We are all aware that Mohandas Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were two great political leaders who played a decisive role in the independence movement of India and birth of Pakistan. When I studied their biographies and the evolution of their political struggles, I discovered that they started with similar goals and dreams; but with the passage of time they grew apart, resulting in the birth of two states rather than one. They had never conceived that at the end of their political pregnancy, they would be delivering twin states by a painful caesarian section, a surgery performed by a British surgeon, Lord Mountbatten. Such a delivery was a mixed blessing. On the 15th of August 1947, some people were mourning while others were celebrating, some were soaked in blood while others were dancing and rejoicing.

          Whenever I read the painful and tragic chapter of the massacre of 1947, I wonder about the roles of the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress and their leaders including Gandhi and Jinnah. I ask myself, why could they not prevent the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children from Muslim, Hindu and Sikh families that got slaughtered on the altar of the independence of India and the birth of a separate state for Indian Muslims.

          While reviewing the dynamics of that tragedy I became fascinated with the complex, complicated and ambivalent relationship of Jinnah and Gandhi. I was intrigued how their journey started as active members of the Indian National Congress with the ideal of Hindu-Muslim unity and ended in Hindu and Muslim separation. I was interested to find out how their differences became more important than their similarities and how the prophets of peace became leaders of communal warfare. S.K. Majumdar wrote, “Their [Gandhi and Jinnah’s] politics of conflict, the great Indian Experiment, degenerated into a vicious communal battle delivering a body blow, an earthquake shattering the very mosaic of India.” (Ref 1 p v) To understand the dynamics of their relationship, the evolution of their political struggle and their impact on Indian politics, I delved into their biographies and the history of India’s independence movement. In this letter I will share with you a few glimpses of their troubled and troubling relationship.

          Mohandas Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah belonged to Gujrati Hindu families. (Ref 1 p 14) Their ancestors had settled not very far from each other in India. “Gandhi’s Hindu merchant (bania) family by remarkable coincidence, settled barely thirty miles to the north of Jinnah’s grandparents, in the state of Rajkot. Thus the parents of the Fathers of both India and Pakistan shared a single mother tongue, Gujrati, though that never helped their offspring to communicate.” (Ref 2 p 4). Jinnah’s family embraced Islam, not realizing that their son would give birth to a Muslim state.

 After finishing their early education, each of them had gone to England to study law and during that period came across Congress leaders including Dadabhai Naoraji. Jinnah was far more influenced by him than Gandhi who at that time was more interested in vegetarianism than politics. “Jinnah went to England for his legal studies in 1892 when he was barely sixteen years of age. At that time, Dadabhai Naoroji, one of the founders of Congress, was in England. He was then a member of the House of Commons of the British Parliament on the Liberal side. Dadabhai took young Jinnah under his care and naturally Jinnah learnt his first politics from this great master. Jinnah frequented the House of Commons and various political meetings in Dadabhai’s company and in this way became imbued with the progressive ideas of the British politics. It may be mentioned here that Gandhiji also met Dadabhai Naoroji during his student days in London but as there was hardly anything between them, no intimacy grew between them.” (Ref 2 p 14) Jinnah, who was quite fascinated with the Western political system, got involved in political debates and learnt the art and craft of political battles.

 During his stay in England, Jinnah was also involved in acting for a time and was seriously considering a career as an actor. However, he received a letter from his family informing him that his mother had passed away and asking him to come back and serve his motherland otherwise he would be considered “a traitor to the family.” (Ref 2 p 14)

 Gandhi was not interested in Indian politics when he was in England but later on when he went to South Africa he got actively involved in fighting for the rights of Indians in South Africa.

          After coming back to India both got involved in national politics. Jinnah was first to arrive. Being a secular intellectual and political leader, he was attracted to Congress and within a short time became a significant voice for Indians. Jinnah knew that the Indian Congress was inspired by a liberal Indian intellectual, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who wanted to integrate Eastern and Western cultures and was run by “those who were educated on western lines.” (Ref 1 p 4). Jinnah was aware that Congress not only wanted freedom from the British Empire but also sought to transform India into a secular modern state.

          When Gandhi arrived in India, he was already a well-known political leader who had developed a political philosophy of non-violence and an anti-Western ideology. He shared the goal of freedom with Jinnah but their philosophies, personalities and lifestyles were very different. In spite of becoming involved in the same political struggle they were worlds apart.

Jinnah loved while Gandhi hated Western civilization.

Jinnah admired scientific thinking while Gandhi resented the scientific approach to life.

Jinnah was logical and rational while Gandhi was spiritual and sentimental.

Jinnah associated with the elites while Gandhi mingled with the masses.

Jinnah ignored religious ideology while Gandhi was preoccupied with Hindu religion and Jain mythology.

Jinnah sought to gain independence by political means while Gandhi hoped to achieve a spiritual and cultural revolution.

Jinnah wanted India to become a secular and modern state while Gandhi believed, “India’s salvation consists in unlearning what she has learnt during the last fifty years or so. The railways, telegraphs, hospitals, lawyers, doctors and such like have to go.” (Ref 1 p 5)

          The differences between their philosophies, ideologies, lifestyles and orientations became evident over the years and decades.

 In spite of their polite social personae, the tension in their relationship was palpable from the very beginning. When Gandhi returned to India, a grand reception was arranged in his honour. Jinnah not only presided over the function but also offered a warm welcome. Gandhi’s response surprised everybody. Rather than appreciating the genuine feelings being expressed, he became critical. He did not appreciate that the speeches were made in English.

