My Contacts with Quaid-e-Azam 1945-1948

By Mahmud Ali

The Quaid at home, 10 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi
Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy to India, declared on 3 June, 1947 that the British paramount power had decided to create two independent dominions in the subcontinent which  eventually would attain sovereignty. In the declaration it was envisaged that although the dominion of Pakistan would constitute some area of North-Western and some areas of North-Eastern parts of the subcontinent, yet the whole of the Punjab in the North-West and the whole of Bengal in North-East would not form part of Pakistan.

The moment I read about it in the newspapers on 4 June, 1947 I felt shocked and dismayed in my prison cell: I thought within my self, “O God! Quaid-i-Azam’s assertion has also failed to come true!” My faith in the Quaid-i-Azam was such that I never imagined that his affirmation would not fructify.

I functioned as Secretary Assam Provincial Muslim League during 1945-47.

In April, 1946 after the Muslim Legislators’ Convention at the Anglo-Arablic College compound had concluded its deliberations, some of us who attended the convention from Bengal and Assam had stayed on at New Delhi for a few days more. Amongst them, besides myself, Moulana Mohammad Akram Khan, President of then Bengal Provincial Muslim League and Mr. Moyeen Uddin Ahmad Choudhry, a member of the Assam Provincial Assembly, were there for rest and sight-seeing. The Legislators’ Convention concluded on 9 April and we continued to stay there for the next couple of days.

One morning as I turned pages of the Daily Dawn I came across a news report that Husseyn Shahid Suhrawardy and Sarat Chandra Bose, brother of the great revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose had prepared a plan to make a greater Bengal State separate from both Pakistan and Hindustan and that they had the Quaid-i-Azam’s blessing.

Moulana Mohammad Akram Khan and I were staying in the same hotel in New Delhi. As soon as I read the news I ran to the Moulana Sahib and wanted to know whether he also subscribed to the plan. He emphatically denied any connection with the plan. I implored with him if that was the case whether he could condescend to call on the Quaid along with me for a clarification. He asked me to fix a time with the Quaid-i-Azam. I rang up Mr. Khurshid who was at the time Private Secretary to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and got the time for 10 o’clock next morning. Since Mr. Moyeen Uddin Choudhry was also at New Delhi I thought he might be associated with the delegation. When I mentioned to Mr. Choudhry about it he readily agreed.

So, three of us, Moulana Mohammad Akram Khan, Mr. Moyeed Uddin Ahmed Choudhry and I, together embarked on the venture next morning for 10-Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi, residence of the Quaid-i-Azam.

Moulana Mohammad Akam Khan was the eldest amongst us. I was the youngest, at the time only a few months more than 26 years of age.

On the way Moulana Sahib asked me to broach the subject. I presumed he was asking me to do thinking, perhaps, if the Quaid-i-Azam had given his blessings, as the newspaper report alleged, the Quaid-i-Azam’s expression of displeasure on it would be attributed to my youthful exuberance.

We were on time. We arrived at 10-Aurangzeb Road exactly at ten o’clock. Immediately after our arrival, Mr. Khurshid ushered us into the Quaid-i-Azam’s study room. Quaid-i-Azam received us with his usual cordiality. No introduction was necessary. He knew who we were. As soon as we were seated I said, “Quaid-i-Azam, would you not include Assam in Pakistan.”? He did not mince matters. Promptly came the reply, “I tell you young man, nothing short of Assam shall satisfy me.”

After the Mountbatten declaration on 3 June, 1947, in my prison cell, I wondered how was it that the Quaid-i-Azam satisfied himself without bulk of Assam! I only realised much later why Quaid-i-Azam had to satisfy himself with a ‘maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten’ Pakisan. He knew his time was short. After him, achievement of Pakistan could be in jeopardy. Lord Mountbatten himself is on record as having said that he would have delayed the process of transfer of power had he known “Jinnah was suffering from a fatal disease which would not allow him to live beyond three years.”

