(Appeared in Dawn, Special Report 'Lahore
Resolution' supplement, 23 March 2012)
Decades before India's partition, Muslims were accused
of having 'separatist' aspirations. Of course until the end of the
1930s most Muslim leaders - particularly those from the Muslim-majority
provinces - really viewed political 'separation' in strictly all-India
terms. They pushed for strong provinces, a weak federal centre,
and separate electorates. Yet it is that true they also sought to
be treated as more than a minority community. The Lucknow Pact (1916),
Jinnah's major contribution to Hindu-Muslim unity, was drafted with
this in mind (by Jinnah's own admission). Before the third Round
Table Conference (1932), Muslims even called for 'completely autonomous
Federal States of equal status', based on their opinion that
they were not a community but a 'nation'.
Several events served to harden the Muslim stance:
1) The All India National Congress' support of Gandhi's revolutionary
politics that gradually alienated, rather than united, Muslims from
their Hindu compatriots. 2) Congress' refusal to compromise on the
Nehru Report (1928), which rejected separate electorates and offered
Muslims a quarter of seats at India's centre instead of a third.
3) The failed Round Table Conferences of 1930-2 (London), which
ended in political deadlock owing to persisting communal tensions.
4) The period between 1937-9. Congress came into power for the first
time in British India, and made heavy-handed attempts to secure
political and communal dominance, heightening fears of a 'Hindu
raj' in a future independent India. Embittered by these experiences,
Muslims developed a more hardliner stance than before. Still, many
provincial leaders joined the League chiefly out of political expediency,
and well into the 1940s some remained willing to cooperate with
the Congress when it suited their own interests.
Two distinct strains of Muslim 'separatism' emerged
by the early 1930s. Here we will refer to 'separatism' as a demand
for provincial autonomy, separate electorates and a weak centre
within an all-India context. 'Secessionism' will mean partition
where the Muslim state(s) and Hindu states(s) would become fully
independent, and their relationship restricted to international
treaties, i.e. no centre. ('Balkanisation' - the creation of two
mutually hostile states - was never on the agenda.)
Muhammad Iqbal and Choudhuri Rahmat Ali represent early
calls for secession. In 1930, whilst Muslim leaders fought for provincial
autonomy in London, Iqbal said at Allahabad that he would prefer
to 'go farther than the demands' of his peers. He wanted to see
the Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Baluchistan 'amalgamated into a single
State'. He said this was likely to be the 'final destiny' of Muslims
at least in North-West India. Iqbal also acknowledged that this
was less a 'demand' and more a prediction about the long-term outcome
of Muslim separatism, based on the circumstances of his time.
Cambridge-based Choudhuri Rahmat Ali was arguably the
earliest activist for partition. He coined the name PAKISTAN: an
acronym of the provinces Punjab (P), NWFP (Afghan - A), Kashmir
(K), Sindh plus the last few letters of Baluchistan (-STAN). It
also happens to mean land of the pure. In a 1933 pamphlet Rahmat
Ali called for the creation of a 'Pakistan'. He described Hindus
and Muslims as heterogeneous societies and demanded their immediate
separation. Later he proposed a 'Pakistan Commonwealth of Nations',
to include Muslims in zones of North-East India and also Afghanistan,
Sri Lanka and Bengal. Rahmat Ali declared that his scheme differed
from Iqbal's relatively modest idea. Whereas Iqbal had suggested
that just the north-western and eastern Muslim-majority zones be
'amalgamated' into a single state, Rahmat Ali sought a 'separate
federation' in which his 'Pakistan', aside from being more candidly
secessionist, covered much more territory. As he also proposed some
serious territorial adjustments to make this happen, his scheme
was deemed unrealistic.
Whilst Muslim minority provinces accepted the idea
of partition sooner, some leaders from the biggest Muslim-majority
areas were less enthusiastic, as they felt more secure where they
lived and had fewer complaints regarding the political status quo.
Since their provinces also had narrow Muslim majorities, these leaders
faced pressure to prove their provincial loyalties on cultural,
tribal and linguistic grounds. They were aware of non-Muslim fears
about a 'Muslim Raj', and perhaps felt obliged to deny all talk
of Muslim separatism. This may explain the claims made by some Muslim
Leaguers that Jinnah did not really want partition. Some provincial
leaders were so attached to provincial autonomy that they were unwilling
to surrender it at all, whether within India or in Pakistan. These
are the factors to bear in mind when reviewing the Lahore Resolution.
The Lahore Resolution is often described as 'vague'.
In fact it reflects the lack of consensus in Muslim opinion on the
Indian constitutional crisis, and so is better described as an open-ended
From 1939 the League considered alternative constitutional
schemes to the Government of India Act of 1935. The schemes ranged
from separatist to secessionist. Nine schemes were finally reviewed
in February 1940, and the Working Committee considered the 'Muslim
demands and the future constitution of India', in view of the following
- Muslims are a nation
- The British democratic parliamentary system is not
suited to the genius and people of India
- Muslim majority zones in India
should be constituted into Independent Dominions in relationship
- Muslims in Hindu majority zones must have their
rights safeguarded and vice versa
Units in each zone shall form component parts of the Federation
of their respective zones as autonomous units
The Lahore Resolution was drafted a few weeks later,
and the above principles as well as elements of some of the nine
schemes were incorporated into it.
