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In commemoration of 137th birthday of Allama Iqbal
Recounting Iqbal-Jinnah Correspondence
Dr. Javid Iqbal
Two years before he died, Iqbal’s communiqués to Jinnah take a sharper edge, as if he had a premonition of leaving the wordly stage, hence his inputs assume a sense of urgency. The correspondence is long, covers varied subjects and carries various objectives. In 1936, as 1937 elections neared, communal electorate was in focus. All India Muslim League objectives collided with pulls of regional satraps of Muslim majority provinces. Sir Sikander Hayat Khan in Punjab leading Unionist Party and Fazl-ul-Haq Choudhary leading Krishak Praja Party in Bengal had different objectives than Jinnah and Iqbal. The twosomes had Muslims of minority provinces--U.P, Bombay/Madras presidencies, Bihar etc in view. Jinnah in 1936/37 had not developed the clout to keep Sir Sikander or Fazl-ul-Haq in his hold. The regional satraps were powerful figures and not beyond collaborating with British Raj in Delhi. They were not concerned much about subcontinental freedom, as long as the Raj in Delhi allowed them free play in their provinces. Sir Sikander had roped in Hindu and Sikh landlords in Unionist Party to strengthen the feudal order prevalent in rural Punjab. It had the outfall of checking urban educated middle class of all communities with their awakened political sensibility and craving for freedom.

9th June, 1936 communiqué from Iqbal to Jinnah takes note of the subject. It says “Indirect election to the Central Assembly has made it absolutely essential that Muslim representatives returned to the Provincial Assemblies should be bound by an All-India Muslim policy and programme so that they should return to the Central Assembly only those Muslims who would be pledged to support the specific Muslim questions connected with the Central subjects and arising out of their position as the Second great nation of India. Those who are now for Provincial policies and programme were themselves instrumental in getting indirect elections for the Central Assembly introduced into the constitution obviously because this suited a foreign Government. Now when the community wants to make the best use of this misfortune (i.e indirect elections) by proposing an all-India scheme of elections (e.g. League scheme) to be adhered to by the Provincial candidates the same men, again, at the instance of a foreign Government have come out to defeat the community in their effort to retain its solidarity as a nation”.

It is clear that Iqbal had Unionists of Punjab in view, while urging Jinnah to evolve an All India Muslim policy. He is seen prodding Jinnah to have a statement issued by Muslim League, which as he notes, “must frankly state as present position of the Indian Muslims as regards both the Government and the Hindus. It must warn the Muslims of India that unless the present scheme is adopted the Muslims will lose all that they have gained during the last 15 years and will seriously harm, and in fact, shatter their own solidarity with their own hands”. Iqbal seems so concerned about how the statement is worded, as to urge sending him the statement, before it is issued, the p.s. carries the urging “Will feel much obliged if you send the statement to me before it is sent to the press”.

25th June 1936, in another communiqué from Lahore marked private and confidential, Iqbal briefs Jinnah on developments in Lahore. The note is a comprehensive evidence of his heightened concern for evolving a consensus between regional Muslim satraps craving for provincial weightage in Muslim majority provinces and aspirations of Muslim League with all India Muslim concerns in view, including those of Muslim minority provinces. Iqbal notes “Sir Sikander Hayat left Lahore a day or two ago. I think he will meet you at Bombay and have a talk with you about certain matters of importance. Daultana saw me yesterday evening. He tells me that the Muslim members of the Unionist Party are prepared to make the following declaration”. The declaration is noted as “in all matters specific to the Muslim community as an all-India minority they will be bound by the decision of the League and will never make any pact with any non-Muslims group in the Provincial Assembly.” There is a rider however, “Provided the League (Provincial) makes the following declaration: That those returned to the Provincial Assembly on the League ticket will co-operate with that party or group which has the largest number of Muslims’.” Iqbal at the end of this communiqué asks, “Please let me know at your earliest convenience what you think of this proposal. Also let me know the result of your talk with Sir Sikander Hayat. If you succeed in convincing him he may come to our side”.

