File photo | Muhammad Ali Jinnah | Wikimedia Commons
File photo | Muhammad Ali Jinnah | Wikimedia Commons
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Jinnah had to surmount stiff opposition from the Indian National Congress (hereafter referred to also as the Congress Party, the Congress or the INC), which was then the biggest political party in India, a grass-roots mass organization since the 1920s, with branches all over undivided India and long years of political organization and activity. It demanded freedom from British rule in the name of all Indians in a united India. In opposition to it, the All-India Muslim League (hereafter referred to also as the Muslim League, the League or the AIML) demanded separate states for the Muslims in the northwestern and north-eastern zones of India, where they constituted a majority, on the grounds that they were a distinct and separate nation and not merely a large minority (one-fourth of the total population of India). It was an elitist party till 1940, which thereafter rapidly acquired popular support and became a mass party by the time the future of India was put to vote in 1945–46.

Although Jinnah won the case for Pakistan, the partition of India and the two Muslim-majority provinces of Bengal and the Punjab resulted in unprecedented violence and rioting, in which more than a million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs died, and the biggest migration in history, mostly to escape death and injury, took place; some 12–15 million crossed the international border drawn between India and Pakistan.

In the Pakistani nationalist narrative, Jinnah is eulogized as the Man of Destiny, fired by a true love for Islam and Muslims who liberated Muslims from the yoke of Hindu imperialism spearheaded by the Indian National Congress. Jinnah’s two-nation theory, which sharply and irreconcilably dichotomized Hindus and Muslims as two separate nations, is disseminated in Pakistan through the educational curriculum.


Also read: Jinnah didn’t join the Muslim League right away. He had one condition


Farooq Ahmad Dar, in his book, Jinnah’s Pakistan: Formation and Challenges of a State, mentions several occasions when, after the Muslim League moved the Lahore Resolution on 23 March 1940 demanding the creation of separate Muslim states, the Indian National Congress tried to dissuade Jinnah from demanding Pakistan:

1. The first instance was in June 1940, when the Congress president Subhas Chandra Bose offered Jinnah the post of the first prime minister of independent India, but contingent on his withdrawing his demand for the division of India.

2. A few months later, C. Rajagopalachari went even further: he offered the Muslim League not only the right to nominate the prime minister but also the cabinet of their choice.

3. As late as April 1947, Gandhi was ready to hand over power to Jinnah at the centre with an all-Muslim administration if he gave up his demand of Partition.

Dar then presents Jinnah’s steadfast resistance to such overtures in the following words:

These temptations could not, however, mould the solid man in Jinnah and he stood firm on his stance, which he thought was in the best interests of the Muslims of South Asia. Even when such efforts failed to persuade Jinnah, the Congress leaders continued their efforts to impede the creation of Pakistan till the last day. Yet, they failed to do so.

Dar and others, however, shy away from explaining why Jinnah accepted the 16 May 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan proffered by British ministers to break the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League. The Cabinet Mission Plan rejected the Pakistan demand; it recommended instead a loose Indian union with a weak Centre whose constituent federating units were entitled to reconsider their relationship with the Union after ten-year intervals. Additionally, the princely states were required only to cede defence and foreign affairs to the Union while retaining control over all other sectors of society: something which was already the praxis under British paramountcy. The Congress leaders found the Cabinet Mission Plan unacceptable and rejected it.

In sharp contrast to Jinnah being identified as pivotal to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, Ayesha Jalal, in The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (1985), originally her PhD dissertation, came to the novel conclusion that ‘Jinnah sought to be recognised as the sole spokesman of Indian Muslims on the all-India level . . . From the late nineteen-thirties his main concern was the arrangements by which power at the centre was to be shared once the British quit India.’ At another place she wrote, ‘It was Congress which insisted on partition, it was Jinnah who was against partition.’


Also read: Indian liberals & Hindutva supporters, stop dragging Jinnah into Citizenship Bill debates


In an article ‘Between Myth and History’, published in the Dawn on 23 March 2005, she complained that she has been misunderstood as having suggested that Jinnah used the Pakistan demand merely as a pressure tactic. In it she asserts that in her books—The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan and Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850—she had delineated an uneasy fit between the claim of Muslim ‘nationhood’ and the uncertainties and indeterminacies of politics in the late colonial era that led to the attainment of sovereign ‘statehood’.

