Virtual Bangladesh : Commentary
THE IMPACT OF JINNAH'S ANTI-BANGALEE DESIGN ON THE POLITICAL SCENE OF BANGLADESH IN THE EARLY YEARS OF PAKISTAN: AN ASSESSMENT
By M. Waheeduzzaman Manik
Dr. M. Waheeduzzaman Manik writes from Tennessee, USA. His email address is: MWzaman@Aol.Com
The movement for a separate homeland for the Muslims of Indian subcontinent had reached its pinnacle with the emergence of Pakistan as an independent nation-state on August 14, 1947. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the greatest exponent of Two-Nation Theory and the most articulate champion of Pakistan movement. He was called the Quai-I-Azam (the Great Leader) for his pivotal role in the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah's relentless efforts for carving out a separate Muslim homeland made him the sole spokesman of the Indian Muslims in mid-1940s. He has been called both the "Creator" and "Founder" of Pakistan. The Muslim League, under Jinnah's leadership, had successfully mobilized and enlisted Bangalee Muslim masses throughout the province of Bengal in favor of Pakistan movement. It is a verified fact that out of 100 million Muslim populations in British-India, 33 million were from Bengal province. The leaders of Bengal Provincial Muslim League (BPML) were among the vanguards that had spearheaded the Pakistan Movement.
Although the overwhelming number of Muslim population in Bengal had supported the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan, the central leadership of All-India Muslim League (AIML) was disproportionately skewed in favor of non-Bengali leaders of different provinces. Jinnah had effectively used most of the popular leaders of Bengal for the purpose mobilizing support in favor of his "Two-Nation Theory" and the demand for separate homeland for the Muslims of India.
Yet, Jinnah had preferred to promote and project the non-Bengali loyalists, rightists
and collaborationists in the leadership roles at both AIML and Bengal Provincial Muslim
League (BPML). It was by his deliberate anti-Bengali design that most of the
celebrated and popular Muslim League leaders of Bengal were either banished or
marginalized immediately before or
Lest it be thought that this writer is overstating the fact! Yet, the following verifiable facts will lend credence to my generalizations on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Founding Father of Pakistan.
After the passage of the Lahore Resolution (known as Pakistan Resolution) on March 23, 1940, the moribund Bengal Provincial Muslim League (BPML) started emerging as the mass organization for the first time. With the popularity of Pakistan Movement, Jinnah's grip over AIML and BPML was also getting tighter. There are some scholars who have attributed the popularity of Pakistan movement in Bengal to Jinnah's "personal popularity" and "organization skills." There are observers who have asserted that "religious zeal" had prompted the millions of people to support Pakistan Movement. There are also writers who have singled out the alleged or perceived "Congress mis-rule" to be the determining factor that forced the Bengali Muslims to support the demand for Pakistan. There is no doubt that these explanations might sound intuitively pleasing or plausible. However, such claims might sound fantastic but not realistic at all.
Yet, these superfluous claims or assertions lack credibility. Although there was religious fervor in Pakistan movement from the beginning to the end, the magnitude and extent of "Islamic solidarity" of Bengali Muslims differed substantially from the Muslims of North and North-Western provinces of India. There is no doubt that religion had played a clear role in the process of creating or developing a sense of "Islamic Creed" or "Muslim Solidarity" among the Bangalee Muslims during the movement for Pakistan. However, there is no reason to subscribe to the idea that "Islam" was the "only" factor or consideration that united the Muslims in Bengal behind Pakistan movement. In fact, there were dominant factors other than "religion" that motivated the Bangalee Muslims to lend their overwhelming support to Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. The Muslims in Bengal were more pragmatists or a rationalists than religionists. The truth of the matter is that after the adoption of Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, the Muslim masses started to believe genuinely that they might achieve an independent Muslim nation-state provided they vigorously support the movement for the establishment of Pakistan. The rising Muslim middle class found the demand for Pakistan more attractive or prospective option for their own personal and professional growth. Their dreams of securing jobs in both public and private sectors, and their strong desires for succeeding in business enterprises in an independent Muslim State, were more relevant to them than religious consideration. The Muslim masses in Bengal had found the demand for Pakistan to be a pragmatic way to rid themselves of the bondage of socio-economic stagnation. For common Bengali Muslims, the establishment of Pakistan would create limitless opportunities for their own social mobility.
