Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Muslim League Presidential Address, May 24, 1940

We tend to think of Jinnah as the sole spokesman of the All India Muslim League. Not true. In any case, it is time to accumulate more material. Here is the Presidential Address to the Bombay Presidency Muslim League Conference held at Hubli on May 24, 1940.
Source: The Indian Annual Register (1940) Volume 1, Mitra H.N. editor
Archive: New Digital Library of India

The Bombay Muslim League Conference
Presidential Address- Hubli - 24th May 1940

The implications of the Muslim League partition scheme were explained in detail by the Raja of Mahmudabad in his presidential address to the Bombay Presidency Muslim League Conference held at Hubli on the 24th May 1940.

The Lahore resolution, he said, was unambiguous.  The Muslims had demanded the very right of self-determination that the Congress had been asking from the British Government.  "We have demanded a place in the Indian Sun", he added, "where we will be able to restablish[sic] the Government of Islam.  We have demanded the right to establish a laboratory wherein we may experiment in peace the greatest experiment that was ever tried."

Asserting that the Muslims of India "have at last an ideal to live for and to die for", he went on to say that the League resolution reflected the mass will of the Muslim people of India and its sanction was the dynamic force of the Muslim masses.  The resolve had been made and they were prepared to achieve it "at all costs."   Referring to the opponents of the resolution, the Raja of Mahmudabad said that since the passing of the resolution, "the entire Hindu nation and its parasites have strained every nerve to misrepresent the Muslims and the most astounding aspect of this campaign has been revealed in a few articles contributed by the Congress and Mahasabha autocrats in which they have touched the very depts of misrepresentation, vituperation and abuse.

"We do not want wholesale emigration of the Mussalmans from the Provinces in which they are a minority, nor is it our intention to expel the non-Muslim minorities from the Muslim States.  It is a calumny, a wholly unwarranted distortion of our intentions and programme.   I myself belong to a minority province and much as I would have liked to have been born in a Muslim sovereign state of India, I do not intend to uproot myself from my home and leave my co-religionists to their fate".

The speaker then proceeded to explain how the contemplated State would function. "The State will conform to the laws as laid down in Islam", he said.  "It will deal justly and fairly with every community and section of its constituent members.  The unchangeable laws of Islam will ipso facto be applied and enforced.  There will be no fresh legislation in regard to them because Islam has already legislated for them for ever and ever.

"There will be prohibition, absolute and rigorous, with no chance for its ever being withdrawn.  Usury will be banished.  Zakat will be levied.  Why should not we be all allowed to make this experiment?  In treading this path, we will not be crossing the path of any right-minded individual.  Sikhs, Hindus and Christians will benefit equally from the beneficient, all pervading activities of this democratic-theocratic state."  Proceeding, the speaker said that the issue of Muslims being a separate nation was not only a theoretical one, but on the other hand, a very living and practical one.  If the Muslims did not want to share the fate of the Muslims of Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, if Muslims wanted to save their culture and political thought and if they wanted to revive Islam, then the establishment of an Islamic State was the only course open to them.

He appealed to the educated and upper classes to give up their isolationist attitude and give way to sympathetic intercourse and intermingling with the masses.  The propertied classes should meet the masses on equal terms and be prepared to given up willingly their vested interests for the sake of the greater cause - the cause of Islam and the Muslims.   After pointing out how the Pakistan demand was being grossly misinterpreted by the enemies of Islam, the President averred: "One of the comicalities [sic] in the recent pronouncements in regard to the Pakistan scheme is the entire agreement between Lord Zetland, the Congress and the Maha Sabha leaders in condemning the Muslim demand. Zetlands, Moonjes, Savarkars and Nehrus are strange and incongruous bed-fellows.  They may unite and attack the Muslims, but they cannot deflect them from pursuing the course which the Mussalmans have set before themselves."

The Raja, proceeding, outlined the various legislative and administrative details which would be worked out in the proposed Muslimistan, which he was sure would come into existence.  Referring to the International situation, the President said : "Imperialist Britain, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Socialist Russia - all are birds of the same feather.  Where it is a question of aggression they are all one.  Whether the so-called Democracies win or lose, the Socialists or Nazis win, the fate of the unprotected eastern nations will remain the same."


PS: See this Dawn article on the Raja of Mahmudabad.  He left India for Pakistan in 1957, and left Pakistan in 1967 till his death in 1973.   Also this episode is narrated there, I wonder when it occurred relative to the date of the speech above.  Presumably after and in 1940 (see below) ; but how much after?
Another outcome of his religious idealism was to make him the votary of an Islamic State. It was this idealism which would cause him ideological stress. On 28th July 1940, he wrote to the Quaid-i-Azam:

"But if we can manage to express our own opinions in strict coordination with the Islamic conception of State, then there will be an Ideal, substantial and dynamic enough to take the greatest amount of sacrifice from us. When I say an Islamic State, I do not mean a Muslim State."

Prof Abdul Waheed Siddiqui has counted 90 speeches made by Jinnah between 1940 and 1947 in which he spoke of an Islamic State. Be as that may, these differences over an Islamic State have been documented, by the Raja of Mahmudabad himself, Mirza Abul Hasan Ispahani, Abdur Rahman Siddiqui through Qurrat ul Ain Hyder. However, only one version advances the reasons behind Jinnah's objection, the unpublished autobiography of Isha'at Habibullah.
The Raja started off by saying that since the Lahore resolution had been passed earlier that year, if and when Pakistan was formed, it was undoubtedly to be an Islamic State with the Sunna and Shariah as its bedrock. The Quaid's face went red and he turned to ask Raja whether he had taken leave of his senses. Mr. Jinnah added: `Did you realize that there are over seventy sects and differences of opinion regarding the Islamic faith, and if what the Raja was suggesting was to be followed, the consequences would be a struggle of religious opinion from the very inception of the State leading to its very dissolution. Mr. Jinnah banged his hands on the table and said: We shall not be an Islamic State but a Liberal Democratic Muslim State.

Apart from mentioning his conflict with Jinnah over an Islamic State, the Raja, writing in 1970 admitted that he had been wrong and Jinnah right. This realization came years after his uncle Jinnah had been dead. In their lifetime, this difference was causing great tension. On 20th April 1940, the Raja wrote to the Quaid-i-Azam:
I have been lately very ill mentally. My brain works like a wireless in bad atmospherics. I cannot think, and even if an idea comes, it is so mutilated that I myself cannot understand it.
This was a very unusual letter for the Raja to write and an even more unusual letter for Jinnah to receive. It shows that holding up an Islamic State as an ideal to galvanize the Muslims had been a retrospective argument.
Note that the Presidential address given above by the Raja of Mahmudabad, May 24, 1940 is a full month after the 20th April 1940 letter.   So the interpretation of the 20th April 1940 letter cannot be correct (or else the Raja defied Jinnah in his May 24th speech).  Most likely, Jinnah's reprimand has to be after July 28, 1940.

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