23rd March 1940 - A day to remember

We are going to celebrate the March 23rd as we usually do every year. Its significance is silently increasing as the time passes because it is necessary for coming generations to be reminded the need, requirement, circumstances, and the compulsions that culminated in the burning desires for a separate country for the Muslim population of India after Britain had decided to leave the sub-continent.

The country that came into being at Mid-night on August 14, 1947 was not just by accident but was the result of long struggle, discussions, deliberations, working out various solutions for the peaceful co-existence of two different civilizations. The two people who looked like each other and living together were completely separate in their philosophy, thinking, life style and most of all their religious beliefs which were diagonally opposite to each other, one worshiping one Almighty, Omnipotent God while the other worshiping everyone and everything from man made stone deities, to sun, moon, cows, serpents and anything and everything which was physically powerful and of any benefit to the human beings. First community was known as Muslims while the other Hindus, living in undivided India in the ratio of Hindus being 84% of the total population while Muslims were close to 10% and all other ethnicities being 6% according to the Census of 1951.

In the Sub-continent known as India all these ethnicities were living together peacefully was basically because for the first 800 years India was ruled by a very benevolent Muslim rulers, who were fair to every section of the society and gave every type of religious freedom to the minorities living under them and then 100 years rule by a common master who was tilted towards the majority but also not grossly hostile to minority and playing a very clever game of “divide and rule” playing on the diversity of these two sectors of population.

Living under British colonial rule Muslim minority was not only weak in number but in education and economy and the balance of power in every respect was in favor of Hindu majority.

In the second half of 19th Century the independent movement had started in India after the first Mutiny of 1857 where the local population had stood against the British rule and the first uprising had taken place at a military Garrison at Meerat, a small town in United Province in Northern India.

This mutiny or the uprising was very cruelly crushed by British army which was strong, organized and discipline while the local population was weak, dis-organized and poorly equipped, but this incident ignited the flame of independence in the heart of a subjugated population for about a century.

First the movement started as united strength of the entire country irrespective of the religion and ethnicities under the auspices of Indian National Congress which was formed in 1885 to create an outlet for Indians to voice their concerns and express their views. The forerunner of the INC was the Indian Association, which was created in 1876 and the first Indian political organization of its kind.

By the end of 19th Century and the start of 20th the feelings and the movement for freedom of India from British Colonial power had taken route and the demand for Britishers to leave India were heard loud and clear in the entire Sub-continent from Bangal in the East to Punjab in the west and from Himachal Pradedesh in the north to Mararashtra in the South.

Till year 1900 INC was the sole political party representing the Indian population and struggling for the independence of India from the British Rule and “A QUIET INDIA” movement has started prominently under the combined leadership of Hindu and Muslims.

At the same time a very prominent Indian lawyer was practicing law in England and was famous for his caliber as a lawyer and famous for his intelligence and was very enthusiastic about the unity of Hindu and Muslim. On the invitation of Indian National Congress leader ship, he came back to join the Independence movement of India run under the banner of Indian National Congress. His name was Mohammad Ali Jinnah (later known as Qaid-E-Azam).

After his arrival in India and joining the Indian National Congress Party he worked day and night on one hand to lead the Independence Movement and on the other to unify the two diversified religious groups i.e. Hindu and Muslims, but slowly it dawned on him that the majority was eventually going to bulldoze its way and a weak minority, because in a British type of democracy which they were leaving behind, the strength was always with the majority and minority was at the risk of being subjugated and oppressed by the majority where the ratio was 9:1.
Simultaneously in November 1906, Samiullah Khan , the leading landlord of Dacca invited Aligarh’s Mohammedans Education Conference to Dacca for its annual meeting suggesting at the same time that a “Muslim All-India Confederacy” be convened in this city.

The “Nawab of Dacca” had been sick during the Shimla meeting but chaired the reception committee for the founding meeting of Muslim League in Dacca Shah Bagh on December 30,1906. The sleepy Dacca backwater thus suddenly emerged as the center of South Asian Muslim politics, hosting fifty-eight Muslim delegates from every corner of the subcontinent. (page 24,Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert)

During all the above period Mr. Jinnah was with Indian National Congress but after seven years of hard work he realized that it is impractical to expect the equal status for Muslims under such an overwhelming majority of Hindus and on personal basis he was deprived of his well-deserved chance to become the Secretary of The All India Congress and was voted down in favor of Jawaher Lal Nehru with the favor and support of Mahatma Gandhi who has emerged as a strong Hindi spiritual and political leader of Congress.

To cut the story short after full realization of coming situation of Muslim, in 1916, after lot of failed attempts to find an amicable solution to share the power Mr. Jinnah joined the Muslim League as president of Bombay Muslim Student Union proposed by the president MR. Haque. Jinnah was the “idol of the youth” and uncrowned king of Bombay.

The sleepy organization of Muslim League turned to be a force to reckon with and in the words its President Mr. Haque “the great work done for League (‘risen Phoenix-like from ashes) by his friend Mr. Jinnah,” adding: “The entire Mohammedan community of India owed him a deep debt of gratitude, for without his exertions they could not have met in Bombay”.


After his taking over the leadership of a sleepy Muslim league a new life was infused and a new demand for equal representation of Muslims in new India came on the Political Scene of the Independence movement.

Even after the advent of Muslim League Mr. Jinnah kept his effort to work for Unity of two community and one of his addresses he appealed in the following words “I would, therefore appeal to my Hindu friends to be generous and liberal and welcome and encourage other activities of Muslims even if involves some sacrifice in matter of separate electorates.”

There are number of such pleas on record like “Memorandum of the Nineteenth” demanding that elected representatives of legislative councils should select all Indian members, who would ,in future, serve as executive council (on the basis of majority of Hindu/Muslims) but none- seemed to work, so much so that at one point in 1921 he decided to abandon the politics and went back to England to be fully engrossed in his profession of Law. It was one of the most devastating disappointment of his political life and a political victory of his adversary Mr. Gandhi.

The 20 year period between 1921 to 1940 was full of events shaping the new realities and exposing fresh biases and were filled with personal tragedies and upheaval but since it is not the topic of the day, I will summarize my article by bring it to the climax when finally the leadership and the masses of Indian Muslims (Mohammedans) finally realized that it is an unrealistic dream to follow the path of Unity of Muslim and Hindus and live in a United India with a majority of 90 % over the economically, educationally, and fragmentated population of Muslims of India and the finally on a historic day of 23rd March 1940 a Resolution which is known as “Pakistan Resolution though no word Pakistan was mentioned there in was passed.

The story is as follows:

Mr. Jinnah presided over the meeting held in Lahore and Fazal Ul Haque who chaired the draft Committee moved the first resolution, the most famous third paragraph of which read:

“That it is the considered view of this Session of All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles Viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted , with such territorial readjustment as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority, as in Northern-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute Independent States in which constituents units shall be autonomous and Sovereign”

These are the famous words carved on the history of this sub-continent that gave birth to a new Muslim Nation later known as Pakistan. Though we have lost most of its meanings and ideals but still these few dozen words are our guiding principle and the bedrock of our faith, unity and strength that had eventually given birth to a territory consisting of the most resilient nation on this earth charged with the duty to propagate Islam, peace and freedom Insha Allah.

Rais Khan is a Chartered Accountant and an author. He has worked in corporate sector for 40 years in a variety of corporations ranging from IBM to Etisalat in UAE. He has worked and lived in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA, Africa and the UAE. Currently he is a freelance business consultant and part-time writer. He is the Editor of Pehchaan and can be contacted at [email protected]

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