The Lahore Resolution And The Reaction Of The Nationalist Muslims

After the Nehru report of 1928, Muslim political philosophy in India began to diverge: encompassing Indian nationalism, composite nationalism and the two-nation theory

The Lahore Resolution And The Reaction Of The Nationalist Muslims

The Lahore Resolution of 1940 emerged as a product of Muslim political ideology - which reflected the desires, interests, and beliefs of Indian Muslims, shaped by the evolving political landscape in India. Allama Iqbal had conceptualised the notion of Pakistan in 1930, while Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah became convinced in 1940 that the only way to shield Indian Muslims from the oppressive dominance of the Hindu majority, evident in the recent Congress rule, was to establish a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims.

The resolution of March 1940 offered Muslims a sense of identity and purpose by delineating a clear objective, promising an improved socio-economic and religious existence. Despite its call for the establishment of independent states in the north-western and north-eastern regions for Indian Muslims, they promptly and enthusiastically answered Jinnah's call, rallying behind the League and championing the Pakistan movement.

According Sikandar Hayat, the alleged ambiguities in the Lahore Resolution were deliberate and strategic, intended to shield it from attacks by the League's formidable adversaries, the British and the Congress. 

The Congress became even more hostile towards the Lahore Resolution and adopted a strategy aimed at dividing the ranks of Indian Muslims. They encouraged all those forces, groups, leaders and associations of the Muslims that they thought would oppose the League, Jinnah and the Lahore Resolution. The Nationalist Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Husain Ahmed Madni, and others, by emphasising the flaws in the Lahore resolution, specifically addressed the difficulties that Indian Muslims would face in a Hindu-majority environment. They expressed deep concerns about the long-term feasibility of the Pakistan project, advocating instead for a unified Indian federation. However, the Pakistan movement rapidly gained support from the Indian Muslims, and Jinnah won the case for Pakistan through a democratic process in the general elections of 1945-46. 

Multiple interpretations of Muslim nationalism may exist; however, it is widely recognised that after the Nehru report of 1928, Muslim political philosophy in India began to diverge, encompassing Indian nationalism, composite nationalism, and the supporters of the two-nation theory and thus Pakistan movement. But those Muslims who opposed the Muslim League's political philosophy and the demand for Pakistan can be referred to as 'Nationalist Muslims'. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who served as the President of the Congress from 1940 to 1946, emerged as a prominent figure among these Congress-aligned and 'Nationalist' Muslims. This group, which included Muslim leaders such as Azad and Hussain Ahmad Madni, the Ahrar movement, Bacha Khan's Khudai Khidmatgars, Allama Inayatullah Mashriqi of the Khaksar Movement, Sikandar, Khizar Tiwana representing the Unionists, and various others, took a prominent stance against the Lahore Resolution. Distinguished theologians and orators such as Maulana Azad, Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madni, along with their Muslim supporters, vigorously opposed the idea of Pakistan and spared no effort in denouncing Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the call for Pakistan.

The National Unionist Party wielded significant influence in Muslim politics in Punjab. Established by Sir Fazl-i-Husain in 1923, it was a multi-communal party espousing a secular perspective. In the 1937 elections, when Jinnah insisted that its members contest under the Muslim League (ML) banner, Fazl-i-Husain declined, citing the League's waning influence in the province. Yet Sikandar Hayat sought support from the Muslim League when his ministry encountered challenges from the Congress. This led to the Sikandar-Jinnah Pact of 1937, which involved the integration of Muslim Unionist Party members into the Muslim League. Despite Sikandar's inability to prevent Jinnah from convening a meeting of the All India Muslim League, which resulted in the passing of the Lahore Resolution on 23rd March 1940, he managed to refrain from openly opposing it. Nevertheless, he opposed the partition of India, but his efforts to contain the growing support for the Pakistan Scheme in Punjab proved unsuccessful. Eventually, Khizar Tiwana broke the Sikandar-Jinnah pact in order to safeguard the secular ideology of the Party and prevent the partition of India.

Increased opposition from the Congress towards the League, Jinnah and the Lahore Resolution had the opposite effect of what was intended, as it actually strengthened their popularity among the Muslim masses

The Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind (JUH), established in 1919, was another significant Muslim party that advocated the philosophy of composite nationalism. Initially opposed to the Pakistan demand, it served as a subordinate organisation of the Congress party. However, during the Lahore Resolution, the JUH became divided into pro-Pakistan and anti-Pakistan factions, with some members joining the Muslim League and supporting the Pakistan plan. The JUH believed that the British Government had instilled a fear-complex among Muslims, fearing that independence would lead to the liberation of a vast Muslim area.

In response to the Lahore Resolution, non-League Muslim organisations convened an Azad Muslim Conference in Delhi in April 1940. They proposed resolutions and undertook initiatives to safeguard the religious and cultural interests of the Muslim community within united India. Furthermore, in 1942, the Jamiat introduced its own set of recommendations known as the Jamiat Formula, which bore a striking resemblance to Jinnah's Fourteen Points. They also held the belief that if India remained united, a day would arrive when the entirety of India would be a Muslim-majority country.

The Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam, a political party established by prominent Indian ulema such as Ch Zafrullah Khan and Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari, emerged in Punjab following divisions among leaders of the Khilafat Movement regarding the Nehru Report of 1928. This party held the belief that joint electorates posed no threat to Muslims and aligned itself with the Congress, which was perceived as anti-British rule. Collaborating closely with the Congress, the party actively participated in Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 and engaged in pro-Muslim movements in Kashmir and Kapurthala State in 1931. The Ahrar maintained a pro-Congress stance and opposed the idea of Pakistan, advocating instead for the establishment of a 'Godly State' or 'States' globally. Despite experiencing a decline in influence in Punjab, the Ahrar challenged the British Government in various instances such as 1930, 1940, 1941-2, and during the Congress rebellion of 1942. The Congress strategically utilised the Ahrar movement against the Muslim League and Pakistan movement.

Bacha Khan’s Khudai Khidmatgar Party from NWFP attended the Lahore session of the Congress in 11930 and thus became a pro-Congress party. In 1937, the Congress leadership directed the NWFP organisation to establish a new ministry, which was subsequently ousted by Dr Khan Sahib following a vote of no confidence. Despite facing internal and external challenges, including communal violence, the ministry implemented significant reforms and performed commendably. However, in 1939, Lord Linlithgow's declaration of war against Germany prompted the resignation of the Congress-led ministry in the NWFP. Despite this, the NWFP remained relatively tranquil compared to other regions of British India. In 1943, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan formed a coalition ministry with the support of Sikhs, leading to an increase in the popularity of Pakistan among Muslims in the NWFP. Nevertheless, the Khudai Khidmatgars were perceived as a potential threat to the campaign of Pakistan. 

Established in 1931 by Allama Inyatullah Mashriqui, the Khaksar Movement sought to rejuvenate the Islamic martial heritage. Taking inspiration from European fascist movements, the movement structured its workers along paramilitary lines, often wielding spades. Their initial clash with the UP government in 1939 resulted in casualties. Subsequently, the Khaksars found themselves at odds with the Unionist administration in Lahore, resulting in the prohibition of military-style drills and the arrest of their leaders. Jinnah's engagement with Khaksar workers during a visit contributed to a temporary détente, but relations soured again after an assassination attempt on Jinnah by the members of Khaksar in 1943.

Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, established in 1941, aimed to establish an Islamic state in India. Regardless of being without a down-to-earth political strategy, he put stock in the two-nation theory, and also criticised Jinnah and the League. Notwithstanding his little following, he by implication served Congress. 

The Indian National Congress (INC), albeit principally seen as a Hindu-situated party, claimed to address all segments of Indian culture, including Muslims, and chose Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as its leader from 1940 to 1946. Notwithstanding its comprehensive manner of speaking, the Congress experienced resistance from Muslim figures, especially because of the Muslim Association's attestation of being the sole agent of Indian Muslims.

At this crucial juncture, Jinnah had firmly established a solid foundation for himself as the driving force behind the Pakistan Movement, assuming unquestionable leadership within the League. He garnered enduring support and admiration from Muslim communities across India, who rallied behind his leadership. Auxiliary bodies associated with the Muslim League, such as the Muslim Students League and the All India Women's Association, played significant roles in spreading the message of the Pakistan movement throughout the country. The Muslim League Public Defender strengthened the League and its leadership, providing both stability and protection. In addition to these key contributors, allied leaders and organisations, including Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam under the guidance of Maulana Shabir Ahmad Usmani, Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis led by Maulana Ibrahim Sialkoti, and Maulana Sanaullah Amritsari, provided significant support to the Pakistan cause.

Moreover, Sufi figures played crucial roles in promoting the idea of Pakistan, particularly in regions like Punjab and Sindh. Influential religious scholars and spiritual leaders, led by Pir Jamat Ali Shah of Alipore Suadan in Punjab and Pir Sahib Amin-ul-Hasnat of Manki Sharif in the NWFP, also made significant contributions to advancing the Pakistan agenda. The Muslim press, represented by newspapers such as Dawn (Delhi), Morning News (Calcutta), the Eastern Times (Lahore) and Nawa-i-Waqt (Lahore), played outstanding roles in advocating for Pakistan, further propagating the demand across various segments of society. The increased opposition from the Congress towards the League, Jinnah, and the Lahore Resolution had the opposite effect of what was intended, as it actually strengthened their popularity among the Muslim masses. Similarly, the British Government, along with the Hindus, opposed the Lahore Resolution. However, as the ruling authority, it could not overlook the growing influence of Jinnah and the League among the Muslims of India, whose vital military and other services were indispensable for World War II.

In summary, the Lahore Resolution and Pakistan movement, which envisioned a separate homeland for Muslims in specific regions of India in the north-West and north-East, had captured the imagination of the Indian Muslims. Jinnah sought the creation of Pakistan in accordance with the Lahore Resolution, and this objective seemed within reach when the Cabinet Mission plan was jointly formulated by Jinnah, British ministers and Maulana Azad, the President of Congress at the time. However, the British and Congress abandoned their own plan, much to the disappointment of Muslims, including the Nationalist Muslims.

Nonetheless, the arguments presented by Nationalist Muslims opposing the partition of India and the establishment of Pakistan held significant sway in both electoral politics and the formulation of governmental policies for India's future. Parties such as the Unionist Party in Punjab and the Khudai Khidmatgar in the NWFP (now KP) assumed power in these regions, posing various challenges to the creation of Pakistan.

The author is the former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of the Punjab in Lahore