TOWARD THE DEMAND FOR PAKISTAN: In the 1940s when the demand for Pakistan gained momentum, there were some 100 million Muslims in British India, slightly more than one-fourth of the total population Religion was the only thing this community shared; there were vast differences of language, culture, social, and economic backgrounds between, for example, the Muslims of the Punjab and those of Bengal, or, again, between the Muslims of the Northwestern Frontier Province and the state of Hyderabad in British India’s deep south Within this one Muslim nation there existed at least three separate communities: one in the northwest (the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, and Northwest Frontier, the princely states of Bahawalpur, Kalat, and Khaipur); the second in the northeast (the provinces of Bengal and Assam); and the third in the north, central and western parts of British India (United and Central provinces, provinces of Bihar, Orissa, and Bombay, the capital city of Delhi, and numerous princely states scattered all over this part of the country) Most of the descendants of the Muslims who lived in the northwest are now the citizens of Pakistan; most of those of the northeast now live in Bangladesh; some of those in the third area either migrated to Pakistan or stayed behind in independent IndiaThe first two communities constituted clear majorities in their areas: of the total population of 60 million in the northwest, 60 percent professed Islam to be their religion; of 90 million in the northeast, some 55 percent were Muslims It was only in the north-central provinces that Muslims were a small minority, comprising no more than 20 percent of the total population Muslims who belonged to this community were more educated, urbanized, and possessed a modern outlook compared to those in the other two Although agriculture was the principal source of income for the Muslims in the northwest and northeast, those in the north-central provinces depended mostly on government, law, medicine, commerce, and industry for their livelihoodIn many ways the Muslims of the northwest had benefited from the British raj There was some threat of economic competition from the non-Muslims once the British lifted the protection they had provided, but for them this threat constituted only a minor worry The Muslim landed aristocracy was powerful in the countryside, the religious leaders had a great deal of support in villages as well as towns, and even the small urban community of Muslims had been reasonably well accommodated in the professions and in public services
The Muslims in the northeast constituted a totally different socioeconomic class Unlike the northwestern Muslims, they owned little land, did not have much education, and had not found a comfortable place for themselves in the modern administrative and economic institutions the British had brought to India Those in the northwest constituted the aristocracy of the Indian Muslim society; those in the northeast made up its peasantry and proletariatIn between these two social and economic polar extremes were the Muslims of Delhi, the United and Central provinces, Bihar, Orissa, Bombay, and Gujarat They were the descendants of the Mughul raj: sons, grandsons; great-grandsons of the families that had, for over two centuries, served the Mughul administration in various capacities This was the elite the British conquest of India had hurt the most; they were deprived not only of their traditional jobs, but also of their social and cultural status In 1857 this community made one disorganized but bloody attempt to regain the power it had lost to the British The community called it the War of Independence; the British labeled it the Great Indian Mutiny The British, with great force and much brutality, put down the mutiny Once the situation had returned to normal, the Muslims found that their position had become even more precarious, in part because the languages they used were not those in which the matters of state would be conducted Up to 1857 the East India Company that governed the British territories had continued to use Persian and Urdu as quasi-official languages
After 1857 the responsibility of administering these territories passed to the officials appointed directly by the government in Great Britain English became British India’s lingua franca, and the Hindu community, freed from Muslim control and freed from the need to learn Muslim languages, eagerly became students of EnglishEnglish became the medium of official communication; because the Muslims had shown considerable disdain for all things English, including the language, they suddenly found themselves functionally illiterate and unemployed The places they vacated were quickly occupied by the Hindus “The pliant and adaptable Hindu was not agitated by the scruples which had tormented the Muslims,” wrote WW Hunter, a contemporary British administrator The Muslims stayed away-or, some believed, were deliberately kept away-from the British raj “A hundred and seventy years ago,” Hunter went on to say, “it was impossible for a well-born Mussulman to become poor; at present it is almost impossible for him to continue to be rich