Of the nine schemes, Rahmat Ali's Pakistan
scheme (1933 onward) and the Aligarh scheme of Dr. S.Z. Hasan
and Dr. M. Afzal Husain Qadri (1939) were secessionist in
tone. Next in terms of secessionist leanings was the Confederacy
scheme (1939) written by Major Kifait Ali. Two other notable
schemes - by Dr. Sayyed Abdul Latif of Hyderabad and Sikandar
Hayat Khan of the Punjab - advocated an all-India federation.
Sikandar Hayat's British-backed 'Zonal scheme' (1938-9) was
least popular, as it leaned openly in favour of federation
(albeit loose) and indicated a preference for Indian unity.
Dr. Latif's 'Cultural zones' scheme (1938 onward) would later
be criticised for its interpretation of the Lahore Resolution,
as well as its references to an all-India centre.
The Lahore Resolution called for the creation of 'Independent
States' (presumably two: Bengal and Punjab) out of the 'North-Western
and Eastern zones' of India. It excluded the Muslim-minority provinces
and the Princely States. The provinces ('constituent units') in
each of these 'States' would be 'autonomous and sovereign' (i.e.
they would have residual powers). This line was evidently included
for those provincialist leaders who wanted to remain 'separate'
whether within or outside India. One of Jinnah's earliest statements
explaining the Resolution also suggests that it was included to
attract minorities such as the Sikhs in the Punjab. Promising them
provincial autonomy would perhaps reassure them and make them less
apprehensive of joining a federation of Muslim states.
It wasn't explicitly stated what relationship these
Muslim 'States' would have with each other, but a reference to the
'constitution' for the 'regions' implied that they were expected
to co-exist either in federation or confederation. The word 'constitution'
appeared twice, meaning separate constitutions for the 'Muslim'
regions and 'Hindu' regions; and this point would be further clarified
at a later League session. No provinces were mentioned by name;
these would be discussed as and when the overall Muslim position
became clearer. Provincial borders would generally remain as they
presently stood, including those of Bengal and Punjab. The 'adjustment'
of borders would be restricted to wherever practicable; small pockets
of Muslim-populated areas lying in Hindu-majority zones could be
separated and joined to adjacent Muslim zones, e.g. Sylhet could
be separated from Assam and joined to Bengal.
Nothing was said about any relationship between these
Muslim 'States' and the rest of India. Instead the resolution demanded
reciprocal safeguards for minority groups in the respective constitutions
of the Muslim and Hindu regions. There was no reference to a 'centre'.
Sikandar Hayat Khan, then Punjab's Premier and a staunch provincialist,
later complained that he had originally drafted the Lahore Resolution
but that the League removed his references to the centre. Indeed
the League adopted the official stance that the 'Pakistan scheme
does not visualize any kind of Central Government'.
Partition was implied in the final paragraph. The League's
Working Committee was authorised to frame a 'scheme of constitution
providing for the assumption finally, by the respective regions
of all the powers, such as defence, external affairs, communications,
customs [etc.].' The word 'finally' obviously implied a transitional
period in which to get on with constitution-making whilst the British
gradually handed over power, and by the same token secession was
implied to follow. The form of government for this transitional
period was again a matter for negotiation.
The finalised Lahore Resolution most closely
resembled both Major Ali's Confederacy scheme and the Aligarh
scheme. All three documents - the Aligarh scheme, the Confederacy
scheme and the Lahore Resolution - were secessionist in tone.
The Aligarh and Confederacy schemes also shared a common ideological
element. The Aligarh professors wrote: 'The realization of
this [Pakistan] federation will open a new and living future
for the Muslims of India and will have a far-reaching effect
on the whole of the Islamic world.' Major Ali meanwhile
wrote that he hoped his scheme would make 'Islam a living
force and a successful social, political and economic system'.
This element of the 'Pakistan idea' was the backbone of the
Two-Nation Theory, and found its ultimate expression in the
League's 'Delhi Resolution' of April 1946.
Like Major Ali's Confederacy, the Lahore Resolution
implied a federal relationship between the two Muslim states,
and it deferred the secessionist demand - but not indefinitely.
Whereas Ali deemed it necessary to remain in India, the Lahore
Resolution implied that secession was the 'final' object.
In this it came closer to the Aligarh scheme which focused
on British India, created up to two states in the north-west
and east, and consciously omitted the all-India centre. Ali's
scheme emphasised that confederation was the better option
to protect Muslim interests across India, but that secession
would be the last resort if all else failed. This was practically
a prophecy. It was fulfilled when the League temporarily agreed
to the Cabinet Mission 'Union' of 1946 and subsequently dropped
it in favour of immediate partition.
