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Jinnah Papers: Documenting Partition

AFTER the question of Partition of India was settled in 1947, Mountbatten, the then Viceroy, noted in his personal record that the Indian leaders would regret the decision they had taken in haste. In his speech to the Constituent Assembly in Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Jinnah said, "Any idea of a united India could never have worked. In my judgement it would have led to a terrific disaster. May be that view is correct, may be it is not; only future will tell — that remains to be seen".

To Nehru, it was the Partition but to Jinnah, it was a division. For the Muslim League it was a compromise but to the Congress, it was a settlement. Krishna Menon called it a "shock solution". The Partition resulted in about half-a-million casualties, and the migration of about 12 million people. The kindest thing that can be said about those who took such momentous decisions for the destiny of millions then that they knew not what they were doing. Statesmen who was make no allowance for the unforeseeable, mortgage the future of their country.

A spate of historical literature has appeared on Partition of India. A grandiose publication, Transfer of Power in 12 volumes covering five years, (1942-47), each volume containing about a thousand pages, unfolds how British policy was hammered out week by week, day by day, hour by hour. This work edited by Nicholas Mansergh, formerly Smunts Professor of the History of British Commonwealth, University of Cambridge, is wonderfully a solid performance. Of course, the perspective is British!

Indian political leaders appear in these volumes as social climbers, trembling poltroons, small petty lawyers and banias fighting over trifles, while the British high-ranking officials imbued with a lofty sense of duty and rectitude were advancing India's cause of self-government. Mansergh completed these 12 volumes in 13 years.

As a counterprise, to give an Indian point of view, Indian Council of Historical Research planned in 1976 to produce and publish documents entitled Towards Freedom, covering the period, 1937-47. During these 22 years only two volumes have appeared; the first in 1985, and it is due to the initiative of the present Chairman of the Council, Professor Settar that the second volume in three parts appeared early this year.

The Jamia Hamdard, Delhi, planned to bring out three volumes on the Partition, covering the period, 1937-47. The first volume, 1937-39, published early this year edited by S.A.I. Tirmazi contains 537 documents using some portion of the Quaid-i-Azam papers but in this plethora of diverse documentation Mr Jinnah lies hidden. I have said Mr Jinnah. When the Aligarh Muslim University wanted to confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws in 1944, he declines it saying that he was known as Mr Jinnah and would die as Mr Jinnah, nothing more, and nothing less.

Although history may often seem to be a scientific study of the past, its interpretation, however much we may refine our techniques of historical analysis, remains stubbornly national than we often realise. To counterprise our national prejudices, we have to re-examine our pre-suppositions and see the other side of the case. What was really Mr Jinnah's case? Therefore the study of 80,000 pages of the Quaid-i-Azam papers which has 23 volumes of newspapers, and personal clippings is central to the historian's interests.

Jinnah was a man of few words. He wrote no book. He kept no diary. He produced no memoir. He did not go to prison. A prison is often the nursery of memoirs. He was not known as a prodigy of learning. At times his silences baffled others. Nothing could fathom him. He confided in no one except, in Raja of Muhmudabad, Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan and of course, Sir B.N. Rud until their relations soured, when the latter became the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Jinnah wrote when necessary. Law books he read for his profession, particularly those relating to property and company law. He did not tidy up his correspondence like Nehru with an eye on posterity. His favourite book from which he often quoted in his public speeches — for this man who was often dubbed as obstinate and most uncompromising — was John Morley's book entitled Compromise published first in 1874, an exposition of liberal principles, which emphasises that compromise is to politics, what devotion is to friendship.

The National Archives of Pakistan has brought out the first series of Jinnah paper comprising two volumes in three parts. Originally Dr I.H. Qureshi, sometime Professor of History, at St Stephens, and later Vice-Chancellor, Karachi University, initiated the idea of compiling and publishing Jinnah papers. He took up the matter with President Ayub Khan who approved the proposal, but it was General Zia-ul-Haq who provided the infrastructure. Dr Z.A. Zaidi, a senior researcher in the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, was appointed the Editor to undertake this work. He has brought out these volumes in 30 years.

Strangely enough, these volumes are published in reverse order, i.e. from 1947 which is like putting a cart before a horse, denying the reader a consecutive picture of the evolution of Pakistan through successive stages. Volume I (in two parts), Prelude to Pakistan, covers the period, February 20 — June 20, 1947. The text comes to 1800 pages. The second part consists of 14 appendices containing extracts from Mansergh's Transfer of Power volumes and newspapers such as Dawn and Pakistan Times, etc.

