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Jinnah or Nehru: Who’s Responsible for India’s Partition?

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India media was in uproar over foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s expulsion from the Bharatiya Janata Party for claiming in his book that Nehru was responsible for India partition in 1947, while Jinnah sought unity. Is Singh shifting blame from Jinnah's shoulder to Nehru's...


"We shall have India divided or we shall have India destroyed."

This is what Jinnah said in the course of India’s independence. And it indeed became a reality.

There was uproar in Indian on Thursday, August 19, over former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s expulsion from the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, because his new book holds Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister and freedom struggle icon, responsible for India’s partition in 1947, while praising Jinnah on the issue.

While Singh’s sacking is a different matter, but Jinnah’s above statement, which turned the reality, simply means that Singh shifted the blame for the partition from Jinnah’s shoulder to Nehru’s.

The partition of India had been decided at least in 1930, when Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s spiritual and ideological father, zealously preached in his Presidential Address at the All India Muslim League Meet in Allahabad that ‘The religious ideal of Islam, therefore, is organically related to the social order which it has created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other’, and then went on two propose the Two Nation theory: ‘I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state… the formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of Northwest India.’ And of course, with the Muslim League’s adoption of ‘Pakistan Resolution’ at Lahore in 1940, it had been sealed; it was only about time.

Any further attempts to keep India united by Hindus and a handful of nationalist Muslim leaders (Abul Kalam Azad and Fazlul Haq etc.) were destined to failure.

Singh’s thesis is based on the argument of Maulana Azad, India’s first Education Minister, who, in his book, “India Wins Freedom”, argued that the partition could have been avoided had Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel shown some flexibility over the Cabinet Mission plan.

According to Singh, ‘Nehru believed in a highly centralised polity. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity. That even Gandhi accepted. Nehru didn’t. Consistently, he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.’

Jinnah was leading the separatist movement as early as 1937, when Iqbal wrote to him: ‘Why should not the Muslims of North-West India and Bengal be considered as nations entitled to self-determination just as other nations in India and outside India are.’ This, according to Iqbal, was need for saving ‘Muslims from the domination of Non-Muslims’.

Just before his death in 1938, Iqbal urged that ‘Muslims should strengthen Jinnah’s hands’ for achieving Pakistan, adding: ‘People say our demands smack of communalism. This is sheer propaganda. These demands relate to the defence of our national existence.’

Efforts to keep India united, continued nonetheless. The 1946 British Cabinet Mission to India released a plan on May 16, calling for a united India, comprising considerably autonomous provinces, formed on the basis of religion. The Congress initially rejected the plan, and the British Mission to release a second plan on June 16, calling for the Partition along religious lines. Jinnah, hoping that power would go only to the party that supported the plan, gave the League’s assent to both plans. But the Congress, eventually, accepted the May 16 proposal, the other.

Jinnah was disappointed for failing to grab all the power. The British Mission, then, advised by Jinnah, proposed formation of an interim government for united India, having equal number of Hindu and Muslim representatives. Muslims, being only about 20% of the population to 75% Hindus, the Congress objected to this arrangement, but agreed to a 12-member cabinet having 6 Hindu, 5 Muslim and another representative from remaining religious groups. However undemocratic, this was a jolly-good deal of Muslims, but Jinnah, who had hoped for all power, would not accede to anything less than 50% Muslim representation, which fitted well with Muslim League’s propaganda that ‘One Muslim should get the right of five Hindus’.

As the new proposal was supported by the British as well, Jinnah condemned the British negotiators of treachery, and quickly washed his hands off further negotiations. He called a Muslim League meet in Bombay on 29 July 1946. Its resolution said, ‘It has become abundantly clear that the Muslims of India would not rest with anything less than the immediate establishment of an independent and full sovereign State of Pakistan’ and urged upon the Muslim masses to undertake ‘Direct Action to achieve Pakistan and get rid of the present slavery under the British and contemplated future caste Hindu domination.’

