The 23 march commemoration

.. By Raza Muhammad Khan

As usual, Pakistan Day was observed this year too, with traditional zeal, solemnity and enthusiasm on 23rd March. The highlight of the Day was the spectacular parade of the defence forces along with display of their sinews for deterrence and defence of the country, with support of the people from all walks of life, depicted through colorful floats etc. These events were well received and appropriately reported.

However, the needed media coverage about the historic context of this landmark resolution of epic propor-tion, was lacking. So, what was the Lahore Resolution about, and what are its other manifestations? Simply put, that Resolution, adopted by All-India Muslim League on 23 March 1940, formally called for an inde-pendent state for India’s Muslims. While the Resolution did not include the word ‘Pakistan’ at the time, it encompassed the rationale of the ‘Two Nations Theory’ and the resolve of the people for the division of In-dia, despite heavy odds.

Five years earlier, in the mid-1930s, Muslim leaders did their utmost to ensure maximum political safeguards and autonomy for Muslim majority provinces, within the framework of a united India. These efforts partly succeeded as they got a system of separate electorate for them in the Government of India Act, 1935. How-ever, when elections were held under this Act, the Indian National Congress dominated in the center and formed governments in six out of eight provinces of India. During the Congress rule till 1939, Muslim relig-ion, identity and culture were viciously attacked, numerous mandirs were constructed on Muslim lands and the education system was treacherously tempered to promote Hinduism.

Consequently, by 1938–39, the idea of Partition of India had strongly gained ground. On 9 March 1940, the concept was vividly expressed by the Quaid, M. A. Jinnah in an article in a London weekly ‘Time & Tide’, where he wrote: ‘Democratic systems based on the concept of homogeneous nations such as England are definitely not applicable to heterogeneous countries such as India, and this simple fact is the root cause of all of India’s constitutional ills… If, therefore, it is accepted that there is in India a major and a minor nation, it follows that a parliamentary system based on the majority principle must inevitably mean the rule of the major nation… He added that (During the Congress Rule.)…’An India-wide attack on the Muslims was launched… every attempt was made to defeat the Muslim-led-coalition Ministries.. the Congress song Vande Mataram, was recognized as the national anthem and the real national language, Urdu, was supplanted by Hindi…everywhere oppression was rampant and complaints poured in such force…that the Muslims, de-spairing of the Viceroy and Governors, ever taking action to protect them, have already been forced to ask for a Royal Commission to investigate their grievances—Is it the desire (of Britain) that India should be-come a totalitarian Hindu State…? …I feel certain that Muslim India will never submit to such a position and will be forced to resist it with every means in their power– a constitution must be evolved that recog-nizes that there are in India two nations who both must share the governance of their motherland’.

The Resolution was moved by A. K. Fazlul Huq, the CM of undivided Bengal, and was seconded by Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman from the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), Zafar Ali Khan from Punjab, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan from NWFP (KP), Pir Ziauddin Andrabi from Kashmir, and Sir Abdullah Haroon from Sindh. Qazi Muhammad Essa from Balochistan and other leaders also announced their support.

Later, it was the Hindu press, which was ironically quick to describe the Resolution as the demand for the creation of Pakistan; and the people began to call it that name. This milestone document in Pakistani history declared : ‘ — no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted—- that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute “Independent States”( later elucidated by the Quaid as two states/nations/countries, one for Hindus and one for Muslims), in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

Addressing a massive crowd on the occasion and speaking in English for the benefit of the foreign press present, the Quaid rationalized why a separate state for Muslims was necessary. Mocking Mahatma Gandhi, he said, “And this now is what Mr. Gandhi says: ‘To me, Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Harijans are alike. I can-not be frivolous’ —but I think he is frivolous-’ as Gandhi knows the difference– that he has three votes and I have only one vote.” The resolution also demanded that “in parts of India where the Mussalmans are in a minority, mandatory safeguards shall be provided in the constitution —for the protection of all their rights and interests in consultation with them’. (In Modi’s India, this continues to be a mere cherished dream). In 1984, American historian Stanley Wolpert, in his book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’, wrote, “Jinnah’s Lahore address lowered the final curtain on any prospects for a single united independent India… The rest of the world would take at least seven years to appreciate that he literally meant every word he had uttered…. All that remained was for his party first, then his inchoate nation, and then the British to agree to his formula—‘. In 1956, on the same day, Pakistan adopted its first Constitution, which transformed the ‘Dominion of Pakistan’ to the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’.

23 March is, therefore, also known as the Republic Day. In 1968, the Minar-e-Pakistan was built at the site where the Resolution was espoused. The text of the Resolution is inscribed at the base of the tower. Bottom lines: The history of our creation is illustrious, arduous and inspiring. We, our media, institutions, leaders and society are obligated to spread awareness about it; lest it is forgotten by posterity…   The Writer is the Former President of NDU.
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