Ideological Transformation in All India
Muslim League post 1937 Provincial Elections
Rashid Manzoor Bhat
Ph.D. Research Scholar
Department of History
Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar-608002
The study deals
with All-India Muslim League and its devotion to the Idea of Pakistan. It is
very important historical study in which the development of All-India Muslim
League into a formidable party in 1937-1947 which challenged its opponent
Indian National Congress and its work for the cause of Pakistan has been
tactfully mentioned. All-India Muslim League, being a political
platform of the Muslim in the Subcontinent, contested the elections of 1937 but
it could not get desired success and faced failure. Post
1937 provincial elections ideology of All India Muslim league transformed the
fate of Indian Subcontinent and the developments which were products of the
activities of All India Muslim League ultimately led to the partition of the
Provincial Elections, League, Separate
electorate, Lahore Session, Day of Deliverance, Campaign.
The All India
Muslim league established on 30 December 1906 under
the leadership of Aga Khan and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, is ascribed
to have led the blitz for Muslim interests in British India until 1940, when it
began advocating for a Muslim state. Led by lawyers and reform-minded Muslims,
it played a vanguard role in politicizing south Asian Muslims. These Indian
Muslims, from the historic Khyber Pass to the borders of Myanmar, made up the
largest Muslim community in the world and were divided into several ethno
regional groups. Compared with an equally diverse Hindu population, however,
Muslims were still a minority and, in most cases, were economically and
politically underprivileged. The INC included a small sprinkling of Muslim
elite, but the party increasingly came under the dominant influence of Hindu
leaders such as B.G. Tilak, who gained further momentum after the division of
Bengal into two administrative units in 1905. INC’s agitation politics
coincided with the British promises for constitutional reforms, enabling some
modicum of Indian participation in local affairs. Amid fears and expectations,
the Muslim professional elite, joined by some landed groups, met Lord Minto in
1906, seeking safeguards for their community in the forthcoming reforms. Their
successful lobbying guaranteed them separate electorates, ensuring adequate
Muslim representation on elected local bodies. It also made them conscious of
their collective need to create a regular party to operate both as a pressure
group and an effective watchdog. But the defeat in the elections of 1937
changed the mental horizon of the league and they began to demand for a
separate homeland to Indian Muslims. The study is an attempt to bring forth the
ideology used by the league post 1937 elections to wield its demand of
Pakistan. How did it emerge from 106 seats in the provincial elections of 1937
to 425 in the provincial elections of 1946? And how did it succeed in wielding
its demand within a span of 10 years.
All India Muslim League:
After the establishment
of the Indian National Congress as a procurator for the people of India, a necessity
was felt to reassess its claims at impartial representation. From the very inception
Congress had displayed clear its interest to escort the rights of only Hindus.
Some of the Indian National Congress leaders espoused a extremist policy to form
Hindu Rashtra in the subcontinent under the guise of a national movement.
The Muslims of
India were highly dissatisfied by the anti-Muslim approach that the Congress
seemed to have adopted. The incidents following the partition of Bengal and
Urdu-Hindu controversy toughened the thirst of the Muslims to classify themselves
politically as separate community
Reasons that led to the formation of All India
Controversy: The well
known controversy of Hindi-Urdu began with the demand of the Hindus to replace
Urdu with Hindi as official language in Deva Nagari Script. The Governor of UP at
that time was Sir Anthony Macdonal, he ejected Urdu from public offices. At this
critical juncture Congress supported the movement against Urdu which made the Muslims
disappointed. Therefore, the need for the formation of a Muslim political party
2. Attitude of the Congress towards
Muslims: Congress was a Hindu
dominated party. Its interests were always contrary to those of the Muslims. It
made the Muslims leaders to have their own separate party which can secure the rights
of the Muslim community.
3. Educational and Economic
Backwardness: Education and economic backwardness was another important
cause for the formation of Muslim league as the Muslims were far behind from
the Hindus as far as Education and Economic prosperity was concerned. The deplorable
condition of the Muslims could only be uplifted by forming a separate Muslims
organization that could represent the Muslims.
The first session of
All India Muslim League was held at Karachi and its was presided over by Adamji
Peer on 29 December 1907. It was felt from the very beginning that the League could
not achieve desired outcome without the proper reinforcement of the British.
Therefore, a branch of Muslim league was organised at London by Syed Ameer Ali.
The inaugural meeting was held on 6 May 1908, at London Caxton Hall. The participants
were Muslims and those British people who favoured their view point.
Hence a political
body came into being which was to play a decisive role in the destiny of the
Muslim people of the Indian sub-continent. After the approval by the Minto-Morely
Reforms to the demand of separate, it was common sense for the Muslim
representation to have a political party which could fight elections, in fact
the main purpose for the establishment of Muslims league was to prevent among
the Muslims, the rise of bias against the other communities besides the
development of the Muslim community. It aimed to safeguard the political rights
of the Muslims and to bring them into the notice of the Government.
