OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Quirks of History
Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan on how Mr. Jinnah forestalled Fazlul Haq’s gambit
Write Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh, an NGO, invited me to attend the SAARC Literary Festival in Dhaka on 27-28 February, 2014. Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives were participants. The seminar / festival proposed a discussion / review “Beyond Borders, Trust and Reconciliation”.
I presented a paper “Within Borders, Trust and Reconciliation–Urdu in the making of Bangladesh”. Not beyond, but within. Trust and reconciliation within borders are as important as beyond borders, but unwise trust and reconciliation, beyond or within borders, could as well be harmful. The Bengali Muslims suffered for this.
According to Pakistan’s census figures, 3 per cent people in Pakistan had Urdu as their mother tongue, but 97 per cent non-Urdu speaking people of East and West Pakistan had to accept it as the national / official language. In spite of stiff opposition from East Pakistan, Urdu remained the national language. This was the primary reason Bangladesh came into being in 1971. Besides language, it was the insensitivity of the Urdu-speaking Muslim leadership to Bengali sentiment that was an additional factor.
The famous (or infamous) Lahore Muslim League Resolution, 1940 is projected in this paper as Bangladesh Resolution. This resolution was adopted by the All India Muslim League under the presidentship of M A Jinnah. The proposer was Sher-i-Bengal, Fazlul Haq. Bangladesh was on the mind of Fazlul Haq. He wanted more than one state with Muslim majority areas which had geographical contiguity to be constituted as “states”.
Eastern Bengal plus Assam were Muslim majority areas and had geographical contiguity and thus could be constituted as “states”. The state of Bengal could never have a contiguity with Western Muslim majority areas. Two states, therefore, were the natural outcome of this resolution. M A Jinnah understood each word of this resolution. Fazlul Haq had deliberately put “states” (in plural) with contiguous areas.
In 1940, Mr Jinnah was not the absolute master of All India Muslim League. Fazlul Haq rightly confided to Shaikh Mujibur Rahman that he was responsible for the Lahore Resolution. Nobody knew Jinnah in 1940. But in 1946 Jinnah, no doubt, was the greatest leader and absolute master of the League. Disregarding Lahore Resolution he invited the Muslim League legislators to Delhi in 1946 and got a new resolution passed at its Convention, demanding a state (singular) of East and West Pakistan. This resolution of the convention of Muslim League legislators also provided a theoretical foundation for the two-nation idea.
In 1946 there was a Qaid-e-Azam wave. Nobody could oppose him. The two nation theory blinded Bengali Muslims. Bangladesh was ideologically conceived by the Tiger of Bengal in 1940 and killed in 1946 by another Bengali Muslim, Shaheed Suhrawardi, who proposed the Delhi Resolution.
In a question-answer session it was pointed out that theoretical foundation of the two-nation theory could be questioned but it had positive aspects, too. It united the Muslims of British India so strongly that they supported Pakistan, practically with one voice. Partly agreeing, I said that no doubt there was unity among Muslim rank and file, but this unity was time-bound, without sustainable foundations. The Partition divided Indian Muslims into two set of people, Indian Muslims and Pakistani Muslims within one year of Delhi Resolution and, 24 years later, another set of Muslims, Bangladesh Muslims. It was not unity, but false consciousness.
In history people are subjected to false consciousness for a short or even a longer time. Keeping Bangladesh in mind I told them that many Muslims, including Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto considered that Muslims were the rulers of India for a thousand years. I reminded them that under the Mughals in today’s Bangladesh 90 per cent people were peasants, largely Muslims. Some of them were zamindars, but zamindars were largely Hindus. The Muslim peasants of Bangladesh were subjected to as great exploitation in Mughal India as they were under the British Raj, much like the peasants under the present government of Bangladesh. g