Long before we had met the Quaid-i-Azam at New Delhi and the Suhrawardy-Sarat Bose Plan germinated, Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan (Bhashani) had made a trip to Bombay in 1945. Regarding the Moulana’s meeting with the Quaid-i-Azam, I have noted in an article published in December, 1980 issue of the monthly Concept thus:-

The Moulana came back from Bombay a very happy man. He told us, he had a long and fruitful talk with the Quaid-i-Azam. In fact, Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan was jubilant over the meeting. He had found the Quaid-i-Azam was aware of the minutest details of the economic possibilities of the areas that would comprise Pakistan. In his exuberance the Moulana told me: ‘You are a young man. You must take up the responsibility for organizing the struggle in our region. You must not fail to rise to the height of the occasion. Our future is bright. Quaid-i-Azam will lead us to our goal. After the achievement of Pakistan, the problems of the poverty-stricken Muslim masses shall be solved in the way we will like it to be solved. The exploitation of the poor will end; human dignity to every individual will be ensured. We will undo what man has made of man. God has provided us with plenty of resources in the regions that are going to constitute Pakistan. It will be for us to utilize the same for our collective good.

Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan was at the time President of the Assam Provincial Muslim League. As a matter of fact he continued to hold the responsibility until independence. In the upper echelon of our society the Moulana was regarded as an extremist, if not a communist. But Quaid-i-Azam understood him as to what kind of person he was. He, therefore, gave the Moulana a patient hearing and the honour of discussing with him the problems that the new country would face after freedom. For Quaid-i-Azam freedom meant freedom of our people as human beings will all their potentials. He had the ambition to make freedom meaningful; to facilitate the unfolding of every man and woman in the truest, the noblest and the best perspective; in other words, he wanted to create an atmosphere under which every Pakistani could rightfully claim to be the best of creation of God Almighty. Quaid-i-Azam perceived the miserable condition in which our people found themselves after nearly one hundred and fifty years of slavery under British Imperialism and the economic exploitation of the Hindu Bania under the benign protection of their Imperial masters.

I was no wonder, therefore, the Quaid had opened his mind to the Moulana who had sprung from amongst those for whom the Quaid’s heart ached. He had the fullest comprehension of what he was about; he weighed and measured things in terms of the future. He had discovered that the dream-land was pregnant with enormous possibilities. He unfolded his thoughts and findings to the Moulana who was highly impressed by what the Quaid-i-Azam told him.

Although I was a school student in 1937 I took interest in political developments in the country. The first general elections under the Government of India Act of 1935 had been announced to be held in 1937. In that connection Mr. Jinnah had undertaken tour of various provinces of India. When he arrived at Mymansing only a few persons numbering seven were present at the Railway Station to receive him.

But the situation was quite the reverse in 1946. The Lahore Resolution which came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution and a few years of projection of the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslim nation had created an atmosphere unprecedented in history.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah undertook to visit Bengal and Assam, which eventually came to be formed the eastern zone of Pakistan. When he arrived at Serajganj from Calcutta in an East Bengal Railway Saloon accompainied by Mr. M.A.H Ispahani on his way to Sylhet I came to Serajganj to receive him. At that time I was the General Secretary of the Assam Provincial Muslim League. At Sarajganj the Railway passengers had to embark on a ferry steamer which would take them to Jagannathganj where again the passengers has to shift to a waiting train for Sylhet. It was evening when the train pulling the Quaid-i-Azam’s saloon arrived at Sarajganj. A huge crowd greeted him at the Railway Station. Then the Quaid-i-Azam’s entourage and we all boarded in the Ferry Steamer. It was early morning when we reached Jagannathganj where we again boarded a waiting train. From Jagannathganj to Sylhet is a journey of about seven hours. But it took us more than twice the time to reach Sylhet. At every station where the train usually stopped there were thousands of people to greet the Quaid-i-Azam. Where there were no stoppage enthusiasts pulled chain to stop the train to make it convenient for thousands of waiting fans to have ‘Darshan’ of the Quaid-i-Azam. In this way when we reached Bhairab Bazar junction the Railway Guard and the Station Master came to me and supplicated that since the train was carrying mail (in those days this particular service called the Surma Mail Service) the way we were moving it would take us a long time to reach Sylhet. They proposed that they would provide as many passenger bogies as we needed in addition to the Saloon of the Quaid-i-Azam and an engine to pull the train and thus we could make the trip to Sylhet at our convenience. We accepted the proposal and let the Mail Train go. For our part we moved on, stopping every-where the people wanted the train to stop making it convenient for them to have a glimpse of the Quaid-i-Azam.

