The Evolution of the Quaid-e-Azam - A Personal Observation

The reputation of the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the champion of Muslim rights, as the protagonist of the Two Nation Theory and as the Founding Father of Pakistan is so secure that I feel we may be in some danger of forgetting the long road which he had to travel before he could emerge as the Leader of the greatest Muslim mass-movement of our time. In saying this I do not refer only to the slow process of uniting sections or the Muslim community, deeply divided as they were in aims and outlook, in pursuit of a common objective, but also the struggle which went on in his own mind as hard facts compelled him to discard certain of the ideas which had inspired him to attain the first rank among Leaders of the All India Nationalist movement. This mental revolution, if I may use the term, was painful enough to drive him into temporary political exile, from which he only emerged when he had adjusted his thinking to meet the needs of a new situation. Experience had taught him, as it had taught the famous Florentine statesman, the deadly danger of mistaking things as they are for things as we would like them to be.

As a young contemporary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah – he was only thirteen years of age when I was born – I was privileged to follow his career in some details, and, indeed, to come into close contact with him at some of the turning points by which that career was marked. While it was still at school I began to see Mr. Jinnah’s name in print. I gathered that when he was only sixteen years old, his Father, a shrewd Khoja businessman of Karachi, had sent him to England to read for the Bar examinations; that when in England, he had come under the influence of that Grand Old Man of the Indian Nationalist Movement, Dadabhai Naoroji, then President of the Indian Society in London, and one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress. The young Jinnah became an enthusiastic convert to Congress ideas; and when, as a newly qualified Barrister, a decline in the family fortunes obliged him to seek wider opportunities than his native city of Karachi could offer, he migrated to Bombay, he found himself in a society which was already among the most flourishing seedbeds of these ideas in the India of the day. Jinnah was, it seemed, particularly attracted by the personality and outlook of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who, on his part was delighted to find in Jinnah a man after his own heart. He wrote to him: “He has the true stuff in him; and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity”. By 1996 Jinnah was not only building up a lucrative practice at the Bombay Bar; he was marked as a rising political figure. In that same year he acted as Secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji at the Calcutta meeting of the Indian National Congress when the ideal of self-government for India was formally adopted as a Congress objective.

At that time, there were very few prominent Muslims – with such exceptions as Badruddin Tyabji – in the ranks of the Congressmen; majority feeling in the community seemed content still to follow Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s advice to hold aloof. So young Mr. Jinnah, that rising Barrister, was an almost unique figure. But although he was an enthusiastic Congressman, he showed his care for Muslim interests by taking a prominent part in discussions about Waqf Alalaulad. No doubt this was one reason why the Muslims of Bombay in 1910 elected him as their representative on the then Supreme Legislative Council. Here he added greatly to his reputation not only by lending his powerful support to such liberal measures as Gokhale’s Education Bill and Basu’s Special Marriage Bill against a considerable weight of orthodox opposition, but also by initiating Legislation designed to clear up certain ambiguities in recent Privy Council decisions on point of Muslim Law. So valuable were his services in this highly technical field that Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy, nominated him for an extra term so that the Waqf Validating Bill could pass into law.

Up to this time, my knowledge of Muhammad Ali Jinnah had been gained by reading about him; but from 1909 onwards I began to hear about him from people who knew him. When I went up to Oxford in that year, I made a number of Indian friends, particularly the two Bajpai brothers, destined to hold high official positions in the future independent India. They no only told me a great deal about that brilliant political figure, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who, they thought, was the one real Nationalist in the Muslim community; but they also inspired me with intense interest in the kind of culture for which Mr. Jinnah stood. As a result, while I was learning my craft as a historian, I began to read a great deal of Indian history, and to form some ideas about how the latest Western techniques of historical research might help students desiring to investigate that history. I had a working knowledge of Persian, which I improved by reading it and talking it with Girja Shankar Bajpai and I become greatly attracted by the life and times of the early Mughal Emperors. Interest in India’s past did not lessen my interest in India’s present; and I followed the demands of Mr. Jinnah and other Nationalist leaders for constitutional advance with great attention. I heard in 1913 that Mr. Jinnah was in England; but he was kept busy in London arranging for better deal for Indian students in the United Kingdom and I did not meet him. But I did hear much about him from Mrs. Annie Basant and other advocates of the transfer of increased responsibility from British to Indian hands; and my admiration for him and for the cause he was advocating again increased. In 1914 Allahabad University invited application for a new, experimental research Chair of Indian History after 1000 A.D. I applied for it on the advice of the Bajpai brothers and while I was waiting to hear from the India Office, who were “short-listing” the applicants, I was fortunate enough to win a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College which no doubt stood me in good stead with the Allahabad University selectors.

