The story of our struggle

Pakistan today celebrates 71st Independence Day. It was not made overnight but after a long and continuous struggle that was originally started with the movement of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. That movement was to ensure that the Muslims did not lag behind Hindus in the field of education. The movement was successful and schools and colleges were opened across the sub-continent for Muslims.

In 1906 it was staunch members of Sir Syed’s movement who made Muslim League. The educated Muslims were the force behind the freedom struggle. Earlier Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined this struggle under the banner of Congress party. He was called the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Later he left Congress on seeing that it was dominated by Hindus and the voice of Muslims was not properly heard in the party. He disassociated from the politics of India and went to England.

Muslim leaders realised the importance of Jinnah as good politician. They urged him to come back. He came back and united the Muslims. He realised that it would not be possible for Muslims to live in united India as they would be dominated by Hindus all the time. In 1940 at Minto Park in Lahore his idea of a separate homeland for Muslims was floated and accepted in the public meeting of Muslim League.

Then he began the struggle for Pakistan which concluded with the announcement of independence on August 14, 2018.

Jinnah became Quaid-e-Azam (the greatest leader) as people lovingly called him. Minorities in areas that now constitute Pakistan joined the freedom struggle. It was thought at the time that they would be more safe and prosperous in Pakistan than in India. Many Christians including a number of Anglo Indians came to Pakistan. In Punjab Assembly the Speaker was SP Singha a Christian and member of Unionist Party. The assembly passed the vote in favour of Pakistan and the deciding vote was that of the speaker in favour of Pakistan. The two other Christian members also voted in favour of Pakistan. 

Quaid’s speech to the Constituent Assembly showed what kind of Pakistan he had envisioned. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State… Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in 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.

In today’s Pakistan religious extremism is on the rise and intolerance in the society has also started creeping in. It is a hard fact that a lot of Christians have migrated abroad replicating what happened in Lebanon and many other Middle East countries. We all have to strive to make Pakistan’s diversity of religions, ethnic groups and various cultures as a mark of our strength. We have to make unity in our diversity to ensure the implementation of the vision of the father of the nation.

The scribe recently visited London to complete Chevening Fellowship programme of two months. During the fellowship I got the opportunity of meeting the leaders in various fields and different points of views. I also had the opportunity to visit the British Library in London, which has a large archives department. The British Library has more than 400,000 relics related to South Asia. Some of the relics were shown to the Chevening fellows. For me it was like going back in time of the freedom struggle. My mother’s brother Mohan Bhatti was a soldier in the British army and fought the war in which Subhas Chandar Bose’s army was defeated. His last posting was in Rangoon (now Yangoon) when the independence was announced. My mother often narrated stories of horror and darkness that my uncle had witnessed when he made his way back to Lahore.  

Report on the last Viceroyalty, Rear Admiral

The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 22 March to 15 August 1947

This report was based largely on the 17 weekly Viceroy’s Personal Reports Mountbatten sent to the Secretary of State and Prime Minister. It attempts to tell the full story of the events between Mountbatten’s arrival in India on 22 March to the transfer of power to the new governments of India and Pakistan on 15 August 1947. In the conclusion Mountbatten attempts to answer the questions of whether power was transferred too quickly and whether more could have been done to prevent the communal violence.

Poster for referendum to the North

West Frontier Province, 1947

Choices for the people of India became starker as Independence Day neared. The Governor of North West Frontier Province has orders on 31 May to conduct within six weeks a referendum to decide the province’s future, either India or Pakistan. Mountbatten’s 3 June plan allocated India’s provinces and princely states were under pressure to accede to one or other of the new dominions. Congress prevented any third way of independence and voters of NWFP, offered the red and green boxes of India or Pakistan, were told ‘There is no other alternative at issue whatsoever’. They voted 9-1 to join Pakistan.

