth of imagination. At the same time he had a practical mind which looked at every question from the point of view of a realist. He had the courage of his convictions and stood up fearlessly for any position he regarded to be right." [IWF, p. 18]

"Mr. C.R. Das used to discuss the situation with me almost every day. He was convinced that Gandhiji had erred grievously in calling off the [non-cooperation] movement. This had so demoralised political workers that it would take many years before public enthusiasm could again be roused." [p. 21]

During this phase, there was a major difference of opinion in the Congress camp. Should there be participation in the political process or resumption of non-cooperation? Mr. C.R. Das became elected as the President.

"The decision of the Delhi Congress was that pro-changers and no-changers should be free to pursue their own programmes. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Shri Rajagopalachari and their associates took up the constructive program. Mr. C.R. Das, Pandit Motilal and Hakim Ajmal Khan founded the Swaraj Party and decided to contest the elections. Their move created great enthusiasm throughout the country. In all the Provincial as well as in the General Assembly, the Swaraj Party won a very large following." [pp. 22-23]

b. Bengal enters the picture

Muslims of Bengal firmly supported the Swaraj Party. Mr. Das' visionary leadership recognized that Muslims were the majority in Bengal, and yet grossly underrepresented. His bold decision shocked many leaders of Bengal Congress. They opposed him and his views, but finally yielded to his plan. Muslims of Bengal were swayed toward his leadership. But his untimely death was a blow to this nascent rapprochement. The effect was that "the first seed of partition was sowed"; it was sowed in Bengal, and by the communal Hindu leaders of Bengal Congress. How did Muslim League ultimately win over the Muslims of Bengal? Well, the Muslim League effectively presented the actual conditions of the Muslims of Bengal to make its case; the communal role of Hindu-dominated Bengal Congress played its part.

"I have said that the Swaraj Party won a large following in the Central as well as the Provincial Legislatures. Perhaps its most remarkable achievement was its success in capturing seats reserved for Muslims. The electorates were communal and only Muslim voters returned Muslim legislators. The Muslim League and other communal parties were therefore able to play upon the fears of the Muslims and generally returned candidates with communal leanings. Mr. Das was able to overcome the fears and apprehensions of the Muslims of Bengal and was acclaimed their leader. The way he solved the communal problem of Bengal is memorable and should serve as an example even today.

In Bengal, Muslims were the majority community but for various reasons they were educationally and politically, backward. They had hardly any place in public life or Government service. Even though they numbered over 50 per cent of the population, they held hardly 30 per cent of the posts under the Government. Mr C.R. Das was a great realist and immediately saw that the problem was an economic one. He realised that till the Muslims were given the necessary assurances for their economic future they could not be expected to join the Congress wholeheartedly. He therefore made a declaration which took not only Bengal but India by surprise. He announced that when Congress secured the reins of power in Bengal, it would reserve 60 per cent of all new appointments for the Muslims till such time as they achieved proper representation according to population. He went even further in respect of the Calcutta Corporation and offered to reserve 80 per cent of the new appointments on similar terms. He pointed out that so long as the Muslims were not properly represented in public life and in the services, there could be no true democracy in Bengal. Once the inequalities had been rectified, Muslims would be able to compete on equal terms with other communities and there would be no need for any special reservation.

This bold announcement shook the Bengal Congress to its very foundations. Many of the Congress leaders violently opposed it and started a campaign against Mr. Das. He was accused of opportunism and even partisanship for the Muslims but he stood solid as a rock. He toured the whole province and explained his point of view to Muslims and Hindus alike. The strength and sincerity of his purpose was such that ultimately the Bengal Congress was converted to his point of view. His attitude made a great impression on Muslims in Bengal and outside. I am convinced that if he had not died a premature death, he would have created a new atmosphere in the country. It is a matter for regret that after he died, some of his followers assailed his position and his declaration was repudiated. The result was that the Muslims of Bengal moved away from the Congress and the FIRST SEED OF PARTITION WAS SOWN. [pp. 23-24]

c. A Muslim Leadership in Congress stands firm against communalism

When Congress established the government, Maulana Azad was in charge of the parliamentary affairs in several provinces that suffered communal troubles. His non-communal role balanced the tendencies of Hindu communal forces and improved the situation considerably toward better Congress-Muslims relationship. But "the first seed of partition" was already sown, and according to Maulana Azad as explained above, it was due to the communal role of certain Hindu leaders.

