Punjab Under the Indian Act 1935

S.M Asif Ali Rizvi


Punjab, the land of five rivers, was annexed by the British on March 29, 1949 under the following declaration:
His Highness the Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruller of the Sikh Kingdom, shall resign for himself, his heirs and his successors, all right, title and claim to the sovereignty of the Punjab, or to any sovereign power whatever. All the property of the state, of whatever description of whatsoever found, shall be confiscated to the Honourable East India Company, in part payment of the debt due by the state of Lahore to the British Government, and of the expenses of the war.1

As such the Punjab became a part and parcel of the British Raj. Soon after, the machinery of the government was set into motion by the appointment of a Board of Administration,2 because the main task before the government was to consolidate its power against any onsiaught, while the boundaries of its new possesion stretched from Afghan Frontier to Delhi.

The five frontier districts were subsequently separated in 1901 to form the North – West Frontier province. Delhi district was separated a decade later when the then government of the British India transferred its capital form Calcutta to New Delhi.3 In spite the regional changes, the Punjab remained larger than Great British and formed just under ten per cent of the Indians in population and area.4

Due to its importance, the British Government paid full attention to the consolidation of administration in Punjab by promoting peace and prosperity. But as regards political awakening and development the British rule in the Punjab remained marked by autocracy of the “non-regulated provinces.” It was the government policy in administrative and constitutional matters, summed up the Indian Act, 1861, which established legislative councils in the Provinces of Bombay and Madras, and authorized the establishment of similar councils in other provinces. In Bengal and the U.P. councils were constituted in 1863, but in the Punjab a Legislative Council was not established until 1897, thirty six years after the Act which authorized its creation. The Indian Councils promulgation of the Act 1892 authorized an increase in the membership of the councils or allowed reserved seats to be filled by indirect elections from public associations or municipal or other bodies. Although every other province in India took advantage of these provinces, yet they were not extended to the Punjab, where the strength of the Council, established in 1897, remained fixed at nine, with all the members nominated by the Lt. Governor of the province. The Minto Morley reforms of 1909 also maintained the same discrimination against the Punjab which like Assam was allowed only thirty member seats in spite the fact that the population of the Punjab was twenty millions against that of Assam being seven millions only. Similarly, while the proportion of elected members to the total strength was 53% in Bengal, 43% in Bombay, Madras and Eastern Bengal, and 42% in U.P. the Punjab was allowed only 19%. In the same way, while the representatives of the landlords in other provinces were always elected, in the Punjab there was only one member who was nominated by Lt. Governor. Unlike other provinces the Lt. Governor of the Punjab was without any executive council until 1920?5

However, the government introduced representative measures by establishing “dyarchy” on September 23, 1919 under the Montague Chelmsford reforms. Under the scheme the functions of the provincial government were divided into two classes. Some departments of a lesser or minor importance were grouped as “transferred”, subjects. Subjects like agriculture, medicine, education, industries and public health were given under the control of the elected members called as ministers. Law and order and land revenue were grouped as “reserved subjects” to be managed by official members responsible only to the Governor in spite the existence of the provincial legislatures.6 Although the principle of the direct election was introduced, yet the proposals made by the Franchise Committee enfranchised only about one-tenth of the adult male population.7 One of the important aspect of the reforms was the extension of the system of minority representation to the Sikhs of the Punjab as the government was keen to secure their loyalty due to their vital role in recruitment for the British Indian army on one hand and their balancing position among the Hindus and the Muslims in the provincial politics on the other.

Under the reforms the first provincial elections were to be held in November 1920 for seventy-three seats. The Indian National Congress was established in 1885 (hereafter INC) and the All – India Muslim League was founded in 1906 (hereafter AIML). It took little interest in these elections due to its policy of non – cooperation8 and Khilafat movement.9 But the moderates, whether they were Hindus or Muslims, were interested to contest the election and avail of the opportunity to become members of the provincial legislative councils (hereafter PLC). According to the election results, the rural Muslims dominated the Council as out of “27 members initially returned to the Council in 1920 were from rural Muslim seats and five were from influential families of “Pirs”10. Others were from ‘notable families’ who, being landlords, had served the British government during the first world war (1914-18) by giving recruits for the Indian army and contributed to the strengthening the British Raj in India. Votes were “commonly cast on personal or tribal basis but without reference to the political questions; and the candidates were rich.11 After the elections the Punjab government decided to take two ministers from the elected members. These included Fazl-i-Hussain12 (1876 – 1936) from among the Muslims. He was appointed as education minister, while the other was Harkishan Lal (1864-1936) from Hindus.13

Under the reforms, the second PLC was elected in December 1923, which spelled a marked political advancement on the provincial political horizon. The major change was that the members of the new council contested the elections from the platform of political organizations rather than on personal or tribal basis. Prominent political parties included “Rural Block”, “Swaraj Party” and the ‘Punjab Nationalist Unionist Party’ (hereafter Unionist Party). According to the election result the position of the Unionist Party was strong enough as it achieved the support of thirty-seven members out of sixty-eight.14 The strength of this Party was actually based on the real, growing influence of its rural elite who used their agriculturally dominant position for the coherent articulation of their political demands. The majority of its members (32) Muslims who belonged to landlord and “Pir” classes or prominent baratheris. As such Tiwanas, Noons, Daultanas of Vihari and Luddan, Gurmanis of Multan, landlord families of Shah Jiwana, Makhad, Rajoa and Gilani Pirs came to the forefront. A few Hindu and Sikh members of south east Punjab also cooperated with them on the question of rural economic interests. The domination of the big landlords and the influencial Pir families became the symbol of PLC in all forthcoming elections.

However, a critical analysis of the working of the reforms shows that these measures did very little to protect the interests of the poor peasents, agricultural tenants, who were bound hand and foot to the bigger zamindars, while nothing at all had been done for the benefit of the landless labourers, the kammis15. The regime’s reforms also failed to enact any law fixing the minimum limit of land to be held by a person, because such a legislation would have adversely affected the interests of the big zamindars who held controlling position in the PLC.