Khalid Bin Syeed, one of the most distinguished scholars on Pakistan Movement, succinctly refuted the myth about Jinnah's organizational capabilities and perceptions of alleged mal-administration of congress: "It was only after the Lahore Resolution was passed and the demand for a Muslim state came to the forefront that Muslims in their thousands flocked to the Muslim League. Thus, neither Jinnah's organizing ability nor the alleged Congress misrule by themselves could have transformed the [Muslim] League into a mighty force. The demand for Pakistan ., this stimulant which put life and vigor into the Muslim League" Khalid Bin Syeed, Pakistan: The Formative Years, London: Oxford University press, 1968, p. 179).
The most relevant question that needs to be raised is this: who were the chief messengers of Muslim League's demand for Pakistan in Bengal? The messengers of Pakistan movement to Bengali middle classes and masses in 1940s were A.K. Fazlul Huq, Shaheed Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim, the most celebrated and trusted Bengali leaders of that era. Although they had championed the cause of Pakistan movement, they were not willing to be anti-Bangalee collaborationists or die-hard Jinnah loyalists. Doubtless, they might have sincerely believed that the establishment of Pakistan would emancipate the Bengali Muslims from the economic and social miseries. Yet, they were not willing to compromise the interests of Bangalees. Jinnah had used them to popularize his Two-Nation Theory and Demand for Pakistan. Yet, he had neutralized or banished these doyens of Bengal politics at an appropriate time so that no one from East Bengal (East Pakistan) could effectively challenge his authoritarian mode of governance.
Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Hoque, the mover of 1940 Lahore Resolution for Muslim homeland, was expelled from the All-India Muslim League in 1941. It needs to be noted that Fazlul Huq, the most charismatic leader of Bengal, with more popularity and name recognition throughout India than M.A. Jinnah at least till mid-'30s, had joined the Muslim League in 1937 after forming the Krishak Praja Party (KPP)- Muslim League coalition Government in Bengal. He held leadership roles in both All-India Congress and All-India Muslim League. Fazlul Huq was also involved in the formation of Muslim League in 1906 (he was 33 years old in 1906! Nawab Salimullah had personally commended his extraordinary brilliance and talent). He was the chief of Krishak Praja Party, the party that won more Muslim seats in Bengal Provincial Legislature in 1937 election than Muslim League. He was already a legendary figure in Bengal politics before he formally joined the Muslim League in 1937. His role as the Premier of Bengal was a catalyst in attracting the Muslim middle class and peasantry to the Muslim League. His accomplishments as the Premier of Bengal were beneficial and relevant to Bengali Muslim middle class and peasantry. Doubtless, the rising tide of Muslim nationalism and demand for Pakistan had gained an impetus with Sher-e- Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq's joing the Muslim League.
Although his support for Pakistan Movement was genuine, Fazlul Huq did not tolerate Jinnah's unfair interference in Bengal politics. Instead of taking dictates from Jinnah or Liaquat Ali Khan, Fazlul Huq had resigned from the Muslim League for which he had to be in political exile for more than 10 years. Aimed at the collapse of Huq's Ministry in Bengal, Jinnah, with his ruthless brilliance, personally saw to it that Muslim League support is withdrawn from KPP-Muslim League coalition Government. The collapse of KPP-ML coalition Ministry had devastating effect on the Bengali Muslims. Fazlul Huq was forced to form a coalition Government with Shyma Prashad Mukherji (known as Shayma-Huq Ministry). Yet, M.A. Jinnah could care less. His sole goal was to send Fazlul Huq to political wilderness in an era when the demand for Pakistan caught up the imagination of 33 million Bengali Muslims. Jinnah was personally involved in spreading blatant falsehoods and inaccuracies about Fazlul Huq throughout Bengal. He was called "traitor." It is interesting to note that Fazlul Huq had been vilified by both progressive faction (led by Shaheed Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim) and rightist faction (led by Maulana Akram Khan and Nazimuddin) of Bengal Provincial Muslim League! Aimed at demeaning and discrediting Fazlul Huq, the leaders of Bengal Muslim League had addressed several hundred public meetings in most of the districts in Bengal. Nothwithstanding his enormous popularity, Sher-e-Bangla was not invincible. Muslim League's defamatory propaganda had worked. Fazlul Huq's Ministry had collapsed in 1943.
