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Barbara D. Metcalf

CREATING A NEW MEDINA: STATE POWER, ISLAM, AND THE QUEST FOR PAKISTAN IN LATE COLONIAL NORTH INDIA
By Venkat Dhulipala
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 544, Rs. 746.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 6 June 2015

Venkat Dhulipala challenges what he takes to be a widespread assumption that Partition did not need to happen. It all happened so fast. Did Muslim voters who supported the League in the elections of 1945–46 really want a separate country? Did Jinnah? Dhulipala, basing his answer on a flood of English and Urdu publications in the wake of the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940, says ‘yes’. That Resolution had demanded ‘autonomous and sovereign’, ‘independent states’ in areas of Muslim majority ‘with such territorial re-adjustments as may be necessary.’ Focusing on the centrally important province of the United Provinces, Dhulipala insists that Muslim voters wanted not only a separate state, but an ‘Islamic’ state as well, the ‘New Medina’ of the book’s title. Between 1940 and 1946, he argues, a vision for an independent state ‘progressively assumed clarity, substance and popularity’ (p. 18). Dhulipala emphatically rejects any notion that the demand for a sovereign state was a ‘bargaining chip’ intended to gain concessions in provincial autonomy. By the mid-1940s, he argues, ulama and political leaders alike shared a fused vision of a sovereign state that was at once ‘modern’ and ‘Islamic’. So much for Salman Rushdie’s often quoted tag that Pakistan was a place ‘insufficiently imagined’. After a useful bibliographic introduction, the next two chapters review the 1937 election in U.P., the short-lived Congress ministry, the break between the League and Congress, and then the rival mass contact campaigns. Within a year, Dhulipala argues, the ML was garnering substantial success thanks to the Deobandi challenger to the ‘nationalist ulama’, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi. The nationalists, led by the Jamiatul Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) under a fellow Deobandi, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, had supported Gandhi from the beginning. Thanawi challenged their view of ‘composite nationalism’ and favoured a separate Party to assert Muslim interests. Dhulipala includes (in Chapter Three) an extended discussion of the dalit leader Ambedkar’s detailed Thoughts on Pakistan (1940, 2nd ed. 1945). Ambedkar concluded that Pakistan ‘would be a good riddance for India’ in the face of the League’s extreme and increasing demands (p. 126). In fact, I would suggest, the bulk of this puzzling text shows precisely why Pakistan was a failed idea; Ambedkar registered his support for it on the single ground that a nation requires devotion and, if Muslims lacked that, they should go. As for Jinnah in these years, discussed in the same chapter, nothing is more ...


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