Why Allam Iqbal Eventually Contested An Election?

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by Sameer UlHaq

It was because of Iqbal’s efforts that the British government conducted an investigation into the July 1931 massacre which resulted in the formation of Glancy Commission.

Allama Sir Sheikh M Iqbal

Every year November 9, is celebrated as “Iqbal Day” to pay tribute to Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal and to commemorate the contributions of a great poet, a philosopher, and a politician. Allama Iqbal whom Sarojini Naidu called “Poet laureate of Asia” was not only a poet of Islam or that his message is not only for Muslims but has a universal appeal.

Iqbal was born at a time when millions of Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, and people of other regions were tied by the chains of British imperialism. In such times of despair and dishonour, Iqbal’s poetry imbibed a new spirit in the people and he himself played a significant role in the struggle for independence of the subcontinent. ‘It is difficult to find a poet or thinker of Iqbal’s calibre who has championed the cause of justice for the oppressed and wronged people of the world as passionately as he did’, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, writes in his autobiography.

The uncertainty of the fate of Muslims in India and the continuous fragmentation of the Muslim lands immensely saddened Iqbal in his lifetime, inspiring him to compose poems to awaken the Muslim masses from their slothful and lethargic slumber under colonial subjugation. Allama’s poetry also influenced the Islamic revolution of Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran was ‘the embodiment of Iqbal’s dream’, said Iran’s supreme leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei in 1986.

Into Politics

It is generally believed that Iqbal throughout his life practically disassociated himself from political struggle. But this is not true. He understood the political developments of his time in their true perspective. Iqbal’s politics was his response to his immediate circumstances. Iqbal championed the cause of justice for the oppressed. He was primarily a poet, philosopher and thinker, but he took an active part in scholarly politics as well as expressing his views on politics. From a political point of view, Allama Iqbal’s aim has always been that life, politics and religion cannot be seen in isolation. The consequences of separating religion from politics, for Allama paves way for the rule of the lust.

In December 1908 when All India Muhammedan Educational Conference was held in Amritsar and presided over by Khawaja Salimullah Khan, the Nawab of Dhaka, Iqbal met him as part of a Kashmiri Muslim delegation. Allama read out a memorandum to lobby with the government to declare Kashmiri’s farmers and to increase their effective representation in the armed forces. By 1911 Muslims all over the world faced a situation of despair, dishonour, subjugation and humiliation in various parts across the globe by the hands of European imperialistic powers. The partition of Bengal which was announced in 1905 was carried out in 1911 a setback for the Muslims of Bengal. Russian forces bombard Mashad and with the British forces, they occupied Iran. Ottoman Turkey also went through a crisis. Iqbal was moved a great extent by the changing fortunes of Muslims in India and abroad that he pens one of his most famous poem: Shikwa (The Complaint).

Safa-e dahar se baatilkomitaya hum ne
Nau-e insaankogulami se chudayahum ne

(We who removed from this worlds book the leaves which were with falsehood stained,
We who from a tyrant’s ignorance, the imprisoned human race unchained.)

The Khilafat Movement

 In the First World War Turkey decided to ally with Germany in November 1914. In October 1918, Turkey was defeated at the hands of the Allies and was asked to make a peace deal. As Muslims realised that the Allies are going to dismember Turkey and put an end to the Caliphate, they launched what is known as the Khilafat Movement to support the preservation of the Caliphate.

Gandhi declared that the Hindus of India support the demand for Khilafat unconditionally. Iqbal initially supported the Khilafat movement as it represented his own idea of the universal Muslim brotherhood. When the movement started, Iqbal became the secretary of the Punjab Khilafat committee. With time Iqbal realised that country’s Hindu leadership were organising themselves behind the facade of the Khilafat movement as a means to achieve their own ends. He resigned from his position as the secretary of the Punjab Khilafat Committee and became indifferent to the movement.

In 1923 some of Iqbal’s friends suggested him to represent the people of Lahore in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Iqbal apologized on grounds that he was basically a poet and his temperament was not political. When re-election was about to take part in 1925 this time his friends insisted again and again and Iqbal agreed to take part in the election. The year 1926 was a watershed year for Iqbal. An active observer of politics now turned into an active participant. He was not politically inclined, but now he felt that participating in the elections was also a requirement of the goodwill of the Ummah.

An Elected Leader

On this occasion, Allama said in a statement, “Muslims know that so far I have been completely detached from this kind of occupation, simply because other people were doing it and I had chosen another realm for myself, but now the troubles of the nation (especially Muslims are forcing it) that it may broaden my circle of action a little, perhaps my insignificant existence will thus be more useful to this nation”. So Iqbal’s purpose of participating in the elections was for the welfare of the masses not for the sake of financial or material interests. On December 26, 1929, Iqbal won the election for Punjab Legislative Assembly and he remained a member of Legislative Assembly from 1927-1930. During his term as an elected representative, Iqbal made significant proposals that fell on deaf ears. Some of the proposals he made were to improve the economy of  Punjab,  grants in aid to the poor, grants for Muslim educational institution’s, medical care for women and compulsory elementary education.

