Agha Shorish Kashmiri, an essayist, journalist, activist for declaration of Ahmedis as non-Muslims, bigot and a lifetime member of the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, in 1972 wrote a book eulogising Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, the anti-Shia and anti-Ahmedi organisation, was very close to Maulana Azad pre-partition along with Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind. It had also famously denounced Jinnah as Kafir-e-Azam and Pakistan as Kafiristan. Their sordid role in both pre- and post-partition eras is well documented in the Munir-Kayani Report 1954 but declassified documents show that they deliberately started the sectarian madh-e-sahaba movement in Lucknow at the Congress’ behest to divide the Muslim League’s constituents in that city. Dr Ayesha Jalal’s book, Self and Sovereignty, gives a thorough and well-sourced account of these activities.
Coming back to the book Shorish Kashmiri wrote, in it was an interview that Shorish claimed to have gotten from Maulana Azad in 1946. Since Maulana Azad had passed away by then, there was no way to confirm or deny this claim. Shorish claimed that the interview was taken around Fajr time over two weeks in Simla during the Cabinet Mission Plan negotiations. There are many gaping holes in the interview itself. At one point, Azad refers to several coups against civilian governments by military regimes in the Muslim world. Till 1946, there had been no coup in any Muslim country. Only in Turkey did a Kemalist government overthrow a monarchy. At another point, Azad says that H S Suhrawardy was not enamoured with Jinnah. Interestingly, in his India Wins Freedom, as dictated to Humayun Kabir, he claims the exact opposite and places Suhrawardy in Jinnah’s camp and Nazimuddin as the disaffected Bengali leader. Azad “presciently” speaks of “foreign debt” being incurred but that in any event was not a foregone conclusion in 1946.
On another occasion, Azad speaks of “East Pakistan” separating. Azad did predict East Pakistan’s separation in his book India Wins Freedom but that was in the 1950s when the writing was on the wall. In 1946, during the Cabinet Mission Plan, Bengal was not referred to as East Pakistan and therefore this would be inaccurate. However, perhaps the biggest chink in the armour is that Azad confuses — in the said interview — Jang-e-Jumal with Jang-e-Siffin, which an Islamic scholar of his stature would never do. In short, the alleged interview is so fraught with mistakes and inaccuracies that it makes the existence of that interview quite doubtful. In 2009, when this interview was widely quoted by certain influential Indian circles, I wrote a blog on Pakteahouse in which I challenged those who claim this interview to be authentic to bring any proof of this interview having happened other than Shorish Kashmiri’s book itself. No one has come forward in five years despite much debate to prove the veracity of this — what I believe to be a forged or altered — interview.
Last year, Dr A Q Khan, our great Baba-e-Bum — a man not known to be in possession of any great intelligence or integrity — started serialising this interview in his columns in another newspaper. Last week, an Indian Muslim writer, Tufail Ahmad, wrote a column in Indian Express using Shorish Kashmiri and Dr A Q Khan as his sources. A Q Khan, one must recall, not long ago also declared that he was proud to be from Bhopal because “no Qadiani was ever born there”. I say this because Tufail Ahmad, perhaps naively, mentions the constitutional amendment against Ahmedis as one of the many injustices in Pakistan (which it truly is). The irony therefore that he relies on the two men most virulently anti-Ahmedi in their views is perhaps lost or perhaps failed to register with Mr Tufail Ahmad. The tragedy is that someone like Husain Haqqani, whose research skills are considerable and whose scholarship cannot be doubted even if his conclusions can be contested, fell for this forgery. At least he should have known better than to promote the article, for whatever reason. Enough with the said interview, which deserves to be in a dustbin and not in history books, unless someone can somehow prove that Maulana Azad actually gave the said interview through a primary source.
What Maulana Azad did do was speak at the Jamia Masjid sometime after partition. A recording of this speech is said to be available on YouTube. Many of our self-styled ‘liberals’ often link it together. I wonder if they have actually bothered to listen to what the Maulana says. In it he says clearly that “my Cabinet Mission Plan scheme” preserved the advantages of the Pakistan scheme while discarding its flaws. What the Maulana omits is that the Muslim League had accepted ‘his’ Cabinet Mission Plan. The Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan because it saw that this was the solution that best served the purposes of its two different sets of constituents — Muslims in Muslim majority provinces and Muslims in Hindu majority provinces. Maulana Azad agreed and for this he was removed as the president of Congress by Gandhi and replaced with Nehru. Nehru buried the Cabinet Mission Plan with his statement of July 9, 1946.
As I argued in my last article, in my view, Nehru and Patel, more rightly than wrongly, were the architects of partition, not Jinnah. Maulana Azad’s book, India Wins Freedom, seconds that. Indeed, he says so very clearly that it was Patel and company who were the flag-bearers of partition and not Jinnah. He calls Nehru’s decision to torpedo the Cabinet Mission Plan a Himalayan blunder. Of course, Azad had exercised self-censorship and asked for these damning portions of the book to be released posthumously 30 years after his demise.
Thus, Azad’s opponents in the saga of partition were not Jinnah and the Muslim League but Nehru and Patel. Who was right in this internal power struggle within Congress? I have listed my reasons in two articles on the partition question as to why I think Nehru and Patel were right in doing what they did. Others can draw their own conclusions. What is certain, however, is that the black and white in which we want to draw the partisans of partition will never deliver a complete picture.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address firstname.lastname@example.org