“On his arrival at Bombay, Gandhiji was accorded a right royal reception from all sides. Mr.Jinnah did not lag behind in paying his respects to Gandhiji. In a Gujrati gathering, Jinnah, immaculately dressed in English clothes, made a fine speech in English welcoming him to motherland while Gandhiji, wearing typical Gujrati dress, made his reply in Gujrati. He even ventured to mildly admonish the previous speakers for speaking in English.” (Ref 1 p 39)

          The sparks between Gandhi and Jinnah could be felt in their first meeting. Jinnah, who considered himself a secular person and a representative of all ethnic and religious groups of India, did not appreciate Gandhi highlighting that he was from a Muslim family. “Gandhi’s response to Jinnah’s urbane welcome was that he was ‘ glad to find a Mohammedan not only belonging to his own region’s sahba, but chairing it.” Had he meant to be malicious rather than his usual ingenuous self, Gandhi could not have contrived a more cleverly patronizing barb, for he was not only actually insulting Jinnah, after all, just informing everyone of his minority religious identity.”(Ref 2 p 38) Jinnah’s biographer Stanley Wolpert feels that that meeting set the stage for their life long rivalry and antagonism. He wrote, “That first statement of Gandhi’s set the tone of their relationship, always at odds with deep tensions and mistrust underlying its superficially polite manners, never friendly never cordial. They seemed always to be sparring even before they put on any gloves. It was as if, subconsciously, they recognized one another as ‘natural enemies’, rivals for national power, popularity, and charismatic control of their audience, however small or awesomely vast they might become.” (Ref 2 p 38)

          Jinnah and Gandhi were both inspired by the great Indian intellectual Gokhale. If Gokhale had lived longer, he might have been influential not only in modifying their attitudes but also by becoming a bridge between them; but unfortunately he died in 1915 before he could help Gandhi and Jinnah develop a cooperative bond and establish common grounds for their political ideological struggles. Majamdar wrote, “It was indeed a great tragedy for India as well as for Gandhiji that Gokhale died in February 1915…Perhaps Gokhale would have been a connecting link between Gandhiji and Jinnah” (Ref 1 p 40)

          The first political confrontation between Jinnah and Gandhi took place when they both got involved with the politics of the Home Rule League, a party inspired by Mrs. Annie Bessant, a theosophist, who was strongly motivated to help Indians in their struggle for freedom and independence. She was much impressed by Jinnah. When Gandhi returned to India, Jinnah respectfully and generously suggested that he could become the President. “Jinnah himself in one of the meetings of the Home Rule League proposed the name of Gandhiji to be its president.” (ref 1 p 46). Other members of Home Rule League, including the secretary Mr. Jayakar, were skeptical. They were worried Gandhi would take over the party. Jinnah tried to reassure them, hoping that Gandhi would respect the democratic tradition of the party. Gandhi was welcomed but also warned about their concerns. Gandhi reassured them that he would become a sincere member of the League and genuinely try to serve the party as well as the nation. But unfortunately the moment he became the President he not only changed the name but also the guiding principles. Jinnah and other members were concerned as their worst nightmare was coming true. They objected to the autocratic posture of Gandhi who ignored their opinions and used a heavy-handed approach. He insisted that others should either accept his changes or leave. Jinnah and many others felt so insulted and humiliated that they resigned.

“After assuming the Presidentship of the League, Gandhiji called a general meeting of the members to change the name and creed of the League. He proposed to change the name of the Home Rule League to that of Swarajya Sabha. Jinnah and some other foundation members opposed Gandhiji’s proposals. But Gandhiji as Chairman of the meeting, overruled their objections and declared in an uncompromising tone, ‘It was open to any member, be he a life-member or otherwise, to resign his membership if he thought he could not remain a member of the Sahba under its altered constitution’. Gandhiji’s arbitrary action in changing the name and creed of the Home Rule league was resented by Jinnah and several other prominent Leaguers who resigned from the League in protest.’”(Ref 1 p 47)

It became obvious to many that Gandhi, who was admired and adored by many as a spiritual leader, was not a very democratic leader in the political world. He did not negotiate or attempt to persuade; he gave ultimatums. Such an attitude was very difficult for politicians like Jinnah to swallow, as they believed in a sincere political debate prior to making any changes in the party. Jinnah left the League with a bitter taste in his mouth and mind. That was another encounter that strained Jinnah’s relationship with Gandhi. The painful effects of that incident remained for a long time. “Neither Mrs. Besant nor Jinnah ever forgave Gandhiji for his destruction of the Home Rule League with all its ideals and aspirations.” (Ref 1 p 47) They believed that for Gandhi his own ego, pride and mission was more important than the feelings and dreams of other party members. It was becoming apparent to Jinnah that Gandhi was not a democratic leader and he was using the party to enhance his personal and political agenda.

          After the disaster of the Home Rule League, Jinnah and Gandhi confronted each other in Congress. Gandhi saw Congress as a vehicle to promote his ideology. Jinnah became more and more suspicious. And when Gandhi urged Congress to adopt his non-violent non-cooperation movement, Jinnah felt so disillusioned that he left Congress as well. Jinnah believed that Gandhi was playing with the emotions of young people who were naïve and gullible. He, like Rabindranath Tagore, was afraid that the non-violent processions Gandhi was advocating would lose control and become violent and that thousands of innocent human beings would be murdered or land up in jail.


