STUDENTS of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in India are currently holding demonstrations to protest against removal of Jinnah’s picture from students’ union hall. The union has had a tradition of bestowing lifetime membership on eminent personalities. Jinnah was honoured in 1938, two years prior to Lahore Resolution when the Pakistan demand was first made by Muslim League. Other personalities including Gandhi, Nehru, Azad and British novelist E. M. Forster were similarly honoured.
This time, life membership was being awarded to Hamid Ansari, former Vice President of India. Prior to this investiture, a letter was sent to Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor by Satish Gautam, Aligarh MP from ruling BJP, objecting to hanging of Jinnah’s picture. This was followed by an ultimatum from Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by present BJP Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. It demanded removal of Jinnah’s portrait with 48 hours, or else Vahini would do so forcibly. AMU complied by removing Jinnah’s picture, ostensibly for cleaning purposes, but this triggered off demonstrations by Aligarh students demanding restoration of Jinnah’s picture. Clashes took place between students and Vahini members, followed by a lathi-charge by police, causing several injuries. The pro-Vahini attitude of police has angered liberal-minded Hindu politicans, academics and journalists as well, who have declared support for Aligarh students. But BJP Chief Minister and other leaders have joined in criticising AMU. The issue might well escalate in the coming days. The BJP, which is ruling India, is known for its anti-Pakistan views. It is particularly hostile to Jinnah because he advocated the two-nations theory and spearheaded the Pakistan demand, leading to India’s partition.
The Aligarh students’ agitation has touched many raw nerves and revived bitter debate about partition of India in 1947. Many comments are being made by various circles in India, as also in Pakistan, that can be described as attempts to rewrite history. But facts are facts and it is no use living under illusions. The main historical controversy relates to who was responsible for partition of India. Many circles in India put the blame on Jinnah and Muslim League. In Pakistan, there are many who claim that division of India was inevitable and Muslims always wanted a separate Muslim state. Neither of these views is supported by historical evidence.
Ever since political movements began in the subcontinent since the end of 19th century, Indian Muslims sought to secure their minimum political rights within the framework of a united India. Their minimum demands were representation according to numbers i.e. one-third seats in central legislature, in jobs, etc. Separate electorates was the method for securing Muslim representation. Later, the Muslims also demanded more power to provinces. They knew that the Hindu majority would dominate the centre but provincial autonomy would ensure Muslim rights in five Muslim-majority provinces viz. Punjab, Bengal, Sindh, NWFP and Baluchistan. The Muslim demands were modest and reasonable. They were accepted by Congress in the 1916 Lucknow Pact, but it did not keep its word and soon backed out. Hindu-Muslim agreement was next almost secured in Delhi Muslim Proposals of 1927, when Jinnah persuaded Muslim League to drop separate electorates, provided other Muslim demands were accepted. Congress initially welcomed these proposals but again backed out. Instead, all key Muslim demands were rejected by the Nehru Report of 1928. Jinnah once again sought compromise and persuaded Muslim League to accept Nehru Report with amendments: 1/3rd Muslim representation in central legislature and more powers for provinces. This meant that Muslims would accept joint electorates and Hindi as national language. But Jinnah’s modest amendments were rejected by the Hindu majority. This led him to “part ways” and put forward Fourteen Points in 1929.
Iqbal made the Allahabad Address in 1930 demanding a consolidated Muslim-majorty province in the north-west, “the creation of a Muslim India within India”. When Chaudhri Rehmat Ali put forward the Pakistan idea in 1933, he stated that his demand was different from Iqbal’s Allahabad Address who had proposed amalgamation of the four north-western provinces “into a single state forming a unit of the All-India Federation.” In a letter to Prof. Thompson dated March 4, 1934, Iqbal rejected the former’s assertion that he was a protagonist of the scheme called Pakistan. Iqbal said: “Now Pakistan is not my scheme. The one that I suggested in my address is the creation of a Muslim Province i.e. a province having an overwhelming population of Muslims in the North-West of India. This new province will be, according to my scheme, a part of the proposed Indian Federation.” Similarly, Jinnah also rejected Rehmat Ali’s proposal.
The subsequent change in attitude of both Jinnah and Iqbal came, mainly, due to oppressive Congress Ministries’ rule (1937-39). The Muslims felt they were being victimised and would be treated as second-rate citizens in a Hindu-dominated, independent India (as is happening today under BJP). The Lahore Resolution was adopted just four months after end of Congress rule. Muslims had kept hoping for a united India till 1940. Pakistan was not the first preference of Muslims, but rather the last demand when hopes for living together honourably in a united India were dashed to the ground.
They had delayed demanding the division of India as it was not a perfect solution, since millions of Muslims would be left behind in India, apart from centres of Muslim culture like Delhi, monuments like Taj Mahal, educational institutions like Aligarh, as well as famous religious shrines. Even after the Pakistan movement was in full momentum, Jinnah persuaded Muslim League to accept Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946, which rejected Pakistan but conceded all Muslim demands made prior to 1940. Congress first accepted the Plan but soon backed out. This cast the die and India was partitioned in 1947. It was not Jinnah and Muslims, but rather the Congress, Gandhi and Nehru, who kept rejecting compromises and were mainly responsible for partition of India. An Indian Muslim scholar Faizan Mustafa has now claimed that Indian Muslims hold that the greatest harm to their cause was done by Jinnah, but the historical fact is that Muslims in minority provinces (now constituting India) were the greatest supporters of the Pakistan demand.
Modi’s RSS is continuously excavating issues from non-issue matters aiming only to target Muslims by one way and the other. Prime focus of such hybrid anti-Muslim campaigns not only to target Muslims of India but in long run RSS may also target other communities including Sikhs and Christians etc.
Shining India and Jinnah’s portrait