The early twentieth century has not only brought a change in the British policy towards India but also provided an opportunity to Indians to play their role in shaping the Indian society which resulted in the rise of Nationalism. The Congress has become a sore to the Governor General due to her criticism on the British rule against their governance and policies. Krishna Gopal Gokhale, the mentor of Jinnah, in his first budget speech to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1902 presided by Lord Curzon, stated: “Your Excellency, I fear I cannot conscientiously join in the congratulations which have been offered to the Hon’ble Finance Member on the huge surplus which the revised estimates show for last year. A surplus of seven crores of rupees is perfectly unprecedented in the history of Indian finance, and coming as it does on the top of a series of similar surpluses realised when the country has been admittedly passing through very trying times, it illustrates to my mind, in a painfully clear manner, the utter absence of a due correspondence between the condition of the people and the condition of the finances of the country”.
Not only in financial policies but also in education, British faced a huge resistance from Indians. Lord Curzon was in favour of centralisation of education as much as he was interested in centralisation in administration and bureaucracy. For the preparation of Indian universities Act, he called a conference in 1901 at Simla and summoned top education expert and university representatives. The conference adopted more than 150 resolutions for the education in India which was highly criticised by the Indian press. Later in 1902, he appointed an Education Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Thomas Raleigh. Only two Indian members were placed in the commission, the one was Syed Hussain Bilgrami and the other was Gurudas Benerjee. The commission had submitted its report in the same year but with the note of dissent from Mr Benerjee. Finally, in 1904, Lord Curzon approved the Indian Universities Act on the basis of recommendations in report.
Subsequently, in 1905 Partition of Bengal which seems to be the administrative decision of British government brought another wave of unrest and demonstrations in India. This time, it was not only the matter between two parties, the Congress and the British, but Muslim interests were also linked with this decision.
Muslims in Bengal were happy that this partition will bring new opportunities in jobs and professional development to them as Muslims lawyers and doctors will have a separate region to practice, possibility of issuance of more licenses and Muslim students will secure more seats in universities. Upon a very strong agitation from the Congress, Muslims in Bengal realised that Congress could not be the representative of Hindus and Muslim at the same time, though Partition of Bengal was repealed in 1911 when George the V, announced this decision in Delhi Darbar. It gave an ample time to the Muslims to think and realise their role in present scenario and to voice for their rights and identity as a minority.
A 35-member delegation known as “Simla Deputation” under the leadership of Sir Aga Khan III met with Lord Minto in 1906 with the demands such as right for voting under separate electorate for the Muslims, quota in government services, both in gazetted and non-gazetted cadres, seats for the Muslims in the Senate and syndicate of the Indian Universities and demanded representation in the Viceroy’s Imperial Legislative Council in excess of their population. After the Hindi Urdu controversy, this was the high time when Muslims demanded their rights in laud and clear voice as a minority.
Meanwhile, M A Jinnah, after completing Barrister at Law joined Indian National Congress and under the president ship of Dadabhai Naoroji advocated the joint struggle against British Rule. As a young politician, Jinnah was of the opinion that demand of separate electorate at this time may compromise the joint efforts and nationalism in India but who knows that after three decades, the same Jinnah will demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims, the demand which will change the history of subcontinent forever. As Jinnah was free from all sectarian biases, due to his fair attitude and farsightedness, Krishna Gopal Ghokhale gave him the title of “an Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity”. Sarojini Naidu has written a pen portrait for Jinnah and compiled his early speeches.
Jinnah in February 1915 while addressing to the Union of Muslim students at Bombay, emphasised the value discipline, asked for unity and goodwill and directed them to be a true patriot. He stated that “for himself, he could not understand an educated man saying he could not take an interest in the politics. Politics had in some quarters assumed a definition that was anything but true. It did not necessarily mean agitation. A man could take interest in politics without participating in agitation. And even if a man did take part in agitation it did not mean he wanted to pull down the government”.
In the light of above account, one question arises here that how Jinnah became a man who demanded the partition of India, who has gone so far that Hindu and Muslims are two different nations and the future of the Muslims of India lies in a separate homeland. He was dreaming for a state where all the citizens can live freely and enjoy their religious and social life. The simplest cause that can be traced for the demand of a separate homeland for Muslims is that they were denied their basic rights from the beginning till partition. Had the demands of Simla Deputation realised and fulfilled, Muslims would be happy to live in undivided India. Even when Jinnah on the proposal of S Srinivasa Iyengar, started joint efforts for the future constitution of India and came up with Delhi Muslim proposals i.e. as Muslims always demanded one third representation in Hindu majority provinces, same representation will be given to Hindus in the Muslim majority provinces. Jinnah was very much clear to the rights of all communities and protection of minorities in any future constitution of India. When he had presented his Fourteen constitutional points, he was loud and clear about religious liberty i.e. full religious liberty, liberty of belief, worship and observance, association and education shall be guaranteed to all the communication. One may consider this stance of Jinnah stronger than all future stances where he talks about religious liberty because in 1929, even the word of Pakistan was not coined. His historic speech of August 11, 1947 to the first Constitutional Assembly of Pakistan, was presided by Jogendra Nath Mandal, where Jinnah sworn in as the first Governor General of Pakistan.
Jinnah stated: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed -- that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
Today, after 70 years of Independence many ask, did we achieve Jinnah’s Pakistan? And the answer to this question is not easy. People are still dreaming of Jinnah’s Pakistan, where all citizens can live with the same honour and without any prejudice. One can learn from the past and can avoid mistakes done earlier. One may find it interesting while going through the resolution of the Congress-League Scheme at the session of All India Muslim League held at Calcutta in December, 1917 that talking about the coercive measures of the Government, Jinnah mentioned “only take the history of this country of last twenty years or so. Let us ask this question - What has been the cause of these coercive measures such as the Press Act. The people of this country have been loyal - the people of this country have always been satisfied notwithstanding the many disabilities and ill-treatments. What is the cause of this? The cause of it you know, I know it and the Government knows it - is that the people of India resent the continual slavish conditions which prevail in this country.
Instead of Government meeting the complaints of the people what do they do in this country? They want to muzzle you. They say we pass Press Act, if you write anything we will, they say, strangle you. They have passed the Seditious Meeting Act to stop meeting of the people. Is this really the method by which you can continue governing the people? Is it possible for any statute to destroy the soul of the people? Instead of meeting with the grievances of the people, instead of trying to remedy the defects, they go on passing statutes. I say, this is a short sighted, mistaken policy - it is a blunder and sooner you realise it the better for you”.
The future of Pakistan lies in the welfare of its people. A better education policy and adoption of modern technology can provide better economic opportunities to its people.
The system of local governments and need of decentralisation is much needed towards a better future. Pakistan’s image in the international community can be improved by maintaining law and order, protecting minorities and guaranteeing them equal rights, strengthening police system and introducing tourism friendly policies. Regional cooperation and economic ties with its neighbours can play a vital role. Only Pakistanis can change the fate of this country by working hard for her progress and making it a true welfare state.
—The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Karachi and can be reached via email to ajkhan77yahoo.com.