These lectures gave shape to her book The Pity of Partition - an intellectual history of the life and works of Saadat Hassan Manto, who is also closely related to her. The Sole Spokesman is the single most influential academic work on the dynamics of the Pakistan Movement and the role played by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in it. In a follow-up book, Self and Sovereignty , Jalal meticulously worked through colonial archives and multiple other sources to trace the origins and shaping of the Muslim community and its identity in British India. She has also written a monograph on the historical evolution of the concept of jihad in South Asia. Ali Usman Qasmi. What has been your experience as a Pakistani woman working in American universities?
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These lectures gave shape to her book The Pity of Partition - an intellectual history of the life and works of Saadat Hassan Manto, who is also closely related to her. The Sole Spokesman is the single most influential academic work on the dynamics of the Pakistan Movement and the role played by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in it.
In a follow-up book, Self and Sovereignty , Jalal meticulously worked through colonial archives and multiple other sources to trace the origins and shaping of the Muslim community and its identity in British India.
She has also written a monograph on the historical evolution of the concept of jihad in South Asia. Ali Usman Qasmi.
What has been your experience as a Pakistani woman working in American universities? Ayesha Jalal. It may be easy to get into the academy but it is hard to stay in there. No matter how good you are, you have to be on your toes.
When [people at American universities] think of South Asia, they primarily think of India and that has been a problem. One had to fight with this limitation. I have never taught a course on Pakistan specifically, yet there was a sense [of curiosity] about my nationality rather than what I did. When I started [my academic career], there weren't really many Pakistanis in the field of South Asian studies.
That field was sort of infested with Indians. To find a niche for yourself was not an easy thing. There must have been biases and discrimination that you had to fight against.
Everybody talks about accommodating differences but nobody is comfortable with differences. As far as I am concerned, I am what I am. If I wear shalwar kameez and they think that I have to be a particular woman then that is their problem.
People are also more comfortable with the notion of a fixed identity, but the problem with me is that I did not fit [into a specific category]. I might have fit visually into the stereotype of me but my thoughts did not fit in, which made people uncomfortable. Jinnah did not want Partition, in case people have forgotten that, Similarly, when the United Bengal plan was floated, Jinnah said it was better that Bengal remained united.
In an age in which the shelf life of an academic book is very short, what do you think has given The Sole Spokesman its enduring appeal?
I did have a bit of luck in the sense that I started my research at a time when the documents [cited in the book] had just come out. Mine was among the first takes on those documents. It also went against the grain of commonplace views of Partition. The fact that the book was well-documented has played a role in giving it the shelf life it has had. The Sole Spokesman has become a kind of academic orthodoxy - even if you don't agree with it, you have to look at it.
In what ways has your stance changed or evolved since you wrote that book? All I can say is that every book I have written has had a particular question. In the case of The Sole Spokesman , my question was how did a Pakistan come about which satisfied the interests of its main constituents so poorly? That was in response to the narrative at the time in Pakistan, under General Ziaul Haq, which said religion was Pakistan's sole raison d'etre. By the time I wrote Self and Sovereignty , my question was whether religion played a major role in determining politics in Pakistan.
Electorally, religious parties don't win but they still exercise a lot of influence on the mindset. So, I switched at that stage to studying identity. I was interested in looking at the concept of communalism as well as the cultural and intellectual history of the so-called "two-nation theory". Coming back to The Sole Spokesman , people say different things about Jinnah- that he was secular even when the Pakistan Movement had strong Islamic overtones.
There are others who say Jinnah himself was Islamic and he wanted to establish an Islamic state It was a political movement. Whatever an Islamic state means is another debate. I mean, what kind of Islamic state are you referring to? Are you referring to one run by the mullahs?
Well, that was clearly not what Jinnah had in mind. When Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung tried to force him to commit to an Islamic state in , he resisted and said the Constitution of Pakistan would be what the representatives of the people wanted, what the people of Pakistan wanted. One of the great fallacies of those wedded to seeing history purely through the 'great men in history' argument is that they don't see the context.
What I have said many times is that there is too much made of the history Jinnah made and too little of the context that made Jinnah. He operated within the context of Muslims in India being a [religious] category, even though they were not united or organised. Did he then transform a minority into a qaum , a nation? Well, discursively, yes.
And he wanted to do much more. Jinnah was from a province where Muslims were in a minority. He wanted to use the power of the areas where the Muslims were a majority to create a shield of protection for where they were in a minority.
