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A Nation State Insufficiently Imagined Debating Pakistan in Late Colonial North India

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Tropes of ‘insufficient national imagination’, ‘secular nationalism’ and ‘accidental state formation’ have long dominated historical accounts of Pakistan’s origins and have also been critical for explanations regarding this nation-state’s post-colonial trajectory. This article challenges these foundational assumptions about Pakistani nationalism by examining how the idea of Pakistan was articulated and debated in the public sphere and how popular enthusiasm was generated for its successful achievement in the last decade of British colonial rule in India. In this regard, it examines the trajectory of the Pakistan movement in the United Provinces (UP, now Uttar Pradesh, India) and the leading role played by UP Muslims aligned to the Muslim League (ML) in Pakistan’s creation, despite their awareness that the UP itself would not be a part of this new nation-state.
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  A nation state insufficiently imagined?Debating Pakistan in latecolonial North India Venkat Dhulipala University of North Carolina, Wilmington Tropes of ‘insufficient national imagination’, ‘secular nationalism’ and ‘accidental state formation’ have long dominated historical accounts of Pakistan’s srcins and have also beencritical for explanations regarding this nation-state’s post-colonial trajectory. This articlechallenges these foundational assumptions about Pakistani nationalism by examining howthe idea of Pakistan was articulated and debated in the public sphere and how popular enthusiasm was generated for its successful achievement in the last decade of British colonialrule in India. In this regard, it examines the trajectory of the Pakistan movement in the United Provinces (UP, now Uttar Pradesh, India) and the leading role played by UP Muslims aligned to the Muslim League (ML) in Pakistan’s creation, despite their awareness that the UP itself would not be a part of this new nation-state. Keywords: Pakistan, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, nationalism, Islam, Medina, Jinnah, ulama ,Shabbir Usmani On 30 March 1941, in a speech to students in Kanpur, the Muslim League (ML)leader M.A. Jinnah declared that in order to liberate the 7 crore Muslims of themajority provinces he was ‘willing to perform the last ceremony of martyrdom if necessary, and let 2 crore Muslims of the minority provinces be smashed’. 1  The The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 48, 3 (2011): 377–405 SAGE Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore/Washington DC DOI:  10.1177/001946461104800303 Acknowledgements:  I would like to thank David Gilmartin for providing valuable comments afterreading my unrevised doctoral dissertation which helped me clarify some of the arguments thatappear in this article. B.M. Chandana Gowda and Srikanth Mallavarapu read an earlier draft of this article and provided much encouragement. I would also like to express my gratitude to theanonymous referee for his/her incisive reading and very useful comments. 1  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 1, p. 271. ‘Minority provinces’ and ‘majorityprovinces’ will be used throughout the article to refer to provinces of British India where the Muslimswere a demographic minority and majority respectively.  378  / V ENKAT  D HULIPALA The Indian Economic and Social History Review , 48, 3 (2011): 377–405 speech was extensively reported and commented upon in the United Provinces’(UP’s) Urdu press and also found its way into the UP Police Abstract of Intelligence for the week ending 4 April 1941. The emotional tenor of the speech was unusualcoming from someone who often described politics as a chessboard, prided himself on being a cold-blooded logician and chastised his lieutenants for being emotionalin politics. 2  However, this speech was not an isolated one since the Qaid-i-Azam(Great Leader) made similar public statements in the UP and other provincesacross British India. Thus, at the Aligarh Muslim University a few weeks earlierhe averred that[A]s a self respecting people, we in the Muslim minority provinces say boldlythat we are prepared to undergo every suffering and sacrifice for the eman-cipation and liberation of our brethren in regions of Muslim majority. Bystanding in their way and dragging them along with us into a united India wedo not in any way improve our position. Instead we reduce them also to theposition of a minority. But we are determined that, whatever happens to us, weare not going to allow our brethren to be vassalized by the Hindu majority. 3 As Pakistan became the most debated political issue in British India in theaftermath of the ML’s 1940 Lahore Resolution, how did Muslims particularlyfrom the Muslim minority provinces such as the UP react to such utterances bytheir Qaid? The question becomes important in the context of continuing publicstatements and elaborations on Pakistan by Jinnah and his lieutenants in the ML.In his presidential address at the 1941 Madras ML session, where an amendmentto the party constitution made Pakistan its primary goal, Jinnah declaredLet me tell you as clearly as possible...the goal of the All-India Muslim Leagueis as follows: we want the establishment of completely Independent States inthe North-Western and Eastern zones of India with full control of Defence,Foreign Affairs, Communications, Customs, Currency, Exchange etc.; and wedo not want under any circumstances, a constitution of an all India characterwith one government at the centre. 4 2  Ispahani, Qaid-i-Azam Jinnah as I Knew Him . 3  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 1, p. 267. 4  Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan , Vol. 2, p. 95. The term ‘states’, though, came to be replaced bystate certainly by the time of his correspondence with Gandhi in 1944. In a speech to the All IndiaMuslim League (AIML) Council at Lahore in July 1944, Jinnah declared, ‘Mr. Gandhi knows andunderstands the position better than any living man, for in one of his articles in the  Harijan , he putsthe question of the Pakistan demand in a nutshell. Pakistan according to him in a nutshell, is a demandfor carving out of India a portion to be wholly treated as an independent and sovereign   state .’ (emphasismine)   A nation state insufficiently imagined?  / 379 The Indian Economic and Social History Review , 48, 3 (2011): 377–405 Jinnah, thus, made it clear at the very outset that he saw the nation not just insymbolic terms but as a concrete entity. As he tersely noted, ‘what is the use of merely saying we are a nation? [A] Nation does not live in the air. It lives on land,it must govern land, and it must have a territorial state and that is what you wantto get.’ 5  While claiming to be the ‘sole spokesman’ of the 90 million strong Muslimnation spread all over India, but enjoying particularly strong support amongMuslims in the ‘minority provinces’, Jinnah’s increasingly statist definition of the nation cast these very Muslims beyond the pale of the nation. Never an abstracttheoretician, the meticulous constitutional lawyer gave concrete examples to clarifyas to what he meant by nations, sub-national groups or minorities. For Jinnah, theMuslims in the ‘majority provinces’ of British India were a nation with con-comitant rights to self-determination and statehood since they constituted anumerical majority in a contiguous piece of territory. On the other hand, the Sikhs,though distinct enough to be a nation, did not fulfil either of these criteria andhence were a sub-national group with no option but to seek minority safeguardsin Pakistan. Jinnah specifically compared the position of the Sikhs to that of theUP Muslims. He argued that the UP Muslims though constituting 14 per cent of the province’s population could not be granted a separate state becauseMuslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered.Therefore, in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-nationalgroup who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilizedgovernment to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear. 6 The Qaid’s public utterances created not just a slippage, but a cleavage betweenthe purported Muslim nation and Pakistan. Jinnah tried to bridge this crucial gapin a few ways. To begin with, he tried to soften the blow for the ‘minority pro-vinces’ Muslims by arguing that Pakistan’s creation would entail a reciprocal‘treaty’ with Hindu India to safeguard the rights and interests of minorities inboth states. 7  Indeed, substantial ‘hostage’ minority populations on both sides cameto be portrayed as guaranteeing each others’ safety by acting as a check againsthostile designs of the new states and their religious majorities. If this was not re-assuring enough, Jinnah held out further hope to them by declaring that theycould yet belong to Pakistan as they had the option of migrating to the new nation-state. As he noted soon after the Lahore Resolution, ‘exchange of population, onthe physical division of India as far as practicable would have to be considered’. 8 5  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 1, p. 247. 6  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 1, p. 492. Speech at the Annual Session of theAll India Muslim Students Federation at Jalandhar, 15 November 1942. 7    Ibid. , p. 267. Speech at Aligarh Muslim University, 10 March 1941. 8    Ibid. , p. 183. Statement on the Lahore Resolution, March 1940.  380  / V ENKAT  D HULIPALA The Indian Economic and Social History Review , 48, 3 (2011): 377–405 In a later interview, Jinnah spelled out three courses available to the Muslimminority in Hindu India. ‘They may accept the citizenship in the state in whichthey are. They can remain there as foreigners; or they can come to Pakistan. I willwelcome them. There is plenty of room. But it is for them to decide.’ 9  Jinnah,however, recognised the limits of such a scheme since it still entailed a substantialnumber of Muslims remaining outside Pakistan. He, therefore, made it a point topublicly laud the sacrifices made by the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims for thesake of Pakistan. As he declared at the 1943 AIML annual session at Karachi,Don’t forget the minority provinces. It is they who have spread the light whenthere was darkness in the majority provinces. It is they who were the spear-heads that the Congress wanted to crush with their overwhelming majority inthe Muslim minority provinces, for your sake, for your benefit, and for youradvantage. But never mind, it is all in the role of a minority to suffer. 10 That last line may not have been music to some minority ears, but the seriousnesswith which Jinnah pitched the idea of Pakistan in public can be gauged by thecautionary warning that he not infrequently gave to his followers. The Qaid warnedthat ‘it would be a great mistake to be carried away by Congress propaganda thatthe Pakistan demand was put forward as a counter for bargaining’. 11  Even in 1945,he declared that ‘opposition to Pakistan might be due to false notions or sentimentsor because it was a new idea. Some said that it was a hoax and worse still that itwas a bargaining counter because Mr. Jinnah was an astute politician.... It wasneither a hoax nor a slogan for bargaining’. 12  This point was reiterated by histrusted lieutenants in the ML, especially those hailing from the UP. Thus, at theML’s 1941 Madras session, Liaquat Ali Khan declared that the amendment to theparty constitution making Pakistan the ML’s primary goal was an effective replyto those who saw Pakistan as ‘merely a counter for bargaining’. 13 This article though is not about Jinnah who has had his fair share of attentionin Partition historiography, especially over his political tactics during the tortuoustransfer of power negotiations with the Congress Party and the British govern-ment. Instead, it uses Jinnah’s speeches and statements as segue to understandhow the idea of Pakistan was articulated and debated in the public sphere, especially 9    Ibid. , Vol. 2, pp. 383–84. Interview with Daniel Edwards, BBC New Delhi, 3 April 1946. 10  Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan , Vol. 2, p. 407. 11  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 1, p. 206; The Leader  , 4 January 1941; Star of India , 4 January 1941. 12  Ahmad, Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah , Vol. 2, p. 354. Speech at the Ahmedabad MuslimStudents Union, 15 January 1945. 13   Star of India , 16 April 1941; see Star of India , 22 April 1941 for a similar assertion by the Rajaof Mahmudabad at the Palghat District Muslim Political Conference after the Madras ML session.Liaquat reiterated this point during his South Indian tour in 1945. See The Pioneer  , 29   January 1945.

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Aug 2, 2017
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