“Jinnah of India”, the could have been of Indian History
By Munish Alagh
Jinnah’s story is an apparent paradox, why did a person considered the greatest “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, become the creator of Pakistan, indeed Jinnah, like his fellow Gujarati, Gandhi was an extremely enigmatic figure, but the fact is that we know very little about him, his inomitable will with which he created Pakistan, could have very easily have been directed towards the opposite direction, ie., towards strengthening Hindu-Muslim unity, this blog attempts to study why that did not happen? What are the lessons we should learn from this big failure of Indian nationhood?
From the time when Jinnah in his early days in Britian saw Dadabhai Naoraji struggling against racism Jinnah became an uncomprising enemy of all forms of colour bar and racial prejudice, listening from the Commons gallery in 1893 to Dadabhai’s maiden speech and being thrilled to hear the Grand Old man extol the virtues of “free speech”, Jinnah noted “there he was, an Indian, who would exercise that right and demand justice for his countrymen.” So, thus began Jinnah’s advent into politics as a liberal nationalist.
It is interesting that when he returned to Bombay, Jinnah’s heroes remained Dadabhai Naoroji and other brilliant Bombay Parsi, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta who, in fact very much was the model for Jinnah’s early career specially with reference to his impassioned advocacy of the role of minorities in India’s nation-building process. Further, in the 1904 Congress, Jinnah first met Gokhale, whose wisdom, fairness, and moderation he came to admire so that he soon stated his “fond ambition” in politics was to become “the Muslim Gokhale.”
Another interesting aspect of these early years is that the doughtiest opponent of the Muslim league in 1906 (in the Aga Khan’s words) was Jinnah, who “came out in bitter hostility toward all that I and my friends had done and were trying to do. He was the only well-known Muslim to take this attitude…..He said that our principle of separate electorates was dividing the nation against itself.” Such an impassioned advocacy against separate electorates by the man who was later responsible for creating Pakistan!!
Jinnah helped write Dadabhai’s speech at the 1906 annual session of the Congress, and the theme of national unity present in this address was echoed by Jinnah at every political meeting he attended during the ensuing decade.
In the decade since he had returned from Britian Jinnah had emerged as the hier apparent to the triumvirate of Gokhale, Mehta and Naoroji, he was free from all parochial and provincial prejudice, also in practical terms Jinnah realised that his strength lay in his secular nationalist appeal.
Jinnah was to rise in the Allahabad Congress of 1910 to second a resolution that “strongly deprecates the expansion or application of the principle of Separate Communal Electorates to Municipalities, District Boards, or other Local Bodies.” Paradoxically, Jinnah spoke at the end of his first year as the Muslim member from Bombay.
Jinnah did join the Muslim League in 1913, but he insisted as a prior condition that his “loyalty to the Muslim League and the Muslim interest would in no way and at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the larger national cause to which his life was dedicated.”
Before Gokhale died, he told Sarojini that Jinnah “has true stuff in him, and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity.” In his late thirties Jinnah seems to have personified that tragically elusive spirit of communal amity.
In 1913, at the Agra session of the Muslim League, Jinnah proposed postponing reaffirmation of faith in the principle of “communal representation” for another year. On this issue majority of the Muslim League members would long remain at odds with Jinnah.
I will end this section with the first sign of trouble in this garden of eden, and we will note that again and again, trouble for Jinnah, came in the form of the Father of the Nation, for when in January !915 the Gujarat Society, which he led, gave a garden party to welcome Gandhi back to India, Gandhi’s response to Jinnah’s urbane welcome was that he was “glad to find a Mahomedan not only belonging to his region’s Sabha, but chairing it. This was very insulting to Jinnah who prided himself on his Cosmopolitan identity. It also set the tone for his relation with Gandhi…which was lead to much trouble later as we shall see in forthcoming blogs.