When the train reached Sylhet we found the Railway Station area and city beyond the Keane Bridge agog and with jubilation of the people. It appeared that people from all sides, from far and near had thronged. A truck was already waiting at the Station splendidly decorated to carry Quaid-i-Azam to his temporary abode at the house of Mr. Ajmad Ali Choudhry, a prominent Member of Assam Provincial Muslim League Working Committee who played host of the Quaid-i-Azam. In the evening a huge public meeting was held at the Sylhet Eidgah which normally accommodated about a hundred thousand people on Eid days. But the instant congregation was much bigger than that. The open space around the Eidgah was also full.

The next destination was Shillong, capital of the then Assam Province and thence to Gawhati, at that time an important city and at present capital of Assam which constitutes pre-independence Brahmaputra valley only.

At Gawhati we arranged a meeting of the Working Committee of the Assam Provincial Muslim League which was attended by the Quaid-i-Azam. Eviction of Muslim immigrants from adjoining Province of Bengal at that time was serious problem for us and agitated the minds of not only the Muslims in Assam, but also Muslims all over the sub-continent.

Here it may not be out of place to mention about the nation of the eviction of immigrants in Assam. Due to the tyranny and exploitation of Hindu landlords in Bengal and heavy pressure of over-population, a large number of landless peasants from Bengal districts, Mymansing, Tipperah, Noakhali and Faridpur had gone over to Assam in search of shelter and land to grow food crops on. The first batch of these impoverished, shelterless, bewildered and land-hungry peasants set foot on their pilgrimage to Assam in 1905-1906. Fresh contigents, however, followed in increased numbers, encouraged obviously by the initial success of their fore-runners.

The indigenous population in Assam welcomed the advent of these sturdy cultivators whom they found to be very useful in bringing the vast areas of fallow land under the plough. In some cases they conveniently transferred lands to the immigrants in lieu of exorbitant price which they never expected in the normal market. But this state of things did not last long. Narrow parochialism began to raise its head. It came to such a pass that in February, 1919, the British Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup drew an imaginary line on the map and prohibited acquisition of land by an outsider beyond that line. Eventually, this prohibitory line came to known as the line system in Assam. Similar restrictions, however, were imposed in respect of land settlement in some other districts as well.

As a result of 1946 general elections the Congress won a majority in Assam Assembly ushering a purely Congress Ministry in the Province. Prior to this the Muslim League under the leadership of Syed Sir Mohammad Sa’addullah ruled in Assam in coalition with Tribals, Christians, Scheduled Caste Hindus and at times some caste Hindus as well. The population of the province at the time was divided as follows: Muslims 34%, Hindus including Schedule Caste 42% and the rest which included Tribals, Christians and other accounted for 24% of the total population. In 1946 general elections although Muslim League scored 31 out of the 34 Muslims seats in the Provincial Assembly, the Congress also claimed a good chunk from amongst the non-Muslims enabling them (the Congress) to form a full-fledged Congress Ministry.

The Congress under G.N. Bardoloi’s leadership did not waste a moment to start a vigorous campaign to oust the last Muslim immigrant from within the geographical boundary of the Province of Assam. The Congress expressedly stood for an united India where all citizens irrespective of religion, caste and creed would be meted out equal treatment. It is in everybody’s knowledge that at the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress it was categorically declared: “Every citizen is free to move throughout India and to stay and settle in any part thereof, to acquire property and follow any trade or profession and to be treated equally with regard to legal prosecution or protection in all part of India.” Moreover, provisions of the Government of India Act of 1935 under which India was being governed at the time and Bardoloi took oath as Chief Minister clearly laid down: “No subject of His Majesty domiciled in India shall, on grounds, only of religion, place of birth, descent, colour or any of them, be ineligible for office under the Crown in India, or be prohibited on any such grounds from acquiring, holding or disposing of property or carrying on any occupation, trade, business, profession in British India.”

The Bardoloi Government brushed aside all the norms of civilized conduct and steam-rolled all legal obligation to see that the Muslim immigrants were ousted from the soil of Assam.

In such a situation the Assam Provincial Muslim League Working Committte met at Gawhati on 8 March, 1946 under the presidency of Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan (Bhashani) to determine a line of action to face the unwarranted atrocities against the Muslim immigrants. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was on his way back to Calcutta and thence to New Delhi after conclusion of his Assam tour attended the meeting and helped the Working Committee with his valuable advice.

