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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 44, October 17, 2009

Jinnah, Direct Action Day (1946), CPI, Partition

Saturday 17 October 2009, by D P Sen



R.M. Pal in his article “Was Partition in India Inevitable?” in the Independence Day Special of Mainstream (August 15, 2009) observed that “Jinnah did not want India to be partitioned”. (page 49) He quoted M. N. Roy to support his case. But Roy was also quoted as having referred to Jinnah’s declaration: “I have won Pakistan for you. Now do what you can do with it.” That declaration establishes the opposite.

From 1940 onward at the grassroot level, the burden of the propaganda of the Muslim League and its supremo Jinnah was becoming more and more viciously communal and anti-Congress as well as anti-Hindu because of the dearth of any social programme. In March 1940 at Lahore, the Muslim League demanded a separate state for Muslims partitioning India and comprising of Muslim majority provinces of British India. Jinnah subsequently pressed for the partition of India with growing intransigence and obduracy. In July 1946, the Muslim League (under the directive of Jinnah) passed a resolution for observing August 16, 1946 as the Direct Action Day for Pakistan. As a result, a communal riot of unthinkable ferocity, brutality and barbarity engulfed Calcutta with killing, looting, burning and maiming. Thousands of people got killed and thousands wounded. Calcutta was the “inferno” of Dante for a number of days without any law and order. Of all the Muslim-majority provinces of British India, only undivided Bengal was ruled by the Muslim League with one of its prominent and virile leaders, Suhrawardy, as the Chief Minister. The other provinces with Muslim majority population were ruled by parties other than the Muslim League and were rather peaceful. It was commonly believed that Suhrawardy fomented the holocaust by active directions or by intentional inactivity. Jinnah boasted that every village in India would be engulfed by similar communal riots if India was not partitioned to establish Pakistan.

Regarding the role of Jyoti Basu, that is, the Communist Party of India (CPI), R.M. Pal has stated that Communist members of the Bengal Assembly voted for partition. According to him, in undivided Bengal a Muslim would always become a Chief Minister and all bhadrolok Hindu Assembly members including Jyoti Basu did not like to live under a Muslim Chief Minister. The above reason given by Pal is highly amateurish and frivolous and far from true.


During 1940-45, the CPI published a thesis described in brief as follows: India comprises of many nationalities; a few of them have a Muslim majority. Each nationality has the right to self-determination with the right of succession. As a corollary, if a few Muslim majority nations or provinces of India want to secede and decide to form a separate state, it cannot be objected to on ideological considerations.

The above logic has many flaws and loopholes which are beyond the scope of discussion here. However, the CPI itself wanted an undivided India in the best interest of all—Hindus and Muslims. But the fact remains that the above thesis in principle supported the partition in an indirect way. The Muslim intelligentsia and student community found a plank of support to the partition of India as it came from a revolutionary and secular party. To quote Kiernan (Mainstream, March, 14, 2009) who was a great historian, a member of the CPGB for a considerable period of his life and was in India during the above crucial period of 1938-46, “if circumstances favoured the CPI one way or the other, it helped Jinnah and the Muslim League still more”. It is worthwhile to note that despite all this, the Communist Party of Pakistan was banned in Pakistan at the stage of its birth.

Jinnah and the Muslim League did not carry out any agitation or struggle against British imperialism for independent Pakistan. One cannot be blamed if one concludes that according to their master plan, the Congress should bear the burden of removing the chain of subjugation of British rule and then it should agree to hand over the earmarked portion of India (that is, Pakistan) to them.

A truncated India and Pakistan served the interest of world imperialism in a better way compared to undivided India.

Jinnah personally was a secular man with a modern outlook. In the early part of his political life, he was an out and out nationalist. But later he turned to communal politics and had no qualms to achieve Pakistan. The reasons for this transformation have been amply explained by R.M. Pal but those are not an excuse to become politically communal. Jinnah was definitely responsible for the partition of India.

D.P. Sen
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- Kolkata – 700 091

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