The first two chapters address factors of Hindu-Muslim contention, their growing differences and Gandhi’s nascent endeavors to resolve the quandary of communalism in India. The next chapter deals with the emergence and evolution of ideas concerning the establishment of Pakistan as an independent homeland for Muslims. Chapter 4 entails an analysis of British efforts to resolve the question of India-Paksitan partition through the Cripps Offer and Gandhi’s reaction to it. In the following chapter provides a gloss of the Quit India Movement and its effect on political developments on this issue.
In Chapter 6, an overview of Rajagopalachari’s formula and Gandhi’s dialogue with the League leader for arriving at a settlement of the communal problem is discussed. The final three chapters include a survey of the British approach toward the settlement of the Indian tangle through the Wavell offer, the Cabinet Mission Plan and the Mountbatten Plan-each followed by Gandhi’s reaction. Chaudhri presents an extended overview of the process whereby India split into two nations. To compliment the process, he uses Gandhi as a gauge to measure and access failure and success in keeping India united.
Through evaluating the Muslim League’s campaign for a separate homeland, while analyzing varying plans and proposals for both unification and partition, Chaudhri outlines major proponents and antagonists for the split. I will discuss three major aspects of the book that I found interesting and reflexive of his biases. Firstly, his portrayal of M. K. Gandhi is short of a hagiographical biography of his efforts to keep India united as a “family. ” Conversely, his depiction of the League’s leader casts a shadow on the personage of Jinnah as a miscreant opportunist.
Finally, a brief account of Chaudhri’s reasoning for the popular win-out of Muslim support for the partition will be discussed. Throughout the chapters dealing with Gandhi’s reaction to external plans and proposals, including the Rajagopalachari formula and the Cabinet Mission Plan, Chaudhri paints a pious and harmonious picture of Gandhi. Chaudhri suggests that Gandhi extended every opportunity to unite Muslims and Hindus. Moreover, he goes on to say that it was Gandhi’s perusal of equal representation of Muslims in the Congress that kept unity and understanding amongst Muslim-Hindu ties in the early stages of the nationalist movement.
However Chaudhri does not mention the fact that Gandhi utilized solely Hindu-Indian symbols in his nationalist campaign for an independent India. Although he mentions that Gandhi realized the fear of Muslims with regard to representation and equal rights, he fails to explain Gandhi’s alienating propaganda while simultaneously preaching “unity in diversity” of religions. In another instance Chaudhri represents Gandhi as an effective leader in maintaining Hindu-Muslim solidarity of nationhood. He explains that when Gandhi was less influential in the Congress, the idea of partition increased, further developing into reality.
Although he mentions Gandhi’s acceptance of the Rajagopalachari formula, which basically recognizes the need for a Muslim homeland, Chaudhri argues that Gandhi did not believe that it would contribute to the polemics of partitioning India. On the other hand Jinnah is presented as an opportunist that seizes every chance he gets to secure independence from India. Chaudhri begins by describing Jinnah as once being a believer in Gandhi’s ideals of Hindu-Muslim unity. According to Chaudhri, the distrust and tension that continued to build-up between Muslims and Hindus polarized Jinnah in adopting Iqbal’s “Two-Nation Theory.
” With this new campaign on the frontlines for an independent state, Jinnah vigorously appealed to the masses of Muslims throughout India (particularly North-West Frontier provinces) to unite together for the establishment of Pakistan. Chaudhri suggests that Jinnah took advantage of Gandhi’s openness and tolerance, to further his agenda while gaining the support of the British by playing them off the Congress’s refusal to assist in the War efforts. He discredits Jinnah’s ability to mobilize support by continuously focusing on Gandhi’s arduous endeavors for an independent India and preventing partition.
Chaudhri makes Jinnah out to be a stubborn, uncooperative, self-serving figure blemishing any real effort Gandhi made to keep India united. Although I tend to disagree with Chaudhri’s broad generalizations and judgments of Gandhi and Jinnah, I agree with his explanation for the victory of the League in the north-western provinces of India and Bengal-winning the support of the majority of Muslims. Prior to the elections of 1946, Sikandar’s Unionist Party (also Muslims) dominated the political sphere amongst Muslims in the greater Punjab area, and Fazl-ul-Huq’s Krishak Praja Party in Bengal.
Jinnah was not popular amongst either group, and in fact the League had a hard time participating in any political activity in those areas. However, as Chaudhri explains, after the death of the charismatic Sikandar, the Unionists were left with weak political leadership, and in Bengal division amongst other Muslim groups enabled Jinnah to arise as a popular voice for Muslims. The failure of the Congress to bring Muslims into their fold when sentiments leaned toward a united India also contributed to the ripeness of the majority of Muslims for a powerful and charismatic leader to take the reigns.
Although Chaudhri’s analysis of the partition and Gandhi’s role in it tends to adopt a biased tone, I consider it a viable source in considering the reasons for the partition. Nevertheless, it fails to include vital and imperative evidence for either his claims of Gandhi’s super heroism, or rather the counter balance of his inability to address a splitting nation. His portray of British and Muslim participation in the partition, and Gandhi’s more than favorable outlook on both, takes away the scholastic credibility of this book as a source on Gandhi’s role in the partition.