Published in 1986, ‘Facts are Facts’ by the late Wali Khan was an instant hit. ‘Facts are Facts’ is an attempt to contest text book versions of Pakistan’s history. In a bid to generate debate, the Viewpoint is serializing this text
Appointment of two Governors-General
A different scenario existed in Delhi. Some developments, which were contrary to British expectations, had taken place. Two of them related to India and one to Pakistan. In India the Indian National Congress had assumed power. It had the same revolutionary leadership which had fought for independence for many years. These men and women passed through a political inferno before reaching their goal. Relations between the Congress and the British were strained. The British policy towards India was biased and hostile, particularly when Congress had declared that they would accept nothing short of complete independence. Several movements had been launched, which the British crushed with an iron hand; bombing was used to rout the Quit India Movement. All this resulted in hatred, bitterness and animosity. The British knew that the Indian leaders and their followers had gone through an ordeal by fire. Departing from the scene of an Armageddon they could hardly accept a cordial farewell.
When the Constituent Assembly of India decided upon a Republic instead of a Dominion, it became clear to the British that their game was over. When India agreed to join the British Commonwealth as a Republic, and accepted membership of the Commonwealth with the Queen of England as the Head they were pleasantly shocked. The British statesmen in India as well as in England were amazed that the leaders of the Congress had exhibited such political acumen and sagacity, and given precedence to the interests of the country over their own personal interests.What was more surprising for the British was that the leaders of the Congress had decided that during the interregnum and under the new constitution, they would elect Lord Mountbatten as the Governor General of India. The British were astounded, as also were statesmen of other countries to see that in these difficult circumstances and at such a critical juncture when India was about to decide her policies and plans for future, she had entrusted the reins of power to an Englishman. The country did not lack trusted and popular leaders who were capable of occupying this highly responsible position. This was an unprecedented act of wisdom and foresight on the part of a political party which had shown that its leaders had no personal enmity against the British. It had also proved beyond doubt that its leaders were not motivated by their own interest but by the interest of the country and nation. Campbell Johnson wrote that in accordance with Mr. Jinnah's suggestion, Lord Mountbatten was to be appointed the Governor General of both the Dominions. But Jinnah, characteristically, had a last minute change of heart. He kept stalling on the decision, saying that he wanted to consult his colleagues. Campbell Johnson wrote that his colleagues suggested to Jinnah that in view of the fact that the country had to face many problems such as demarcation of provinces, division of assets, army, railway, etc., it was in the interest of Pakistan that during the interregnum, Mountbatten should continue as the Governor-General. According to Johnson, Jinnah sat over this advice for a week, before announcing his decision. "He has at long last come clean, and Jinnah’s verdict goes in favour of Jinnah". In this connection Mountbatten wrote that when he learnt of Jinnah’s decision, he tried to explain to him the difficulties and disadvantages for a new country which were inherent in his decision. Jinnah said. "He realised all the disadvantages of giving up the common Governor-Generalship, but he was unable to accept any position other than the Governor-General of Pakistan on the 15th of August...." Mountbatten tried to explain that the Governor General was only a constitutional position; the real power would rest with the Prime Minister. In case Jinnah was interested in authority and power, he should become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. To this Jinnah's answer was. “In any position it is I who will give the orders and others will act on them." Mountbatten wrote, "I asked him, 'Do you realise what this will cost?' He said sadly, 'It may cost me several crores of rupees in assets.” To which I replied somewhat acidly, 'It may cost you the whole of your assets and the future of Pakistan'." Mountbatten was greatly perturbed about the future of Pakistan.
Jinnah's decision to become Governor-General in the prevailing circumstances was disappointing especially for the British. The matter of distribution of assets and liabilities which was the number one priority of the Governor-General, should have been entrusted to an impartial arbitrator, even an Englishman. This would have gone 100 per cent in the interest of Pakistan. The British could not conceal their disappointment and indignation, which was reflected in their bitter criticism of him. Mountbatten's position was unenviable. He had assured the British Government that Jinnah would opt for a common Governor-General; he honestly believed he would! Jinnah's decision, therefore, seemed a personal insult to him.
