• kewal sethi

the nationalist phase of jinnah


the nationalist phase of jinnah

jinnah joined congress in 1904 when he became political secretary of dadabhai naroroji, who was congress president for that year. his view was that india should not be satisfied with share in the government but swaraj or self government, though in stages. he was a moderate like gokhale unlike tilak, who was a hardliner. jinnah's first differences with gandhi were over the khilafat movement. gandhi, then a newcomer and not yet accepted leader, sidestepping the congress leadership, called for hartals and demonstrations and advocated non cooperation promising swaraj within a year if his method was followed. in the special session held in 1920, hindu leaders opposed taking up a purely muslim cause. jinnah was vociferous in opposing the khilafat movement. a special session of congress was held at kolkata to discuss the issue. a majority opposed the proposal but ultimately betrayal by motilal nehru turned the tide and gandhi's proposal won by 144 votes to 132. jinnah also sensed his opportunity to get muslim sympathy and crossed over while presiding over the muslim league session which was held simultaneously. from kolkata, gandhi went to home rule league meeting. gandhi proposed change of name to swaraj sabha and declared its mission to be complete swaraj. only 61 of the 6000 members attended this meeting. a large number of leaders, both hindus and muslims resigned from the organization over this issue. jinnah saw it as the dissolution of hindu muslim unity due to spirituality of gandhi. disillusioned, he resigned from the congress party and the imperial legislative council. in his letter of resignation, jinnah made no bones about his feelings for gandhi "your methods have already caused split and division in almost every institution that you have approached hitherto … not only amongst hindus and muslims but also hindus and hindus and muslims and muslims and even between fathers and sons. .. your extreme programme has for the moment struck the imagination of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate. all this means disorganization and chaos".

the break came when the congress at its nagpur session adopted a new constitution which changed the objective to 'poorna swaraj'. he also proposed non cooperation and boycott of foreign goods. jinnah tried to intervene but was shouted down by partisan crowd. gandhi did nothing to check his followers. jinnah left the session and nagpur, not even attending muslim league session, which was being held simultaneously, as was the normal practice. gandhi started his boycott of foreign goods which was, initially, quite a success. boycotting of schools, however, was not very encouraging. government did nothing hoping that movement would soon run out of its steam. in 1921, the massacre of hindus by the moplahs and forcible conversion intervened. congress tried to soft-pedal it by saying that moplahs had been provoked by the circumstances. muslim members refused to condemn it arguing that conversion was voluntary. malviya and arya samaj led movement to reconvert these persons which accentuated the situation.

the division grew over the next decade. there were no less than 112 major communal riots. this was a direct result of importance given to khilafat movement by gandhi and by the government allowing the movement to go on to create differences between the communities.

by 1921, the non copoeration movement was petering out. to give it fillip, hartal was called in mumbai and surat. the situation in mumbai turned violent. about 60 persons were killed and many more injured. government moved after this and about 30,000 persons were arrested all over india but gandhi was left out. when finally he was arrested in march 1922, there were hardly any protests.

in the meantime, elections to councils under 1919 act were due. it led to differences and a near split in the congress but finally congress agreed to take part and split was averted. jinnah was amongst those elected. he did not join congress but presided over session of muslim league which called for hindu muslim unity. deals were made by him with swarajists and independents to overrule the official nominated members though this did not help much as veto power was with the governors and viceroy. persuaded by jinnah, muslim league called for swaraj, which it defined as a federation of virtually autonomous provinces with minimal power for the central legislature, but it favoured continued separate electorates.

meanwhile gandhi, released after only two years, instead of six, called for boycott of councils. though motilal nehru did not agree with the resignations but agreed to adopt obstructionist policies. this led to the breakup of the coalition worked by jinnah. gandhi, to consolidate his position in congress which had eroded during his absence, offered to be the president of congress for one year. this led jinnah to shift muslim league session, which hitherto was held simultaneously with congress session and in the same town, away from the venue, belgaum. the personality clash thus led to a final parting of the way.

jinnah wanted to be a national leader of the muslims. he had no provincial base. he had to be with congress or the muslim league in order to be relevant. congress would not accept him. muslim league was now in the hands of punjabi muslims who had their own agenda. reluctantly jinnah went with them. there was no looking back. his farewell speech to nationalism in kolkata in 1928 went as follows, "we are sons of this land. we have to live together. we have to work together. if we cannot agree, let us, at any rate, part as friends".


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