In March 1927, Iqbal opposed the idea of having joint electorates for Hindus and Muslims when Muhammad Ali Jannah president of the All India Muslim League, published the Delhi Proposals. Allama Iqbal feared that in case of joint electorates Hindus would not let Muslims be elected, especially those Muslim candidates dedicated to protecting Muslim interests.

Two Incidents

Allama’s attitude towards joint electorate was also changed by two incidents which occurred during this time. In one incident riots broke out in Lahore when a Sikh and Hindu mob entered a Muslim mohalla and attacked Muslims with sticks and swords. In another incident, two Hindus wrote two separate blasphemous books against the Prophet. The accused ones of both these incidents were let walk free by the courts.

When Simon Commission visited India in December 1927, both Muslim League and Congress resolved to boycott the Commission. Allama Iqbal along with Sir Muhammad Shafi and Maulana Hasrat Mohani wished to cooperate with it. ‘The boycott of the commission would damage the country’s interests in general and Muslim interests in particular,’ Iqbal said in a statement on November 13, 1947.  For Iqbal, nothing was more important than securing the protection of Muslims national rights and he would go to any extent to achieve them.

On July 13, 1930, the Muslim League decided to invite Iqbal to be the president of the annual meeting at Allahabad. When they contacted him with the proposal he agreed. In his Allahabad presidential address, Allama Iqbal defined the Muslims of India as a nation and suggested that there could be no possibility of peace in the country unless and until they were recognized as a nation and under a federal system, the Muslim majority units were given the same privileges which were to be given to the Hindu majority units. It was the only way in which both the Muslims and the Hindus could prosper in accordance with their respective cultural values.

Dr Sir Sheikh Mohammad Iqbal, the Kashmir origin poet politician

As a permanent solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem Allama Iqbal proposed that the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sindh should be converted into one province and declared that the North-West part of the country was destined to unite, self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire. This, he suggested, was the only way to do away with the communal riots and bring peace in the subcontinent. He further said India is a continent of human groups belonging to different races, speaking different languages, and professing different religions. Their behaviour is not at all determined by a common race consciousness. Even the Hindus do not form a homogeneous group. The principle of European democracy cannot be applied to India without recognizing the fact of communal groups. The Muslim demand for the creation of a separate nation is therefore perfectly justified.

The greatest historical significance of Allama Iqbal’s Allahabad address was that it washed all political confusions from the minds of the Muslims thus enabling them to determine their own destiny. It marked the beginning of Pakistan as a separate country, thus paving way for the division of Indian subcontinent later.

Hai tarki watan sunnati mehboob-i-llahi
De tu b Nabiki sunnat pey gawahi

(Renouncing the country is the way of God’s beloved,
You should also testify to the Prophethood’s truth by similar action.)

For Kashmir

Kashmir was much close to Iqbal’s heart. In 1925 memorandum presented to the Viceroy of India on the advice of Iqbal, regarding the plight and helplessness of Kashmiris. On 13 July 1931 during the autocratic Dogra rule, Dogra forces gunned down around 22 unarmed Muslim at the Srinagar Central Jail. The incident hurt his heart badly but strengthened his engagement with Kashmir.

In Punjab, there was widespread outrage against the repressive Dogra rulers, an outrage that Iqbal shares. Kashmir Day was celebrated on August 14, 1931, and Iqbal delivered the presidential address. After the July carnage, Iqbal not only helped raise donations for the victims but also persuade some lawyers to visit Kashmir in order to provide legal aid to those who are languishing in jails. It was because of Iqbal’s efforts that the British government conducted an investigation into the July 1931 massacre which resulted in the formation of Glancy Commission. In July 1933, Iqbal sent a letter to the Viceroy of India expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir and urged the Dogra government to refrain from coercion.

Round Table Conferences

Sameer ul Haq

Allama also participated in the Second and Third RoundTables Conference as a delegate of the Muslim League. During these conferences one of the most important persons that Iqbal often met in London was Jinnah. Iqbal urged Jinnah to ‘terminate his self-imposed exile in London and return home’. Iqbal knew that Jinnah possesses the best qualities to lead the Muslims of India. He persuades Jinnah to adopt the Muslim League and make it a national objective for creating a separate Muslim state in North-West India.

In the last years of his life, despite his ill health and financial difficulties, Iqbal remained politically active and creatively productive. Iqbal who has been calling himself a qalandar for some time in his poetry has this desire not to live longer than the Prophet of Islam. Iqbal breathed his last on April 21, 1938, and is buried in the compound of grand Badshahi Masjid, Lahore.

(The writer did his masters from the Department of History, the University of Kashmir. he opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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