"I must however make one fact clear. The Provincial Congress Committees of Bihar and Bombay erred in denying local leadership to Dr Syed Mahmud and Mr Nariman, and the Working Committee was not strong enough to rectify the wrong. Apart from this one lapse, Congress made every effort to live up to its principles. Once the Ministries were formed, every effort was made to ensure justice to all minorities.

When Congress accepted office, a Parliamentary Board was formed to supervise the work of the Ministries and give them general guidance on policy. The Board consisted of Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad and myself. I was thus in charge of the Parliamentary affairs in several Provinces, viz., Bengal, Bihar, UP, Punjab, Sind and the Frontier. Every incident which involved communal issues came up before me. From personal knowledge and with a full sense of responsibility, I can therefore say that the charges leveled by Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League about injustice to Muslims and other minorities were absolutely false. If there has been an iota of truth in any of these charges, I would have seen to it that the injustice was rectified. I was prepared even to resign if necessary on an issue like this." [pp. 24-25]

IV. The bad British habit

a. The Cripps Mission

In the early 1940s, the Allied power as well as the British government were anxious to see India engaged in the world war. Congress and the Indian leadership were deferring any definitive commitment because leaders, such as Maulana Azad, insisted on reaching an explicit and categorical agreement with the British government in regard to the independence of India after the war was over. It was in this context the Cripps Mission, led by Sir Stafford Cripps, arrived in India in 1942.

b. Maulana Azad helps the nationalist Muslims

The British were yet to acknowledge Muslims as a community. Maulana Azad had some role in the background in facilitating a positive change in that regard.

"Before coming to India, Sir Stafford Cripps had written to the Viceroy that he would like to meet, besides the leaders of the Congress the leaders of the Muslim League also. In addition, he would like to meet representatives of the Princes, the Hindu Mahashabha and Khan Bahadur Allah Bux, then Chief Minister of Sind. Khan Bahadur Allah Bux had attained importance in recent months after presiding over the Convention of the Nationalist Muslims in Delhi. I did not participate in this Conference but from behind the scenes I had helped in the arrangements. The Conference was held with great éclat and 1,400 delegates came to Delhi from all quarters of India. The session was so impressive that even the British and the Anglo-Indian press, which normally tried to belittle the importance of nationalist Muslims, could not ignore it. They were compelled to acknowledge that this Conference proved that nationalist Muslims were not a negligible factor. Even the Statesman and the Times of India wrote leading articles on the Conference." [pp. 48-49]
c. Oh, the British were gentlemen - with some baaaad habits

The British tended to build or break different groups, parties, individuals as they found it convenient. Even Muslim League with no significant clout initially was given patronage by the British government to counter the rise and power of the Congress. This is a bad habit of all those at the helm of power to pursue the policy of "divide and rule." The British were exceptionally good at this bad habit.

"It is interesting to consider why the British Government wanted to consult the representatives of so many bodies in India. It was well known that Congress spoke for the vast majority of the Indian people. It is true the Muslim League had gained considerable influence among a section of the Muslims, but this was largely due to the support which the Government had extended to it. As for the other parties, they were almost entirely the creations of the Government. If the British Government came to a settlement with Congress, they had neither the strength and courage nor perhaps the inclination to oppose. The only reason for inviting all such parties to meet Sir Stafford was to use them as possible counterweights to Congress. The British Government wanted to inform the world outside that there were many parties in India and Congress could not speak for the whole country. The British also perhaps felt that it this way they could exert some pressure on Congress. It was in this context that Cripps felt he ought to invite the President of the Nationalist Muslim Convention when he was meeting leaders of other Indian parties." [p. 49]
d. Naughty, Naughty? Or, Nasty, Nasty?

Understandably, then, the well publicized Cripps Mission lost its luster before long.

"... as the negotiations continued, the early mood of confidence and optimism was gradually dissipated.
There were other reasons also for a change in the mood and atmosphere. I have already said that before Sir Stafford came to India, he had asked the Viceroy to issue invitations to a number of political leaders of whom one was the late Mr. Allah Bux. After arriving in India, Cripps appeared to modify his stand, perhaps as a result of the influence of the Viceregal House. Allah Bux had come to Delhi on the Viceroy's invitation and was waiting for an interview with Sir Stafford but the interview was not being fixed. As this was creating an awkward situation. I spoke to Cripps and he said that he would soon invite Allah Bux. In spite of this promise, no invitation was actually issued. Allah Bux at last got disgusted and said he refused to wait in Delhi any longer. When I heard this, I spoke strongly to Sir Stafford and pointed out that this was an insult not only to Allah Bux but to the strong body of Muslims whom he represented. If Cripps had any doubts on the points, Allah Bux should not have been invited at all. But since the invitation had been issued, he should be properly met. My intervention resulted in an interview between Sir Stafford and Allah Bux the next day. The interview was for only an hour and was confined to general discussions. Cripps did not touch the root of the problem.
This incident created a bad impression on me. I felt that this was not the proper method of dealing with difficult political issues. In my judgment, Cripps had not behaved like a statesman. The invitations should not have been issues without consulting the Government of India. Even if there were difficulties, he should have pointed them out to Allah Bux in a straightforward manner and not kept him cooling his heels in Delhi." [pp. 55-56]
e. Playing "Muslims against Hindus" Game

