Germination of Pakistan - II
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Issue Book Excerpt: Reassessing Pakistan | Date : 03 Jun , 2011

Emphasis on Muslims as a Distinct Entity

Thanks to the efforts of Syed Ahmed Khan, separate electorates and the political ambitions of League leaders including Jinnah, some academic interest had already been generated about Muslims being a distinct entity on their own. In the 1930s, a few Muslim students of Cambridge University coined the name Pakistan to refer to the contiguous Muslim areas of Punjab, Afghanistan (Le. Pakhtoons), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. This name, born intellectually abroad, did not refer to Bengal, suggesting that no ideological underpinnings were at the roots of the idea and the concept was largely of an academic significance only.

Also read: Germination of Pakistan – I

Mohammed Iqbal had echoed a similar concept in 1930 at the time of his presidential address to the Muslim League annual session:

“I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self government within the British Empire or without the Empire, the formulation of a consolidated northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims at least of North West India.”11

Click to buy: Reassessing Pakistan

Absence of Bengal from this formulation, even though Bengal had a larger number of Muslims, indicated that Iqbal’s interests were confined only to a cultural contiguous majority area of Muslims and not where large number of Muslims lived but were not in a majority as in Bengal or the south. His declaration that “The life of Islam as a cultural force in this country very largely depends on its centralisation in a specified territory”.12

Islam was not used to define the goals or the political organisation of the entities sought to be created. It contained not even a hint of rebellion against composite Indian nationalism.

Use of phrases like ‘within the British Empire’ or ‘as a cultural force in this country’ rule out the possibility that Iqbal had a specific model of governance for this cultural entity or was looking at the Muslim masses of India as a separate political unit. His concerns were autonomy not political independence. The political framework he envisaged was either British India or Independent India. His Muslim India was thus to function from within India and religion was not the idiom of its foundation as a state. At best it could be said that Iqbal’s vision constituted an extension of the principle of separate electorate, i.e. to carve out a cultural area where local power would largely be in the hands of the Muslims.

Jinnah’s thinking was evolving somewhat on the same lines. He had convinced himself that the best interests of Muslims would not be served if participation in power was governed by the communal ratio of Hindus and Muslims. He wanted the Muslims to have their own distinct space in power. In an article in a British publication, he expressed his views that “A constitution must be evolved that recognises that there are in India two nations who must both share in the governance of their common motherland.”13 It should be noted that the emphasis was on the splitting of ‘governance’, not on splitting ‘the common motherland’. The focus was not on an Islamic nation, but on an Islamic cultural home where Islam could be practiced by its adherents whichever way they wanted.

The question of nationhood was hardly ever mentioned but the spectre of Hindu repression was magnified out of all proportions.

The Lahore Resolution which was adopted on March 23, 1940 at the annual conference of the Muslim League and which became known as the Pakistan Resolution projected this idea in a more concrete form, albeit without using the word Pakistan. It said that “no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it was designed on the following basic principles, viz. that geographically contiguous units were demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial adjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which Muslims were numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India, would be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.”

This formulation was neither Islamic nor nationalistic. It relied only on contiguity and numbers but it left out from its ambit a very large number of Muslims who lived in India in areas other than east or northwest. Islam was not used to define the goals or the political organisation of the entities sought to be created. It contained not even a hint of rebellion against composite Indian nationalism. The people whom it referred to shared only one common characteristic, religion, but no other characteristic which identify people as a nation i.e. language, culture or ethnicity. The Lahore Resolution was, thus, born not out of an overwhelming or all pervasive sense I of common identity. Its roots lay in the political frustration of League leaders who were convinced that political power would otherwise continue to elude them. Their claims of a two-nation theory being at play was no more than use of “a tool of political expediency.”14

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anand K Verma

Former Chief of R&AW and author of Reassessing Pakistan.

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