With Jinnah's blessing, Nazimuddim had formed the Ministry in Bengal in 1943. For all practical purposes, Jinnah, indeed, had succeeded in dismantling Sher-e-Bangla's stronghold in Bengal politics. (I have a plan to elaborate on Jinnah's anti-Huq crusade in a separate article. Therefore, suffice it at this time to point out that Fazlul Huq did not regain his popularity among the Bangalee masses till he formed the United Front with Maulana Bhasani and Suhrawardy during the historic election in 1954. He felt elated and to some extent vindicated when he found out that the United Front literally routed out the ruling Muslim League from East Pakistan).
It was Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy who had emerged as the most dynamic leader of Bengal Muslim League. His role as the General Secretary of BPML till 1943 was crucial in the process of recruiting dedicated and capable party workers. He was personally instrumental in the formation of Muslim National Guards. He was the most energetic Minister in Fazlul Huq's cabinet in charge of Labor Ministry. He personally cultivated support from industrial workers in favor of Pakistan movement. He was also the most active member in Nazimuddin Cabinet that was formed after the collapse of Shayma-Huq cabinet in 1943. His popularity among the students had motivated many from younger generation to be the most vocal supporters of Pakistan movement. As the Chief Minister of Bengal in 1946, he shouldered the responsibility of lending logistic support to Pakistan Movement. His role during Direct Action Day in 1946 was pivotal towards hastening the achievement of Pakistan (even though his action or inaction on that fateful day in the history of Bengal had tarnished his image among Hindu community). Suhrawardy had also moved the amendment to the original 1940 Lahore Resolution in the Delhi convention of Muslim League Legislators in 1946 even though he himself was a staunch supporter of an independent United Bengal.
Abul Hashim, another progressive leader with tremendous organizational skills, had succeeded Suhrawardy as the General Secretary of BPML in 1943. Thousands of people had joined Muslim League in most of Bengal districts during his tenure as the General Secretary of the party. With the help of dedicated Muslim students, Hashim could bring Bangalee Muslims en masse under the fold of the Muslim League. The numerical and organizational strength of the party in Bengal was reflected in the landslide victory of Muslim League candidates in 1945-'46 elections. Yet, Abul Hashim's wings of power or influence in East Bengal political scene were clipped by Jinnah and his sycophants both before and after Pakistan was achieved.
Both Suhrawardy and Hashim tremendously contributed in the process of transforming the Bengal Provincial Muslim League into a viable mass organization that was capable of leading Pakistan Movement. Their dynamic leadership had liberated BPML from the domination of the non-Bengali Nawabs of Dacca and the upper-class leadership. For the first time, pro-Bengali, progressive and middle class leaders dominated the leadership of Bengal Muslim League. However, Muslim League in Bengal was divided into two distinct factions: the progressive group was led by Suhrawardy and Hashim whereas the rightwing conservative faction was affiliated to Khawaja Nazimuddin and Maulana Akram Khan.
The most relevant fact is that M. A. Jinnah had decided to nurture and sponsor the conservative elements in the party. Aimed at packing the East Pakistan Muslim League with Jinnah loyalists, it was the deliberate policy of Jinnah to either ignore or malign the progressive members of the Bengal Muslim League. For example, the followers of both Suhrawardy and Hashim were taunted or humiliated by Jinnah loyalists and collaborationists even before the establishment of Pakistan. Instead of recognizing Shaheed Suhrawardhy's popularity, organizational skills and crucial contribution to Pakistan movement at a critical juncture, the centralized All-India Muslim League leadership had consciously lent its support to Khawaja Nazimuddin's bid to become the leader of Muslim League legislators in Bengal on August 5, 1947 (only 9 days before Pakistan was born!). With the selection of a reactionary, conservative and discredited leader of BPML for assuming the role of Chief Minister of East Bengal (East Pakistan) over a progressive and dynamic leader of Suhrawardy's caliber and stature, M.A. Jinnah had in effect sealed off the political fate of H.S. Suhrawardy and his followers in East Bengal (East Pakistan).
