Saturday, July 12, 2014

Connecting minor dots...

One of the small pleasures of this work is the connecting of minor dots.  In this case,  this is about some statement about Pakistan that M.A. Ispahani mentioned in a letter to M.A. Jinnah.

Briefly, in the Second Series, Volume X of Z.R. Zaidi's Jinnah Papers, item #28 is a letter from Ispahani to Jinnah, dated October 23, 1943. An excerpt:

At the last Food Conference in Delhi, Chhotu Ram and Baldev Singh, who attended the Conference on behalf of Punjab would not give in on the point of food supply to Bengal on the question of price. This had a very bad effect, so much so that you must have read in the papers what Lord Hailey had to say about Pakistan.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Muslim League nominees to the Interim Government 1946

A story of the Muslim League nominees to the Interim Government in October 1946,  and its later (mis)remembrance by Maulana Azad is spelled out here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jinnah-Suhrawardy April 1946

 In March 1946, the British impression was that Jinnah did not hold H.S. Suhrawardy in high regard.  The break between Jinnah and Suhrawardy became explicit and public only later in 1947.

The following is from The Transfer of Power, Volume VII, editors Mansergh and Moon, 23 March – 29 June, 1946, item #17 “Record of Meeting between Field Marshall Viscount Wavell, Cabinet Delegation and Provincial Governors on Thursday, 28 March 1946″.

Excerpt:

The Governor of Bengal (Sir Frederick Burrows) said that the election results would not be complete until the end of March…..Unfortunately, now that Sir Nazimuddin had withdrawn from politics there was no honest politician left. The probable Prime Minister in a Muslim League Government was Mr. Suhrawardy, though neither Mr. Jinnah nor anyone else thought very highly of him. The Governor thought it possible that Sir Nazimuddin might return to the leadership of the Provincial League party with Mr. Jinnah’s support, in which case Mr. Suhrawardy might go over to Congress.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

An incident with Jinnah

M.S.M. Sharma was the editor of The Daily Gazette, Karachi, at the time of Partition.  He lasted in Pakistan till around January 1948, when he packed up and left for India, where he subsequently became the editor of The Searchlight, Patna.

Sharma wrote a book, published in 1954,  Peeps Into Pakistan.  The author's preface begins:
On my return to India from Pakistan in 1948, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel of beloved memory suggested that I should write a volume of my experiences in Pakistan in a reminiscent vein.  But the "Iron Dictator" qualified his command with a grave warning.  It was not until the last vestige of bitterness had subsided I should take up my pen.  I flatter myself I am not temperamental.  But it took me more than thirty months to expel every trace of bitterness that had taken possession of my soul as a result of my experiences of the early days of Pakistan.

Here is an incident Sharma relates regarding Jinnah.

Sind did become a separate and individual unit in its own right on the All Fools' Day, 1936.  Sir Lancelot Graham was appointed first Governor.....

Jinnah had hoped for much from Sir Lancelot Graham whom he had known pretty intimately in the Central Assembly in New Delhi.   The common bond between them was their hatred of Vithalbhai Jhaveribhai Patel, the elder brother of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.  An imperialist to his fingertips, Sir Lancelot who was then Secretary of the Legislative Assembly department in Delhi wagged his tail to Vithalbhai who was then President of the Central Legislative Assembly.  Vithalbhai cut the wagging tail.

In the old days, Jinnah and Vithalbhai had been inseparable friends.   That was in the heydays of the Home Rule movement.   Both of them also figured as fellow signatories of the famous Memorandum of the Nineteen—a document signed by 19 members of the Imperial Legislative Council and asking for a measure of provincial autonomy for India.  This was before 1919.  In the year 1919, Vithalbhai was in England in connection with the Government of India Bill on the parliamentary anvil.   So was Jinnah.   For the story I am repeating here I am obliged to the late Lord Burnham, the proprietor of the Daily Telegraph who, it would be recalled, toured India nine years later as a member of the Simon Commission.  I had to cover the early part of the Commission's tour and had good opportunities of knowing the commissioners, particularly Lord Burnham and Mr. Attlee.

Burnham's story was this.  He was the host at a party at which both Jinnah and Vithalbhai were guests among others.  Jinnah said something about beards.  The irrepressible Vithalbhai retorted in his usually lighthearted manner and referred to Jinnah as a Muslim renegade.  Jinnah himself never claimed to be an orthodox Muslim.   In fact, he prided himself that there was nothing in common between himself and "these fellows", as for instance, he told me at Gaya on July 9, 1939 when I saw him for a brief while when he had just emerged from the Bihar provincial league conference over which he had just presided.   It was one thing to crack a joke with Jinnah in strict privacy but it was a risk to do it in company.  Anyhow, the fact was that from that time onwards he looked upon Vithalbhai as his arch-enemy.   Sir Lancelot had no reason to be kind to Vithalbhai's memory. Jinnah thought that he and Lancelot Graham together could make strange bed-fellows, nevertheless bed-fellows for all that.

