Religion, Ambition or Frustration: Lahore Resolution 23 March 1940
The noble ideals of equality, brotherhood, and patriotism exhibited by all sections of Indian population particularly, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, in their struggle for independence from the yoke of British imperialism is worth remembering and emulating. Without these ideals, a pluralistic country like India could have never freed itself from the shackles of British colonialism. However the collective nationalism that grew in India was consistently being contested from within since inception. As a result, series of alternative visions of nation developed in India. Muslims were first to contest this version of nation. Not only Muslims but from early days, many organisations of different communities from minority groups were not accepting Congress as their representative organisation. On the similar lines the foundation of Muslim league in 1906 was laid because of the search for a distinctive political entity and not quest for a separate homeland. That is why when Jinnah joined the League in 1913, he insisted on a condition, that his ‘loyalty to the Muslim League and the Muslim interest would in no way and at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the larger national cause to which his life was dedicated.’
It is a matter of fact that when Jinnah went to Lucknow as a special guest of the Muslim League, Sarojni Naidu like nationalist was on the platform with him. The bitterness that divided India did not exist then. Secular Muslim nationalists who formed the corner stone of Indian national congress like Dr M A Ansari, Moulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan attended the League session of 1914, and in 1915, the League had a truly unlikely guests like Madan Mohan Malaviya and Mohan Das Karam Chan’s Gandhi.
These are historical facts that need to be remembered and pondered over. The problem of history in subcontinent has been that it suffered in hands of the religious zealots for long, and thus the real and true history never came forth. The writing of history by religious scholars and spiritual seers in ancient times, to drafting of events in courts of medieval times and to get the name and fame made history to lose the testimony. Then it suffered in the hands of imperial scholars, who in order to justify their rule highlighted some facts, in fact exaggerated them and hid some facts to make history reveal their mind to the world. Ironically the trend continued in the post independence era. The fabrication of history turned deeper when communal political mindset started altering the very textbooks of history to satisfy their divisive agenda.
Today, an era of deliberate change in history of a particular community has ensued and this is an attempt to demonise people on the communal lines. Such writings of history make the history suffer itself.
We can understand history in a better way if we don’t read it as a hero and a villain story. Like other branches of knowledge, the important requirement of History is the pursuit of truth. This requires one to collect and sift evidence critically. Bias, whether religious, racial, regional or national, or any other, must be avoided. Its historical fact that Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was an ardent opponent of “mob hysteria and pseudo-religious politics” later changed his stand. To quote Agha Khan, it was “freakishly ironic” that our ”doughtiest opponent in 1906 for separate electorates was Jinnah for the reason that to him, it divided the nation”, later the same Jinnah divided the nation and carved a new country. It is matter of fact that when Muslim league was being formed, Jinnah was drafting the presidential address of Dada Bhai Noarji for Indian National Congress Session of 1906. And same Jinnah who later was the man behind the celebration of ‘Direct Action Day’ was once called symbol of ‘virile patriotism’ by none other than Sarojni Naidu. Same Jinnah defended Ghandi Ji, when he was being maltreated in South Africa and also welcomed Ghandi ji, when he returned back to India in 1915.
Writing in Harijan of June 8, 1940, Gandhi said, ‘Quaid-e- Azam himself was a great Congressman. It was only after the non-cooperation that he, like many other Congressmen belonging to several communities, left. Their defection was purely political.’ In other words, it was not communal. It could not be, for almost every Muslim was with Gandhi when Jinnah left the Congress.
The heroes of Indian national struggle undoubtedly made some paradigm shift but these were changes in tactics and strategies and not in stands- never the U-turns, as they call it. Ghandi Ji stood for participation in World War First, and asked Indians to take arms and fight in favour of Britain. He was given the title of Kaiser e Hind for the war efforts in 1915. Same Ghandi Ji broke the British Indian empire three decades later. Left movement in India broke the backbone of British imperialism in India particularly since the 2nd decade of 20th century by involving masses especially the working class and peasantry into the freedom struggle is the real contribution of leftists in India. But they too stood for imperialism during 2nd World War and worked as spies of British Indian government against those who participated in Quit India movement. Subhas Chandra Bose was an ardent Ghandian and later stood on the side of fascists during 2nd World War. Therefore the changes in tactics were there since beginning in the freedom struggle of India and Muslims doing the same should not be looked through a biased prism.
Jinnah made the demand for Pakistan only in 1940, after repeated attempts to obtain constitutional safeguards for Muslims and attempts at power-sharing had failed. Prior to this he was a proud congress man. Concern of community safeguard is a political demand and not a communal one. Had demand of Jinnah been accepted in 1928, history of Indian subcontinent would have been different. Ambition and frustration are two reasons commonly suggested in India, but they are not enough to create a new nation. Cornerstones of nations are on solid reasons and not frustrations. Therefore, it becomes imperative to re-read past and search humbly for the reasons that lead to the isolation of a community who valiantly had fought shoulder to shoulder.
Author is pursuing PhD at Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, India.
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