There is no Government office in which a Muslim could hope for any post above the rank of porter, messenger, filler of inkpots, and a mender of pens”Bringing this community out of this state of self-imposed exile, therefore, became a major preoccupation with a number of Muslim reformers The most successful of these was Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan who, having started his professional career as a minor government functionary, discovered that his people would not be able to make much headway without modern education For Pakistan (its creation as well as its political and social development), Sir Sayyid’s educational program had two important consequences First, those who accepted his outlook and his philosophy were able to find their way back into the economic and social life of modern India The university that he founded in the town of Aligarh soon began to produce graduates who could easily move into the upper ranks of the British Indian Army, and also into the upper echelons of the rapidly expanding administrative system of the British raj They could enter as well the modern professions-law, medicine, banking, commerce, industry, teaching-that had helped the Hindus advance rapidly in British India It was this Aligarh generation that not only provided the Pakistan Movement with its leadership, but was to provide Pakistan with its first ruling elite The second important consequence of Sir Sayyid’s efforts was that they helped at least one segment of the Indian Muslim community to modernize by changing its identity Aligarh made it possible for a large number of Muslims to finally leave behind the “Mughul” society of the early 19th century, in which Muslims identified primarily with family and lineage, and through these with the Mughul political system
At Aligarh University young Muslims discovered a new political identity The Aligarh generation began to seek for themselves, and for the members of their community, a political future in which they could practice their religion in comfort and in which they could preserve their culture from being overrun by the more numerous Hindus In many ways Aligarh prepared the ground in which Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, and his like-minded associates could plant the seed of Pakistan-a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India These seeds, in order to sprout and grow, needed the political waters of the other two communities of Muslim IndiaThe other Muslim communities, those in the northwest and northeast, by and large remained untouched by the reform movement that affected the Muslims in the central provinces and by the growing sentiment among the Muslims of British India that they must aggressively seek a separate identity for themselves This was the case in particular for the upper echelons of the Muslim community of India’s northwestern provinces-Punjab, Sindh, and the Frontier-where, as already noted, the Muslims were comfortable with their present situation as well as with their future prospects. If Aligarh touched this community, it was only at the margin. Some prominent families from the northwestern provinces sent their sons to Aligarh; but these sons, after graduation, seldom returned to their homes and to the areas of their parents’ residence. Aided by modern education and in full command of English, they usually found their way into either government service-into the various branches of the civil administration or the army-or into one of the many modern professions. Many of the Aligarh graduates from the northwest were to play very significant political roles in Pakistan. In these roles they were torn between the teachings of Aligarh-the virtues of parliamentary democracy and laissez-faire economics-and the values of the society to which they belonged, which favored paternalism and statism.Although the leadership of the Pakistan movement came essentially from among the Muslim minority provinces of British India-Muhammad Ali Jinnah was from Bombay; Liaqat Ali Khan, his principal lieutenant, was from a small Punjab city on the border of the United Provinces; Chaudhry Khaliquzzman was from the United Provinces; the Nawab of Bhopal and the Raja of Mahmudabad were from two of the several princely states in and around the Central Provinces; I.I. Chundrigar was from Bombay-the Pakistan movement would not have developed the force it did without winning the support of the Muslim-dominated provinces in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the country. Initially, the idea of Pakistan was slow to take hold. Once it caught on in Bengal, parts of Assam, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the Northwest Frontier Provinces, the emergence of Pakistan became inevitable. But it was a different dynamic that brought about the conversion of these three Muslim communities to the idea of Pakistan. It was political frustration that persuaded the Muslims of the north-central provinces to opt for the idea of Pakistan; religion played an important role in winning over the northwestern Muslims; and social and economic deprivation were the main reasons for the support eventually given by the northeastern Muslims to the demand for Pakistan.The state of Pakistan, therefore, was the product of a number of different aspirations expressed quite unambiguously by three rather different Muslim communities of British India. It was because of the extraordinary political genius of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that these aspirations could be accommodated within one movement; that Bengalis, Punjabis, and Muslims of the United Provinces could work together resolutely toward one political objective, the attainment of Pakistan. For seven years-from the passage of the Lahore Resolution in 1940 that demanded the creation of Pakistan to independence in 1947all differences were brushed aside as Jinnah led his Muslim League to electoral victories in all the provinces that were important for the future state of Pakistan.But what kind of country did the Muslims create for themselves in the territory of British India, where they constituted a majority? It was meant to achieve different things for different people: emancipation from the Hindu landlords for the peasantry of Bengal and Assam; the creation of new economic and political opportunities for the frustrated urban Muslim classes of Delhi, Bombay, and the United and Central Provinces; establishment of a Muslim-albeit not Islamic-state for the pirs and sajjada nashins of Sindh, Punjab, and the Northwest Frontier. Certainly the task was not easy; to this day it remains unfinished. Bangladesh, the eastern wing of a two-winged country, left in 1971 after a bitter conflict and a civil war; and the western wing, the presentday Pakistan, once again began the arduous task of nation building that remains unfinished to this day.