The independence of Pakistan is marked by many milestones, the 23rd March being a prominent one. It was this day that actually gave the Muslims of India a clear roadmap of their destiny. The day is...
The independence of Pakistan is marked by many milestones, the 23rd March being a prominent one. It was this day that actually gave the Muslims of India a clear roadmap of their destiny. The day is remembered for the passage of the Lahore Resolution, in 1940. The contents of the Resolution, as well as its significance, have been discussed and written about profoundly.
The Resolution can be viewed in two significant aspects, the presidential address by Mr Jinnah, in which he made a case for Indian Muslims as a separate entity-a nation, and the division of India, between the Hindus and Muslims, on that basis. The other dimension encapsulates the main Resolution, moved by Mr Fazlul Haq, with the preamble that it was ‘resolved that it was the considered view of this session of the All India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims... unless the Muslim majority areas in the North-Western and North-Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states.’
The above declarations made the Resolution assume historical importance. After Pakistan became an independent, sovereign state, seven years later, the significance of the Resolution was not diminished; it has not diminished 83 years later. It forms an essential part of the Pakistani nation’s psyche and its history. For most people, history is what has taken place in the past, mostly forgotten. It is also said, in order to understand history, one has to go back in history. Lahore Resolution is a poignant reminder of the independence movement, as real history.
To understand this premise, one needs to understand history beyond a narration of past events, and how history is made. Facts or events need to be interpreted and put into context. It is pertinent to note how history changes course at a given time. Historiography takes into account events, people, wars and conflict, and much more; conspiracies and romances also make history, as do struggles and rebellions. Wars of independence, revolutions, and struggles make real history for many countries.
In light of the above, the Lahore Resolution offers much more than meets the eye; one has to go back to the history of colonial rule in India, the growing dissatisfaction of the Muslims with British governance that went parallel with growing differences with the Hindus. The 20th century saw these differences accentuated, and led to the emergence of the All India Muslim League, as a representative body of the Indian Muslims. While it had many prominent leaders, Mr Jinnah emerged as the one commanding huge respect and following. It was under his charismatic leadership that the Muslims started moving toward their ultimate goal, a separate Muslim homeland.
It was under Mr Jinnah’s guidance and leadership that the Muslim League adopted the historic Lahore Resolution. The historical context of this event cannot be ignored. It was at a session of the Sindh Provincial Muslim League, held in Karachi in 1938 that an informal demand was made for a separate homeland. The resolution enumerated differences with Hindus, and called for ‘political self-determination of the two nations known as Hindus and Muslims.’ The resolution also recommended that the Muslim League should devise a scheme of Constitution ‘under which Muslims may attain full independence.’
The use of the term ‘nation’ caught the attention of the Muslim community; thereafter Muslim nationhood was emphasised. Mr Jinnah, in an article in Time and Tide, argued that the Hindus and Muslims represented two ‘distinct and separate’ civilisations and that the two were two different nations. The Two Nation Theory lay at the base of the Lahore Resolution, and the demand for a separate Muslim homeland.
After the passage of the Lahore Resolution, the Independence movement went into full gear; while Muslims from all over India responded to this call, the Muslim League leadership went into formal and informal negotiations with the Hindus as well as the British, facing formidable challenges. These mounted as the goal of Independence got nearer.
Negotiations with the colonial government, as well as Congress, form a critical part of the history of the independence movement. Mr Jinnah and his lieutenants remained committed to the idea of Pakistan, meaning the Partition of India. Getting a fair deal was not easy, and till the time of independence, the Muslim League leaders had to strive hard for the rights of the Muslims.
The Partition was marked by communal violence on a huge scale. A historicist perspective opens a debate on the Lahore Resolution, its antecedents, and context, as well as the Partition itself. Studies coming much later deal with issues of identity, migration, etc that are part of history and national psyche, more so on the Pakistan side.
While the 23rd of March is celebrated as a day to mark the passage of the Lahore Resolution (and later, many other political milestones in Pakistan politics), we, as a nation, need to look back at the day, deeply and critically. Issues relating to the constitution, democracy, and social justice are plaguing society. Introspection, in historical context, and pondering over the underlying themes and ideals of the famed Lahore Resolution could help in addressing some of the problems the nation is facing today.
-The author is former faculty at Quaid-i-Azam University. He can be reached at pakirishyahoo.com