In March 1933, the British Government announced its decision in the light of the recommendations of the three Round Table Conferences, to give a new constitution to India. It was made clear that it was His Majesty’s Government’s intention to refer these proposals to a Joint Select Committee after which it would be the duty of His Majesty’s Government to introduce a Bill embodying its final plans. In April 1934, a Joint committee16 of both Houses of Parliament was appointed for that purpose. The Committee which was headed by Lord Linlithgow performed its duty from April 1933 to November, 1934. It held one hundred and fifty-nine meetings17 and subsequently submitted its report to Parliament on 22 November18. One important aspect of the report was that nineteen members signed the report while nine could not agree. This minority consisted of five diehards who opposed any concessions to India, while four labourites thought that the report did not go far enough19. The report was debated forty-three and thirteen days in the House of Common and the House of Lords respectively and was approved by the former on 12 December and on 18 December by the later. The second reading took place in February, 1935.20 After the final reading and the royal assent the bill at last reached the statute book on 24 July, 1935.21

The Government of India Act, 1935, contemplated a federation of the British Indian provinces and Indian states. The provinces consisted of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces, the Punjab, Bihar, Central Provinces, and Assam, the North-West Frontier Province, Orissa and Sindh. In the federation thus established the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces namely Delhi, Ajmer Merwara, Coorg, British Baluchistan, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Panth Piploda were also to be included.

Under the Act, each of the province was to be headed by a governor appointed by His Majesty’s government. The governor was to be assisted by a council of ministers. The advice of the ministers was binding on the governor except in so far as he acted in his discretion or exercised his individual judgement. Each province had a legislative assembly, and the council of ministers was responsible to the legislature instead of the governor. The provinces of Madras, Bengal, Bombay, U.P. Bihar and Assam also had a legislative council each or an upper chamber but the Punjab had been deprived of this facility. All the members of the assembly were elected. The franchise was wide; the total voting strength of the provinces taken together was about thirty million. The normal life of the assembly and the tenure of a governor was five years while the legislative council or upper chamber was a permanent body, a proportion of whose members would retire and be replaced by fresh members every third year. Legislation in the provincial field had to be passed by both chambers, but the voting of supplies was the exclusive function of the legislative assembly. Separate electorate was provided for certain communities. Dyarchy was completely abolished. There was to be a single cabinet made up on the British model, and normally the governor was to act on its advice.

These were only the broad provincial features of the 1935 Act. The act was not according to the wishes of the Indian politicians. Only the National Liberal Federation and the Hindu Mahasabha favoured the Act. Its provisions, particularly federal provisions, were condemned by almost all parties including INC and the AIML.22 

The new Central Legislature had come into being at the same time as the new constitutional scheme. Election were to take place in 1933 as the duration of the Assembly was three years. However, the life of the assembly was extended for another year. The election was held in 1934 under the provisions of the Montague Chelmsford Reforms of 1919. The elections to Provincial Legislatures were held in 1937 under the new India Act 1935.

In the Punjab, where representative politics became complicated due to interpolation of the Sikh minority community which always held balance between the Hindus and the Muslim communities only a non-communal party could now be decisive in forming the ministry. The Unionist Party being the non-communal one played an important role ever since its creation. When the British Government announced provincial elections the leaders of the Unionist Party started to re-organize it. As a matter of fact, the Unionist Party was an organization of big zamindars and influential pirs which was needed by the British government in controlling the 88% people living in rural areas. To win the elections, the party leadership decided to enlist the support of these zamindars and pirs who were thus brought into prominence by the British rulers.
Early in 1936, just before the elections, the AIML which had been in a moribund position ever since the split in 1927,23 showed fresh sings of life with the election of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as its permanent president. Although the AIML had been revived but it had no tradition or experience to contest elections directly. These elections bore another important aspect also because the new assemblies were to constitute electoral college for the Central Assembly. It meant that the party winning the provincial elections would ultimately control the Central Assembly. Keeping in view the situation, it was decided by the Quaid-i-Azam to contest the elections from the platform of AIML.
At the 24th session of the AIML held on April 12, 1936 in Bombay, on a resolution presented by Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, it was decided that AIML should evolve suitable plans and adopt effective measures to contest the ensuing provincial elections. The Quaid was authorised to establish a Central Parliamentary Board consisting of at least thirty-five members under his own presidentship with powers to constitute provincial boards according to the political situation of each province and affiliate these with the Central Board. Punjab was represented by 11 members. The names of the members of the Board are: Afzal Haq, Chaudhary Abdul Aziz Begwal, Sheikh Hasan-ud-Din and Khawaja Ghulam Rasool (from Majlis-i-Ahrar), Maulana Zafar Ali, Maulana Muhammad Ishaque Mansahrvi and Syed Zain-ul-Abdin Shah Gilani (from Ittehad-i-Millat) and Muhammad Iqbal, Abdul Aziz, Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Abdul Qadir Qasuri from Punjab Muslim League.24

Soon after the formation of the Parliamentary Board, the Ittehad-i-Millat made it known that it stood for complete independence of the country whereas the AIML, had limited objective and desired Dominion Status for India. Zafar Ali and Muhammad Alam had planned to contest the election individually on the Shahid Ganj Mosque issue. The disassociation of the Ittehad-i-Millat pleased Sir Fazl-i-Hussain.25
The Ahrars also left the Board on the pretext that they could not pay Rs. 500/- as fee fixed for the candidates nominated by the Board to contest election on the AIML ticket.26

When the election campaign started in the province Allama Muhammad Iqbal invited the Quaid to visit Punjab to boost the pace of the election campaign. He accepted the invitation and came to Lahore on October 9, 1936. A meeting was held on October 11, 1936, at Delhi Gate, Lahore. Zaman Mehdi presided over the meeting because of the ailment of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. M.A. Jinnah briefly but concisely explained the principles on which Punjab Muslim League had decided to participate in the elections. Not a single word was said in his speech against Hindus, Sikhs or the congress. He criticised only the Unionist Party. It evoked reaction from the Unionist quarters. Syed Noor Ahmad, Nawabzada Khurshid Ahmad Khan and Ahmad Yar Daulatana wrote articles in the press in defence of the Unionist Party. All these articles had defensive posture.
Eight candidates applied for the Punjab Muslim League tickets, namely, Malik Barkat Ali, Zaman Mehdi, Raja Ghazanfar Ali, Sardar Karim Bakhsh Hydari, Muzaffar Ali, Shuja-ud-Din, Mian Abdul Majid and Mushtaq Ali Khan. One of the conditions for party ticket was that any candidate who was refused ticket would not contest the election on any other platform. Muzaffar Ali refused to accept this condition and withdrew his application. Thus, seven candidates contested the elections on the Punjab Muslim League ticket.

