Jinnah Bashing Back With CAA But What Were His Views on Partition?

Mohd Ali Jinnah, till the time of his death, even wanted to return to India after his purpose was solved in Pakistan

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Opinion
12 min read
Image of Mohd Ali Jinnah and India and Pakistan’s flags, used for representational purposes.
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Snapshot
  • Why does Jinnah’s name continue to be invoked, as a villain, in post-Independence India, especially in Modi-ruled India?
  • Supporters of CAA-NRC, most of whom belong to BJP and the Sangh Parivar, are using Jinnah’s name to blame him, along with the Congress party, for ‘collusively’ partitioning India on the basis of religion.
  • Both Indian critics and Pakistani admirers of Jinnah would be surprised to know that, although he did advocate the ‘Two-Nation theory’, Jinnah was also once a believer in the ‘Two-Nations-Together theory’.
  • Even after establishing Pakistan on the basis of the ‘Two-Nation’ theory, Jinnah himself discarded it.
  • What public opinion in both countries disregards, out of ignorance and prejudice, is that Jinnah tried his utmost to prevent India’s partition.
  • Remarkably, all through the Partition debate, he always used the word ‘Hindustan’ to refer to what was not Pakistan, and ‘India’ to refer to what he often described as the ‘motherland’ of both.
  • MN Roy, a communist leader who later became a proponent of Radical Humanism, was a contemporary of Jinnah. His assessment of Jinnah remains truthful: “Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the most maligned and misunderstood man.
  • Fun Fact: It is to his Hindu friend Ramakrishna Dalmia that Jinnah sold his palatial house in New Delhi, located at 10 Aurangzeb Road, just before leaving for Pakistan.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah refuses to die, even though he breathed his last on 11 September 1948, while travelling, as a terminally ill tuberculosis patient, to Karachi, the then capital of the new country he had founded a little over a year earlier.

One can understand that he lives on as a hero in Pakistan, whose chief architect he was.

But why does his name continue to be invoked, as a villain, in post-Independence India, especially in Modi-ruled India?

In particular, why is his memory being exhumed in the context of the current highly confrontational debate over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens?

BJP Blames Jinnah For Partitioning India Along Religious Lines

The supporters of CAA-NRC, most of whom belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sangh Parivar, are using Jinnah’s name to blame him, along with the Congress party, for ‘collusively’ partitioning India on the basis of religion in August 1947. This was indeed the crux of what Home Minister Amit Shah had said in Parliament, when he introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. “If the Congress had not divided India on the grounds of religion, there would have been no need for CAB,” he had argued.

Many opponents of CAA-NRC, especially those in the Congress camp, also invoke Jinnah’s name, mainly to hit out at the BJP and Sangh Parivar.

They do not absolve him of the guilt of Partition on the basis of the ‘Two-Nation Theory’, which posits that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and cannot live together in a single nation.

Rather, they contend, not without justification, that the Hindutva family’s icon, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, had advocated the same theory much before the Muslim League’s supremo used it to demand the creation of Pakistan as a separate homeland for Indian Muslims.

Thus, Jinnah is a ‘villain’ for both sides of the polemics over CAA-NRC.

What’s the Pakistani View on Jinnah & CAA / NRC?

Curiously, there is a third side – Pakistan – which is using Jinnah’s name in the context of the CAA-NRC debate as also the suppression of democratic rights of Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on 5 August. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his country’s parliament: “Those in India, who did not believe in the Two-Nation theory, today vindicate the stance of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and declare that the Quaid was right.” Citing Indian Muslims’ angry protests against the patently discriminatory nature of CAA-NRC, several Pakistani intellectuals are also claiming that Jinnah was right in demanding, and securing, a separate nation for Muslims.

What then is the truth about Jinnah?

If truth is to be derived from facts, then history’s judgement would be this: Jinnah was neither solely a villain (as many Indians believe, holding him responsible for dividing pre-1947 India on the basis of the ‘Two-Nation theory’) nor solely a hero (as almost all Pakistanis believe, crediting him for establishing a separate Muslim nation seeking its legitimacy from the same theory).