23rd August, 1936 communiqué—the focus shifts to Bengal, where Muslim League had greater political strength compared to Punjab. Khawaja Nizam-ud-Din leading Muslim League was quite a challenge to Fazl-ul-Haq. In Punjab, the feudals were in command, albeit in a secular garb. Sir Chotu Ram and some Sikh feudals were hand in glove with Sir Sikander to protect feudal interests. In order to protect their provincial turf, their titles, their vast land holdings—Hyats’ Daultana’ Aiwans’ and their ilk would not hesitate to protect the central turf of British Raj in Delhi. They just wanted their share of provincial weightage. Bengal was different—Muslims or Hindus had deeper political understanding and the sway of feudals was not as acute as in Punjab.

Iqbal notes, “I read in the papers that you have brought about a compromise between the Bengal Praja Party and the Parliamentary Board [read Muslim league parliamentary board]. I should like to know the terms and the conditions. Since the Praja Party is non-communal like the Unionist, your compromise in Bengal may be helpful to you”. By naming Fazl-ul-Haq’s Praja Party as non communal, hence secular Iqbal seems to imply that on communal question, the Praja party did not have the same take, as that of Muslim League. It is to be noted also that in the majoritarain secular concept, Iqbal and Jinnah feared a dilution of Muslim political empowerment, given that in majoritarain electoral arithmetic, minorities feared their interests getting diluted. At this critical juncture of subcontinental politics, Gandhi and Azad had to an extent grasp of Muslim concerns. However Nehru riding on his secularism and Patel with strong Hindu lobby within the congress fold put a hold on any progress that Gandhi and Azad could have attempted and accomplished to stop the gradual build-up to ultimate divide. If Gandhi and Azad had constraints, Iqbal and Jinnah had the Muslim majority provincial bugbear to take note of and combat.

20th March 1937 communiqué---elections of 1937 had spelt the weak hold Jinnah had on Muslim masses at this juncture. Out of 84 Muslim reserve constituencies in Punjab---premier province of present day Pakistan, Muslim League got one seat, just one seat. This conveyed the total sway of secular feudals. In Bengal the tally was better, however far from satisfactory—39 out of 117 Muslim reserve constituencies. Khawaja Nizam-ud-Din of Muslim League had to play second fiddle as Deputy Chief Minister, as Fazl-ul-Haq leading the electoral table headed the coalition government as Chief Minister. Nehru was ecstatic, he had reasons to be, Congress had given a severe drubbing to Muslim League, capturing even NWFP and forming the government.

Iqbal assesses the scene in 20th March 1937 communiqué to Jinnah, “I suppose you have read Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s address to the All-India National Convention and that you fully realise the policy under-lying it in so far as Indian Muslims are concerned. I believe you are also aware that the new constitution has at least bought a unique opportunity for Indian Muslims for self-organisation in view of the future political developments both in India and Muslim Asia. While we re ready to co-operate with other Progressive Parties in the country, we must not ignore the fact that the whole future of Islam as a moral and political force in Asia rests very largely on a complete organisation of Indian Muslims. I therefore suggest that an effective reply should be given to the All-India National Convention. You should immediately hold an All-India Muslim Convention in Delhi to which you should invite members of the new Provincial Assemblies as well as other prominent Muslim leaders. To this convention you must restate as clearly and as strongly as possible the political objective of the Indian Muslims as a distinct political unit in the country. It is absolutely necessary to tell the world both inside and outside India that the economic problem is not the only problem in the country. From the Muslim point of view the cultural problem is of much greater consequence to most Indian Muslims. At any rate it is not less important than the economic problem. If you could hold this Convention, it would test the credentials of those Muslim Legislators who have formed parties contrary to the aims and aspirations of Indian Muslims. It would further make it clear to the Hindus that no political device, however subtle can make the Indian Muslim lose sight of his cultural entity. I am coming to Delhi in a few days time and hope to have a talk with you on this important matter. I shall be staying in the Afghan Consulate. If you could spare a few moments we should meet there. Please drop a line in reply to this letter a early as possible”.

The note is clear, Nehru considered the problem to be economic, Iqbal partially agrees, his concerns however have a wider spectrum. Post election results, Jinnah extended hand of cooperation. Given the election results, Nehru felt no need to take it. 1937 to 1947 Mohammad Ali Jinnah became Quaid-e-Azam, his sway over Muslim masses had regional Muslim satraps line up behind him. Vis-à-vis Nehru and Patel, he could call a spade a spade. How and why did it happen is being subjected to intense historical scrutiny, lately facts are being lined-up across the divide.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

Feedback on: iqbal.javid46@ gmail.com


News Updated at : Sunday, November 11, 2012
 
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