Nearly seven decades ago, a history was made in then British Indian empire. The All India Muslim League made it. The venue was the historic city of Lahore. On the day, 23rd March 1940, the League had a grand convention of representatives, delegates and enthusiasts assembled there to chart out the future of the Muslims of India along with the future independence of India from the British colonial rule then nearly 177 years running. The main heroes of the convention happened to be Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the President of the League who presided over the session followed by A.K Fazlul Haq being the fortunate one to present in the convention the historic resolution that made another history in the making that not only for Pakistan but also for Bangladesh had their genesis of foundation.
A relevant background of the convention may not be out of place to mention. 1935 Indian Administration Act of the British rulers opened further opportunity for self-rule of India. The self-rule provided for people’s elected representative to take on to the administration. The first general election that followed the Act in early 1937 produced results in eleven provinces in such a way that only Bengal could have formed the Muslim League (then 31 years in existence) Ministry headed by A.K. Fazlul Haq, the popular Bengal leader, crowned in Lahore some time back as the Shere Bangal or the Tiger of Bengal, in Bengali version, Sher E Bangla. Three provinces had coalition ministry of conglomerates but in seven other provinces the ministries had been purely of the Congress, then over 50 years in existence and dominated by caste ridden and ‘high born’ Hindus.
In these seven provinces, unfortunately for the Muslims, the ministries started to put up action programs that in fact turned to be aggressively Hindu communal against the beliefs, values and practices of the minority Muslims extending even in school class rooms forcing the Muslim boys and girls against their free will to bow down to certain portraits, singing Bande Mataram, etc as these amounted to somewhat polytheism and against Islamic monotheist belief. The Muslims naturally reacted and protested against Hindu communalism at state level dealings. But they cared little that obviously made the Muslims to think more independently about their future political status in the Indian sub continent should the British leave giving independence to the Indian empire. The Congress took the opportunity to have the Hindu dream of AKHANDA BHARAT or reunited India under their control leaving the Muslims as a ‘permanent minority’ in post British independent India.
Having the vicious Hindu communal scenario (See, Shila Sen, 1973 and Joya Chatterjee, 1993/2003) all around, the All India Muslim League convened on the day a grand convention in Lahore that was attended by leaders of the Muslim League and their supporters from all over the country. It thus turned out to be a decisive moment to chart out programs for future action for dignified survival of all Muslims in the sea of caste ridden Hindu communalism. Thus in midst of high expectations, the two-day convention at the concluding session on the 24th March passed a unanimous resolution presented by Bengal Premier A K Fazlul Haq that read as follows:
‘It is the considered view of this Session of the All India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz. that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are a majority, as in the north-western and eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign’ ( S.S. Husain, 1995, P.218, quoted from Pirzada).
If one may look at the geographical position in 2009 of the three countries Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, one must not miss the pertinent point that they are in fact what the Lahore Resolution had resolved to attain in the post British period. However, there had been detours in between 1940 to 1947 and then again in 1971.
The detour of the 1947 could have been averted provided the 1940 Resolution would have been fully implemented. The harsh fate of the people and particularly of the populously Muslim provinces like Bengal and Punjab made the detour obvious and non-implementation of the Lahore Resolution in full. Who’s to blame is a matter of debate still bangs on our ears, but the fact remained that on insistence of the Congress both these populous provinces faced certain partition (See, H.V. Hodson, The Great Divide, 1968). That plan for partition ahead of independence of the two provinces ditched particularly East Bengal in danger having no possible viability as an independent country surrounded by hostile neighbor from all sides in the immediately pre1947 perception of the leaders of the Muslim League.
Having the drastically changed political scenario of imminent partition of the two provinces on religious communal divide, the leaders soon after the provincial general election of 1946 convened another session of all the Muslim legislators of all provinces to meet in Delhi on the 9th April 1946. In this crucial historic session, the legislators took another decision somewhat revising the 1940 Resolution abandoning the term ‘Independent States’ that meant clearly not for two Muslim majority countries but one independent Pakistan. In fact, the 1946 election campaign was absolutely and clearly marked by the slogan for Pakistan, and one Pakistan.
The resolution adopted in Delhi on the 9th April, 1946, is a very long one that everything stated there may not be relevant in this item. What is most relevant, as I see, read as follows:
‘That the zones comprising Bengal and Assam in the North East and the Punjab, the North West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan in the North West of India, namely the Pakistan zones, where the Muslims are a dominant majority, be constituted into one sovereign independent state and that an unequivocal undertaking be given to implement the establishment of Pakistan without delay’ (S.S. Husain, 1995, P.222, quoted from MHR Talukder, 1987).
The resolution so adopted had no lack of clarity whatsoever and was in response only to the popular will and demand of the Muslims who feared to suffer in future as they had suffered in the past in the joint evil hands of the British and their local henchmen so much so that the Muslim in utter desperation demanded the united and powerful one Pakistan. One typical slogan for the commoners had been ‘HAT ME BIRI MU MEN PAN LARKE LEGE PAKISTAN’, ‘Holding in hand biri or a local brand cigarette and in chewing in mouth pan or a sort of local variety of betel leaf with cracked local nut mixed with locally made calcium carbonate, we fight for establishing Pakistan’. The leaders as such at the end of the 1946 provincial election had no scope to go for two Muslim majority states but to demand and establish one and only one united Pakistan and so hopefully for a powerful country to face up to the bigger Hindu India.
Later on, some claims were heard that one leader from Bengal protested the revision of the Lahore Resolution in Delhi session presented this time by the other sitting Premier of Bengal once again, Husseyn Shahid Sohrawardy, but as evidence suggested, the opposition voice was so feeble that that was lost in overwhelming majority roaring sound.
The Lahore resolution conformed to the reality in 1940 and then again the 1946 one as well responded appropriately meeting the latter political development and situation created mainly by the Congress. That is how one Pakistan was founded in mid August 1947.
The vulnerable and fragile condition Pakistan started its journey in 1947 (See, Brainbatti, 1963) naturally had little optimism for survival. Even so, the united country survived for 23 years but failed at the end of about two decades to hold on together; thus the British East Bengal/ East Pakistan broke away from the federation taking identity as independent Bangladesh. Many explained the post 1971 Bangladesh as the practical realization of the Lahore Resolution of 1940. This explanation holds well as long as it meets the spirit of the same resolution, but not if the spirit of Muslim nationhood is lost.
Unfortunately, there is a group here in Bangladesh who condemns the partition of 1947 and yet wishes to rationalize sovereign Bangladesh. Are they right in reason or wonders in fallacy? Had there been no partition in 1947, it would remain one India in the region that the British and the Congress seriously pursued for to the end. Had they succeeded and the Muslim League failed in 1947 could there be any land called independent sovereign Bangladesh in 1971? Not, at all.
It is thus only logical that to be patriotic Bangladeshi one must accept the rationale of one Pakistan of 1947 that formed the genesis of independent Bangladesh. Thus it can be stated in conclusion that to be a patriotic Bangladeshi believing in its perpetual dignified existence, there is no scope to deny the rationality of the 1940 Lahore Resolution. That is the proud heritage of both Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Posted by Raza Rumi
This piece by M.T. Hussain makes an interesting read. He cites the Lahore Resolution as the ‘proud heritage of Pakistan and Bangladesh” though the logic of the full argument is circular at best. PTH