What Did Maulana Azad Really Think About Pakistan and Jinnah?
(Often, different quotes from Maulana Azad are cherry picked by people on social media according to their political convenience without ever realizing the context. I am sharing his address from 17 April, 1946, where he talked about the idea of Pakistan in detail. Excerpts from this speech are often cherry picked to prove points entirely unrelated to the context. I hope the speech will clear many misconceptions regarding Azad’s views.)
As is well-known, Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan scheme is based on his two-nation theory. His thesis is that India contains many nationalities based on religious differences. Of them the two major nations, the Hindus and Muslims, must as separate nations have separate states. When Dr. Edward Thompson once pointed out to Mr. Jinnah that Hindus and Muslims live side by side in thousands of Indian towns, villages and hamlets, Mr. Jinnah replied that this in no way affected their separate nationality. Two nations, according to Mr. Jinnah, confronts one another in every hamlet, village and town, and he therefore, desires that they should be separated into two states.
I am prepared to overlook all other aspects of the problem and judge it from the point of view of Muslim interests alone. I shall go still further and say that if it can be shown that the scheme of Pakistan can in any way benefit Muslims as such, I would be prepared to accept it myself and also to work for its acceptance by others. But the truth is that even if I examine the scheme from the point of view of the communal interests of the Muslims themselves, I am forced to the conclusion that it can in no way benefit them or allay their legitimate fears.
Let us consider dispassionately the consequences which will follow if we give effect to the Pakistan scheme. India will be divided into two States, one with a majority of Muslims and the other of Hindus. In the Hindustan State there will remain three-and-a-half crore Muslims scattered in small minorities all over the land. With 17 per cent in U.P. 12 per cent in Bihar and 9 per cent in Madras, they will be weaker than they are today in the Hindu majority provinces. They have had their homelands in these regions for almost a thousand years and built up most well-known centres of Muslim culture and civilization there.
They will awaken overnight and discover that they have become aliens and foreigners, backward industrially, educationally and economically; they will be left to the mercies of what would become an unadulterated Hindu Raj.
On the other hand, their position within the Pakistan State will be vulnerable and weak. Nowhere in Pakistan will their majority be comparable to the Hindu majority in the Hindustan State. In fact, their majority will be so slight that it will be offset by the economical, educational and political lead enjoyed by non-Muslims in these areas. Even if this were not so and Pakistan were overwhelmingly Muslim in population, it still could hardly solve the problem of Muslims in Hindustan. Two states confronting one another offer no solution to the problems of one another’s minorities, but only lead to retribution and reprisals by introducing a system of mutual hostages. The scheme of Pakistan, therefore, solves no problems for the Muslims. It cannot safeguard their rights where they are in a minority, nor as citizens of Pakistan secure them a position in India or world affairs which they would enjoy as citizens of a major State like the Indian Union.
It may be argued that if Pakistan is so much against the interests of the Muslims themselves, why should such a large section of Muslims be swept away by its lure? The answer is to be found in the attitude of certain communal extremists among the Hindus. When the Muslim League began to speak of Pakistan, they read into the scheme a sinister pan-Islamic conspiracy and began to oppose it out of fear that it foreshadowed a combination of Indian Muslims with trans-Indian Muslim States. This opposition acted as an incentive to the adherents of the League. With simple though untenable logic, they argued that if Hindus were so opposed to Pakistan, surely, it must be of benefit to Muslims. An atmosphere of emotional frenzy was created which made reasonable appraisement impossible and swept away especially the younger and more impressionable among the Muslims. I have, however, no doubt that when the present frenzy has died down and the question can be considered dispassionately, those who now support Pakistan will themselves repudiate it as harmful for Muslim interests.
The formula which I have succeeded in making the Congress accept secures whatever merit the Pakistan scheme contains, while all its defects and drawbacks are avoided. The basis of Pakistan is the fear of interference by the Centre majority areas, as the Hindus will be in a majority in the Centre. The Congress meets this fear by granting full autonomy to the provincial units and vesting all residuary power in the provinces. It also has provided for two lists of Central subjects, one compulsory and one optional, so that if any provincial unit so desires it can administer all subjects itself except a minimum delegated to the Centre. The Congress scheme, therefore, ensures that Muslim majority provinces are internally free to develop as they will, but can, at the same time influence the Centre on all issues which affect India as a whole.
The situation in India is such that all attempts to establish a centralized and unitary government are bound to fail. Equally doomed to failure is the attempt to divide India into two states. After considering all aspects of the questions, I have come to the conclusion that the only solution can be on lines embodied in the Congress formula which allows room for development both to the provinces and to India as a whole. The Congress formula meets the fears of the Muslim majority areas to allay which the scheme of Pakistan was formed; on the other hand, it avoids the defects of the Pakistan scheme which would bring the Muslims where they are in a minority under a purely Hindu Government.
I am one of those who consider the present document of communal bitterness and differences a transient phase in Indian life. It firmly holds that they will disappear when India assumes the responsibility for her own destiny. I am reminded of a saying of Mr. Gladstone that said that the best cure for a man’s fear of the water was to throw him into it, for he would then learn to swim and realize that it is not as dangerous as it had seemed to his imagination. Similarly, India must assume responsibility and administer her own affairs. When India attains her destiny, she will forget the present document of communal suspicion and conflict and face the problems of modern life from a modern point of view.
Differences will no doubt persist, but they will be economic not communal. Opposition among political parties will continue but it will be based not on religion but on economic and political issues. Class and not community will be the basis of future alignments and policies will be shaped accordingly. If it be argued that this is only a faith which events may not justify, I would say that in any case the nine crores of Muslims constitute a factor which nobody can ignore, and, whatever the circumstances, they are strong enough to safeguard their own destiny.