TEXT: The Resolution of March 23, 1940, passed in the annual session of the All-India Muslim League, held at Lahore, was a landmark development in the history of the British India. This Resolution demanded the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims to secure and advance their civilizational and cultural identity, political rights and interests as a distinct national identity with a well-defined vision of life and the aspirations for their future.
While concluding the three-day annual session of the Muslim League (March 22-23-24, 1940), Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared that they had taken a “great decision in right earnestness.” By passing the resolution. He asked the Muslim Leaguers to “carry the message of Muslim League from village to village and house to house. The more you organize yourself, the more you will be able to get your rights.”
The Muslim League Resolution passed in its Lahore session, popularly described as the “Pakistan Resolution” represented a continuity and shift in the Muslim League’s political career. The continuity was that of the goals and the change was that of the strategies for achieving those goals.
As the British Government began to create a modern state system in India in the post-1857 period, the Muslim elite made individual and collective efforts to protect and advance the historical-civilizational and cultural identity of the Muslim and their civil and political rights and interests as a distinct community. This was their permanent agenda which did not change over time. However, they changed their political and societal strategies to achieve these goals against the backdrop of their political experience from their interaction with the Congress Party that was dominated by the majority Hindu community and the policies of the British Government.
The strategies of the Muslim elite varied over time, as noted below:
• Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his colleagues advised the Muslims to get modern and western education and avoid indulgence in active politics so that they have the required qualifications to complete in the political and administrative system created by the British Imperial System.
• In December 1906, the educated Muslim elite established the Muslim League as a political forum to fully articulate the political, economic and societal issues of the Muslim community and present these to the British government for their resolution.
• Prior to the setting up of the Muslim League, the Muslim elite demanded separate electorate for the Muslims so as to enable them to elect their representatives to the assemblies. Later, they also asked for the adequate representation of the Muslims in cabinets and government services. The Principle of separate electorate was accommodated for the first time in the Government of India Act, 1909.
• Constitutional safeguards and guarantees for the Muslims in the constitutional arrangements for India to ensure they are adequately represented in the assemblies, government bodies or institutions and services/jobs.
• A federal system for India with autonomy to the provinces. The Muslim leaders hoped that provincial autonomy would enable them to exercise power effectively in Muslim majority provinces.
• These issues were raised in the Fourteen Points of Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah (1929) which were a rejoinder to the Nehru Report. The Muslim leaders also presented their demands for constitutional guarantees in the Roundtable Conferences (1930-32).
The shift in the Muslim demands was caused by the negative, at times hostile, disposition of the Congress Party towards these demands and the efforts of the Congress leadership to challenge the legitimacy of the leadership of the Muslim League. Rather than paying attention to Muslim concerns, the Congress Party entertained the mistaken notion of pushing aside the Muslim League leadership with the help of a small number of Muslims (called the nationalist Muslims) who joined the Congress Party or some Muslim parties like the Unionist Party in Punjab and Khudai Khidmatgars in NWFP, who aligned with the Congress Party.
The Muslim League began to think about discarding the federal system and constitutional safeguards after the bitter experience of the educated Muslims and Muslim urban population under the Congress provincial ministers in non-Muslim majority provinces in 1937-39. The Congress ministries pursued discriminatory policies towards the Muslims for government jobs and their cultural and educational policies reflected a strong anti-Muslim and anti-Islam disposition. For the first time the Muslim League and the Muslim educated populace realized that their political, cultural, and economic future would not be safe under Congress rule.
The bitter Muslim experience under the Congress Provincial Governments (1937-39) was the main reason for the Muslim elite to think about substitute to a single Indian federation. The Sindh Muslim League was the first to propose that All-India Muslim League should review its position on constitutional issues in view of the experience of the Muslims under the Congress ministries.
As the confidence of the Muslim League shattered in the federal model for the fear of being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority of the Congress Party, it decided to explore the option of going beyond the federal option.
The demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India, as enunciated in Lahore Resolution of March 23, meant to ensure a secure future to the Muslims with reference to their civilizational and cultural heritage and identity, rights and interests as a national identity. This resolution transformed the Muslims in British India from a community to a nation. The Muslim League leadership learnt from their political experience over the first four decades of the 20th Century that the Congress would use its brute majority to perpetuate its domination of Indian political system which would reduce the Muslims to a permanent minority.