It is too well known a game to elaborate. The British gentlemen did there part in fostering and using the communal card in the unfolding events in India.

"There was another incident which left me with a disagreeable taste. As soon as the press released the text of the War Cabinet's proposals, there was a large volume of criticism in the Indian press. The most critical were the papers which generally expressed the Congress point of view. Hindustan Times of Delhi was one of those which was frankest in the expression of opinion. While the Congress Working Committee was still in session, Cripps sent me a letter in which he said that though the Hindu press had not welcomed the offer, he hoped that I would consider the proposal from a broader point of view. This reference to the Hindu press appeared very odd to me. It also occurred to me that perhaps he was putting the emphasis on the Hindu press because I am a Muslim. If he did not like the comments made by the press, he could easily have referred to the Indian press or a section of it. I replied that I was surprised at his reference to the Hindu press and did not think that there was any justification for drawing such a distinction among the different sections of the Indian press. I assured him that the Congress Working Committee would consider the proposals only from an Indian point of view and it would take into consideration all sections of opinion before it came to decision." [pp. 56-57]

V. The rise of Muslim League and Quaid-e-Azam

a. Bengal and the Origin of the Muslim League
First a misperception. Where did Muslim League originate? About Muslim League and its repudiated and rejected stances in our contemporary times, many may harbor the notion that Muslim League was a non-Bangali, Pakistani, or West Pakistani phenomenon. Not exactly. The root and origin of the Muslim League are traceable to Bengal. More specifically, to Dhaka in East Bengal that became East Pakistan first and, subsequently, Bangladesh.

    "The Muslim League was established in 1906 in Dacca after the session of the Muslim Educational Conference during Christmas. It owed its origin to the efforts of Nawab Mushtaq Husain. I was present at the session and remember the two reasons advanced for the establishment of the League. It was said that one of the objects of the League would be to strengthen and develop a feeling of loyalty to the British Government among the Muslims of India. The second object was to advance the claims of the Muslims against Hindus and other communities in respect of service under the crown and thus safeguard Muslim interests and rights. The leaders of the League were therefore naturally opposed to the demand for political independence raised by the Congress. They felt that if the Muslims joined in any such demand the British would not support their claims for special treatment in education and service. In fact they described the Congress as a disloyal organisation of rebels and regarded even moderate political leaders like Gokhale or Sir Ferozeshah Mehta as extremists. During this phase the British Government always used the Muslim League as a counter to the demands of the Congress." [p. 117]

This is important for several reasons. First, at least, Bangladeshis need to recognize and understand that Muslim League was one of its own - a homespun party or organization. Second, if Maulana Azad's account is accurate, then Muslim League was originally not a progressive force specifically for seeking independence from the British. However, advancing the general interest of Muslims while facing opposition from the Hindus was one of its primary goals. Third, its modus operandi was basically to patronize the British rule so that the British, in return, would patronize Muslims. I am not certain about complete accuracy of Maulana Azad's contextual characterization of Muslim League's origin. However, I have not checked other pertinent works, and I am presenting herein mainly [otherwise, too many ‘basically’] Maulana Azad's account. Fourth, it was the leaders from Bengal who founded Muslim League; people like Quaid-e-Azam (the Great Leader) was hardly any Quaid (leader) yet, let alone Quaid-e-Azam.

b. Phases of Muslim League

Muslim League took a while to begin to represent the entire Muslim community; it was not easy because there were key Muslim leaders, with solid support from Muslims, involved with Congress.

    "The Muslim League entered into the second phase of its activities when it found that the Government was compelled to introduce some reforms as a result of Congress pressure. It was somewhat disturbed when it saw the Congress achieving its object step by step. The League still remained aloof from the political struggle but as soon as any advance was made, it put in a claim on behalf of the Muslim community. This programme of the Muslim League suited the Government well. In fact there are reasons to think that the League was acting according to the wishes of the British. During the Morley-Minto Reforms as well as the Montford scheme of provincial autonomy, this was the attitude adopted by the League.

