Saturday, February 15, 2014

"The theory of Pan-Islamism has long ago exploded" - Jinnah

Came across this very interesting interview of Jinnah given to Reuters recently. There are many remarkable things here, one of which is that Jinnah had no idea that Mountbatten and Nehru have already decided to partition the Punjab and Bengal. He is still making a pitch for their unity unaware that it’s little more than an academic exercise.  In the end-game leading up to 1947, Mountbatten kept the AIML out of a lot of key decisions.

However, all that is well known. What is really interesting is Jinnah’s casual dismissal of pan-Islamism. When the interviewer asks him, “Do you envisage the formation of a Pan-Islamic state stretching from the Far and Middle East to the Far East after the establishment of Pakistan?” he starts of his answer by saying, “The theory of Pan-Islamism has long ago exploded…”

Jinnah’s reflexive opposition to pan-Islamism might be seen in the light of his criticism of the Khilafat movement (1920) in which he opposed moves to make a political movement out of a theological issue (the deposition of the Caliph) and warned of the “religious frenzy” that such a move might unleash.

Given that the state he founded is now in some serious hot water due to forces which do believe strongly in some form of pan-Islamism, this might be an interesting point for the beleaguered liberals of Pakistan.

You can read the entire interview here.


  1. I dont understand this. How could Jinnah not see the partition of Bengal and Punjab was inevitable if India was partitioned ? If he had just argued so forcefully that Muslims and Hindus could not get along in Hindu majority India, how could he oppose Hindu demands not to be part of Muslim majority Punjab and Bengal ?

    Regarding the Khilafat movement, one of the main reasons it was supported by the Deobandis was that they realized that the collapse of the Ottoman empire would lead to complete political chaos and eventual balkanization of the Middle East, which is exactly what happened. Had the empire been preserved in some form, a much more politically stable Middle East could have emerged.

  2. And how on earth could the Hindus of Bengal not demand partition after the events of the DIrect Action Day ? And that of Punjab after the attacks on them in Rawalpindi.

  3. True. There was a lot of double play on the Two Nation theory with both the Congress and AIML accepting an rejecting it as and when it suited their objectives. In case you want a more in-depth understanding of why Bengal was divided, a great book I can suggest is 'Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition' by Joya Chatterji.

    As for the Khilafat Movement being supported because it helped the Middle East: fine but Indian leaders should have thought of India first over and above the Middle East. The harm that the movement did to the country was immense.

  4. Hades, there are narratives other than that of Joya Chatterji's. Bidyut Chakraborty's "The partition of Bengal and Assam: 1932-1947" says that there was no support for a united Bengal among grassroots Hindus. The 1950 riots in Barisal indicate how precarious the situation was on the ground for Hindus in Bengal,

  5. I know its wikipedia, but this article gives an overview of events leading upto the partition, referencing both Chatterji's book and Chakraborty's.

  6. Thank for the book recommendation. Have read Chakraborty's book. I really do not think, as you seem to imply, that Joya Chatterji's narrative and Chakraborty's differ in any major way, including the magnitude of popular support for Partition/Unity.

  7. The synopsis of Chatterji's book also claims that "In its most startling revelation, the author shows how the demand for a separate homeland for the Hindus, which was fuelled by a large and powerful section of Hindu society within Bengal, was seen as the only way to regain influence and to wrest power from the Muslim majority."

    Is the narrative of both Chatterji and Chakraborty's book: elite Hindu desire for partition -> propaganda -> grass roots mobilization among Hindus for partition -> inter religious violence -> partition ?

  8. Vikram, that is really not Chatterji's narrative. Let's read both books and then get back to this discussion in some time, rather than depend on blurbs and wikis--I believe that would be far more effective. :) Signing out now.