Showing posts with label First world war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First world war. Show all posts

Jinnah and Colonel Blimp

Although everyone says what a superb lawyer Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was, rarely does one get to read anything about the court appearances that earned him that reputation.

I remember years ago in Lahore, Safdar Mir, the great Zeno of Pakistan Times , telling me about the Quaid’s contribution to the “Indianisation” of the British-led and officered army. Though I never made the effort to look up how and where the Quaid had made his contribution, what Safdar Mir has said remained engraved in my memory.

The other day, while reading the autobiography of the late Maj. Gen. Ajit Anil “Jik” Rudra, who originally came from Lahore, served in three armies, fought in both World Wars and died in India in 1997 at the age of 93, I came upon an episode that showed that the Quaid’s reputation as a brilliant lawyer was not a Pakistani myth but a fact.

The Government of India appointed a committee of the legislature – I am not clear about the year – to study the question of Indianising the army. British officers were unabashedly racist when it came to Indian officers being posted to purely British officered units. Curiously, British officers invariably enjoyed close relationships with the men and ORs (other ranks) who served under them. The Subedar Major, for instance, used to be known as “Kala Karnail.” But when it came to officers serving with them as their equals, juniors and, especially, as their seniors, or dining with them in their all British messes, or frequenting their clubs, they found it unacceptable. Col. Ronny Datta, a retired Indian officer, told me that he had seen a sign at the front door of the once all-British Fort William Club in Calcutta that said, ‘Indians and Dogs not allowed.’


Jinnah's primary occupation in the year 1938 and 1939 was to build a mass party. He made tours of India and roused the Muslims with stirring speeches in which he exposed the Congress and answered the propaganda directed against him by the Hindu Press. His countrywide tours were superbly successful. Wherever he went, he was received with great love and fervor, especially by the Muslim students and the younger generation who idealized him and saw him as a beautiful mirror that reflected their future.

A special session of the Muslim League was held in April 1938 in Calcutta in which the Bengal leaders led by Fazlul Haq declared their loyalty to the League. In his presidential address, Jinnah announced that in his extensive tours throughout the country he had come across an insatiable desire among the Muslim masses to unite under the banner of the Muslim League.

The Muslim League had been revolutionized within a very short period and one of the results of this was that members of provincial assemblies gladly joined the Muslim League parliamentary parties.

The twenty-sixth session of the League was held in December 1938 in Patna. Jinnah made another hard-hitting, historical speech to a tumultuous gathering from all over the country. Jinnah made an objective assessment of the development of Muslim consciousness and claimed that the Muslim League had "succeeded in awakening a remarkable national consciousness." He told the meeting, "you have not yet got to the fringe of acquiring that moral, cultural and political consciousness. You have only reached the stage at which an awakening has come, your political conscience has been stirred…You have to develop a national self and a national individuality. It is a big task as I told you, you are yet only on the fringe of it. But I have great hopes for your success."

By the end of 1938, the Muslim League was recognized as the representative of the Muslims by the British Government and soon the Viceroy was giving the same importance to the views and opinions of Jinnah that he gave to those of the Congress leaders. The Second World War broke out in 1939 and the British government was anxious to win the favor and co-operation of the major political parties and leaders in their war effort. The Viceroy made a declaration in October assuring the people of India that after the war, the constitutional problems of India would be re-examined and modifications made in the Act of 1935, according to the opinion of Indian parties. The Congress reacted to that drastically, condemned the Viceroy's policy statement and called upon the Congress ministries to resign by October 31, 1939. On the resignation of the Congress ministries, the Muslim League appealed to the Muslims and other minorities to observe December 22, 1939 as the "Day of Deliverance".

Jinnah and his party were no longer willing to retain the status of a mere "minority", and the capital of Punjab had been chosen purposely as the place to announce the Muslim League's new-born resolve.

The Khilafat Movement (1919-1924)

The government of India Act of 1919 fell short of the expectations of the Indian political parties. It introduced diarchy in the provinces, which meant subjects were to be divided into reserved and transferred. The reserved were to be administered by nominated Ministers and then transferred by the elected ones. While at the center, the British Governor General remained sole authority. The people could not accept this after the imposition of unsatisfactory Rowlatt Act and the atrocities inflicted on the people of Punjab. The Muslims were also perturbed over the unfair treatment given to Turkey by the victorious allied powers. During the war, the Muslims had shown concern about the developments in Turkey and the institution of the Khilafat.

Lloyd George,the British Prime Minister to pacify the Muslims all over the world, had assured the world that the Allies had no intention to dismember Turkey and after the war Turkish possessions would be made over to Turkey. He said, “nor are we fighting to deprive Turkey of the rich lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominantly Turkish in race.” But the promise was not honored. The Jazirat-ul-Arab which includes Mesopotamia, Arabia, Syria and Palestine was being divided among allies in the form of a Mandate. This development raised a war of indignation among the Indian Muslims due to sanctity and respect associated with these lands. They demanded that the pledges given to them during the war should be honored. This demand gave rise to what is generally known as the Khilafat Movement. This cause was initially taken up by Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind founded by Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Malani. Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali also joined it.