    Then came the third phase in the League's programme during World War II. Congress had gained immensely in prestige and strength. It was now clear that the British Government would have to recognise Indian freedom. Mr. Jinnah had now become the leader of the Muslim League and felt that he must take advantage of every difference between the Congress and the Government. Whenever there were discussions between the Congress and the Government for the transfer of power, Mr Jinnah would in the beginning remain silent. If the negotiations failed he issued a milk and water statement condemning both parties and saying that since there was no settlement there was no need for the Muslim League to express any opinion on the British offer. This is what he did during the August offer in 1940 and the Cripps proposals of 1942. The Simla Conference presented him with a new situation that he had never faced before." [p. 118]

India faced two major issues in dealing with the British. First, the independence of India and second, the communal issue. Based on the ideas of Lord Wavell, important breakthrough was achieved at the Simla conference. Maulana Azad was able to persuade the Congress Working Committee to accept Lord Wavell's plan, which consisted of the idea that the British would decisively tackle the issue of Indian independence after the war. In the mean time, with India on the allied/British side, there would be preparation for the independent India, with the Indians taking charge of the governance of India. Although this was the first successful negotiation with the British regarding the political issue of independence, the Simla Conference got stalled on the communal issue.

    "Now that the political issue between India and Britain seemed on the point of solution, the Conference broke down over the question of communal representation in the new Executive Council.

    ... Congress had taken a national stand on this question while the Muslim League demanded that the Congress should give up its national character and function as a communal organization. Mr Jinnah took the strange stand that the Congress could nominate only Hindu members of the Executive Council. I asked the Conference what right Mr Jinnah or the Muslim League to dictate whom the Congress should nominate." [pp. 118-119]

c. Gandhi's role in propping up Quaid-e-Azam

Although Muslim League originated in Dhaka (Bengal) and Bangali Muslim leaders continued to perform a vital role, gradually, as it emerged, Dhaka was no longer the center of Muslim League's struggle. The case of the top leadership was also comparable. In three decades since its inception, Non-Bangali leaders living outside of Bengal took charge of Muslim League. To a host of factors, Gandhiji’s contribution receives a notable mention.

"For some time after his release, Gandhiji was too ill to take any effective step. He was for some months under treatment but as soon as he felt a little better, he initiated a number of political moves. Two of them deserve special mention. Gandhiji made a fresh attempt for an understanding with the Muslim League and arranged to meet Mr Jinnah. His second move was an attempt to open fresh negotiation with the Government. Contrary to his previous declarations, he now issued a statement that if India were declared free, she would voluntarily side with the British and give full support to the war effort. I was completely taken aback and knew that both these actions were doomed to failure.
I think Gandhiji's approach to Mr Jinnah on this occasion was a great political blunder. It gave a new and added importance to Mr .Jinnah which he later exploited fully Gandhiji had in fact adopted a peculiar attitude to Jinnah from the very beginning. Jinnah had lost much of his political importance after he left the Congress in the twenties.
It was largely due to Gandhiji's acts of commission and omission that Jinnah regained his importance in Indian political life. In fact, it is doubtful if Jinnah could have ever achieved supremacy but for Gandhiji's attitude. Large sections of Indian Muslims were doubtful about Mr Jinnah and his policy but when they found that Gandhiji was continually running after him and entreating him, many of them developed a new respect for Jinnah. They also thought that Jinnah was perhaps the best man for getting advantageous terms in the communal settlement.
I may mention here that it was Gandhiji who first gave currency to the title Qaid-e-Azam or great leader as applied to Mr Jinnah. Gandhiji had in his camp a foolish but well intentioned woman called Amtus Salam. She had seen in some Urdu papers a reference to Jinnah as Qaid-e-Azam.
When Gandhiji was writing to Jinnah asking for an interview, she told him that the Urdu papers called Jinnah Qaid-i-Azam and he should use the same form of address. Without pausing to consider the implications of his action, Gandhiji addressed Jinnah as Qaid-i-Azam. This letter was soon after published in the press. When Indian Muslims saw that Gandhiji also addressed Jinnah as Qaid-i-Azam, they felt that he must really be so. When in July 1944, I read the report that Gandhiji was corresponding with Jinnah and going to Bombay to meet him, I told my colleagues that Gandhiji was making a great mistake. His action would not help to solve but on the contrary aggravate the Indian political situation. Later events proved that my apprehensions were correct. Jinnah exploited the situation fully and built up his own position but he did not say or do anything which could in any way help the cause of Indian freedom." [pp. 96-97]


VI. Jinnah plays the communal card

  1. India insists on it independence to join WWII

The British sought India’s assistance in the WWII. Congress, under the leadership of Maulana Azad, stayed firm in its position that India's independence issue must be resolved.