Although all eleven members of the Hindu Electoral Board listed as pre-government, the party was divided into two factions; the Narendra Nath faction of perhaps eight members which supported the government and the Gokal Chand Narang faction of perhaps three members which opposed it.
From the plateform of the PPML, Malik Barkat Ali won the election by ninety votes on January 28, 1937. The only other League candidate who returned successful was Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan. But after the elections, the latter did not bother to contact the Punjab Muslim League, and instead, he joined the Unionist party.

The Lucknow session of the All – India Muslim League held in October 1937 proved to be a landmark in the history of the AIML as well as the Punjab. One of its important aspects was that the Premiers of Bengal, Punjab and Assam – Mr. A.K. Fazl-ul-Haq, Sardar Sikandar Hayat and Sir Sad-Ullah joined the League  which lent strength to its claim of being the sole representative of the South Asian Muslim community. Another was the declaration of Sikandar Hayat at the session which was later on referred to as the “Sikandar-Jinnah Pact”. A declaration was initially drafted by M.A. Jinnah, Mir Maqbool Mahmud and Malik Barkat Ali, which was not acceptable to Sikandar Hayat. A new draft prepared by Mr. Maqbool Mahmud, with amendments, was acceptable to all. This was read by Sikandar Hayat in the Council meeting. It said:

  1. That on his return to the Punjab Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan will convene a special meeting of his party and advise all Muslim members of his party who are not members of the Muslim League already to sign its creed and join it. As such they will be subject to the rules and regulations of the Central and Provincial Boards of the All India Muslim League. This will not affect the continuance of the present condition and the Unionist Party.
  2. That is future elections and by-elections for the legislature, after the adoption of this arrangement, the groups constituting the present Unionist Party will jointly support the candidates put up by their respective groups.
  3. That the Muslim members of the legislature who are elected on or accept the League ticket will constitute the Muslim League Party within the Legislature. It shall be open to the Muslim League Party so formed to maintain or enter into coalition or alliance with any other party consistently with the fundamental principles, policy and programme of the League. Such alliance may be evolved upon after the elections. The existing combination shall maintain its present name, the Unionist Party.
  4. In view of the aforesaid agreement the Provincial League Parliamentary Board shall be reconstituted.27
    A heated controversy arose on the interpretation of this Pact. A Unionist leader, Sir Chhotu Ram, deduced the following three points from Sir Sikandar’s statement (i) the Pact would have no bearing on the existing coalition, namely the Unionist Party; (ii) in future general elections or by-elections the component groups of the Unionist party would support the candidates of each group; and (iii) the present coalition party would continue to bear the name of the Unionist Party, Quoting a report of the Associated Press that the Unionist Party would have a control over the Punjab Muslim League Parliamentary Board, he remarked that it should silence the propaganda that the Unionist Party would be affected in any way by the28 pact. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, in his letters to the Quaid, repeatedly conveyed his impression that Sir Sikandar and his friends wanted nothing less than complete control over the League and the Provincial Parliamentary Board,29 Letters carrying similar complaints were sent by Malik Ghulam Rasool and Malik Barkat Ali.30

M.A. Jinnah responded to these conflicts with caution. Immediate remedial steps were not taken for two reasons. Firstly, the Punjab League had practically no independent base in the earlier period. True, the Muslim masses, the intelligentsia, and a section of the liberal landlords were coming under its general influence but it had hardly any substantial body of political workers to organise elementary propaganda for the League. The League leadership considered the struggle for freedom a triangular tug of war between the League, the Congress and the British Government. In this battle it thought it advisable to control more ministries to strengthen its bargaining power against the Congress and the Government.
One important question that arises is why did the Unionists, who had refused to join the League before the elections, decided to do so in October, 1937? The answer is that Sikandar Hayat and his supporters felt that general democratic upsurge would not leave Punjab untouched. They needed some sort of a popular name to cover their “anti-democratic regime, some method, whereby, without actually yielding to democratic control, they would claim to be acting on behalf of a popular organisation.31 For this purpose, they wanted to control the League which was practically non-existent in the Punjab in 1937. If they could somehow put on the cloak of Muslim Leaguers without being obliged to work as such, without either conforming to its programme or submitting to the democratic will of the Muslim people, it suited their requirements.32

An important incident of the 1930s was the Shahid Ganj Mosque. There is a mosque in Lahore known as Shahid Ganj Masjid, near Railway Station, Lahore. It is now an established fact that it was constructed by Abdullah Khan, a cook of Prince Dara Shukoh.33 When the Sikhs captured Lahore, they occupied Shahid Ganj Masjid. The legal efforts to restore the sanctity of the mosque were made by Noor Muhammad in 1850. The first suit was filed in 1850 while the second, the third and the fourth were filed on September 25, 1853, June 23, 1854 and 1882 respectively but all legal efforts failed.

In 1927, the Government declared that the Masjid Shahid Ganj was the property of Gurdwara Bhai Taro Singh. Accordingly, all the property of the Masjid went to the local Gurdawara Parbandhak Committee which ultimately got possession of the mosque property in March 1935,34 although seventeen claims were made by various petitioners. The Anjuman-i-Islamia of Lahore claimed that the land and property were dedicated to the mosque and did not belong to the Gurdawara.35 In May 1935, the Sikhs planned to demolish the Mosque on the pretext of renovating the Gurdwara. The Muslims of Lahore decided to resist this plan. The deputy commissioner of Lahore, deputy superintendent of police, and city magistrate, both Sikhs, assured the Muslims that the mosque would not be demolished until the Government of Punjab took final decision on the issue. The Muslims were satisfied with this assurance but they felt alarmed when Sikh Jathas (groups) continued to reach Lahore from all over India. They then decided to take some practical steps besides the assurance of the Government.