“Gandhi proposed the adoption by Congress of a policy of progressive non-violent non-cooperation which would begin with the renunciation of titles bestowed by the Government and with the triple boycott (namely, the boycott of legislatures, law courts and educational institutions) and would end up in non-payment of taxes.” (Ref 1 p 77)

“In the annual session of the Congress at Nagpur in December of 1920, the Congress itself surrendered to Gandhiji and adopted the Gandhian programme for its future activities. Henceforth, Gandhiji practically became the Director of the Congress. This was a position, which was unbearable, and unacceptable to Mohammad Ali Jinnah…he was not prepared to surrender the Congress to Gandhiji without a fight to the last ditch.

          Jinnah had no sympathy for the Gandhian ideology and he felt that Gandhiji was taking India to an uncharted sea where everything would end in a disaster. He considered it a catastrophe for India that the Congress should adopt Gandhian programme in preference to those of the old masters of the Congress. He felt that it was suicide for the Congress to adopt the Gandhian path.” (Ref 1 p 9)


Jinnah’s resignation from Congress was no reflection that he was not in agreement with its secular philosophy; it was more of an indication that he and Gandhi could not work together as they were unable to resolve their conflicts with each other. Each wanted power, domination and leadership and neither could be a follower of the other. They could not work cooperatively as a team. When Jinnah could not attain the leadership of Congress he became active in the Muslim League, hoping that he could use it to achieve his goals and ideals the same way Gandhi was using Congress to fulfill his dreams. They might have had different philosophies but they exhibited similarities in their personalities. They were determined to the point of stubbornness and as time passed, they became more and more rigid. The British found it difficult to deal with them in a democratic and rational way in order to arrive at some political consensus for the future of India. They both believed religiously in their political ideologies.

          At one point Gandhi visited Rabindrananth Tagore in Calcutta to invite him to join his national non-cooperative non-violent movement. He was disappointed when Tagore turned his offer down. Tagore shared his grave concerns with Gandhi and warned him that in spite of his good intentions the non-violent movement would not remain non-violent for very long because the sentimental masses would lose control and thousands of innocent lives would be lost. Gandhi then invited Jinnah to join his non-violent non-cooperation movement, but Jinnah, like Tagore, also feared its potentially disastrous consequences.


“When Gandhiji requested Jinnah to rally under the banner of Non-Cooperation, Jinnah’s reply was as follows: ‘I thank you for your

kind suggestions offering me to take my share in the new life that

has opened up before the country. If by “New Life” you mean your methods and your programme, I am afraid I cannot accept them,

for I am fully convinced that it must lead to disaster…your methods

have already caused splits and division in almost every institution that

you have approached hitherto, and in the public life of the country…

and your extreme programme has for the moment struck the

imagination mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate. All this means complete disorganization and chaos. What the consequence of this may be, I shudder to contemplate.’” (Ref 1 p 81)


 Jinnah believed that he could provide better leadership to Indians by becoming active in the Muslim League, not realizing that in the long run he would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. He did not appreciate that political systems and parties are sometimes more powerful than their own leaders. Jinnah wanted to make the Muslim League liberal and secular, but in the end, the Muslim League was to change him far more than he could change it. 

Even after becoming active in the Muslim League, he was for the

longest time a great supporter of Hindu Muslim unity. He worked hard to bring the League and Congress together on secular grounds, urging both parties to work together to achieve independence and freedom to their common motherland, India.

“In 1924, Jinnah was elected to be the President of the Muslim

League session to be held in Lahore. On the eve of the session he

gave an interview to the Associated Press of India and stated the policy he would follow:

‘The League is not in any way going to adopt a policy or programme which will, in the least degree as far as I can judge, be antagonistic

to the Indian National Congress…On the contrary, I believe it will

proceed on lines which are best calculated to further general national interests, not forgetting the particular interests of the Muslim

community.’” (Ref 1 p 103)

Jinnah had expressed similar views in his Presidential speech in Lucknow a few years earlier. He had encouraged Muslims to cooperate with Hindus. He had stated,

“Towards the Hindus our attitude should be of goodwill and brotherly feelings. Cooperation to the cause of our motherland should be our guiding principle. India’s real progress can only be achieved by a true understanding and harmonious relations between the two great sister communities.” (Ref 1 p 36)


It is ironic that Jinnah never realized that if he could not resolve his differences with Gandhi, there was small likelihood that their respective parties, who faithfully followed their autocratic leaders, could resolve their conflicts. It is tragic that Gandhi and Jinnah, because of their perpetual antagonism, pushed each other to uncompromising extreme positions and finally into political ditches where nobody could pull them out to find mutually agreeable solutions.

          As Jinnah became active in the Muslim League, he had to face the party’s inner conflicts. He had to deal with fundamentalist Muslims who were against him and who were trying to convince him that Muslims and Hindus could not live together peacefully as they belonged to two different nations. Jinnah kept ignoring such suggestions. One of those people was Allama Mohammad Iqbal who was disappointed in the Lucknow pact in which the Muslim League and Congress had promised to work together. He felt it was a bad omen for Indian Muslims. He believed in the two-nation theory, and for a few years worked hard to convince Jinnah that Muslims’ rights were not safe in the political environment of the Hindu majority.