In response to a reporter's question, Maulana Azad responded: "... if India were assured of her freedom, she would join the war voluntarily. Our first duty then would be to mobilise total national effort and we would support conscription.
I reminded the correspondent of a statement I had made as early as 1940 as the President of the Indian National Congress. I had declared that if India's political problem was solved, she would not only join the war of her own free will but also adopt conscription and send every able-bodied young man to the war front. I had then also said that our offer was not merely to live but also die for democracy. It was a pity, I added, that the British did not give us the opportunity of dying with honour and my offer was repudiated." [p. 109]

b. The British mood seemed thawed, but ...

"On 14 June 1945, Mr L.S. Amery, Secretary of State for India, made a statement in the House of Commons in which he declared that full scope would be given to India to decide about the war as a free nation. Asked further whether the leaders of the Indian National Congress would be allowed to run the government, Mr. Amery said that they were asking the representatives of the Congress and the Muslim League to form the Government. The Congress would thus have full freedom to choose any representative they liked including Maulana Azad and Pandit Nehru.
This statement created the general impression in India that at last the Indian political problem was about to be solved. The people felt that there was [no] reason now why Congress should not accept the offer." [pp. 109-110]

c. No substantive change in British position

Discussion with the British Viceroy Lord Wavell revealed that the new British position it was not much different from the past, except the atmosphere.

"The Viceroy then described to me the details of his proposal. My first reaction was that it was not different in substance from the Cripps offer. There was however one material difference in the circumstances. The Cripps offer was made when the British were in dire need of Indian cooperation. Today the war was over in Europe and the Allies had triumphed over Hitler. The British Government had all the same repeated their earlier offer in an attempt to create a new political atmosphere in India.

... I assured Lord Wavell that my endeavour would be to find a solution and not create difficulties.
I was impressed by the frankness and sincerity of the Viceroy as he described the proposals to me. I saw that his attitude was not that of a politician but of a soldier. ... My interview with Lord Wavell created a new atmosphere in Simla.

d. Jinnah and Muslim League play the communal card

At Simla Conference, whereat an important political breakthrough was achieved, Jinnah threw a monkey wrench. While the proposal of Jinnah/Muslim League as an advocate of two-nations theory was understandable, the outcome was also predictable: Congress as a party with substantial Muslim support, especially with Muslim leadership like Maulana Azad, could not be expected to accept it.

"Soon after the Conference began, the differences between the Congress and the Muslim League came out into the open. By the second day, the Conference had agreed on certain main principles like representation for minorities, wholehearted support to the war effort and continuance of the reconstituted Executive Council under the Government of India Act till the end of the war. Difference however arose about the composition of the Executive Council. Mr Jinnah's demand was that Congress could nominate all the Hindu members but all the Muslim members must be nominees of the League. I pointed out that Congress could never accept such a demand. It had approached all political problems from a national point of view and recognised no distinction between Hindus and Muslims on political issues. It could not in any circumstances agree to be an organisation of Hindus alone. I therefore insisted that the Congress should have the freedom to nominate any Indian it liked regardless of whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Parsi or a Sikh. Congress should participate on the basis of Indian nationhood or not participate at all. So far as the Muslim League was concerned, it was for it to decide who should be its nominees." [p. 116]

e. Political breakthrough at Simla Conference

India so far had to confront two difficult aspects of its independence. One, political, and the other, communal. Simla conference of 1945 was the first breakthrough regarding the political resolution.

"The Simla Conference marks a breakwater in Indian political history. This was the first time when negotiations failed, but on the basic political issue between India and Britain, but on the communal issue dividing different Indian groups." [p. 117]
"As I have said earlier all discussions between the Congress and the Government had till now failed on political issues. The Congress was not ready to accept any solution which did not ensure Indian freedom. Discussions had therefore failed on political issues and never reached the communal question. In the Simla Conference, I was able to persuade the Congress Working Committee to accept Lord Wavell's offer. Now that the political issue between India and Britain seemed on the point of solution, the Conference broke down over the question of communal representation in the new Executive Council." [pp. 118-119]

f. The British are good at creating problems, but not at facilitating solutions

"I asked Lord Wavell to say in categorical terms whether the stand of the Muslims League could be regarded as reasonable.
Lord Wavell did not give a direct reply, but the purport of what he said was that he could not accept the stand of the Muslim League as reasonable. At the same time he said that this was a matter which should be decided between the Congress and the Muslim League and it would not be proper for either the Government or for himself as an individual to force a decision on either party." [p. 119]

