Muslim League's


Unfinished Agenda of Partition

In response to the 23 March 1940 resolution of the Muslim League for the creation of Pakistan, a number of questions were raised. One of the most important was: no matter where the line of demarcation was drawn, there would be Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs on either side in a minority. They would overnight become aliens and foreigners in their own homes. Mohammed Ali Jinnah initially evaded this question, but later began to promise protection to the minorities. However, there was no question of Hindus and Sikhs obtained citizenship or equal status with the nationals of Pakistan. If they could, why divide India was his question? Not satisfied himself with his own logic, he suggested an exchange of population as the realistic solution.

As if to avoid exploding a bomb or to shock people, Jinnah was slow and gentle in bringing up the question of population transfer. But wise and educated as he was, it is fair to believe that he was familiar with the European experience where, at the beginning of the 20th century, some two and a half million people had undertaken transfer of residence across national frontiers. Muslim Bulgarians were resettled in Turkey and many Turks were transferred to Bulgaria in pursuance of the Turko-Bulgarian Convention of 1913. This was also done officially under the Treaty of Lausanne signed on 30 January 1923 Between Turkey and Greece.

Professor M. Mujeeb, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi had an interesting experience. In his words, quoted from his book Islamic Influence on Indian Society, Meenakshi Prakashan, Meerut, 1972:

At a party given during the U.N. General Assembly Session in 1949 I had the pleasure of being placed next to the Turkish representative. He looked at my name card, saw that I was a Muslim and at once asked, are there still any Muslims in India? The impression then created does not yet seem to have been removed and it is believed that the sub-continent had been divided between Muslims and Hindus, with all Muslims on the one side and all Hindus on the other.

Jinnah must surely have been aware of the philosophical mainspring of Pakistan. Ever since British captured power and the consequent displacement of Muslim rule, there was widespread feeling that a Dar-ul-Islam in India had been replaced by a Dar-ul-Harb or a land of struggle. There is a principle as old as Islam that a jehad has to be fought for acquiring a Dar-ul-Islam. On the other hand, when there is no hope of achieving it, a Dar-ul-Harb cannot be tolerated indefinitely. The solution for the Muslims then was hijrat or migration to a land of Islam. Incidentally, devout faithful believe that they were fighting a Jehad against the British right through the 19th century. A hijrat was also undertaken by several hundred thousand Muslims who migrated to Afghanistan in 1920 on their realization that the British would not allow the Sultan to continue on the throne of Turkey and thus remaining the Khalifa for all Sunnis. Nearly 20,000 Indian Muslims succeeded in entering and settling in Afghanistan.

For the Muslim leaders therefore the idea of a population transfer was neither novel nor surprising. Even Prophet Muhammad had undertaken hijrat from Mecca to Madina while founding Islam. No wonder then that Khan Iftikhar Hussain of Mamdot had said that the exchange of population offered a very practical solution for the problem of the Muslims, reported by Dawn, 3 December 1946. Pir Ilahi Bux, the Sindhi leader, had said that he welcomed an exchange of population for the safety of the minorities, as it would put an end to all communal disturbances as reported by Dawn, on 4 December 1946. So also felt Raja Ghazanfar Ali who later became Pakistan's envoy to New Delhi. Dawn, of 19 December 1946. Reported his having asked for the alteration of the population map of India. His detailed plea is reproduced in a clipping given in this chapter. Sir Ivan Jenkins, the Governor of Punjab, had then observed that by asking for an exchange of population, the Muslim League was planning to forcibly drive away Hindus from Punjab.

It was implicit in these statements that the League objective was to undertake ethnic cleansing soon after partition. That this was not mere conjecture was proved by the fact that almost all Hindus were driven out from West Pakistan in a matter of two to three years. Evidently, the League leadership had fears that ethnic cleansing on their side would invite a similar action in Hindustan, causing untold miseries to their Muslim brethren. In any case, the Dar-ul-Islam that they were pursuing was for all Muslims of the subcontinent. Why should those, who happened to be in Hindustan, be condemned to live indefinitely in a hopeless Dar-ul-Harb?

There were no stray threats either by Mamdot or Pir. Jinnah, while addressing a press conference at Karachi on 25 November 1946, said that the authorities, both central and provincial, should immediately take up the question of exchange of population, as reported by Dawn, on 26 November, 1946. Sir Feroze Khan Noon, who later rose to be Prime Minister had earlier on 8 April 1946, threatened to re-enact the murderous orgies of Chengez Khan and Halaqu Khan if non-Muslims took up an obstructive attitude against population exchange. Ismail Chundrigar, who also eventually rose to be Prime Minister of Pakistan, had said that the British had no right to hand over Muslims to a subject people over whom they had ruled for 500 years. Mohammad Ismail, a leader from Madras had declared that the Muslims of India were in the midst of a jehad. Shaukat Hayat Khan, son of the Prime Minister of Punjab, Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, had threatened, while the British were still in India, of a rehearsal of what the Muslims would do to the Hindus eventually. The point that came through clearly was that transfer of population was an integral part of the demand for Pakistan.

What the politicians said was confirmed by Professor M. Mujeeb, in this erudite work. He said that the Muslim League demanded the creation of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. He further stated that in the elections held early in 1946, the League, whose dominant manifesto was the creation of Pakistan, secured 425 seats out of 492 reserved for Muslims. The League insisted that the right to a separate homeland should be conceded first and all other negotiations could be held thereafter. He went on to say.

The decision in regard to exchange of populations applied only to Eastern and Western Punjab. A large proportion of the Hindus in the North West Frontier Province and in Sind would have stayed on if they could. On the other hand, there would have been much less of immigration of the Hindus of East Pakistan into West Bengal and anti-Muslim sentiment in eastern and northern India would not have been constantly revived.

These thoughts were no doubt unsavoury, if not also repulsive to the Hindu, but is has to be admitted that the Muslim League leaders had a clear vision. Their demand for not only partition but also population transfer might have seemed abhorrent, but the fact was that the Muslim leadership had thought through the implications of creating Pakistan. If a division was to be made, it had to be thorough and comprehensive. It is the Congress leadership which faltered in thought and floundered in action. It would have seen a different matter, if they had not conceded partition. But having agreed to the division, quite clearly on the basis of the two-nation theory propounded by the League, did they have the right of being confused over its consequences? If they could not visualize what was to follow, they had every opportunity to consult the Hindu leaders of east Bengal and Hindu and Sikh leaders of Punjab, Sind and North West Frontier Province. But those who were likely to be affected the most, were ignored. This made the blundering by the Congress leaders quite unforgivable.

Uncannily, once M. A. Jinnah took over leadership of the Muslims, the initiative was held by the League with the Congress being continually on the defensive. Nevertheless, the Congress did not even react. However ill-conceived partition might have seemed to many a Hindu, as well as to a number of Muslim leaders, like Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the fact was that Jinnah achieved it on his own terms.

The League demand for an exchange of population was loudly voiced and widely debated. Merely to get a flavour of the contemporary reports, read a few clippings from the 1946 issues of Dawn. It was a daily then published from Delhi, and now from Karachi. The Journal was founded by Jinnah.