BR Ambedkar’s scathing criticism of Jinnah that nobody seems to talk about

When one thinks of the man who created our constitution, Jinnah is seldom considered to be relevant in that discussion. Though, Ambedkar has written extensively on Jinnah and explicitly detailed his opinion of the ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ of Pakistan.

B R Ambedkar had an underlying suspicion of Jinnah. In his book ‘Pakistan or The Partition Of India’ he analyses Jinnah’s contemporary political moves and the implications of such moves in much detail.

14 points of Jinnah and the assorted problems

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Chapter XI of Ambedkar’s book ‘Pakistan or the Partition of India’ is titled ‘communal Aggression’. Ambedkar thoroughly criticized Jinnah for tabulation of his 14 points which include but not limited to :

  1. Muslim representation in the local bodies be based on the principles of the communal award, that is, separate electorates and population strength.
  2. Discarding of the song– “Vande Mataram”.
  3. Freedom for Muslims to perform Cow slaughter.
  4. Make changes to the tricolour flag or give equal importance to the Muslim League flag.
  5. Constitutional and statutory guarantee of fixed Muslim representation in the state services through the reservation.

It must be noted that before this new list of demands was presented and accepted in R.T.C, 1932, Muslim league had already furnished their initial demands in 1929, Ambedkar thought that would be the last list of demands from the Muslims. This new list when inquired, Jinnah refused to disclose and later came to surface through Nehru and Jinnah’s correspondence. Ambedkar felt these demands are ‘extravagant’ and ‘impossible’ if not ‘irresponsible’ on the part of Mr Jinnah and the people he represented. The share clause, according to Ambedkar, has been increased to 50% of every elected body within one year, 1938-1939.

Ambedkar was of the opinion that Muslims are exploiting Hindus and using their outrageous demands to force the Hindus into the negotiation tables. He writes –

“The second thing that is noticeable among the Muslims is the spirit of exploiting the weaknesses of the Hindus. If the Hindus object to anything, the Muslim policy seems to be to insist upon it and give it up only when the Hindus show themselves ready to offer a price for it by giving the Muslims some other concessions.”

He went on to illustrate how Jinnah and the Muslims backtracked on the issue of Joint Electorate. Hindus from the start have been insisting upon Joint electorate and the Muslims for separate ones. Ambedkar calls such points as “matter of bargain” on the part of Jinnah as the resolution passed in the Calcutta Sessions of the All-India Muslim league on 30th Dec, 1927, stipulated only when the Hindus agree to the separation of Sind and to the raising of M.-W.F.P to the status of self-governing province, the Muslims will give up their demand for separate electorates. Which Ambedkar thought was a clear indication of opportunism from the Jinnah’s side as evidently, they did not consider separate electorates to be vital but still pursued them. Muslims regarded them as a good ‘quid pro quo’ for obtaining their other claims.

In a joint electorate, there is neither preference nor discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or creed but at that point in time, Jinnah demanded that since Muslims are in minorities in the most of India there be separate electorate for Muslims. Muslim electorates will only consist of Muslim voters, which will ensure democracy from becoming majoritarian. The Congress and the rest always thought the joint electorate is a great way to achieve national integration.

Jinnah and His Idea of Pakistan

In Chapter- XIII titled ‘Must there be a Pakistan?, Ambedkar questions Jinnah’s idea of Pakistan and the fundamental logic put forth by Jinnah’s Muslim league for the creation of the nation. Ambedkar found the flaw in the argument that Muslims have suffered under the Congress rule and have lost faith altogether in the Congress leadership. He cites Jinnah’s’ unwillingness to persist for a Royal Commission inquiry into these grievances. He then calls the claims of oppression made by Jinnah and his party -“exaggeration”.

He writes –

“A perusal of these instances, as given in the reports of the Muslim League Committees, leaves upon the reader the impression that although there may be some truth in the allegations there is a great deal which is pure exaggeration.”

In the same section, Ambedkar is perplexed by the Jinnah’s ‘new-found obsession’ with Muslim Nationalism. He poignantly differentiates between the disintegration of parts of society and loosening of such elements. Jinnah’s idea that there is not enough common ground between Hindus and Muslims so much so they can never be one people is also countered by Ambedkar. He talks about focusing on the commons of Hindu –muslim dichotomy rather than focusing on the divides.

“But isn’t there enough that is common to both Hindus and Musalmans, which if developed, is capable of molding them into one people? Nobody can deny that there are many modes, manners, rites and customs which are common to both. Nobody can deny that there are rites, customs, and usages based on religion which do divide Hindus and Musalmans. The question is, which of these should be emphasized. If the emphasis is laid on things that are common, there need be no two nations in India.”