The possibility that the areas that became Pakistan would offer a kind of protection for Muslims living in areas which have remained in India was not acceptable to the Congress. It was easier for them to partition the subcontinent and let these areas go. But why would majority provinces where Muslims were already ruling, especially Punjab and Bengal, agree to a plan?
Jalal If you argue that Punjab and Bengal wanted to become a separate country, then Islam as the basis for Pakistan does not make sense. Any Islamic explanation for the new country would have to explain how Muslims cohere across India. Why should Punjab and Bengal bother about that?
That is exactly what politicians in Punjab and Bengal said. There were two steps in Jinnah's strategy. The first was the consolidation of Muslim majority areas behind the All-India Muslim League and then to use undivided Punjab and Bengal as a weight to negotiate an arrangement for all the Muslims at an all— India level. But the Congress had Punjab and Bengal partitioned [to frustrate the first element of his strategy]. He said what was Bengal without Calcutta?
It was like asking a man to live without his heart So, we ended up with a mutilated Pakistan that Jinnah had rejected out of hand. Let us assume that there was no division of Bengal and Punjab.
Even in that case, Musl. The effort to protect their rights through the presence of minority populations of Hindus and Sikhs in Muslim majority provinces seems like hostage theory. It was reciprocity of rights - the rights non-Muslims will have in Pakistan will be guaranteed if the rights of Muslims in Hindustan were protected. And the idea was that there will be porous borders between the two countries.
The borders that emerged were not what Jinnah was thinking of. You have talked about the limitations that Jinnah had. In the same way, don't you think that the Congress also had its limitations? All politicians and parties are limited and restricted by their rank and file in some ways. One very important limitation that led to the acceptance of Partition by the Congress can be identified in the interim government's so-called 'poor man's budget' [in ] which we all know was not the brain child of Liaquat Ali Khan, but of the finance department The Congress supporters in business wouldn't tolerate that.
They thought the budget was untenable. The other limitation was the scale of communal violence. Increase in violence decreased room for the Congress leadership to negotiate a compromise. Every out break of violence hardened the Congress position. What are the historic aspects of what you point out as the "Muslim Question" in India? Does it have to do with the fact that Muslims would not live as a minority under Hindu rule after having ruled India for centuries?
That played a role at the discursive level to a large extent in the formulation of the Muslim Question but, apart from the discursive level, you need to look at the political framework provided by the British decision to grant the Muslims separate electorate.
That made Muslims an all-India religious category and Jinnah said that they, therefore, needed to be given a share in power at the all-India level once the British had left.
He took the argument further by saying the unitary centre [for India] was a British construct. Any centre for independent India would have to be decided upon by the Muslim majority provinces, the princely states and the Hindu majority provinces on the basis that Muslims are a nation entitled to equal treatment along with Hindus. I feel the only man who could have been more revelatory than he proved to be was Azad because he knew what was being discussed among the Congress high command.
The discursive force of the past did play a role but it was the concrete politics of the situation that pushed the question forward. There was no contradiction in it.
The only contradiction l see is that the regional aspect was not given enough thought even though the regions were very important. If you look at the Cripps Mission, it practically exposed the whole problem in Jinnah's strategy because it gave Punjab, Bengal and other provinces the right to opt out of the Indian federation. If Jinnah wanted a Pakistan, then he would have allowed this, but he did not allow this because he wanted to ensure that Muslims from those provinces where they were in a minority also got something.
Can we say the Muslim Question existed because of a complete failure on part of the Congress to appreciate that Muslims had concerns? The Congress lacked imagination as far as mass contact with Muslims was concerned. Secondly, even men like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad were saying until the end that the Muslim Question was a psychological one rather than a political one.
When Jawaharlal Nehru made the plea for Partition as opposed to sharing power, Azad was still arguing that the Congress should make some concessions to keep the Muslims within India. But then he was sidelined by Gandhi and others. He however, never came out in the open. In a sense, it is still an incomplete story. The 30 pages he had withheld from his autobiography raised hopes that they may contain the whole story but their eventual release was a disappointment.
He came closer to blaming it on Nehru but there was much more that we needed out of those 30 pages.
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The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan
Thomas R. Metcalf, ayesha jalal. Cambridge South Asian Studies, number New York: Cambridge University Press. Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in. To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above.
Ayesha is married to Indian historian and politician Sugata Bose. Born in Lahore in ,  Ayesha Jalal studied at Wellesley College before moving to Trinity College , Cambridge   where she received her doctorate in She moved to Washington, D. In , she joined Tufts University as a tenured professor. The bulk of her work deals with the creation of Muslim identities in modern South Asia.