Wow! The British knowing and caring for what is proper, especially about not forcing a decision on either party? The colonial rule was not forced upon India (rather was based on the consent of India and the love for the British), wasn't it? Well, the British knew when being decisive helped their own cause and when appearing neutral or being indecisive worked equally suitably.



a. The British, as usual, played along the communal game

Simla conference failed as Jinnah/Muslim League, as pursuant to Two-Nations Theory, played the communal game. The British, as usual, played along, even though it was clear to all parties that such major problem could not be solved without the appropriate input of the colonial power that had ruled and rubbled up the whole society, retaining only the colonial interest in mind. After the Simla Conference, Maulana Azad issued a statement, in which he emphasized the following.

"The British Government cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for the communal problems here. Whether it is today or tomorrow, they must take up a firm stand on a just and fair basis." [p. 123]

b. India holds a general election

With an election manifesto that envisioned "a free, democratic State with the fundamental rights and civil liberties of all its citizens guaranteed in the constitution," the Congress "achieved an overwhelming victory in all provinces EXCEPT BENGAL, Punjab and Sind." [pp. 130, 132]

The passion for independence from the British colonial rule was powering up. Observing no concrete movement toward that final goal, "demonstrations were held in different parts of India. In Calcutta, there was violence during some of these demonstrations. In Delhi, the people tried to set fire to Government buildings and destroyed public property." [p. 144]

c. The British Cabinet Mission

As of February 1946, Maulana Azad provides an account of the political situation in India, especially the changed spirit on the British side.

"It was clear to me that the country had undergone a complete transformation. An absolutely new India has been born. The people, whether officials or non-officials, were fired with a new desire for freedom. There was also a change of spirit on the British side." [p. 145]

It was in this atmosphere that the British government announced in the British Parliament that it is going to send a "Cabinet Mission to India to discuss with the representatives of India the question of Indian freedom." [p. 145] There was an acknowledgement of mutual wrongdoing on the part of the British as well.

"He [i.e., Lord Attlee] admitted that there had been faults on both sides and added that they should now look to the future rather than harp on the past. He explained that it was no good applying the formulas of the past to the present situation, for the temper of 1946 was not the temper of 1920, 1930 or even 1942. He went on to say that he did not wish to stress on the differences between the Indians, for in spite of all differences between the Indians, united in their desire for freedom." [p. 146]

d. The Muslim anxiety

Like everyone else, Maulana Azad himself was keenly aware of the concerns of Muslims, as he tried all the way to the end to seek India's freedom as an undivided India.

"The Simla Conference has convinced me that the political question had reached a stage of settlement. The communal differences were still unresolved. ONE THING NOBODY COULD DENY. As a community, the Muslims were extremely anxious about their future. It is true they were in a clear majority in certain provinces. At the provincial level they had therefore no fears in these areas. They were however a minority in India as a whole and were troubled by the fear that their position and status in independent India would not be secure." [p. 147]

e. Maulana Azad, as an Indian Muslim, rises to the challenge

How to retain India's integrity, while addressing the anxiety and concerns of Muslims? The entire Congress leadership struggled with this issue of resolving the communal problems. Maulana Azad rose to the occasion, which was embraced by the Congress leadership and Gandhi.

"I gave continuous and anxious thought to this subject. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the Constitution of India must from the nature of the case be federal. Further, it must be so framed as to ensure COMPLETE AUTONOMY to the provinces in as many subjects as possible. We had to reconcile the claims of provincial autonomy with national unity. This could be done by finding a satisfactory formula for the distribution of powers and functions between the Central and the Provincial Government. Some powers and functions could be essentially central, others essentially provincial and some which could be either provincially or centrally exercised by consent. The first step was to devise a formula by which a minimum number of subjects should be declared as essentially the responsibility of the Central Government.
... The more I thought about the matter, the clearer it became to me that the Indian problem could not be solved on any other basis. If a Constitution was framed which embodied this principle, it would ensure that in the Muslim majority provinces, all subjects except those three (i.e., defence, communication and foreign affairs) could be administered by the province itself. This would eliminate from the mind of the Muslims all fears of domination by the Hindus. Once such fears were allayed, it was likely that the provinces would find it an advantage to delegate some other subjects as well to the Central Government." [pp. 147-148]
"The Working Committee (of Congress) was initially somewhat sceptical about the solution and members raised all kinds of difficulties and doubts. I was able to meet their objections and clarified doubtful points. Finally the Working Committee was convinced about the soundness of the proposal and Gandhiji expressed his complete agreement with the solution.
Gandhiji in fact complimented me by saying that I had found a solution of a problem which had till then baffled everybody. He said that my solution would allay the fear of even the most communal among the Muslim Leaguers and at the same time it was inspired by a national and not a sectional outlook." [p. 149]

f. The ball rolls into Jinnah’s/Muslim League's court

Congress and Gandhi were on board as far as Maulana Azad's suggestion was concerned. How did the Muslim League react?