He also cites numerous examples of many European countries where two completely different groups have formed a nation despite their differences. Ambedkar cites examples of Canada and how there are two nations in Canada, one English, and one French. The idea of Jinnah, that Musalmans of India are a nation has been viciously criticized by Ambedkar by producing numerous examples like the one aforementioned.

Jinnah’s turn-around from a Barrister to a religion-centric political leader has been mentioned again and again in this book by Ambedkar. Ambedkar slammed Jinnah for not creating an areligious political party as the main opposition to the Congress where likeminded Hindus and Muslims can come together. Instead, Jinnah chose to regenerate the Muslim League, which according to Ambedkar, was dying and decaying, and of which only a few years ago Jinnah would have been glad to witness the funeral.

The issue of the Minorities in Bengal and Punjab Province

The issue of demarking the said two provinces and the clause of self-determination only for the areas where Muslims are in majority put forth Jinnah at that point of time has also been severely criticized by Ambedkar.

In the beginning, Ambedkar thought that Muslim league was reasonable enough as it agreed to the redrawing boundaries in Punjab and Bengal. It was admitted in the Lahore resolution passed in March 1940 it read-

“The establishment of completely independent States formed by demarcating geographically contiguous units into regions which shall be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Musalmans are numerically in a majority, as in the north-western and eastern zones of India, shall be grouped together to constitute independent States as Muslim free national homelands in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”

But, Ambedkar points out that Jinnah has changed his view about the said issue. He furnishes parts of Jinnah’s speech as evidence –

“The latest trick—I call it nothing but a trick—to puzzle and to mislead the ignorant masses purposely, and those playing the game understand it, is, why should the right of self-determination be confined to Muslims only and why not extend it to other communities? Having said that all have the right of self-determination, they say Punjab must be divided into so many bits; likewise the North-West Frontier Province and Sind. Thus there will be hundreds of Pakistans.”

Ambedkar believes that Jinnah has completely missed the point. Even in his ideas of sub-national groups, Jinnah considers only Muslims to be worthy of called sub-national groups as they constitute 14% of the population. Whereas Jinnah has shown hypocrisy when it came to the issue of Punjab and Bengal province where a significant Hindu minority lives in a compact and easily severable territory, according to his sub-nation theory. He completely disposes of his own idea when the boot is in the other shoe. Jinnah has been accused by Ambedkar, of considering Hindus in Bengal and Punjab province as mere ‘chattels’. Ambedkar thought this because according to Jinnah’s ideas expressed in a speech held on November 16th, 1942 in Jullunder the minorities in the said region has no right to self-determination thus they are ‘chattels’ who will go wherever the Muslims of these provinces choose to drive them.

Excerpt from Jinnah’s speech regarding ‘Sub-national Groups’ –

“Who is the author of this new formula that every community has the right of self-determination all over India? Either it is colossal ignorance or mischief and trick. Let me give them a reply, that the Musalmans claim the right of self-determination because they are a national group on a given territory which is their homeland and in the zones where they are in a majority. Have you known anywhere in history that national groups scattered all over have been given a State? Where are you going to get a State for them? In that case, you have got 14 percent. Muslims in the United Provinces. Why not have a State for them? Muslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered. Therefore in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-national group who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilized Government to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear. The Muslims are not a sub-national group; it is their birthright to claim and exercise the right of self-determination.”

Jinnah The Henry IV of Pakistan

In the conclusion of his book, Ambedkar does not only make any attempt to paint Jinnah as an opportunist. He starts off by criticizing Gandhi’s inability to see the growing influence of Jinnah over the Muslims. Ambedkar states that Jinnah never was the man for the masses. Jinnah, according to Ambedkar has always been wary of the masses he always voiced his reservations about including masses into politics. Jinnah was for a high franchise consistently.

Ambedkar also points out that Jinnah was never known to be a ‘devout’, ‘pious’, or a ‘professing’ Muslim. Though he had transformed himself into such a religious figure that no meetings in Bombay begun or ended with Allah-ho-Akbar and Long Live Qaid-e-Azam.

Ambedkar points out the similarities between Jinnah and Henry IV of France who despite being Huguenot attended Catholic Masses in a Catholic church in Paris. Henry IV believed the price of changing his Huguenot faith is very little compared to gaining the powerful support of Paris. Ambedkar summarizes the opportunist notion of Jinnah beautifully in this line –

“As Paris became worth a mass to Henry IV, so have Dongri and Null Bazaar become worth a mass to Jinnah, and for a similar reason. It is strategy; it is mobilization.”

This was the opinion of our constitutional father with regards to Jinnah and his political musings. I sincerely hope this article be as much revealing of the dichotomy between Jinnah- the politician and Jinnah- the barrister to the reader as I intend it to be.


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