The Idea of Pakistan is Born

In 1932, British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald proposed the Communal Award, which would guarantee all minorities, not just Muslims, the right to separate electorates. Most political organizations were appalled at the idea of granting the lower castes and Untouchables more rights, but the Muslims begrudgingly accepted, though it was completely rejected by Hindus.

In 1933 another Round Table Conference was held, and this conference produced the basis for a reform constitution, which was passed by Parliament two years later in 1935. The constitution granted almost complete autonomy to the 11 provinces while maintain British control of the federal government. The constitution also granted the right to vote to about one-sixth of India’s adult population, a dramatic increase from before, which led to politicians needing to appeal to commoners to earn votes.

Elections were held in the winter of 1936-37 and left the Congress with 70% of the popular vote and 40% of the provincial government seats, and through coalitions gained the upper hand in the rule of most of the provinces. The Muslim League, on the other hand, won only 5% of the total Muslim vote and not a majority of a single province, including the predominantly Muslim provinces. The Congress proved unwilling to cooperate with Muslims, even mandating that they resign from the Muslim League before the Congress would work with them. Ironically, the Muslim League’s poor showing revitalized the Muslim League, expanding from a few thousand members in 1937 to a few hundred thousand in 1938 and a reported 3 million in 1939.

At a meeting in Sind, a province in which Muslims were still divided, 20,000 delegates gathered and heard the first official pronouncement of the two-nation theory. It was pronounced that two nations were vital to peace as well as cultural, social, economic, and political self-determination of the Hindus and Muslims. Though the name “Pakistan” was not raised, it was clear that Muslims were demanding their own state.

When World War II broke out in Europe on September 1st, 1939, Britain demanded India’s military support of the Allied cause. Congress immediately demanded independence in exchange for their support. When the British refused this offer, Congress resigned on December 22, 1939 in protest.

The name “Pakistan” was first raised in a speech by Jinnah to a total of 100,000 people at a public meeting in which he declared that, “Muslims are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory, and their state.” His position became known as the Lahore Resolution and was adopted as the League’s policy on March 24, 1940. Though the name “Pakistan” was never mentioned in Jinnah’s speech, the Indian press called the speech the Pakistan Resolution, and the social and political dynamics of the subcontinent were irrevocably altered.

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