Thus it came about that late in 1914. I was established in Allahabad, and found myself a welcome guest in local Nationalist circles. I shared a bungalow with Rama Shankar Bajpai, already practicing at the Allahabad High Court, and he introduced me to Pandit Motilal Nehru and Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru. Under the hospitable roofs of these two great men I met a number of the younger Nationalists and I was impressed by the tolerance and lack of communal feeling among them. Both Motilal Nehru and Sapru seemed to regard Islamic culture as part of their national heritage; and as a student of Mughal history I was impressed by their intimate knowledge of the brilliant circle of statesmen, poets and painters who graced the courts of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. At the same time, however, I notice that there were few Muslims among the people whom I met. When I remarked on this fact I was told: “Oh You must meet Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He, unlike most Muslims, is as keen a nationalist as any of us. He is showing his community the way to Hindu-Muslim unity”. Already in 1914 he had been chosen a member of the All India Congress deputation which had gone to London to press for an enlargement of the Secretary of State’s Council to allow substantial Indian representation. His presentation of the Indian case won high praise in the British Press.

At this stage in Mr. Jinnah’s career as a Nationalist leader, he appeared quite unaware of the possibility of any future conflict between Hindu and Muslim interests. I have already mentioned his great sevices to the Muslim community in the matter of Waqfs; and as a legislator he took a conspicuous part in securing for the Shariat its due place in the Indian legal system. Looking back over the years, with the advantage of high-sight, we may think that it took Mr. Jinnah rather a long time to realize that the policies adopted by the Indian National Congees, with its Hindu majority, (might not always pay due regard to the interest of the Muslim minority.) For a number of years, he thought that the Muslim League, even when re-organised in 1913, was rather unnecessary; he did consent to join it but with the reservation that loyalty to the Muslim interest must always be subordinate to the larger ideals of nationalist self-government for which the Indian National Congress stood. And in 1916, when he scored the personal triumph of securing the inclusion of separate electorates for the Muslim community as an integral part of the Congress programme, it must have seemed to him even clearer that Muslim interests were safe in the hands of the Hindu colleagues with whom he had worked so closely. It was about time, I think, that Mrs. Sarojini Naidu hailed him as “The Apostle of Hindu-Muslim Unity”.

It was about this same time that I was taken away from Allahabad University by the Government of India and set to work preparing for the visit of Edwin Montagu, then Secretary of State for India, who was coming out to plan the next step in Indian constitutional reform. The Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, was himself as All Souls man; and Lionel Curtis, whom Montagu had asked to help him, had know me at Oxford. I was used as a kind of liaison between the government and Nationalist opinion. I did not belong to any Service, I formed no part of the British “establishment”, as the modern phrase runs, and my Indian friends would talk to me freely because I was not any kind of official. It was at that time that I really came to know Mr. Jinnah. I sensed that he did not much care for English people; he thought that their proper place was in their own country, not in India, governing his. But he was kind and courteous to me and I quickly realized his unusual force of personality. One thing which struck me was his conviction that the Nationalist movement should continue to be led by the kind of men and women who were then his colleagues in the Indian National Congress; he distrusted mass-movements of the kind which Mrs. Annie Besant was leading in her Home Rule League. This did not prevent him from gallantly taking the post of chairman of the Bombay branch of the Home Rule League when the Government was so ill-advised as to intern Mrs. Besant in 1917; but even so, his heart never seemed to be in sympathy with this kind of emotional, rabble-rousing method of conducting a campaign for national self-government. And I have always believed that it was Mahatama Gandhi’s capture of the Congress machinery, and his conversion of what had been a gathering of select like-minded political leaders into a common man’s mass-movement with nation-wide ramifications which began the process of shaping Mr. M.A. Jinnah, the “Apostle of Hindu Muslim unity” into the Quaid-i-Azam, Founding Father of Pakistan.

Like every other Nationalist leader of my acquaintance, Mr. Jinnah was affronted by the introduction of the Rowlatt Bills ; but he disapproved of Mr. Gandhi’s campaign of satyagraha and spoke bitterly of the incautious behaviour of Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali in accepting Mr. Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat campaign. In Mr. Jinnah’s view, the campaign itself was ill-conceived; he admitted that the deposition of the Sultan of Turkey would extinguish the last Muslim Great Power in Europe. But on the other hand, he said, the Khilafah had for many years counted for little in India; more important still, he felt, was the fact that Ataturk and the nationalists whom he was leading would soon abolish the Khilafat altogether. I was anxious to secure his condemnation, during this same interview, of the Muhajrin movement which was deluding pious but ill-informed Muslim peasants into abandoning their property – often sellig it for a song to canny Hindu neighbours – and migrating to the nearest country under Islamic rule – Afghanistan. The Afghan authorities, smarting under their defeat in the recent hostilities, closed the borders; thousands of the muhajirin perished. I had seen some terrible sights during a tour of enquiry in the Frontier Province; and when I reported them to Mr. Jinnah he authorized me to make known his support of measures to stop the migration.