There is nothing startlingly new in these documents and they add little to our understanding of Jinnah, and his politics and strategy. Only on three or four themes there is new documentary material drawn chiefly from India Office Records and Churchill papers at Cambridge. It is a pity that Zaidi, though mainly based in London, has completely ignored the valuable Intelligence Department reports 'Loss of Control' which Patrick French has recently used in his work Liberty or Death.

These volumes are limited to the period from February 20 to June 30, 1947. Jinnah's interminable negotiations with the British, his bitter wrangling with the Congress, his total involvement in the civil disobedience movement in Punjab and North-West Frontier left little time to him for correspondence. Of the 1071 letters published in these volumes, his letters number 125. His letters deal with matters of trifling nature such as thanking his donors, congratulating his party workers, sending goodwill wishes to political organisations, giving instruction to his bankers and dealing with his property and shares. The title "Jinnah papers" is a misnomer. Jinnah is mostly a recipient of letters than a letter-writer. He appears supremely an elusive presence throughout on the margin rather than at the centre of affairs.

Some historians insist that Jinnah did not want Pakistan nor did he will it. Nor was he responsible for it; it was, however, the only possible outcome, a product of the curious circumstances for which the chief responsibility lay with the Congress. The first protagonist of the view was Ayesha Jalal, the author of The Sole Spokesman. Jalal tells us what Jinnah did not want, but doesn't tell us what really he wanted. Jalal presents Jinnah as a sad, lonely dying man, utterly helpless, overpowered by events, looking like a sick eagle at the sky. These documents completely dispel this notion.

Jinnah was completely in command of the situation. He was determined to fight for Pakistan. He told Mountbatten on April 3, 1947, that he would have a few acres of the said desert provided it was his own. With great feeling he wrote in May 1947 on a piece of paper meant for himself which Zaidi has reproduced. Jinnah wrote "Pakistan means not only a matter of power and security, of loaves and fishes; there are things of the spirit involved in it. It means sovereignty of people and it will be all that it stands for. Will not people say with those Arabs who said, 'What does it matter, how weak and poor our homelands are, if only we are masters in them' (Vol. I, Document No. 516).

Mountbatten has been strongly criticised by historians in Pakistan and England for what they call a sinister design on his part in altering the India-Pakistan boundary at the last stage. Zaidi's volume throws light on this controversial question, Zaidi has drawn evidence from India Office Records which he has partly used ignoring what exists in the Transfer of Power volumes.

Sir Cyril Radcliffe was appointed the Chairman of the Boundary Commission to delimit the India-Pakistan boundary. He was Lord Chancellor Jowett's nominee. Jinnah had suggested his name first. Nehru had wanted Maurice Gwyer to be the Chairman. Radcliffe had never visited India before. He knew no Indian language, nor did he possess Raginald Coupland's grasp of the Indian constitutional problem. A brilliant Oxford product, and a reputed lawyer, he was known for his long stretches of silences. In India he didn't meet any political leader. He did not attend any hearing of the claimants to the disputed areas. Motilal Setalwad told him then the entire procedure adopted by him in respect of the Boundary Commission proceedings was strange and farcical. Radcliffe completed his work in 36 days, left India having destroyed his papers. Later when asked whether he would return to India, said "God forbid, not even if they ask me. I expect they would shoot me out of hand, both sides".

The question is whether Mountbatten persuaded Radcliffe to alter the boundary award. Was Radcliffe made a scapegoat in Mountbatten's hands ? This issue was raised in the British Parliament, and later in the United Nations in 1948. Curiously enough, V.P. Menon is silent about it in his books.

The documents in Jinnah papers show that the Radcliffe Award almost corresponded with the detailed demarcation of the boundary made by Wavell on February 7, 1946, which he communicated to the Secretary of State, Pethick-Lawrence. The proposed boundary outline that Wavell despatched was actually drawn by V.P. Menon and B. N. Rau, thereby including the Muslim majority areas of the district of Gurdaspur, and Amritsar. The matter does not rest there. There is in Zaidi's volume K.M. Pannikar's note The Next Step which readily provided a starting point for the Menon-Rau delimitation of the boundary. Pannikar, a veritable opportunist of the first order, who nurtured ambitions of being appointed the Viceroy's constitutional advisor, wrote a note that the country be partitioned and he laid down the guiding principles for the division of Punjab and Bengal.