Jalal refers to the 1940 Lahore Resolution, which, she argues, avoided any ‘mention of “partition” or “Pakistan”, while calling for the ‘grouping of the Muslim-majority provinces in north-western and north-eastern India into “Independent States”, in which the constituent units would be “autonomous and sovereign”’.

Does avoiding any mention of ‘partition’ or ‘Pakistan’ while calling for ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units would be ‘autonomous and sovereign’ warrant that it did not mean demanding Partition and Pakistan? In the conclusion she underscores: ‘It was Congress’s unwillingness to countenance an equitable power-sharing arrangement with the Muslim League which resulted in the creation of a sovereign Pakistan based on the partition of Punjab and Bengal along ostensibly religious lines.’

Regarding the contents and empirical material in The Sole Spokesman, it is to be underlined that it includes accounts of many events and episodes demonstrating Jinnah’s indefatigable efforts to surmount challenges to his leadership from powerful regional leaders to be the sole spokesman of Muslims. It also abundantly demonstrates Jinnah’s strategy to work hand in glove with the British to mount a challenge to the Congress claim to represent all Indians. Was it, as she argues, to work out a power-sharing deal with the Indian National Congress and the British? If yes, then that is not evident from the hundreds of speeches, statements and messages in which Jinnah explained repeatedly that he wanted a partition of India to create Muslim states. I give here in the beginning only one example. The Lahore session of the AIML ended on 25 March 1940. The same day Jinnah gave a press conference in which he said unambiguously:

The declaration of our goal which we have definitely laid down, of the division of India, is in my opinion a landmark in the future history of the Mussalmans of India . . . I thoroughly believe that the idea of one united India is a dream. Given goodwill and a friendly understanding, Muslim India and Hindu India can live as most friendly neighbours free from clashes and friction to their respective spheres and peacefully develop the government of their States to their own satisfaction respectively.


Also read: Jinnah felt Pakistani & Indian soldiers would fight side by side against invaders


Jinnah also dismissed repeatedly as nonsense that he was using the demand for Pakistan as a bargaining chip. Again, at this preliminary stage, I give one example.

Speaking to the Delhi Muslim Students’ Federation on 23 November 1940, Jinnah angrily dismissed any suggestion that he or the League were using the demand for Pakistan as a bargaining tactic. He remarked:

The Hindus must give up their dream of a Hindu ‘Raj’ and agree to divide India into Hindu homeland and Muslim homeland. Today we are prepared to take only one-fourth of India and leave three-fourth to them. ‘Pakistan’ was our goal today, for which the Muslims of India will live for and if necessary die for. It is not a counter for bargaining.

This excerpt from Jinnah: His Successes, His Failures and Role in History by Ishtiaq Ahmed has been published with permission from Penguin Random House India.

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11 Comments Share Your Views

11 COMMENTS

  1. “As late as April 1947, Gandhi was ready to hand over power to Jinnah at the centre with an all-Muslim administration if he gave up his demand of Partition”…
    I really shudder if this would have become reality..These people would have massacred hindus and INC would have done nothing…

  2. ‘Jinnah’s two-nation theory, which sharply and irreconcilably dichotomized Hindus and Muslims as two separate nations, is disseminated in Pakistan through the educational curriculum.’

    Savarkar had proposed a Two Nation Theory long before Jinnah. At that time, Jinnah was a Congressman and Gandhi called him the finest lawyer in India, and Sarojini Naidu called him the finest patriot.

    But Congress while having true secular democrats with a modern outlook also had typical reactionary communal Hindu types like Patel, Lala Lajpat Rai, Tilak. Congress allowed entryism to the Hindu right. These people counteracted Gandhi, Nehru and their reassurances to Muslims.

    Karan Thapar says that even Gandhi was not truly secular. He brought in prayer meetings, the only thing is he have space to all religions. Jinnah on the other hand avoided this.