Whatever may have
been the effects of Muslim league on both the communities, but it made certain that
the interests of Muslims must be considered completely separate from those of
the Hindus. Any fusion of both the communities in future was not possible.
Indian provincial elections, 1937
mandated by the Government of
India Act 1935 Provincial elections
were held in British India in the winter of 1936-37. Elections were held in
eleven provinces – Madras, Bihar, Orissa, , Central Provinces, NWFP, Bengal, United
Provinces, Bombay Presidency, Assam, , Punjab and Sindh.
Circumstances at the time of
The only parties which
were in favour of the provisions of the Government of India Act 1935 with regard
to centre and provinces were Hindu Mahasabha and National Liberal Federation.
In due course of
time, the appetency to fight the elections grew among the Congressmen. When
Congress met at Faizpur in 1936, the president of the session was J. Lal Nehru.
He said that there was no choice but
to contest the elections as it would educate the masses on the political
policies and economic programmes of the party.
In the same year
1936, Jinnah was elected president of the All India Muslim League. Thus the
Muslim league which was up till now in moribund state got a fresh lease of
life. It became a Central parliamentary board to direct the elections and the election
process of the Muslims.
result of the election was a blow to the All India Muslim League. The results of
the provincial elections of 1937 were in favour of the Indian National
Congress. The total number of seats was 1,585, and INC won 707 (44.6%). INC
contested 739 seats among the 864 seats assigned “general”
constituencies and won 617. Congress won 25 seats out of the 125 non-general seats,
59 seats were reserved for Muslims, 15 of them were entirely-Muslim Province.
The All-India Muslim League came out victorious in 106 seats (6.7% of the
total), placing it on second spot. The Unionist Party (Punjab), with 101 seats
was the only other party to win more than 5 percent of the assembly seats.
After the election, Jinnah offered
to form a coalition with INC. But asserted that the Congress should not
nominate any Muslim to the ministries, as the league claimed itself to be the sole
representative of Indian Muslims population. This was not acceptable to the
Congress, and it declined the League’s offer of coalition.
Transformation in the
ideology of Muslim League
Jinnah was a
liberal Muslim who espoused unity, equality, and independence for Indians over
and above their ethnic or religious identities and, for a long time, strove for
Hindu-Muslim unity to gain independence. But in the wake of changing political
alliances and competition among various communities, Jinnah was disheartened by
the activities of INC especially by the Nehru Report of 1928, which refused to
address prevalent Muslim under-representation in education and the professions.
the Elections of 1937, Muslim League transformed its programme which turned the
fate of Indian Subcontinent. In 1938 and 1939, the Muslim League tried to bring
to light the grievances of Muslims and Muslim groups in Indian states run by
Congress governments; the effort led to documents like SHARIF REPORT
(Bihar Province) : 1938, documenting pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim bias under
Congress governments and like the PIRPUR REPORT : 1938, Muslim sufferings
under the Congress rule by A.K.Fazlul Huq..
declared India at war with Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939. The Indian
National Congress demurred strongly to the declaration of war against Germany without
prior consultation with Indians. But on the contrary the Muslim League promised
the British its support, with Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Qaid-e-Azam) calling Muslims to help the British Raj with enthusiasm
at the “critical and difficult juncture,” while asking the Viceroy
for increased protection for Muslims.
The Congress Working
Committee made it clear that it would cooperate with the British only on the condition,
if there would be a central Indian national government, and a commitment to be made
to India’s independence after the war.
Congress working committee on 22 October 1939, called its ministries to
tender their resignations. The resignation protest was supported by Jawaharlal
Nehru, but not by Mahatma Gandhi, who suggested that it would strengthen both
British wartime militarization and the Muslim League. Both Viceroy Linlithgow
and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were pleased with the resignations.
On 2 December 1939,
Jinnah put out an appeal, to the Indian Muslims to celebrate 22 December 1939
as a “Day of Deliverance” from Congress. “Day of Deliverance”
was a celebration day marked by Muslim League on 22 December 1939. It was led by
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and intended to celebrate the resignation of Congress
party from provincial and
central offices in protest for not being informed prior the inclusion of India
Demand for Pakistan
The idea of Pakistan, did not
originate all of a sudden. It is stated that the idea of creation of North-West
Indian Muslim State was first put forth by Sir Mohammed Iqbal in 1930. But all
that he wanted was a loose federation and not a separate State of Pakistan. On
March 21, 1940 All India Muslim League ultimately came forward with its demand for
the formation of independent State of Pakistan intended to be the homeland of
the Indian Muslims. In 1933, Muslim Under-Graduate of Cambridge University
Rahmit Ali again renewed the demand of Pakistan which was to include Punjab,
NWFP, Baluchistan, Sindh and Kashmir but the scheme did not receive much
encouragement. Even Sir Zaffar ullah Khan described it as impracticable.