Jinnah Also Believed in ‘Two-Nations-Together’ Theory

Both Indian critics and Pakistani admirers of Jinnah would be surprised to know that, although he did advocate the ‘Two-Nation theory’ a few years before Partition (and that was the greatest mistake of his political life), he was also, for the longest period in his active public life, a believer in the ‘Two-Nations-Together theory’.

By the ‘Two-Nations-Together theory’, I mean the idea of India and Pakistan as two separate and sovereign nations, but living together in peace and cooperation.

Indeed, there is much historical evidence to show that Jinnah not only wanted India and Pakistan to be good neighbours, but went to the extent of calling himself an Indian even after the creation of Pakistan!

It is instructive to mention here that even Allama Iqbal, whom Pakistanis regard as the ‘Ideological Father’ of Pakistan, believed in the ‘Two-Nations-Together theory’. In his presidential speech at the 1930 Muslim League session in Allahabad, he had called for the merger of the four Muslim-majority provinces in the north-west, less some non-Muslim districts, into “a Muslim India within India”. In a recent interview, Iqbal’s son, Javid Iqbal, has reiterated that the famous poet (who composed ‘Saare Jahan Se Achcha, Hindostan Hamara’) did not want the kind of Pakistan that ultimately came into being.

Both India & Pakistan Disregard the Fact that Jinnah Tried His Best to Avoid Partition

At a time when both Indians and Pakistanis have fallen into the trap of viewing history, and historical personalities, in clear black and white terms, it is necessary to understand that Jinnah remains one of the most misunderstood leaders of India’s freedom struggle.

This is true in both India and Pakistan – but for opposite reasons.

What public opinion in both countries disregards, out of ignorance and prejudice, is that Jinnah tried his utmost to prevent India’s partition.

While strenuously fighting for Muslim rights and for an honourable share of power in a post-British constitutional framework, he sought that these demands be met within a united India almost until the very end. He also strove for Hindu-Muslim unity with sincerity and conviction, more so in the early part of his political life (until the mid-1930s). Never a religious fanatic, he presented the vision of a tolerant, plural, non-theocratic and democratic Pakistan after Partition became a reality.

Islamisation of Pakistan was a post-Jinnah development.

Jinnah: An ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’

Jinnah wanted the Muslim question to be resolved democratically within a united India. Between when the All-India Muslim league was founded in Dhaka in 1906, and when Pakistan was created as a sovereign nation in 1947, two landmark political developments took place, which had the potential to keep India united. The first was the Congress-Muslim League Pact, also known as the Tilak-Jinnah Pact, in Lucknow in 1916. The second was the Muslim League’s 1940 session in Lahore, when it adopted the historic ‘Lahore Resolution’, marking the final phase of the Pakistan movement.

The two chief architects of the Lucknow Pact, Tilak and Jinnah, were convinced that Hindu-Muslim unity was a pre-requisite for the realisation of India’s freedom.

Jinnah’s fame those days, even in Congress circles, was that he was an ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’, an epithet given by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a widely respected Congress leader. Jinnah held Gokhale in high esteem, and had declared a desire to become a ‘Muslim Gokhale’. Sadly, the spirit of the Lucknow Pact did not survive long after Tilak’s demise in 1920. As has so often happened in the history of India’s freedom struggle – and in the subsequent history of India-Pakistan relations – political developments bred distrust again.

Jinnah’s Idea of ‘Common Motherland’

Just two months before the Lahore Resolution (which Pakistanis call ‘Pakistan Resolution’) was adopted, Jinnah was still talking of India as the ‘common motherland’ of Muslims and Hindus. In his article in ‘Time and Tide of London’, on 19 January 1940, he wrote:

“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 Constitution, the Muslims are ready to co-operate with the British Government, the Congress or any other party so that the present enmities may cease and India may make its place amongst the great countries of the world.”
Jinnah in ‘Time and Tide of London’, 19 January 1940

Pakistan-born historian Ayesha Jalal, in her widely acclaimed book The Sole Spokesman – Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan, tells us some revealing things about Jinnah’s, and other Muslim League leaders’, thought processes at the time of the Lahore Resolution.

