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Jinnah, Nehru and Partition paradox

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History is about reconstruction of the past with anatomical precision. Jinnah’s tale is the greatest irony in the history of Indian subcontinent.


Lucknow accord stands testimony to Jinnah’s influence as the member of Indian National congress and Muslim League during 1915-16. Naturally, Jinnah believed that he would be ‘the leader’ after Tilak, in his own right and deservingly so. But Gandhiji’s return from South Africa would change the scheme of things.


In 1919 when the antisedition Rowlett Bill was enacted, Gandhiji advocated Satyagraha and non cooperation.  Though both Jinnah and Gandhiji shared a common passion against the British Raj, Jinnah could not reconcile to the principle and details of Gandhiji’s program. Jinnah’s support to Gandhiji’s efforts was not unconditional.


As Lucknow accord faced stiff opposition in the Congress, the Delhi Proposal was put forth in 1927 asking for one third of representation of the Central Assembly to Muslims and agreeing to give up the demand for separate Muslim electorate .But the Nehru committee headed by Motilal, agreed to give only one fourth of the representation of the Central Assembly to Muslims and proposed a strong Central Authority, not to the liking of Jinnah. Both parties were unyielding.


Though Congress had in its ranks tall Muslim leaders like Abul Kalam Azad, it failed to capture the imagination of Muslim masses. That the Congress was aware of this inadequacy was evident from Nehru’s speech on 19th March 1937, “Only in regard to Muslim seats we did lack success…we failed because we had long neglected working among Muslim masses…”


Muslim League had grown in stature as the single largest Muslim formation under the leadership of Jinnah. But the Congress refused to accord the status of the sole authoritative and representative organization of Indian Muslims, to the Muslim League. This became the official parting of ways, but the Raj recognized the sentiments of Jinnah and utilized it to its advantage.


In a letter to ‘Time and Tide’, Jinnah wrote of two nations who would share the governance of their common Motherland so that India might take its place among the great nations of the world, obviously proposing ‘power sharing’ not ‘partition’.



Lord Mountbatten’s uncanny knack and diplomatic skill played a decisive role in partition. According to Chaudari Mohammed Ali, “Mountbatten won the confidence of both the Congress and Muslim League by denouncing one to the other”.


That the role of Jinnah’s wounded spirit, fighting for its rightful place in the history of the subcontinent eventually led to partition, is undeniable. Jinnah was not overtly religious in his attire or attitude, secular in outlook, his zeal to free the motherland unquestioned, but ended up authoring the religious Pakistan.  Pundit Nehru, the popular leader of the masses, atheist and socialist by ideals, secular to the core, and his commitment to Mother India unchallenged, finally yielded to the Pakistan demand. Unfortunately these great men stood on either side of the divide.


However, the historic speeches they delivered on the eve of Independence of the new nations, spoke of their convictions.


In his Tryst with Destiny speech Pundit Nehru declared, “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.” Undoubtedly India vows a lot to Pundit Nehru, for the secular democratic footing it is standing on now.


Unfurling Pakistan’s flag Jinnah spoke. “Now…you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” On a subsequent occasion Jinnah said, “I am Attorney General of Minorities of Pakistan”.


Mahatma Gandhi aloof from the festivities of independence, attending to the birth pangs of the bleeding nation in Calcutta, remarked to the new Cabinet members of Calcutta who came to seek his blessings, “Strive ceaselessly to cultivate truth and non-violence. Be humble; Be forbearing; Beware of power, power corrupts...” It seems the Mahatma understood the ailment, but it was very late.


The writer is consultant neurosurgeon, Billroth Hospitals, Chennai






















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