Quaid assessed the situation as “parting of the ways” and so it proved to be.
This marked a major point of departure in Jinnah’s life, an even sharper veering off from the road of Congress and all it represented than Nagpur had been eight years earlier. He had delivered his Swan song to Indian Nationalism. The dream stirred by Dadabhai’s ringing voice in Westminister’s commons, nurtured by Morley and Pheroz Shah, enriched by Gokhale and Montagu, all those long last liberal giants were dead. Nor would the ocean now dividing him from Congress ever be bridged. A few months later, Quaid formulated his Fourteen Points in which he lucidly summed up the Muslim demands. These were neither the voice of despair nor a challenge but nevertheless the first inkling we have of Quaid’s ultimate decision that if he could not unite Hindus and Muslims, he would not at least unite Muslims and if necessary unite them against Hindus.
Sickened by the Hindu sentiment, the Hindu mind, the Hindu attitude on the one hand and the Muslim leaders who were either the flunkeys of the British Government or the camp followers of the Congress on the other, he decided to settle down in England and practise law before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
After the constitutional proposals had been published in the form of a White Paper and almost all Indian leaders had found them most unsatisfactory, Quaid again pleaded for unity. Speaking at the Council of the League in April 1934, he said:
‘India looks forward to a real, solid, united front. Can we even at this eleventh hour bury the hatchet, and forget the past in the presence of imminent danger and close our ranks to get sufficient strength to resist what is being hatched, at Downing Street and in Delhi.’
It is up to the leaders to put their hands together and nothing will give me greater happiness than to bring about complete cooperation and friendship between Hindus and Muslims. But the Congress and the League could not agree on any modifications that could be suggested to the constitutional proposals.
It was during Quaid’s stay in England that he met Allama Iqbal during the Round Table Conference session. In due course, the poet philosopher came to exercise a decisive influence on the thinking of the statesman and converted him to the idea of Muslim homeland in the Subcontinent. His views “Jinnah later acknowledged, were substantively in consonance with my own and had finally led me to the same conclusions as a result of careful examination and study of the constitutional problems facing India”.
Elections to the Central and Provisional Assemblies were held in the winter of 1936-37 under the 1935 Act. At the time of election campaign, it seemed almost certain that the Congress and the League were going to cooperate in working the Act. The election manifestoes of the two parties were similar. But on the eve of elections, Nehru remarked that there were only two parties in the country — The British Government and the Indian Congress. Quaid was amazed at this statement and immediately replied: “There is a third party, namely, The Muslims”.
The Congress found the intoxication of power a bit too exhilarating. Its ministries adopted measures which the Muslims found offensive from the point of view of their religion and culture. For instance, the idolatrous Bande Matram song was sung before the Assembly proceedings began. In the United Provinces, special efforts were made to popularise Hindi at the expanse of Urdu.
The Muslims also resented the decisions of the Congress Government to hoist the Congress flag on public buildings. It was in March 1937 that Dr. Allama Iqbal had written to Quaid: “From the Muslim point of view the cultural problem is of much greater consequence to most Indian Muslims. At any rate it is not less important than the economic problem”. But it seems that it was the Congress rule in the provinces more than anything else which convinced Quaid that the Muslims had special interests of their own and these must be safeguarded.
These developments were reviewed by Quaid at the Lucknow Session of the League which was held in October 1937. Quaid then laid special stress on the need to strengthen the League. This was necessary, he said, for reaching a settlement with the Congress. He also emphasised that for all practical purposes, the Congress was a Hindu party and it could not look after the special interests of the Muslims. “On the very threshold of what little power and responsibility is given, the majority community has clearly shown their hand: That Hindustan is for Hindus.”
But Quaid’s sole purpose in having a powerful League was to suggest to the Congress leaders that they should settle the Hindu-Muslim problem on some reasonable term. Accordingly, in November 1937, he appealed to the Congress leadership to settle ‘with the League the various issues which then confronted to India. Quaid also regretted Gandhi’s interpretation of his Lucknow speech as” a declaration of war” which he had made purely in self defence. He assured Gandhi that he was still working for a Hindu-Muslim settlement. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Gandhi exchanged several letters.
Quaid also negotiated with Nehru and later with the new Congress President, Subhas Chandra Bose, but no settlement could be reached because the Congress leaders were not ready to accept the Muslim viewpoint that Muslims had special interest and that League could be regarded as the spokesman of the Muslims. But Quaid did not give up his efforts to bring about an understanding between the Congress and the League. In January 1934, when he visited Allahabad, he appealed to the Congress leaders to cooperate with the League and settle the Hindu-Muslim problem so that India could advance politically.
Later in September, in a speech at dinner of old boys of Osmania University, he said, ‘Within the honest meaning of the term, I still remain a nationalist. I have always believed in a Hindu-Muslim pact. But such a pact can be an honourable one and not a pact which will mean the destruction of one and the survival of the other”.
In March 1940, he finally made up his mind to demand the division of the Subcontinent and the establishment of an independent Muslim state. Quaid’s Lahore address lowered the final curtain on any prospects for a single united independent India. Those who understand him enough to know that once his mind was made up, he never reverted to any earlier position realised, how momentous a pronouncement their Quaid-i-Azam had just made.
There was no turning back. The ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity had totally transformed himself into Pakistan’s great leader. The ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity had ceased to think in terms of composing differences. He had taken the view that these differences should be recognised as hard facts and the Hindus and Muslims settle down their respective homelands to construct their politics on lines best suited to their own genius and traditions.
What made Quaid decide to abandon hope of reconciliation with the Congress? No single incident perhaps but the cumulative weight of countless petty insults slights and disagreements added to the pressure of time and age.
Congress insults stupidity, genuine and imagined anti-Muslim feelings, fears, shattered dreams, passions turned to ashes, pride-all contributed to the change in Quaid.