A meeting of important personalities of Lahore was held at the residence of Mian Abdul Aziz, a famous member of the Punjab Muslim League on July 3, 1935, in which it was unanimously decided that an Anjuman-i-Tahaffuz-i-Shahid Ganj should be set up.

Meanwhile, Malik Barkat Ali, on Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s advice, gave notice of a bill in the Punjab Assembly that the existing law of accepting and legalizing the adverse possession after twelve years should not be applicable to religious institutions and Waqf, as it directly injured the religious feelings of the public and also affected the sanctity of the places of worship. The draft bill had the support of twenty-four Muslim members of the Unionist Party. Sikandar Hayat was perturbed by this situation because if he opposed the bill, he feared the loss of support of the Muslim members and in case he supported the bill, he could have lost the support of Non – Muslim members of his party. The governor saved the situation for him. Exercising his discretionary powers, he refused leave for the introduction of the bill. In any other province, such an action by the governor might have transformed the crisis into a conflict between the governor and the assembly but, here, the premier in a frank and impressive speech declared that the governor’s decision was in a accordance with the minister’s advice. He carried the House with him and nineteen of the twenty four rebels resumed their allegiance.36 Thus the decision of the court remained unchanged and the Muslims reconciled themselves to the situation.

The Sikhs demolished the Mosque just before midnight on July 8, and by the next morning, it was raised to the ground despite all assurances from the government. This infuriated the Muslim who marched to the mosque. The government first resisted the demonstration by lathi (baton) charge and then enforced curfew. Even then the Muslims did not relent, and fire had to be opened ten times during a short period of two days. July 22 and 23.37 and a number of Muslims were shot down.

The court decided the issue in favour of the Sikhs, thus the possession of the Mosque went to the Sikhs under legal cover. An appeal was filed in the Lahore High Court on the advice of Allama Muhammad Iqbal but on January 26, 1939, the court dismissed the appeal. This judgement outraged the Muslims. The AIML met on January 30 in Delhi to deliberate upon the situation arising out of the court judgement. It resolved that the restoration of the Shahid Ganj Mosque was a unanimous demand of the Muslims all over India and promised to convene a special meeting of the AIML to devise future strategy. February 19, 1939 was celebrated as the “Shahid Ganj Day” throughout India.

The Unionist Party was at the height of its power when the Second World War broke out in 1939. At the same time, the socio-political and economic changes appeared in the province because of huge military recruitments, rationing, shortage of commodities and increase in the prices of consumer goods, which helped the Unionists to maintain status quo.

Punjab had played an important role during the first World War (1914-18). The martial and agriculturist communities of the province offered army recruits and food supplies. This was repeated in the second World War. The deputy commissioner, Sheikhupura, reported that the declaration of war “attracted Punjabis, and various communities started offering their services and resources to the Government.”38 The Unionists, without waiting for the INC and AIML, announced unconditional support to the British empire. They offered about one million recruits. Every fourth person in Jehlam and Rawalpindi Districts was in the army but now the ratio rose from two to five.

The Unionist Party was also affected by these developments. Towards the end of War, there was a breakdown in the relationship between the landlords and the village labourers. The financial position of the latter had improved by the remittances they received from their recruited relatives.39 Thus they refused to render beggar (free labour) and other services to the landlords who had freely claimed these in the past.

The base of the Unionist Party had been the zamindars and their voters. But now the traditional loyalty began to decrease because the Unionist leadership was going against its constituent’s interests. The army recruitment was provided particularly by the Muslims and Sikhs of rural areas, while the contracts for supplying war material was given to urban Hindus and Sikhs. This was not the result of any deliberate policy, but the fact was that the markets were already in the control of Hindus and Sikhs. Therefore, they ipso facto became contractors and blocked Muslims even from competing with them. The Unionist Party was neither responsible for these circumstances nor did it favour the situation. The zamindars and tenants in the eastern districts of the province were particularly affected and were now fed up with the Unionist Party.

In the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Malik Barkat Ali had kept up the separate identity of the Muslim League. In 1939, his hands were strengthened as a result of discord in the Unionist ranks. A small group of Arain members, due to differences on the agricultural policy of the government,40 left the Party and joined Malik Barket Ali. However, Mian Nurullah of Lyallpur (new Faisalabad) who was leader of the Arain dissidents did not believe in communal organizations. He wanted to organise his group separately in association with the independent group of the Muslim League.41

There were another group of Unionist MLAs who followed in the footsteps of the Arian members. The Gilanis of Multan had joined the Unionist Party in 1936 but from the very beginning they disliked the deep personal relations of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan with the Qureshis of Multan. A crisis developed on the eve of the election of the Multan District Board. Sikandar openly supported the Qureshi representatives in the by-elections of the District Board. The defeat of the Gilani candidate in the election of the Chairman of District Board, Multan, led to an open conflict. The Gilani MLAS left the Unionist Party and demanded separate seats in the House.42 When the Gilani MLAs left the Unionist Party they had no idea of joining any other party, but they soon realised that there was no way but to get support of the Muslim League’s independent group in order to get due importance in the House. So they also joined Malik Barkat Ali’s Muslim League independent group.