"The Muslim League had for the first time spoken of a possible division of India in its Lahore Resolution. ... The solution I suggested was intended to meet the fears of the Muslim League. Now that I had discussed my scheme with my colleagues and members of the Cabinet Mission, I felt that the time had come to place it before the country. Accordingly on 15 April 1946, I issues a statement dealing with the demands of Muslims and other minorities." [pp. 149-150]

Dr. Bain referred to this rather lengthy statement while quoting Maulana Azad in regard to his position on the Two Nations Theory and its ramifications, and why division of India with India and Pakistan as two separate entities would be worse for Muslims themselves. Note: Those who are interested in reading this important statement in its full detail, please visit:

Muslim League vacillated over the scheme articulated by Maulana Azad and later ratified by Congress. Even the Cabinet Mission was on board with the scheme. Muslim League's Lahore Resolution was somewhat vague and it was time for Jinnah and Muslims League to take some more specific position.

"At first Mr. Jinnah was completely opposed to the scheme. The Muslim League had gone so far in its demand for a separate independent state that it was difficult for it to retrace its steps. The Mission had stated in clear and unambiguous terms that they could never recommend the partition of the country and the formation of an independent state. ...[T]hey could not see how a state like the Pakistan envisaged by the Muslim League could be viable and stable.
... The Muslim League Council met for three days before it could come to a decision. On the final day, Mr. Jinnah had to admit that there could be no fairer solution of the minority problem than that presented in the Cabinet Mission Plan. In any case, he could not get better terms. He told the Council that the scheme presented by the Cabinet Mission was the maximum that we could secure. As such, HE ADVISED THE MUSLIM LEAGUE TO ACCEPT THE SCHEME AND THE COUNCIL VOTED UNANIMOUSLY IN ITS FAVOR." [p. 157]

g. A "glorious event", not to last long

"The acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan by both the Congress and the Muslim League was a glorious event in the history of the freedom movement in India. It meant that the difficult question of Indian freedom had been settled by negotiation and agreement and not by methods of violence and conflict. It also seemed that the communal difficulties had been finally left behind. Throughout the country there was a sense of jubilation and all the people were united in their demand for freedom. We rejoiced but we did not then know that our joy was premature and bitter disappointment awaited us." [p. 158]


VIII. The Historical Opportunity LOST

a. Cabinet Mission Plan brings together Congress and Muslim League

Cabinet Mission Plan reflected Maulana Azad's ideas as presented in the previous part. The position taken by the Congress and the forceful articulation and advocacy of Maulana Azad paved the way for the League's UNANIMOUS acceptance of the Plan. For the first time, there was real hope for India being independent as one nation/country.

"Throughout the country there was a sense of jubilation and all the people were united in their demand for freedom. We rejoiced but we did not then know that our joy was premature and bitter disappointment awaited us." [p. 158]

b. In his own words, Maulana Azad's GREATEST BLUNDER

Maulana Azad was the president of the Congress from 1939-1946, some of the most tumultuous and critical segments of India's independence struggle.

Just when "...the political and communal problems seemed to be solved, a new subject now demanded my attention. ... The question naturally arose that there should be fresh Congress elections and a new president chosen. As soon as this was mooted in the press, a general demand arose that I should be reelected President for another term. The main argument in favour of my reelection was that I had been in charge of negotiations with Cripps, with Lord Wavell and at present with the Cabinet Mission. At the Simla Conference, I had for the first time succeeded in arriving at a successful solution of the political problem even though the Conference finally broke on the communal issue. There was a general feeling in Congress that since I had conducted the negotiations till now, I should be charged with the task of bringing them to a successful close and implementing them. Congress circles in Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar and the UP openly expressed the opinion that I should be charged with the responsibility of launching free India in its course." [p. 161]

On the issue of electing a new president, Maulana Azad became aware of some differences of opinion in the "inner circles of the Congress High Command." [p. 161] Apparently, Sardar Patel and his supporters wanted him to be the president. After carefully considering various aspects, Maulana came to the conclusion that he had been president for long enough and did not permit others to propose his name. Gandhi also concurred with his decision. The next decision he had to make was the choice of a successor. His decision was in favor of Jawaharlal Nehru, his long time colleague and partner-in-struggle in Congress. His suggested choice prevailed, especially with the blessing from Gandhi. However, this he regretted later as "perhaps the greatest blunder of my political life."

