Architect of Partition
Reviewed by Parshotam Mehra

Road to Pakistan: The Life and Times of Mohammad Ali Jinnah
By B. R. Nanda
Routledge. Pages viii + 373. Rs 745.

ALONGSIDE Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah was among the stalwarts of the 20th century India responsible for the creation of Pakistan in 1947.`A0He was the first head of Pakistan who sadly did not live long enough to preside over the destinies of the new nation he had, almost single-handedly, helped create.`A0Along with Syed (later Sir Syed) Ahmad Khan (1817-98), the ideologue, and Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938), the poet, Jinnah had been responsible for the birth and evolution of a separate Muslim identity in the sub-continent. They had shaped, and led, the war of Muslim communalism to its ultimate success.

Starting out as a nationalist and protege of such Congress stalwarts as Dadhabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), the induction of the Minto-Morley constitutional reforms (1909) with separate electorates made Jinnah change his stance. He bided his time though until the introduction of provincial autonomy (1935) to play the religious/communal card with a vengeance.`A0The Hindus and the Congress were now his major political adversaries, not the ruling British.`A0Endowed with an acute legal mind, he played his cards with a skill and adroitness few could match, worsted his rivals, to retain a leadership, and eminence, he deemed his due.

The Muslim League, it may be recalled, was founded in the wake of the historic Muslim deputation that waited on Governor-General Minto in 1906.`A0In the thirty odd years following its birth, the party failed to develop a popular base. Thus, in 1927, the League had a total membership of 1,330. Jinnah had to adjourn the 1928 session because of factional clashes; the following year’s for lack of a quorum! The adjourned meeting, convened months later in Delhi, ended in a pandemonium.`A0The League’s 1930 session at Allahabad, presided over by the poet Iqbal, could not even muster the now reduced quorum of 75 members. During the years 1931-33, the annual party expenditure did not exceed Rs 3,000. Attendance at the 1931 session in Delhi was less than 120.`A0To attract more members, the annual subscription was reduced from Rs 6 to Rs 1 and the quorum cut down to 50.`A0For the record, no annual sessions were held in 1932, 1934 and 1935.

Jinnah’s relations with the Congress worsened after the emergence of Jawaharlal Nehru; the twosome were never been able to hit it off.`A0In his autobiography (1936), Nehru noted that Jinnah drifted away from the Congress "and associated himself with the most reactionary elements in Muslim communalism".`A0All the same he confessed to his senior colleague Dr Rajinder Prasad that they had been "unable to check the growth of communalism and anti-Congress feelings among Muslim masses".

A word on Sir Syed who contrary to the family tradition had hitched his wagon to the coat-tails of John Company rather than the now decrepit Mughal rulers.`A0The Raj rewarded him handsomely. Apart from a knighthood, he was nominated twice to the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Sir Syed reckoned British help indispensable for Muslims, his antipathy to the Congress and its functioning axiomatic. Muslim participation in its nationalist activities would retard his reform movement. For, as former rulers of the subcontinent, they had—he reasoned—been unjust "victims" of history and insofar as Hindus had stolen a march in education as well as employment, Muslim youth must be educated separately under their community’s auspices. British rule was necessary to achieve this and was preferable to Hindu domination.`A0Sir Syed’s assumptions were to become the dogmas of Muslim separatism in the half century following his death (1898).

In his 1936 election platform, Jinnah called for Muslim solidarity and Hindu-Muslim unity but his overtures were spurned by Nehru and the Congress.`A0At the hustings though, the League was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Muslims across the country. Jinnah’s appeal in the name of Islam reached a crescendo in the general elections of 1945-46 when he invoked Allah and the Prophet and inveighed against the Hindu "domination" and Congress "tyranny".`A0 By holding out the threat of a countrywide civil strife, Jinnah made any settlement other than Partition impossible even to the most bitter opponents of his pretensions.

Doyen of modern Indian historians, Nanda’s books on Gandhi and the Nehrus, both father and son, are rated very high. His greatest contribution though must be reckoned the establishment of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at Teenmurti House in New Delhi for study and research in modern Indian history. This reviewer had the privilege of knowing Prof. Nanda who sadly passed away early this year, not long after the book under review appeared, a by no means small tribute to his abiding scholarship.