Rahmat Ali

Rahmat Ali



 “A person who for the first time demanded partition explicitly, loudly and persistently, and who produced a clear-cut plan, was Chaudhry Rahmat Ali”. Saad R. Khairi, Jinnah Reinterpreted.

Rahmat Ali was born on 16 November 1897 in the village Balachaur about thirty miles from Jalandhar in East Punjab, in a Gujjar middle-class family. It is believed that their ancestors were converted to Islam during the times of Aurangzeb. Rahmat Ali’s father Shah Muhammad married twice. Rahmat was the eldest among the three children of Shah Muhammad’s second wife. The other two were his younger brother Mohammad Ali and a sister who died in infancy.
Rahmat Ali’s education started in a primary school in Balachaur and continued in Rahon, a small town few miles from his village, which boasted of a middle School. To continue his education further, Rahmat Ali had to go to Jalandhar, the district headquarters and an important city in the area. There in 1910, he enrolled himself at the Saindas Anglo-Sanskrit High School, which was managed by the Arya Samaj. From there he passed the Matriculation examination in 1912. From Jalandhar he went to Lahore to pursue higher studies and joined the Islamic College, one of the string of colleges founded under the Aligarh movement. Rahmat Ali graduated from this college in 1918, getting a second division with Economics, English and Persian as his subjects. It took him six years to graduate which in the normal course takes four years. During these six years he also tried his hand at journalism and served on the staff of Paisa Akhbar and Kashmir, besides pursuing his studies.
After his graduation, Rahmat Ali continued to live in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, a seat of learning and political ferment. Most of the Muslim elite of Punjab lived there. Ali lived in Lahore till 1930. He wanted to join the Law College but could not, perhaps due to a paucity of funds. Instead, he accepted a tutorship in Aitcheson College, a public school for the education of the sons of rulers and chiefs of the province. While serving as g1 tutor, he came in Contact with the Nawabs of Bahawalpur whose son he taught. Later he also taught the sons of the Mazari family, who were prominent landlords. He got close to the family and became their legal adviser after attending classes in the Law College (from where he could not earn any degree). The Mazari family paid him well and he lived a life of ease and some affluence. His social contacts widened andthe village lad absorbed the culture and etiquette of urban life with ease. Niaz Muhammad Khan, who knew Rahmat Ali during his Lahore days, describes him as, “well dressed, a joy to listen to, with a discriminating taste in cuisine, with impeccable manners and habits, experienced in the way of the World”.‘ Another friend describes him in one Urdu word ‘banka’, the nearest English translation of which would be a ‘dandy’.
Rahmat Ali had always nurtured a desire of going to England, which he called his ‘mission’ in life. The dream materialized in 1930. With theconnections that he cultivated in Lahore, he did not find any difficulty in getting prominent Punjabi friends to write to men of influence in England about his plans. Armed with these recommendatory letters, Rahmat Ali left for England on 31 October 1930. He was already thirty three years old. He decided to become a barrister and joined the Inn of Court, the Middle Temple. But for some unexplained reason he could not be called to the Bar until January 1943, taking thirteen years, which normally aspirants complete in two or three years. It seems he abandoned the idea of qualifying as a barrister soon after and joined Emmanuel College, Cambridge in January 1931. He passed the Law Tripos examination in June 1932. It took him another seven years to get an MA. Degree in October 1940. His other academic accomplishments remain obscure at Cambridge. However, he came into the limelight after the three sittings of the Round Table Conference (1930-32) in which a federal structure of India was discussed and approved by the participants resulting in the Act of 1935, which served as the Constitution of India till 1947.
Rahmat Ali was witnessing this political drama with poignant anxiety. Mohammad Iqbals presidential address at the Muslim League session of 1930 had thrown up an idea of a separate Muslim region in the northwest of India. This appealed to Rahmat Ali as it diluted the hegemony of Indianness. But that was forgotten and the delegates had unanimously agreed to the federal structure for India. Rahmat Ali claimed that he met the Muslim delegates at the first two sittings of the conference and tried to convince them of their folly of agreeing to an Indian federation, which would be perpetually dominated by the Hindus. I knew that their action had obliterated the twelve centuries of our history, destroyed the very foundations of our heritage, and crippled all hopes of the fulfillment of our mission. But he failed to convince them. He went back to Cambridge and published a four page pamphlet in January 1933, signed by three other students besides him. The pamphlet was titled “Now or Never” Are we to live or perish forever? He appealed for sympathy and support for our grim and fateful struggle against political crucifixion and complete annihilation. The homeland of thirty million Muslims was defined in the first sentence as Pakistan, by which we mean the five northern units of India viz.: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. It was further argued that India was neither a country nor a nation. It is in fact, the designation of a state, created for the first time in history, by the British. The heterogeneity of its people was a proven fact. Our religion, culture, history, tradition, economic system, laws of inheritance, succession and marriage are