The tentative character of the Montagu-Chamsford reforms disappointed Mr. Jinnah, like almost everyone else; but even his indignation over Jallianwala Bagh and Martial Law in the Punjab did not prevent him from assessing coolly the possibilities of the new Legislative organs. His first real, if informal, break with the Indian National Congress as shaped by Mr. Gandhi came when he refused to comply with the Congress boycott of the election, and was returned by the Muslims of Bombay as their representative in the new Legislative Assembly. I was myself a nominated member of that body; and it was in the Assembly building that I first came to know Mr. Jinnah really well. He very soon made his mark, gathering round himself a group, calling themselves Independents, who shared his general outlook. They had great influence with the Government and much useful business was transacted. The Rowlatt Acts were repealed; India joined the new League of Nations; some very impressive social legislation was passed. And when at length the Congress Party, temporarily ignoring Mr. Gandhi’s veto, came to the conclusion that boycotting the “Montford” legislatures was too expensive a luxury. They would sometimes unite with the Congress members, led by Pandit Motilal Nehru, to defeat the Government; at other times, they would vote against them. Mr. Jinnah specially distinguished himself by his deep study of defence questions and by the part which he played in accelerating the Indianisation of the Commissioned ranks of the Indian Army. It was plain to me that he was no longer considering himself bound by Congress Party decisions, which appeared to him to be shaped more and more by Mr. Gandhi’s ideas. Even when these ideas were professedly non-communal in form, they were typically Hindu in content. It seemed to me that Mr. Jinnah still thought that Hindus and Muslims could work along parallel lines with the object of terminating British rule; but he was becoming more and more convinced that Muslims must stand up for themselves to secure the position due to them in the self-governing India of the future.

A little before the formal inauguration of the “Montford” reforms, I encountered another example of Mr. Jinnah’s remarkable political foresight. The then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor) was coming to India in the autumn of 1921. Feeling against the British was bitter and was only gradually being appeased by the Hunter Commission’s condemnation of the British handling of affairs in the Punjab. Mr. Gandhi decided that the Prince should be boycotted. Mr. Jinnah considered this decision as the height of folly, not because he himself had any sentimental attachment to the British Royal Family but because he knew that they were held in high regard by the very same countries in the Commonwealth from which India was then trying to secure improved treatment for her own nationals who had settled there. He was perfectly right, the boycott did immense harm to India’s good name and lost her much sympathy. Meanwhile, Mr. Jinnah would have nothing to do with the efforts which Mr. Gandhi’s supporters made to spoil the welcome planned for the Prince in Bombay. I was attached to the Prince’s Household as Royal Historian of the tour, and I was interested to see how quickly Mr. Jinnah and the Prince came to understand one another. Mr. Jinnah and his beautiful wife, Ruttie, met the Prince on many occasions; I am sure that the Prince learned much from them, while on their part they were impressed by his unfeigned interest in India and her peoples.

Many of the Indian Rulers had become apprehensive about the gradual erosion of their treaty rights by the actions of the Government, and were pressing for an official enquiry into their grievances. As Foreign Minister of Patiala I as made responsible for informing British Press and parliamentary opinion about the Princes’ feelings; eventually a committee of enquiry was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Harcourt Butler. But while the Princes were anxious that their own rights should be protected; they did not want to stand in the way of British India’s progress towards self-government; and they held many conferences with political leaders. The result of these was an increasing realization that constitutional advance was not a matter for British India only; the Indian Princely States must be made a party to it. In the course of these discussions I came across Mr. Jinnah several times. I found that he was held in great respect by Muslim Princes such as Hyderabad, Bhopal and Rampur, but was regarded as rather a lonely figure, for the Muslim League had a long way to go before it could claim to represent the Muslim community as a whole. About this time, the Congress Party, although it contained such devoted Muslim members as Dr. Ansari and Hakim Ajmal Khan, repudiated the Lucknow Pact omitted offective communal representation for Muslims in its revised programme of 1928. The Muslim community was deeply divided; in the Punjab, in the Frontier Province and in Bengal its members went their own way almost regardless of the League. Moreover in 1927 the League itself split on the question of co-operating with Sir John Simon’s Parliamentary Commission of enquiry into the working of the Montford reforms; Mr. Jinnah himself was deeply indignant at the failure to include Indians as associates although, as it turned out, the report of the Simon Commission, masterly document though it is, was obsolete almost before it appeared because it concentrated on British India at the moment when both the Government of India and Whitehall realised that the Indian States could not be left out of future plans, and when the All-India Round Table conference was being planned for 1930.

