Why Quaid Left Congress

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In 1913 the Quaid-i-Azam joined the All India Muslim League without abandoning the membership of the Congress of which he had been an active member for some years. But this membership of the two organizations ended in December 1920. On the occasion of the special session at Nagpur the Congress adopted a new creed which permitted the use of unconstitutional means and decided to resort to non-violent non-co-operation for the attainment of self-government. The new policy and programme in essence envisaged withdrawal of the students from schools and colleges, boycott of law-courts by lawyers and litigants as well as the impending elections to the legislatures under the Government of India act 1919 either as voters or as candidates.1 The new philosophy of the Congress had been shaped almost entirely under the influence of Gandhi who had, by then, emerged as a commanding figure in Congress politics. Although there were many prominent Congressmen such as C.R. Das and Lala Lajpat Rai who did not subscribe to the programme of non-co-operation2, Jinnah was the only one in a crowd of several thousand people who openly expressed serious disagreement.

A constitutionalist by conviction he was unable to endorse, what he called, a sterile programme that the Congress intended to pursue. He was not opposed to agitation or, even putting stronger, pressure on the Government but he distrusted the ‘destructive methods which did not take account of human nature, and which might slip out of control at any time’3. He was convinced and he did not hesitate to tell Gandhi directly that ‘your way is the wrong way: mine is the right way – the constitutional way is the right way’4. But his voice of practical statesmanship was not heeded and Jinnah walked away not only out of the Congress session but from the Congress Party as well. Commenting on Jinnah’s courage as the solitary opponent of the Boycott resolution Col. Wedgwood, who was present in the Congress session as a fraternal delegate of the British Labour Party, observed that if India had only a few more men of Jinnah’s convictions she would not have to wait for long for her independence.5

Jinnah’s rupture with the Congress has been variously interpreted. Jawaharlal Nehru in his Autobiography is of the view that “Temperamentally he did not fit in at all with the new Congress. He felt completely out of his element in the Khadi-clad crowd demanding speeches in Hindustani”.6 In a later work he has reiterated that Jinnah left the Congress ‘because he could not adapt himself to the new and more advanced ideology and even more so because he dislike the crowds of ill-dressed people talking in Hindustani, who filled the Congress’7. This is hardly a convincing explanation of Jinnah’s breach with the Congress. During his fourteen year old8 association with the body he had freely mingled with the ‘Khadi-clad’ and ‘ill-dressed’ crowd at its meetings. This criticism, moreover, does not appear to reckon with the fact that the people whom Jinnah led in later years – the Muslims – were even poorer and less educated than Hindus who swelled the Congress gatherings and felt completely at home among them. It is of course true that the wilderness of unconstitutionalism had no appeal for him. There was nothing mealy-mouthed about it. He was convinced that Gandhian methodology for the solution of political problems would do great harm than good to India and especially the Muslims, as indeed it did. The Moplahs, the descendants of Arab sailors living along the Malabar Coast, rose in revolt against the British in August 1921 as partners in the non-co-operation movement and lost no less than 10,000 lives9. The Chauri-Chauri tragedy in the district of Gorakhpur, in February 1922, where twenty two policemen were overpowered and brutally burnt alive in the adjoining police station by a frenzied mob was also a sequel of Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. Whether it was on account of excess such as these or some other...