          Eventually, Jinnah changed his position. On one hand he was swayed by extremist Muslims whose religious identity was more important than their cultural identity—they were more proud of being Muslims than being Indians; and on the other hand he became more and more disillusioned by Congress, especially Gandhi. He started perceiving Congress as a Hindu rather than a secular national party and he also convinced himself that he was the only genuine representative of Indian Muslims. Muslims who were members of the Congress Party were appalled by his position.

Along with his political views, Jinnah’s social image changed dramatically.    It is amazing to see how Jinnah changed his public image. The man who formerly wore three-piece suits and silk ties started wearing sheervani and a cap, which became famous as the “Jinnah cap”. Jinnah was repeatedly reminded by many conservative Muslims that he neither looked nor acted like a good Muslim. In many Muslim League meetings he had to face humiliating situations. Wolpert highlights one of them in these words, “Angry dissidents led by the mercurial Maulana Hasrat Mohani (1875-1951) moved to adjourn the meeting of the League at the start of its second sitting on December 31, 1915. Jinnah had just been recognized by the chair when Maulana Mohani jumped up to shout “Point of order!” The president ordered him to ‘please sit down’. Other Urdu-shouting orthodox Muslims rose inside the huge tent erected near the seashore on marine Lines to support Mohani’s attempt to adjourn the meeting before Jinnah could move the creation of a special committee to draft a scheme of reforms. Some angry mullahs, who filled the visitor rows of seats, started yelling at President Haque, “If you are a Mohammedan, you ought to appear like a Mohammedan. The Holy Quran asks you to dress like a Mohammedan. You must speak the Mohammedan tongue. You pose to be a Mohammedan leader, but you can never be a Mohammedan leader.” Similar anti-Western revivalist sentiments would be hurled at Jinnah for the rest of his life, even after he was hailed the League’s Qaid-i–Azam (Great Leader). A number of bearded Pathans in the audience rushed the dais, shouting angrily in Pushto. Hasrat Mohani called Urdu the only “proper language” in which to hold Muslim League proceedings” (Ref 2 p 40)

It is unfortunate that Gandhi and Jinnah, as two lawyers, two masters of negotiation, could not resolve their conflicts—their personal tension, their anger, resentment and bitterness spilled over to into their social and political lives, infecting multitudes of their followers. Common people, like children, started to act out the conflicts of their political parents, the Fathers of the Nation.

          Until the 1930s, Jinnah remained hopeful that Muslims and Hindus, League and Congress could work together. But he became so disillusioned by the fundamentalist Muslims of the Muslim League and the fundamentalist Hindus of Congress that he decided to resign from the political world and lead a private life as a lawyer in England. He believed that the tensions and conflicts between the two communities and the two parties were so grave that he could not play any positive and constructive role. Jinnah shared his depression, desperation and sense of resignation in his speech in Aligarh. He said,

“I received the shock of my life at the meetings of the Round

Table Conference. In the face of danger, the Hindu sentiment, the

Hindu mind, the Hindu attitude led me to the conclusion that there

was no hope of unity. The position was most unfortunate. The Mussalmans were like dwellers in No Man’s land: they were led by

either the flunkeys of the British Government or the camp followers

of the Congress. Whenever attempts were made to organize the

Muslims, toadies and flunkeys on the one hand, and the traitors in

the Congress camp on the other, frustrated the efforts. I began to feel that neither could I help India, nor change the Hindu mentality; nor

could I make Mussalmans realize the precarious position.

I felt so disappointed and depressed that I decided to settle down in London. Not that I did not love India, but I felt so utterly helpless.” (Ref 1 p 146)


It is obvious from the language of the speech that Jinnah, who was always proud of his respectful parliamentary language, had become angry, resentful and sarcastic. His use of words like “flunkeys” and “traitors” is a good indication that he was sliding into a painful phase of political depression, emotional disillusionment and social withdrawal.

As time passed Jinnah recovered, and when many Muslim leaders including Allama Iqbal asked him to come back to India and fight for the rights of Indian Muslims, he agreed. Iqbal told him that he was the only Muslim leader who could get the Muslims safely out of the political storm. Finally Jinnah came back, injected the Muslim league with new energy, and escalated his fight for the Muslim cause. By this time he had mentally accepted the role of Muslim leader and embraced Allama Iqbal’s two-nation theory, a proposition that he had been dead set against two decades earlier. Having adopted this personal resolve, Jinnah began trying to convince the Muslims of India that their rights and privileges would not be safe and secure under Hindu domination. He believed Muslims needed affirmative action as they had been deprived of their genuine rights because they were members of a minority nation. He tried to present Congress as a Hindu party. There were many Indian Muslims who remained unconvinced by Jinnah’s argument as they saw many Muslim intellectuals and political leaders as honorable members of Congress, even Abul Kalam Azad, a well-respected Muslim scholar, as its President.

It was interesting for me to read that there was a time when the Muslim League had only a few thousand members. Gandhi told Jinnah repeatedly that he was representing only a minority of Muslims, as the majority of Muslims were members of Congress or groups like the Unionist Party which believed in Hindu-Muslim unity and opposed any partition of India.

          Jinnah and Gandhi ultimately became angry rivals and bitter enemies as Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan became a threat to Gandhi’s dream of a free United India. Their dreams rather than complementing started to conflict and turned into each other’s political nightmares.

