Thursday November 30, 2023

1941–1947: An eventful era in the life of the Quaid

September 11, 2021

“The period of 1941 to 1947 is very important in the political career of the Quaid-i-Azam as well as in the establishment of Pakistan. The Pakistan Resolution of March 23, 1940, defined the goal of Pakistan. On the face of Congress opposition to the Pakistan scheme, Quaid-i-Azam stood firm like a rock. In an article published in the Times and Tide of London, Quaid-i-Azam reiterated that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and they need separate countries to live freely according to their cultural and religious beliefs.

The Second World War had a significant effect on the events leading to the creation of Pakistan. The British Government was eager to attain the cooperation of leading parties of India including the All India Muslim League. Quaid-i-Azam elaborated Lord Linlithgow on the League Working Committee’s stance that as a pre-condition of League’s full cooperation and support to the war effort, the British Government should give assurance that no policy declaration would be made or any constitution framed without the approval or consent of the Indian Muslims.

On August 8, 1940, in a view to gain Indian support, the British Government issued a white paper that “after the war, a Constituent Assembly would be formed which will include all the elements of the national life and its task would be to prepare the framework of the country’s future constitution”. The scheme was called the August Offer. Quaid-i-Azam as a constitutionalist realised the importance of August Offer and in a meeting of League Working Committee “expressed his satisfaction over the British government decision that no future constitution would be adopted without the prior approval and consent of the League”.

To bring an end to the political deadlock of India, the British Government sent Sir Stafford Cripps. He arrived in India on March 22, 1942, and held talks with Indian leaders including Quaid-i-Azam on his famous proposal called as Cripps Proposals. The proposals included some important points like complete independence to India after the war, formation of new Constituent Assembly and if a province doesn’t want to accede, she was given this option.

The Cripps proposals were rejected both by the Congress and Muslim League. Though Quaid-i-Azam was against these proposals and termed it as “vaguer terms and unfair to Muslims in obliging them to take part in a constitution making body whose main object, contrary to their, was the creation of an all-India union”. Besides rejecting, Quaid-i-Azam saw a ray of hope in the Cripps proposals and had admitted that the only positive aspect of the plan was that “for the first time, the British government agreed in principle to the idea of partition”.

The Congress was adamant to oppose the British Government at any cost. To give impetus to this stance, the Congress working committee on July 14, 1942, passed a Resolution calling upon the British Government to Quit India immediately. Quaid-i-Azam sensed the real motive of Congress Resolution. In a statement to the press, Quaid-i-Azam revealed that the aim of the Congress is “blackmailing the British and coercing them to concede a system of government and transfer power to that government which would establish a Hindu raj immediately under the aegis of the British bayonet thereby placing the Muslims and other minorities and interests at the mercy of the Congress raj”.

When Gandhi realised that Quit India Movement was heading nowhere but towards failure, he approached the Viceroy and at the same time, sought a settlement with the Muslim League. C Rajagopalachari wrote a letter to the Quaid-i-Azam and that is known as C R Formula in history. The salient features of the C R Formula were the formation of the interim government, a plebiscite to decide the issue of separation from Hindustan, mutual agreements in case of partition etc. The C R formula became the basis for Gandhi in connection with his talks with the Quaid-i-Azam.

Jinnah Gandhi Talks are an interesting chapter in the history of India. Though the talks were between two personalities but actually it was the clash of two schemes, C R Formula advocated by Gandhi and the Pakistan Resolution by Quaid-i-Azam. Gandhi and Jinnah met on September 9, 1944, and the meeting was followed by a series of letters exchanged between the two. In a letter wrote to Gandhi, Quaid-i-Azam questioned his position, “representative Character and capacity on behalf of the Hindus or the Congress”. Quaid further wrote that you cannot discuss the Hindu-Muslim settlement and you have no authority to do so. To this M K Gandhi replied that he was participating in the talks in an individual capacity. Quaid-i-Azam primarily based his views on Lahore Resolution that the areas in which the Muslims are in majority should be grouped to constitute independent states. M K Gandhi insisted on C R Formula as starting point. He added that after the war an interim government should be set up and a plebiscite to be held to decide in favour of separation from Hindustan or against it. To this Jinnah replied and sought clarification for the mechanism and authority to decide and work out these matters. The Jinnah-Gandhi talks failed as C R Formula and Pakistan Resolution could not be reconciled. Quaid-i-Azam reiterated that Muslims are a nation by any definition and by all canons of international law.