The Working Committee of the AIML, in its meeting held on June 15-17, 1940 in Bombay passed a policy resolution requiring that the Muslim Leaguers would not join the war committees and war boards, formed by the government to accelerate the war efforts.43 Sikandar Hayat was himself present in the said meeting. Despite this direction, not only Sikandar but also his team including Nawab Shah Nawaz Mamdot, President, PPML, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Mian Amir-ud-Din, Mian Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani and Syed Amjad Ali participated in the inaugural session of the Punjab War Board constituted by the Punjab Governor. Quaid-i-Azam could not accept this situation against the policy of the AIML, which had gained considerable strength and was in a position to assert its power. He issued a press statement on July 22, that those Leaguers who had accepted their inclusion in the expanded Executive Council, would be violating the rules and regulations of the Muslim League by doing so. Sikandar Hayat explained that he had joined the Council as Prime Minister of the Punjab to represent all the communities of his province44. But when Quaid-i-Azam showed him the letter from the Governor of Bombay, which indicaed that Sikandar was taken in the Viceroy’s Defence Council as a representative of the great Muslim Community, sikandar Hayat commented that the Viceroy had deceived him, and immediately resigned from the Defence Council. He said, “I am in the hands of this Committee and will abide by its decision whatever it may be.”45

The resolution demanding an independent and sovereign state for Muslims of the South Asian subcontinent passed by the AIML in its annual session on 22-23 March, 1940 in Lahore was later called as the Lahore Resolution. None of the leaders of the Muslim League in their comments on it mentioned ‘Pakistan’, but with the blessings of the Hindu press, it was popularized as the’ ‘Pakistan Resolution’.46 The leaders of the Congress continuously criticised it. “Discussion of the resolution in the press followed on communal lines. The Tribune, in particular, devoted extensive space to prove that the “Two-Nation” theory was dangerous and impracticable.47 “Lahore became the venue of conference for and against ‘Pakistan’48.

The Sikh Press did not lag behind in the propaganda against the Pakistan Resolution. In the Sikh press it was made clear that any attempt to set up a permanent Muslim majority in the Punjab would be wholeheartedly resisted.49 The Sikhs and the Hindus started a regular movement against the Resolution. They organised conferences in various parts of the subcontinent and condemned the Pakistan Resolution.50

The Sikhs had their first confrontation with the Muslims on the issue of Shaheed Ganj Mosque in which they had succeeded. This created a gulf between the Sikhs and the Muslims which was intensified by the emotionalism of Sikh leaders like Master Tara Singh. The Sikhs criticised the Pakistan scheme more than the Hin/dus. Master Tara Singh speaking in a meeting of the Sharomini Akali Dal at Amritsar, declared that they were prepared to die but would not allow the establishment of Pakistan.51

The Sikh-Muslim clashes increased in the rural Punjab in 1937. There were 38 clashes at Kot Fateh Khan in the Attock District where a Gurdawara adjacent to the property of a Unionist landlord caused a bitter dispute. Similarly, in the village Jandiala Sher Khan, in the Sheikhupura district ‘Jhatka issue’ provoked the Muslims and the most serious rural communal clash of the decade took place in the village Ala of Gujrat.52
During Sikandar Hayat’s regime, a committee known as the “Rafaqat Committee” was set up by the Punjab Government which included educated Hindus and Muslims like Allama Alauddin Siddiqui, Maulavi Ibrahim Ali Chishti, Jagan Neth Azad and others53. Its function was to help in maintaining communal peace on the eve of festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Holi, Diwali and Dusehra. Its members used to visit different cities and town to deliver speeches to the effect that Hindus and Muslims lived in one and the same country and their language was one and their culture was one54. Such activities of the Unionist ministry, as compared with anti-Muslim policies of the Congress ministries. Created a disgusting impression about the Unionists among the Muslims.

The Muslims found in this policy a negation of the demand of the Muslim League for Pakistan and awakening of the separate and distinct entity of the Muslims. They thought that what the Congress had done forcibly in the Muslim minority provinces, it was being done by the Unionist Party in the Muslim majority province of the Punjab in the name of friendship (rafaqat).

The President of the PPML, Nawab Sir Shah Nawaz Khan of Mamdot expired on March 8, 1942. He had freed the Muslim League from the financial crisis but his support to the policies of Sikandar Hayat after the Sikandar-Jinnah Pact pushed down the PPML to its position prior to 1936. Despite the stature of Allama Muhammad Iqbal and the capabilities and fearlessness of Malik Barkat Ali, Malik Ghulam Rasool, Dr. Ashiq Husain Batalvi, Mian Abdul Aziz and Khilifa Shuja-ud-Din, Sikandar-Shah Nawaz understanding rendered the PPML ineffective. It would be more appropriate to say that the PPML had become a branch of the Unionist Party and that of Sikandar Hayat’s Government.

By March 1942, many revolutionary changes had taken place in politics. Earlier the Muslim League was offered ministries on the condition that could damage the separate and distinct identity of the League, but now it had gained so much political force and public support that Quaid-i-Azam openly declared: “The Muslim League is not for ministries but ministries are for Muslim League. Ministries will not rule us. We will rule ministries. We could get the ministries out but the ministers would not be able to oust us. Don’t think that Muslim League is meant for ministers but ministers are for it.”
After a span of nine months, Sikandar Hayat died on December 26, 1942 which badly affected the organisation and performance of the PPML. On Sikandar’s sudden death about two thousand condolence message were received which included those from the Prime Minister of Great Britian, Winston Churchill and Secretary of State for India Mr. Emery. Sir Sikandar was a great man of his days. The quality of his politics was such that all the communities of the Punjab followed him. His grip on politics was so strong that the dailies, like Inqilab, Shahbaz and even Zamindar and Ihsan did not write anything against him. He repeatedly recognised the leadership of the Quaid-i-Azam but very often he was able to carry his own will even against the settled policies of the AIML. So much so that in an interview to a reporter of the Daily Tribune be said, ‘I am still against the division of Punjab on communal basis. No community can rule Punjab.”