For example, HV Hodson, a British officer who was the Reforms Commissioner in India in 1941, reported after speaking to many League leaders that they “interpreted Pakistan as consistent with a confederation”. Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar, a Muslim League leader and trusted follower of Jinnah, who went on to become Pakistan’s prime minister in 1957, said that the object of the Lahore Resolution was not to create “Ulsters” (a reference to the violent separatist movement aimed at Northern Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom), not to “destroy the unity of India”, but to get the “two nations (Pakistan and Hindustan)… welded into united India on the basis of equality”.

Not the Pakistan Jinnah Wanted

All available evidence shows Jinnah’s true intention was not to have the kind of Pakistan that ultimately got founded – “a shadow and a husk, a maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan”, he called it in dejection – but a variant of Hindustan-Pakistan Confederation he preferred to call India.

Remarkably, all through the Partition debate, he always used the word ‘Hindustan’ to refer to what was not Pakistan, and ‘India’ to refer to what he often described as the “motherland” of both.

Even after Jinnah promised, and demanded, Pakistan as a separate and sovereign “Muslim Nation” for Muslims in India, he was also prepared to accept, at different points of time between 1940 and 1947, different kinds of federal or confederal constitutional arrangements that would keep Pakistan within India.

For instance, in June 1946, he accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan proposed by the British, which specifically ruled out the Partition of India. The plan proposed independence for India as a federation, comprising three largely autonomous groups or sections, with a central government located in Delhi, empowered to handle national affairs such as defense, currency, foreign affairs, etc. The Cabinet Mission Plan meant that there would be no Pakistan. In June 1947, Jinnah proposed that the constituent assemblies of India and Pakistan should meet in New Delhi to give concrete shape to this plan.

This was the last chance to keep India united. And Jinnah was willing to accept it. Thus, history’s verdict casts the responsibility for India’s Partition on both parties, although the Muslim League’s guilt is decidedly greater on account of the fact that it anchored its demand for Pakistan on the communally divisive ‘Two-Nation’ theory. 

A still greater share of the guilt lies at the feet of the British government for the needlessly hurried, and wholly insensitive and unplanned manner in which it executed its Partition plan.

Jinnah: The ‘Most Maligned & Misunderstood Man’

MN Roy, a communist leader who later became a proponent of Radical Humanism, was a contemporary of Jinnah. His assessment of Jinnah remains truthful: “Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the most maligned and misunderstood man.

That experience made him bitter and it was very largely out of spitefulness that he pursued an object, the attainment of which placed him in the most difficult position. Jinnah was not an idealist in the sense of being a visionary. He was a practical man possessed of great shrewdness as well as of more than average intelligence.

Such a man could not be blind to the difficulty which was to follow his highly problematical success. During the latter part of his career, politics was a gamble for him; having played a game of poker with high stakes, he could not pull out. He had to go to the bitter end, so to say. Bitter, because he must have been frightened by the spectre of success, when it came within the reach of possibility. But then it was too late to retreat.”

MN Roy
MN Roy
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
“It was a case of a man getting inextricably entangled in power politics without having begun with the lust for political power. Few would agree yet, but that is a fact which will win the recognition of impartial and dispassionate historians.”
MN Roy, Communist Leader

Jinnah Sold His Delhi House to a Hindu Friend

Jinnah had several close Hindu friends. He poured out his unhappiness and agony before one of them, Ramkrishna Dalmia, who had big industrial concerns at Karachi, in these words: “Look here, I never wanted this damn Pakistan! It was forced upon me by Sardar Patel. And now they want me to eat the humble pie and raise my hands in defeat.”

Fun Fact: It is to his Hindu friend Ramakrishna Dalmia that Jinnah sold his palatial house in New Delhi, located at 10 Aurangzeb Road, just before leaving for Pakistan. The building now houses the embassy of the Netherlands.