I was present at the sessions of the Round Table Conference in the capacity both of Adviser to the Princely States’ delegation and as Substitute Delegate for the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. I therefore attended the meetings between the Princes present in London and Mr. Jinnah.

Mr. Jinnah was in very depressed mood when the Round Table Conference opened in London in 1930. He had come to the conclusion that he could no longer do anything in India to help the Muslim community, deeply divided as they were, and that his best course was to remain in England, practicing before the Privy Council, and using the influential legal contacts available to him to ensure that Muslim interests were not overlooked when new legislation affecting Indian constitutional advance was being drafted. Taking out a new passport in 1931 he gave England, not India, as his place of residence – although this was changed at a later date when he decided to return home. In general, he favoured the federal plan upon which the leaders of the British Indian and the States’ delegations had agreed in principle, because he thought that a federal centre made up from both parts of India would be restricted in function and would allow Provinces where Muslims were in majority to be freer to manage their own affairs. But he did not approve of the latitude proposed for the Princes in the selection of State representatives, fearing that only men of straw, bound to follow the orders of the Princes, would be chosen; and a certain coolness arose between him and the Hindu Rulers who made up the bulk of the States’ delegation. He stood out in the deliberations of the Conferences as a distinguished but solitary figure; deeply respected by all, and treated by Lord Sankey, the lord Chancellor, who presided over the plenary sessions, with marked courtesy and attention. His determination to remain in political exile was no doubt strengthened during the 1931 sessions of the Conference, when Mr. Gandhi, who had been persuaded by Lord Irwin to attend as representative of the Congress Party, boldly asserted that the Congress spoke for Muslims as well as for Hindus, and that he, Mr. Gandhi, spoke for all India.

Yet even at the moment when the possibilities of Mr. Jinnah’s returning to India to lead a reunited Muslim community seemed most dubious, things were in fact turning his way. This rising generation of Muslim youth was catching fire from Iqbal’s inspired conviction of Islam’s spiritual message for the modern world, and of his conception of a territorial Muslim Homeland in India from which this message could issue. Chaudhari Rehmat Ail and his band of young Cambridge idealists had already given this projected Homeland the name Pakistan, and were ready to devote their lives to bring it into being. Finally, among the Muslim community in Hindu majority Provinces there was growing up a sense of danger, as it became more and more obvious to them that the British were seriously giving thought to handing over power to new executive and legislative institutions based upon the sanctity of majority decisions. Mr. Jinnah, cool and clear-headed as ever, remained for some time skeptical about the practicality of the Pakistan idea, as is evidenced by his published correspondence with Iqbal; but from the first he realized its potentialities as a rallying-cry for Muslim youth; and before very long he became a convert to it himself. He saw, too, that the Muslim community had begun to realise that its future must depend upon its own efforts; and that these efforts needed to be co-ordinated under the direction of an acknowledged leader. Taken together, these factors constituted a new situation; and when in 1934 Mr. Jinnah’s devoted lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan, urged him to return to India, and re-organise the Muslim League to meet the task which lay before it, he consented.

The 1935 Government of India Act contained few surprises, for the deliberations of the Joint Select Parliamentary Committee like the evidence presented to it, had been widely publicized. I myself had returned to India after the Round Table Conference sessions, having done all that I could to ensure that the Indian States had been given full opportunity to secure their position by establishing themselves as an integral part of the projected Federal Centre. As Adviser to Maharao Khengarji III of Kutch and to many of the Saurashtra Princes, I travelled widely and was able to watch, and to discuss with my Muslim friends in British India the changes which Mr. Jinnah was making in the organization of the Muslim League. He reconstituted the Central Committee, over which he himself presided; he reformed the structure of the local branches; he mobilized the enthusiasm of the student community in support of League activities. But all this took time. The League was still far from commanding the allegiance of the Muslim community in the Punjab and in Bengal, while in the Frontier Province, sturdy Pathans were inclined to laugh at the very idea that they had anything to fear from Hindus in an independent India. Thus although this Muslim League had made great strides under Mr. Jinnah’s organizing genius, it was not strong enough to drive from the field the small but prestigious group of Muslims who had thrown in their lot with the Congress Party, or the Muslim-Sikh-Hindu coalition in the Punjab. Nevertheless, when the elections for the new autonomous Provincial legislatures were held in 1937, the League hopefully put a number of candidates before the electorate.