But what Jinnah did not realise was that, with all his faults, Lancelot Graham was a strictly constitutional governor.  he would not call the League to form the ministry.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Punjab: 1946 Elections

Sardar Patel disagreed with Maulana Azad's strategy for Punjab in the 1946 elections, but deferred to him.  Some of his disagreement is recorded below.


I'm quoting below excerpts from a few letters from "The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel", Volume X, edited by P.N. Chopra.

On December 21, 1945, Sardar Patel wrote to Pandit Gobind Ballabh Pant, beginning "My Dear Pantji, I feel strongly that we have bungled in the Punjab and I am afraid if we continue to act in the same way in the matter of selection of candidates, we will suffer much."

Later in the letter, Sardar Patel wrote,  "There is another thing which irritates me and pains me also.  On the last day {of the Congress Working Committee meeting in Calcutta, Dec 7 - 11, 1945} I went to see Maulana and he told me that the help to be given to the Ahrars should be doubled...."

On the same day, Sardar Patel wrote to Maulana Azad, about sending him money,  "...but I am afraid we are wasting good money for nothing and the Congress reputation will in the end suffer badly.  I am enclosing herewith a Press cutting from which you will see what type of candidates are put by the Ahrar Party in the Punjab for whom they want our help.   From this cutting you will see that immediately the League candidates' nominations are declared invalid, the Ahrar candidates, who remained on the scene and whose nominations were declared valid, joined the Muslim League.  It is very sad that such candidates are chosen to oppose the League.   In any case it is very unwise that we should be mixed up with such a shady transaction.   I would still request you to reconsider the situation and withhold the help......"

Sardar Patel continued: "I am afraid we have mishandled the whole Punjab situation.  We have to fight the Akalis as there has been no settlement as was expected and we will not get more than 5 or 6 seats after a good deal of expense which could be easily avoided.   Please excuse me for bringing these facts to your notice but I have done so as I have been considerably oppressed by a feeling of failure in duty at a critical juncture in one of the most important provinces in these elections.   I do not wish to blame anybody but I do feel that if we continue to handle affairs in the same fashion, we will suffer a serious defeat in spite of such huge expenditure and good deal of time and energy being spent after it."

After the elections, in a letter dated March 6, 1946, Sardar Patel wrote to Maulana Azad regarding the decisions of the Congress Central Election Board: "You are certainly entitled to claim a generous attitude from us and I have done my best to do so, but you must also make allowance for an honest difference of opinion.  You cannot insist that your opinion is the only correct one.   In the Punjab we honestly held different opinions but you have never recognised that there is scope for such a difference of opinion in that matter and you have missed no opportunity to remind us about it."

".....In the Punjab I have differed strongly from you in the matter of the election campaign on many points, including the question of financial help to be given to the Congress Party.   I was expected to help them only in the matter of Muslim constituencies.  In this they have lost all (along) the line and I knew they were going to lose.  They insisted on financial help being given for non-Muslim constituencies and tried to put pressure on me through you.   I have agreed without hesitation to whatever you suggested in this connection.  They have avoided all responsibility but as you were all working against heavy odds, I thought it my duty to accept your suggestions without question.  In the matter of selection of candidates in the Punjab also we had differences but we have endorsed everything that you have done without the slightest hesitation."

Sardar Patel mentions a number of issues, and concludes "Perhaps it may be that your approach to these questions is different from mine and therefore it is difficult for me to understand or appreciate it.   It would therefore be better to relieve me from this embarrassing position altogether, as early as possible." 

Sho Kuwajima in his "Muslims, Nationalism and the Partition: 1946 Provincial Elections in India" notes:
"As noted earlier, Mian Iftikhar-ud-din left the Congress in September 1945. {Elsewhere Kuwajima notes that "When Mian Iftikhar-ud-din joined the Muslim League, Nehru wrote, "Iftikhar, middle-hearted man that he is, thinks he can reform the Muslim League from within-- a foolish idea, but he is foolish enough to do anything."  It is true that in his election campaign and in the post-independent history of Pakistan, Iftikhar-ud-din fought his isolated struggle for reform of the political system.   He was one of the few League leaders who warned against military-cum-bureaucratic rule in Pakistan.  The Viewpoint made its comment,  'if the art of politics lies in the ability to predict the course of events, then Mian Iftikhar-ud-din was a politician without peer in the land."}  It came as a big blow to the Punjab Congress, and particularly to the pro-Nehru faction to which Iftikhar-ud-din had belonged. Even before Iftikhar-ud-din left the Congress, it was ridden with factionalism, and Nehru and Patel were of the same view that it was in a deplorable condition".