Sikandar Hayat was acknowledged as an all-India Muslim leader, and a sympathizer and champion of Muslim rights. He had firm hold on Punjab politics and acted according to his wishes. As such where the AIML directed formation of a ‘Pakistan Propaganda Committee”, he sponsored “Rafaqat Committee” which started propagating against the “Two-Nation Theory’ from 1937 untill his death. Persons of his own liking were elected in the by-elections, so much so that on the seat vacated by K.L. Guaba, he got Amir-ud-Din elected against Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi, a sincere and dedicated personality. Sikandar Hayat did all this to gather ‘yes’ men in the Assembly.
Sikandar was constrained to adopt this policy because if he had done otherwise and tried to run the government as Muslim League’s Chief Minister, he would have failed at the very outset. The post-1946 development amply proved this position. The Muslim League scored a historic victory in these elections but could not form government because the communal proportion of representation in Legislative Assembly did not allow any community to form a government independently.
Sikandar Hayat, by dint of his political strategy and with the help of bureaucracy, achieved all those results which he expected. Thus in recognition of his services at his demise, the Governor of the Punjab, B.J. Glancy, wrote to the Viceroy:

Sir Sikandar’s tragic death within the last few days has overshadowed all other events in the Punjab. Apart from his outstanding services to the province and his skill in keeping the Unionist Party together, he was an extremely popular figure, and his loss is likely to be felt all the more keenly as the days go by.55

However, it may be said that his political strategy was flexible and he always utilized his resources to the best possible advantage. His death was not tragic only for the Governor, but all his friends and foes were equally sad.

After the proclamation of the governor of premiership, a meeting of the Muslim MLAs of the PPML was held on January 6, 1943, in which a large number of Muslim members of the Punjab Assembly participated. They assured Khizar Hayat of their full support and hoped that the new leader would help achieve the political objectives of the AIML. Similarly, a meeting of the Unionist Party was held on January 23, 1943 in which Khizr Hayat was unanimously elected as the party leader.56

It may be mentioned here that the changing political situation in the Punjab did not remain unnoticed by the Quaid. He conveyed his displeasure over the nomination of Khizr Hayat as Premier without consultation with the President of the AIML. He argued that the governor should have consulted the AIML President before the nomination of Khizr as he was also a member of the AIML and the PPML. A period of three months had not yet elapsed after Khizr’s nomination as premier when a meeting of the AIML Council was held on March 7, 1943, in Delhi, in which the affairs of the PPML were considered. On this occasion the members intended to move a resolution against Khizr Hayat but on his assurance that on his return to Punjab he would organise the Muslim League and make it effective, the Quaid had the resolution withdrawn without voting. On this occasion. Khizr, in his speech, openly announced that he felt proud of the great services rendered by the AIML under the leadership and guidance of the Quaid-i-Azam for the cause of the Muslims. He assured the Quaid that he would never find him and his Muslim colleagues failing in their loyalty to the cause of Musalmans and, to their sole representative body, the AIML.57

Meanwhile the session of the AIML was held on April 24-26, 1943 at Delhi, in which the resolution of “Self-determination for Muslims of India’ was presented. On this occasion the Quaid-i-Azam asserted that Punjab should play its full-fledged role in the Pakistan movement. In his presidential address he said that the League had formed the ministries in four out of five Muslim majority provinces.58

Obviously, the non-Muslim Unionist members could not digest the Quaid’s pronouncement. Thus, criticising the Quaid’s statement, the senior most member of the Unionist Party, Chottu Ram, said that there was no League cabinet in the Punjab and if the Prime Minister of the Punjab was a Muslim, it did not mean that there was a League Cabinet in Punjab. Likewise, another Unionist member, namely Baldev Singh, also differed with the Quaid’s viewpoint.

A controversy thus began over the statement of the Quaid-i-Azam and the clarification of Chottu Ram. Thereby, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Malik Barkat Ali and Khalifa Shuja-ud-Din issued a counter-statement. On the other hand Khizr, too, did not show interest in making Muslim League strong and active in the province. Therefore, a number of a complaints were addressed to the Quaid by Nawab Mamdot. Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Daultana, Mian Noor Ullah and other members of the League. The League circles became concerned over this issue. As a result, S.A. Niazi, a member of the Council of the AIML gave a notice to AIML Council to move a resolution against Khizr.

These circumstances indicated that Khizr was losing sympathy in League’s circles. The press took serious notice of it, and lengthy discussions started in the Tribune, The Civil and Military Gazette and the Eastern Times in Lahore. All these papers published editorials and articles highlighting the issue and thus paved the way for opening a crucial chapter of hatred and enmity between Khizr and the PPML. The result was that the already existing gulf between the two started to deepen.

It was amidst this confusion that the Quaid decided to visit Lahore to have talks with Khizr Hayat in order to review the overall situation and also to know the nature of grievances leveled against Khizr. He reached Lahore on March 18, 1944.

It may be noted that this time the Quaid prolonged his tour of the province for a considerably long period. He held about ten long meetings with Khizr. Eventually when all means of conciliation were exhausted, the League High Command decided on May 27 to expel Khizr from the League in the interest of the party, its objectives and above all the Muslim masses.

The issue of the failure of Jinnah – Khizr talks, the dismissal of Shaukat Hayat and the expulsion of Khizr, left positive effects on the PPML, as four parliamentary secretaries like Ghazanfar Ali, Allah Yar Daulatana, Suofi Abdul Hamid and Sheikh Sadiq Hasan, not only resigned from their offices but also parted company with the Unionist Party. The departure of these parliamentarians gave a death blow to the Unionoists59. From political point of view, these resignations, especially of Sheikh Sadiq Hasan, played an important role in the balance of power in the Punjab body politic.

Meanwhile the scene of Viceroyalty changed with the departure of Lord Linlithgow, who was replaced by Lord Wavell in October 1943. He planned to expand the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He called a meeting of the Indian leaders for a solution of the Indian political deadlock. Parleys of meetings took place but nothing concrete came out of it because the Quaid’s stand was that all Muslim members should be chosen from the League. The Viceroy showed reluctance in meeting the Quaid’s demand and appealed to him to provide his list of nominees60. The Quaid after consulting the Working Committee, explained to the Viceroy that in the absence of the required assurances, the League would not cooperate.61 Subsequently, the conference ended in a fiasco on July 14, 1945, and ultimately the Quaid demanded general elections so that the League could prove its repeated claim that only the AIML had the right to represent the Muslims of the subcontinent.

It may be recalled that one of the major reasons for the failure of the Simla Conference was the insistence of INC to include a Unionist Muslim, specially Khizr Hayat, in the Executive Council, which was totally rejected by the Quaid and the AIML. Moreover, both the parties INC and the AIML, had rejected the Viceroy’s proposals. The INC resolved that the ensuing elections must be held at once,62 while the Quaid-i-Azam, on behalf of the Muslim League, declared unequivocally that no agreement would be acceptable except on the basis of Pakistan63.