          Finally in 1940 Jinnah and the Muslim League publicly announced the dream of a separate state for Indian Muslims. “Then at the Lahore Session of the Muslim League in March, 1940, he made the formal demand for the creation of a home-land for the Muslims where the writ of Gandhi or the Gandhian Congress would not run.” (Ref 1 p 11)

“At the annual session of the Muslim League at Lahore, in

March 1940, Jinnah declared: ‘Islam and Hinduism are not religions

in the strict sense of the word, but are in fact quite distinct social

orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and the Muslims can ever

evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian

nation has gone far beyond the limits and is the cause of most of our troubles and will lead to destruction, if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and the Muslims belonged to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature….’


The Lahore resolution was a significant milestone for Jinnah

and Muslim League. That was the first time they had taken a firm stand

to put their plan into action. Jinnah was now able to articulate his dream fully and clearly.       

‘The aforesaid ideas of Jinnah found embodiment in the resolution that was passed in the Lahore session of the Muslim League held in

March 1940:

‘Resolved that it is a considered view of this session of the

All-India Muslim League that no constituted plan would be workable

in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principle, namely, that geographically contagious units

are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial re-adjustments as may be necessary, and that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in North Western

and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute

“independent States” in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.” (Ref 1 p 159)


After that resolution there was a major shift in Jinnah’s attitude. His latent anger and hostility had come to the surface. Majumdar highlights that change in these words,

          ‘         Jinnah was now on warpath. Intense hatred of the Congress

and Gandhi took possession of his soul…With the passing of the

Lahore Resolution of 1940, old Nationalist Jinnah, the great sentinel

of the Indian National Congress, the Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim

Unity, began a new and tragic chapter in his life. The new Jinnah

proved to be a menace both for India and the Indian Mussalmans. It

is perhaps one of the most tragic events of Indian history.”

(Ref 1 p 159)


Jinnah finally gave up his dream of becoming a secular leader of India and chose to be a Muslim leader of Pakistan. Such a shift not only stirred up strong emotions in his mind but also intensified the conflict between him and Gandhi.

          Over the years Gandhi and Jinnah had realized that they were both heavyweight political leaders, admired and adored by millions. One had become Mahatama and the other Qaid-e-azam, but their heavyweight championship bout, which played itself out for thirty years, meant upheaval, pain and death for millions of Indians.

          In 1944 Gandhi made one more attempt to engage in a dialogue with Jinnah about his philosophy and dream of a united India. Jinnah accepted the invitation hoping that he would convince Gandhi of his two-nation theory. They talked round and round in circles and finally ended the dialogue with no progress. Wavell wrote in his journal in a sarcastic way, “The two great mountains have met and not even a ridiculous mouse has emerged.” (Ref 2 p 236).

Jinnah felt baffled in his efforts to talk to Gandhi. Although they spoke the

same mother tongue, they were worlds apart. Jinnah became so frustrated with Gandhi and his mysterious personality that he expressed his confusion in these words, “When it suits him, he represents nobody, he can talk in individual capacity, he is even a four-anna member of Congress, he undertakes fast to decide the political issue, he reduces himself to zero and consults his inner voice; yet when it suits him, he is the supreme dictator of the Congress! He thinks he represents whole of India. Mr. Gandhi is an enigma…” (Ref 2 p 248)  It is interesting to note also that Congress used to call Jinnah  “The Dictator of

Malabar Hills” (ref 2 p 177) and Lord Linlithgow had once remarked ‘…Jinnah


would be quite as bad a master as Gandhi…” (Ref 2 p 222)


          Jinnah, who all his life wanted to fight political battles with Congress and the British in a peaceful way, finally got so frustrated, desperate and angry that he lost control. When he realized that he was not going to gain power and control through peaceful means, he accepted the route of violence. It was a shocking experience for me to read that the Qaid-e-Azam gave his blessing to violence. He wanted to teach Congress and the British a lesson and in so doing he risked the lives of thousands of innocent men women and children. For a leader who was proud to lead “a real political movement based on real political principles” it was a sad state of affairs to resort to violence. I could not believe my eyes when I read what he stated on July 29, 1946:

“…the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to Direct

Action to achieve Pakistan to assert their just rights, to vindicate

their honour and to get rid of the present British slavery and the contemplated future Caste-Hindu domination” (Ref 2 p 283)


Jinnah gave his blessings to violence in these words,

“We have taken a most historic decision. Never before in

the whole life history of the Muslim League did we do anything

except by constitutional methods and constitutional talks. We are

today forced into position by a move in which both the Congress

and Britain have participated. We have been attacked on two fronts…Today we have said good-bye to constitutions and

constitutional methods. Throughout the painful negotiations, the

two parties with whom we bargained held a pistol at us, one with

power and machine-guns behind it, and the other with non-

cooperation and the threat to launch mass civil disobedience. The situation must be met. We also have a pistol.” (Ref 2 p 283)


It is amazing that Jinnah’s anger towards Gandhi was of the same intensity as it was towards the British Empire. He put British oppression and Gandhi’s non-cooperation in the same category. Jinnah wanted to mobilize the masses but he did not realize that the masses were already full of anger and resentment and bitterness. They were reaching a political orgasm and were ready to shed blood. Jinnah may or may have not realized that by making that speech he had given people a license to kill. After that speech India witnessed one of the bloodiest days in a long time. The peace loving Jinnah had finally said goodbye to democratic and constitutional methods of bringing about political change. He was no longer a believer in a peaceful evolution; he wanted to incite a bloody revolution. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, in their book, Freedom at Midnight, sketch out the massacre of August 16th, 1946 in these words,

“The event that served to catalyze into violence the building

rivalry of India’s Hindu and Moslem communities took place on August

16, 1946… At dawn Moslem mobs howling in a quasi-religious fervor

came bursting from their slums, waving clubs, iron bars, shovels, any instrument capable of smashing in a human skull. They came in

answer to a call issued by the Muslim League, proclaiming August 16 “Direct Action Day” to prove to Britain and the Congress Party that

India’s Moslems were prepared ‘to get Pakistan for themselves by

‘Direct Action’ if necessary.