"Already in the beginning of September 1945, Nehru wrote to Partap Singh Kairon (Chief Minister of the Punjab 1956-64), Secretary of the Punjab Congress, saying that if the public thought the Congressmen were split up into different parties, quarreling among themselves, their enthusiasm for the Congress would wane.   Nehru admitted that the Punjab Congress had been in the past a somewhat narrow organization without sufficient representation of important elements, especially rural."

"Amidst the election campaign in the Punjab, Patel regretted that the Punjab Congress had been divided into groups and factions of a very bitter type and hardly two men trusted each other.  Patel was distressed to find that even good Congressmen were not united in the Punjab.  He asked 'Can nothing be done to make Congress workers realize their sense of responsibility at this critical period?""

"In such a situation there was a serious rift between Azad and Patel.  They had different approaches to the election campaign and nominations of candidates.  Azad took a soft attitude towards the Ahrars and other Nationalist Muslims, while Patel thought that the Congress should send its candidates on the Congress tickets, not as Nationalist Muslims,  and did not lay his hope on the Ahrars who had some influence in the Punjab.  Relations between the two leaders were not smooth in their approach to the Akalis either....."

".....It can be said that this rift was basically caused by the absence of a mass Congress base in the Punjab, particularly in its rural areas.  The Congress had to find its allies among the Nationalist Muslims or the Akalis, to contain the Muslim League and the Communists."





Monday, March 10, 2014

On sources - 1

"Mountbatten : A Biography" by Philip Ziegler (published in 1985) contains this passage about when Viceroy Mountbatten first met Mahatma Gandhi.

(Chapter 29, The End of Unified India, pages 369-370)
It did not take Mountbatten long to conclude that Gandhi was committed to the concept of a united India and that any step in the direction of partition would be resolutely opposed.   It was with this in view that on 1 April Gandhi put forward a plan which he had aired from time to time in the past; that Jinnah be invited to form an interim central government.  Congress, said Gandhi, should be prepared to accept government by the Muslim League if by so doing they could ensure the unity of their country.   Mountbatten, encountering the idea for the first time, found it bold, imaginative, splendidly far-fetched.   He saw in it, as he had seen in Habbakuk, the iceberg aircraft-carrier, the appeal of the outrageous yet remotely feasible.   In his staff meeting he described the proposal as 'undoubtedly mad, except for the fact that Gandhi's amazing personal influence...might induce Congress to accept it' (in the final record the word 'mad' was watered down to 'wild'). [33]
[33] Viceroy's Staff Meeting, 5 April 1947. Transfer of Power, Vol. X, p 124.  Early draft on BA D15.

Here, BA = Broadland Archives.

In this case "mad" to "wild" does not change much.  It does raise the question though, about how much the official record has been edited. 

Just in case you didn't know how the story turned out:
The plan never had the remotest chance of success.  All Mountbatten's advisers told him that such an administration would be unworkable, and the Congress leadership rejected it with alacrity.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sikh-JInnah meeting - 1946

Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed writes in the Daily Times:

 In a meeting in May 1947 sponsored by Lord Mountbatten to help the Muslims and Sikhs reach an agreement on keeping Punjab united, Jinnah offered the Sikhs all the safeguards they wanted if they agreed to support Pakistan. Only in March 1947 some 2,000-10,000 Sikhs — depending on who you cite — were butchered in the Rawalpindi rural areas so the Sikhs were very wary of Jinnah’s overtures. Chief Minister of Patiala Hardit Singh Malik writes he had an inspiration and asked Jinnah: “Sir you are making all the promises but God forbid if something happens to you, what will happen then?” The exact words Jinnah used in reply will be revealed in my forthcoming book, but the reasoning was that his followers will treat his words as sacred. 

I believe Professor Ahmed is wrong in his date. May 1947 is in any case too late.  I have not yet found any trace of this Mountbatten-sponsored meeting in the Transfer of Power papers for May 1947.   I believe the Jinnah-Sikh leaders' meeting was April 2, 1946. Jinnah there promised them the world.