The problem before the Working Committee was either to surrender to the atrocities of a Government bent upon to forcibly push out all Muslim immigrants engaged in increasing the wealth of the Province and thus to destroy and possibility of the growth of Muslim population in that area or to go ahead and face all consequences. The Muslim immigrants were faced with total extermination or to survive through struggle and strife.

he reactionary section of the Muslim Leaguers headed by the parliamentary group did not welcome any radical Muslim immigrants. One of them, the Deputy leader of the Muslim League Parliamentary Party, Mr. Abdul Hamid, is on record as saying, “The boy-Secretary, Mahmud Ali, is pulling us by the nose.”

Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan (Bhashani) together with us, the younger section, was for a comprehensive radical programme of action. We realised that without mass action no objective could be achieved. The Working Committee therefore, on the advice of the Quaid-i-Azam, adopted a resolution which envisaged the line of action to be followed by the Muslim Leaguers and immigrants all over the Province. The Resolution, iner-alia, stated:

  1. The landless and evicted persons be advised to spread out a cultivate all surplus cultivable Government waste land to produce food crop to save themselves and thousands of others from miseries of famine, salvation and death.
  2. The Provincial Muslim League will raise a relief fund for the relief of those who may be thrown out of their holdings and help the suffering and starving victims of this ruthless policy of eviction.

This Resolution was a clarion call to all concerned to defy all obstacles on their way, regardless of the consequences. This directive came as a last resort since all other means of attracting the sympathy of the Government had failed. The call was a call for asserting one’s inherent right to live and to continue to own the land one cultivated.

As the General Secretary of the Provincial Muslim League I immediately proceeded to Calcutta and got printed million of leaflets embodying the resolution of the Working Committee. We were apprehensive that if we undertake the printing work in Assam the material could be seized by the hostile Government even before this came out in a printed form. Thus we succeeded in reaching this directive of the Working Committee to be concerned people. Even so the leaflet containing the Working Committee’s directive was forfeited by the Bardoloi Government by a notification and ordered all copies wherever found be seized.

This laid the basis for a Civil Disobedience Movement which eventually became linked up with the Movement for the achievement of Pakistan. In this Civil Disobedience Movement about 3299 Muslim League workers including Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan (Bhashani), President of the Muslim League and myself (Mahmud Ali) General Secretary of the Provincial Muslim League were put behind the prison bars.

The detenus were released only after the Mountbatten Plan was made public. As far s I am concerned I was released from Gawhati Central Jail three weeks after the Mountbatten Declaration.

Here, perhaps, it may be relevant to mention that those who were against any radical steps by the Provincial Muslim League submitted a complaint to the Quaid-i-Azam that we should be prevented from running fast. The Quaid-i-Azam deputed Choudhury Khaliquzzaman to look into the matter. Choudhury Khaliquzzaman immediately paid a visit to the Province and after meeting all concerned gave the decision in our favour and declared at Shillong, capital of the Province, that “Muslim League workers should fill the jails of the Bardoloi.”

We and other Muslim League workers of the time not only did fill the jails of Bardoloi, but also faced bullets from a Government declaredly devoted to ‘Ahimsa’. In the wake some embraced martyrdom as well.

In early June, 1946, as desired by Quaid-i-Azam, Quaid-e-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan, General Secretary of the All India Muslim League convened a meeting of the All India Muslim League Council, the apex body of the organisation, at the Imperial Hotel at New Delhi. The meeting was presided over by Quaid-i-Azam and members from all the seven provinces of then India attended. As I was also a member of the Council, besides being the General Secretary of the Assam Provincial Muslim League, I also had the privilege of attending the historic meeting.

The agenda before the meeting was to accept or reject the constitutional proposal of the British Cabinet Mission headed by Sir Stafford Cripps. The Cabinet Mission met and discussed constitutional problems with Indian leaders both of the Muslim League and the Indan National Congress and after mature deliberations recommended that:

  1. There should be Union of India embracing both British India and States which should deal with foreign affairs, defence and communications and should have the powers necessary to raise finances required for the above subjects.
  2. All subjects other that Union subjects and all residuary powers other than those ceded to the Union.
  3. Provinces should be free to form groups could determine the provincial subjects to be taken in common.
  4. The constitution of the Union and of the groups should contain a provision whereby any province could, by majority votes of its legislative assembly call for a reconsideration of the terms of the constitution after an initial period of ten years and at ten yearly intervals thereafter
  5. India be divided into three sections: Section (A); Madras Bombay, United Provinces, Behar, Central Provinces and Orrissa with 167 general seats and 20 Muslim seats.
    Section (B); Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan with 9 general seats, 22 Muslim seats and 4 Sikh seats.
    Section (C); Bengal and Assam with 34 general seats and 36 Muslim seats.