Gandhi and Jinnah assent

In his weekly personal to the King, the Prime Minister and the India Committee Mountbatten reported with some satisfaction, less than three months after he arrived in India, his meetings with Indian leaders on 2 and 3 June over the principle of the partition of India and the procedures for its implementation. In these extracts he relates the grudging agreement of both Gandhi and Jinnah not to oppose what subsequently became the 3 June plan. Image and substance went together as in the official photograph of Mountbatten with Nehru and Jinnah, Lord Ismay as Adviser to the Viceroy completing the group, New Delhi June 1947.

The origins of the Muslim League

Letter from Syed Mehdi Ali to the Viceroy’s Private Secretary.

Syed Mehdi Ali, or Mohsin-ul-Mulk (Benefactor of the nation) was a staunch member of the Aligarh Movement founded by the late 19th century educationist and Muslim leader Syed Ahmed Khan. In October 1906 he was among a 35-strong Muslim delegation to the Viceroy Lord Minto, at Simla. Concerned at the dominance of the Hindu majority in Congress and their forceful rhetoric , the delegates sought to safeguard Muslim interests in proposed constitutional reforms. Mohsin-ul-Mulk’s subsequent letter shows the viceroy’s response as favourable. In December 1906, Muslim League was formed, Mohsin-ul-Mulk instrumental in drafting its constitution, and in 1909 the Morley-Minto Reforms endorsed separate electorates for Muslims.

The Indian National Army

The Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) was formed of Indian civilians and prisoners-of-war in the Far East by Subhas Chandra Bose or Netaji (Great Leader). Bose formerly of the Congress party arrived in Japan from Germany in 1943. With an army between 16,000 -50,000 (including a women’s battalion named after the 19th century Indian heroine the Rani of Jhansi, he dreamt of creating an Azad Hind (Free India) in Bengal. In 1944 with cries of ‘Jaya Hind’ (Victory of India) and ‘Dilli chalo!’ Bose’s army entered India alongside Japanese forces. Their heavy defeat by the Allies at Imphal marked the turning point of the war in Southeast Asia.

Propaganda for Indian soldiers

This illustrated propaganda newspaper was produced during the First World War by the Eastern Department of the British Ministry of Information. It was printed in the main languages spoken in India as well as Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Malay and Russian, and was distributed throughout India, the Middle East, North Africa, the Far East, and to Indian overseas and Indian troops. Positive images of all the allied forces engaged in the war were used to boost morale.

Jungi Akhbar, A gun of an Indian Mountain Battery in action, 1917.

60,000 signatures against the Partition in 1905                                      

Memorials against the partition of Bengal, 1906.

The Partition of Bengal into Bengal, Eastern Bengal and Assam proposed by Lord Curzon, elicited spontaneous mass agitation all over Bengal. The decision was protested through all possible means like mass rallies, processions, local meetings, songs, etc. One of the major modes of expressing discontent was sending memorials to the India Office in London. The British Library holds such memorial signed by 60,000 common Bengali people irrespective of their religion, caste and class identities. This is probably one of the earliest documents where common Indians left their individual impression in unison against the British Raj. In 1912 the government revoked the decision and divided Bengal became one, once again.

Bhugola Brttanta

This is an early geography school book published in 1846 for the Calcutta School Book Society Press. The author, Reverend W.H Pearce, a missionary, states that the text was written in accordance with historical facts and that the maps which were being designed on the basis of this book would be very useful to the readers.

The book is divided into five parts broadly covering the subjects of physical, human and regional geographies. The first three parts covers features of the earth as a planet, natural geography and the continents. The second part while dealing with the geography of Hindustan (northern India and beyond) gives historical accounts of Afghan rulers and Mughal rulers (like Babur and Akbar). The fifth and the final part focuses on Bengal and the districts of Calcutta, Dacca and Murshidabad.



The only picture of QUAID and IQBAL together at the round table conference London 1932 it was during this trip that Iqbal finally managed to convince the QUAID that it was only he who could lead the musalmaans of India to make Pakistan. (This photo is not included in the British Library).

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