The Muslim League presented a new nationalism based on the concept of two major nations in British India, as an alternate to the Congress-led nationalism of one Indian nation, disregarding diversities in India. Jinnah’s argument was not that the Muslim need a separate homeland as a minority. He argued that the Muslims were a nation and as a distinct nation with their own history and socio-cultural identity, they are entitled to a national homeland. He demanded the establishment of Pakistan for securing the future of the Muslims on the Sub-continent. He did not expect justice and fair play for Muslims in a single federal system which would be dominated by Hindu hardline mindset inside and outside the Congress Party.
Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah, in his presidential address to the Muslim League session at Lahore was very categorical about Muslim nationhood. He said, “The problem in India is not of an inter-communal but manifestly of an international character, and it must be treated as such. So long as this basic and fundamental truth is not realized and constitution that may be build will result in disaster and will prove destructive and harmful not only to the Musalmans, but also to the British and Hindus. If the British Government are really in earnest and sincere to secure the peace and happiness of the people of this Subcontinent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into autonomous national states.”
Jinnah further stated: “The Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature. They neither intermarry, nor inter-dine together, and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Musalmans derive their inspirations from different sources of history. They have different epics; their heroes are different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other, and likewise. Their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and the final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state.”
Referring to the bitter experience of the Muslims under the Congress ministries in non-Muslim majority provinces in 1937-39, Jinnah asserted that the Muslim could not accept a constitution that imposes a Hindu majority government on them, namely Hindu Raj. He warned that any repetition of the Congress rule would “lead to civil war.”
The text of the Pakistan Resolution (March 1940) can be appreciated in the context of the political situation in India in 1937-40, It addressed constitutional issues in all-India framework and provided guidelines for settling the Hindu Muslim Question on a permanent basis. There is no constitutional formula for independent Pakistan in the Lahore Resolution. Few people were convinced in 1940 that Pakistan would be established as an independent state. Therefore, the text of the resolution could not provide any guidelines for Pakistan’s internal political and administrative arrangements, including the issues of provincial autonomy and provincial rights.
The Resolution was drafted at a time when several proposals were available for dividing India and carving out three or more Muslim homelands. The drafters of the Pakistan Resolution were aware of these homeland proposals and other ideas for ensuring a secure political future for the Muslims. Therefore. The Lahore Resolution avoided a categorical statement on the number of homelands, their powers, and the territorial boundaries. The word “Pakistan” was not used in the Resolution. The vagueness in the text and the use of term “states” were meant to win as much support as possible in the political context of 1940, including from those who talked of several Muslim homelands.
Pakistan Movement did not come to an end after the passing of the Pakistan Resolution. It continued for another seven years. Pakistan’s establishment cannot be understood without examining Muslim politics during these seven years: 1940-47. The Muslim League and Jinnah became more specific and categorical by 1942 about the Muslim League demand for setting up one Muslim homeland as an independent and sovereign entity. Jinnah’s subsequent statements and his letter to Gandhi in September 1944 and the convention of the Muslim League parliamentarians in Delhi in April 1946 made it clear that the Muslim League stood for one independent and sovereign state for Muslims of British India.
In May 1946, the Muslim League was willing to accept the notion of a loose federation suggested by the Cabinet Mission Plan. It welcomed the grouping of the provinces into three units; two of which comprised Muslim majority provinces. The Muslim League was also fascinated by a recommendation of the Cabinet Mission Plan that allowed the provinces and their groupings to review their relations with each other and with the provincial grouping after ten years. However, the Congress turned down the provincial grouping proposal and the option of the provinces to review their mutual relations. It agreed to go to the Constituent Assembly to the exclusion of all other recommendations of the Cabinet Mission Plan for framing a constitution of its choice for independent India. This led the Muslim League to return to the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslim of British.
The movement for the establishment of Pakistan began before 1940. It continued to evolve after 1940 in the context of Muslim political experience in the Sub-continent until it achieved its goal of establishing the separate and sovereign homeland of Pakistan on August 15, 1947. The power was transferred to the federal government of Pakistan under the Indian Independence Act, 1947, and the June Third Plan.
No matter if the Pakistan Resolution is interpreted in its immediate context or it is analyzed by divorcing it from the political situation before and after the passage of the resolution, it will continue to be a key document in the Muslim political struggle for safeguarding their identity, rights and interests and the establishment of Pakistan as a sovereign and independent state. The Resolution has much historical relevance, but it does not offer any precise formula for addressing the political and societal issues in the post-independence period.
About the Author:
The author is an Independent Political Analyst who holds the PhD Degree in International Relations/Political Science from the University of Pennsylva-nia, USA.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021