At this critical juncture when all seemed lost there emerged on the scene a Messiah for the Muslims—Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898). He had a vision and he ushered in a renaissance for the Muslims of India. Though opposed tooth and nail by the theocrats he pursued the mission of providing western education to the Muslims who had been rendered into “hewers of wood and drawers of water” outnumbered by better educated Hindu majority that had geared itself according to the changing needs of the time with the onset of industrial revolution.
Sir Syed was perhaps the first political thinker and visionary among Muslims after the debacle of 1857. He could foresee the future course of India under Indian National Congress. He advised the Muslims not to be part of its game. He perceived the Congress’s demand for a wider role for the Indians in the government as the “thin end of the wedge for monopolising absolute power.”
As member of Viceroy’s Legislative Council visualising the sub- continental scenario when the British would leave India, he raised a pertinent question-pregnant with the genesis of partition: “Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India?” “Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable… But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.”
According to him Muslims would not get equitable share in jobs and other areas of socio-economic endeavours. Their best of the brains would be outnumbered by the better educated Hindus. This observation was a manifestation of increasing polarisation on grounds of economic disparities between the two nations despite the fact Sir Syed believed that “Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan”.
During the British Raj all the religious communities living in India enjoyed equal rights. They could practice their faiths in full freedom. Where they did not have equitable opportunities were the fields of employment and economic enterprise. And this friction got adequately postulated in Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s 14 points rejected by the Nehrus.
Had the Indian National Congress accepted his proposal a unified India could have been free much earlier and without long struggle and bloodshed. Like Sir Muhammad Iqbal who did not talk of independent Muslim state in his historic Allahabad Address of 1930, the Quaid did not believe in dividing India as the Lahore Resolution of March 1940 specifically wanted recognition of Muslims within Hindustan and not as an independent state. It was a much later after thought that Lahore Resolution became Pakistan Resolution.
Many pseudo-historians in Ziaist mould have ever since tried to paint a life-long secular Jinnah into a theocratic crusader misconstruing his linkage of Islam and modern concept of democracy. Quaid in the right-earnest— believed it as an Islamic concept when he said that democracy is in our bone marrow and in our blood since the advent of Islam. Could there be anything more explicit than Islamic concept of Ijtehad, debate, discussion and consensus—for decisions of the state strictly under Huquq Ul Ibad—rights of human beings on each other based on Islamic social justice guarantying egalitarian principle of greatest good of the largest number? Most certainly not.
The Quaid spelled out his vision in his speech of August 11, 1947 in the mother legislative assembly –rightly described as his Magna Carta for Pakistan, that:
However, after his death (Sept 11, 1948) his dream of Pakistan as a modern, democratic, liberal and secular state was waylaid by the power troika comprising of military, civil and judicial bureaucracy backed by the feudal. From social welfare state
Pakistan was converted at gun point into a security state (garrison state) supported by religious groups that had opposed all three Muslim greats—Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal and the Quaid.
The writer is the former High Commissioner for Pakistan to UK