Quaid’s strategy for a separate homeland

The POST, Sun, December,24, 2006.

Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema

Like most great men of history, Quaid-i-Azam was a singularly gifted individual - an individual who had the capability to pass out of action into the recluse of solitude and inaction and then out of inaction into action with an increasing realization of the responsibility and the importance of contribution he could make to the advancement of his community’s welfare. His withdrawal from Indian politics during the years 1930-34, and his subsequent attempts to settle down in England, and then return to Indian political scene is an adequate testimony of such a gift. While in England, he “went through an agonizing reappraisal of his role in Indian politics.”  

Towards the end of 1934, he returned to Indian political arena with renewed vigour and clear objective. He came back to India with firm conviction that Congress’ India would be a Hindu India in which the Muslims would be denied their legitimate share. The immediate problem for him was how to devise a strategy which could mould the circumstantial force in such a way that it creates opportunities for the Muslims to realize their ambitions. In this connection, he devised a broad pattern of strategy based on four major tactical stages in order to attain the main objective; namely the establishment of an autonomous Muslim India.  

At the first stage, the immediate political objective was to reorganize and strengthen the Muslim League to the extent that it became a formidable political force within the Indian political theatre. Once this objective had been attained, he would then move on to the second stage, i.e., to reveal the idea of separate homeland in deliberately contrived vague manner. Having accomplished these two stages, he would then initiate the third stage to strive to attain the status of an undisputed spokesman of the Indian Muslims for the Muslim League. Finally he would try to impress upon the British as well as upon the Congress to accept the principle of parity and accord the equality status to the Muslim League. Once the above mentioned stages had been successfully executed and the objectives attained, the establishment of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims, would become a mere product of a sequence. These four stages do not necessarily follow one after the other but sometimes operate simultaneously.

Realising the intensity of deteriorating social milieu and the political disarray of the Muslim Community, he was impelled to embark upon, initially, the task of reorganizing and revitalizing the Muslim League along with the strengthening of its base. He attempted to re-infuse the spirit of unity among the Muslims and repeatedly urged League workers to organize properly. In March 1936, he addressed Muslim League members and said the Muslims must think of the interest of the community and make concerted efforts to organize themselves and play the part effectively. 

Simultaneously Quaid-i-Azam opened up another front with a view to enlarging the Muslim League’s base. In pursuit of this objective he devised the tactics of attacking Congress in order to expose Hindu bias of the Congress and its communal orientations. He lashed out innumerable speeches against the Congress emphasizing its attempts to wreck all other organization in India and highlighting the true aims of the Congress. In a statement issued on 13th October 1938 from Karachi, he declared that the Congress High Command was singularly obsessed with the idea of destroying all efforts which could cause solidarity among the Muslims of Indian.

Having successfully executed the first stage of his strategy, he then moved closer to revealing his main objective; namely a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. During the early months of 1940, he explained the reasons of inapplicability and impracticability of British form of democracy in India by emphasizing the heterogeneous nature of India, as opposed to homogeneity of the British, in an article published in ‘Time and Tide’. In the same very article, he urged the Englishmen to take cognisance of two nations in India. Then, in March 1940, the Lahore Resolution was passed by the Muslim League, in which it formally declared the attainment of a separate homeland.

The vagueness of the Lahore Resolution with its somewhat blurred and hazy picture of Muslim separate homeland appeared to be a product of well thought out tactics. A detailed and precise picture of Pakistan would have deprived Quaid-i-Azam from taking a full advantage of the elements of uncertainty and could have narrowed the field and power of the manoeuvrability on one hand and would have enabled the Congress to concentrate on a clearly visible target on the other. 

Third part of his strategy was mostly focused on gaining parity for Muslim League and in so doing he emerged as the main spokesman of the Muslim League. In 1939 Britain joined the war against Hitler. During war years Quaid-i-Azam maintained a low profile of restrained cooperation. Cognizant of the difficult situation confronting the British at the time with impending German invasion and the Congress non-cooperation, he refrained from pushing the British to extract concessions either by complete non-cooperation or by wholehearted cooperation. This was indeed a superb move, the fruits of which manifested in Viceroy’s August offer in which he declared that full weight should be given to the views of the minorities’ in future constitutional arrangement for India.

Compared to Muslim League, Congress policy was short sighted and miscalculated. Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement in 1941 was interpreted by many as a political blackmail. Unlike Congress efforts to obstruct the British war efforts, Quaid-i-Azam repeatedly projected League’s willingness to cooperate. Believing in Japanese imminent victory, the Congress began to demand that British rule in India must end which Quaid-i-Azam described as a tactics of blackmail and coercion. The British reaction to Quit India movement which resulted in widespread sabotage of communication between Burma fighting zones and Delhi was tougher than what the Congress anticipated. This provided an opportunity to raise the stature of the League and the subsequent years saw the emergence and recognition of the Muslim League as the sole representative party of the Muslims.

The next tactical success came when Gandhi expressed his desire to meet Quaid-i-Azam. Quaid-i-Azam knew well that Gandhi would not accept the type of Pakistan he was promoting but he agreed to meet Gandhi because he thought that the meeting would improve the position of Muslim League and also enhance his own prestige. Besides meeting with Gandhi provided the opportune moment to dress up properly the idea of Pakistan which was hitherto couched in vagueness. By 1944 League had grown greatly in its strength and was also rapidly acquiring the reputation of being the sole representative of the Muslims in India with Quaid-i-Azam as its main leader.

The next stage came when Cabinet Mission Plan was announced on May 16, 1946 which Quaid-i-Azam accepted even though the plan did not accept separate homeland for the Muslims but Congress rejected it. The Cabinet Mission Plan also envisaged the formation of interim government and Quaid-i-Azam had already secured the assurances from the Viceroy that League would be brought into the interim government. Later Congress also accepted the plan but Nehru stressed that Congress was not bound by anything. This led to the reversal of League’s acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan and Quaid-i-Azam announced direct action. After tough negotiation League decided to join the interim government only after having secured major concessions; that League could also nominate a representative of schedule castes in its quota and the portfolio of finance was to be given to League.

Like a calculating strategist, Quaid-i-Azam first concentrated on transforming a weak and disunited Muslim league into a well organized powerful political party and then focused on announcing the broad principles, in a somewhat vague manner, on which the establishment of Muslim Indian state was to be based. Having announced the idea of Pakistan he then tried to secure recognition for the Muslim League as the sole representative of the Indian Muslims. Simultaneously he pressed for parity treatment from both the Congress and the British. By the time Second World War ended it had become more or less clear that the only workable solution of the India’s political problem was the partition of the Indian sub-continent, though some efforts were made even at that late stage to preserve the unity of India.

The writer works for Islamabad Policy research Institute.









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