The Resolution did not support either Sikandar
Hayat Khan's Zonal scheme or Dr. Latif's scheme, both of which
sought a united India. The only part that catered to Hayat's
scheme (or his provincialist sentiments) was the line promising
that the constituent units of the 'states' would be 'autonomous
and sovereign'. Significantly, both these latter all-India
schemes were eventually written off by the League.
Thus the Resolution neither made an immediate secessionist demand,
nor was it a 'bargaining counter' as alleged by the League's opponents
at the time. We might describe it as a deferred or open secessionist
demand, since it was written when Indian Muslims were not single-minded
in their purpose. Nevertheless the Resolution focused on the two
largest Muslim zones, and the League demanded its recognition as
a prerequisite to further negotiations. Once this was conceded by
the British and Congress, it would be easier to bring indecisive
Muslims across the subcontinent round to the idea. This 'go-slow'
approach is consistent with Jinnah's methodology throughout his
life, as well as that of Dr. Iqbal.
1 See Jinnah's speech at the Aligarh
University Union, Aligarh, 6 March 1940.
2 Resolution of the Executive Board
of the Muslim Conference, Delhi, 21 August 1932 (chaired by Dr.
M.Iqbal). Cited in W. Ahmad, 'Choudhury
Rahmat Ali and the Concept of Pakistan' in Journal of the Research
Society of Pakistan, January 1970, p.19.
3 Aga Khan, Presidential speech at
the All-Parties Muslim Conference, Delhi, 31 December 1928 (Ibid.)
4 Iqbal's Presidential address at the
Annual Session of the Muslim League, Allahabad, 29 December 1930.
5 Ali, Ch. Rahmat (1933) Now or
Never: Are we to Live or Perish for Ever?
6 See for instance, Jalal, A. (1994
reprint) The Sole Spokeman; S.R. Mehrotra, 'The Congress
and the Partition of India' in Philips & Wainright (eds.) (1970)
The Partition of India Massachusetts: MIT Press. See also
S. Mujahid (1981) Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah: Studies in Interpretation
Karachi: Quaid-i-Azam Academy, p.397, where he mentions that Jinnah
removed 'ambiguity in the Lahore Resolution' in his correspondence
with Gandhi in 1944.
7 For complete text, see resolution
no. 14 at Working Committee meeting, Delhi, 3-6 February 1940, presided
8 See statement on the Lahore Resolution,
New Delhi, 31 March 1940, in which Jinnah assured Sikhs that Punjab
would be an 'autonomous sovereign unit'.
9 See proceedings of the Annual League
Session at Madras, April 1941, in which the League's Rules were
altered to incorporate the Lahore Resolution.
10 See Sikandar Hayat Khan's speech,
extracted from a Report of the Punjab
Legislative Assembly Debates, 11 March 1941, as reproduced in Menon,
V.P. (1957) The Transfer of Power in India Princeton: Princeton
University Press, p.444
11 See letter of Liaquat Ali Khan to
Sikh leader Sir Jogendra Singh, 14 January 1942; as reproduced in
full in Ahmad, W. (ed.) (1992-2003) Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali
Jinnah: The Nation's Voice (7 vols.) Karachi: Quaid-i-Azam Academy
Vol. II, p.4 fn; see also Dr. M.A.H Qadri's letter to Abdullah Haroon,
23 February 1941 (in Latif, S.A. (1943) The Pakistan Issue
Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, p.95)
12 Jinnah confirmed this himself. See
statement on the Lahore Resolution, New Delhi, 31 March 1940, in
which he points directly to the final clause of the Resolution when
asked about the Muslim states' relationship with Britain (Nation's
Voice Vol. II, p.4). See also record of interview between Jinnah
and the Cabinet Delegation, 16 April 1946. (Nation's Voice
Vol. IV, p.647)
13 Jinnah confirmed this himself in
his letter to Gandhi, 17 September 1944 when he wrote that the Resolution
'does give basic principles and when they are accepted then the
details will have to be worked out by the contracting parties'.
(C. Rajagopalachari (ed.) (1944) Gandhi-Jinnah Talks New
Delhi: Hindustan Times, p.17)
14 M. Afzal Husain Qadri, 'The Problem
of Indian Muslims and its Solution', 2 February 1939 (Quaid-i-Azam
Papers, File no. 135)
15 'A Punjabi' (Ali, Kifait) (1939)
Confederacy of India Lahore: Nawab Sir Muhammad Shah Nawaz
Khan of Mamdot, p.227
16 See record of interview between
the Cabinet Delegation and Jinnah on 16 April 1946: 'Mr. Jinnah
said that once the principle of Pakistan was conceded the question
of the territory of Pakistan could be discussed. His claim was for
the six provinces but he was willing to discuss the area.' (Nation's
Voice Vol. IV, p.642) See also Jinnah's interview with the Daily
Herald, 5 April 1946: 'The new nation must include all the six
provinces with their present boundaries subject to any necessary
territorial adjustments on both sides'. (Nation's Voice Vol.