Gandhi linked the issue of Swaraj with the Khilafat Movement

The Muslim League met in Calcutta under Jinnah. At this meeting Jinnah said:

“First came the Rowlatt Bill — accompanied by the Punjab atrocities — and then came the spoliation of the Ottoman Empire and the Khilafat. One attacks our liberty and the other our faith…”

In November 1919, a joint conference of the Muslims and Hindus was called at Delhi in pursuance of the Muslim League President Fazl-ul-Haq in which he said, “ we should renounce any lurking spirit of strife and quarrel with other communities and seek their help and assistance in our troubles and difficulties. The question of cow protection was also raised in order to create goodwill between the Muslims and the Hindus. Ghandi suggested to start the non –cooperation movement which was opposed by Jinnah.

In December 1919, the Khilafat Conference held its second session in Amritsar where the Muslim League and the Congress also held their annual sessions. But the tensions raised could not be settled and Jinnah could no longer play a leading role in the Khilafat movement and it passed into the hands of Ali brothers, Dr. Kitchlew and the militant segment of the Ulema. Under that leadership it began to over power the Muslim League. Jinnah took a back seat to all this and did not join the Indian leaders who met the Viceroy on January 19, 1920 to plead for a settlement with Turkey.

The third Khilafat Conference was held in February 1920 at Bombay which passed the resolution for non- cooperation and the Calcutta Provincial Conference decided to “cease all relations of loyalties” with the British and to assist the Caliph in all possible ways to keep his dominion was not kept in tact as it was before the war. Jinnah and other fellow moderates did not participate in this Khilafat agitation. In a letter to Ghandi, Jinnah said that the movement was bound to lead to disaster. He said that this kind of a plan has appealed only to the illiterate and the inexperienced youth of the country. He said that though he had no power to remove the cause, he wished to advise his countrymen against the dire consequences of such an extreme act.

Thus Jinnah opposed Gandhi’s plan of starting a mass non-violent, non-cooperation movement all over the country. Gandhi became the head of the Khilafat movement and declared that the Indians would boycott all British goods, courts, institutions, elections etc. He urged that such large scale protest movement would force the British to grant India self rule. He had envisaged four progressive stages of the movement. First the resignation of titles and offices. Second, with drawl from all government services except police and military. Third, with-drawl from police and military, and fourth, suspension of payment of taxes to the State. The Quaid on the other hand, felt that the Indians should fight Imperialism constitutionally instead. The Nagpur session, which was thirty-fifth Congress, was held in December 1920. Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement had been approved at a special session at Amritsar and during the Nagpur session, Jinnah was the only person who had the courage to openly oppose the resolution proposed by Gandhi, despite strong opposition by the crowd. The Quaid said:

“… the weapon will not destroy the British empire… it is neither logical nor is it politically sound or wise, nor practically capable of being put in execution.”

Colonel Wedgood, who heard Jinnah’s speech was very impressed and commented:

“I do not know enough about Mr. Jinnah’s politics to say whether I agree with him or not, but I do know that a man who has the courage to come to this audience and tell what he has told you is a man of my money. The first thing in every political leader is not brains, but courage.”

Jinnah stayed aloof from Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement along with some other leaders. The start of the movement followed the arrests of leaders and activists associated with it. Problems began emerging when the movement, though remained one of non-cooperation was no more one of non-violence. The Ali brothers were very persistent in their support of the Khilafat movement. Riots started broke out all over the country and encounters with the police became a common occurrence. This was something leaders like the Quaid had predicted.

The Prince of Wales was to arrive in India, and the call to boycott his welcome went forth. On his arrival in Bombay violent outbreaks started in the city and several innocent people lost their lives. Coincidentally, Gandhi was present in Bombay at time and witnessed the horrific situation, which was an outcome of his non-cooperation movement. He commented:

“Swaraj stinks in my nostrils.”

The Khilafat movement intensified when Maulana Abdul Bari called on the Muslims to migrate from India. Many young Muslims migrated to Afghanistan where they were looted and ruined.

Another unpleasant resultant of the Khilafat movement were Moplah riots of 1921. In Malabar, the Moplah Muslim peasants and farmers rose against the Hindu landlords. That development created a rift between the Muslims and the Hindus.

The non-cooperation movement was called off after the Chauri Chaura tragedy in which twenty-two policemen were burnt alive by a mob on February 5th 1922. The Congress negotiated with the government, Pandit Malaviya acting as the mediator. The government agreed to let off the civil disobedience prisoners, if the Congress called off the boycott. Also, a Round Table conference was to be arranged on March 22nd between the government and the Congress.

On the other hand the developments in Turkey were very disappointing for the Indian Muslims as the in itself was abolished. The Muslim League was reduced to an accessory of the Congress and did not meet as a self-sufficient body till 1924.

Jinnah learnt a lot from the Khilafat movement. It disillusioned him with the Congress and the British rulers and strengthened his faith to work for the intrests of the Muslims. He worked hard to bring the Muslims out of their demoralized state of mind and reorganize them under the banner of the Muslim League.

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