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.