“They savagely beat to a pulp any Hindus in their path and

left the bodies in the city’s open gutters. The terrified police simply disappeared. Soon tall pillars of black smoke stretched up from a

score of spots in the city, Hindu bazaars in full blaze.

“Later, the Hindu mobs came storming out of their neighbor-

hoods, looking for defenseless Moslems to slaughter. Never, in all

the violent history had Calcutta known twenty-four hours as savage,

as packed with human viciousness. Like waterlogged logs, scores of bloated cadavers bobbed down the Hooghly River toward the sea.

Other corpses, savagely mutilated, littered the city streets.”

(Ref 3 p 35)


          That was the day when religious differences became more important than racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural similarities. Those differences became so inflamed that innocent people turned bloodthirsty.

          Jinnah’s Direct Action was the last nail in the coffin of Hindu-Muslim unity. War was declared between Muslims and Hindus and after that, there was no hope for reconciliation. Jinnah had given his final ultimatum to Gandhi, Congress and the British Empire to either give him Pakistan or get ready for a civil war.


Dear Friends,

          The last chapter of the Gandhi-Jinnah relationship and the future of India was written when Viceroy Lord Mountbatten arrived in Delhi on March 22, 1947 with a special mission to meet with the leaders of the Muslim League and the Indian Congress and finalize the plans for handing over power to Indians. He met with all the leaders separately and finalized the plans, seeking political consensus. When he left England he was warned, “The cost of denying them their state, they wanted, would be the bloodiest civil war in Asian history.” (ref 3 p 8)  Unfortunately all his negotiations failed.

          When Mountbatten discussed the issue with Gandhi, the Mahatma was

dead against the proposed partition. He had stated many times that India would be divided over his dead body. When Gandhi realized that Mountbatten was leaning towards partition to please Jinnah he offered a new solution to the problem. Collins and Lapierre wrote

 “So desperate was he [Gandhi] to avoid partition that he was prepared to give the Muslims the baby instead of cutting it in half.

Place three hundred million Hindus under Muslim rule, he told Mountbatten, by asking his rival Jinnah and his Moslem League to

form a government. Then hand over power to that government.

Give Jinnah all of India instead of just the part he wants…

‘Whatever makes you think your own Congress Party will accept? Mountbatten asked.

‘Congress’, Gandhi replied, ‘wants above all else to avoid partition. They will do anything to prevent it.’” (Ref 3 p 111)


          But when Mountbatten approached Nehru and Patel about Gandhi’s proposal, they were shocked that Gandhi would suggest such an absurd idea. “He [Mountbatten] could not budge Nehru and Patel. There was a limit to the price they were prepared to pay to keep India united, and handing over power to their foe Jinnah exceeded it.” (Ref 3 p 118)

Since Nehru and Patel, the two major leaders of Congress, dismissed Gandhi’s offer, his last attempt to prevent separation of India and Pakistan was aborted. Patel and Nehru felt betrayed by Gandhi, believing that in the last round of their marathon battle, he had chosen Jinnah over them.

During their series of dialogues to come to some final resolution Jinnah gave Mountbatten the hardest time. They met for long discussions but all in vain. Mountbatten was so frustrated with Jinnah that he called him “psychopathic case, hell-bent on his Pakistan.” (Ref 3 125) There was a moment in the dialogue when Mountbatten lost control and told Jinnah that if he did not cooperate with him then he could go to hell. “If you don’t nod your head [in the ceremonial hand-over], Mr. Jinnah, then you’re through, and there will be nothing more I can do for you. Everything will collapse. This is not a threat. It’s a prophecy. If you don’t nod your head at that moment, my usefulness here will be ended, you will have lost your Pakistan, and as far as I am concerned, you can go to hell.”

Finally when Mountbatten presented the final offer of partition of India and birth of Pakistan, Jinnah cooperated with Mountbatten. Collins and Lapierre documented that historical nod in these words, “With that brief, almost imperceptible gesture, a nation of forty-five million human beings had received its final sanction.” (Ref 3 p 189)

          Although Mountbatten finally agreed on Pakistan to please Jinnah, he still insisted that it made no sense at all. In Collins and Lapierre’s words,

“…no aspect of partition was more illogical than the fact

that Jinnah’s Pakistan would deliver barely half of Indian Moslems

from the alleged inequities of Hindu majority rule which had justified

the state in the first place. The remaining Moslems were scattered throughout the rest of India so widely that it was impossible to

separate them. Islands in a Hindu sea, they would be the first victims

of a conflict between the countries, India’s Moslem hostages to

Pakistan’s good behaviour. Indeed, even after the amputation, India would still harbor almost fifty million Moslems.” (Ref 3 p 129)