basically and fundamentally different from those of the people living in the rest of India. These differences are not confined to the broad basic principles – far from it. They extend to the minutest details of our lives. We do not inter-dine, we do not intermarry. Our national customs and calendars, even our diet and dress are different. Although these ideas did not carry much weight at the time, it must be admitted that all the subsequent arguments in support of Pakistan proceeded from the thesis of Rahmat Ali, and did not cover much new ground.3 In fact Jinnah in his speech in the 1940 session of the Muslim League, while demanding a separate homeland for Muslims for the first time copied extensively, almost word for word, from Rahmat Ali’s pamphlet. When later the Muslim League came to advocate its own Pakistan plan, it could not think of any new arguments and repeated and elaborated Rahmat Ali’s points.
That pamphlet was sent to all the delegates of the Round Table Conference and several political leaders, both in England and India. But the pamphlet attracted little attention and was ignored by the Muslim League and Muslim Conference. When the representatives of these two organisations appeared before the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament in August 1933 they were asked “whether there is a scheme for a federation of Provinces under the name Pakistan?” Zafrulla Khan (the future foreign minister of Pakistan) replied` “It was a students’ scheme and there is nothing ir1 it." Another member Yusuf Ali replied. "We have considered. it is chimerical and impracticable." The only support which Rahmat scheme got was from the notorious Sir Michael O`Dwyer, who ruled Punjab during the jallianwala Bagh massacre, Amritsar (1919), and its martial law aftermath. While testifying before the Committee, he argued against the all-india federation 0n the lines of Rahmat Ali, saying if the federal government, with a Hindu majority, endeavours to force its will on provinces with a Muslim majority, what is to prevent a breakaway of the Punjab` Sind, Baluchistan and the NWF as already foreshadowed and their possibility of forming a Muslim Federation of their own. “He did not explain the source of the word ‘foreshadowed’ but he appears to have received a copy of Rahmat Ali`s pamphlet. Or could he perhaps have helped inspire it. Obviously the British hand in the whole affair could not be ruled out.
To give an impetus to his theory, the ‘shadowy’ Rahmat Ali identifiedhimself as “Founder of the Pakistan National Movement”. This movement, in his own words, was “a centre of members to work for Pakistan, for the Pak Plan, and for the Pak ideology”. He published another eight page pamphlet soon after, titled What Does the Pakistan National Movement Stand For? This was a virulent attack on ‘Indianness’, which he described as Hindu imperialism. A minor but significant change was the spelling of the word Pakstan' to Pakistan." He continued issuing and distributing pamphlets widely in which he went on extending the boundaries of the Muslim state or the creation of other Muslim states like Bangistan, Usmanistan or Haideristan comprising Bengal plus Assam and Hyderabad respectively. These will be two independent nations' forming a triple alliance, he argued. Still later, he proposed setting up seven more states as Muslim pockets not only in India but even in Ceylon (Sri Lanka. All these pamphlets bore the address, 16 Montague Road, Cambridge and the later pamphlets of various sizes bore the signature of only one man, Rahmat Ali. The increasing number of stans' touched the limits of absurdity, but the impact of his Pakistan movement gathered momentum, and in the hands of a great strategist, Jinnah, became a reality in August 1947.
Rahmat Ali eventually decided to see the Shangrila of his dreams. Towards which he had contributed his bit and spent many years of his adult life. He reached Lahore on 6 April 1948, met his friends and traced his family, who were now muhajirs (refugees) and found them in a pitiable condition. He found unbearable the partition of Punjab and Bengal and the loss of Assam, and blamed Jinnah for his treachery' and betrayal. To get back the lost territories' of Pakistan of his conception, he planned to start a Pakistan National Liberation Movement." He started calling Pakistan as Pastan' (a defeated country). He declared, all our hopes reduced to dust and ashes by the folly and foul play of one man and one man alone – Quisling-i-Azam-Jinnah. This outspokenness cost him dearly. The few old friends who had welcomed him as a hero now deserted him. The government was soon after him. He was declared persona non grata; was refused a Pakistani passport; was condemned as a danger to the security and tranquility of the country. The government did not remember, or even let it be known, that he had named the country over which they ruled, but it could not forget that he had criticized Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam for accepting an incomplete Pakistan. He was ordered to leave the country. He left on 1 October 1948 for England, and died in Cambridge on 3 January 1951, a lonely and dejected man. He is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery at New Market Road. His grave is flat earth. The hospital and burial expenses were paid by Welbourne, his tutor during his Emmanuel College days. “I am glad that I was able to prevent him dying as an unclaimed beggar in poverty and avert the disposal of his body as an unclaimed person,” said Welbourne. During his lifetime, Jinnah did not show any consideration for Rahmat Ali from whom he had borrowed his ideal, his nomenclature, his arguments, even his Words and phrases. Jinnah owed such a large debt to Rahmat Ali who had played a pivotal role in the creation of Pakistan.

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