I believe that when Jinnah was presented with the proposal of a common Governor-General, he was convinced that the Congress leaders of India would never agree to having an Englishman as the first Governor General of a free India. Jinnah probably thought that by accepting a common Governor-General he would oblige Mountbatten and the British Government. He was confident that India would reject the proposal; he would, then, lay the blame at India's doorstep, and withdraw his acceptance, saying that he had done so because India had not agreed. The world leaders found the Congress policies broad-minded and futuristic compared with the insular vision of the Muslim League. Here was an organisation which had fought British imperialism, their leaders and volunteers were jailed, exiled, and even hanged for the cause. As a consequence, it was natural that they should have harboured hatred and hostility. Yet despite their long struggle for freedom, the Congress leaders displayed extraordinary courage, level-headed approach and broad outlook. The country was their number one priority, overtaking hatred against their implacable enemies, the British. Thus they showed an extraordinary greatness of mind, character and principles. This is why a newly independent India occupied a place of honour in the comity of nations. This also made a positive impression on Britain. An atmosphere of consolidation and progress was created.
Compared with the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League had always lagged behind. It had not fought for freedom, was not pitted against the British, and did not launch any movement against them. It was now common knowledge that but for the British, Pakistan would never have come into existence. The British united the Muslims under the banner of the Muslim League, and propped up Jinnah so that he could stand up and fight against the Congress. Jinnah's decision not to opt for a common Governor- General was, therefore, all the more shocking and irresponsible. Even if he did not consider the interests of Pakistan, he should have shown some courtesy to his benefactors, the British, in appreciation of their long cooperation and support. Immediately, a comparison was made between the Congress' dignified and firm policies, and the Muslim League's policies of weak vacillation. The British were sorry for what they had done for Jinnah, and his party; even though their policies were not intended for the benefit of the Muslim League but for the furtherance of their imperialist and colonial interests. The relations between the two were less than cordial.
Another interesting aspect of this matter is presented in the book Freedom At Midnight, by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. For the first time it was revealed that Jinnah had been suffering from TB. The authors have further proved that the doctors and specialists had told him that he would not live for not more than two or three years. Therefore, given his short life expectancy, Jinnah was not prepared to give away the office of the Governor-General to Mountbatten. By temperament, too, Jinnah could not be content with anything except the highest office in the land. How could he, therefore, tolerate that he should occupy a position lower than that of Mountbatten?
While the leaders were busy conspiring against each other in their stately mansions in Delhi the whole country was scorching in communal heat. The Hindus and Sikhs were relatively richer, they had properties, businesses, bungalows and factories. They were looted and killed, less in NWFP and more in Punjab; efforts were made to chase away the survivors so that they could leave their houses and wealth behind. These migrants, in retaliation, started the same bloody game of murder and plunder in East Punjab and Delhi. A vicious circle began to gyrate on both sides of the border. People became crazy with killing, plunder, loot, arson, and abduction of women. According to one estimate, about 30,000 to 40,000 women were abducted from Punjab alone. This was Britain's parting kick at a country which they had exploited for 200 years. These were the people who had starved their children to feed the British; they had sacrificed their youth to protect the Crown and Empire; they had fought against the enemies of Britain in every comer of the world; they even went to the extent of offering to attack the sacred Kaaba for their infidel masters!
Oppressed and helpless, the Indians lost all sense of proportion. They treated the British as their friends and their own Hindu and Muslim brothers as their enemies. In this regard the attitude of the Muslim League was unpardonable. It is understandable that the leaders of the Muslim League wanted the Hindus and Sikhs to leave their new country, so that they could be all in all in Punjab. One can also understand the human failing that they wanted to expropriate the evacuated properties. But why did they loot and set fire to about one hundred and twenty houses and bungalows of the Hindus and Sikhs in Murree? The properties left behind by the Hindus and Sikhs were the properties of people of Pakistan. Were they so blinded by communal hatred that they set fire to the properties of Pakistan? It is heart-rending that communal hatred flared up to an extent that people slit the throats of their neighbours and friends. Against the background of this carnage, leaders were seeking power, seats of authority, portfolios, and public offices. The top guns were forming Provincial Governments; while others were taking possession of the abandoned properties of the migrants. Whosoever started this political bloody game, with whatever purpose and objective, its deplorable result was that the street thugs' and small-time criminals came into the open and had a field day. They killed innocent children, set houses on fire, raped girls and women. The oppressed migrants were leaving their country in abject misery. It seems that some people had arrogated to themselves the responsibility for partition even before the partition of Punjab was officially announced. We read in history books how kings used to flee their countries and take refuge in other kingdoms. Now we were witnessing their subjects fleeing and seeking refuge in other countries. How bitter tasted the fruit of freedom! It had been officially announced that the country would be partitioned, become free and Pakistan would be established. Why was it necessary, then, to indulge in this madness, to sever old and abiding fraternal relationships, and to foster hatred instead of amity in this sub-continent?
