Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

Refusing India PM’s post to planning Kashmir attack: rumours and facts about Jinnah, on his birth anniversary

Because Jinnah died soon after the creation of Pakistan, speculations about him continue to cast a long shadow. Here are four things about the man who divided the subcontinent, from four aspects of his life.

JinnahJinnah died in 1948, before the modern nation of Pakistan could assume any sort of shape. (Express Archives)

December 25 marks the 147th birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder-father of Pakistan. Jinnah died soon after his dream — the creation of Pakistan — was realised. His memory in Pakistan, thus, is frozen at the height of his triumph, and he has been spared the scrutiny Jawaharlal Nehru has been subjected to in India.

However, because Jinnah died so soon, speculations about him continue to cast a long shadow, on both sides of the border. Here are four things about the man who divided the subcontinent, from four different aspects of his life.

When Gandhi offered Jinnah the PM post

A popular rumour from the tumultuous years preceding India’s independence and Partition is that Mahatma Gandhi had offered the Prime Minister’s post to Jinnah, and if only Nehru had agreed to it, Pakistan would possibly have not been created. Two things are wrong with this theory — the offer was not made once, but several times, and it was Jinnah, not Nehru, who quashed it.


The instance most often quoted is from April 1947, when Gandhi proposed to the new Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, that Jinnah be offered to head the interim government. Gandhi had made the same suggestion earlier too.

But as American historian Stanley Wolpert writes in his book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’, “Such an offer might have tempted Jinnah if he believed in or trusted Gandhi.” But he believed that, “Mr. Gandhi’s conception of ‘Independent India’ is basically different from ours… Mr. Gandhi by independence means Congress raj.”

Festive offer

This is the same language Jinnah used in a speech he gave on December 6, 1945. “First, the Hindus and the Mussulmans are two major nations living in this sub-continent, and there are Muslim Provinces and Hindu Provinces, and it is high time that the British Government applied their mind definitely to the division of India and the establishment of Pakistan and Hindustan, which means freedom for both, whereas an united India means slavery for Mussulmans and complete domination of the imperialistic caste Hinduraj throughout this sub-continent, and this is what the Hindu Congress seeks to attain…”

Gandhi and Jinnah Jinnah would have accepted Gandhi’s offer had he ‘trusted’ the latter. (Express Archives)

Did Jinnah plan the attack on Kashmir?

Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India was forced because his kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir had come under attack from tribesmen from Pakistan in October 1947. India has maintained that the tribesmen were acting with the knowledge and aid of the Pakistan establishment, while Pakistan insists they were acting on their own to “avenge atrocities” against Muslims. But did Jinnah plan the attack?


In her book Kashmir in Conflict, British author Victoria Schofield writes, ““According to George Cunningham, on the basis of information given to him by the defence secretary, Iskander Mirza, on 26 October: ‘Apparently Jinnah himself first heard of what was going on about 15 days ago, but said “Don’t tell me anything about it. My conscience must be clear.””

Other commentators, however, have said Jinnah was very much in the know of the plan.

When he promised religious freedom to all in Pakistan

Jinnah died in 1948, before the modern nation of Pakistan could assume any sort of shape. However, after fighting all his life to secure a nation established along communal lines, Jinnah seems to have envisaged a country where people would have equal rights regardless of religion. This can be seen in his speech to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.


“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State,” the Quaid-e-Azam said.

In the same speech, he said, “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations there will be no end to the progress you will make.”

Jinnah, Nehru, and the Mountbattens

British historian Alex von Tunzelmann in her book ‘Indian Summer’ has written at length about Nehru’s relationship with Lord and Lady Edwina Mountbatten. She writes that in May 1947, the Mountbattens invited Nehru to Mashobra in Simla for an “informal weekend”. Here, Mountbatten showed Nehru the draft transfer of power plan.

Jinnah’s knowledge or suspicion that Nehru had been shown the draft plan would go on to influence his attitude to Lord Mountbatten and his proposals — Tunzelmann says Jinnah had strong reasons to suspect Mountbatten was “wrapped around Nehru’s finger”.

However, according to Tunzelmann, Jinnah was once brought too close for comfort to the Edwina-Jawaharlal dynamic. She writes that according to SS Pirzada, later foreign minister of Pakistan, in June 1947, Jinnah was handed some letters purportedly written by Edwina to Nehru.“ Pirzada claimed that Jinnah discussed what to do about these letters with Fatima [his sister] and his colleagues. In the end, Jinnah concluded Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion’, and had the letters returned.”

First published on: 25-12-2023 at 19:41 IST
Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments