India’s history roots back to the beginning of human civilization, and throughout its way to the modern state, it experienced difficult periods. In particular, the country remained under British rule for almost 200 years until August 1947. Many people were devoted to fighting for their country’s freedom. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was one of the prominent nationalists that are believed to have contributed to the formation of Pakistan. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was another famous figure of the nationalist movement. He belonged to the non-violent independence drive against British rule. Both leaders have documented their beliefs and perspectives on India’s freedom: “Presidential address by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Muslim League” (n.d.) and Hind Swaraj or Indian home rule by Gandhi (1938). Both nationalists contributed to the partition of India but held different views on the issue since Jinnah disapproved of Gandhi’s agitational politics and use of Muslim and Hindu religious terminology.
In the context of Jinnah’s and Gandhi’s contribution to the fight against British rule, the historical background needs to be considered first. The British Raj in India ended in August 1947 and resulted in the emergence of the two new states, India and Pakistan. The division was religious-based due to the prevalence of Hindus in India and a Muslim majority present in Pakistan. Later, East Pakistan became Bangladesh, causing a massive migration of people that wanted to join their religious majority and leading to numerous victims of communal violence. Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan and was regarded as the main spokesman for the partition. In turn, the Indian National Congress, represented by two leaders Gandhi and Nehru, was another important catalyst for nationalist activity. The organization supported a unitary centralized state but was taken suspiciously by minorities who assumed that Congress’s objectives would establish the political dominance of the majority, namely, Hindus. In turn, Muslims constitute the largest minority in British India.
The British political control protected the Muslim minority by a system of separate electorates and legislative seats, and as independence issues intensified, many of Jinnah’s followers were afraid to lose this protection. In this regard, the All-India Muslim League party won many Muslim votes in the elections, supporting its claim to speak for their religious beliefs. Jinnah was the party’s leader who largely contributed to the separation and creation of a new state, Pakistan, motivating it. In the 1945-1946 elections, the British tried to constitute the government both in provinces and at the center. For the All-India Muslim League, it was an opportunity to prove it was primarily supported by Muslims, which strengthened their beliefs about an independent Muslim-majority state. In this regard, the Indian National Congress constituted the main challenge for the League, along with the radical Islamic parties. As Jinnah became the All-India Muslim League’s president, he emphasized that a Muslim-majority India would be significantly undermined by Hindus politically and economically. Hence, in the view of the country’s history, political stakes at that time can be considered high.
To better understand the differences between the two politicians, one should turn to their texts. In particular, in his Presidential address, Jinnah (n.d.) summarized his beliefs regarding the Muslims’ situation under British rule, highlighting their minority status, as well as educational and economic issues in contrast to Hindus’ stronger position. He claimed that no systematic effort had been taken to improve their situation, while other organizations were far ahead of the Muslim population. Jinnah (n.d.) pointed out another critical issue that worsened the consequences of the British rule, such as the internal division of Musalmans, some of which supported the British, and some believed in the Indian National Congress as their rescue. Nevertheless, Jinnah (n.d.) emphasized that neither way can help them gain strength and independence and only fully organized, the Muslims can achieve the unity of the people. At this moment, the willingness to unite under the new state can be noticed.
In this regard, Jinnah was instrumental and appealed to the All India Muslim League in an attempt to persuade it to amend its constitution and add appropriate self-government under British rule. As the League failed to win enough votes in the Muslim provinces while the Unionists gained the majority in the 1937 elections, its leaders were demoralized. At the same time, the low number of seats gained by Congress was viewed as a redeeming feature. The Indian National Congress did not make any effort to address the Muslim population and was certain that appealing to economic problems would be enough. Jinnah (n.d.) criticized the present leadership of the Congress for estranging the Indian Musalmans continuously by imposing a Hindu-oriented policy. Furthermore, the formation of the Congress’s Governments in several provinces was viewed as a declaration of the Hindu majority and the negligence of Muslims.
Moreover, Congress offered unacceptable conditions to cooperate with the All India Muslim League. Jinnah (n.d.) emphasized that the program and words of Congress cannot guarantee any fair play for the League. Its unconditional surrender and complete liquidation were demanded to ensure its merge in the Hindu-dominated Congress. Jinnah (n.d.) found it outrageous that any Muslim who unconditionally surrendered was given a job as a Musalman minister, while such an action undermined their loyalty and respect for the minority’s issues. In any case, the All India Muslim League refused to accept the Indian National Congress’s conditions, and the situation opened its eyes to its intentions for many politically conscious people.
Another source to analyze was written by Gandhi, and its mission was viewed controversially by different populations. While the nationalist’s intention was said to be the union of the Hindus and Muslims, many of the latter considered him to support the Hindu tradition. They believed that he imposed Hinduness with the way he dressed, the vocabulary he used, and the overall demeanor. Moreover, many Muslims felt like his leadership at the Congress threatened their identity more than ever. Gandhi’s (1938) Hind Swaraj conveyed his vision of a future situation for India that he hoped would be achieved, and the main purpose was to highlight critical issues like violence and hatred (p. 8). Gandhi (1938) suggested that they were replaced by sacrifice and love and that brute force was turned into soul-force, justifying the use of this principle based on the concept of relative truth (p. 53). For him, Swaraj meant self-rule founded on the peaceful and non-violent persuasion of other people. In this way, he believed that the group living could also become self-sufficient.
The book is written in the form of a dialog between the reader and the editor, with an implication that Gandhi himself is the one answering the reader’s questions. Primarily, Gandhi (1938) pursued two purposes in his book: to criticize the modern civilization and to describe the structure and nature of Indian Swaraj, offering his ways and methods of its achievement (p. 47). Furthermore, he stated that under British rule, India was turned into an irreligious country and discussed the religion underlying all the religions. Gandhi (1938) believed that developments like industries, emerging elites of lawyers and doctors, and railways development would only impoverish the country (p. 64). Furthermore, he blamed such elites for the Hindu-Muslim disagreements and believed that they helped the British consolidate their position. Unlike Jinnah, Gandhi’s ideology was based on the principle that passive resistance should be viewed as a sign of strength rather than weakness.
In this regard, the main differences between the two leaders, Jinnah and Gandhi, can be observed. First, as a liberal constitutionalist, Jinnah resisted the agitational politics that required merging the Muslim League and the Congress under Gandhi’s leadership. Furthermore, Jinnah was a confirmed secularist disapproving of Gandhi’s religious terminology used to mobilize the population against British rule. He believed that mentioning Hindu idioms and the Khilafat movement would aggravate the division between Muslims and Hindus, preventing India from unity.
To summarize, Jinnah and Gandhi were two significant contributors to the Partition of India, but both were of different opinions regarding its current issues and future. Jinnah’s beliefs and objectives were documented in his presidential address, while Gandhi’s ideology was reflected in his book. Both leaders were dedicated and goal-oriented, but the difference in their approaches was in Gandhi’s wish to create an inclusive India despite the Hindu majority and Jinnah’s disagreement with such tactics neglecting the Muslims.
Gandhi, M. K. (1938). Hind Swaraj or Indian home rule. Navajivan Trust.
Jinnah, M. A. (n.d.). Presidential address by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Muslim League: Lucknow, October 1937. Web.