That year, following my usual pattern, I had gone to Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was in Jail because of his differences with the Maharaja of Kashmir. The Congress was trying to arrange for his release so that he could be present at this crucial and important juncture in the history of the country. In Kashmir, we found thousands of Hindus and Sikhs from district Hazara, who had taken refuge from the communal riots. At that time Gandhiji had also come to Kashmir so that he could use his good offices with the Maharaja to get Sheikh Abdullah released. I used to visit Gandhiji almost every day. I was shocked when I found that Gandhiji did not seem to have his usual sense of humour, his lighter mood of gossip, and his liveliness which was so characteristic of him. One day, I took the courage to tell him that I had been watching him for a few days and it seemed to me that his inner light had been extinguished, why was he not jubilant over the departure of the British? "It is a rare occurrence in history." I said. "that one witnesses the fruit of one's lifetime struggle. Under your guidance forty crore helpless and oppressed people were brought out of the darkness of slavery to the light of freedom. Is it not a moment of joy? Is it not the time to inspire them to achieve higher goals? You had once said that you would live upto the age of one hundred and twenty-five! How wonderful for free India, that she would reap a long range benefit from your experience and guidance.”
Gandhiji had an endearing trait of character: that he talked to people of different temperaments at their mental level. When I had spoken, I found Gandhiji in a very somber mood. He said, "So far it was my desire to live upto the age of one hundred and twenty-five years, but now I have no such desire. The objective before me was not just to attain freedom, but also to remove all the social ills in the society which had festered during the 200 years of the British rule. They have practically divested us of our traditions of tolerance and harmony, and, instead, fomented hatred and discord through their communal policies. I had thought that we could change the entire system and people of this country and would live together like brothers, in love, harmony, and peace, so that coming generations may be blessed with all of that, which, thanks to the British, we have been deprived of. Therefore, in addition to the freedom of my country, the primary objective of my life was maintenance of cordial relations between the Hindus and the Muslims. Since I could not attain my objective, this freedom has become tainted. Today, when I see Hindus and Muslims separated, with a more or less permanent gulf, I feel politically and spiritually defeated. I have no desire to live any longer."
Then glancing towards me he said, "How could I consider it a day of freedom and joy when I had to say goodbye to your father, Badshah Khan, at the Delhi Railway Station. He was my comrade, friend, companion, and fellow freedom fighter, and now that we have attained independence, we are parted. Perhaps we may never see each other. Now you see what joy this independence has brought for me?" Gandhiji paused and then continued; "If you look around at India today, you will see that all the empty spaces and bazaars of Srinagar are crowded with Hindu and Sikh refugees from NWFP. Similarly, in Bengal, Bihar and Delhi, Muslims are suffering the trauma of partition. The Punjab situation is, by far, the worst. Caravans of Muslim refugees are going towards Pakistan, and, similarly, unending streams of Hindu and Sikh refugees are coming to India. They are being massacred enroute. Men have turned brutes. Barbarism is rampant; every group of refugees is faced with well-organised attacks. Bloodshed has become a daily occurrence; people are being killed irrespective of their age or sex. Is this the freedom that we wanted to attain?"
Then Gandhiji asked a poignant question. "When I cannot remove this mutual hatred and ill-will between Hindus and Muslims, and cannot create feelings of love, peace, and harmony in the name of God and religion, you tell me whether there is any point in my living anymore? I would prefer death to this kind of life."
These were incontrovertible facts which only a seer could have perceived, one who was above all vested interests. Assuming that partition was inevitable, we should have conducted it like sensible, prudent, and responsible men. This type of occurrence is not unprecedented in world history. There are some countries which were initially united but subsequently partitioned; for example. Sweden and Norway. At one time they constituted a single country; subsequently they decided to split themselves into two countries. Having taken this decision, they peacefully determined their respective boundaries, minus looting, arson or bloodshed. Today they live next door to each other like mature and good neighbours. In India we became crazy with hatred; if a Hindu was killed in Peshawar, his relatives migrated to Delhi and killed innocent Muslims in revenge; and so the wheel kept on spinning until the land was strewn with freshly mutilated bodies. Similarly, if someone usurped the property of a Sikh in Pakistan, and forced him to flee the country, the Sikh went to India and took possession of the property of some rich Muslim. One spark, and the entire forest is burnt down. So it continued for several months. Let it be remembered that this blood was shed in the name of religion, in the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Beneficent!
(To be continued)
The book in PDF form can be accessed at: http://www.awaminationalparty.org/books/factsarefacts.pdf