Gandhi and Jinnah historical pictureGandhi’s correspondance with Jinnah shows that he partially accepted the demand of Muslim League about Pakistan in 1944 but Jinnah missed the moment either intentionally or unintentionally.  In one of the letters, Gandhi conditionally accepted that Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province, and that part of the Punjab, Bengal and Assam where Muslims were in absolute majority could form a separate country provided inhabitants of the areas agreed to it. He wrote to Jinnah as followed:

“I proceed on the assumption that India is not to be regarded as two or more nations but as one family consisting of many members of whom the Muslims living in the north-west zones, i.e. Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province, and that part of the Punjab where they are in absolute majority over all the other elements and in parts of Bengal and Assam where they are in absolute majority, desire to live in separation from the rest of India. Differing from you on the general basis, I can yet recommend to the Congress and the country the acceptance of the claim for separation contained in the Muslim League resolution of Lahore of 1940.” He further writes, “the areas should be demarcated by a commission approved by the congress and the League. The wishes of the inhabitants of the areas demarcated should be ascertained through the votes of the adult population of the areas or through some equivalent method. If the vote is in favor of separation, it shall be agreed that these areas shall form a separate State as soon as possible after India is free from foreign domination and can therefore be constituted into two sovereign independent States” (Gandhi 24 September 1944 in Pirzada 1977).

In reply to the offer Jinnah wrote back to Gandhi, “if this term were accepted and given effect to the present boundaries of these provinces would be maimed and mutilated beyond redemption and leave us only with the husk, and it is opposed to the Lahore resolution (Jinnah 25 September 1944 in Pirzada 1977). He further argued, ‘that even in those mutilated areas so defined, the right of self-determination will not be exercised by the Muslims but by the inhabitants of those areas so demarcated. The areas that Gandhi had mentioned, majority of inhabitants were Muslims. 

Jinnah was quite wrong in his critical evaluation of the proposal, which is evident from the outcome of negotiation with British in 1947; Jinnah could not get more than what he was offered by Gandhi except that he partially avoided the voting to ascertain will of the people.  Jinnah also incorrectly interpreted Gandhi’s proposal about ascertaining will of the inhabitants.  

Jinnah failed to appreciate the fact that Pakistan might be benefitted more if he had negotiated with All India Congress open mindedly instead of the attitude to bring ‘Congress High Command to its senses’.  In the letter, Gandhi made an open offer that boundaries of the countries would be settled mutually  by the All India Congress and the Muslim League.  The fact is that Jinnah could not materialize upon the opportunity due his hostile attitudes towards Gandhi. If the terms were settled mutually between the both parties, it was likely that India and Pakistan would come into existence peacefully without bloodshed and remain at peace after independence.  

It is an interesting question as to why Jinnah was fearful in concentrating the proposal instead of discussing trifle issues.  The history shows that Jinnah and Muslim League in 1944 hardly had strong control in Muslims dominated region thus he was not convinced that Muslims in general and popular leadership of the areas in particular would favor the proposal of Pakistan. He converted Gandhi but the success was too early to Jinnah.

Nadeem Yousaf

20 October 2012

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Gandhi Accepted Pakistan in 1944