In 1938, Jinnah demanded the division
of India. But the whole idea was given a serious thought in 1940. It was in
that year that two nation theory was expounded and Pakistan resolution was
innah visited the viceregal palace at
Shimla on June 27, 1940, conferring at length with Linlithgow. Afterwards he
wrote a memo reaffirming that the Lahore “Pakistan” resolution had become “the
universal faith of Muslim India” and that the Viceroy had promised him “that no
interim or final scheme of new constitution would be adopted by the British
Government Without the previous approval of Muslim India.” They had also agreed
that “every- thing should be done that is possible to intensify war efforts and
mobilise all the resources of India for her defence for the purpose of
maintaining internal security, peace and tranquillity, and to ward off external
aggression.” Jinnah insisted that “this can only be achieved provided the
British Government are ready and willing to associate the Muslim leadership as
equal partners in the Government both at the Centre and in all the provinces.”
Specifically, he recommended that for the duration of the war the Executive
Council of the Viceroy he expanded to include at least as many Muslim members
as Hindus “if the Congress comes in”; otherwise Muslims, all to be chosen by
the League, were to have the majority of additional council membership”.
In 1942, Cripps
Mission come to India. Muslim league rejected the mission on the grounds that
their demand of a separate state of Pakistan had not been accepted. Besides,
the league was also not satisfied with the Constitution making machinery
created under the scheme.
In 1945, British
government propounded the Wavell plan. The plan was rejected by the league
altogether. According to Mr. Jinnah acceptance of such a scheme was likely to
weaken League’s claim, for an independent State of Pakistan.
Next came Cabinet Mission proposals.
The Mission felt that it was not possible to have a separate State of Pakistan.
In the view of the Commission even after the partition of India quite a large
number of Muslims will remain in India and a good number of Hindus in the newly
created state of Pakistan.
elections to the Central Legislative Assembly were held in December 1945 and
the provincial elections were held in January 1946. The most spectacular
outcome of these elections was the resounding victory of the Muslim League,
which won all the thirty Muslim seats in Central Legislative Assembly. The
Congress did not officially put up any candidate for these Muslim seats,
although they claimed to be a “National” body representing the Muslim as well
as Hindus. The other nationalist Muslim candidates in many cases lost their
deposits. The most bitterly contested election was in Meerut division where
Liaquat Ali Khan defeated a Congressite Muslim candidate who was backed by the
finances and propaganda machinery of the Congress. Religious slogans were utilized and the
term ‘Pakistan’ was put forward. Several scholars state that the meaning of the
word Pakistan was kept controversial so that it meant different to different
people. In the election campaign of 1946, the All India Muslim League formed networks
with traditional power houses, such as landowners and the religious illuminati,
in the Muslim-majority provinces to win their support in the election. The
League’s success thus was even more impressive than that of the Congress. Quaid-i-Azam
remarked that the League had made rapid strides during the past five or six
years, so much so that Britain, America and other powers realized that it was
the only authoritative body of the 100 million Muslims of India. On January 11,
1946 Muslim League celebrated its success by observing the Victory Day.
It was in this atmosphere that on
February 20, 1947, British Prime Minister Lord Attlee declared that the
government proposed to leave India by June, 1948, positively and in case Indian
communities did not reach any compromise, even then the government will leave
the country and decide to whom the power in India should be transferred..
Then came out the Mountbatten Plan on
June 3, 1947 which provided for the creation of separate dominion of Pakistan,
which came into being on 14-15 August, 1947. It included the provinces of North
Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh, West Punjab, East Bengal and British
Baluchistan. Mr. Jinnah (Qaid-e-Azam) became the First Governor-General of
Pakistan. Thus, a new State came into being which came to be known as Pakistan.
The elections of 1946 clearly bring
into light the efforts of All India Muslim league that it began post 1937
elections. There have been some arguments stating that the demand of Pakistan
by the league to 1930s, which is far from the fact. From 1906 to 1937 the
league exhibited to be the sole representative of the Indian Muslims but the
elections of 1937 which changed the entire scenario of the league politics were
somewhat a black spot on the dignity of Muslim league that it even failed to
win in the Muslim majority states besides the failure demand of coalition
government with India National Congress forced the league to change its
ideology. Therefore, it transformed its ideology and demanded for a separate
homeland for Indian Muslims and within a span of 10 years it succeeded in its
demand of Pakistan.
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