For biographical information, please refer to the other write-ups in this node.
Jinnah and the Congress
Mohammad Ali Jinnah started his political career as a loyal Congress worker. He was the architect of the Lucknow Pact of 1916 and shared the prevailing Congress vision of Swaraj (self-rule for Indians). Differences, however, began to crop up between Jinnah and the Congress after the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi. Jinnah didn’t agree with Gandhi’s policies, especially his satyagrahas and he opposed these extra-constitutional methods. He made a full break from the Congress when his demands for separate electorates for Muslims, among others, were rejected by the Congress. A disillusioned Jinnah then left for England, where he settled down for a few years.
Jinnah was gradually coaxed into going back to India in 1934 to head the Muslim League. This began another transformation for him as he evolved into a mass leader. He concentrated on revitalizing the League and legitimizing it as a true representative body of Muslims across India. He also became convinced that Muslims constituted a second nation within India and if they did not break away, they would be doomed to become second-class citizens in the future independent India. This set the stage for the future partition of British India into the present nations of Indian and Pakistan.
The shifts in Jinnah’s politics can be seen as the result of conflicts between different visions of a free India. As the Congress came increasingly under Gandhi’s influence and adopted some of his spiritual ideals, the much more secular Jinnah came to doubt whether there was room for him and his fellow Muslims in India. When the Congress adopted Gandhi’s methods, the constitutionalist Jinnah felt that he had no choice but to break from the Congress fold. It is ironic that the Congress’ main adversary once exemplified its most cherished ideals.
Jinnah and the Two-nation Theory
Jinnah’s belief that Hindus and Muslims constituted two different nations came about after a prolonged process. Although he initially worked for unity between Hindus and Muslims and envisioned a single free Indian nation, Jinnah radically changed his views. This was in large part to what he perceived as the mistreatment of the minority Muslims by the majority Hindus. He felt that the situation would remain unchanged, or even worsen, after India inevitably became free. There was no solution to this, no way to reconcile religious differences because they were so strong that they made the formation of a separate Muslim nation imperative.
Jinnah came to believe that Hindus and Muslims not only belonged to two different religions, but also to entirely different cultural, social and political spheres. Despite occupying the same geographical area for centuries, the people of these religions differed in their language, dress, cuisine, architecture, etc. There was also little social mixing between the two people. They couldn’t dine together or intermarry out of custom. Hindu social codes made Muslims unclean to many and thus severely limited contact. Hindu and Muslim civilizations seemed to be based on contrary ideals. The two religions themselves have similarly irreconcilable differences. The amalgamation of these two nations under one state would be ultimately destructive. The many differences between them would lead to tensions that could, in turn, lead to prolonged strife. The numerically superior Hindus, in such case, would most likely dominate the Muslims. As such, the existence of two nations and the need for two states was undeniable for Jinnah.
Gauging validity of Jinnah's beliefs in the context of almost 58 years of hindsight is left to the reader.