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HomeLearnHistoryMohammad Ali Jinnah & Partition of India

Mohammad Ali Jinnah & Partition of India

History is replete with cruel ironies. One of them concerns the great Mohammad Ali Jinnah who started his political career in the Indian National Congress and worked for more than a decade for Hindu-Muslim brotherhood, but ended up as the Governor-General of Pakistan, formed on the basis of the two-nation theory advocating that the Muslims were a separate nation as distinct from the Hindus.

Whether he subscribed to this theory truly or not, he attempted to make use of this as a counterpoise to the Congress leader’s, especially Gandhiji’s, popularity with the masses. When he left New Delhi to assume the august office of the Governor-General of the Dominion of Pakistan, he did not look as happy as he should have been. Throwing his last glance at Delhi before his plane finally took off, he murmured, “I suppose this is the last time I’ll be looking at Delhi.” These words proved prophetic as he died a year later on September 11, 1948.

During his flight to Karachi, his companions did not see any flush of brightness or emotion on his face. He had been as cold and blunt as he had been for about last two decades after the death of his beloved wife, Ruttie, in February 1929. The cries of Pakistan Zindabad and Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad by the great mass of humanity, who had gathered at the airport to greet him, did not lift up his drooping spirits.

He rode through the streets of Karachi with extraordinary impassivity. Only as he walked slowly up the steps of the Government House, his future official residence, his face seemed to glow for just an instant. Pausing to catch his breath at the top of the stairs, he whispered to his ADC, Syed Ahsan, “I never expected to see Pakistan in my lifetime.” Perhaps, he never wanted it seriously and when it suddenly came, it was a great shock. Then who created Pakistan? It was most probably the British bureaucracy which embarked upon the slow and steady rise of communalism, running as a close parallel to the gathering momentum of nationalism, must be traced to the close of the nineteenth century.

This destructive force was bound to pose a big threat not only to the national movement but the very unity of India, a concept which brought leaders of stature together and which they wanted to achieve through the trials and sacrifices of the freedom struggle.

Thus, the concept of Pakistan was not a new-fangled one but was being nurtured in the subconsciousness of leaders of the Muslim League and of those of the ilk who subscribed to the theory of a theocratic nation—a nation built on the basis of religion. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan, was, in fact, presiding over a dream come true, nurtured assiduously in the minds,

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan, was, in fact, presiding over a dream come true, nurtured assiduously in the minds, words, and deeds of Muslims who felt they would be better off if they could carve out of the subcontinent a state where Muslim subjects would be ruled by Muslim rulers.

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At the root of communal politics was the growing intolerance that stoked fires of fear, mutual mistrust, and hatred, triggering off frequent Hindu-Muslim riots. Destructive emotions were whipped up that the two communities cannot live together. In fact, communalism was a totally modern phenomenon with roots in the modern colonial, socio-economic and political structure.

It is tragic that Hindus and Muslims who had fought, shoulder to shoulder, during the revolt of 1857 should fall apart during the second phase of independence. After the suppression of the Revolt, the British took on the Muslims, persecuting and killing them, regarding them as the enemies of the Empire. But their attitude suddenly changed two decades later when they found that the growing nationalism, with Hindus and Muslims fighting for a common cause, would wreck the base of the Empire sooner than later.

So the crafty rulers sought to divide the people along religious lines, encouraging communal and separatist tendencies. Through this “Divide and Rule” policy, they sought to masquerade as the “champions” of the Muslims, winning over the upper strata among them. The relative backwardness of the Muslims in education and trade and ‘ industry also played no small part in fostering communalism. The small number of Muslim intellectuals, reactionary big landlords and zamindars wielded an unhealthy influence over the majority of Muslims swaying them the way they liked.

In the course of time, Hindu communalism also tried to vie with Muslim communalism, each championing Hindu nationalism, and Muslim nationalism. Little did people realize that the future of Hindus and Muslims hinged on their working together for the common objective of solving their political, social and economic problems through independence from the British yoke.

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As the divide between the two communities became wider, it was only a matter of time before they would part their ways for good. There were several steps to the finale of a tragedy spawned by communal virus—separate electorates in 1906 and the formation of the Muslim League on December 30, 1906. When nationalist Muslims like Maulana Azad, M. A. Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and others appealed for unity, Jinnah emerged as the undisputed leader of communalist Muslims.

Jinnah vented his ill-feelings against the Hindu leaders at the Calcutta conference in December 1928 when he asked for the separate electorate, reservations and other safeguards for his community. He went on dinning into the ears of all that the Muslim minority was in danger of being engulfed by the Hindu majority. Hindu communal organizations, like the Hindu Mahasabha, also played no small part in driving a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims.

The emergence of Pakistan and the subsequent carnage after Partition was the logical culmination of the swelling tide of the communal wave sweeping across the subcontinent for over half a century.

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