"I acted according to my best judgment but the way things have shaped since then has made me realise that this was perhaps the greatest blunder of my political life. I have regretted no action of mine so much as the decision to withdraw from the Presidentship of the Congress at this critical juncture. It was a mistake which I can describe in Gandhiji's words as one of HIMALAYAN DIMENSION." [p. 162]

c. Nehru throws in a FATAL monkey wrench

"The Muslim League Council had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. So had the Congress Working Committee. It however needed the approval of the AICC. We thought this would be a formal matter as the AICC had always ratified the decisions of the Working Committee. ... When the AICC met, I invited Jawaharlal to take over as Congress President from me." p. 163] Maulana Azad made the case for the Cabinet Mission Plan. Despite major opposition, including the leftists, his presentation "had a decisive influence on the audience" and the resolution was "passed with an overwhelming majority. Thus the seal of approval was put on the Working Committee's resolution accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan." [p. 164]

Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Sir Stafford Cripps were happy that Congress accepted Maulana Azad's resolution and congratulated him on his able presentation of the Cabinet Mission Plan. But all these were too premature.

"Now happened one of those unfortunate events which change the course of history. On 10 July, Jawaharlal held a press conference in Bombay in which he made an astonishing statement. Some press representatives asked him whether, with the passing of the Resolution by the AICC, the Congress had accepted the Plan in toto, including the compositions of the Interim Government.
Jawaharlal in reply stated that Congress would enter the Constituent Assembly 'completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise'.
Press representatives further asked if this meant that the Cabinet Mission Plan could be modified.
Jawaharlal replied emphatically that the Congress had agreed only to participate in the Constituent Assembly and regards itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it thought best." [pp. 164-165]

d. TAUNTING: Has it ever helped?

Under the "insult" thread, where Bangladeshi Muslims were "taunted" by Dr. Bain's lessons in recognizing insults, I mentioned that such TAUNTING almost never brings about anything positive. Well, there was another "taunting" Maulana Azad refers to in the chapter "Prelude to Partition."

"The Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan only under duress. Naturally, Mr. Jinnah was not very happy about it. In his speech to the League Council, he had clearly stated that he recommended acceptance only because nothing better could be obtained. His political adversaries started to criticise him by saying that he had failed to deliver the goods. They accused him that he had given up the idea of an independent Islamic state [note: this was a false accusation anyway, because Jinnah was a secular person and his vision was a secular state for Muslims]. They also taunted him that if the League was willing to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan - which denied the right of the Muslims to form a separate State - why had Mr. Jinnah made so much fuss about an independent Islamic State?" [p. 165]

Taunting has never generated anything positive. Even the Indians and/or Hindus have a few things to learn from Maulana Azad, not just Bangladeshis and/or Muslims. The outcome of Nehru's "monkey wrench" and others' taunting of Jinnah was predictable. Jinnah and Muslim League never looked back to Congress, Cabinet Mission, or the idea of an undivided India.

"Mr. Jinnah was thus not at all happy about the outcome of the negotiations with the Cabinet Mission. Jawaharlal's statement came to him as a bombshell. He immediately issued a statement that this declaration by the Congress President demanded a review of the whole situation. He accordingly asked Liaqat Ali Khan to call a meeting of the League Council and issued a statement to the following effect. The Muslim League Council had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in Delhi as it was assured that the Congress also had accepted the scheme and the Plan would be the basis of the future constitution of India. Now that the Congress President had declared that the Congress could change the scheme through its majority in the Constituent Assembly, this would mean that the minorities would be placed at the mercy of the majority. ... The Muslim League Council met at Bombay on 27 July. Mr. Jinnah in his opening speech reiterated the demand for Pakistan as the only course left open to the Muslim League. After three days' discussion, the Council passed a resolution rejecting the Cabinet Mission Plan. It also decided to resort to direct action for the achievement of Pakistan." [pp. 165-166]

Thus, according to Maulana Azad, was lost a historic opportunity for an undivided India.

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Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad India Partition Hindu-Muslim Relationship Islam Communalism Colonialism
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Azad