While Suhrawardy and Hashim were stalwarts in pre-partition Bengal Muslim League, Maulana Bhasani was the legendary figure in Assam Muslim League. As the President of Assam Provincial Muslim League, he had spearheaded the Pakistan movement in Assam. Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani was discredited and maligned immediately after his return to East Bengal from Assam. Nazimuddin-Akram Khan clique quickly forgot his crucial contribution in favor of Pakistan during referendum in Sylhet. Maulana Bhasani had won a seat in East Bengal Provincial Legislative Assembly (EBLA) from South Tangail constituency. However, the Muslim League clique against Maulana Bhasani with an aim to dislodge him from the Provincial Assembly hatched a conspiracy out. His election to the Assembly was declared null and void on flimsy ground. Above all, he was declared disqualified by the provincial Governor to run for election for holding any public office!
Once the establishment of Pakistan became a reality on August 14, 1947, the Punjabi and other non-Bengali Muslim League leaders started consolidating their positions in the Governments of both at the Center and provinces. Choudhury Khaliquzzaman was elected as the Chief Organizer of the Muslim League when Jinnah had assumed the office of Governor General of Pakistan. Jinnah also became the President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. The self-appointed Governor General and President of the Constituent Assembly had handpicked Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The actual decision-making authority of Pakistan in the initial year after independence was centralized in the offices of the Governor General and Prime Minister. Both Jinnah ana Liaquat Ali Khan decided to employ Muslim League under the leadership of Choudhury Khaliquzzaman as an instrument of subjugating and controlling the East Bengal political scene.
The ruling coterie of Pakistan had realized it quite early that the die-hard loyalists needed to be promoted and installed in East Bengal Muslim League establishment. Aimed at humiliating and demonizing the most popular and celebrated Muslim League leaders of East Bengal (East Pakistan), the ruling coterie of Pakistan adopted a deliberate policy of filling the East Bengal (East Pakistan) Branch of Muslim League with the collaborationist, reactionary and anti-Bangalee leaders. At the behest of both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, Choudury Khaliquzzaman, the Chief of Organizer of the All-Pakistan Muslim League, had literally leased the party in East Bengal to Khawaja Nazimuddin and Maulana Akram Khan. They, in turn, sponsored those Bengali leaders who were loyal to them. Neither Nazimuddin nor Akram Khan had any mass support or charisma. Nor did they have any extraordinary organizational capabilities.
As the Chief Minister of East Bengal, Khwaja Nazimuddin also saw to it that neither Suhrwardy nor his followers have any prominent role in East Bengal politics. He lost no time to characterize Suhrawardy as the "Indian agent" and an "enemy of Pakistan." Nazimuddin had misused his official position for the purpose of relieving H.S. Suhrawardy from the membership of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. As if that was not enough of an insult for the one of the most dynamic contributors to Pakistan Movement in Bengal! It is a fact that the East Bengal Government of Khawaja Nazimuddin prohibited Suhrawardy from entering or addressing public meetings in any place of East Bengal. It was on July 13, 1948 when Liaquat Ali Khan, Jinnah's handpicked Prime Minister of Pakistan, informed Suhrawardy that the action of expulsion from East Bengal taken against him was a "matter entirely for the Provincial Government and he (Liaquat Ali Khan) can't interfere in their administration."