Pannikar did not append his signatures to the note, two copies of which were sent in the names of his friend Guy Wint and Freda Martin (Mn Guy Wint) to Wavell and Cripps. They form a part of the correspondence exchanged on January 11, 1946, between Sir William Croft, Deputy Under-Secretary at the Indian office and Sir David Monteath, the permanent Under-Secretary. It was thus Menon-Rau note based on Pannikar's communication which provided almost a readymade material for Radcliffe to prepare his award. The point is that in examining the factors underlying British policy in the period under study it is not so much to Whitchall that we must look but to varied local pressures in India as well as to the harsh force of circumstances and the initiatives of certain individuals holding pivotal position who exercise influence on the formation of policy.

These volumes confirm that it was Winston Churchill who finally persuaded Jinnah to accept the Partition plan. Churchill remained consistent in his hatred towards India and the Congress. These volumes show that Jinnah was closely in touch with Churchill. Jinnah had met Churchill on May 22, 1947, a little more than a week before the Partition plan was to be announced. Zaidi has used Churchill papers, and some part of Mountbatten's papers in the Transfer of Power volumes.

Historians have wondered who this Elizabeth Gilliat was whom Jinnah was writing to occasionally. For long it was thought that it was a fictitious name that Churchill adopted. These volumes clear the mist. Elizabeth Gilliat was Churchill's Secretary. Jinnah was adopting dilatory tactics in accepting the Partition plan as he was opposed to the partitions of Punjab and Bengal. Zaidi does not, however, include other documents relevant to Churchill's message which Mountbatten conveyed to Mountbatten. This message is available in the Transfer of Power volumes. The message was to threaten Jinnah that all British troops would be taken away from India, if Jinnah didn't accept the Partition plan. Churchill had added, 'By God, Jinnah is the only man who's can't do without British help'.

It has almost remained a mystery why the Prime Minister of Punjab, Khizer Hayat Tiwana who was bitterly opposed to the Muslim League. Suddenly resigned on March 2, 1947, to the chagrin of the Congress and Akali leaders whom he didn't care to consult. It must be emphasised that the Unionist Ministry wouldn't have lasted due to the popular Civil Disobedience Movement in Punjab. The documents in Volume I show that it was Jinnah's emissary Sir Mohammed Zafarulla who persuaded Khizer not to betray his community in the hour of trial. It appears that the letter of resignation was drafted by Sir Zafarulla.

There is ample evidence in these volumes (particularly in 2nd part of Vol. I) drawn chiefly from the newspapers Dawn and Pakistan Times that Jinnah masterminded the Civil Disobedience Movement in Punjab and the North Western Frontier. His object was to topple the Khizer and Khan Sahib ministries and to disturb the communal ratio in Assam so that he could grab for Pakistan the largest possible area. In this the designs of the two members of the Viceroy's Executive Council, Abdul Rab Nishter and Ghaznafer Ali Khan are laid bare. The Civil Disobedience Movement had a popular support in which large number of students of Aligarh Muslim University, burqa-clad women, Pirs and Sajjada-Nashin participated. The newspaper material is extremely valuable which is not available in this country, though, sadly enough, extracts from Urdu newspapers and journals are omitted.

This work suffers from a lack of proper editing and annotation. For example, the reader is at a loss to know who. K. Rallia Ram is, a fervent correspondent, who informs Jinnah regularly about the political developments in Punjab. The editor has not cared to identify even Riaz Piracha who became later the Foreign Secretary, Pakistan. In 1946 he was the President of the Punjab Muslim Students Federation. Riaz Piracha is prepared to give up his studies in order to fight for the cause of Pakistan. There are quite a number of individuals flitting across the pages but no attempt is made to identify them.

Jinnah had the habit of making some doodles at times, but he wrote short notes for his own use — these may be called "dispersed meditation", to use Francis Bacon's expression. One of these notes reads as follows:

Money lost — nothing lost

Courage lost — much lost

Honour lost — most lost

Soul lost — all lost (Vol. II, p. 257).

To sum up, uncomfortably bulky as these volumes are, a scrappy collection of documents, some of its valuable material can be easily found in the specialised publications. The whole work lacks sense of direction, a clear-cut design. The documents are listed neither chronologically nor thematically. The index is inadequate, and the references are too perfunctory to be of any value. It lacks Mansergh's almost suffocatingly thorough cross-references. The documentation is ruthlessly selective and aggressively tendentious but it is a pioneering documentary work published in Pakistan on the Partition. One is grateful for Zaidi's immense labours but they were not usefully directed.

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