The special session of the All-India Muslim League Council discussed at length the pros and cons of the Cabinet Mission’s recommendations and decided to accept the recommendations after raising the demand the Bengal, Assam, Punjab, North West Frontier Provinces, Sind and Baluchistan should be constituted into one group. On this basis the Council decided to join the proposed constituent assembly of India. Choudhry Khaliquzzaman moved the acceptance Resolution while Moulana Hasrat Mohani vehemently opposed it on the ground that the Cabinet Mission Plan did not concede a sovereign Pakistan. Serious discussions ensured. It appeared that the consensus in the Council was in favour of Choudhry Khaliquzzaman’s resolution but Moulana Hasrat Mohani demanded a division. There was loud and simultaneous voices of No, No, No. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who was presiding over the Muslim League Council session rule that the following a democratic norm a division would take place. The House was divided. There was only six votes in favous of Moulana Hasrat Mohani and an overwhelming majority voted in favour of Chaoudhry Khaliquzzaman’s Resolution accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan.

Earlier the Indian National Congress also had decided to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan but as an after-thought on 10th July, the newly elected President of the Indian National Congress, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru declared in Bombay that the Congress had only agreed to join the Constituent Assembly and that they had not committed themselves as to any future decision of the Constituent Assembly when it would meet. He also declared that the Congress would be entirely and absolutely free to determine the future shape of the Constitution of India. This declaration created a great misapprehension amongst the Muslim Leaguers and the Quaid-i-Azam. In the Constituent Assembly Muslim position was 3:1, the Hindus being in the dominant position. They could get through anything by the superiority of their number totally against the interest of the Muslims.

In the Muslim League Council meeting on 6th June, 1946, while winding up the debate, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah indicated that Muslim League’s acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan was a strategic step which would prove to be beneficial when coming events would confront us with fresh problems. We came to realise the wisdom and farsightedness of the Quaid-i-Azam after the somersault of the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, President of the Congress on 10th July, 1946.

Quaid-i-Azam again convened the Council of the Muslim League at Bombay on 27-29 July and reverted the earlier decision of the Council regarding acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan. The fresh Resolution inter-alia stated: “Whereas the Council of the All-India Muslim League has resolved to reject the proposals embodies in the statement of the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy dated 16th May 1946 due to the intransigence of the Congress on the one hand and the breach of faith with the Muslims India has exhausted without success all efforts to find a peaceful solution of the India problem by compromise and constitutional means and whereas the Congress is bent upon setting up Caste Hindu Raj in India with the connivance of the British and whereas recent events have shown that power politics and not justice and fairplay are the deciding factors in Indian affairs, and whereas it has become abundantly clear that Muslims would not rest content with anything less than the immediate establishment of an independent and fully sovereign state of Pakistan and would resist any attempt to impose any constitution making machinery or any constitution long term or short term or the setting up of an interim Government at the centre without the approval or consent of Muslim League, the Council of the All India Muslim League is convinced that now the time has come for the Muslim Nation to resort to Direct Action to achieve Pakistan, to assert their just rights, to vindicate their honour and to get rid of the present British slavery and the contemplated future Caste-Hindu dominations.

“This Council calls upon the Muslim Nation to stand as one man behind their sole representative authoritative organisation, the All India Muslim League and to be ready for every sacrifice.

“This Council directs the Working Committee to prepare forthwith a programme of direct action to carry out the policy enunciated above and to organise Muslims for the coming struggle to be launched as and when necessary.

“As a protest against and in token of their deep resentment of the attitude of the British, this Council calls upon the Muslims to renounce forthwith the titles conferred upon them by the Government.”

This was Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s strategy and statesmanlike line of action. His able biographer, Stanley Wolpert has very aptly remarked: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone cane be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.

Pakistani Scholars on Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Edited by: Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Published by: Golden Jubilee Cell, Ministry of Culture, Sports, Tourism and youth affairs, Islamabad and Chair on Quaid-i-Azam and Freedom Movement National Institute of Pakistan Studies.

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