Muhammad Ali Jinnah is a prominent figure both in India and Pakistan. He is worshipped in Pakistan, while India blames him for the gory Partition of the country in 1947. Often when we talk about him, his theory of ‘Two Nation’ comes into prominence. Although the commencement of this idea cannot be solely attributed to him, the emphasis on the theory is certainly made due to his efforts. However, to understand him and his critically acclaimed ‘Two Nation Theory’, it is important to be aware of the historical circumstances that finally culminated into the Partition of India, post the colonial regime.
Jinnah was not a staunch Muslim fundamentalist since the beginning of his political career. In fact he strongly espoused the notion of Hindu-Muslim Unity and was an ardent Congress loyalist. It is perhaps due to this significant reason that he began his political career as a Congressman. His formal public political livelihood began with his election to the Bombay Corporation in 1897. His direct association with the Indian National Congress (INC) dates back to 1904 when he was appointed as a private secretary to Dadabhai Naoraji, the then President of the INC. Jinnah till the 1920s, had maintained a very straightforward stance towards religious unity. Despite being a follower of the Muslim religion, he denounced membership of the Muslim League, which he believed was a half-hearted organization, catering to simply the interest of the Muslim Community and not the Freedom Struggle.
As time passed in the Indian National Movement, communal violence erupted between Hindus and Muslims. These instances of hatred made Jinnah realize a vital fact: achieving Hindu-Muslim unity would become complicated and eventually impracticable. One such action was the Nehru Report of 1928 that refused to give separate electorate to the Muslims and allowed reservations for them only in areas where Muslims were a minority. Jinnah was thus drawn towards the Muslim League and demanded more rights and opportunities for the Muslim community. One of the noteworthy initiatives in this regard is his famous ‘Fourteen Points’ of 1929 which can be termed as a steady answer to the Nehru Report.
The Freedom of India was sealed with a curse – the Curse of the Partition which divided the unified nation into India and Pakistan. Jinnah is explicitly considered responsible for the unwarranted ‘Partition’. However, Jinnah who was initially a harbinger of a single, free nation and religious unity was drawn towards this idea of creation of Pakistan due to several direct and indirect factors. Indirectly, Syed Ahmed Khan and the Aligarh Movement played a crucial role in instigating feelings of communal separateness among the Muslims. In 1887, the Siddon’s Club of Aligarh University submitted a memorandum to the British indicating that when the Colonial Masters leave India, either the Hindus or Muslims will form the new government. Since India had a majority of Hindu population, it would logically be a Hindu dominated government. Therefore for the upliftment of the Muslims, the Siddon’s Club claimed that the Muslims required a free sovereign state. Directly, it was the formation of the Muslim League in Dhaka in 1906 which paved the way for a Muslim Identity. Secondly, both the Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience movements were strongly intertwined in Hindu symbols and ideologies. This made the Muslims feel alienated from the Freedom Struggle. Thirdly, the INC was a Hindu-dominated organization, which made the Muslims constantly realize the importance of Muslim League and a separate territory to promote Mohammedan brotherhood.
All these factors culminated in the popularization of leaders like – M.A Jinnah, Chaudhari Rehmat Ali and Allama Iqbal who became advocates of the demand of creation of the new domain called ‘Pakistan’. To boost the idea of Partition, Jinnah even put forward his famous ‘Two Nation Theory’. The skeleton of the ‘Two Nation Theory’ was rendered life in the Allahabad Session of 1930 and Lahore Session of 1940 of the Muslim League – the common demand in both the sessions being, the demand for a separate province for the Muslim fraternity. It is important to note that for the Muslim leaders who in 1921 saw no conflict between their Indianness and Muslim identity, acknowledgment of their separate Muslim nationhood became a non negotiable demand in the 1920’s.
Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory harped on three crucial attributes. First, he believed that the Hindus and Muslims inhabiting the vast subcontinent are not two communities but should be considered as two nations in many aspects. Secondly, Hinduism and Islam are not two religions in the strict sense of the term, but different and distinct social orders. Hence they are incompatible to each other requiring a separate territory for their existence. Finally, Hindus and Muslims follow two contrasting religious philosophies having two distinct lineages. They cannot co-exist as a community since they follow two different strands of thought.
According to Ayesha Jalal, it will be incorrect if we put the entire blame upon Jinnah, for it was the circumstances which compelled him to take the rigid stance that he took. The British had long realized by the 1940’s that their days in India were numbered. They chose the destructive path of partitioning the country and transferring the powers rather than simply keeping the country united and intact. Furthermore, Jinnah was offered a Pakistan which was territorially haphazard and mutilated. Thus, by ejecting Jinnah from India, the way was cleared for a government as preferred by Nehru, the future Prime Minister of an independent India.
Picture Credits: Reuters