When Jinnah was pressed on whether the Direct Action would be violent, he ominously replied: ‘I am not going to discuss ethics. We have a pistol and are in a position to use it.’ On his violent instigation, UK’s News Chronicle wrote: ‘…there can be no excuse for the wild language and abandonment of negotiations… Mr. Jinnah is totally wedded to complete intransigence, if, as now seems the case, he is really thirsting for a holy war.’

News Chronicle was prophetic concerning Jinnha’s thirst for “holy war”. There started the Direct Action on 16 August 1946 in Calcutta, the capital of Muslim-majority Bengal (53.4% Muslim), having a Muslim League government. Direct Action was a Jihad for Jinnah and his Muslim League, in the likeness of Prophet Muhammad’s stunning victory at Badr against a much stronger Meccan force; and Jinnah chose the date for Direct Action, coinciding with the day of Badr Jihad, 18th of Ramadan. A Muslim League propaganda pamphlet, read out in mosque sermons, said:

Muslims must remember that it was in Ramzam that the Quran was revealed. It was in Ramzan that the permission for Jehad was granted. It was in Ramzam that the battle of Badr, the first open conflict between Islam and Heathenism [i.e., idolatry, which equates Hinduism] was fought and won by 313 Muslims; and again it was in Ramzan that 10,000 under the Holy Prophet conquered Mecca and established the kingdom of Heaven and the commonwealth of Islam in Arabia. Muslim League is fortunate that it is starting its action in this holy month.

By the grace of God, we are ten cores [100 millions] in India but through our bad luck we have become slaves of the Hindus and the British. We are starting a Jehad in Your Name in this very month of Ramzan. Pray make us strong in body and mind—give Your helping hand in all out actions—make us victorious over the Kafers…

And the rest is history. Excited by inflammatory speeches of Muslim League leaders, the Muslim mob, after the rally, attacked the innocent Hindus and other non-Muslims of Calcutta, unleashing horrible slaughter, rape and arson for one-and-a-half days, before the Hindus and Sikhs (two-third of the population in Calcutta) hit back in like manners. Some 5,000 were dead with ~43% Muslim victims in one count—not as pretty a success as Prophet Muhammad achieved at Badr.

Nonetheless, this set off chain-reaction of violence from East Bengal to West Punjab leading to eventual partition in August 14-15, 1947. And until July 1947, violence was committed almost exclusively by Muslims, except in Bihar (Oct. 1946), where Hindus retaliated against Muslims, reacting to local Muslim instigations, and to their attacks and massacres of Hindus in Calcutta and East Bengal.

Thereafter, the Sikhs and Hindus hit back in East Punjab, as the partition was eventually agreed upon. The rest we all know: massacre of up to two million (evenly divided between Muslims and non-Muslims), rapes of hundreds of thousands (mostly Hindu & Sikh women), forced conversion of millions of non-Muslims and displacement of some 20 million across the border.

Concerning, who was responsible for the partition, enough evidence is presented above. Sri Aurobindo said, ‘The idea of two nationalities in India is only a new-fangled notion invented by Jinnah for his purposes and contrary to the facts’. Hindu Mahasabha leader, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, told the United Provinces Hindu Conference on October 8, 1944: ‘The sooner Mr. Jinnah understands that Pakistan in any form or shape will be resisted by Hindus and many others with the last drop of blood, the better for him…’

Nehru, for himself, was staunchly opposed to the partition, and blamed in his writings, wrongly and unequivocally, the British for forcing the partition upon the harmonious brotherhood (which never existed) of Hindus and Muslims. We have seen too many evidences of Jinnah’s campaign for the partition, but not a single statement, opposing it.

As concerns Nehru's lack of flexibility in forming the Interim Cabinet, it is absurd on the part of Azad and Singh to suggest that Nehru showed no flexibility. He had flexibility way to much by allowing 5 Muslim representatives in a cabinet of 12, when they deserved only 2. What Nehru didn't do is to be ridiculously flexible.

Even if Nehru did that, it was not going to be sustainable in popular democracy that India had proudly emerged as. The result would have been a recipe probably for greater horror, at a later.

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