    In the background, outside Congress, both the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha openly threatened Muslims, advocating Hitlerian notions. That is just as they are doing now.

    In that situation, partition was bound to occur. To avoid partition, it would have required Hindus to show leadership and amicability and not hostility and imposition of a revanchist Hindu Raj. Looking at the RSS-BJP of today with their cow lynchings and pogroms, a Pakistani will say that Jinnah had foresight and could see what would happen when the Hindus with calibre like Nehru and Gandhi disappeared, and the low minded Hindus took over.

    • “,, typical reactionary communal Hindu types like Patel, Lala Lajpat Rai, Tilak..counteracted Gandhi, Nehru” ? Thought that Lajpat Rai and Tilak were already in the Congress before Gandhi returned to India in 1915, and Gandhi became influential in the party after these people had passed away.
      Looks like the commenter is mixing up dates to conveniently suit an anti-Hindu rant and to play the victim card.

  3. Mr. Subhash Chandra Bose was a highly controversial figure in the Indian National Congress. He left India for Germany in 1940 and was later transport to Japan in a German submarine. Given that the name ‘Pakistan’ was not mentioned in the Lahore Resolution and was not adopted by the Muslim League and Jinnah until April 1943 (see below), exactly what was it that Mr, Bose bargaining for with Jinnah and under what authorisation?

    It was not until April 1943 that Muslim League and Jinnah adopted Pakistan as such in Jinnah’s words, ‘ —– when we passed the Lahore Resolution, we had not used the word “Pakistan”. —– Pakistan is a word which is really foisted upon us and fathered on us by some sections of the Hindu Press and also by the British Press. Now our Resolution was known for a long time as the “Lahore Resolution, popularly known as Pakistan”. But how long are we to have this long phrase? I now say to my Hindu and British friends: we thank you for giving us (this) one word’ (Foundation of Pakistan: All-India Muslim League Documents, 1906 – 1947, Vol. II, pp. 425, 6).

    • If u can accept karan Thapar’s view then Ambedkar ji should be more secular and pragmatic in your eyes….
      It was Ambedkar who wrote in his book “Pakistan or partition of India” with ‘data’ and facts why it should be formed…
      When you read the book, Gandhi ji was more pseudo secular than you mentioned the names…
      Hindu-muslim riots started taking bloody after the death of tilak…
      Read Moplah rebellion having an open mind…

      For your knowledge Indian congress workers were threatening the muslims to join the Gandhi’s 1932 movement against their wishes…

      One more thing…muslims did not take seriously the independence cause till Khilafat…

      So, plz do not put a biased view….

    • K. Hussain Zia: your statement shows your lack of knowledge about Subhash Chandra Bose…
      He was not “highly controversial” which you or person like you have not read or do not want to…
      He was an unbiased, non-communal, patriot of India who despite differences with pseudo-secular Gandhi (as titled by Ambedkar in his book by examples) remained in the Congress despite Gandhi’s dictatorial decision against him to replace him from the president ship of the Congress….

      His objection was, British were not doing any good for india so to remove them he has to take hard steps….

      Plz, correct your facts about Alama Iqbal who took this ‘pakistan’ term from an Oxford graduate before 1940 session…

  4. Really????? Have the guy done a bit of chronology analysis?? Subhas Bose left India in 1941 January and never returned back to India till his alleged disappearance in 1945. Now please connect the above said event (except you create another story out of the air)..

  5. 1947 events clearly shows , how naive and stupid Hindus were , they trusted Nehru& Gandhi , who said partition will happen only over his dead body , but Gandhi never did fast on to death to prevent partition, it is Hindus mind which was enslaved, why Hindus allowed partition of India , they should have chosen a civil war and ask Muslims to migrate To Afghanistan or Iran if they want to live under Sharia , like US civil war , but greedy congress fooled Hindus , Muslims wiped out Hindus & Sikhs From Pakistan and took their lands and wealth but stayed in India to create future Pakistan, silly Hindus still trying to appease Muslims by calling Muslims brothers and showering them With lollipops!!!

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