Allama Iqbal’s 73rd Death Anniversary

This day coincides with feudalistic high-jacking of Muslim League!


On the morning of 21st of April 1938 A.D, at 9 A.M some devotees of Allama Iqbal were about to get down from the train at the Railway station in Lahore. The train had yet to come to a complete halt, when they heard the hawker crying at the top of his voice ‘Allama Iqbal is dead’. Instead of going to their residences, they rushed to ‘Javid Manzil’ to look for the very last time, the face of the person, who had meant so much, not only to them, but to multitudes-far and wide!
How and why the devotees were together has an interesting trail, related to last days of Allama Iqbal, when in the Calcutta session of ‘All India Muslim League’ those who had served the Muslim League with devotion-the Iqbal devotees were downgraded and ‘Unionist Party’ members led by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan took hold of ‘Punjab Provincial Muslim League’ in spite of retaining their ‘Unionist Party’.  Called Hakim-ul-Ummat [Hakim-invested with wisdom, Ummat-nation] Allama Iqbal is widely believed to have conceived the concept of a separate Muslim State and pronounced it for the first time in 1930 Allahabad session of Muslim league. However the feudals that brought Pakistan to the state of affairs prevalent today, with charges of failed state finding many takers superseded the men Iqbal groomed.
‘Unionist Party’ was a party of landed gentry, on the face of it secular- a combination of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh gentry, nevertheless geared to protect feudal interests, and in ideological clash with urban middle class. The failure of emergence of middle class, powerful enough to occupy its deserved position in Pakistan’s polity was due to the squeeze put on it be the feudal hierarchy. This is branded as one of the prime reasons of extremist tendencies developing in the political vacuum. The upswing of such tendencies which could have been checked by a vibrant middle class gets watched with dismay by friends and foes alike.  Friends out of concern, foes because of the spillover effect hurting them. The British had over the years cultivated feudal hierarchy giving them Jagirs and titles to keep a put a tab on the spread of education and growth of urban middle class. The political empowerment of landed gentry led to proportionate disempowerment of urban dwellers. Nowhere in India was it more pronounced than in Punjab province. The major employment source for the brawny Punjabi was ‘British Indian Army’. Winston Churchill in swoon would often say “Fourth Punjab Division any day” meaning on any day it would prove its valour.  The two World Wars testified it. We may now revert to story of Allama’s last days.
In the 1937 elections Unionist Party had made major gains in Punjab provincial elections, in comparison Muslim league’s weak organizational structure had put it way behind Unionists. However Muslim League was a national level party and with Jinnah to head it, the party had a powerful leader with a country wide appeal. Though its gains were small, it had managed to stay afloat. In comparison to Muslim majority provinces, it had obtained a much better representation in Muslim minority provinces-Bombay, Central provinces, Assam and Madras. In comparison to Punjab, amongst Muslim majority provinces, Bengal had provided greater support to league. Jinnah offered support to Congress and proportional sharing of power. Congress basking in electoral victory spurned the proposition. Many analysts believe that by arrogating to itself total authority, Congress provided Jinnah the handle, with which to play up the sentiment of political disempowerment.
Iqbal-Jinnah correspondence of this period is highly interesting-a study in the prevalent Muslim feelings of the highly relevant era. Allama Iqbal-the visionary had an immaculate understanding of the feudal elements of Punjab. Left to him, he would have preferred to keep Muslim League free of these elements. For him and his associates, the men who had worked in establishing and building up the league, mass education of the Muslims was the vehicle of transformation from merely being serfs of feudal class, as also widening opportunities for gainful employment. It meant looking up for employment in other avenues besides the traditional recruitment in the army. In spite of Allama’s personal appeal, the league was organizationally weak in comparison to Unionists-the party with money bags and the British to back it.
