Maulana Azad: The Voice Behind the Dream for a Unified India

Maulana Azad: The Voice Behind the Dream for a Unified India

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(In memory of Maulana Azad on his death anniversary, The Quint is reposting this article from its archives. Originally published on 10 November 2017.)

I am an essential element, which has gone into building India. I can never surrender this claim.

These were the famous words uttered by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, when he stared at the daunting prospect of Partition. On his birth anniversary, we remember his contribution to the country.

Azad was among the many Muslim leaders in India who opposed the Partition of Unified India into Pakistan and Hindustan. As the leader of the All India Congress Committee in 1946, he put forth a Cabinet Mission proposal that advocated a federal structure of government, with autonomy for states. Though the proposal did face a great deal of skepticism, the Working Committee passed it, with even Jinnah agreeing to it for ‘the greater good of Indian Muslims’.

This proposal was certainly considered a breakthrough, as Jinnah and Azad had never enjoyed very good relations, predominantly owing to their opposing stances on Partition. Where one batted for Hindu-Muslim unity under a larger India, the other was vehement on the creation of two separate states. But their souring relations never stopped Azad from attempting to convince Jinnah to consider a ‘unified India’.

For instance, when Jinnah’s clamour for Pakistan grew louder, Azad is known to have sent a telegram insisting on the perils of a two-state ideology. Jinnah is said to have insulted Azad in his response, calling him Congress’ ‘show boy President’.

Don’t you feel that the Congress has made you a show boy President to hoodwink non-Congress parties and other countries of the world? You represent neither Muslims nor Hindus.

Having failed at getting Jinnah to reconsider, Azad then unsuccessfully tried to convince the Congress leaders to wait till a solution could be found. But even Patel, who earlier backed Azad’s proposal, was now vehemently pro-partition. Azad in his autobiography later writes that the party agreed to the Partition as “blindness of Congress leaders to facts, and their anger and frustration clouded their vision.”

According to Azad, as he writes in his autobiography, Nehru too contributed to angering the Muslims, by committing two mistakes which ultimately drove Jinnah to lose faith in the proposal and go through with partition.

The first was when Nehru refused to take two Muslim League leaders as Cabinet Ministers in the UP elections of 1937. The second mistake was when after taking over as the President of the Congress in 1946, he indicated that the earlier Cabinet Mission proposal could be changed, which culminated in Jinnah insisting on the formation of Pakistan.

Maulana had not only opposed Partition as an Indian leader, but also as a Muslim. He was, in fact, of the opinion, that the two-state policy will only “create more problems than solve”.

And true to his word, even today the relations between the two countries are strained at best, despite their shared history.

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