Quaid and Kashmir

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is back in headlines not in the country he created but in a country where he has been painted villainous for the past sixty two years. It is his charisma that survives sixty nine years after the adoption of the resolution for Pakistan with the same verve as it lived at that time. This time it is Jaswant Singh’s book, “Jinnah, India, Independence and Partition“, released about two weeks back on August 17, 2009. The book by India’s former Foreign Minister and one of the most important and front ranking leader of the BJP has caused a storm not only in his party but also in the rival Congress. Mr. Singh has not added any new dimensions to the partition story by squarely blaming Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patil, the two pivotal names responsible for India’s partition who were thus far portrayed as the symbol of India’s secularism and driving force behind the integration of Indian states. Singh very rightly points out that he was not titled as Quaid-e-Azam for “virtually conjuring a country by the force of his indomitable will”. True as very aptly written by Stanley Wolpert, “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all the three.” It was not for this colossal work that he was called the great, but much before that for his epic journey from being ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity to his clean politics and being described as the most incorruptible leader of the sub-continent that he was hailed as the greatest leader of the sub-continent.

During an interview with Karan Thapar author of the book Jaswant Singh made it clear that he was very much attracted by Quaid’s personality, which has resulted in a book. In his words, “If I was not drawn to his personality, I would not have written the book… He [not only] fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India”. “He was great; a self made man who resolutely worked towards achieving what he had set for himself.”  The former Indian Foreign Minister writes that Quaid created “something out of nothing and  and single-handedly stood against the might of the Congress and the British who didn’t really like him…Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognize that? Why don’t we see (and try to understand) why he called him that?…I admire certain aspects of his personality; his determination and the will to rise.” The role played by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patil in denying the Muslims their due space in free India that pushed Quaid for demanding separate land is a historical reality that has been recounted by the author of the new book. It is not Jaswant Singh alone who has spoken the historical truth, there have been many other biographers of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who have brought out these realities. Notwithstanding Fatima Jinnah having identified certain factual inaccuracies about Quaid’s childhood in the book, “Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan” by Hector Bolitho, this biography also brings out certain stark realities about the role of Congress in partitioning of India.  In the book titled “The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and Demand for Pakistan”, Dr. Ayesha Jalal has dealt the subject quite in depth as has been done by Stanly Wolpert in his book “Jinnah of Pakistan”, but what makes the work done by Jaswant Singh different is speaking the truth about a person who has been demonized by the State and Indian leadership for more than six decades.

Dr. Wahed Qureshi writes, “The Lucknow-Pact was perhaps the last successful attempt for the Hindu Muslim Unity. Subsequent events proved that the Congress leadership was representative of Hindu majority only and missed no opportunity of damaging the interests of Muslims. When the Khalifat movement failed and Muslims intellectuals were in the grip of confusion the political genius of Gandhi caused further demoralization in them.”  In this hour of crisis we see that Jinnah had no confusion and he had clear vision about safeguarding the interests of Muslims and saving them from hegemonic Hindu chauvinistic policies of Congress. Drawing parallels between the leadership of Gandhi and Jinnah, Jaswant Singh says, “[Gandhi’s] had almost an entirely religious provincial flavor while [Jinnah’s] was doubtless imbued by a non-sectarian nationalistic zeal”. 

Jinnah was undoubtedly highly principled man who did not believe saying things in drawing rooms that he could not talk in public. His address of August 11, 1947 has been described by E.H. Enver, as “epitome of Muslim, indeed of all, statecraft. It bears comparison to the charge of Moses to Israelites and last sermon of Prophet (SAW). He banished all discrimination as Prophet (SAW) had done.” With great eloquence he had said, “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, in first, second and last, a citizen of Pakistan with equal rights, privileges and obligations there will be no end to the progress you will make.”  It is not only this speech that speaks about the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, his entire life is a story of steadfastness, truth, clarity of thought and indomitable will. Genuine intellectuals today hold same interest in him – his life, struggles and accomplishments – as the scholars of the bygone era displayed when he was living.  As history unfolds itself further he will emerge from its page as a more towering and more heroic leader than many others.

There can be no two opinions that the book by Jaswant Singh would be amongst one of the significant works on Quaid but what has been puzzling that none of his biographers have written in detail about his involvement in Kashmir Freedom Struggle, his principled stand on Kashmir and his commitment to Kashmiris.

He visited Kashmir first in 1929. He had seen the plight of this nation sold by the British as merchandise for a paltry sum of Rs. 75 lakhs.   This visit which was private had enabled him to feel the plight of the Muslim subjects of a Hindu ruler. He had seen how the working class and peasantry had been crushed under the worst ever tax system in the history of mankind. 

Quaid-e-Azam visited Kashmir second time in 1936. His speech during his this visit at the Mujahid Manzil headquarters of the Muslim Conference amply testify his strict belief in religious tolerance. The Muslim Conference at this point of time was led by Chowdary Ghulam Abbas and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Addressing the meeting organized in connection with the Milad-un-Nabi (SAW), he told the people that Kashmir was a Muslim majority state and it was the duty of the majority community to ensure justice and fair play to the minority Hindus.

His third visit to Kashmir, that turn out to be his last, happened in 1944. On this visit he came into the State through Sailkot. He arrived in Jammu on May 8. He was accompanied by Chowdary Ghulam Abbas. At Jammu reception, Quaid-e-Azam addressed massive public gathering in English which was instantly translated by Allah Rakha Sagar. He was greeted by surging crowds en-route from Jammu to Srinagar. Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf, the towering Muslim Conference leader greeted him at Khanabal Islamabad. Here he took tea with him, Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg and Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad where also present on this occasion. Quaid talked in great detail to Mirwaiz and wanted to know his ideas about bringing unity amongst the Muslims of Kashmir which were divided in two distinct political factions – the Muslim Conference and National Conference.

 On his arrival in Srinagar he was accorded a rousing reception by the National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah and Muslim Conference led by Chaudary Ghulam Abbas. At the reception organized by the National Conference in Partap Patk a welcome speech in Urdu was read by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and it was translated by Jai Lal Kilam a National Conference leader. On dais he was flanked on one side by Sheikh Abdullah and on the other side by Chowdary Ghulam Abbas.  

“The Quaid-e-Azam thanked the National Conference leadership for the  royal reception given to him but at the same time said that it was not a reception for his person, but to the All India Muslim League, the party of ten crore Muslims of India of which he was President.” The remarks of Quaid where not liked by Hindu leaders in the National Conference. Bashir Ahmed Qureshi in his book on Chowdary Ghulam Abbas writes that Kilam immediately left the stage.  

After reception at Partap Park another reception was accorded to him at Dalgate, Srinagar by the Muslim Conference and Kashmir Muslim Students Union. “The Quaid spoke out his heart at this reception“, writes Qureshi ‘His clarion call was "Oh ye Muslims, Our Allah is one, our Prophet (SAW) is one and our Quran is one, therefore, our voice and PARTY MUST BE ONE". At this reception he emphasized the need for unity amongst the Muslim Conference leaders.

On this visit Quaid stayed in Srinagar for two months and fully engaged himself in giving a direction to the Kashmir Freedom struggle. Quaid’s involvement in Kashmir in itself is a very large subject that deserves an in-depth study. It is not only his role in Kashmir that needs to attract the attention of young researchers and scholars, but also his role in 1947 and his views about the birth of Kashmir problem that merit a deeper research.  Though a lot has been said about the happenings by historians like Stanly Wolpert and Alistair Lamb, much more is available in various archives in bits and pieces but it could be consolidated research work that can do justice to the subject.