One of the professed goals of Nazimuddin and Akram Khan coterie was to keep the doors of the Muslim League closed to the most progressive and dynamic members of Bengal Provincial Muslim League. The progressive forces were systematically eliminated from positions of importance by the right wing forces of the party. The followers of both Suhrawardy and Hashim were specifically singled out to be excluded even from the primary membership of the Muslim League. Both Maulana Bhasani and Suhrawardy protested this exclusionary policy of the East Bengal Muslim League. A deputation of dissatisfied East Bengal Muslim Leaguers under the leadership of Ataur Rahman Khan had visited Choudhury Khaliquzzaman, the Chief Organizer of the Pakistan Muslim League. The East Bengal delegates requested that Maulana Akram Khan "be immediately directed to make the membership of the party available to the dissident groups." However, neither representation nor pressure from the dissidents did open the door of the Muslim League for those whose views were at variance with the ruling coterie.
The policy of exclusion had devastating effect on the efficacy of the Muslim League in the changing political climate of East Bengal. Notwithstanding the many limitations of Muslim League, over the years since 1937 this party had become inclusive of the mainstream linguistic, souci-economic and regional groups of people. Yet, the rightwing grip over both the party and the Government of East Bengal seriously eroded the mass support for Muslim League. The ruling Muslim League regime in East Bengal had miserably failed to redress the genuine grievances of East Bengal. The governmental policies and procedures of suppression and persecution of the dissident groups in East Bengal had effectively alienated the mainstream Banglee population of East Bengal.
Both Jinnah and Liaquat totally ignored the fact that fifty six percent of the total population of Pakistan were from East Bengal. The discriminatory policy of the Central Government of Pakistan against East Bengal started manifesting only after few months of independence. To the chagrin of East Bengal, the Central Government of Pakistan had become the exclusive domain of West Pakistanis. The representation of Bangalees in various services including Military and Civil Service under the Central Government was negligible. West Pakistanis deputed from the Central Government had filled most of the crucial administrative positions including the position of Chief Secretary in the Government of East Bengal. The exports and imports were central subjects to be dominated by West Pakistanis. The trade, commerce, banking, industries and other public or private sector enterprises were totally controlled by West Pakistanis. The allocation of annual expenditures for development of East Bengal was negligible in comparison with West Pakistan even though East Bengal was assessed for greater amount of revenues. Most of the foreign earnings were generated from East Pakistan exports. Yet, foreign exchange allocation for East Bengal government was almost nil. Since the Federal capital was located in Karachi, the federal expenditures had no beneficial effects on the economy of East Bengal.
The Bengalis started resenting the discriminatory policies of the Central Government. The progressive Bengali leaders (in some instances even conservative Muslim Leaguers) had started protesting this kind of blatant and unfair policies and programs of the ruling elite of Pakistan Government. For example, one Bangalee member of Pakistan's Constituent Assembly pointed out as early as February, 1948 that a "feeling is growing among the East Pakistanis that Eastern Pakistan is being neglected and treated nearly as a 'colony' of West Pakistan." It was obvious that the Central Government was not willing to redress the genuine grievances of Bangalees. Instead of redressing pressing problems of East Bengal, Pakistan's ruling elite kept on sermonizing Bangalees to be more of Pakistanis. The typical anti-Bangalee attitude of Jinnah and Liaquat Government was manifested in Prime Minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan's arrogant response to a Bangalee leader's question on Provincial autonomy for East Bengal (at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on March 2, 1948): "Today in Pakistan there is no difference between the Central Government and Provincial Government. The central Government is composed of the provinces. . We must kill this provincialism for all times."
The beginning of the end of Pakistan in East Bengal had started as early as in 1948 when the Muslim League Government at both the Center and East Bengal were pushing for Urdu to be the "only" State Language of Pakistan.. The language issue started mobilizing the people of East Bengal even before the year 1947 was out. Neither Jinnah nor Liaquat Ali Khan was willing to recognize that Urdu, an alien language to Bangalees, could never be imposed on East Bengal. They never recognized the fact that the then Chief Minister of East Bengal, Khawaza Nazimuddin, was aggravating and alienating the Bangalee population when he started aggressive campaign in favor of Urdu to be the State language of Pakistan. Jinnah's "Urdu, and Urdu alone shall be the State Language of Pakistan" speeches in Dacca (on March 21, 1948 at Race Course Maidan, and on March 24, 1948 at the Special Convocation Ceremony of Dacca University) had been instantly criticized by the most articulate segments of Bangalees.