What interested me particularly was to see that on Mr. Jinnah’s instructions, Muslim League candidates were pledged to offer their co-operation to the Hindus in Hindu-majority Provinces by means of coalitions. I deduced from this that Mr. Jinnah had still not given up hope of working in parallel with the Congress, though of course independently of it in pursuit of the goal of Indian self-government. But when the Congress Party were swept into power they were not interested in what the Muslim League had to offer; where coalitions with Muslims seemed desirable, they had their own Muslims at their beck and call. Mr. Jinnah’s policy of parallel co-operation was killed stone dead. And worse was to follow. Bitter complaints came from Muslims living under the new and powerful Provincial Governments that the entire complexion of the administration was almost blatantly Hindu so that even in the schools practices offensive to Muslim sentiment were enforced, and the community was made deeply conscious of its minority impotence. Now, for the first time, anxiety about the future of Indian Muslims began to spread far beyond the limits of the educated middle class and the professional men who had until now been the main supporters of the League; and began to affect the masses of the Muslim community both in urban and in rural areas. Communal tension increased; Muslims complained that Hindu officials were not interested in their grievances. If a town improvement scheme involved the compulsory acquisition of private property, it was Muslim property that was taken even when Hindu property was more suitable. There was no overt discrimination; everything was on the surface correct; and yet in a hundred ways Muslims in Hindu-majority Provinces were made to feel in practice that they were second class citizens. Among the most sinister features of the situation from the Muslim point of view was the rigorous discipline imposed upon the new Provincial Governments by the recently established central Congress Party “High Command”, which obliged them to follow instruction in detail. Any recalcitrance brought dismissal from office, regardless of local feeling. Muslims could only conclude that the covert discrimination against them was part of a deliberate policy of securing “Hindustan for the Hindus”.

It has always seemed to me that the difficulties experienced by the Muslim community during the years following the elections of 1937 finally destroyed Mr. Jinnah’s belief, cherished by him over so many years, that constitutional guarantees given by the Hindu majority would suffice to protect Muslim interests in the future self-governing India. It became plain to him that no guarantees, however comprehensive, could protect the Muslims from the kind of subtle, insidious discrimination for which the law itself could provide no remedy. Against all the previous hopes which had for so long inspired his political career, he was now forced to the conclusion that the only future for the Muslim community lay in securing recognition for them as a separate nation, concentrate in territorial groupings in which they would not lie at the discretion of a potentially unfriendly majority. In 1940, as we know, Pakistan became accepted as an integral part of the Muslim League’s programme, and in the years immediately following, this goal, under Mr. Jinnah’s dynamic leadership, became the objective of millions of Indian Muslims. During the difficult times of 1939-1945 war, Mr. Jinnah devoted his organizing genius and his prodigious energy to uniting the mass of Indian Muslims in support of the League programme and thus securing a solid basis for his campaign to convince the British that the League, no less than the Congress, must be a party of any constitutional settlement. I doubt whether any other man could have carried through this task with such imperturbable and inflexible determination. Needless to say, he was bitterly opposed and often unjustly criticised; but neither the enthusiastic devotion of his supporters nor the slanders circulated by his enemies could cause him to deviate by one hair’s breadth from the course of action which he had chosen. I like to think that in the years immediately following the war, I perhaps rendered Mr. Jinnah some small service when, as Asian Leader writer on The Times I was able to present to the British public, fully and fairly, what he stood for and what his aims were, at a time when the formidable and long-established propaganda machine operating in the interests of Indian National Congress was endeavouring to pillory him as a mere ambitious and self-seeking politician. I was able to ensure that his speeches were fully reported; that his stature as a national leader was acknowledged. But although the Mr. Jinnah whom I had known for so many years had now become the Quaid-i-Azam whose achievements as Founder of Pakistan are now being acclaimed, he was to me recognizably the same man, whose integrity was equalled only by his courage, and whose determination to achieve independence for his people from Hindu as well as from British rule provided the stimulus which brought into being a new nation.

By L.F. Rushbrrok Williams (Prof. Rushbrook Williams has been Professor of History of Allahabad University. In recent years he has contributed several works on Pakistan. Unfortunately he could not live to see the publication of this paper.)

Source: World Scholars on Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Ahmad Hasan Dani, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, 1979.

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