In the Indian provinces with Muslim majorities in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and East-Bengal, democracy was not viewed as a threat by Muslims. But, the Urdu-speaking Muslims of central India were a minority in their province and felt threatened by democracy in independent India.
To prevent their eclipse, they quickly assumed positions of leadership in the All India Muslim League and supported a religious division of India and the creation of a separate country for Indian Muslims. Their most difficult task would be to convince Muslims in majority provinces to follow suit.
The All India Muslim League began a quest to assert Muslim unity – espousing the belief that all Muslims of India were one nation, with not only one religion but also one language, one culture, and one destiny. Undoubtedly, that one language was their Urdu language, one religion was their version of Islam, and one culture was their Gunga Jumna culture and one destiny in which they hoped to gain supremacy in the new Muslim country.
Although having a common religion, the Muslims of India themselves were not a homogenous nation. Distinct cultures, diverse religious outlooks, separate languages, individual histories, and unique national identities all existed within the diverse Muslim population of India.
As a result, the “Two Nation Theory” did not initially sit well in all Muslim circles. In the elections of 1937, for example, having campaigned on a platform based on the “Two Nation Theory”, the All India Muslim League suffered a humiliating defeat in all the Muslim-majority provinces.
In the elections of 1937, only 4.6 percent of the Muslim population voted for the Muslim League and it won a mere 2 out of 84 seats in Punjab, 3 out of 33 seats reserved for Muslims in Sindh, 39 out of 117 seats in Bengal and none in NWFP. Thus, just a decade before its birth, Muslims of India had almost unanimously rejected the very idea of unified Muslim country.
In the year 1940, All India Muslim League called its full annual session at Lahore, where a sharp division of visions was vividly visible. Urdu-speaking Muslims of central India, proponents of a unified Muslim country, formed one faction; leaders of Muslim majority provinces, who advocated linguistic, cultural and ethnic preservation, formed the other. Emboldened by the results of the 1937 elections, the Muslim majority provinces held the upper hand and proceeded to set forth their own, divergent aspirations. The results were formulated in a resolution presented at the session by Bengali nationalist A.K. Fazlul Haq.
However, before Fazlul Haq could present his resolution, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League tried to usher sentiments of the oneness of Muslims of India. In a thundering speech before the delegates of the session at Lahore he said:
“Mussalmans (Muslims) came to India as conquerors, traders, and preachers and brought with them their own culture and civilization. They reformed and remolded the sub-continent of India. Today, the hundred million Mussalmans in (British) India represent the largest compact body of the Muslim population in any single part of the world. We are civilization, language, and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, value and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitude and ambitions, in short, we have our distinctive outlook of life and on life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation.”
Despite such roaring words of Muslim nationhood, neither Jinnah nor any other leader of the Muslim League presented a resolution demanding a Muslim homeland. In wake of fresh memories of the defeat in 1937 of the “Two Nation Theory”, probably, the leadership was not sure of support for such a demand from the Muslim majority provinces.
Instead, Fazlul Haq, a leader of one of the Muslim majority provinces of Bengal, ignoring the words unified Muslim country altogether, as well as support for the future creation of a Muslim state, proposed a resolution for the future of Muslim society. The Muslim League formally adopted this resolution on March 23, 1940, in Lahore. It states the following:
The Lahore Resolution
March 23, 1940 – Lahore
While approving and endorsing the action taken by the Council and the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, as indicated in their resolutions dated the 27th of August, 17th & 18th of September and 22nd of October, 1939, and the 3rd of February, 1940 on the constitutional issue, this session of the All India Muslim League emphatically reiterates that the scheme of federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935 is totally unsuited to, and unworkable in the peculiar conditions of this country and is altogether unacceptable to Muslim India.
It further records its emphatic view that while the declaration dated the 18th of October, 1939 made by the Viceroy on behalf of His Majesty’s Government is reassuring in so far as it declares that the policy and plan on which the Government of India Act, 1935, is based will be reconsidered in consultation with various parties, interests, and communities in India, Muslims in India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered de novo and that no revised plan would be acceptable to Muslims unless it is framed with their approval and consent.
Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.
That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them and in other parts of India where the Muslims are in a minority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of 0their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.
The Session further authorizes the Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defense, external affairs, communications, customs, and such other matters as may be necessary.”
The following is the full list of the 25 original, formally designated members of the Special Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, 1940, which met between 21 and 24 March 1940, and which drafted the Lahore Resolution.
Quaid i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan
Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan
Sir Shahnawaz Khan Mamdot
Amir Ahmed Khan Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad
Maulvi A.K. Fazlul Huq
Sir Abdullah Haroon
Al-Hajj Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin
Amjadi Bano Begum
Maulana Muhammad Akram Khan
Nawab Muhammad Ismail Khan
Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim
Ali Muhammad Khan Dehlvi
Qazi Muhammad Isa
Sardar Aurangzeb Khan
Abdul Mateen Chaudhry
Ashiq Mohamed Warsi
Haji Abdus Sattar Essak Saith
Syed Abdul Rauf Shah
Mohammad Latif ur Rahman
Abdul Rehman Siddiqui
Malik Barkat Ali
Sadullah Khan Umarzai