In the history of India’s freedom movement, if anybody had played a very significant as well as a controversial role, he was not other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Starting his political career as a moderate leader of Indian National Congress like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Surendra Nath Baneijee, Feroz Shah Melita etc., he ended his life in the chessboard of communal politics.
He was able not only to regulate the history of the liberation movement; he also could change the map of India with the creation of a separate Muslim majority nation.
Taking birth in a lower middle class family of Karachi in December 187G, this ambitious man went to London to study law. He started his legal career in Bombay and got the chance to be the close associate of Feroz Shah Mehta and Gokhale. In the earlier days, Jinnah was a nationalist. He won great applause when he defended and saved Lokamanya Tilak in the sedition case of 1908 and 1916. It is the paradox of Indian history that, Jinnah joined the Indian National Congress in 1906 and in this year the All India Muslim League came into existence.
Though he started his political career in the National Congress, yet his political ambition of getting a separate state for the Muslims was realized through the Muslim League. When he was elected as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council in 1910 and 1916, he behaved as a moderate in the House and demanded for certain educational and administrative rights of the people. He could realize the value of individual liberty and the need of harmony among various sections of the people for the sake of national interest. When Jinnah joined the Muslim League in 1913, he did not even realize the need of resigning from the Congress. He also had joined the Home Rule League.
When the Congress and the Muslim League held their annual session at Lucknow in 1916, as a Congress leader Jinnah presided over the Muslim League and advocated for the close unity between the Hindus and the Muslims. He realized that the real progress of India would be possible only through the co-operation and harmonious relations between the Hindus and Muslims. In 1919, he criticized the Rowlatt Act and in protest of it he resigned from the Central Legislative Council.
But gradually, the gulf between the Congress and Jinnah went widened. He did not approve the involvement of the Congress in Kliilafat problem which introduced religious issue into the national movement. Moreover, he opposed to be involved in an extraterritorial matter like the political problems of Turkey. Jinnah by nature was very much ambitious and always wanted to be in the centre stage of the national politics. So, he did not like the undisputed leadership of Gandhiji in the National Congress. He alleged that Gandhi could capture the Congress in 1920 with the assistance of pro-Khilafat Muslims. So he opposed for the opposition sake, the Gandhian method of Non-Cooperation Movement.
In the Nagpur session of December 1920, the decision to launch the movement was endorsed. He opposed the resolution on the ground that it would lead to chaos and anarchy. Being unable to prevent it, he left Congress. While delivering a speech at Poona in February 1921, Jinnah said that in place of the Gandhian Programme of non-cooperation he wanted a concrete political programme.
However, Jinnah continued to be a nationalist. He was appointed as a member of the Muddiman Committee in 1924 which examined the working of the Government of India Act 1919. He signed the minority report along-with Sivaswamy Iyer, Tej Bahadur Sapru etc. which proposed the termination of the diarchy. He also boycotted the Simon Commission in 1928. Gradually, he emerged as a defender of the cause of Muslims. He was opposed to the Nehru Report of 1928, although it had given more seats to the Muslims than they were entitled to on the basis of population. In opposition to the Nehru Report, he put forward his fourteen Points in 1929.
The important points of it were: continuation of separate electorates, not less than 1/3 representation of the Muslims in the Central Legislature, at least one-third Muslim representation in the Central cabinet and in each provincial cabinet, reservation in services for Muslims, safeguards for Muslim religion, culture and personal law, no territorial redistribution in Muslim majority provinces like Punjab, Bengal and North West Frontier Province etc.
After the death of Maulana Mohammed Ali in 1931, the long cherished aspiration of Jinnah to get the topmost position of the Muslim League was fulfilled. As per the provision of the Government of India Act 1935, when election was held in 1937, the Muslim League participated in it under the leadership of Jinnah.
In 1939, he put forward the claim of the Muslim League for fifty- fifty share of political power with the National Congress. India was made a party with the Britain in Second World War and the Congress Governments resigned in October 1939 in protest of the decision. When the Congress was out of power, the Muslim League observed it as the “Day of Deliverance”. It implied that the Muslims became free from the tyranny, oppression and injustice of the Congress rule. His Muslim League helped the British Government in its war efforts.
He claimed the Muslim League to be the sole representative of the Muslims in India. He characterised the Congress as a purely Hindu organisation. He was alarmed by the gospel of “Hindu Rashtra” advocated by Savarkar. He apprehended the domination of caste-bound Hindus over others, in case a democracy on the western model would be established in India. He raised the emotionally charged slogans of “Congress tyranny” and “Hindu domination”.
In March 1940, at the Lahore session of the Muslim League, he put forward his doctrine of “Two Nations”. He pointed out that it was impossible to establish in India the bond of homogeneity which is the very foundation of the western democracy. Writing a letter to Gandhiji on 15th September 1944, he pointed out that the Muslims and Hindus were two major nations by any definition or test. He became absolutely uncompromising and insisted that partition was the sole solution to Hindu-Muslim differences.
He advocated dividing India into two sovereign parts of Hindustan and Pakistan. The idea of Pakistan was first conceived by Mohammad Iqbal as a separate state for the Indian Muslims. Jinnah insisted on it and also was supported by several Muslim organisations.
Though Gandhiji wanted to reach at a compromise with Jinnah through the “Rajaji Formula”, Jinnah rejected the offer. While Gandhiji insisted on a partition by mutual consent only after British Government left India, Jinnah demanded partition before independence under his leadership, Muslim League gradually gained strength. While in the election of 1937, the League won only twenty five percent of the Muslim seats, in 1946, it secured ninety percent of seats. With this strength, Jinnah had become uncompromising and rigid. The Simla Conference of 1945 and the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 failed primarily due to his attitude.
The Cabinet Mission Plan rejected the idea of a separate independent Muslim state. This plan was unacceptable to the Muslim League and Jinnah as a desperate means of protest, appealed the Muslims throughout India to observe 16th August 1946 as the “Direct Action Day”. This call created the danger of severe violent communal disturbances in the history of India.
Thus, partition became inevitable before the grant of freedom. To save the people from further violence, the leaders of the Congress accepted the Mountbatten Plan on partition of India into two sovereign states—India and Pakistan. Pakistan was created on 14th August 1947 and Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan. A long cherished ambition of his life was fulfilled.
As a shrewd politician, Jinnah surpassed all his contemporaries including Mahatma Gandhi. However, his life was full of paradoxes. While he was an Indian in colour and blood, by taste and manner he was an English. He started his public life as a moderate leader of the Congress, but ended in sharp opposition to it.
He became a fundamentalist by identifying himself with the broader interest of the Indian Muslims, but he did not have any personal regards for Islam. He even did not know Urdu. While Gandhiji made religion closely linked with politics primarily with the aim of providing a moral base to it, Jinnah used religion for political gain only. His ‘Two Nation” theory not only partitioned India, it also laid the foundation of communalism for which India is being suffering.