A day, an hour of virtuous liberty
Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.
- Joseph Addison

Chairman, Jinnah-Rafi Foundation
Mar 26 - Apr 01, 2007

The final destiny of the Muslims which the Poet of the East had envisioned in 1930 became a reality after 1940. By then Muslim politics had taken a new and significant turn. The departure from the pre-1937 policy was remarkable. The Muslims no longer wanted an Indian federation. As the Congress traveled towards the idea of a united India, so did the League turn towards "Muslim Independence". The Indian political situation had undergone a basic fundamental change. Never again was it to be the same.

The rule of the Congress ministries from July 1937 to October 1939 had been nothing short of a nightmare. The files of the Muslim newspapers of the period testify to the undemocratic and anti-Muslim character of the Congress. The "just and legitimate demands" of the Muslims were ignored. The Quaid-e-Azam accused the Congress of aiming to revive "Hindu domination and supremacy" over the entire subcontinent.

Muslim reaction to Congress rule may be said to have led directly to the creation of Pakistan. It was widely believed that had the Congress government lasted longer, communal fighting would have broken out on an unprecedented scale. If the Hindus were bent on having a strong centre, let them have it. But let the Muslims have their own separate centre. This was partition: the Muslim reply to Hindu Unitarianism. This was Pakistan: the Muslim retort to Hindu hegemony.

Even before the All India Muslim League passed its historic Pakistan Resolution in March 1940, the establishment of a separate Muslim state or states in the subcontinent had been advocated by a number of public figures. These harbingers of Pakistan had emphatically suggested that the Hindus and the Muslims were distinct communities with the attributes of nation and recommended the division of the country between the two. As far back as 1867, Sir Syed had said: "It was now impossible for Hindus and Muslims to progress as a single nation." Despondent over the future of Muslim in India he told a students gathering in Ludhiana that the Muslims were a nation. "All individuals joining the fold of Islam, together constitute a Nation of Muslims." The disunity of India had been pointed out by Sir John Seeky, author of The Expansion of England, as early as 1883 - "India," he said, "is not a political name, but only a geographical expression ....... India does not mark the territory of a nation or a language, but the territory of many nations and many languages." Syed Amir Ali, author of the famous work, The Spirit of Islam, also described the Hindus and the Muslims as two nations. Sir Muhammad Iqbal was the first important public figure to propound the idea of partition from the platform of the Muslim League. He articulated his vision in 1930 in his presidential address at Allahabad. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student at Cambridge coined the word "Pakistan" and found the Pakistan National Movement in 1933. "The Mussalmans," he said, "passes a history, a civilisation, a culture of their own. In our present struggle our back is to the wall ...... for us is a question of "to be or not to be," we know that Pakistan is our destiny."

Although ideas of Muslim separation had been floating in the Indian political atmosphere, yet none had dared to give them a concrete shape. Allama Iqbal had put forward a suggestion but had then relapsed into silence. He inspired rather than led his co-religionists. He was the Mazzini and not the Cavour of Muslim India. Rehmat Ali was consistent but less equipped. Only an established political party could father the idea by making it a plank in its programme.

This is precisely what the Muslim League did at Lahore in March 1940. In its historic session at Lahore, the League for the first time, adopted the idea of partition as its final goal. The Quaid's presidential address on the occasion is a landmark in the history of Muslim nationalism in India, for it made an irrefutable case for dividing India into Hindu and Muslim states. The Quaid had, at long last, discovered the truth about the Congress and its intentions. "When you scratch a Congressman, you find a Hindu underneath," he said.

On 23 March 1940, a resolution was passed by Moulvi Fazlul Haque, the chief minister of Bengal, and was adopted unanimously. The resolution inter alia stated: "Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All India Muslim League ....... that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute 'Independent States' in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign." The resolution was seconded by Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman, and supported among others by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan, Sir Abdullah Haroon and I.I. Chundrigar.

From then onwards the Muslim League policy was clear and unmistakable. It did not want one India with a clear Hindu majority, which through a parliamentary system of government and so-called democratic process would nullify Muslim rights and interests. India must be split. There was no alternative. The Pakistan Resolution was the Muslim answer to Congress ambitions. The Quaid did not have to define Pakistan. All knew what he meant. Beverley Nichols, visiting India in 1943, asked the Quaid how he would describe the vital principle of Pakistan. "In five words," replied the Quaid, "The Muslims are a nation."

With the adoption of the Pakistan ideal, Muslim nationalism came into its own. It had taken Muslims three quarters of a century to finally decide what they wanted. "They had tried everything," says Dr. K.K. Aziz, the renowned scholar, "a revolt in 1857, friendship with Britain, opposition to the Congress, extremist agitation, co-operation with the Congress, belligerent neutrality, negotiations, appeals, threats." The march of history had made a nation of a community. No longer, writes Dr. Aziz, did they eat out their heart in sullen impotence, trusting in the beneficence of the British or the goodwill of the Hindus. To the Congress Claim that India was a national State, the Muslims answered with the brand new idea of separate Muslim nationalism.

Why did the Muslim demand Pakistan? Because they feared the prospect of Hindu domination. Intellectuals like El-Hamza attributed the Muslim hardening of attitude to the "ideology of hatred and passive insult" fostered by Gandhi and his followers. A "few months" of Congress rule under the dictation of Gandhi had given the Muslims an unforgettable taste of things to come. Z. A. Suleri gave three main reasons behind the formulation of the demand for Pakistan: Muslims having ruled India before the advent of the British were entitled to rule at least the Muslim majority areas; Hindu and Muslim philosophies of life and ways of life were so far apart from each other that it was "impossible for them to live together;" Muslims were convinced that their economic and social problems could be solved only by an approach to Islam, and this was impractible until they had a state of their own. Carimbhoy Ibrahim was of the view that the attitude of the Congress had always been communal and that it had never taken the Muslims into confidence when it wielded power. It always wanted to establish Hindu raj by introducing the Vidya Mandir Scheme, the Wardha Scheme, the "Bande Mataram" song and other Hindu practices and beliefs. Not once in any way had it shown a desire to accommodate the Muslims.

Thus 83 years after the formal end of the Mughal empire, the Muslims of South Asia firmly decided on the political future they wished to shape for themselves. The diehard been cast. There was no turning back. The struggle for Pakistan had begun.

How, one may ask, did the Founding Fathers accomplish such a monumental task. Through unflinching resolve, patriotic zeal and singleness of purpose. They battled against formidable odds, lived through many an agonising moment, suffered many an ordeal before they could reach the frontiers of the promised land. But, sad to relate, within a few years of the Quaid's demise, a band of usurpers raised their ugly head. They crippled the Muslim League, blacklisted old and venerable politicians, threw caution to the winds, embarked on a reckless career and played havoc with what the founder had achieved. They even lost one half of the country. The other half that survived is also under threat. Pakistan is in a jam. Its political, economic and social fabric is in tatters. "The centre cannot hold ........ The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Would that we could bring back the spirit of the forties? But can we? Yes, we can, if a stroke of good fortune brings forth a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens endowed with the same resolve, passion and dedication that had fired the hearts of the Men of 1940. Time is running out. How much longer shall Destiny test our patience?