Even after establishing Pakistan on the basis of the ‘Two-Nation’ theory, Jinnah himself discarded it. In the Constituent Assembly, he announced that Hindus and Muslims were not two nations but two communities.

While inaugurating the first session of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in Karachi on 11 August 1947, he firmly declared: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state... Now I think, we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because, that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense of the citizens of the state.”

Jinnah Wanted a Secular & Democratic Pakistan

Jinnah’s speech undeniably shows that he wanted Pakistan to be a secular and democratic state. However, fundamentalists in Pakistan’s administration disliked this clear enunciation of state policy. In fact, they wanted this portion of his speech to be censored.

Altaf Hussain, editor of ‘Dawn’, got wind of this, and threatened to complain to Jinnah himself if the diktat was not withdrawn. The threat worked, and the newspaper published the speech without any cuts.

In 1948, while on a visit to Dacca, the capital of erstwhile East Pakistan, Jinnah categorically assured a fair deal to the minorities. Talking to Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya, the leader of the opposition in the Constituent Assembly and a veteran Congress leader, Jinnah said: “You will tell these two things to your people – (1) not to be afraid, and (2) not to leave Pakistan because Pakistan will be a democratic state and the Hindus will have the same rights as the Muslims.”

After Establishing Pakistan, Jinnah Wanted to Return to India!

Jinnah’s trusted follower Raja of Mahmudabad, who met him in Karachi in 1948, writes that Quaid-i-Azam looked a sad and unhappy man. “He could not undo his past. He wanted to come back to India. In fact, he still considered himself an Indian and wanted to return to India.”

In his address to the All India Muslim League Council meeting in Karachi in December 1947, he stated something that sounds unbelievable today:

“I tell you that I still consider myself to be an Indian. For the moment I have accepted the Governor-Generalship of Pakistan. But I am looking forward to a time when I would return to India and take my place as a citizen of my country.”
Mohd Ali Jinnah

Jinnah's heart was not in his Government House in Karachi but in the beautiful mansion he had built for himself at Malabar Hill in Bombay. An authentic and fascinating account of this is given by Sri Prakasa, India's first High Commissioner to Pakistan, in his memoirs Pakistan: Birth and Last Days (Meenakshi Prakashan; Meerut, 1965).

In the aftermath of Partition, the governments of India and Pakistan had started acquiring evacuee properties left behind by those who migrated from one country to another. Out of goodwill, Prime Minister Nehru decided not to disturb the Jinnah House in Bombay. However, since there was a shortage of accommodation for consulates, the government directed Sri Prakasa to consult Jinnah's wishes and the rent he wanted for letting it out. Jinnah, writes Sri Prakasa, was flabbergasted by the inquiry “and almost pleadingly said to me: ‘Sri Prakasa, don't break my heart. Tell Jawaharlal not to break my heart. I have built it brick by brick. Who can live in a house like that? What fine verandahs? It is a small house fit only for a small European family or a refined Indian prince. You do not know how I love Bombay. I still look forward to going back there.’”

Did Jinnah Feel Pakistan Was the ‘Biggest Blunder’ Of His Life?

Towards the end of his life, Jinnah was sad at what he had accomplished. According to his doctor, Jinnah, when he was in Quetta, saw Liaquat Ali Khan and told him that Pakistan was ‘the biggest blunder of my life’. Furthermore, he declared: “If now I got an opportunity I will go to Delhi and tell Jawaharlal [Nehru] to forget about the follies of the past and become friends again.”

It’s high time both Indians and Pakistanis understood Jinnah in the light of true facts of history – and not misuse his name for Pakistan-bashing in India, and India-bashing in Pakistan.

(The writer, who served as an aide to India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is founder of the ‘Forum for a New South Asia – Powered by India-Pakistan-China Cooperation’. He tweets @SudheenKulkarni and welcomes comment at sudheenkulkarni@gmail.com. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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