A History of Modern Pakistan #2 1927 – 1939

This series will cover the history of Modern Pakistan, from the earliest notions of a separatist Muslim governance to the creation of Pakistan and all the way to 2023.

You can read post covering 1857 – 1927 here: A History of Modern Pakistan #1 1857 – 1927


Delhi Proposals 1927

Members from the Muslims League and Congress met to iron out their views on the new Indian constitution. Congress propagated joint electorates, a single representative for all people in a sate or district, whereas the Muslim League wanted separate electorates. Alongside the main representative, the minorities can choose a secondary representative to represent them.

Both parties were at stalemate.

Eventually the Muslim League said they would withdraw the demand for Separate Electorates if the the following demands will be met:

  • Sind should be separated from Bombay and should be constituted into an independent province.
  • Reforms should be introduced in the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan on the same footing as in any other province of India.
  • Reservation of seats according to the population for different communities in the Punjab and Bengal.
  • Muslims should be given 1/3rd representation in the Central Legislature.

Not all Muslim League members agreed this but they went ahead. The Congress accepted these at the conference but later rejected these.

Simon Commission 1928

As part of the Indian Govt Act 1919, a commission was to be set up to review 10 years of Indian governance. Sir John Simon found some things were not working so advised that a federal system should be used as well as other plans for a new Indian constitution.

The National Congress no longer wanted an all-white man team to determine the Indian constitution. Lord Birkendhead challenged the Indians, “If they have any political capability and competence then they should form a unanimous constitution and present it to us and we will implement it.” Indian political parties accepted the challenge and called an All Parties Conference at Delhi in January 1928. The conference was attended by around hundred delegates from all the important parties including Indian National Congress, All India Muslim League, National Liberal Federation, Hindu Mahasabha, Central Sikh League etc.

An All-Parties Conference was setup to draft a Constitution for India. This was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, a report (Nehru Report) was written on what the new Indian constitution should be:

  • It contained a Bill of Rights.
  • All power of government and all authority – legislative, executive and judicial – are derived from the people and the same shall be exercised through organisations established by, or under, and in accord with, this Constitution.
  • There shall be no state religion; men and women shall have equal rights as citizens.
  • There should be federal form of government with residuary powers vested in the centre.
  • It included a description of the machinery of government including a proposal for the creation of a Supreme Court and a suggestion that the provinces should be linguistically determined.
  • The language of the Union shall be Hindustani, which may be written either in Devanagari or Urdu character. The use of the English language shall be permitted.

In response to the report, Jinnah said it would be disadvantageous to Muslims. He asked a third seats should go to Muslims and provinces like Punjab and Bengal with Muslim majorities should have provincial authority. The Hindus rejected these proposals.

Jinnah responded with the ‘14 points of the Muslim league.’ Whatever the constitution, if these are not met, then Muslims will not accept.

  1. The form of the future constitution should be federal, with the residuary powers vested in the provinces.
  2. A uniform measure of autonomy shall be granted to all provinces.
  3. All legislatures in the country and other elected bodies shall be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and effective representation of minorities in every province without reducing the majority in any province to minority or even equality.
  4. In the Central Legislature, Muslim representation shall not be less than one-third
  5. Representation of communal groups shall continue to be by separate electorates: provided that it shall be open to any community, at any time, to abandon its separate electorate in favour of joint electorate.
  6. Any territorial distribution that might at any time be necessary shall not in any way affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal, and NWFP provinces.
  7. Full religious liberty shall be guaranteed to all communities.
  8. One-third representation shall be given to Muslims in both central and provincial cabinets.
  9. No bill or resolution shall be passed in any legislature if three-fourths of the members of any community in that body oppose the bill.
  10. Sindh should be separated from Bombay to a province.
  11. Reforms should be introduced in the NWFP and Balochistan on the same footings as in the other provinces.
  12. Muslims should be given an adequate share in all services, having due regard to the requirement of efficiency.
  13. The Constitution should embody adequate safeguards for the protection of Muslim culture, education, language, religion, and personal laws, as well as for Muslim charitable institutions.
  14. No change will be made in the constitution without the consent of the province.

The conference failed to reach a conclusion on the constitution. Jinnah considered it as the “parting of the ways” and once the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” was now convinced that the Hindu mindset in India was bent upon pushing the Muslim minority to the wall.

Allahabad Address 1930

Allamah Iqbal was largely a poet and philosopher. He made an address in 1930 where he stated the Muslims in Muslim-majority provinces should have their own state. So those in Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, Bengal and Assam should be one Muslim state. This was the beginning of the vision of Pakistan. It is however argued, Allamah Iqbal did not intend for a separate Muslim nation but Muslim identity within India.

Round Table Conferences

The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–1932 were a series of peace conferences organised by the British Government and Indian political officials to discuss constitutional reforms in India.

Land of the Pure

In 1933, Choudhry Rahmat Ali produced a pamphlet, entitled Now or Never, in which the term Pakistan, ‘land of the pure,’ comprising the Punjab, North West Frontier Province (Afghania), Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan, was coined for the first time.

Indian Act 1935

Discussions around the Indian constitution continued until 1935 but there was no resolution so the Indian Act 1935 was implemented to take in to account all the views and put something in place. Even though neither the Indian Congress nor Muslim league were in complete agreeance.

1937 elections

So elections were held in 1937 accordance with the new constitution. The Indian Congress took 706 out of 1771 seats (8/11ths). The congress gloated at the success and made it appear India is now run by the British and the Congress (i.e., Hindus). Muslims have no role in India.

Under the new governance, cows could no longer be slaughtered and the Azaan was banned. Hindi became the official language with exclusion of Urdu and all students were to recite Bandi Maataram which contained shirk. There was also a Widia Mander scheme which promoted Hindu culture. And finally, a new flag excluding Muslims was created.

This was a huge blow for the Muslims.

Madani–Iqbal debate 1938

The Madani–Iqbal debate was a debate between Islamic scholars Hussain Ahmed Madani and Muhammad Iqbal, on the question of nationalism. Madani’s position throughout the debate was to insist on the Islamic legitimacy of embracing a culturally plural, secular democracy as the best and the only realistic future for India’s Muslims whereas Iqbal insisted on a religiously defined, homogeneous Muslim society. Madani and Iqbal both appreciated this point and they never advocated the creation of an absolute Islamic State. They differed only in their first step. According to Madani, the first step was the freedom of India for which composite nationalism was necessary. According to Iqbal, the first step was the creation of a community of Muslims in the Muslim-majority land. But Iqbal did not insist this meant having a separate territorial state. He wanted to awaken the consciousness of Muslims, that they should know their historic role in the unfolding of human history.

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