Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mohammad Ali Jinnah: A truly historic bloke

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Jinnah's birthplace and date of birth are disputed; however, it is generally believed that he was born in Wazir Mansion , Karachi, and raised in Bombay, India. His father was Jinnahbhai Poonja, from Gujarat -- the younger Jinnah dropped 'bhai' from his name, in 1894. Jinnah's father lived from 1857-1901. Jinnah's family had Hindu, Ismaili, Shia and Sunni ancestry; and the family was primarily Ismaili. Jinnah was educated at the Sind Madrasatul Islam and the Christian Society High School , in Karachi. In 1893, he went to London to work for Graham's Shipping and Trading Company , which his father did business with. He had been married to a 16-year old (distant) relative named Emibai; but, she died shortly after he moved to London. Around this time, his mother died as well. In 1918 he would marry Rattanbai Petit and they had a daughter, Dina. In 1929, his second wife died.

He had one sister, Fatima Jinnah.

In 1894, Jinnah quit his job in order to study law at Lincoln's Inn; from which he became the youngest Indian to graduate (1896). It is believed that Jinnah decided to study there as he was impressed by a mural in the main dining hall ; one which depicted Moses and Muhammed. Jinnah would briefly work with MP Dadabhai Naoroji. By the end of 1896, Jinnah was a member of the Indian National Congress and practicing law with the Bombay bar -- as the only Muslim barrister. There he earned a reputation regarding his lack of respect for the British Empire. In one incident, a judge kept interrupting Jinnah by saying, "Rubbish!" Jinnah eventually responded by saying, "Your honour, nothing but rubbish has passed your mouth all morning." Shortly after this incident, in 1901, Sir Charles Ollivant offered to hire Jinnah at 1,500 rupees per month. Jinnah refused, believing he could earn that much on a daily basis. (By the early 1930s, Jinnah was earning about 40,000 rupees a month: a huge amount in 30's) In 1906, Jinnah served as secretary to Naoroji, who was then serving as president of the National Congress. In 1906, Bal Gangadhar Tilak would ask Jinnah to represent him, during his trial for sedition.

Political Career

On January 25, 1910, Jinnah became the "Muslim member from Bombay" on the 60-man Legislative Council of India . In 1913, Jinnah joined the Muslim League and, in 1914, would support Indian participation in World War I. In 1916, Jinnah became the president of the Lucknow Muslim League session and again in 1920; and later, from 1920-30 and from 1937-47, would serve as the League's president. Jinnah was initially hailed as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity but later events forced him to change his stance. He disagreed with Mohandas Gandhi over the policy of non-cooperation and later over the proposal that Hindu and Muslim communities hold separate elections in any future state. By 1921, Jinnah had resigned from the Indian National Congress and voiced his support for separate Muslim negotiations with Britain over the future of India.

Jinnah participated in the Round Table Conference (1930-1931) but was frustrated at the failure to achieve any tangible results; he announced his retirement from politics. By then, however, he was a leader of the local Muslim population, and despite his ostensible retirement, he was voted as President for Life of the League in 1934.

Adopting what some have interpreted as a "divide and conquer" policy, the British initially supported Jinnah, hoping that he would be a powerful counterbalance to the Hindu nationalist movement. Jinnah was more amenable to British interests: he supported Indian participation in World War II while the Indian National Congress opposed the war.

Jinnah first raised the issue of partition at the Lahore Conference (1940). He was the first to declare that Hindus and Muslims constituted two distinct peoples, adding that if partition was not achieved the subcontinent would erupt in civil war. On July 26, 1943, a member of the Khaksars attempted to assassinate Jinnah by stabbing; Jinnah was wounded.

Though the notion of partition was originally rejected by the British, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten eventually came round to accepting the idea. The idea was formally accepted on June 3, 1947, and one month later, on August 14, the Dominion of Pakistan was created. Jinnah was the new nation's first Governor-General and president of its legislative assembly. He gave a clear vision for a modern democratic Islamic state. Sadly that vision was never followed.

Despite partition, the Subcontinent was engulfed in war. Jinnah, who by most accounts was not a particularly religious man, called for equal rights for all Pakistani citizens without regard to their religion.

In his inaugural speech as first governor general of Pakistan, Jinnah said:

'You will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state."

But Jinnah would not live to see the development of his fledging country. He died of tuberculosis just 13 months after the formation of Pakistan. His vision of a secular government was never fully realized, either, with disputes between religious groups marring much of Pakistan's brief history. And later, many of his followers disputed the degree to which he was committed to a secular government.

Overworked from dealing with the fighting and a growing refugee crisis, Jinnah was unable to play a significant role in strengthening the new nation-state. He died on September 11, 1948, from tuberculosis. A mausoleum was built to honour Jinnah in Karachi.

Stanley Wolpert on Jinnah -- "Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three."

1942 -- "I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title or honours and I will be more than happy if there was no prefix to my name."
"We have to hope for the best, but be ready for the worst." ...Attributed to Jinnah

One of the largest streets of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is named Cinnah Caddesi after him.

Sameer Bhat

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