For Jinnah to fulfill his dream of a separate homeland for Muslims,

… thousands of innocent men, women and children lost their lives 

…thousands were forced to cross the new border and risk their lives to immigrate to Pakistan

…millions were left to live in India as a minority

            …the provinces of Punjab and Bengal were divided 

          The creation of Pakistan was a mixed blessing. On one hand Muslims were celebrating but on the other, Sikhs were angered at the division of their province of Punjab. They were so bitter that there was a “‘Sikh plan to assassinate Jinnah on the day Pakistan was born”. (Ref 2 p 341)  Mountbatten was so worried about Jinnah’s life that he travelled with him to offer him some security. The Day of Independence was also a day of bloodshed for Punjab. It was a great and painful reminder of what had happened exactly a year previously on August 16th in Calcutta when thousands of innocent people were mercilessly slaughtered. The birth of Pakistan, the dream of Allama Iqbal, had turned into a bloody nightmare by the city’s “committing suicide.” (Ref 3 p 249


In the Punjab they already had started. The roads and

railroads of what had been the best-administered province in India

were unsafe. Sikh hordes roamed the countryside like bands of Apaches falling on Moslem villages or Moslem neighbourhoods. A particular savagery characterized their killings. The circumcised penises of their Moslem male victims were hacked off and stuffed into their mouths

or into the mouths of murdered Moslem women.” (Ref 3 p 245)


There were thousands of killings on both sides. “India’s joyful Independence Day was indeed a day of horror for the Punjab.” (Ref 3)

I find it amazing that Gandhi is presented in history books as a secular leader although he was a deeply religious man who believed in Hindu philosophy and Jain mythology, He was a practicing Hindu  believed in abstaining from meat, sex, cigarettes and alcohol in his day to day life, whereas Jinnah with his  a secular philosophy and lifestyle wherein he enjoyed alcohol, pork and sex, has been presented as a Muslim leader. Collins and Lapierre comment about the irony of Jinnah being the Father of the Muslim nation in these words,

“A more improbable leader of India’s Moslem masses could

hardly be imagined. The only thing Moslem about Mohammad Ali

Jinnah was the fact that his parents happened to be Moslem. He drank, ate pork, religiously shaved his beard each morning, and just as

religiously avoided the mosque each Friday. God and Koran had no

place in Jinnah’s vision of the world. His political foe Gandhi knew

more verses of the Moslem holy book than he did.” (Ref 3 p 121)


Neither Gandhi nor Jinnah lived long following the independence of India.  Gandhi became very sad, depressed and lonely, abandoned by his friends and disciples.  Patel and Nehru excluded him from the planning of the future of India. They envisioned a modern industrialized state and they very well knew that Gandhi despised modernization and industrialization. There were many Hindu fundamentalists who shouted “Gandhi Murdabad” (Death to Gandhi) as they believed he supported Muslims. Finally one of those fanatic Hindus was successful in killing him in January 1948 while he was on his way to offer public prayers.

.         Collins and Lapierre wrote, “The next morning, before he could reach his prayer platform, Mahatama Gandhi was shot to death by a hate-crazed Hindu Brahman named Nathuram Godse.” (Ref 3 p 358)

When Jinnah heard the news he stated, “He was one of the greatest men produced by the Hindu community.”  How ironic it must have seemed to him that an orthodox Hindu should have killed his most intransigent opponent, believing the Mahatama an “Agent of Pakistan” and a “Muslim-lover”(Ref 3 p 358)

Jinnah had the final word by associating Gandhi with the Hindu community and taking revenge for the time Gandhi had associated him with the Mohammedan community in their first meeting in Gujrat nearly thirty years back.

When I review Gandhi and Jinnah’s relationship from a psychological point of view, I wonder how much they affected each other’s personality. When people are involved in intense emotional relationships, whether positive or negative, full of love, jealousy or hate, they transform each other’s personalities. They change each other’s attitude because to stay in the relationship they have to identify and internalize each other. Enemies can as much influence each other as lovers.

When I look at Jinnah and Gandhi’s relationship, which spanned four decades, I am amazed and intrigued at how Jinnah transformed over the years. In the beginning of their political battle he criticized Gandhi for the following characteristics. He believed Gandhi

…was deeply religious and mixed religion with politics

…was appealing to uneducated youngsters and gullible masses

…was provoking violence in the name of non-cooperation


 had an autocratic attitude.

Gandhi never agreed with Jinnah’s opinion of him, as he believed he was a liberal, secular and peace-loving leader. He thought Jinnah was jealous of his popularity and coveted power and fame.

It is amazing for me to see how Jinnah changed over the years, not only in his style of dress, but also in his political ideology and strategy. He became more autocratic, mixed religion with politics, and moreover gave his blessing to violence to attain his personal and community goals. In the end he did all those things for which he criticized Gandhi. British politicians found him as difficult as Gandhi to deal with in a rational, logical and objective way. Both of them had developed a religious attitude in their political beliefs. .

In Gandhi’s and Jinnah’s relationship, the transformation that fascinated me the most is that in the beginning of their political battle, the similarities in their political ideology were as remarkable as the differences in their personalities, while at the end of their lives, the similarities of their personalities were as striking as the differences in their political ideals.

They were like an unhappily married political couple. Their separation was painful for them and their divorce a traumatic experience for their parties, the Muslim League and Congress. 

Dividing their assets and property cost many their lives, pride and honour.