On June 14, 1945, Lord Wavell announced for re-organisation of the Governor General’s Executive Council. The arrangement put forward by Lord Wavell is called Wavell Plan. A conference was called by the Viceroy at Simla and invited inter alia Quaid-i-Azam to attend the Conference. At the Simla Conference, the Muslim seats became the bone of contention. Congress insisted on nominating two Muslims of its own while Quaid-i-Azam demanded that “all Muslims appointed to the Council should be from among the All India Muslim League”. The Simla Conference failed mainly because of the refusal of the British government and the Congress to recognise the All-India Muslim League as the only representative body of Muslim India. Now the challenge before Quaid-i-Azam and Muslim League was to prove that Muslim League is the only representative organisation of Muslim India and it was proved in the General Elections of 1945-46.

To set the preparations for general elections 1945-46, a campaign for the collection of funds was started in July 1945. In response donations in large sums were received from all over India and the Indian Muslims abroad. Parliamentary Boards were set up in each province to decide the issue of allocation of Muslim League tickets. The democratic attitude of the Quaid-i-Azam can be witnessed in the allocation of seats and it was made clear by the Quaid-i-Azam that he will never interfere with the work of the Parliamentary Boards nor be interceded on behalf of any aspirant. In a telegram to medical students of Calcutta, he advised: “establish complete unity, face election with grim determination. Issue life-death. Every vote for the League means rescue of hundred million Musalmans, Islam, Pakistan”. The League performed well in the elections. It swept all the Muslim seats in the central assembly and captured 428 out of 492 Muslim seats in the provincial legislatures. The League’s claim to speak on behalf of Muslim India had been fully realised.

After the war, the British government was left with no option but to give independence to India. In these circumstances, the Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence on February 19, 1946, announced the formation of the cabinet mission to solve the Indian political tangle.

Quaid-i-Azam rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan and in a statement on May 22, 1946, said, “Pakistan is the only solution to the constitutional problems of India”. But being a lover of democracy, the Quaid-i-Azam rested the decision with the League Council. In the meeting of the League Council, Quaid-i-Azam expressed his firm faith that the Muslims of India would not feel at rest till the creation of Pakistan. He further added, “the scheme contained in itself, a basis for Pakistan”. Congress out rightly rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan while the Muslim League accepted it. It was binding on the British’s government to invite Muslim League for the formation of interim government but it was not done so. Under these circumstances, the League on July 27, 1946, decided to withdraw its support for the plan and to take Direct Action to attain Pakistan. In this meeting, Quaid-i-Azam remarked, “the Cabinet Mission has played into the hands of the Congress. It has played game of its own”. However, due to the stern responses, the League along with Congress was invited to form the interim government.

The last Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten arrived in India on March 22, 1947. Lord Mountbatten was sent by the British Government on a special mission to transfer power to India. With this end in view, he prepared a plan for the transfer of power known as the Mountbatten Plan or the 3rd June Plan. Important points of the 3rd June Plan were adequate arrangements of Punjab and Bengal assemblies if they favour partition of these provinces, referendum in NWFP and Sylhet for deciding their fate to join India or Pakistan etc. The Plan was presented on June 2, 1947, before the Indian leaders including Quaid-i-Azam. Being a constitutionalist and firm believer in democratic norms, he remarked, “I can express my own opinion in this regard but the Muslim League is a democratic institution. Therefore, the League and Working Committee would contact the people before making any final decision”. The plan was finally approved by League Council on August 9, 1947.

To give effect to the 3rd June Plan, a commission was formed headed by Sir Cyril Radcliff known as Radcliff Commission. The Commission was assigned the task of demarcating the contiguous Muslim and non-Muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal. Radcliffe Commission was very astonishing to the Muslims. Great injustices were done by the commission. The Muslim majority areas of Gurdaspur, Jullundur, Ferozpur, Zira and Ambala were handed over to India due to the clandestine efforts of Congress in general and VP Menon in particular. Quaid-i-Azam expressed his grief and resentment on this unfair, incomprehensible and even perverse distribution.

During these circumstances, the independent Muslim State of Pakistan emerged on the map of the world on August 14, 1947, and Quaid-i-Azam became the undisputed first Governor-General of Pakistan.