Sir Sikander Hayat Khan-the Punjab Premier was heading a coalition and with powerful Hindu leaders like Sir Chottu Ram in his party, he had to cater to other interests. However concurrently he was increasingly feeling the heat of League campaign for Muslim political empowerment. There were Muslim members in his party, who were finding it increasingly difficult to resist the appeal of the growing sentiment. They could desert him, remained the perpetual worry of Sikander Hayat, moreover he needed a country wide cushioning, which only a national level party could provide. Jinnah on the other hand needed the support of Muslim majority provinces to strengthen his bargaining position. So, Jinnah and Sikander closing ranks became a political compulsion. Sikander cultivated Liaquat Ali Khan. With his family in Karnal-a city in Punjab, brother-Sajad Ali Khan a Unionist member of Punjab legislature, the second most important man in Muslim League had stakes involved. Liaquat’s brother acted as the conduit relate some accounts of the era, and it ended up in Jinnah-Sikander pact, concluded in Lucknow in October 1937 session of Muslim League.
Ashiq Hussain Batalvi-a close associate of Allama Iqbal notes in his voluminous ‘Iqbal Kay Akhri Doa Saal’ [Last two years of Iqbal] that it was not a pact in the sense that Jinnah did not sign it; instead it was a declaration by Sikander. While accepting Jinnah as his leader in a statement of intent, Sikander undertook to ask members of Unionists [the ones not already holding dual membership] to file an application for joining the Muslim League. Unionists would retain their identity for the purpose of running a coalition, while subscribing to the policies of the league-the economic agenda of the Muslim League and Unionist however did not differ much. Two other premiers-Fazl-ul-Haq Chaudhary of Bengal and Saadullah of Sind stood with Sikander to back Jinnah-a major gain. However the deal did not turn out as planned.
 On return to Lahore, the application forms send to Unionists were not returned, as Unionists started putting in different interpretations of what was declared in Lucknow. The tone and tenor of their varied versions being that in lieu of joining ‘All India Muslim League’ they have taken over the provincial unit organizationally, while continuing their Unionist coalition in legislature. Allama Iqbal was upset, while there was widespread concern for his failing health. He was suffering from ‘Asthma’ being bed-ridden. However, he kept on communicating with Jinnah, pressing him to hold the next session of the league in Lahore, it did not suit Unionists. Apart from political reasons, Muslims in Punjab were feeling aggrieved over a religious place taken over by another religious community. Jinnah had earlier visited Lahore to work out reconciliation; initially heeded, later he was rebuffed. Apart from expressing concern over Unionists dragging feat over application forms, Allama advised Jinnah not to trust the feudal hierarchy.
As the league met in Delhi March 1938 to decide about next session, contrary to Allama’s advice President of Punjab Provincial Muslim League-Shahnawaz Khan, Nawab of Mamdot had advised in a written note not to hold the session in Lahore. The provincial president had joined his fellow feudals. Calcutta was chosen as the venue. Another shock was to follow. The application for affiliation to ‘All India Muslim League’ by provincial units needed to be filled for assessment by a committee appointed particularly for this purpose. The committee rejected the application of Muslim League nurtured by Allama Iqbal on mere technicalities, while as it could have advised the unit which had served it faithfully to erase any discrepancies noted and re-file the application. This was another setback to the living legend. His associates were disinclined to take it any further, however Allama advised them on 14th April to go and fight it out in Calcutta. In the face of Liaquat’s support to Unionists, Jinnah advised a provincial council be set-up of 35 members, with equal representation for the erstwhile league and Unionists. Gh.Rasul Khan submitted names of 18 members, however when the final list was announced, it had 35 members of Unionists and just ten of erstwhile league. Sir Sikander Hayat Khan appointed provincial president topped the list, second on list was Nawab of Mamdot, and followed by Daulatanas’, Khan Bhadur’s, Nawab-zadha’s-the names that brought Pakistan to where it stands today-in a desperate state! After 25 names of Unionists, the 26th name was that of Allama Iqbal [Hakim-ul-Ummat!] followed by names of nine of his supporters-rest is history!
 Yaar Zinda Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Apr 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Apr 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Apr 2011 00:00:00 IST

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