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Revisiting Iqbal (Part 18) – Iqbal in Politics (III)


A widespread disenchantment had already befallen Muslim leadership in Lieu of Congress’s dualism and political opportunism. But that wasn’t the only thing causing eerie, Muslim leadership’s divided response to Simon Commission had furthered split in the room and Jinnah league and Shafi league were enroute opposite to one another. An atmosphere of ambiguity surrounded Muslim league’s response to Delhi proposals which shunted the Muslim claim for separate electorates.  Jinnah, with his aides decided to hold the session of league at Calcutta instead of Lahore, a decision which Iqbal interpreted as a tactic to gain consent for Delhi proposals and thus to give away the claim for separate electorates.  Iqbal remarked “Muslims confront two Major issues today. One issue pertains to the attainment of Swaraj (Self-determination) for India. The other issue is that of separate electorates – – – Unfortunately, the majority’s policy has disenchanted Muslims towards the objectiveofSwaraj . Now Muslims are preoccupied with the protection of their national rights, and the future progress of Muslims hinges on this issue”.

The Jinnah wing of Muslim league accepted the Delhi proposals in its Calcutta session which was presided over by Sir Muhammad Yaqub. The report Submitted by Motilal Nehru, in response to Birkenhead’s challenge contained provisions like transferring powers from provinces to center, conditional separation of Sindh from Bombay, rejecting Muslim demand of reservation of 1/3 seats and more. The Jinnah league, despite the visible bias of these proposals hoped to get their demands accepted by the Congress and forwarded their suggestions like transference of residual powers to provinces, reservation of 1/3 seats for Muslim representation restoration of Muslim majority in Bengal. But hijacked by Hindu Maha Sabha, Congress failed to secure consent on these demands and in 1928 warned British to accept the Nehru report lest they resort to non-cooperation. In Lahore, Shafi league was busy in preparing a memorandum to be submitted to the Simon Commission. Iqbal was present in its earlier settings and pitched his demand for Self-determination and autonomy for the provinces. But his untimely illness forced him to move to Delhi for treatment and meanwhile the Shafi league finalised its draft, but excluded Iqbal’s suggestions. This disappointed Iqbal to the point of resignation from league and in his resignation letter he pointed out the fact that “I now find that the extract of the league memorandum as published in the press makes no demand for Full autonomy and suggests a unitary form of provincial government in which law, order and justice should be placed under the Direct charge of the government . . . I ought not in the circumstances remain secretary of all-India Muslim league “. But Sir Shafi was prompt to include Iqbal’s suggestions in the report and thereby securing Iqbal’s loyalty. Iqbal finally signed the memorandum, offering his testimony to Simon Commission on November 5, 1928. The commission published its report in 1930, which proposed the abolition of diarchy and establishment of representative form of government, besides recommending the restoration of separate electorates. But these measures only fuelled Hindu-Muslim rivalries and British government decided to take spectrum of Indian opinions into account. This suggestion led to famous series of round table conferences. The Nehru report with its underlying communal and religious prejudice made it clear to Muslims that extremists were actually operating behind the veneer of Congress. Muslims thus hastened to unify politically and this promoted the formation of all parties Muslim conference and Iqbal played an active role to articulate Muslims’ political demands. The conference organised its session in Delhi in December 1928 and it was attended by delegates from all Muslim parties except the Jinnah league. The conference concluded with the adoption of ten points which included:

  1. India’s future constitution must be federal in structure, and the residual powers should be vested in the provinces.
  2. In the Central legislature Muslims’legislative representation should be no less than 1/3 of total number of seats.
  3. Under no circumstances should the Muslims be denied the right to separate electorate system of representation in the legislatures.
  4. The Muslim majority representation should be restored in these provinces (The Punjab and Bengal) , where the Muslim population is the majority. In these provinces where Muslims are a minority, they should retain their existing legislative seats.
  5. 5. No law should be enacted relating to religious and cultural issues, if 3/4 of minority members express their opposition.
  6. Sindh should be made a separate province , after de-linking it from Bombay province.
  7. Constitutional reforms should be introduced in the provinces of Balochistan and Northwest frontier provinces.
  8. In the constitution of India Muslims’ religion, personal laws, education and language (Urdu) must be safeguarded.
  9. In the cabinets of the central and provincial governments Muslims must have a fair share of participation.                 It was in the aftermath of All parties Muslim Conference that Iqbal, along with Chaudhary Muhammad Hussain and Abdullah Chugtai travelled to South, where he delivered his famous lectures on The Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. These lectures, their formation and importance will be dealt elsewhere . It was also after this conference that Jinnah discovered his amendments, he had submitted to be made in Nehru report were turned down. This made it clear to Jinnah, who otherwise had kept his hopes alive,  that no reconciliation was possible with Congress now and the organisation was under the spell of Hindu extremists . He thus reinforced his efforts to safeguard Muslim rights and in the first instance went on to meet Sir Muhammad Shafi, with whom he had long-standing difference of opinion. The historic meet between Jinnah league and Shafi league was held in Delhi and in March 1929 and it was here that Iqbal and Jinnah fell in ideological coherence with one another – an association that proved lifelong. While Jinnah was trying to harmonize his relationships with Shafi league, his party members of nationalist ideology and few others deserted him and this was instrumental in bringing Jinnah further close to Shafi league and the final unification was achieved when Jinnah added further four points to the already ten point resolution passed by All patties Muslim Conference. 

(Amir Suhail Wani is a Kashmir based freelancer, Comparative Studies Scholar, and R&D Engineer with SA Power Utilities Pvt Ltd. Feedback at [email protected])