After Gandhi’s death Jinnah did not live very long. Alongside the political crises he was also facing health crises as he had kept secret from the world a diagnosis of tuberculosis. He was afraid that if Congress and the British Government had found out that he was dying they might have stalled the political process and he would have died without becoming the Governor General of Pakistan. Jinnah died on September 11, 1948.

          When I look back now and think about the reasons and circumstances of partition of India I am struck by the intensity of anger, resentment, bitterness and hatred between the Muslim League and Congress, and between Muslims and Hindus. Abul Kalam Azad stated, “The basis of partition was enmity between Hindus and Muslims”. Azad was one of those Indian Muslim scholars and political leaders who, unlike Iqbal and Jinnah, doubted that the creation of Pakistan will solve Muslim problems. He believed that in a multicultural community like India, creating a Muslim state would create more problems for Muslims than it would solve.  He wrote in his political autobiography,


 “Mr. Jinnah and his followers did not seem to realize that geography was against them. Indian Muslims were distributed in

a way which made it impossible to form a separate State in a

consolidated area. The Muslim majority areas were in the north-west

and north-east. These two regions have no point of physical contact. People in these areas are completely different from one another

in every aspect except religion.” (Ref 4 p 248)

Azad questions the notion that religion alone can be the basis of a state. Analyzing the history of the Muslims he wrote,


“It is one of the greatest frauds on the people to suggest

that religious affinity can unite areas which are geographically, economically, linguistically and culturally different. It is true that

Islam sought to establish a society which transcends racial, linguistic, economic and political frontiers. History has however proved that

after the first few decades or at the most after the first century,

Islam was not able to unite all the Muslim countries on the basis

of Islam alone.” (Ref 4 p 248)


Dear Friends,

While I am writing this letter on August 15th, 2003 and millions of Pakistanis and Indian are celebrating their Independence Day, I am wondering about the political wisdom of our leaders. I think time has come when more and more people from India and Pakistan need to review their historic past in an objective way. I believe that for the future peace of Asia as well as the world, Indians and Pakistanis, political leaders as well as common people need to learn to live as friendly neighbors. I can imagine a time when masses on both sides of the border would realize that the division of Punjab and Bengal in 1947 was unnatural because language and culture are as significant factors as religion to unite people.

          I wonder when would we realize that we need multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural communities and countries like Canada to live in harmony. I believe that to live in peace we need to rise above our religious, ethnic, linguistic and racial differences and discover the common bond of humanity. We need to break the walls of prejudice and ignorance and build bridges of compassion, understanding and care. We need to create communities in which all citizens of the country enjoy equal rights and privileges. Until we are able to transcend our tribal mentality and the division of US and THEM, we would not be able to break the cycle of violence. We need to find new leaders who are committed to create secular humanistic societies.

          When I reviewed the history of India and the massacre of 1947, I came across two opinions that I would like to share with you, one of Lord Mountbatten who was the last Viceroy of India and the second of Abul Kalam Azad, a well respected Muslim scholar who was the President of Congress before and the Minister of Education of India after the partition.

          Although Mountbatten delivered the final message of partition of India, he believed the decision was insane. “Partition,” Mountbatten wrote “is sheer madness…” and “no-one would ever induce me to agree to it were it not for this fantastic communal madness that has seized everybody and leaves no other course open. “The responsibility for this mad decision,” he wrote, “must be placed squarely on Indian shoulders in the eyes of the world, for one day they will bitterly regret the decision they are about to make.” (Ref 3 p 142) This was Mountbatten’s opinion in 1947 and after ten years of partition Azad wondered about the wisdom of the partition of India and creation of Pakistan in these words,

“The new State of Pakistan is a fact. It is to the interest of

India and Pakistan that they should develop friendly relations and

act in cooperation with one another. Any other courses of action can

lead only to greater trouble, suffering and misfortune. Some people

hold that what has happened was inevitable. Others equally strongly believe that what has happened is wrong and could have been avoided. We cannot say today which reading is correct. History alone will decide whether we had acted wisely and correctly.’ (Ref 4 p 248)


Dear Friends.

          At the end of my letter all I can say is that reading the details of Gandhi and Jinnah’s relationship was a painful and disturbing experience. If I had not read these accounts with my own eyes, I would not have believed that Mahatama Gandhi, the prophet of peace and non-violence had said to Lord Mountbatten in 1947 “Don’t partition India. Don’t divide India, even if refusing to do so means shedding ‘rivers of blood’” (ref 3 p 110)

I was similarly shocked to read that Jinnah, the Qaid-e-Azam had stated, “We shall have India divided or we shall have India destroyed.” (Ref 3 p 36)

After reading the life stories of Jinnah and Gandhi I have no doubt that both of them played a significant role in the massacre of 1947. Over the years more and more people are reviewing their philosophies and personalities and “there are many who think that Gandhian politics and Gandhian political techniques were as responsible for the vivisection of India as Jinnah’s two-nation theory.” (Ref 1 p 2)                                      


August 15, 2003 


1.  Majumdar, S. K. Jinnah and Gandhi…Their Role in India’s Quest for Freedom,

Minerva Associates, Calcutta India, 2000

2.  Wolpert, Stanley. Jinnah of Pakistan, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997

3.  Collins, Larry, and Lapierre, Dominique. Freedom at Midnight, Avon Publishers, New York, 1975

4.  Azad Maulana Abul Kalam. India Wins Freedom, Orient Longman Limited,

Calcutta India, 1988