To what extent was Jinnah responsible for the partition of India?
The partition of India in August 1947 was a highly controversial event and has led to widespread speculation regarding its causes and consequences. Orthodox historians credit the creation of Pakistan to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All India Muslim League, and his determination to create a sovereign state for Indian Muslims. However, this view has been contested by a number of historians, who place responsibility for the partition on the political manoeuvring of the Congress and the constitutional reforms of the British Raj. Existing communal tensions and Hindu-Muslim differences have also been blamed for the split. Revisionist historians question whether Jinnah even wanted partition and have suggested that the 'Pakistan' demand was simply a bargaining counter to gain recognition for Muslims. I am going to analyse each interpretation of the event and question the true causes for partition.
According to orthodox historians, Jinnah was central to the partition of India.* He transformed the Muslim League from an elitist, marginally supported party to one of the most influential bodies at the all-India level. He mobilised the Muslims masses and according to Gilmartin, helped them to transcend their provincial divides and focus on a wider cause.* Jinnah accused the Indian National Congress of having a Hindu bias and feared their totalitarianism. He developed the 'Two Nations' theory, which asserted that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations and should have parity in central and provincial governments. This led to the passing of the Lahore Resolution in March 1940, which orthodox historians highlight as the beginning of his campaign for Pakistan. Jinnah formally asserted that the Muslims were a nation and 'independent states'* should be formed. In June 1940, he published his 'Tentative Proposals,' which repeated his demands for the division of Hindus and Muslims and advocated Muslim national self-determination.* 'Pakistan' became popularised and was the main slogan in the Muslim League's election campaign in 1945. The Muslim League achieved great success, winning 86% of seats reserved for Muslims, and the result was presented as a plebiscite for the creation of Pakistan.* According to Khan, the League's victory heightened the call for Pakistan and increased the potential for its creation.*
Orthodox historians use Jinnah's relationship with the British as further evidence of his demand for Pakistan. During World War Two, Jinnah exploited British-Congress tensions in order to enhance the prestige of the League and further the cause for Pakistan. The Cripps declaration in 1942 allowed provinces the right to secede from the Union of India and become separate dominions. The League were reportedly grateful that 'the possibility of Pakistan is recognised by implication'* and saw the declaration as evidence of British support. The Cabinet Mission, which arrived in March 1946, attempted to form an interim government with representatives from both the Muslim League and Congress. According to AI Singh, Jinnah rejected the Cabinet Mission plan because he feared that a coalition would weaken his case for Pakistan. Jinnah's 'Direct Action' resolution in August 1946 has been used as evidence to highlight his determination to achieve partition.* Singh believes that Jinnah even advocated the violence in order to pressurise the British to support partition.* He wanted to achieve partition before independence and according to Khan, had a 'dogged negation' of anything less than a sovereign Pakistan.* He controlled negotiations and was always at the forefront of the campaign for Pakistan. Singh argues that Jinnah intended Pakistan to be more than just a 'bargaining counter'* and his actions do suggest that he was determined to achieve a sovereign state for Indian Muslims.
However, Jinnah did not become heavily involved in Muslim politics until the...
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