In a Radio Address to East Pakistanis before his departure from East Pakistan on March 28, 1948, Jinnah had harshly rebuked the critics of his language policy. He characterized the opponents of Urdu language as the "opponents" of Pakistan. He said that the supporters of Bengali as a state language are nothing but the "paid agents" of foreign countries. Aimed at castigating those who had the guts to demand Bengali to be one of the State languages of Pakistan, an imbecile Jinnah had labeled the champions of Bengali language as "communists," "enemies of Pakistan," "breakers of integrity of Pakistan," "defeated and frustrated hate-mongers," "champions of provincialism," " breakers of peace and tranquility," "political assassins and political opportunists," "traitors," " inhabitants of fools' paradise," and "self-serving, fifth columnists" etc. He commended the Chief Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin for using various forms of repressive and aggressive measures against the supporters of Bengali language. Jinnah had repeatedly reminded the proponents of Bangla language that the Central Government of Pakistan "is determined to take appropriate stern actions" against these evil forces.
Jinnah's shameless advocacy for Urdu to be the only State language of Pakistan clearly demonstrated his contempt for Bangalees and utter disregard for democratic principle of majority rule. In fact, his outlandish anti-Bengali language speeches in Dacca had sparked the first phase of language movement in 1948. Following his footprints, Liaquat Ali Khan, Nazimuddin and Nurul Amin made concerted efforts to impose Urdu as the only State language of Pakistan. The historic 1952 Language Movement withstood the naked and brute aggression against Bengali, the mother tongue of Bangalees. Instead of being silenced or browbeaten by the renegades, reactionary, rightist and collaborationist forces of Pakistan, Bangalees had continued their fight for establishing Bengali as one of the State languages of Pakistan.
The ruling Muslim League coterie took it for granted that East Bengal would forever remain subservient to the Central Government of Pakistan. Although the Muslim League started loosing public support in East Bengal even within the first year after independence, Jinnah's personal charisma and his authoritarian style of leadership kept the party together. Obviously, the Muslim League had remained relatively a viable political party as long as Jinnah was alive. The ruling coterie also took it for granted that public support will remain constant for the party that "fought for and achieved Pakistan." The real crack in the popularity of the party started manifesting after Jinnah's sudden death on September 11, 1948. (Khawaja Nazimuddin's anti-Bangalee policies and programs had accrued handsome dividends for him. The ruling coterie of Pakistan under Liaquat Ali Khan's leadership had chosen him to succeed Jinnah as the Governor General of Pakistan. Nurul Amin, another Jinnah loyalist, had succeeded Khawaja Nazimuddin as the Chief Minister of East Bengal).
It is obvious that the political development in East Bengal (East Pakistan) was very much conditioned by the policies of both the Central and provincial Governments. The main intent of the Central ruling elite was to perpetuate their colonial policy in East Pakistan through the use of the loyalist and collaborationist Muslim League Government. Both Nazimuddin and Nurul Amin regimes in East Bengal had implemented various repressive and discretionary measures. Instead of remaining subjugated by the ruling elite of Pakistan, the dissident Muslim Leaguers (mainly from Suhrawardy-Hashim faction of pre-independent Bengal Muslim League) had joined hands with other progressive forces of East Bengal (East Pakistan) to mobilize and organize themselves. Their sole objective was to oppose the oppressive, repressive and discriminatory policies and programs of both the Central Government of Pakistan and the Government of East Pakistan (East Bengal). They also felt the acute need for a political party to ventilate and articulate the genuine grievances of East Bengal.
The emergence of East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (EPAML) on June 23, 1949 as the first opposition party in East Bengal filled such a need. The student community and intelligentsia of East Bengal were also the vanguards in building resistance movements in the early years of Pakistan. The students had provided the leadership of the language movements both in 1948 and 1952. The relentless struggle of Bangalees for freedom and self-determination continued till they achieved complete independence through a liberation war in 1971.
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