The results of the 1937 elections, which was the first election under the government of India Act 1935, had shown that politics in the Punjab was largely confined to the landlords who firmly kept themselves attached to the ‘Punjab tradition.’ “The hegemony of the cross communal landed aristocracy was actually a compromise of similar interests that could not guarantee a fair socio-political participation for the masses. It indicated that the Unionist Party was more or less a trade union of the big zamindars and pirs whose activities were confined to the protection of the vested interests of the privileged class. Consequently, the majority of 28 million people could not be rescued from the grip of these major aristocrats. Moreover, politics in the Punjab would never rise from the personality-cliché and the entire Punjab would fall victim to political chicanery and arbitrary rule. The Unionist election campaign and the way it was conducted in 1937, was an ample example of political opportunism. In most of the constituencies, the Unionist factions were asked to ‘fight out’ the election independently and the winner was drawn to the Unionist fold. The Unionists had no interest in the party programme and their main object was to pursue their own selfish interests and to serve as the tools of the imperialist bureaucracy. Their unsympathetic attitude towards the people could well be judged from their cold response towards the Shahid Ganj crisis which had made the Unionist Party unpopular among the urban Muslims. Although in 1936, some of the Unionists thought of alternative leadership but their selfish interest did not allow them to leave the party.

In the end, it can be easily said that the Unionist party was a group of self-serving conservatives who, under the cover of their concern for the poor and downtrodden, actually safeguarded their own selfish interests and ignored the interests of the Muslims of the Subcontinent in general and of the Muslims of the Punjab in particular. That was why these “feudals and the British were not in favour of partition, but they had to give way to the will of the Muslim masses throughout the subcontinent. After the certain of Pakistan they only lent their lip service to the interests of Pakistan.



  1. Aitchasion, C.U., A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads relating to India & Neighbouring Countries, Calcutta, 1876, pp. 271-72, “Punjab at the Advent of the 20th Century” Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, vol.xv, no.2, June-Dec.1994, Islamabad, p.3.
  2. For details see, Foreign Secret Consultation, no.73, April, 28, 1849; Calcutta Review, 1854, vol.xxii, 13-14; Arnold, The Marquis of Dalhousi’s Administration of British India, u.p., n.d. p. 1230.
  3. S.M. Ikram, Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan, Lahore, 1977, p. 200.
  4. Ian Talbot, Punjab and the Raj, Delhi, 1988, p.33.
  5. Azim Hussain, Sir Fazl-i-Husain, London, 1946, p.75.
  6. For detail see, “Punjab under the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, “Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, vol.xvi, no.2-A, pp.III-31.
  7. According to the Act of 1919, franchise was based on the principle of residence within the constituency. It prevented the urban politicians to contest election from rural constituencies even if they possessed land in those constituencies by laying down that candidates for rural seats must fulfil a three year’s residence requirement. It restricted the influence of the small town politicians in rural politics by excluding all towns with a population of over 5,000 from the rural constituencies. In Punjab the rural franchise was lowered to Rs. 25 land revenue. In urban areas, it was necessary either to pay income-tax, possess immovable property to the value of Rs. 10,000 or to occupy premises valued at Rs. 20,000. These stipulations restricted the vote to three percent of the urban population. A retired, pensioned or discharged officer or soldier of the Indian Army was also given the right of vote. – David Page, Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial System of Control, 1920-1932 …… 1987, pp. 55-57.
  8. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi; The struggle for Pakistan, Karachi, 1965, pp. 37-42.
  9. Ibid., p.52.
  10. Gil Martin, “Religious Leadership and the Pakistan Movement in the Punjab,” Journal of Modern Asian Studies, March, 1979, p.495.
  11. Malcom Darling, Wisdom & Waste in the Punjab Village, London, 1925, p. 334.
  12. Fazl-i-Hussain, Hon, Mian Sir, b. Peshawar City, June, 14, 1877; K.C.I.E. 1929, K.C.S.I. 1932; son of Khan Sahib Mian Hussain Bakhsh; edu., Municipal Board School Abbotabad, High Schools at Peshawar and Gurdaspur, Govt. College, Lahore and Christ’s College, Cambridge; called to the Bar, Grays Inn, 1901; Practised at Sialkot, 1901 – 5; practised at the Bar of the Punjab Chief Court, and the Punjab High Court, 1905-20; Fellow and Syndic of the Punjab University; Secretary of the Islamia College, Lahore for nearly 14 years; President of the High Court Bar Association; President of the Special Punjab Provincial Conference concerning Reforms; Minister for Education, Punjab, 1921-23, and 1924-25; Knighted in 1925; Temporary Member for Revenue and Education of the Governor General’s Executive Council; Revenue Member, Punjab 1926-27; Substitute Delegate for India to the Assembly of League of Nations, 1927; member of Governor General’s Executive Council (Department of Education, Health and Lands), 1933-35, member, Indian Delegation to the Indo-South African Conference, 1932; LL.D. Punjab University 1933; D. Litt. Delhi University, 1935; Education Minister, Punjab, May – July 1936; Founder and Leader of the Punjab National Unionist Party from 1923 until his death on July 9, 1936. (Waheed Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i-Hussain, Lahore, 1976, p.630.)
  13. Lala Harkishan Lal Gauba (1864-1936) was a prominent urban Hindu leader. He stood with Fazl-i-Hussain on the INC platform during the pre-non-cooperation days. He was elected as member of first reformed Council in 1920, and was chosen as the Minister of Agriculture with the help of Fazl-i-Hussain. He was also a rich businessman and the owner of Bharat Insurance Company, the Punjab National Bank, the Lahore Electric Supply Company and the People’s Bank. But a serious of legal actions against him resulted in his bankruptcy. One of his three sons Kanhaiya Lal converted to Islam and was named Khalid Latif Gauba. He was the author of a book, The Rabid Minister, the story of the rise and fall of Bal Harkishan Lal.
  14. In this council, the Unionist party was supported by all the rural Muslim members and all the urban Muslims such as Sheikh Abdul Qadir and Mir Maqbool Mahmud except three who belonged to the Swaraj party. The Hindus were divided into two groups and one of them was called National Progressive party led by Raja Narendra Nath. The second group was the Swaraj party which had three Muslims and nine Hindu members, led by Gokul Chand Narang. There was also a group of 20 to 22 government members in the House.
  15. Sajjad Zaheer, Light on the League-Unionist Conflict, Bombay, 1944, p.32.
  16. The Committee consisted of sixteen members from each Chamber; twenty representative Indian from British India and seven from the princely states were appointed to this committee as assessors; they included five Muslims; The Aga Khan, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Shafaat Ahmad Khan, Abdur Rahim and A.H. Ghaznavi while the chairman of the committee was Lord Linlithgow (Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, op. cit., pp. 64-65).
  17. G.W. Choudhry, Democracy in Pakistan, Dacca, 1963, p.23.
  18. Ishtiaq Hussain, op.cit., p.65.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid., V.P. Menon gave this date August 4, 1935 instead of July 24, 1935, See The Transfer of Power in India, Bombey, 1957, p.51.
  22. The INC resolved not to submit to this constitution or to cooperate with it but to combat it both inside and outside the legislatures so as to end it. “But there was an influential section which felt that the provincial section of the Act should be accepted and worked. The INC finally resolved to contest the elections to the legislatures without committing itself to any definite policy while the AIML denounced the safeguards in the Government of India Act as making responsible government negatory, but it recommended that ‘having regard to the conditions prevailing at present in the country the provincial scheme of the constitution be utilized for what it is worth. V.P. Menon op.cit., pp. 54-55.
  23. For detail of the morbid conditions of the Party, see, Stanley Walpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, New Yark, 1984, pp. 134-135.
  24. Jamil-ud-Din, op.cit., p.196. Batalvi, however, writes the name of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan instead of Ghazi Abdur Rehman. (See Batalvi, Iqbal key akhiri do sal, Lahore.
  25. Fazl-i-Hussain wrote:-
    “Jinnah has blundered into the arena very much to our prejudice. He has not been able to obtain any support from any section of the Unionists. Even the Ittihad-e-Millat, i.e. the extremist section of the Muslims, has refused to cooperate with him and have withdrawn from his Central Board on which he had put their representative. (Fazl-i-Hussain to Aga Khan, June 22, 1936, Waheed Ahmad, op.cit., p.596).
  26. Batalvi, op.cit., p.327.
  27. Rafiq Afzal, Malik Barkat Ali, His Life and Writings, Lahore, 1969, p.40.
  28. Civil and Military Gazette, October, 19, 1937.
  29. Iftikhar Haider, “Sikandar Hayat and the Muslim League” Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, vol.v, no: ii; July – December, 1964, p.30. Also see Batalvi, op.cit., pp. 505-6.
  30. Batalvi, op.cit., pp. 498-504 and 508-512 for full text of the letter of Ghulam Rasool and Barkat Ali respectively.
  31. Sajjad Zaheer, op.cit., pp. 20,21.
  32. Ibid., p.19.
  33. Khan Wali Ullah, Sikh Shrines in West Pakistan, Lahore, 1962, p.52. Also see daily Inqilab, Lahore, July 11, 1935.
  34. Indian Annual Register, first half, 1935.
  35. Azim Hussain, op.cit., p.286.
  36. Coupland, Reginald, Report on the Constitutional Problem in India, London, n.d, pp. 48-9.
  37. Indian Annual Register. Second half, 1935.
  38. Ian Talbot, op.cit., p.143.
  39. Amounts from abroad; e.g. during April, 1943 to November, 1944 Rs. 20,000/- were remitted in Ludhiana District only. cf. R.S. Nakra, Punjab Villages in the Ludhiana District during the War, Punjab Board of Economic Enquiry, no.91, Lahore, 1946, p.8.
  40. David Gil Martin, Tribe, Land and Religion in the Punjab, Ph.D. Thesis, California, 1979, p.261.
  41. Ibid.
  42. This demand was presented by Muhammad Raza Gilani and Wilayat Husain Shah Gilani on July 4, 1929, quoted in David Gil Martin, op. cit., p.275.
  43. It was lengthy resolution which describes that the Working Committee is of the opinion that in view of the immediate grave danger that is facing the country the real purpose will not be served by the Musalmans and others merely by joining the proposed provincial and district war committees with their present scope and functions.
    In view of the numerous enquiries that have been received from the various provincial and district leagues and individual members seeking guidance and instructions… as to what course they should adopt towards the proposed War Committees announced by His Excellency the Viceroy and some Governors, the Working Committee is of the opinion that at present Mussalmans should not serve on these committees and should…. await further instructions from the President pending the result of the communication with the Viceroy. Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, Historic Documents of Muslim Freedom Movement, Lahore, 1970, p.384.
  44. Batalvi, op.cit., p.79.
  45. Iftikhar Haider, op.cit., p.44.
  46. Safdar Mahmood, Pakistan mein Hukumat aur Siyasat, Lahore, 1988, p.29.
  47. Governor’s Fortnightly Report, Second half of 1940.
  48. The Civil and Military Gazette, March 9, 1941. Also see Governor’s Fortnightly Report, second half of April 1940, Indian Annual Register, second half of 1940 & 1941, 1942.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Daily Milap (Urdu), Lahore, December 1, 1940.
  52. Gil Martin, op.cit., pp. 229-30.
  53. Batalvi, op.cit., p.69.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Sarfraz Husain Mirza, Punjab Muslim Students Federation, Lahore, 1978, pp.1 viii-lix.
  56. Daily Inqilab, Lahore, January, 8,943.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Daily Eastern Times, Lahore, April 29, 1943.
  59. Daily Inqilab, Lahore, May 4, 1944.
  60. Wavell to Jinnah, July 9, 1945, quoated by Sher Muhammad Garewal, Jinnah-Wavel Correspondence, Lahore, 1990,p.xxxi
  61. Ibid.
  62. The Indian Annual Register, Second Half of 1945.
  63. V.P. Menon, op.cit, pp.220.